The conference, then called Conference of Australian Linux Users, was held at the Monash University in Melbourne from July 9 to 11, in the middle of winter.
"What I remember distinctly is that when I stepped out once during the conference, there was not a soul to be seen," Russell says. "Everybody was inside the venue. But then there was no internet access at the venue in those days."
The total attendance was 125, with the vast majority being students and hobbyists. The professional delegates were just a handful.
Russell had planned to fly in six speakers but only five made it. He remembers the fact that Jon "Maddog" Hall gave the keynote address.
Sirtaj Singh Kang of the KDE project, Federico Mena-Quintero of GNOME, Andrew Tridgell of the Samba project and Carsten "Rasterman" Haitzler, who develops the Enlightenment window manager, were among those who gave tutorials. Russell and Michael Neuling gave a tutorial on Linux packet filtering, something the two had authored.
"Linux Australia was forming at the time of CALU," said Russell. "So it was a good idea to hand them the ball and thus began a trend that has followed, to give the organising team freedom to work on their own."
He said the budget for the 1999 event was well below $50,000. "The university billed us later and the caterers did likewise, so we did not have financial problems paying them."
There were three sponsors - Oracle Australasia, Netcraft Australia and Technotron Technology. Russell says each got sponsorship rights for $2000.