26 April 2005

Linux.conf.au 2005 observed.

| johnboy
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Please allow me to hate myself thoroughly for not owning a camera. The pictures I could and should have taken would have blown your mind.

The people at Linux.conf.au were a fascinating mix. Broadly, you had people who were there from three groups.
– Recruiters, public servants etc.
– Grizzled IT veterans
– Enthusiastic youngsters.

It was a pretty mulicultural crowd but interestingly amongst those of east-asian extraction the gender mix was about 50-50. While for the rest I’d say the women were down around 10% of the group.

And the laptops all over the place with dazzling varieties of software and configurations. I could have spent hours just peering over people’s shoulders.

I suspect the conference took part as much in IRC channels over the wireless network as it did in terms of people actually speaking to each other.

The Saturday keynote by General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation, Eben Moglen, was far more stirring stuff than you’d expect from a discussion of legal issues around software licences.

Twice the audience came to their feet to give him a standing ovation as he hammered through to the audience that they weren’t just nerds writing software, they were (albeit inadvertently) the successors of the battle for freedom and liberty that began in the enlightenment.

The recent BitKeeper row has changed a lot of minds about the FSF’s insistence that software freedom matters and needs attention.

The size of the sea-change is probably best understood when you consider Linus Torvalds, the man whose name makes up the first four letters of the conference’s name, was being openly mocked and disparaged.

Lunch was hilarious, one moment I was holding forth watching Eben Moglen hold court on the concourse, the next people started streaming down towards the refectory, and everyone started following to see where they were going.

Where they were going was the sunshade outside the ANU refectory where 400 pizzas were due to arrive.

Unfortunately despite taking an order for it 2 months ago, Pizza Hut had utterly failed to co-ordinate the necessary resources so the pizzas arrived in dribs and drabs over some time.

A particularly drool worthy moment was an IBM tech opening a shell to a 128 processor G5 [apologies, that should read P5] machine he’d been working on and compiling ten kernels in ten seconds to show off just how powerful the new chips are.

(You have to have stared at a screen in the small hours of the night waiting for a kernel compile to finish to truly appreciate this one).

In any event, everyone I spoke to seemed to have had a really good time.

So well done the Canberra Linux Users Group for putting Canberra in a good light for such an august gathering.

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Samuel Gordon-Stewart12:20 am 28 Apr 05

My HTML went nuts, could you edit it please johnboy?
It should say “and ranted about it here and here, but it did”
with the “here” and “here” being the links


Samuel Gordon-Stewart12:16 am 28 Apr 05

Nah, I’m not the organiser who told him off and ranted and about it, but it did get me worked up enough to post a rant on their blog.

The organiser who had to deal with the situation declares that they wouldn’t have had a problem with it if it were outdoors…but rooms full of electronics…


You were the one to whom he refers?


Samuel Gordon-Stewart11:23 pm 27 Apr 05

Oh, a post from the idiot who floated beverages off helium balloons in lecture thatres marked “No food or drink”…This is the first time he has surfaced since I posted a rant at him on his blog comments. Obviously he decided to post the same garbage again elsewhere to have a clean slate…that won’t last long…I’ll just get out the rant machine.


OSNEWS have a slightly bizarre story on the conf. Someone seems to have gotten in an online crapfest.

The significance of Eben Moglens ovations however seem to have struck others as well.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart11:43 pm 25 Apr 05

Glad you enjoyed it…I actually submitted that to slashdot, hopefully they read my thoughts about them and engaged an auto-reject on my submissions.

I forgot to mention that there is a list of photos by various people at http://wiki2005.linux.conf.au/index.php/Photos (the first one in the list being my set)


Thanks for that.

I had been wondering where the register were getting their stuff.

Slashdot editors are evil inconsistent bastards. Be glad they didn’t take your comments and publih under their own name.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart3:43 pm 25 Apr 05

My Thoughts:
That was without a doubt, one of the best weeks I have ever had. It all started on Sunday of course, actually no, it started on Saturday night (I could argue with myself that it started when my former boss heard that LCA was coming to Canberra…but I won’t) when I decided to go to the early registration on Sunday because I thought that it would be much quieter, and I could get lost without missing anything. I also decided to fix up my old printout of the LCA timetable, after a long heap of scribbles, I just gave up and printed it again.

