The Southeast Linux Fest (SELF) is an annual Linux conference in the southeast region of the United States. This year, the conference ran from June 10 – 12, 2016. SELF was located in the Sheraton by the airport in Charlotte, NC.  As expected, the booth site was the same as the earlier years while at this venue. Booth placement plays a vital role in visibility and accessibility. When presentations finish, attendees come out and the first booth visible is Fedora.

SELF 2016: Roll call

At SELF 2016, the following Ambassadors were in attendance.

Corey Sheldon (linuxmodder) was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances.

SELF Day 1: 10 June

Our day started with the setup of the booth before the opening of the expo. Ben Williams had already set the table-cloth and banners up the night before and scoped out the venue for the next day’s events. Julie and I showed up at 8 a.m. to get things rolling along with Ben and Cathy Williams. The booth was prepared and ready to go by 8:30 a.m.

Shortly after the booth was ready, Ben and I began the strategy for the day and what needed to be accomplished.  The most important item that needs to get accomplished was media production.  We decided to start producing a master copy of Workstation, KDE, LXDE, Cinnamon, Xfce, and Mate. Once the media master was produced, we verified the media and its operability. I wish to thank Red Hat and Remy DeCausemaker for the purchase of the duplicator and blank media, what a fantastic tool and great help to Fedora.

Once the media was verified, Julie began using the duplicator, producing media for distribution from our table. She began with Workstation, producing 25 copies with 20 minutes, then moved on to KDE, LXDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, and Mate. Once patrons and event enthusiasts began showing up we were ready with enough media to get started. Julie continued to produce media for the table by tracking the spins that were leaving the table with interested patrons. To our surprise, on the first day the popular media was Cinnamon and Mate. Julie must have produced 100 copies of Mate and 50 Cinnamon that left the table. Workstation and KDE were also popular and leaving the table as well.

Julie continued to produce media throughout the entire day. Normally we have media produced and packaged for these types of events, but due to the forthcoming release of Fedora 24 we were uncertain on the release before the event. As it turned out, Fedora 24 was not released and ready for our event. Southeast Linux Fest has always been scheduled close to the release cycle of Fedora, so there always has been a decision for us to either bring/produce previous release or produce newly released Fedora. Just the day before we had the release information of No-Go for Fedora 24, so we realized we would be producing Fedora 23 media.

Also something we tried differently was to produce a few copies of KDE, Xfce, LXDE, etc., and have that media available as well. That decision in my opinion was a success. For example, we always have people that come up to our table and ask for Fedora KDE, and all we have is Workstation. This time, we would gladly produce a DVD or if they carried a USB, create the media for them on the spot. Having a few copies on the table was a HUGE success. Also we had several patrons ask if they could take one of each to that they could try them at home and see what the rest of the family would like to use. This type of situation provided great opportunity in spreading Fedora into more homes and the community was successfully accomplished.

We shut down the table at 5 p.m. and locked up the event box in the storage room until the next day.

SELF Yarn Crawl

Cathy Williams comments on the Yarn Crawl:

“The knitting track was a big hit. Remi, the owner of Charlotte Yarns was on hand with yarns to buy and the kits for them learn how to knit, the magic loop and the Tardis sock/chart classes. We had a few come in just to shop which was great. Carrie Stokes and I taught 9 people to knit. Sandy of Charlotte Yarns taught 5 people the magic loop technique, I taught about 4 people to read a knitting chart and on Sunday Nicole Tobias taught lace and how to block your work to about 6 people.”

SELF Day 2: 11 June

Day two began with booth set up at 8 a.m.  We noticed that the media we had left on the table after we shut down for the previous night had gone down significantly. The expo hall schedule closes at 5 p.m. The schedule showed that the last set of talks we ongoing until 5:30 p.m. with some event sponsor gatherings ongoing until about 8 p.m. So leaving some media on the table overnight also proved to be successful in distributing Fedora. Julie immediately began to produce more media with the duplicator, restocking the spins that were low.  The event began to pick up around 8:50 a.m. with the Keynote and first set of speakers kicking off the second day of the event.

Although the day started off slower than the previous day, we still went through a good bit of media. As the previous day also pointed out the same we all noticed that the interest was not focused on Workstation but had a variety of interest in the other spins. Nick pointed out that even the hardcore Ubuntu folks became more interested in the other desktops Fedora provided as he talked to people throughout the day.

One of the high points of the day was when a young lad (about 7 years old) walked up to the OLPC and began using it. He was truly fascinated with what it could do. With his father standing in the background, he asked if this was available outside of the OLPC.  I then demonstrated the SoaS on the demonstration laptop with the updated media. Once the media ran up and we got to his age group, you could see the amazement and joy with what he was doing. His father asked if we could get them a copy of the media. Ben was already on it, and asked them to be back in about 20 minutes and it would be ready. When they returned, the SoaS spin was ready. We asked if there was anything else we could produce media-wise and any other questions that they had. Truly and interested person and the next generation of Linux users had begun.

