Fight for Your Right – Friday at LCA 2008

The last real day of 2008 was [Friday]( I had
signed up to do a a [lightning talk]( in the last
session (see more below) so I ended up spending various breaks, writing and
rehearsing that rather than the other stuff.

The Keynote today was about Python and Python 3000 by [Anthony Baxter]( While
there have been a couple of complaints that the talk wasn’t good enough to be
a keynote I was very please with it. It was of medium but accessible technical
level about a major open source project which is used by many others. It was
by a local who is a senior person in the project and it was well presented. It
was also good to have something a bit more technical that the previous two
keynotes. Interesting thing I learnt about was the Low Level Virtual Machine or [LLVM](

The prize draw had a weird/stage/disturbing moment when the organisers took
back a prize from someone who had won it in the draw. I can see thinking but
I am not sure if the right result was achieved.

First session was one of those nice ones where there were four talks I would
like to have attended (I’ll download an watch later I guess) but I ended up
going to [Dave Airlie]( on Open Source Graphics
Drivers. I went to this last year and he is a pretty good speaker. This year
it was a pretty good survey of the current state of things and quite
interesting and to a good extent very positive.

One thing I’d really like to see would be a site with a nice summary of the
current support of various video cards in Linux. This might be good for
people looking to buy new cards so they could know which ones have closed drivers,
which open, which are shipping in distributions and how well they work.

Session two again had a few options but I went to see the talk on Suspend
to Disk, quite good again although a little over my head. The problem
really seems to be at the unsolved stage right now with kexec as a possible
option but that still only solves half the problem.

After lunch I went to [Keith Packard’s](
X driver talk. Once again it was a bit of a survey of current status (with a bit
about Intel releasing docs at the start) which is good for people like me
who aren’t seriously into this but like a survey of where things are currently up to.

The last main talk I saw was from [Luke Kanies]( about
[Puppet]( and resource abstract
in System management. Nice talk on an area I am especially interested in
these days although I guess I don’t need as much convincing as some people.

One thing I took back from this year’s LCA is that running servers like people did
15 years ago doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s not just the big boys but just about
everyone with more than half a dozen (and perhaps less) servers should be using config mngt
to administer them. No less than 3 speakers at the Sysadmin Miniconf said that
if they have a server to install or re-install they jump jumpstart it to a simple
install and use their Config Mngt programs (Puppet in 2 cases) to install the
reset of the software and config. 15 Minutes from bare metal is all it should take.

On the other hand where I work I’d be lucky to open the ticket to have a
box restored in 15 minutes. It could take hours (or more) for it to actually
happen. While Luke (and others) have done a lot of work convincing many that
this sort of thing is now “best practice” there are still many places prefer
to run things the way they always have. I suspect a few of those places are
going to have a lot of trouble competing with those that do keep up.

I can’t find the quote but (from memory) one of the speakers said that ten
percent of the total global IT spending in 2008 was going to be made by the
top 20 providers ( Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc) on Data centers and computers
to fill them. These companies, the people they sell to and their imitators
are the ones are going to deliver IT infrastructure so quickly and cheaply that
traditional IT depts (and companies that depend on them) won’t be able to keep

After the last of the talks there was a lightning talk session in the main hall.
This was quite well attended ( at least 350 people) and featured some pretty
good talks.

My talk was on a protocol that could be used by speech recognition programs to
talk to each other. It is about 32 minutes into [the video]( just
after the talk by Pia Waugh. Looking at it I didn’t do too bad but obviously wasn’t
anywhere near as good as some of the speakers.

It was a little disappointing to see that many of the Lightning talk speakers
were quite experienced speakers like Pia and Jeff Waugh, Rusty Russell etc rather
than people we don’t normally see. However some of the speakers were new and
also the regulars delivered some very good talks.

The evening event was the “Google Party” which was a BBQ and drinks in a
covered area of the University. Reasonable nice I guess although I found it
hard to mix and ended up going back to Trinity fairly early. Talking to people
there was good although the Sept 11th Conspiracy Theory guy was creepy and
got on my nerves. I really have no time for kooks and nutters and it is a shame
that even LCA has it’s share of them