Sunday saw me register and pick up my conference bag, badge & T-Shirt. I also managed to get partially lost on the way to the venue, “Noooooo, I’m a Canberran, I don’t need a map, I can memorise a campus map.” The first statement was true, as for the others…well, always look at the ground.

Sunday night was the time for finishing writing my seminar and practicing it, Michael was right, it was too long. I shortened it and made it to bed at 2am

Monday arrived, and so did I, I was early for the Security Miniconf, and became tempted by the Purple Pickle’s offer of filling my LCA mug with coffee for $3.10, I walked out the wrong doors, had the wrong building number in mind and declared that “That creek shouldn’t be there!” I was lost again, thankfully, somebody told me that there was a building of food out the other doors. That is where I found a nice place that filled my mug for $2.80, I however thought that the Miniconf started at 10:00, but due to my lack of a miniconf timetable, I was wrong, it started at 9:30 and I missed the first 10 minutes of the first installment of SE Linux with Russell Coker. I decided that I should borrow a laptop to make use of the wireless network, and make my blog fit it’s title of “Samuel’s lcaLIVE”…I rang a friend and they offered for me to pick one up.

Monday night saw me putting the final touches to my seminar, which actually means creating the entire visual experience (Overhead Presentation in english), this saw me in bed at 3am…and a few fun mistakes that weren’t spotted. The printer also played up (due to me turing off the wrong computer) and made one page of my notes almost unreadable)

Tuesday came around, I had to rush out to Majura Primary in the morning (approximately 30 minutes from civic by bus), pick up the laptop, rush back to LCA and be there by 10am for the start of day two of the Security Miniconf. That all went fine, well, the “getting out the door” part did anyway. I was carrying three bags, one for the usual stuff, coffee, various papers, etc, a second for the video camera and a third for the tripod. I got out to Majura Primary, waited for a few minutes, unnamed person shows up and has forgotten the laptop, I rush back to civic on the bus (OK, I had to wait for the bus to run late first) whilst making changes to my seminar notes. At the Miniconf I made more changes to my seminar notes (which made it look like I was going to repeat the seminar before me, to the people behind me).

11am, seminar time, Michael announces a five minute break to allow me to get my stuff setup (Thanks Michael for the assistance), and then I start. 30 seconds in and Michael is getting up and walking down to the front, which makes me think that he is kicking me off…he was actually turing the volume up at the request of a person up the back…during the seminar I stumble across a slide which had a few problems, first one I noticed was the squiggle under the word “SmoothWall”, which proves that I did the diagram in Word due to frustrations with other programs, the second, and more embarrasing and funny problem, was the public IP address used in the diagram (123.456.789.012) which is obviously very very wrong (If you don’t know why, see http://computer.howstuffworks.com/question549.htm). Apart from that, the 50-60 people did seem to enjoy the seminar. I however was exhausted, and needed a cup of coffee…I would have like to deliver that seminar again though, maybe I will one day.

Russell had more SE Linux on Tuesday afternoon, it went waaaay over time, but it was fun, and was definetly the highlight of the Security Miniconf.

That night I ran the video of my seminar and was very disappointed to find the audio almost inaudible. I was releived to find that the organisers had recorded it though…or so I hoped.

Wednesday was the start of the “real” conference, and saw the announcement of special prizes, 1GB flash drive each seminar, and IBM Laptop each day.Wednesday was tutorial day, this was good, I attended the “Recovering from HDD disasters” and “Building user interfaces with video and 3D graphics for fun and profit” one. I thoroughly enjoyed the second one, the speaker couldn’t decide who to give the flash drive to, so we played heads and tails, and I won. By this stage I had found the magical terminal room as well…that made me happy. I also found out that my seminar had been officially recorded, and the audio would be available in about a month. The lovely people at ibiblio.org also replied to my email and gave me webspace for my LCA video and associated materials.

Thursday saw Tridge’s keynote, and his bitkeeper comments. That was very good & proved three things. One, ZDNet had a reporter at LCA. Two, The Register adapt people’s blogs and turn them into articles. Three, Slashdot are really really annoying and stupid people. My blog was among the first places on the net to have the Tridge story (I think ZDNet beat me to it), The Register however, were definetly after me, and had no more info than my blog…I have no problem with them using my matrial, but I would prefer them to have some kind of acknowledgement of my name rather than “delegate”. Slashdot are just plain annoying, the Tridge V Linus V Bitkeeper story has been the top story for a while, I had the important update on it, and it was rejected, instead they went and accepted somebody else’s version of the story who submitted it hours after mine had been rejected, this isn’t the first thing of mine slashdot have rejected, it is in fact, a continuation of their apparent policy of rejecting all of my submissions, no matter how important or interesting they may be.

