SouthEastLinuxFest 2012 After Action Report

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

This last weekend I took the 3.75hr trip up to Charlotte, NC for the southeastlinuxfest. This was my first trip to SELF and I was very impressed by the number of good talks and presentations.


On Friday, I arrived a little after the conference got underway and spent the morning in the “hallway track”, talking with and meeting a good number of people.

After a rather hasty lunch with herlo. We hurried back to the conference where I helped him give his presentation on the GoOSeProject. That presentation went VERY well, we ended up passing out all 10 of the GoOSe cds we had.

Sometime on Friday I also went to a presentation on OpenShift. However, I forgot to write down the name of the presenter so I don’t know who gave it. My schedule says it was likely Russel Bryant but I’m not sure.

I then skipped out on the afternoon sessions to go to a business lunch with some associates. The evening’s after-party, however, was lots of fun. I got to know a lot of folks: zonker, SUEHLE, Zach, Brian (the two aussies, didn’t get their addresses/emails), and others.. A lot of fun was had, good music, cards and discussion.



The real meat of the conference for me came on Saturday. After the keynote which I arrived late to. I went to the “Demoggification” talk by John Rose. This talk was awesome. It was about a lot more than just removing the “useless use of cat”. I got the following tips out of it:

  • Use Here STRINGS

    Herestrings are like Heredocs but lighter. Instead of doing:

    echo "foo" | some_command

    try this:

    some_command <<< "foo"
  • The /dev/tcp and /dev/udp files in Bash.

    I’ve used these before, they’re a great lightweight way of testing connectivity. I didn’t get a demo written down so I’ll research and do a blog post on them later.

  • Brace expansion tricks

    The common use is just to spit out generated strings.

    mkdir -p foo/{bar,baz,qux}

    However, brace expansion can do much more (like replace seq)

    echo file{01..10}

    It can also do both at once

    echo {foo,bar,baz}{01..10} # < no space between
  • Regular expression matching =~

    Try this instead of a case statement if you only have one fork of your condition.

    if [[ $foo =~ (FOO|BAR|BAZ} ]]
      echo "found the string"
      echo "nothing there"
  • You can also do pattern matching on your variables.

    $ FILENAME=/usr/share/doc/tmux-1.6/examples/screen-keys.conf
    $ echo ${FILENAME%/*}
    $ echo ${FILENAME##*/}

I had seen a few of these tricks earlier when I attended a talk by Michael Potter called Seatbelts and Airbags for BASH.

How to Quit Your Job (or How to Fire Your Boss)

My favorite presentation was the Saturday talk by Ryan C Gordon on how to quit your job. As I was recently let go from my full-time position and have been working for three months as a contractor/consultant this one hit home a lot of the points I’ve heard elsewhere. It also did a lot for giving me the “PEP TALK” I have needed in recent weeks. I kept three whole pages of notes. Here is what he talked about in brain/notebook dump format:

  • Pluses to being your own boss

    • more money (potential)

    You are not tied to just a single line of revenue, your potential for growth/income is no longer limited by one budget.

    You’re not going to be stuck on a single project for long. There is more diversity.

  • Minuses to being your own boss

    • less money

    you are going to start out making less money, so jumping into consulting without a safety net (something I was lucky enough to have) is almost always painful.

    • no medical insurance, no 401k, no safety net

    • more Lumberghs

    You no longer have to deal with one Lumbergh, but many Lumberghs. Luckily you don’t have to deal with them for the long term.

    • more hustle

    Being your own boss is a LOT of work. If you don’t have hustle you’ll starve.

  • Find a vertical market

    If you find your niche in a vertical market, you then need to stand out from the crowd. Which isn’t too hard, you only need to “Be better than the dumbasses.”.

    Ideally you would want a market with a lot of money and not many people in it.

  • “Your product is named ‘You’”

    You are your product. Sell yourself. Work hard at selling yourself. Don’t sell yourself short.

  • Milk your contacts

    Finding work is the hardest part. Milk your contacts for as much as you can.

  • Do Open Source

    A github page (with good content) is an excellent resume.

  • Always build your resume

    Your resume should always be easily found. Mine is

  • Always be interviewing

    This helps your people skills. It also helps you sell yourself properly.

  • Your online persona should be awesome

    Don’t post pictures of yourself puking in your twitter/facebook account. Always be aware of what your online persona looks like.

  • Hustle, do, ship

    It’s of tantamount importance that you actually SHIP aka deliver a product. If you never deliver you will never be invited back as a consultant.

    I always like the way Dave Ramsey puts it

    Get up.
    Leave the cave.
    Kill something.
    Drag it home.
  • Always be learning

    Ryan talked about how he was playing around with Lua once and blogged about it. That blog post led to a contact being made because of his “Lua knowledge”. If you play with stuff, learn stuff and blog about it you will have a working resume.

  • Keep records

    Not only of your timesheets for customers, but of what you’ve worked on. Again back to the living resume.

  • Married == uphill struggle

    Your relationships will have a harder time when you are contracting as the stress can cause issues.

    It is paramount to find a good balance

  • Budget Carefully

    Not just your money but your time.

  • Ask for more than the job is worth

    Always negotiate. Always go up. Double your rate.

    No one will walk away from a number without saying something like “hey that’s too much”.

    Have a minimum price, if the customer can’t match it, walk away.

  • Schedule well

    Over estimate times two.


  • Fire customers if they suck

    “The customer is always right” isn’t always right. Fire the hard ones.

    I first heard this advice from the guy who wrote “The no asshole rule”.

    Have a contract breaking clause.

  • Never say you are running out of money

    Always present yourself to customers as if you are on good footing

    Ryan mentioned the talk F#@k you, Pay me!. Good points, but LANGUAGE WARNING

  • Hire a lawyer

    You should talk to a lawyer at least once, and have a relationship with one for when you get sued.

  • Hire an accountant

    Not only for tax purposes, but for investing your money when you start to do well. Remember you don’t have a pension or 401k anymore.

  • Business type

    Sole Proprietorship, Default and easiest. Most risk.

    LLC, little harder, more protection. Hard to sell (the business).

    C or S Corporation, most difficult, lots of tax considerations.

  • Self Esteem

    Work on your self esteem, you need it to sell yourself.

  • Contracts

    If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen. No verbal contracts.

    At a minimum, follow up with an email to any phone conversation.

  • Get health insurance

    Without insurance, one trip to the ER can bankrupt you.

  • Take care of yourself

    Buy a nice chair, nice monitor and a desk which sits at the right height.

  • Don’t rent space

    If you don’t have a space in your home, don’t rent/lease space. Find a coffee shop. Many multi-million dollar companies have been founded/sold without ever buying or leasing office space (more so in recent years).

  • Stick it out

    Don’t give up. Working for yourself is hard work and takes time to build a base. Hard work most often will turn around down times. Get out and pound the pavement.

    However, you should have an escape plan/failsafe. Start with a ‘failure condition’ in mind.

  • Have balance

    You need to balance your work, play, sleep and love. When any of these don’t get the attention they deserve you’ll end up burnt out rather quickly.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment