Linux Lunacy 2003: Cruising the Big Picture, Part I
"It's about having a good time and learning a lot along the way". That's what "Captain" Neil Bauman says about Geek Cruises, which he launched in May 2000. He wanted to take those two basic geek imperatives and equip them to an unlikely extreme: running a week-long conference of courses and seminars on a cruise ship and sailing it through some of the most thought-inspiring settings in the world.
That's what happened this past September, when Linux Lunacy III toured Alaska's Inside Passage on board the M.S. Amsterdam, a 780-foot-long Holland America cruise ship. It also happened with Linux Lunacy I (2001) and Linux Lunacy II, which covered the Eastern and Western Caribbean. And it will happen again next year with Linux Lunacy IV (2004), which will depart from Venice and call on ports in the Eastern Mediterranean. LL4 will be the first Geek Cruise in Europe. Like the first three, it will be sponsored by Linux Journal.
Most tradeshow conferences last one to three or four days. "Taking a whole week for everything--both professional and recreational--you can enjoy every port of call, every shore excursion you can book--and still take a full course load on the boat as it sails from port to port", Neil says. "We schedule everything so all the talks and meetings don't coincide with shore visits. We don't want anybody having to make a choice between learning something and having a good time. We want everybody to have it both ways."
The Linux Lunacy III curriculum stretched across the greater Linux platform--LAMP for short. (That's Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, Python and everything else that fits in the suite.) Ted T'so gave a whole day (two long sessions) to the Linux kernel and added another lecture on filesystems. David Axmark gave sessions on MySQL. Randall Schwartz did Perl. Guido van Rossum did Python. Kara and Steven Pritchard gave LPI certification courses and tests. Bruce Perens covered Linux in tiny embedded applications, plus international wireless connectivity. Mick Bauer taught classes on Linux security. David Fetter taught Linux databases. Greg Haerr taught programming, and Keith Packard taught about graphics in X and fonts in Linux.
For high-level views, Charles Roth gave a talk about on-line collaboration. Ian Shields presented IBM's approach to speed-starting Linux application development. (IBM also was a co-sponsor.) Paul Kunz of the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) gave a talk on bringing the Web to America. I gave a talk on Linux in the enterprise. And Linus held his now-annual Q&A about the state of Linux in general. (A transcript of that talk will be posted on this site later this week.)
Conferences are opportunities to get hang-time with people who hardly have time for their own families, much less anybody else. But if you put a conference on a cruise ship, families can come along. Linus, Guido, Bruce and many others brought theirs. Normally I bring mine, but this year I brought my sister, who coincidentally used to be the COO for the company where Charles Roth was the CTO. So the cruise was a great way to share good times with friends and families and to make new friends along the way.
"A good cruise is a great change in context", Neil says. "You can use the setting just to have a good time, or it can make you think in new ways about familiar subjects. That's one of the reasons geeks like to come on cruises. They can't help thinking anyway, but in a novel setting they often come up with new perspectives and new ideas."
So here's a day-by-day account of where we went and what we learned along the way.
Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal