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Last week's Twelfth Annual Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 12x) had a little something for everyone. Young or old, new users to old hands, serious issues to silly games, the program ran the gamut from Friday to Sunday evening. And, for those who made the trek from climates that actually have seasons, the Los Angeles setting offered some welcome warmth and sunshine.

Friday kicked off with a slew of one-day tracks like Build a Cloud Day, PuppetCamp, DevOps Day LA, a Fedora Activity Day, and Infrastructure.Next. Friday's daytime track has been growing at SCALE for a few years, and this year it was really packed with tracks and a full house of attendees.

Infrastructure.Next Full House

The room for Infrastructure.Next had seating for about 80 people, and it was often packed to standing room only. The program at SCALE was similar to Ghent, starting with Jim Perrin discussing the changes since Red Hat joined forces with CentOS, CentOS SIGs and variants, and CentOS in general. He also fielded quite a few questions from the audience, as there was plenty of interest in how CentOS would evolve.

Jason Brooks debuted "How to Assemble A Cutting Edge Cloud Stack With Minimal Bleeding." Brooks spends a lot of time testing oVirt, Gluster, CentOS, Fedora, and other projects and trying to get them to play nicely with one another. Putting together a stable IaaS or infrastructure setup from leading-edge projects can be a little tricky, so Brooks offered tips on troubleshooting and retaining sanity while working with the latest and greatest.

Another new entry for Infrastructure.Next @ SCALE was on using Puppet and Gluster, from James Shubin. Shubin covered automatically deploying GlusterFS with Puppet-Gluster and Vagrant, which makes life much easier when rolling out Gluster.

Lyz Krumbach Joseph had another new entry on the schedule, on open sourcing systems administration. Her talk covered how teams can go farther than just using open source in their infrastructure, but actually making their infrastructure (through public monitoring, hosting Puppet scripts, etc.) open source. This allows the community to not only see how the infrastructure is set up, but offer bug fixes and get involved with a low barrier to entry.

The final talk of the day, featured Diane Mueller and Ryan Jarvinen discussing OpenShift. The talk drew a really good crowd with a lot of questions for Mueller and Jarvinen about using OpenShift.

Friday Keynote: Lawrence Lessig

After a day full of presentations and Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions, you'd think that a Friday night keynote at 9 p.m. would be a bit difficult to fill a room. Odds are, you'd be right – if the keynoter was someone other than Lawrence Lessig.

Lessig, a founder of Creative Commons, copyright reformer, and Harvard Law professor, did not come to SCALE to talk about Linux. He didn't come to talk about Creative Commons, or really anything technical. Instead, Lessig told stories about "East Coast Code" (law) and "West Coast Code" (code), and how the death of Aaron Swartz has moved him to pursue political reform – and implored the audience at SCALE to do likewise.

If you didn't get to attend SCALE, the talk has been recorded and is available on YouTube. At just a touch over 45 minutes, it's time well spent. Lessig is always an engaging and informative speaker, but this is an extremely powerful talk even when compared to Lessig's usual standard of awesome.

Talks, Exhibits, and Silliness

Saturday morning, SCALE threw the doors open to the exhibit hall and the main conference tracks full of talks ranging from heavy technical topics like Rich Bowen's Demystifying mod_rewrite, beginnner-friendly tech talks like Thomas Cameron's introduction to patching for new sys admins, to more community focused talks on improving tech education in schools by Rikki Endsley.

The exhibit floor was packed Saturday, and the Red Hat booth was hopping pretty much all day. Little wonder: The SCALE organizers said that SCALE topped 2,500 attendees over the weekend, and almost all the attendees were around for Saturday's festivities.

In addition to the talks and exhibits, the SCALE folks gave attendees plenty of opportunity to kick back and have fun. After the main program on Saturday, SCALE hosted yet another round of "The Weakest Geek." This game show pits six of SCALE's speakers against one another with some of the oddest trivia questions you're ever likely to encounter. A mix of pop culture, geek lore, and technical trivia, each round includes an opportunity to vote one competitor off the panel until only two remain.

This year, the lineup featured Leslie Hawthorn, Jordan Sissel, Ruth Suehle, Brendan Gregg, Deb Nicholson, and Jorge Castro. After several rounds of questions the final face off came down to Suehle and Nicholson, which resulted in a tie-breaker from the audience. Suehle (who was last year's winner) got that question right, which presumably leaves her with the crown for another year. There's some talk of changing things up and letting Suehle host the game with the SCALE organizers fighting it out for the title next year.

After the Weakest Geek, attendees gathered downstairs for the SCALE party – which featured food, drinks, and games so attendees could unwind and spend some time with friends and making new ones.

Sunday

After a very long pair of days, Sunday came a bit early for some, but with plenty of goodness to entice the tired masses out of their beds. Leslie Hawthorn presented on Why Checking Your Privilege is Good For You, a talk on why raising awareness is actually good for the individual and not just for others.

Sunday was a bit more subdued, with a smaller crowd (the exhibit floor was much less active Sunday) and shorter schedule. Still, there was plenty to see and do on Sunday, with seven main tracks, a KidsRuby workshop, 3D animation with Blender workshop, LPI exams, Sys Admin training, and SaltStack training.

Amazing What Volunteers Can Do

It's worth noting that SCALE is a fully volunteer-driven event. None of the organizers are doing this full-time, it's a labor of love for dozens of people who work for month to secure the funding, coordinate with the venue, plan the tracks, find keynotes, handle registrations, and so on. Putting on a conference of this size is an enormous amount of work, but they pull it off every year with remarkably few glitches and drawing even more people every year.

If you missed this year's SCALE, don't fret: They'll make more. The date and venue for next year's SCALE haven't been made public yet, but should be announced soon. If you can make it, it's well worth the trip.


About the author

Joe Brockmeier is the editorial director of the Red Hat Blog. He joined Red Hat in 2013 as part of the Open Source and Standards (OSAS) group, now the Open Source Program Office (OSPO). Prior to Red Hat, Brockmeier worked for Citrix on the Apache OpenStack project, and was the first OpenSUSE community manager for Novell between 2008-2010.