SCALE 3X Wrapup Report

by Jeffrey Bianchine

The third Southern California Linux Exposition (SCALE 3X) successfully completed its run the weekend of February 12-13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. SCALE 3X provided two full days of featured speakers arranged in four tracks, a small exposition with an interesting range of booths, a speakers dinner Saturday evening, plus a VoIP panel discussion that closed the event.

Track A was oriented to the experienced Linux user, covering the most technically sophisticated topics, including the kernel, embedded issues and remastering Knoppix. Tracks B and C were somewhat less technically oriented and included talks about application development and availability, a variety of implementation issues and relevant social issues. Track D was oriented to the Linux beginner and included tutorials on such topics as distributions, networking, content management and Samba. The VoIP panel discussion that closed the conference tracks was well attended and included a spirited Q & A session.

All speakers allowed ample time for Q & A, and several speakers continued discussions with interested attendees in the hallways after vacating the platform. Many of the speakers even allowed for questions during their talks, which--although it broke the flow of the presentation--allowed for a more immediate approach to the speaker.

The range of speakers and their topics was ample for an event of this type. Although a few attendees periodically grumbled about a lack of technically sophisticated material in certain presentations, the overall mood among attendees was positive. Given that SCALE 3X never billed itself as anything like a hackathon, any expectations by attendees of this sort of activity represents a clear misunderstanding on their part.

The SCALE 3X organizers digitally recorded the conference sessions, so check here for the sound files in the days to come.

The speakers dinner Saturday night was very informal and was a good way to connect with others in the Linux community over a meal. The only way to diversify the interaction further would have been to hold a cocktail party before the dinner.

In the exposition hall, the two prime locations were occupied by IBM and Novell, which greeted attendees with a new Linux server hardware platform (OpenPower 710) and CDs with Novell Linux software, respectively. Also present were various backup solution vendors, content management software providers and middleware and application developers. Noticeably absent from the exposition hall was Red Hat, which one would think would at least send somebody to distribute Fedora CDs in an effort to broaden community support.

As one would expect at such an event, the distribution communities were present. The Debian booth featured local community members along with i386 platform stable and unstable CDs for sale at the usual price of $1 USD. Although Gentoo did not offer CDs, its booth featured a demonstration of a sound application running on PPC hardware. KnoppMyth had a booth featuring its playback capability and offered current CDs.

Also as expected, the FSF offered printed material. LTSP showcased its considerable capabilities using nominal hardware. LinuxChix let us all know that "Chicks Dig Linux". Rounding out the exposition space were booths featuring USENIX, local LUGs and SIGs and other related non-profit groups.

FreeBSD and NetBSD had booths, too, presenting their non-Penguin free software. FreeBSD featured free boxed CD sets of both the 5.3 and 4.10 releases. NetBSD featured its OS running on a small sample of relatively obscure but fully supported platforms--Amiga, Cobalt, DEC and SGI.

It was interesting to witness these xBSD community members having to explain what their software is (an operating system), how it is licensed (BSD instead of GPL) and how it is developed (centralized organizations) to unfamiliar attendees. However, it was even more interesting to listen in on the informal but friendly debate about hardware support that arose as the show was closing. And it was precisely this kind of open atmosphere between conference attendees, speakers and booth personnel that was so refreshing.

Some rough edges were evident during the course of the weekend, but given that the organizers represented local LUGs and not a professional event corporation, this was not surprising. However, after reflecting on them, they actually added to the charm of the event. As the major Linux expositions have become increasingly commercial in focus at the expense of community-style gatherings, it is quite refreshing to be able to experience more of a community-oriented atmosphere from start to finish.

As a postscript, I cannot resist noting that SCALE 3X was located next to the Staples Center, which housed the Grammy Awards on Sunday evening. In fact, SCALE 3X closed just as the big limousines appeared on the LAPD-guarded streets. Could there be a more delicious juxtaposition of polar opposites than a modest group of penguinistas concluding their local community event in the shadow of big music's annual self-congratulatory gala?

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