December 1, 2014

Rocking Out with “KISS” at SUSECon 2014

Gene simmons impersonator at SUSECon[If you’re looking for details on what was announced at SUSECon, there are a wide variety of excellentarticleshere on Linux.com, and on a number of other sites. From here on I’m just going to be talking about some of the fun bits that most people don’t get to hear about.]

At high noon on a sunny Sunday in Orlando, Florida, I checked into my hotel and strolled on down to the adjoining convention center. Banners for SUSECon 2014, set to officially kick off less than 48 hours from that moment, were already flying in the lobby and over the doorways.

There was an excitement in the air. People -- some of whom I recognized, many I did not -- were hurrying to and fro. Palletsofboxes (in varying states of unpacking) were placed at strategic locations throughout the conference center. At least, I assume the locations were strategic. Truth be told I didn’t have the foggiest idea what was in most of those boxes. Luckily I didn’t really need to know… that was someone else’s job.

I’ve been to many tech conferences over the years -- too many to count. But this one was special for me. I’ve had badges, at past conventions, with words on them like “Speaker,” “Press/Media” and “Sponsor.” But this time… this time I was working for the company that was organizing the whole thing. My badge said “All Access.” Being on the other side -- the side that was putting the entire show together -- was… exhilarating.

All. Access. It was right there, in all caps, on the badge hanging at the bottom of my lanyard. And, boy howdy, did I treat those two little words as a challenge. If I was going to be technically allowed to go anywhere at any time, you bet I was going to do so.

Backstage duringthekeynote? You bet. In the expo hall during the setup time (when the doors were locked and guarded)? Absolutely. I went everywhere… and I took my camera with me. And nobody batted an eye.

[Okay, that’s not entirely true. There was this one lady that worked for the convention center (not SUSE) whose job it was to guard the door to the expo hall during the day. She was convinced I looked rather sketchy and was probably not supposed to be there. At one point she convened an impromptu hall-way meeting with her fellow door guards -- that I was lucky enough to eavesdrop on part of -- where they debated whether or not the scrawny guy in the Pac-Man shirt should be there. They eventually decided I was allowed to be there (what with the “All Access” and all) but they should keep an eye on him. You know. Just in case. Cool sidenote: I just referred to myself in both the 1st person and 3rd person in this paragraph. I’m pretty sure that means I have super powers.]

Now, most of SUSECon was planned well ahead of time (by a crew of people that know how to plan these sorts of things) -- and I had the good fortune of watching a lot of that planning take place. I even got to review the script for the keynote ahead of time. I knew what was coming. I knew what to expect. Despite this -- there were still a few surprises in store. And I thought I’d tell the tale of two of my favorite moments from the conference to give everyone a quick peek behind the curtain.

Rockin' with Gene Simmons

The first was the conference party. The first night of any good tech conference, there is always a party. Sometimes the parties are amazing. Sometimes they’re a snooze fest. SUSECon 2013 (which I attended as a journalist covering the event, before I ever joined the SUSE team) had a pirate themed party that was absolutely rocking. Obviously, for 2014, we had to find a way to top that.

So, of course, we had a brainstorming meeting -- and I got invited to be a part of it. During that meeting, a very smart SUSE-keteer suggested having a party with a retro video game theme. Obviously, I jumped on this like white on rice. In fact, I was rather adamant that this was the best idea ever and I expressed this opinion at length. Using the words “awesome” and “badical” as many times as possible. Because that’s what I do.

The meeting ended with no clear decision made. And I was left off further meetings discussing the planning for this party… which was probably smart (My opinion was pretty doggone clear). Since I wasn’t on those meetings anymore it seemed like a safe assumption we weren’t going with that, most triumphant, party idea.

Jump forward to the first day of SUSECon. I wander past the security guard and into the expo hall (“All Access”. Boom.) and immediately I begin to geek out. Gigantic, three-foot-wide rubik’s cube lights. Classic 1980’s arcade games throughout the hall. ‘80’s banners. Part of the floor had even been turned into a large-scale game of Pac-Man.

I dash back to my room and change into my “Back To The Future” T-Shirt, blue jeans and toss on my green vest (I know the Marty McFly vest is orange… but this is SUSECon, after all… green is more appropriate). Or, as I like to call it, my “fancy suit”.

When I get back down to the expo hall, I was greeted by an amazing sight. Standing outside, getting ready to go in, are celebrity impersonators for Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and GeneSimmons (in full KISS gear). Later to be joined by Mario, Luigi, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man.

It was… glorious.

A Failed Demo... Almost

Two days later and the closing keynote of the conference was almost upon us. With minutes to go before the doors opened to the world, we took the opportunity to do a quick run-through of the demo for SUSEStorage.

During that demo, there is a part where someone picks up a big power cable and unplugs it. At that moment the audience hears a “PZZzwwwww” noise (you know, the “power just got shut off” noise) and the lights all go out. A big, dramatic, funny moment. A key moment.

Only one problem: The “power off” noise plays… but the lights didn’t actually go out. Whoops!

Oh, well. No biggy, right? That’s what we do rehearsals for! Wait… what time is it? It’s time to open the doors and let everyone in? Well. It’ll work when we do it in the actual Keynote in just a few minutes… right? Right?

Luckily, it did. And the resulting demo during the keynote (below) was nothing short of awesome. Because the crew was pro. But, I tell ya, that sure made a few folks sweat!

Okay. That’s all the wordage that I’ve been allotted to talk about my SUSECon experience. And one heck of an experience it was.

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