Spent the weekend in Wolverhampton at LUGRadio Live 2006 with around 350-400 other people, which is quite a feat for an anti-social freak like me. John did a talk about the webcomic he writes (well, we write, he “draws” and pimps), Everybody Loves Eric Raymond and we also sold some of our ELER and Knuth tshirts thanks to Gareth on the FSFE stall. I mostly lingered and sweated.

As the official documenter of our trips, I’ve written up a detailed account of our trip (below).

As it is rather too detailed, as per usual, here’s a summary: hot, good food, clammy, nice people, sweaty, interesting talks, did I mention it was above average temperature?, RedHat flying disc, stupidly warm and stuffy, well worth going.

We were supposed to set off about 5pm to meet Gianni in Wolverhampton about 7.30pm but us being us, we didn’t set off until nearly 7pm. At least we missed the traffic though and got down the M1 without any delays.

Got to the hotel (the Quality Inn) at just after 9pm and Gianni, who had arrived in Wolverhampton at 7.30ish, came to the hotel to check in too. Having heard really worrying things about the hotel (which was the first official LUGRadio hotel) but it seemed alright – a little too chintzy for our liking but the room was bigger than average for a double and it was clean etc etc. It was damn hot though but given it was the end of the hottest week of the year (indeed, many years), I don’t really blame the hotel for this since they’re a budgetish hotel and don’t have air con (Gianni’s room had an oscillating fan in it though – we were jealous that ours didn’t).

Gianni had already eaten – a curry – so he led us back to his dining location so we could eat. The restaurant was a bit random – with cigarette burned table cloths – but the food was pretty good. I had a vegetable pathia (my usual at Omar’s) and it was good – sour and hot rather than sweet and sour at Omar’s. Tiny naans though – Omar’s has spoilt us rotten on that count. Ditto the price – nowhere really beats Omar’s on value for money so paying £10 a head for a curry (inc drinks) seems a rip off to me.

Anyway, once we were done, we walked up to the Hogs Head for the Friday night meet up – again, Gianni was our leader as he had popped in before heading back to the hotel. The LUGRadio people were in beer “garden” and Gianni and I hung back and let John socialise at first before we decided to join him. We all ended crunched up in one corner of the “garden” for some reason but it was fun. I also came up with the term “fanboy bukkake” to describe how much everyone already loved everyone else from their achievements or, in John’s case, webcomics : ) (Mum, if you don’t know what that means, don’t look it up, be blissful in your ignorance; if you do know what it means, ewwww and don’t tell me about you knowing what it means.)

We left about 1am because we were hot and tired, but retiring to the hotel didn’t help that much – since it was so hot in the room. Had a bad, broken night’s sleep and was shocked to have to get up around 8am (first time in weeks that I’ve been up that early).

Had breakfast at the hotel then headed to the venue – Wolverhampton Uni Students Union – so we could sort out the tshirts with Gareth from the FSFE stall, then we went back outside to relax in the grounds of the nearby church to consume liquids and attempt to cool down after lugging boxes about. This consumption of liquids and attempting to cool down was a running theme of the weekend.

Went back in for the start of the talks around 11ish – saw Gervase Markham‘s very funny talk on how to destroy the free software movement, then Mirco Muller talking about lowfat. After hanging around in the outside seating area for a bit (cooling down, consuming liquids), we decided to head into the town centre for some food – ended up at City Bar, again somewhere Gianni had spotted the night before, and it was good (ie, they served liquids that helped us cool down). I had a summer salad with feta and John and Gianni had baguettes, and Gianni and I got ice-cream milkshakes too. Headed back to the venue to just miss the start of Danny O’Brien‘s talk but what we saw was great – a really interesting point at the end about the most important thing to get across to people who don’t know about FOSS software – to paraphrase it badly, many people don’t realise that they should be in control of their computers, not vice versa, and FOSS software can enable them to have control. Wow, that was a bad paraphrase. He said it much better – I’ll link to the video of his talk when it’s uploaded to the LUGRadio site.

Anyway, after that and more random hanging around and liquid consumption in the outside bit (including playing with a RedHat branded flying disc), we decided we were too hot and tired so headed back to the hotel for a rest. The rest became a swim and sauna (more time spent in the former than the latter for presumably obvious reasons) for John and me, then John got into a guilty tizz about missing the LUGRadio Live show so insisted we leap out of the pool and rush over to the venue to watch it. We got as far as hurriedly changing in the changing rooms then running up to the hotel room before John lay on the bed and “urge to nap, rising… guilt, fading…”.

