I am a Windows user. There, I said it. For those who must, you may as well stop reading now. Most of the rest you could probably also stop reading, as this is CES week, and there are WAY more awesome things to hear about, including one exciting bit of info that I’m hoping will manage to make its way to SCALE this year.

And that brings me to today’s topic: the Southern California Linux Expo (aka SCALE).

Last year was the first year I’ve ever acted as an exhibitor in an expo or conference. I have certainly BEEN to many Expos…

Nathan and Felicia at Comic Con

Yes, I met Felicia Day, the queen of the internet, at Comic Con. No, I never pass up an opportunity to show this picture off.

But I have never exhibited at one. So I was pretty nervous last year.

I arrived at about noon on Friday. I didn’t know what I supposed to do, so mostly I just brought along laptop-like things and prayed that I was going to the right place.

The first thing I discovered was that a magical rule of tech-heavy expos says we are going to forget at least one major detail. Last year, it was getting awesome content before the day of the show. Friday night and Saturday morning, we were frantically trying to load up content onto our Zotac ZBOX boxes.*

*Which were awesome, btw. Seriously, if you want XBMC on a full HTPC, there are very few boxes for the money that can compete with the ZBOX. Really, really good stuff.

In the end, we grabbed a few kickass trailers and Big Buck Bunny.*

*Fun note. Back when I was originally writing the XBMC Quick Start Guide, I needed an example movie, so I used Big Buck Bunny, because its CC license and multiple formats makes it a perfect example movie in almost every situation. However, I suddenly found myself in need of a SECOND movie. So, rather than using another CC film, I decided to invent THE GREATEST SEQUEL EVER MADE: Big Buck Bunny II: Rise of the Lepus. It should be noted, Underworld: Rise of the Lycan had just come out, so it was not a major leap from Lycan to Lupus to Lepus. I always sort of hoped that if the BBB people ever made a sequel movie, they’d use that title. I would absolutely give full permission (so long as I got some kind of credit for being awesome).

Then we shoved those trailers onto the external harddrive that I’d almost accidentally brought along on for the trip, loaded up XBMC, and boom, two days of awesome began.

I learned quickly that water (or other refreshing beverage) was absolutely critical for being an exhibitor. Cory (theuni) did most of the talking, but I did enough of it that I got thirsty VERY quickly.

To this day, I am grateful that for many years Cory’s day job was sysops for various companies running Linux, because, and here is where it gets hairy, I am not a Linux user.

Yes, my secret is out.* I use Windows. Lately I’ve been making a seismic shift from Windows to Linux Mint (the Windows of Linux OSes), and I am further considering shifting from Linux Mint to OSX (The Linux of Windows OSes), but my dark secret is that I acted as a primary exhibitor at Linux while knowing almost nothing about Linux myself.

*Actually, my dark secret was out with the opening paragraph, but I’m pretending like that opening paragraph doesn’t exist for creative purposes.

It was terrifying. Every once in a long while both Cory and Sean (aka malloc) would wander off at the same time. Enough people had come up to the booth before this and said things like, “So does this run in Gentoo?” and “What do you think about Red Hat?” that I knew if I was left alone with these Linux devotees that I’d definitely answer some question wrong and be found out as a fraud.*

*I personally prefer… Yellow Hat? Right? Anybody? That’s probably a thing, isn’t it?**

**Oh yeah?! Well, you’re a gentoo!!

Somehow, I came up with a brilliant stock answer that worked in almost every situation: “Oh, yeah? That’s (insert either positive or negative ejaculation here)! Oh, and you have a question? Do you know, I’m not actually sure about that one. Let’s wait until Cory gets back. I’m sure he’ll have a better answer for you!”

Boom. Situation resolved.

That night, we hung out with some Rackspace guys (Note: Rackspace is also awesome. XBMC uses Rackspace for a fair amount of internal web development. You should too!*) and I was introduced to one of the Boxee guys for the first time.**

*I need to figure out how to get paid for ad blurbs like that.

**Interesting small-world fact. I come from a small town just northwest of Wichita, KS. In about 20 years, it’ll probably be a suburb. I went to law school with a girl who comes from a slightly larger town just south of Wichita, KS. During law school, we became pretty good buddies. I even referred to her as “the coolest law student.” After law school, we both returned to Wichita. One day, I was talking about XBMC to her, and she said, “Hey, did you know I have a cousin who works for Boxee?” As only about 13 people worked for Boxee at the time, this was as unlikely as is humanly possible in this business. The Boxee guy I was introduced to at SCALE was her cousin. Small, SMALL world.

That was a pretty fun night. I ate oysters on the half shell for the first time (gross). I bought a giant cookie at a liquor store for the first time (awesome). And I woke up feeling NOT awesome (not awesome).

And this is where the story gets really cool.* This was my first time really interacting with  a lot of Linux people. We woke up that morning tired and out of sorts. We sort of stumbled to our booth and groggily prepared to meet all people who were excited to learn more about XBMC.

*This is also the part of the story that absolutely defines why am I unwilling to talk bad about our Boxee compatriots/competitors. 

As we looked out at the mass of people filing in, my Boxee buddy walked up to us, still wearing his sunglasses (cause he’s cool like that), and handed us an entire crate of water and a packet of aspirin. “I thought you could probably use this,” he said.

It… was… awesome.

Nothing like some water after a rough night, eh Natalie?

Natalie Coffee

Tell me about it.

And in this way, SCALE 2011 went off with hardly a hitch. SCALE 2012 starts in only 11 days (January 20th, 2012). I am excited to be going again. This year, thanks to my very minimal knowledge of Linux Mint, I might actually be more useful. I’m planning on bringing numerous flashdrives loaded with trailers and Big Buck Bunny (and possibly other CC videos).  I’m looking forward to that incredible feeling when I look around me and I see that “nerd” is how you define cool.  I think it’s going to be a great time.

And I hope to see you all there.