The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Penguins converge on Austin Texas

Austin is beautiful in the spring...enjoy it while you can because spring heralds summer.

And in Austin Texas, summer can be a handful.

That's why the people organizing the Texas LinuxFest chose April to hold their event.

While several cities and states across the US have hosted Linux events, Texas has yet to be home to efforts such as the Ohio LinuxFest 
The Atlanta Linux Fest

That is until now.

It wasn't easy putting together a project of this magnitude.  Starting with just a few people with a vision, Nathan Willis, Matt Ray, Jeremy Fluhmann and Ilan Rabinovitch put their collective efforts into getting it done.  Will it be a success?  My guess is that it will.  With the sponsorship that has come forward and the community that has built itself around this effort, I can't see how it can fail.

We had a chance to talk with Nate Willis about The Texas Linux Fest.  Nate provides some insight many of us might not have thought of.

Who had the idea for the project...who was involved in the initial planning and coordination?

Speaking for myself, I've been to a lot of shows as press, and I'd thought for a long time "man, I wish Texas had a regional Linux show;" then last summer I transitioned from that into "I wonder if I could get a group of people to start a regional Linux show."  I mentioned that to quite a few folks at different events; people that I knew -- eventually I mentioned it to Ilan at OSCON, and he told me that Matt had said almost exactly the same thing.  He put the two of us in touch.  From there, the first thing was to see who else we could find who'd be interested in participating.

We started by contacting every LUG and user group we could find; we accumulated people, started a mailing list, and got into planning.  From there it just builds momentum if there are enough interested people.

Nate, what committees were formed and who sits upon them?

The only formal committee that we had was the program committee; I felt like it was really important that we get a wide variety of talks, and if you don't bring in an eclectic group to look at and discuss the proposals, you could end up with a pretty flat schedule.

But as a start-up, mostly we've relied on individuals picking up tasks, which can be really iffy at the beginning.  People have regular life, jobs, family -- a lot of things that can get in the way.  So my schedule as a freelancer is totally flexible and I tried to pick up the bits and pieces to make sure that we didn't lose momentum.  Anyway, as we've gotten closer, more and more people have been volunteering and taking on tasks; important stuff like liaising with the venue and coordinating AV/WiFi.  We were really lucky that one of our first volunteers was Jeremy, who had actually run an event himself a couple of years back called the Texas Open Source Symposium.  Anyway, he had experience doing a lot of the nuts and bolts stuff.  And Ilan, despite being nowhere near Texas, has pitched in and worked as hard as everyone here locally; harder when you consider that he was also doing SCALE and patiently answering all kinds of questions from us. 

Where is it going to be held and when?

The venue is a event center called The Marchesa; it's in the Highland area.  We're having sessions and an expo all day on Saturday April 10th  (10-7, roughly).  The plan is to do some evening events as well, since people who are coming in from out of town would like that, but they haven't been finalized yet.  We'll post those on the web site and to facebook when we have the plan established.

Who are your sponsors and to what degree of involvement?

Let's see ... Softlayer, Zenoss, Canonical, Red Hat, Fedora, HP, IBM, Rackspace, Novell, and The Linux Fund are our commercial sponsors.  Most of them had people submit session proposals, which was nice (and by that I mean they submitted talks independently of (usually before) being sponsors.  We've also had several nonprofits lend us support in one way or another, like GNOME, Mozilla, the Linux Foundation.  And the media sponsors have done a terrific job just helping us get the word out, which is vitally important when you're an event that no one has heard of before.  That includes the Linux Journal (which is based out of Houston), LWN, Linux Magazine and Ubuntu User, LXer.  They've not only allowed us to advertise, but have run our announcements and written blog entries to help spread the word.

What problems did you encounter that caused you the most grief?

I think inertia is the big thing.  Despite what I said above about a lot of people being interested, for most people it wasn't "real" to them seven-or-eight months ago.  So it was hard to get meetings together, and put plans and timetables to work.  Once we started getting sponsors and ideas and eventually speakers, though, the event started to take shape, and as that happened more and more people could picture it happening and what it was going to be like, so they've stepped up to volunteer.  But we haven't had any major disasters...yet.

Well, actually, we did find out one-month-out from the show that the hotel where we had a block of discounted rooms reserved was going to be changing its name from a Radisson to a Holiday Inn -- and that they couldn't tell us in advance exactly when that was going to happen.  At the same time, we learned that the event center was changing *its* name from The Monarch to The Marchesa, also without warning.  So for a couple of days, it looked like we were at risk for being impossible to find.  It's hard to give people directions to two places that don't have names.  Kinda felt like we should call the city of Austin and make sure they weren't planning a rebranding as well.  But it all worked out.
Nate, what insights have you gained by being one of those putting this event together?

I think one of the big reasons that it's come together successfully is that it's something a lot of people wanted to do -- both in the community and in the business side.  I've been working as a FOSS reporter for five-plus years now, and I've been to corporate and community events all over North America; it's clear after you go to a few of those that the community-centric events, such as SCALE, are where the real excitement is, and they're growing.  Not that there's anything wrong with the big week-long events that draw the crowds, but it's a totally different feel.

We'll see you there Nate.

All-Righty Then



Mike Ramos said...

"Kinda felt like we should call the city of Austin and make sure they weren't planning a rebranding as well. But it all worked out"

You will have to forgive them Mr. Willis. They can't quite focus on much of anything right now. They spent a decade forcing a light rail system on the city and finally got it. All the promises of lighter traffic at rush hour have not materialized. They had a whopping ridership of 700 and some the second day.

Yeah, we got our 54 million worth.

I am going online to get my ticket for the fest today. This looks like it will be fun.

Mike Ramos

Colonel Panik said...

TX Linux Fest will rock.
n8willis and crew are working way hard to
make Austin the Linux Capitol if Texas.

Thanks guys, keeping Austin weird!

techpain said...

I think the link for '' is bad.

Unknown said...

@ techpain

Darned if you weren't right. Fixed.

Good eye.


Unknown said...

One can hope that it fares better than the previously attempted LinuCon that Rob Landley and others attempted back years ago. I've been quite surprised that Austin, Houston, or DFW hasn't been host to something like this for a while now- or that Linucon never quite made it past it's second pass.

KevinElement said...

I wish I could make it, I really do, but I'll unfortunately be working that weekend.

I'm glad your doing this, I hit up your blog every once and awhile through LinuxToday but didn't even know this was going on. Texas needs something like this.

If I would have known I would have made plans. Would have even sponsored considering I develop Linux HTPC systems here in TX.

Ivan Privaci said...

After years of hearing about SCALE and Ohio Linux Fest (and SELF last year) I've gotten quite irritated that I can never have enough time and money together at the same place and same time to make it to any of them.

Texas Linux Fest will be the first one that I'm pretty confident I can make it to. Looking forward to it.