Got our heads back together about 7 and Gianni came over to help finalise the funny for John’s talk (which was on the Sunday morning). Headed back out about 8pm, to Don Salvo’s for food – good call for Gianni suggesting Italian and for Matt Revell for suggesting there. It was a bit too swanky for its own good (it was more attempt swanky rather than genuine swank) but the food was yummy. Too full for dessert though. Bah.

Went back to the SU for the evening party. Perhaps we were too tired or just socialised out but it was decidedly meh. Probably just the too hotness and the too-noisy-to-talkness really. We left about 1 or something.

Back to the hotel and discovered that it offered free wifi access in the lounges on the ground floor. By the time we logged off, the lounges were full of fellow LUGRadioLivers. We’re like moths to a spangly LED-covered external harddrive.

Another rough nights sleep and up at 9ish for breakfast.

Headed to the venue so John could prepare for his talk which started at 11. Come 10.50am, there was NO ONE (pretty much) knocking around – everyone too hung over to make it in early. Still, by the time John got started, there was a pretty good crowd in his room and by the time I looked around the room when it came to the questions section, I reckon there were about 60 people or so in there. The talk itself went pretty well – we realised that it’s a pretty hard thing to talk about since, well, it’s just a web comic but a few funny pictures of half naked geeks always goes down well. The slides from his talk are available on the ELER website but I don’t know if the video will be uploaded to the LUGRadio site since the audio didn’t record.

Anyway, after that, we stayed for Matthew Garrett‘s really good talk encouraging everyone to buy Acer laptops. He loves them. He thinks they’re great. At least I think that’s what he said. He also did his talk in an ELER shirt so woohoo! advertising! Then popped in to see a bit of Mark Shuttleworth’s talk but couldn’t really hear it so we retired to the outside area for more flying disc instead. Went back to City Bar for lunch again – forgot to get the ice cream in the milkshakes – boo – and had nachos to share before wandering up to Tesco’s (so Gianni could get some pasta – the nachos whet his appetite) and we had cake and tea at a coffee shop in the shopping centre.

Went back to the SU for Gareth Bowker‘s talk about GPL V3 then the one that, in hindsight everyone said should have been on the main stage: the talk by Kat Goodwin, Jen Phillips and Phated on women in open source. Was very interesting and prompted a good discussion in the corridor afterwards. I was stunned to hear the stats they quoted – that while women make up 28% of tech staff in proprietary software companies, they only count for 1.5% of staff on free software projects (or something – the stats are right, I’m just not sure of the exact terms used). We thought about it afterwards – about the laws that the big software companies would have to adhere to etc – but still, gosh. I nodded ferociously during most of the talk – I know I’m not a programmer or anything but it still pisses me off when I’m assumed to be clerical support staff, and a not terribly bright member of clerical support staff at that, because I’m young (ish) and have boobies. (Or rather it did used to piss me off – my current, feline, colleagues don’t do it quite so much.) While I recognise that the problem of sexism and stereotyping is slightly bigger than just the open source community, I hope the talk made some people think about it more than they have done in the past.

After that, since we were still there, we hung around for the closedown and the attempted blinding of the audience with Chupa Chups (I presume the thinking by the LUGRadio team was: “we’re an audio medium. If we blind them, they’ll be more reliant on us for their humour and news, then ??? and profit!”). Then, due to being in the wrong lane and that sort of thing, we drove around the greater Wolverhampton area for 20 miles before reaching the M6South – it looks to be about 3miles on google maps which kinda shows that we went the very long way around (I’m not exaggerating with the 20 miles – we ended up on the M6North bound so had to come off at the next junction then circle back into the city centre because we didn’t have a map/AutoRoute out so find a quicker route back to the motorway). Anyway, we got home about 7.30, after dropping Gianni off in Nottingham on the way back.

So, all in all, we didn’t go to that many talks (seven really) but the ones we did see were interesting. We met a lot of cool people and some insane ones. We sold 17 tshirts and Gianni got a flying disc and stickers. We ate good food and drank our body weights in tepid liquid. We didn’t sleep much and we, or at least I, sweated buckets. A good weekend though, all in all.