Atlanta Linux Fest 2009

I interviewed Nick Ali, one of the great minds behind the Atlanta LinuxFest 2009. See what he has to tell us, and why you shouldn't miss it if you're lucky enough to be nearby on September 19th, 2009!

Nick, please introduce yourself...

My name is Nick Ali, I live in Atlanta, GA, USA. I am a software architect by day, an Ubuntu community member the rest of my waking hours! My first experience with open source was about 12 years ago, when I bought a copy of Red Hat, and was shipped a bunch of CDs. Waffling for some time after between Windows, various Linux distributions and BSD variants, I came back to using Linux full-time 5 years ago. Thats when Debian worked mostly out of the box on my machines. About 3 years ago, I heard all this raucous about something called Ubuntu. Finally giving it a shot, I've been hooked not only on the distribution, but also the community.

You are organising the Atlanta Linux Fest 2009. IS this your first year?

2009 will be the 2nd year of Atlanta Linux Fest. About 6 weeks before Software Freedom Day 2008, a few of us were sitting around discussing how it would be cool to have a Linux show in Atlanta. A lot of the old schoolers remember the Atlanta Linux Showcase fondly, so we thought itmight be cool to take a stab at it. Six weeks is really a short amount of time to plan anything like a Linux fest. But we managed to find a spot, get some presentations together, and do an event. About 150 people showed up. Not bad for 6 weeks of planning from scratch and absolutely no budget.

Six weeks! That's quite an achievement! You had more time this year... how did you find the process?

Surprisingly, I don't think it got easier. We have higher expectations for this year, thus we are putting more pressure on ourselves even though we have had more time. But having had some experience and more people involved with various skills in planning such an event, it has been fun!

One of our goals for ALF is to be action-oriented. We want a good mix of speakers who will give awesome presentations, but also folks who can demo something for us. Last year, David did a presentation on security. He demoed how to set up SSH and GPG keys and how to use them. We want attendees to follow along on their laptops or go home excited to try something out. Finding that balance is key for us and we are constantly working on finding presenters who can show off their work.

Who's working on ALF2009 at the moment?

The core team working on ALF 2009 includes Josh Chase, Jim Popovitch, David Tomaschik, Amber Graner, and myself. Josh, Jim, David, and I initially met through the Ubuntu Georgia LoCo (, Amber is part of the North Carolina Ubuntu LoCo and has been pivotal in getting us organized and moving in the right direction.

While we are all part of the Ubuntu community, ALF is completely distro-agnostic. Presenters will talking about Fedora and openSUSE.

Was there a moment when you thought that you couldn't pull it together?

No, it was more of an issue of not meeting our expectations. After last year's experience, we knew we could pull something off, but we wanted an event that the organizers, the speakers, and attendees would feel was worth their time.

What's the funniest moment you experienced while organising ALF2009? What about the most fun?

Lets just say some of the presentation proposals have been...inappropriate. I'll leave it at that :-)

While organizing such an event using online tools is great, nothing beats everyone sitting around a table and BSing for an afternoon. The camaraderie is where its at.

How many people do you want to pull this year? Is everything going according to expectations?

Our goal was 300, but we have already surpassed that in registrations. There are always surprises :-) We have had speakers drop out unexpectedly, but others have stepped graciously to help us out. There is no doubt, the event itself will throw us some curveballs!

Any important events/people joining? You don't have to name them, but maybe some hints?

On the speaker side, Bradley Kuhn, of Software Freedom Law Center, will be talking about GPLv3. Rikki Kite, an editor at Linux Pro magazine, and Kirrily Robert (who gave a keynote at OSCON), will be discussing women in open source.

The Ubuntu Kernel team will also be on hand. They will test out attendees laptops to see if there will be any issues running the upcoming release, Ubuntu 9.10. Also, they will be teaching how to hack drivers.

This is all on top of the other awesome presentations we will have Atlanta Linux Fest 2009!

Good luck with everything!


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