Tuesday, August 16, 2005

LinuxWorld thoughts... and a trip down memory lane.

I quit going to LinuxWorld a few years ago.

On that note... I was reading an article today on one mans impression of this years Linux World Convention & Exposition (LWCE).

Golden's Rules: LinuxWorld's screaming hardware, palm-sized server, faux IT guys and .org ghetto.

It was actually very nice to see it publicly stated what I've known for a few years now.

The hacker feel was gone a few years ago... to be specific, it started in San Francisco at the fall 2001 expo... where many people broke down into tears (and I am now covered in goosebumps just remembering it) when at the end of the expo, a bagpipes rendition of Amazing Grace was played over the convention wide intercom and the entire crowd... who for just a moment smiled when it started... and then understood the true meaning... fell completely silent... and all you could hear were the bagpipes playing... and here and there, people crying.

It was truly the end of an era. It was the beginning of the end of the DotCom boom and we all knew it. It would be the last true Linux World for many of us.

Shortly after that, the September 11th 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York happened... and the world felt different... and by the time I returned to New York the following spring... things felt drastically different from my trip there a year previous, for both the obvious and the not so obvious reasons.

This would be the last WindowMaker.org booth. By the next convention, the rumors had it that we had been blacklisted, for not showing up on time the 2nd morning of the previous convention... but Microsoft themselves... the supposed Antichrist of the Linux World, had been given a sizeable booth to show their wares. This was almost the last nail in the coffin for me... but I still held on to the hope that the spirit wasn't quite dead...

The following convention would indeed be my last. Fall of 2002 in San Francisco.

I honestly spent the vast majority of the time with my friend Bela, whom I had met through a rather fortuitous and highly unexpected events during my previous visit to San Francisco the year prior. A group of us from the LWCE had gone out to dinner at a nice little restaurant. Bela was serving as our waitress that night, and I had mentioned to the girl sitting next to me that she was so beautiful that I wished I could take pictures of her. The girl then promptly informs Bela; "Excuse me miss, but he would like to have his picture taken with you."

This was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life. (A lot of people do not realize that I am quite shy, and especially in the presence of a very pretty woman or someone who I would have a serious crush on or be really interested in.)

Bela working.

Bela and I when we first met.
Note the bright red tint to my head from how badly I'm blushing.

Anyway... after that, she gave her e-mail address to the girl I was sitting next to, who gave it to me, so that we could send her copies of the pictures when we got home. I contacted Bela over AIM... we chatted for a bit and then went our separate ways, not really feeling that we clicked I thought... then about 6 months later, she messaged me again to say Hi and we started chatting again and almost instantly became very good friends. She offered to let me stay with her when I came out to visit next, and that's what I did most of the week that I was there. We toured the city and I had a great time. The LWCE was almost just an afterthought that week... and excuse to be there. My friend Joey and I toured the city and spent some time at the LWCE when Bela was at work or whatnot... but with no booth, and the crowd frankly already of the "dockers" type, as the link at the beginning of this post describes, there wasn't much to honestly keep us very interested.

It was about that time that I really officially kicked the Phreadom idea into gear. Having discussed it with my friend Chris Mecca at the previous 2 LWCE's... about how the "community" was dying and becoming some corporate bullshit (these were marathon hours long drunken brainstorming sessions in hotel rooms)... and how we should start a new group... even a new convention of our own. At this time I had also started becoming disillusioned with the direction of the WindowMaker project that I had been associated with for a few years. There is actually a picture of me that was taken while I was working on contract for VA Linux (now VA Software) doing a design for sourceforge.net, called "Largo is WindowMaker", that embodied that spirit.

Largo is WindowMaker.

For a time I was actually mistaken as being the actual head of the project because my name was even more recognizeable than that of the author himself. I was asked for my autograph at the conventions... or for people to have their pictures taken with me.

That pic was taken by my friend Trae McCombs, who along with Greg Sanders and others, actually helped to get me that contract at VA... and really, quite honestly, changed the course of my life.

Anyway... I really owe those guys and will never forget all the good things they did for me.

But after a few years, and what many of us considered the death of the community spirit and LWCE etc... we moved on. I didn't feel the same passion about WindowMaker anymore and the project itself felt stalled and stagnant... so I moved on.

I don't remember what day I first started the #phreadom chat channel on IRC... but that was the real start of it. Over the course of a few months, many of the people that shared the same interests and ideas about things that I did, followed me from #windowmaker to #phreadom. We started working on the website, which honestly still isn't finished... years later. It's almost a running joke at this point. :-P

But back in the winter of 2002/2003, we had the first "SUMMIT". A gathering of people from #phreadom or who were interested in it. Rob flew up from Arizona, Lee drove over from the other side of the state... we drove down to see Matt in Holland (MI) because he had a friend flying in from Europe I believe and couldn't come up to the actual Summit. My friends Scott and Birdy came as well. A few people couldn't make it at the last minute and literally called to let me know while I was on my way to pick them up from the airport and train station. :-/

Anyway... it went pretty well, and we had planned the next Summit to be in Dresden Germany, but a lot of us were short on the time and money... and getting together a group of people from around the globe was proving a bit difficult. Obviously my European friends wanted to meet in Dresden, and my American friends wanted to meet in Las Vegas... and even this was only generally the case, and not the rule.

The Summit 2004 - Dresden, Deutschland.

Anyway, The Second Annual Summit never happened. And although there has been talk recently about organizing another one, it has just been sort of thrown out there... nothing really discussed yet.

Since then, Phreadom-related things have taken most of my attention... LinuxWorld is mostly a memory, and even WindowMaker is being left behind as more of a memory. I just felt that I needed to move on and not get trapped in the past. So I've been in a sort of limbo for a few years now wondering what direction I really wanted to go in... what I wanted to focus on... I tried some things like the Plan 9 operating sytem to see if I could find another group that was still more worried about truly being creative and not just kissing corporate ass... but frankly I got in a little over my head. But I enjoyed running it for a bit, learning about it... creating a page for it on my server here, that I didn't finish because I couldn't juggle such an investment of time with the job I was doing at the time.

Anyway... I think that's enough on that for now.

"My last night here for you... same old songs... just once more."

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