SeaGL 2015 Recap


October 29, 2015

The third SeaGL Seattle GNU/Linux Conference took place October 23rd and 24th at Seattle Central College in Washington State. I drove up from Portland, Oregon to host a FreeBSD table and talk to students, professors and users about BSD topics ranging from FreeBSD to FreeNAS, OpenZFS, pfSense and even OpenBSD. As a free-of-charge event, SeaGL attracted a broad range of attendees which made for pretty intense engagement with users of all levels of expertise.
At three years of age, SeaGL is definitely a toddler of a conference with a confident, yet innocent attitude that is refreshing among the many “all-business” events in the community. Setting up meant picking an available table. Making a badge meant grabbing a pen. Giving a lightning talk meant signing up between other lightning talks. While it “aspires to be like SCALE in Los Angeles”, I look at SeaGL the same way I look at my toddler: “Please stay small and innocent as long as you can!”

I had help at the table on Friday from recent-graduate Steven Douglas of Isilon who proved a huge help reaching out to students and professors, many of whom simply poked their heads into the “Expo Hall” to see what was going on. We found that every student was familiar with free software in one way or another and that the professors were genuinely interested in a Unix curriculum. One educator came from as far as Victoria, BC and I look forward to the educational materials that the FreeBSD Foundation is preparing. Other users talked about their successes with FreeNAS, pfSense and OpenBSD, or simply how they had fond memories of using BSD a “long, long time ago”.

Day one wrapped up with an informal Free Software Foundation dinner where I got to talk to SeaGL organizer Deb Nicholson, SCALE organizer Gareth Greenaway and Lance Albertson of the Oregon State University Open Source Lab (OSU-OSL). These are all delightful people and it was great to see them “off duty”, even though one was playing a key role in the event. The dinner took place across the street from the Starbucks flagship store and roastery which I must say was mildly mind-blowing in its scale.

Day two was characterized by less students and more average users and this shift made for lots of “Hi from…” moments with various familiar faces on Twitter including a few Jupiter Broadcasting fans. I confess I did not leave the table for any sessions short of my Friday lightning talk on “Words of Advice” but Saturday did give me more time to mingle with the Microsoft folks who proved quite fond of the BSD horns and my “FreeBSD <Heartbleeds> Microsoft” slide. Like the students that came through, the young Microsoft table staffers were very familiar with free software and represented the rapid evolution at Microsoft as the company contemplates its long-term relevance. It’s not clear if we will ever see a bare-metal free software operating system out of them but they absolutely realize that every development stack is going open.
Finally, day two wrapped up with a social event that included keynote talks by Shauna Gordon-McKeon on many aspects of community participation, and Richard M. Stallman on Free Software and Your Freedom. Both talks were very insightful and I am consistently surprised by how many of Stallman’s points I agree with. I don’t agree that we BSD folks embrace “pushover” licenses but I do appreciate that he has put a significant amount of thought into each of his positions.
I wish to humbly thank the SeaGL organizers for presenting me the first-ever Cascadia Community Builder Award at the closing social event and look forward to SeaGL 2016!
To see more photos from SeaGL, check out our albums on Facebook or Google+
Michael Dexter

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