MAGiC to Host In-Person User Conference
September 28, 2020 Alex Woodie
If you are itching to get out of the house and complete some in-person IBM i education, then the upcoming MAGiC Conference might be for you. In early November, the group is planning to host a small get-together of no more than 40 socially distanced attendees in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The Annual MAGiC Conference, slated for November 9-11 at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront hotel, will be the first in-person IBM i conference since COVID-19 shelved the usual midrange happenings, says Laura Hamway, the leader of the Mid-Atlantic Group of IBM i Collaborators, also known as MAGiC.
That’s a bit ironic, given the group’s history.
“MAGiC was the first one to do online meetings,” Hamway tells IT Jungle. “That’s how we always did it. We had one in-person meeting, and everything else was online. Now, of course, everybody is online, so it’s interesting to try and find our little spot.”
The timing of this MAGiC conference, which would be the group’s fifth, is designed to avoid potential threats: summer crowds and hurricanes.
By the second week in November, the seaside town just outside of Norfolk, Virginia, is devoid of tourists that make Virginia Beach a summer hotspot. And the tropical storm season usually winds down by the end of November in this part of the Atlantic. Two of the previous four MAGiC conferences, held in September and October, were impacted by hurricanes, so the threat is not theoretical.
Hilton is working with MAGiC to ensure that its meeting is held in as safe a manner possible. The hotel chain is working with Lysol for its Hilton CleanStay program, which guarantees all meeting rooms are sanitized 30 minutes before people arrive. The group, which usually needs only three rooms, will have extra rooms to ensure that everybody has enough space to maintain a social distance. Masks are required for indoor meetings in the state of Virginia.
While the state allows for groups of up to 250 people, Hamway is erring on the side of caution and wants to keep the group small. She has commitments from some people, but has not yet registered 40 people for this event. If this conference is oversubscribed, she might schedule a second event.
“I don’t know how to take 100 people or 150 people and split it up where everybody will feel safe in being social distanced,” she says. “I know there’s going to be a group of people who don’t care and they’re okay with all this. But there are people who still are nervous. I want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable.”
People need to keep learning and sharpening their skills despite the viral pandemic, and Hamway has put together a compelling track, particularly for those who are interested in using open source technologies to modernize IBM i applications, which is currently a hot topic.
The plan calls for all MAGiC attendees to see how a single 5250 application – a standard green-screen maintenance program – is transformed into a modern application using three technologies: PHP, Python, and Node.js. Mike Pavlak will discuss the transformation with Python; Alan Seiden and Jose Acosta will lead sessions involving PHP; and Patrick Behr will handle Node.js.
By showing the same program being transformed with three different technologies, MAGiC attendees will get higher exposure to the technologies and hopefully a better grasp of which ones they prefer to work with, Hamway says.
“When you to go a lot of these conferences, you might pick up one course on Node.js, then you’re going to pick up something on PHP, and then you might sample something on Python, but it’s never the same example,” she says. “It’s kind of hard to compare what you really need to do for each.”
The transformation of that maintenance program is the “main course,” but there are also some side dishes on the menu (or desserts, if you like). Jim Buck will be giving a half-day class on APIs and JSON; Mike Larsen will be sharing IBM i tips and techniques; Charles Guarino will be speaking about code refactoring; and Larry Bolhuis will be discussing TCP/IP.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people who can be present, this event will not feature an expo or vendor booths. Instead, vendor representatives will be invited to mingle with attendees for a Top Golf event on November 8 (for an extra $35).
Total cost for the two-and-a-half-day event (the last half-day is an optional hands-on lab) is $375 for MAGiC members and $475 for non-members. The price includes all meals, sessions, and labs. It’s up to attendees to get themselves to Virginia Beach.
Hamway is optimistic that MAGiC will find the right recipe for holding an in-person IBM i education during an historic pandemic that has impacted businesses across the country and the world.
“Things have to start loosening up,” she says “I think people are ready to get out and learn. People still have to do their jobs. There’s still business that has to be taken care of.”
For more information on the event, see the user group’s website at www.magic-ug.org.