Linus at FNAL

Comdex Spring 99/Linux Global Summit


Some time a couple of months ago, I was perusing slashdot and found the announcement that Linus (I've now learned that it's pronounced Leenus) was going to give the keynote at the Linux Global Summit being held at Spring Comdex 99 in Chicago. That's close enough to Long Island that I quickly gave the idea of flying to Chicago a real consideration. Not pondering too long on the, "should I go or should I stay", issue, I went ahead and set in motion the paper work needed to get a trip approved to go to Chicago. The air fair was very cheap, under $200 for a round trip ticket. The Linux Summit had a $195 registration fee, and a one night at a hotel would cost $100. I could do it for about $600. I have the purchasing power to spend that much on disk drives for our computer system in the Physics department without raising an eyebrow. So I figured it shouldn't be a problem to get the approval to fly to Chicago to see and hear Linus, in flesh and blood, talk about Linux. I set my schedule up so that I would catch the earliest Monday morning flight out of Islip (a local long island air port) and make it to Comdex by 10:30am in time for Linus's talk.

It turns out that I have the purchasing power to blow $600 on disk drives, but when it comes to trying to get a trip approved to see Linus, that's a whole other deal. Brookhaven National Laboratory just gives me fits. Not to dwell on the details, but I had to push very hard and spend a lot of my political capital in order to get the trip approved. The department chair told me that the nuclear physics group had to pay for half of the trip, and this nuclear physics group I'm working with now, has a ban on all travel. No exceptions!!! The nuclear physics group is 5 million dollars in the hole, they have to get a major experiment online in 3 months and the head of the group, for political reasons, said that he was going to ban travel for all BNL physicist working for him. That totally screwed me over. I made a big fuss about not being able to go to the 100 year American Physical Society meeting. They didn't care. So I had to put up a big fight in order to get $300 approved to see Linus. After a lot of fuss, including a long talk with one of the nuclear physics group leaders, who tried to console me about how we all have to sacrifice at this time, I was able to get the $300 committed from the online computing system account. (It has about $100K in it, which will be spent paying the salaries of electricians who are still wiring up the power to the crates for the DAQ system.) At least I was able to secure $300 out of that fund before it was spent by the electricians feeding their families.

Yours truly. The author of all this verbosity.

It turns out that a couple of days after securing the travel budget paper work, I get an announcement on the FNAL Linux users group mailing list that Linus is to give a talk at Fermi Lab the night before his keynote. (Sunday night, that is.) This was a pleasant surprise, but was going to pose a challenge for my travel plans. First off, if I touched the travel paper work, I would probably derail the whole thing and I wouldn't be allowed to go to Chicago at all. Then I had to deal with my wife who would be very unhappy about my leaving on a Sunday. To make a long story short, I manage on both fronts. I was going to stay overnight at one of the FNAL dorms ($17.50) and I would rent a car for 1 day ($40) so that I could get out to Fermi Lab. My wife? I would cross that bridge later....

And so it goes. I made it to Fermi Lab, met Linus for the first time, (along with John "Mad Dog" Hall) and had a chance to attend most of the Linux Global Summit as well. What follows is a rather long and too verbose account of what I saw. So in order to make it more manageable for the readers, I've broken up my write-up into three parts: Linus's Fermi talk and a day by day account of the Comdex show/Linux Summit. I hope you enjoy the read and please send me feedback. I love to read e-mails from my readers.

This page was proofread by Tim Chambers. Thanks Tim.

Copyright 1999 Stephen Adler