My idea of spring break is some wanderlust ending in a Linux conference

I'm on a plane. I'm flying back to Oakland from Seattle, Washington, having finished up a great weekened with close friends at Linux Fest Northwest in Bellingham, Washington.

It was a well deserved break.

Recently I wrote a bit about my own struggles with burnout and the like. Too little life in the work/life balance equation. This trip was an effort to restore it, and I feel that it will have a net positive impact on things.

More than just a quick weekend getaway to another tech event, this was more of an adventure than I imagined it would be. Late Wednesday night, a number of us hackers from the Noise Bridge Hacker Space Ship boarded the Coast Starlight train at Jack London Square in Oakland. Over the next 23 hours our Hackers on a Train Experiment played out.

Not muc happened Wednesday night, as many of us were pretty wiped from finishing up our separate days of work before setting off. Thursday morning started around 7a or so, being part of my regular circadian rhythm. A few hours of watching the northern Californian countryside glide by in peace. Eventually breakfast happened in the form of a smammich from the snack bar. Over the next 12+ hours, the group of us hacked on our things. A Raspberry Pi and wifi access point provided a small network with an IRC server for group collaboration and discussion.

I myself worked on finishing off image uplaods on SpaceWiki. Others worked on a Rust library to interact with a barcode scanner via libevdev, a network discovery system based on a filesystem interface, and various other projects. A grand time.

By 3p we had arrived in Portland, OR for an hour stop. We took the opportunity to grab some coffee from a nearby coffee shop. Portland is certainly a beautiful place.

At 8p or so, we rolled into Seattle for the night. A quick trip to SEATAC to pick up a rental car, then crashing for the night at the Seattle City Hostel.

Early next morning we got up for breakfast and worked our way down to the Aerospace Museum. Quite an experience. P was totally ensnared by the SR-71 and other airplanes. Gives me a few ideas for a Noisebridge seekrit santa later this year, should I be matched with them ;)

I think we spent around 7 hours there, gawking and gooking at the aircraft and the NASA exhibits. After dinner we made our way up towards Bellingham, WA for Linux Fest NorthWest. Before I had even gotten in the door a long-time KDE friend of mine, Valorie, gave the biggest hug. A group of us hung out in the Geek Room 'till late in the night before retiring.

The next morning, we made it to the venue in time for a most fascinating talk by Bradley Kuhn: a discussion about the relevance of the GPL in today's post-open source world < and what problems we face in the future.

In summary, his talk described the uneasy truce between proprietary software and copyleft during the early 2000s. Since as early as I can remember, I've been a strong supporter of the GPL and its associated culture, going as far as getting KDEFRDM for license plates when I bought my second car. I still drive with those plates today. At some point, copyleft and proprietary software came to a quiet agreement that proprietary software has its own world, as does open source. However, since then the line between proprietary and open source has blurred. Many, many, many projects are licensed as MIT or BSD, since those liceses provide third parties the ability to use code in proprietary systems without much effort. In GPL and the LGPL, users of the code must make certain affordabilities in the shape of releasing the source code any time a binary is distributed.

I can't speak to an exact or conclusive chain of events, but this difference has somehow led to the constant abuse of software authors by corporations. Organizations are free to take advantage of existing works without giving back to the wider FOSS community that developed the work in the first place. Almost every employer is guilty of this, my own notwithstanding. I consider this abuse of authors in the context of today's rampant wealth inequality. Few corporations will consider touching code with a copyleft license such as the GPL because it is perceived as cheaper to agree to a license without extra burdens. Lets be honest: It takes energy and resources to follow the GPL. One must provide the source code in its complete form alongside every binary. This notion flies in the face of the idea of proprietary code; the idea that somehow software can be the proprietary idea involved in the creation of wealth. Many companies that build software treat their source code as the proverbial keys to the kingdom. Should another competitor see their secret algorithm, copy their graphical elements, or otherwise duplicate private information, they would immediately have the upper hand.

Modern society still buys into capitalism as The One True Way. The goal of this economic system is to privately have control of the most value as numerically quantified. It logically follows then that artificial organizations whose existence relies entirely on managing enough of this wealth would optimize their strategies for holding on to the most money. Licenses with zero cost are infinitely more favorable to such organizations over those with even an attribution requirement. As such, most "open source" on github has a permissive license.

Bradley's talk has rejeuvenated my spirit. For some reason or another, i've been burnt out of the free software world since early 2012. I quietly dropped my responsibilities as the phonon-gstreamer maintainer, KDE multimedia hacker, and other assorted roles. I vanished from KDE circles and stopped participating in events like Randa and Akademy. These days I build distributed systems on top of ideas found in Bitcoin, though I am incredibly wary about further participation in that community due to its less-than-great reputation about women.

Now, I'm wanting to push harder for the free culture movement. Copyleft all the things! GPLv3, CC-BY-NC, OSL, and more! To start, I'm hashing out ideas for a free software convention in San Francisco. The group of us have more or less decided on the name Freecon. The current idea is to host the thing at Noisebridge later this year in what will likely be October. Unlike all other tech conferences in the Bay Area, this will be about a thing that so many have forgotten: Software that is Free as in Freedom.

This four day adventure might be wrapping up in a few hours, but that shouldn't mean that we'll all go back to the drudgery of existence. We will cause Freecon to be a Real Thing over the rest of the year.

This flight is starting its descent back into Oakland, CA, my current base of operations. I'll be home snug in my bed in less than two hours. Between now and then, I'll be taking the opportunity to meditate on my experiences. A quiet walk around Echo Creek with the ancient sound of its gurgling. A chance to reconnect with myself and look inward.

I'm greatly looking foward to this next iteration of the free culture movement.