SCaLE 16x

Table of Contents

Published: 2018-03-13 (Edited 2018-04-01 to add pictures)

It's that time of year again–time to drive to Pasadena and collect as many stickers as humanly possible. Oh, and it's nice to connect with fellow geeks, too.

The SCaLE 16x expo hall was buzzing with activity this year as fellow Linux nuts reconnected, talked, and learned more about exciting projects in the open source world around them. Everyone from the Free Software Foundation to Microsoft was there.

What were my highlights this year?


The OpenPOWER foundation had a custom workstation build on display. The claim to fame: this workstation is Intel free. There were two IBM Power9 CPUs in it.

The IBM Power9 CPU has 24 cores, each with 4 threads. Power9 is a little-endian RISC architecture (as opposed to Intel's little-endian CISC architecture). The man at the booth claimed that there is a 10-30% performance improvement over Intel x86, depending on the type of workload.

The big advantage is that the entire build can run open source software from firmware up through userspace.

[Closeup of Power9 CPU]

Figure 1: Closeup of Power9 CPU enclosure (left) and die (right)

[Power9 workstation]

Figure 2: Internals of a custom-built dual-CPU Power9 workstation.


What was Microsoft doing at a Linux conference? Apparently they are embracing open source.

The OpenSUSE guys dared me to walk over to the Microsoft booth to show them my shirt. (I was wearing the shirt with two "Jesus fishes" (ichthyses): a small one labeled "Windows" and a large one labeled "Linux" with his mouth open ready to devour "Windows".)

A nice representative showed me the open source system that Microsoft released for purposed of continuous integration and continuous deployment. After a few minutes, I interrupted and asked about what seemed to be elephant in the room: the laptops in the Microsoft booth were running Linux on bare metal.

He said his whole team is Linux focused and runs Linux on bare metal.

Wow! Imagine that. There are a few teams in Microsoft that are running Linux on bare metal.

The t-shirt is probably going to make it to some promotional material at some point. My friends and I participated in their photo shoot and goofed around with cartoonish swords and a large Apache feather.

Endless OS

Endless OS had a demo machine at the GNOME booth. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not fond of GNOME at the moment, so why would I point out a project that associates itself with GNOME?

The mission of Endless OS is noble. Endless OS is designed to come pre-packaged with as much content (not just applications) as possible. For instance, there is an offline recipe book and an offline mirror of Wikipedia. A typical full install, according to personnel at the booth, is about 15 GiB.

(To put things into perspective, a full install of Slackware 14.2 is 8.2 GiB, and a bare install of Windows is much more than 15 GiB.)

The reason for storing a bunch of offline content: it is possible to do useful things in environments where Internet access is spotty, such as schools in Africa.

During my testing of the system, I found that it did not have gcc installed. Supposedly, everything (including a development toolchain) is installed via Flatpak, one of the newfangled "universal" package managers that packages all dependent libraries of an application into a single package. Admittedly, I am not yet sold on the idea of Flatpak because there are at the time of this post three competing "universal" package managers. Time will tell which one wins.

A general purpose computer with encyclopedias of information is a worthy educational tool to send to developing nations. I hope Endless OS can execute.


Years ago, I dabbled with Amateur radio (FM repeaters on the 2m band). It was a fun way to talk to a few nerdy friends and meet a many interesting characters. It also was (and still is) a good emergency channel in the event of a natural disaster.

Now, operators are running TCP/IP over a mesh network on Amateur radio bands. This mesh network is called AREDN.

Why would you do this? Because you can.

I spent a good 30 minutes talking to Don Hill (KE6BXT) of the Orange County Mesh Organization about how the network is setup and what people are running on AREDN. I was impressed at how AREDN has managed to re-create the early spirit of the Internet. Right now, there are webcams on AREDN (because they can), a chat room, and some light web pages. It is also possible to run SIP (Voice over IP) and make phone calls.

The hardware side of AREDN uses a bunch of commercially available 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi transceivers with specially loaded firmware that shifts the frequency into the Part 97 band.


CodeStream almost gave me a good enough reason to switch to the Atom editor. CodeStream allows chat conversations to be tied to specific lines of code. All conversations are archived indefinitely, so they effectively become part of the knowledge of the codebase and can provide helpful context for confusing pieces of code.

The one feature I would like to see: ability to host a CodeStream server offline (i.e. on my own infrastructure rather than CodeStream's infrastructure).


All of the developers and representatives of VLC were wearing tall plush traffic cone hats–every single one of them. This was by far the goofiest yet most fitting attention grab I have seen in a while. Kudos, VLC team! Keep up the great work!


On a completely different note, CaliBurger (a burger joint across the street) has a new robot in town named Flippy. Flippy is a special-purpose robot that will flip hamburger patties. Unfortunately, Flippy was not in commission when I visited CaliBurger.


Figure 3: Flippy the hamburger flipping robot


I now have enough newly acquired swag to spend the next week sifting through. I look forward to next year's SCaLE, and next year I hope I can spend more than just one day on the expo floor.