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Ohio LinuxFest 2012 – Reflecting on Fun

Ohio LinuxFest 2012 – Reflecting on Fun
By: Dru Streicher

Another Ohio LinuxFest has come and gone, yet the level of ingenuity I witness every year never ceases to amaze me. There were two presentations that stood out as the highlights of my weekend.

The first presenter, Daniel Thau, demonstrated his new distribution called Bedrock Linux. I’ll admit it, the cynic in me was saying, “great just what we need, another distro.” I thought of all the distributions flying around today and wondered what could be so special about this one. Boy was I wrong! Bedrock Linux is unique: it pulls several distributions together and runs them all simultaneously – all controlled by a single kernel. In the demo he presented, Thau showed that he was using X from Arch, Compiz from Debian, and a window manager from another distro on top of that! Bedrock Linux does all this by a combination of bindmounts, chroot, and PATH. It’s complicated, maybe a little bit overkill, but it definitely works. Daniel was running his presentation straight from Bedrock, so he was able to show off a few neat tricks while switching distros on the fly. What did I take away from Dan’s talk? Well, this is probably not (more like definitely not) the most practical way to approach things. It may be crazy, but isn’t that the point? When we keep the status quo we get the same results over and over again. But when we throw in a dash of crazy and try something new, we’re much more open to innovation. Will I be rushing out and installing Bedrock? Probably not, I enjoy my current setup (Ubuntu with GNOME Shell). However, I love the outrageousness of Bedrock Linux – I love the fierce spirit that kills the cynic in me and forces me to get behind something. We should all get out there and try something new every once in awhile.

New/different distributions seemed to be a recurring theme this year. This next presentation was no exception – Ted Robinson’s The Road to 31 Flavors. I stepped in a bit late, but I still thought it was fantastic. Everyday he would install and customize a new desktop and operating system…for an entire month – that’s 31 completely different environments! Todd’s discoveries on desktop configurations intrigued me, he analyzed just what worked and what didn’t. He took great care in experimenting with the location of menus, icons, and launchers. What I liked best was that he took a screenshot for every single day. Each day was unique in it’s own special way. You could see how passionate Robinson was as he described each day with such enthusiasm – it was impossible not to be totally engrossed in the project. And when a Star Trek desktop theme (complete with stardate clock) appeared on screen, I couldn’t help but cheer along with the crowd.

Every year I visit LinuxFest, I come back with something new. This year, I witnessed the birth of brand new ideas. As domestic use of Linux continues to grow, we’ll be seeing a lot more innovators step up to the plates. But there’s a few things that we should keep in mind. Linux is about changing the world – it’s about not accepting the status quo. But above all else: it’s about having fun.

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Christina O’Neill has been working in the information security field for 3 years. She is a board member for the Northern Ohio InfraGard Members Alliance and a committee member for the Information Security Summit, a conference held once a year for information security and physical security professionals.