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SCALE Readies 'Non-Commercial' Open Source Conference

Growing Every Year

  • November 20, 2006
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Despite the proliferation of LinuxWorld and other commercial open source shows, several regional Linux organizations continue to hold their own conferences and expos. Right now, for example, a group of open sourcers in California is readying SCALE (Southern California Linux Expo) 5x, an event slated to take place in Los Angeles on February 9 to 11 of next year.

Although the five-year-old conference focuses mainly on Linux, participation isn't limited just to the Linux community, said Orv Beach, a member of the dot org's public relations committee, in an interview with LinuxPlanet.

Instead, all organizations and individuals interested in open source are welcome. For instance, non-Linux participants in SCALE 5x will include NetBSD, Gentoo, ReactOS, and Haiku, described by Beach as "an open source clone" of BeOS.

"We want people to know that there are alternatives to Microsoft. It's all about choice," according to Beach.

With SCALE 5x now more than three months away, people are still responding to the call for papers, which is posted as a PDF document on the Web.

Already, though, the list of speakers includes Chris Dibona of Google; Erin Quill & Ted Haeger of Novell; Don Marti; Davis Uhlman of Uversa; Dennis Rex; and Patrick McGovern of Splunk.

For last year's SCALE 4x, the final list of almost 40 presenters included representatives of Google, Novell, AMD, Sun, MySQL, and IBM, along with many people from smaller Linux companies and open source projects.

But unlike commercial trade events, SCALE does not allow the vendors in their midst to do any "selling," Beach maintained.

"There's a definite need for shows that aren't commercial," he told LinuxPlanet. Instead, SCALE's emphasis is on education.

"The vendors can be here, but their presentations had better not be sales pitches," according to Beach. "At [a non-commercial show], the knowledge transfer is better because the signal-to-noise ratio is lower."

Over the years, presenters at SCALE have ranged from Linux industry luminaries such as Jon "Mad Dog" Hall to "people you've probably never even heard of," he told LinuxPlanet.

SCALE also allows Linux and other open source projects to be present on the expo floor, "as long as they can show they have something to contribute," he said.

SCALE first got off the ground five years ago, as a combined effort of three regional LUGs in southern California: SCLUG, UCLALUG, and USCLUG. "We wanted to do a show that was really professional," according to Beach.

Attendance at SCALE has stepped from under 400 the first year of the show to about 1,000 last year.

A number of the conference tracks at last year's show dealt with Linux systems administration, he noted.

"Use of Linux has been exploding everywhere, from the data center to the desktop. The [Linux] desktop has gotten very easy for Joe Windows user. But for systems administration, Linux still isn't as easy as it could be. We should be doing more [discussion of] system administration this year," he elaborated.

This year's edition of SCALE will also feature a workshop on open source document standards in government, co-sponsored with the Open Document Fellowhip, along with a "newbie track," for users who want to learn more about the basics of Linux.

"In the newbie track, we'll begin by talking about things like [running Linux] on wireless networks, and the use of Samba for Windows sharing," he said.

"We might be repeating the newbie track in the future, but probably not every year. Maybe we'll do [the newbie track] every two or three years."

Also, for the first time ever, SCALE will include a full-day session on "Open Source in Health Care."

Beach said that SCALE actually got this idea from the most recent LinuxWorld show, where a health care session turned out to be huge draw.

Scheduled for February 9, the day before the main conference begins, SCALE's health care session will delve into topics such as the relevance of open source standards to the health care industry and integration between proprietary systems and open source.

The session will also take a close look at the use of open source software in private medical practices and regional health care organizations. Case studies and birds-of-a-feather sessions will be part of the program, as well.

Commercial exhibitors at SCALE 5x will include gold sponsors Dell and GroundWork OpenSource; silver sponsors Google and ClearHealth; Ingres; ISP sponsor DigiLink; and basic sponsors Centrify; ImageStream; and TrollTech.

Non-profit exhibitors will include CACert, Cinepaint, EFF, Fedora, Gentoo, Haiku, Inkscape, KDE, KnoppMyth, Linux Astronomy, Linux Terminal Server Project, NetBSD, OpenNMS, ReactOS, Ubuntu, Ulteo, and Wikimedia.

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