Thursday lunchtime saw Russell Coker playing Augmented Reality Quake, he did manage to accidentally break,turn off, or cause temporary incapacitation of equipment, which I jokingly put down to his body having SE Linux Policies. SE Linux is fantastic, and if you don’t know anything about it, then please do.

On Thursday night I played with the audio of my seminar and managed to get something semi-usable. This made me happy, and had me thinking of an interim release.

Friday was yet another great day, plenty happened, but I was very tired, and needed a constant supply of coffee to stay awake. Unfortunately there were a few mishaps with speakers and the timetable, and I had to rearrange my viewing schedule, but it was fun none-the-less. I think it was friday that the Tux Racer seminar was on, this was fantastic. I have read that it wasn’t technical enough for LCA, but I think that it is important to have at least one non technical seminar per day, it helps prevent brain melt…and also helps lift the mood, especially near the end of the week when everybody is tired and overloaded with information.

At lunch time Friday I finally had a go at Augmented Reality Quake, which was quite fun.

Friday night saw me uploading the interim release of the video of my seminar (which you can download from http://www.ibiblio.org/netsec/). I will be making a proper release of higher quality, properly edited video and DVD after the official LCA audio & video is released.

Saturday saw Eben Moglen speak, he got a standing ovation, and so he should. His consistent legal defence of open source software has seen it flourish, and proven to business that it *is* the future. (OK, Microsoft still need a bit more convincing, but a look at the sponsors of LCA should prove just how much business value it.)

The organisers were, for the most part, friendly and helpful. They were under an enourmous amount of pressure (I know, I’ve organised stuff before, and it is a credit to them that they managed to make it look seamless and under control, the better you hide the late organisation, the better you have done.) A few times they were a bit snappy, but this is understandable, the amount of pressure they were under, the massive organisational effort, and dealing with idiots that tried to steal everyone’s passwords with rogue APs, and other idiots who felt the need to float various beverages through lecture theatres that were marked “No Food Or Drink”, can’t have been easy, especially when the latter idiots complained about it in their blog. They worked hard to keep as many people happy as possible, this included the caterers, and as such, the white mugs were to stay inside. Thankyou to the organisers, this was fantastic.

The people who packaged the flash drives obviously didn’t expect anybody to ever have a need to use them…but I finally got my flash drive out today (because I actually thought about doing it), and I now have 1256 MB of portable storage.

I’m now looking forward to next year’s LCA in Dunedin, I’m considering submitting an abstract to it so that I can speak again (and avoid many of the costs). It should be good, and I hope to be able to make it there.

I am pleased to be able to announce that during LCA, my webserver logs hit 90% for firefox usage, and 45% for Linux usage. Good to see the educated people hitting my webserver.

I calculated that I’ve lost about 14 hours sleep during the conference, and will now have to work on reclaiming it (sitting here typing this isn’t helping).


Glad you thought Eben Moglen’s speech was significant. I’m a card carrying associate member of the Free Software Foundation (it isn’t cheap) so he was preaching to the choir in my case.

Stallman’s always been right but many (myself included) found it easier to squib the subject, a course of action discredited in the last week.

I think there is a sea change going on in the non-propietary software world.

And a lot of it happenned in the Manning Clarke Centre at ANU this week.

In case anyone cares, my highlights were:

A day long session learning to write kernel device drivers with Rusty and Robert Love.

Tridge’s keynote featuring live Bitkeeper reverse engineering.

Mark Shuttleworth’s “Ubuntu – the Final Frontier” which had nothing whatsoever to do with Linux but was a fascinating talk on going into space.

Prof. Eben Moglen’s talk on the legal state of Free Software, and why it’s so important – almost certainly the most impressive and inspiring presentation of the conference.

Ahh, P5 not G5, sorted now.

You better tell the IBM Buildup techs who built it too.

Slight nit to pick nerdboy, what IBM call G5 is a mainframe (S/390). Apple’s name for the PowerPC chip they get from IBM is G5, but IBM don’t call it that themselves.

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