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Fosscon 2014

Flying off to a conference on the other side of the country 2 weeks after having my gallbladder removed may not have been one of the wisest decisions of my life, but I am very glad I went. Thankfully MJ had planned on coming along to this event anyway, so I had companionship… and someone to carry the luggage :)

This was Fosscon‘s 5th year, 4th in Philadelphia and the 3rd one I’ve been able to attend. I was delighted this year to have my employer, HP, sponsor the conference at a level that gave us a booth and track room. Throughout the day I was attending talks, giving my own and chatting with people at the HP booth about the work we’re doing in OpenStack and opportunities for people who are looking to work with open source technologies.

The day started off with a keynote by Corey Quinn titled “We are not special snowflakes” which stressed the importance of friendliness and good collaboration skills in technical candidates.

I, for one, am delighted to see us as an industry moving away from BOFHs and kudos for antisocial behavior. I may not be a social butterfly, but I value the work of my peers and strive to be someone people enjoy working with.

After the keynote I did a talk about having a career in FOSS. I was able to tell stories about my own work and experiences and those of some of my colleagues. I talked about my current role at HP and spent a fair amount of time giving participation examples related to my work on Xubuntu. I must really enjoy this topic, because I didn’t manage to leave time for questions! Fortunately I think I made up for it in some great chats with other attendees throughout the day.

My slides from the talk are available here: FOSSCON-2014-FOSS_career.pdf

Some other resources related to my talk:

During the conference I always was able to visit with my friends at the Ubuntu booth. They had brought along a couple copies of The Official Ubuntu Book, 8th Edition for me to sign (hooray!) and then sell to conference attendees. I brought along my Ubuntu tablet which they were able to have at the booth, and which MJ grabbed from me during a session when someone asked to see a demo.

After lunch I went to see Charlie Reisinger’s “Lessons From Open Source Schoolhouse” where he talked about the Ubuntu deployments in his school district. I’ve been in contact with Charlie for quite some time now since the work we do with Partimus also puts us in schools, but he’s been able to achieve some pretty exceptional success in his district. It was a great pleasure to finally meet him in person and his talk was very inspiring.

I’ve been worried for quite some time that children growing up today will only have access to tablets and smart phones that I classify as “read only devices.” I think back to when I first started playing with computers and the passion for them grew out of the ability to tinker and discover, if my only exposure had been a tablet I don’t think I’d be where I am today. Charlie’s talk went in a similar direction, particularly as he revealed that he controversially allows students to have administrative (sudo) access on the Ubuntu laptops! The students feel trusted, empowered and in the time the program has been going on, he’s been able to put together a team of student apprentices who are great at working with the software and can help train other students, and teachers too.

It was also interesting to learn that after the district got so much press the students began engaging people in online communities.

Fosscon talks aren’t recorded, but check out Charlie’s TEDx Lancaster talk to get a taste of the key points about student freedom and the apprentice program he covered: Enabling students in a digital age: Charlie Reisinger at TEDxLancaster

GitHub for Penn Manor School District here: https://github.com/pennmanor

The last talk I went to of the day was by Robinson Tryon on “LibreOffice Tools and Tricks For Making Your Work Easier” where I was delighted to see how far they’ve come with the Android/iOS Impress remote and work being done in the space of editing PDFs, including the development of Hybrid PDFs which can be opened by LibreOffice for editing or a PDF viewer and contain full versions of both documents. I also didn’t realized that LibreOffice retained any of the command line tools, so it was pretty cool to learn about soffice --headless --convert to do CLI-based conversions of files.

Huge thanks to the volunteers who make Fosscon happen. The Franklin Institute was a great venue and aside from the one room downstairs, I think the layout worked out well for us. Booths were in common spaces that attendees congregated in, and I was even able to meet some tech folks who were just at the museum and happened upon us, which was a lot of fun.

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157646362111741/