COSSFEST, A Calgarian Tale of FOSS, Betrayal, and Murder

Okay, I might be exaggerating about the whole betrayal and murder thing. But this story is about FOSS in Calgary. And it is about COSSFEST 2010. We did, however, kill a few beer. Does that count? And we did have a panel about the death of somebody . . . or something. Muah hah hah!

Sorry, I'll come in again . . .

This past weekend (April 9th and 10th), I had the great pleasure to attend COSSFEST 2010 in Calgary. COSSFEST is the Calgary Open Source Systems Festival, a gathering of people whose passion is free and open source software, coming together to share information, exchange ideas, and otherwise talk about all things FOSS. Oh, and drink beer. And eat, too. Yeah, right . . . there's that karaoke thing we'd rather not talk about.

For me, this was a sort of Calgary Linuxfest v 2.0 since I gave the keynote at the first every COSSFEST back in 2006, then called (you guessed it) Calgary Linuxfest. This year's COSSFEST featured some great speakers including Aaron Seigo, Adam McDaniel, Adam Tindale & Jordan Tate, Brad "Renderman" Haines, Bruce Byfield, Dafydd Crosby, Joshua Schroeder, Kenton Smith, Martin Glazer, Richard P.W. Stobbe, Richard Weait, Stefan Steiniger, and Timothy Griffin.

Oh yeah, there was some guy named Marcel Gagné there as well.

It occurs to me, and perhaps I'll remember next time, that it's a good idea to check the schedule before you arrive. More often then not, I seem to have the opening talk and yet I'm always surprised to discover that no, I can't sit down with a coffee and relax for a few hours. Nevertheless, I had a great time presenting and, rumour has it, the crowd enjoyed it as well. For the record, my talk was on cloud computing.

The great thing about being on first and knowing your next panel is at the close of the convention is that you then have a couple of days to really enjoy the company and insight from some really bright people. It's also a wonderful way to meet up with friends you don't see anywhere near often enough. My good friends, Joanne and Howard, who let me crash at their place, were wonderful. Hanging out with Aaron Seigo, Kirstin Morrell, Shawn Grover, Bruce Byfield, Renderman, and others, was great fun.

The talks were fascinating as well. Aaron Seigo's talk on creating Plasma widgets with Javascript almost made me want to get back to coding. Almost. Bruce Byfield's presentation on sexism in FOSS was enlightening. Dafydd Crosby, in his oddly quiet way, managed in two separate talks to get people totally wired and jumping in to the conversation with enthusiasm; there was more than a little pontificating going on as well. Meanwhile, Daffyd smiled quietly and wrote one liner comments on his notebook, projected in Matrix green on the big screen (beware those quiet types). Richard Weait's enthusiasm about the Open Streetmap project was palpable and I suspect more than one person will be attending a mapping party sometime soon.

The surprise panel for me was one given by Brad "Renderman" Haines. It was a surprise because it didn't really have anything to do with FOSS and yet was utterly and completely fascinating. If you thought the locks on your front door, on your locker in the gym, or guarding the entrance to the server room with all its secret corporate data was safe, think again. Every lock I own and every lock I've ever installed is suspect now. Who knew you could open a Master combination padlock in five seconds with a shim cut out from an empty beer can. Spooky! I will be booking an appointment with a locksmith shortly.

I'll skip all the side chat, the many cups of (sadly weak) hotel coffee, the high-calorie foods, and the beer, and make my way to the finale. The final panel included myself, Aaron Seigo, Renderman, Adam McDaniel, and Craig McLean. It was called "The Death of the Desktop". When Shawn Grover emailed me to ask if I'd be interested in doing this panel, I responded with the following:

Yeah . . . the death of the desktop. [ shudders ] I remember it like it was yesterday. You see, I was there the day the desktop died. My uncle, Luigi; he killed it. Dead. No remorse and an evil grin stretch across that otherwise humorless face. You see, he'd always been jealous of the desktop, of its good looks and shiny, glossy charm. Kept saying crazy things; like, "You look like an Angel desktop. Maybe that's where you should live. With the angels. Up in them there clouds." And he'd sneer and it would send a chill up your spine like cold oatmeal. We thought he was just all puff and bravado, you know? We should have known when he started going on about this cloud thing, more and more. Every day talking about clouds and angels and maybe that's where the desktop belonged. Sorry . . . I can't go on anymore right now. Maybe Saturday.

Notice that I did not say yes or no. The panel went ahead. And it was *ahem* lively. We did, after all, have more than one opinionated geek, with beer bottle in hand, sitting in those large chairs up front. We discussed and otherwise tossed about notions of what a desktop actually is (you have to define these things), whether you can trust your data in the cloud, whether the modern desktop still has life in it, what the value of your data is, whether information is in any more danger stored locally as opposed to wherever your cloud provider puts it, and so on. A great way to wrap up the two-day event.

For some pictures from COSSFEST, check out the main page of the site.

COSSFEST was a fantastic event and one I can recommend without reservation.

Until next time . . .



I think having all of the stuffing at one end of the soft cushion is what killed the desktop, you think?

It was a great open source festival :D

You know it was good when you can't wait until next year, and that's where I'm at right now. Even though it seems I now have to learn something called the Arduino programming language. What have I gotten myself into?

Anyway, great post. And all true. Those beers are definitely dead.

The expanse of space surrounding Planet *buntu is getting busier and busier. As a result, achieving a stable orbit is particularly difficult when you're easily distracted. Consequently, Marcel Gagné's blog looks at pretty much anything and everything that orbits Planet *buntu. News, howtos, rumors, opinions, controversy, tech tips, helpful hints . . . you'll find it all here. Oh look! A shiny object!

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