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This past Saturday I spent the day at FOSSCON in Philadelphia. My friend Stephen and his fiancee came into town for the event, and we hosted them up at the townhouse, so there were four of us heading down to the city. We aimed to get there a little early so we could spend a bit of time socializing with attendees before the keynote began at 10:20AM. During this time, I got to say hello to Charlie Reisinger who I’ve known for a few years through his work on getting kids using Linux systems at Penn Manor, and subsequently wrote The Open Schoolhouse. I picked up a copy when it came out and made sure I tossed it in my bag when I packed for the conference. He signed it for me!

The keynote was on “Why Community Matters” by Shilla Saebi from Comcast. I knew her through work on OpenStack in years past, so it was nice to see her again now that we’ve both transitioned from systems engineering into open source advocacy work.

In her keynote she touched upon key benefits of open sourcing software, like shared control of project direction from various contributors, and then drew from experience at Comcast about how to make it easier for employees within your organization to contribute. She also explained that raising awareness about the value of open source and open source work already being done in your organization is important, which can be done by regular activity reports, internal open source conferences and specific recognition when employees hit defined milestones in contributing to open source. I would have liked to hear more about what Comcast specifically was doing and how they got there as a large company whose focus is not delivery of technology solutions. Still, a nice chunk of their current work can be found by looking at the new Comcast GitHub Page.

The next talk was probably my favorite of the day, Walt Mankowski on “A punch card ate my program!” which was a reprise and extension of the talk he gave at !!Con several months back. In this talk he presented the audience with a bug in some COBOL code, explained what it was supposed to be doing, and then left us hanging as he gave some background about the origins of COBOL. I’d seen his !!Con talk, so I knew the punch line going in, but I loved how he added a whole bunch more history to the longer version of this talk. He had quotes from COBOL luminaries Grace Hopper and Jean Sammet, along with a trip back in time to the creation of the Jacquard Loom in 1804 and Herman Hollerith’s role in the 1890 census to give a proper full history of punch cards. Discussion around the use of COBOL today was also worth sticking around for, he drew from his work at QVC, but there are many older companies who still rely upon their COBOL codebases and they’ll soon need programmers to replace the ones who are currently aging right along with the code. He also wrote an article covering key points of this talk for opensource.com: Don’t hate COBOL until you’ve tried it

With his talk behind us, MJ and I joined Walt and several others for a quick lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant. Upon my return I attended Andy Wojnarek’s talk on nmon. I was already familiar with the tool and its capabilities, but I was interested in how folks are using it today and any changes that had been made of late. It seems most of the changes of late have been related to architecture support instead of new features to support the increasing complexity of modern systems. Still, it was good to learn that as a tool it’s still a slim option for standard systems statistics reporting, and he also got into some of the dashboard tools that the data can be fed into.

My talk on “The Open Sourcing of Infrastructure” was directly after Andy’s. I had given this talk as a keynote at SLC DevOps Days back in May, and in my time since then I was able to flesh out some of my points, and talk a bit more about the software ecosystem in the 90s when I started tinkering with servers. My key message in this talk is to implore the audience to carefully think through the decisions made when looking to move to cloud-based systems, and that these aren’t new ideas, we can draw from lessons we learned as the industry shifted to using more open source tooling in infrastructures.

Thanks to David Morfin for taking a photo during my talk!

In discussions after my talk I learned how I can improve the talk further by going into security-focused examples of how the global community has come together, like for the creation of the Core Infrastructure Initiative. Slides from my talk can be found in PDF form here. I also wrote an opensource.com article last week that intentionally mirrors the key points in my presentation: Why open source should be the first choice for cloud-native environments

As happens post-talk, I ended up chatting with folks outside as the next talk got started and took the opportunity to walk around the venue and give away some of the DC/OS swag I brought along. It was particularly nice running into a DC/OS user who I got to geek out with over how much easier DC/OS makes it for a very small team to manage an Apache Mesos cluster. At the tail end of my wandering, I got to catch up with Jim Fisher who brought along the annual Oreo cake!

The conference concluded with R Geoffrey Avery organizing a series of lightning talks before organizer Jonathan Simpson formally concluded the conference with some giveaways and thanks given to sponsors and volunteers.

Some more photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157688170091285

As a bit of an unofficial after party a whole bunch of us ended up at the nearby City Tap House at a big outdoor table. We had some beers and good food, watched the sun set and tried to identify strange things flying in the sky. Good times. I always enjoy the connections I make at these smaller regional events, and since it takes place in a city where I used to live, Fosscon itself will always hold a special place for me.


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