This past week was the Penn State MacAdmin Conference over at the Penn Stater Conference Center, and I had a really good time. I would say about 10% of what I do is Mac based, but we have some heavy Mac users that could really use some improvements in their level of service, so this conference was very useful.
I have been to several conferences over at the Nittany Lion Inn, but I think this might have been my first actual conference at the Penn Stater (although I do find myself over there frequently because of a leadership training program I’m participating in this year). The food at the Penn State was really pretty good, with a lot of options. We had breakfast and lunch there all three days of the conference and I couldn’t complain about any of it. They also always have a bunch of snacks between sessions. In general, you don’t go more than about an hour between feedings lol. The only bad thing about the facilities there was poor wireless connections. I don’t think most of the crowds that hit up the Penn Stater for conferences put as much pressure on the wifi than a big tech conference, so hopefully AT&T will be a little better prepared to handle it next year.
There were many good sessions about software packaging, deployment, management systems etc. I thought the talks by Allister Banks were very interesting and entertaining. He’s got to be the most eccentric person in a room full of Mac users, which is saying something. I also liked the talk I attended from Rusty Myers about bash, and the one I took a little earlier that day about python. If only they could find some grizzled old sysadmin to talk about perl!
My workflow evolved throughout the conference. I brought in a work iPad on the first day but found myself not using it to keep notes or anything really, but rather just to check work emails. (I really hate the anxiety of knowing work emails are piling up but not being able to really knock them out, so even when I’m at an event like this I tend to try to keep up with them.) On the second and third days I brought in an old macbook from home and fired up evernote to keep notes. This was much better… I could still keep my email open (in those rare moments when I had working wifi) but I could also take notes, pull up URLs of things the speakers were talking about, and keep the conference hashtag up in Twitter.
Unlike some conferences I’ve been to where the hashtags were used by like 1 or two people, here the #psumacconf tag really brought together a big chunk of the community. It really helped me (who lives 2 minutes away from the Penn Stater) from following along with the shenanigans that took place in the after-hours with the people staying at the hotel. I did attend the after-event on Wednesday, which was at Medlar Field. They had the outfield food place opened up and had a cash bar. It was pretty fun although the wind and rain sort of pushed everyone under the concourse. Even so, it was a good place to network, and I met colleagues from across the country who came in for the conference.
The schedule for the conference was on http://sched.org which I thought worked really well, especially on day 2 when they changed up some of the events. It also seemed to tie into Eventbrite, which was how we registered e-tickets for the evening event at the baseball stadium.
Overall I gained a lot from the conference, and am looking forward to next year!