Throughout the day, Ben had collected registration for the Amateur Radio exam and preparing for his talk on the same subject. To his surprise, there were more attendees this year than the previous year. If I remember there were 30 registered to take the exam that day. Nick was also busy preparing for his talk and the key signing event scheduled later that evening.

During the day, we fielded a lot of questions about installation, dual-boot, and UEFI. We did experience one difficult problem with an interested Linux enthusiast. Ben was assisting with a loading problem in a new laptop loading any version of Fedora. A new ASUS with Skylake and NVidia video proved to be a difficult adventure. He tried all versions and the only one worked. Ben tried creating special media with the drivers loaded so that the PC would at least run the live media. Ben was determined to figure out the issue but ran out of time, and I believe that he is still helping the person get through this problem.

During both days, the ever-popular 3D printing demonstration at the Red Hat table presented by Tom Callaway (spot) always draws the attention of all ages.

As the day began to wear down, Nick was preparing for the keying signing. Ben was also preparing for the Amateur Radio Exam that was at 5:15 p.m. The Fedora booth shut down at 5 p.m.

SELF Day 3: 12 June

Normally on the third day of this event, most of the vendors already packed up the night before, but there were a significant number that did not leave. That morning had a few more talks scheduled and a few more that day. The expo was only scheduled to be open until 3 p.m. The morning began with a few visitors and steadily increased until about noon. Most of the vendors then began to pack up for the event. We decided to stay open and did not shut down until 2 p.m. We all believe that the event was again successful for Fedora and overall successful for all attendees. As always, I have a questionnaire that visitors fill out if they wish. This tool also gives me an opportunity to recruit new interested people to help us out with the project. Most people don’t realize just how vast the project is and how they would be able to contribute. I will generate and give a separate report for those specific questionnaires.

Ben Williams’ Corner

We had several people complaining about the following issues:

  1. Bluetooth not working (we pointed them to the current Bugzilla issues with Bluetooth)
  2. One gentleman’s brightness keys would not work (we tried several things to troubleshoot)
    1. Boot with an updated Fedora 23 Live: brightness keys worked
    2. Boot with a Fedora 24 live ISO: Brightness keys worked

Result: Recommended that he remove the kernel-debug and test packages, handed my business card, and have not heard anymore from him.

My talk was listed in the SELF program as “Hamming it up”, but my title was “Amateur Radio: Past, Present, and Future”. I was pleasantly surprised that my first talk had 50-75 attendees.

I was also involved in registration and administration of the Amateur Radio Exam on Friday night. We had about 45 register for the exam and 25 showed up to take said exams. The results ended up with eight people earning the Technician’s License, three earning the General Class License, and one person passed the Extra Class Exam.

As always, Southeast Linux Fest is a great show that I completely enjoy, and I enjoy representing Fedora here.

SELF in summary

In summary, the event was popular, informative, and exciting. As Ambassadors, we all enjoyed interacting with people and their professions. For metric purposes, here is some data we collected.

  • 420 DVD media distributed during the event (of various spins)
  • Talks were well-liked and informative
  • 5 USB keys with F23 Workstation given out to genuinely interested people
  • 1 SoaS produced for a very enthusiastic lad
  • Numerous GPG keys signed during the key-signing party (organized by Nick Bebout)

Southeast Linux Fest Event comments

  • Well-scheduled and coordinated: Always a pleasure to attend and work with such fantastic staff
  • Hospitality rooms well-stocked and a variety of snacks and drinks available to sponsors and vendors
  • Lunch provided by SELF Staff for sponsors and vendors on Saturday and Sunday was an unexpected and welcome benefit
  • Power and connectivity were good
  • There was more than adequate storage and a locked storage space
  • Scheduling was efficient and supportive
  • In light of venue problems, Event Coordinator handled situations efficiently and professionally.

Venue (Sheraton Hotel) comments

  • Most of the area outside the event rooms and venue were under construction and made it difficult to move items in and out of the event area.
  • Other meetings and events were over-scheduled in the area, causing the event coordinators to move several talks and events out of rooms to other parts of the hotel. This seemed unprofessional on the Sheraton’s part. This effected two events Fedora Ambassadors were speakers and/or examiners of.
  • Sponsor BBQ (customer-paid event) catering was 90 minutes, late delaying the event past scheduled times.
  • Venue was trying to push the event out earlier than expected on Saturday/Sunday, which was also unprofessional

Attending sponsors and vendors comments

  • All were professional and helpful (including the Ubuntu folks)
  • Platform and company information were readily available and accessible
  • A wide variety of vendors that included data and cloud services

We look forward to attending SELF again next year.

Image courtesy of Joey Kyber – originally posted to Unsplash as Untitled.