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The venerable Linux Foundation just this morning announced the schedule for LinuxCon, which happens in Boston, MA, August 10-12. The lineup looks pretty fantastic, with talks by Joe Brockmeier, Scott Remnant and Matt Asay of Canonical, Karen Copenhaver talking legal, my old workmate John Hawley on the state of, Karlie Robinson on business (looks very interesting), plus the usual cast of awesome kernel maintainers—over 60 talks, plus bowling and rubbing elbows with luminaries. I just love these things. The sense of community and camaraderie is overwhelming, and the Linux Foundation does a great job of keeping things professional, intimate, and fun.

The day before, on August 9, I will also be helping to run the day-long Teaching Open Source mini-summit on education. This is a chance for professors, teachers, trainers, and others involved in educating people to get some pointers from industry on best practices for educating. If you are a teacher thinking about open source, or if you know one, consider joining this vibrant and important discussion.

At LinuxCon, I will be giving a talk entitled Desktop Linux Showdown, in which I will compare and contrast the various popular desktop offerings and find out just where the Year of the Linux Desktop went (hint: look in your pocket). This talk will take place Tuesday, August 10, in the Mediterranean room. Here’s the abstract:

Every year for the past five or six has been called the Year of the Linux Desktop by some number of pundits. Certainly Desktop Linux has become much more user-friendly. But just how friendly is it? In this presentation, we will examine several different normal, everyday activities on each of the three major Linux desktop distributions, and perhaps a few non-normal activities (e.g. configuring hardware) that we all endure from time to time. Who has the best overall user experience? Come find out & share your experiences. Distributions examined: Ubuntu 10.04, Fedora 13, OpenSuSE 11.2, all using the Gnome window manager. As time permits, we’ll look at key activities using KDE as well. Activities will include, but are not limited to the following: “time to live” (startup time comparison, power-on to usable desktop); installing applications from repository or from download; system configuration tools; online help; setting up new hardware (example: Epson scanner using xsane); setting up network services (Wi-Fi, Samba, NFS); one live activity at audience’s request.

That “audience request” thing is going to be tough given that I’ll have to reboot each time! My weenie little ThinkPad T43 does about as well with virtualization as I do at math skills before morning coffee. Anyone want to loan me a good fast machine?

I will also be hosting an embedded Linux BoF, although BoFs have not yet been announced on the schedule. More on that soon.

Texas Instruments has finally announced that the BeagleBoard is featured as the Build-Your-Own-Embedded-System at this year’s Embedded Systems Conference Chicago, June 7-8. It looks like a really fantastic day. This will be the public unveiling of the new BeagleBoard xM, and more importantly get a chance to learn all about the BeagleBoard and embedded systems programming in general—especially embedded Linux—from the guys who designed it. ESC is the premier technical conference in the midwestern US covering embedded issues, so definitely find a way to be there if you can.

I wish I were going, but instead I am gearing up for OSCON in July, LinuxCon in August, and ARM TechCon in November (announcement coming soon). It should be no surprise that I like conferences! They are a great way to fill up your brain with interesting, relevant stuff, and rub elbows with really smart people. For more info on upcoming conferences, see my open-source conferences page.

Oh, and by the way, Maker Faire was a total blast and you should definitely go if you have the chance. But be prepared for crowds.

I don’t mean to be ignoring my faithful readers this week, but life is packed. After a successful month of conferences (Embedded Linux Conference, Collaboration Summit, and Embedded Systems Conference) in April, May is a bit quieter for me as I wasn’t able to attend Google I/O (though I am watching the keynotes streaming live, thanks Goog!). I am going to Maker Faire this weekend, though, and can’t wait.

Like other attendees at Chris DiBona’s keynote at Linux Collaboration Summit last month, I obtained an unlocked Nexus One super-duper-phone. (Thanks, Chris!)

The gift was completely unexpected, and while it was wonderful to receive, I am just not sure I am mobile enough to really get the best user experience from it. Lest I seem ungrateful, I must say that I am totally blown away by the user interface and the potential for the device. The last similar devices I had were a Palm Tungsten T5 and a Palm Treo 650, both obtained while I was working at Palmsource/Access a few years ago. I know from experience with both of them that I simply don’t naturally take advantage of such devices. I have no cellular service of any type at my house, and in town we get maximum 2G. I don’t travel a whole lot, so obviously it makes little sense to sign up for a cellular data service. I do have a wi-fi router at home and can use one in town at the coffee house or pizza shop, but that means sitting on one place—it isn’t exactly mobile, which is how the device was designed.

The Nexus One isn’t bad as a wi-fi-only gadget, and some of the applications—like the star map—are nothing short of brutally awesome. With 3G, GPS, and accelerometer it is better equipped than any other electronic device I have ever owned or carried, bar none. But I can’t really take advantage of those things without spending more and traveling more than I intend. Not to mention, my fingers must be extra-large, because I find the onscreen keyboard barely usable. I could get a bluetooth keyboard for the thing but that seems like it would make it far less mobile – by that point I might as well get a netbook. Between lack of typing input and the 3.x inch screen, I don’t find the user experience compelling enough to just use it around the house. Again, this is not an issue with the Nexus One nor with Android. It is an issue with my usage mode and my fat fingers.

On the other hand, I do write about the mobile Linux experience fairly often, more and more with Android in the title, and this is currently the only Android device with which I have any real amount of experience (other than the SDK and x86 emulator). Granted, my writing is most often about the developer experience rather than the user end, but one naturally depends on the other, so perhaps owning and using the device can help me provide better advice to developers. And, the typing thing could be obviated by using voice integration, which I confess I have not worked with much yet other than grinning over Babelfish.

Also, Froyo (Android 2.2) is just around the corner. Would the added speed and usability tip me over the edge and make me into an official gadget-carrier? I don’t think so, given that speed is not a barrier for me, but I’m willing to wonder.

On the third hand, if I sell the Nexus One I can put the money toward a different Android-based gadget that might make more sense with my usage mode. I am very interested in Notion Ink’s Adam. Or perhaps a netbook, a form factor against which I have cautioned in the past but on which I might be persuaded, particularly running Linux. Or an e-reader: I think everyone knows now that the Kindle, Nook, and Sony’s e-readers all run Linux.

That’s a lot of issues on both sides, and I have more in my head. The gift has me conflicted.

Maybe I should think more about my usage model. What would I use the device for? What do YOU use it for, and is that usage or service really worth what you pay for it?

PS. No, I won’t be buying an iPad. Not yet, anyway. But if anyone in charge is listening, I’d be glad to evaluate one. 🙂