Intro to the network and automation of the SouthEast Linux Fest

This is to serve as introduction to the network and automation of the SouthEast Linux Fest and documentation of said setup. This will link to more details posts of each component. This is written as of October 2020 and will be updated over time.

The SouthEast Linux Fest (SELF) is an 3 day event that is held in Charlotte, NC each summer and pull together around 800 attendees and speakers. We have over 70 sessions in 5 tracks talking all about Linux and open source. SELF started in 2009 and held in person each year with the exception of 2020 due to Covid-19. We are hopping that we can back in person for Summer 2021. My role with SELF is to lead the team that handles all onsite tech needs around the network, servers, wifi, and video recording.

Here is a list and overview of the services that we offer for the event

Recording the talks
We record the speaking session will try to have the sessions uploaded to Youtube with in one hour of the end of the session.
Here is example video from a session that I gave in 2019 

For SELF 2021 we will be uploading not only to Youtube but to the Internet Archive and Peertube as well.

OBS setup
Being an Linux/open source event we try to use open source where ever we can. We use Open Broadcast Studio for all of the video recording. For SELF 2021 we will partnering with the folks at live stream each sessions allow with uploading the video post session. 

Speaker Lights
Since the recording of sessions is all automatic we needed a way to let the speaker know about the timing info. We built 3 led stop light style indictors that give the speaker a heads up.

More details about it here

People counting
We placed a camera over each doorway leading to a session room, this camera would be pointing straight down as people walked into each room. We connect the cameras to some software that count the people entering the session.

Vote boxes
We placed a box at the exit of each session room with 3 buttons: loved the talk, neutral or hated the talk.

More details about it here

At the hotel were we are hosted, they have built in TV displays outside of each room that are used for digital signage. SELF 2021 we will be repurposing the displays for our use.

We bring in our own internet connection to the hotel and use none of the hotel’s house wiring. We roll out 2k feet of fiber and 7k feet of copper to support the network. We install 8 servers and 20 APs to give wifi services to our lan party area, staff, vendors and all guests. 

More details about the networking here


We monitor all facets of the network, wifi, and automation. We also have a public display where we will show some of the stats, such as how many wifi users, the total number of votes logged for the presentations, how many attendees have entered presentations, etc.

The heart of our automation system is Node-Red, we use it to automate all of the above with the exception of the network. I hope to change that one day.