LB/2003: Day 1

And so ends Day 1 of India’s (Asia’s?) biggest Linux and Open Source event.

And what a day it has been. So many things that happened, so many stories to be told.

It actually started last night when one of our star speakers – Harald Welte (the iptables guye) reported from Mumbai that thanks to a delayed incoming flight, he missed his Mumbai-Bangalore connection. Panic all around, since he was scheduled to speak today! Luckily there was a 3 a.m. flight to Bnagalore, so he caught that, was received by Kishore here, and transported to his hotel. That man is inhuman – he travels 36 hours, gets into his hotel at 5am, and SMSs me at 8:30am asking what time he can come to the event! Heck, even *I* was still sleeping! ;-)

IAC, I woke up this morning, all set to give my talk (the first talk of the day). Small problem – I had lost my voice! Desperate gargling restored some of it, but it was still bad. The fever and cough didn’t help either.

Reached venue to find snaking queues out onto the road. We registered more people on day 1 than all of LB/2002. Go figure. And from experience I can tell you that people will be registering all of day 2 and day 3 as well.

Heath throbbing, throat aching – debated whether to speak. Called Gopi and asked whether he could do the talk, he agreed. Then I did something stupid – I went and spoke anyway.

Please remind me never to do that again – I was running a temperature again by the time I started, and halfway through the talk had to do some play-acting to get a paracetamol tablet into my mouth in the guise of looking at the big screen and feigning surprise. But nothing helped, and my talk wasn’t anywhere near effective. Bleh.

Thankfully, Nat Friendman and Miguel de Icaza took up the slack after my talk, and hugely entertained the crowds. Apart from one minor boo-boo by Nat (“This is the second time I am at this event, last time it was still called BangLinux” – which was of course a completely different event, being the closed source commercial equivalent to our community-driven Open Source event), their talk went off like a three ring circus. Seeing Nat and Miguel on stage doing the ping pong brough back nostaligic memories of me and Kishore doing this almost a decade ago, with great success.

I did the morning session in full suit because sometimes press descends on me at such events. No such thing happened, and I went home to change into working clothes (jeans and T-Shirt) and promptly got nabbed by the press. Ah well.

Reports from the various halls were great – apart from one speaker who got cold feet in the last moment and didnt show up, all halls were reporting full capacity, and ecstatic audiences. Shanu’s talk in the morning was bursting at the seams, and he was tickled to death being called “sir”.

Harald’s talks reported maximum capacity crush – the 250 seater hall had 350 people in it – to a point that when he tried to go in for his second talk, he couldn’t get in! ;-)

The afternoon sessions went like clockworks. Punch & Judy…oops… Nat & Miguel regaled crowds again in the afternoon, while we battled network issues. A rogue wifi access point somewhere on the premises was grabbing all notebooks attention – to the point that Harald had to crack into it to disable it, so that our access point was reachable again :) Note to self – Linksys routers ship by default insecure! Second note to self – try and find that blasted thing tomorrow!

The expo is a hit – exhibitors are generally reporting happiness. Interesting scenario – with all halls full (and I mean *FULL*, like no aisle space available either), the expo was *crowded* with people! Last year, during the talks, the corridors were ghost towns, since everyone was in the halls listening to talks. From that you can guess just how many people are attending the event (official total seating capacity of the venue is 1250 seats, not counting aisles).

All in all, the day went surprisingly well (apart from my feeling like hell and muffing my talk) – 29 talks happened on schedule, with one no-show. 35 scheduled for tomorrow, 31 on the day after that, for a total of 96 scheduled talks – I am told that this is some kind of world record.

One thing really that got me was this: since the Government of India, through the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, is the principal sponsor of the event, we have a stall dead centre for them, in which we have a huge poster of President Kalam and his now world famous speech endorsing open source for India. If you watch the stall, you will see that people passing it invariably stop, read the entire thing, smile proudly, sometimes pumping fists. I even saw one guy standing before it and saluting, and lots of people taking pictures of themselves in front of it. People are obviously extremely proud of President Kalam.

In the evening, we showed the movie “Revolution OS” which was loved by everyone. At one point we had to restart the movie when we realised that Harald was holding 350 people “hostage” in the 250 seater.

After that, a bunch of us rolled to my house where we tiredly ate dinner, and mysteriously lots of beer and Goan Feni appeared. A rollicking time was had by all, except for people who chose to disappear earlier to a pub.

I’ll try and upload some photos tomorrow. Now it is time to crash.