Slow Ride – Thursday at LCA 2008

I started out [Thursday]( by going to
the keynote by [Stormy Peters]( It was a little
less crowded getting seated this time around. A good keynote overall on what
motivates people to participate in open source projects and how that
interacts with companies paying them.

First main talk I went to was about “Memory-Efficient and Fast Websites — Pick Two!” which
by Malcolm Tredinnick was a very interesting talk although I did know a good
percentage of what he said already. However I picked up some links to tools
I didn’t know about already and some good tips on best practice.

One big problem was that the talk was very crowded, part of the problem with
this was that LCA this year didn’t have enough large rooms to go around. So while
the main Copland theatre could hold 493 people the others maxed out at 100-150
each. This meant that it took less than 25 percent of the attendees to fill
up one of these rooms ( from just 5 streams ). I guess that the organisers
just have to go with what rooms they have but future organisers should probably
try to have at least 3 rooms holding 200-250 people for a 600 person conference (with
one of these holding 400 plus ).

The other part of the problem was that [Rusty]( got
the largest room and then spent 3 days scaring away as many attendees as
possible by telling them how much expertise was required. I suspect the organisers
had a “deer in headlights” moment or two with room allocations for this section
and decided that Rusty would probably be the most popular. However as I
stated above the big disparity in room sizes put them in this tough position.

The other thing I got slightly annoyed about in the talk was the couple who
re-arranged several other people in order to sit next to each other during
the talk. I really think that you could have survived being a couple of
metres apart from an hour or two ( especially since you didn’t talk or touch
during the talk except during the break ) rather than shuffling other
people ( not me ) around. You really should remember that you are ( I hope )
independent thinking entities not some creepy hive mind.

Anyway enough blog bitchiness. Next I went to a talk about Speech and Braille
computer outputs by Jason White. A pretty good talk with some interesting bits,
in a survey of the current state of the technology. I think many people
were surprised that a [Refreshable Braille display]( costs
some $8000 dollars. I think there are a couple of efforts starting to
happen to produce lower cost alternatives.

[Val Henson]( next did a talk on [chunkfs](
which I liked. Not too technical for me to follow ( Everything I know about
the Kernel is from the Linux Weekly News ) but it seemed to cover the details
in the serious Kernel people were interested in.

Afterwards I went to a talk about [netconf](
by [Martin Krafft]( . The netconf
project is intended to replace ifupdown with something more event driven
to handle the more dynamic environment systems (especially laptops) live in
these days with networks coming and going dynamically and everything being

While most people at the talk seemed to agree that something had to be done
there seemed to be many that felt that [NetworkManager](
might be a better tool rather than Debian developing one of their own. Personally
I said that creating a whole event-driven system seemed to be a duplication
of what [upstart]( is doing. Martin replied
that he didn’t think upstart was getting into Debian any time soon which I
assume is some heavy political issue since Martin maintains the package for Debian.

Last up was [David Jones]( talking about maintaining
the fedora kernel. Generally quite interesting and entertaining with minimal flashes
of nudity.

For dinner I went to the Professional Delegates Networking Session ( confusing
referred to as the [PDNS]( ) at the [Melbourne Museum](’s [CSIRAC]( exhibition.
We got buses there but it turned out that the Museum is right next to
[Lygon Street]( it it wasn’t really
that far away. The sessions was the usual sort of thing with nibble and drinks
( not much coke though ) and finished around 9:30 or 10 (forget which). There
was a bit of confusion with some people waiting for buses back ( there were none
but nobody had been told ) before everybody either walked back of to the
Google Student party. I ended up walking back ( ice cream on the way ) with
a couple of others


Paul Revere – Wednesday at LCA 2008

[Wednesday]( is the first day of the main conference with the main speakers and
five parallel tracks. First up was [Bruce Schneier]( doing
a talk on security theatre, security reality etc. The talk was without slides
which is fairly unusual and I found it a little hard to concentrate ( I
tried shutting my eyes even) but good and interesting content.

After that was the first of the giveaways. It has been traditional for the
last few LCA’s for prizes ( usually laptops or gadgets) to be given away
to people who are at the keynotes in order to encourage people to attend, if
you are not there when you name is called out then then next person is called.

This morning (and later in the morning) several [OLPC’s]( were
handed out to various mostly excited people. Later several several of the
winners gave them away to people they thought could better use them which I think
is a very good spirit.

For the first session I ended up going to a the GTK/Gnome programming tutorial
which was interesting and helpful to novice programmers such as myself. Then
after dithering between a talk on the XFS File system ( I had talking to the
presenter, Dave Chinner the previous night and it sounded interesting) and a NSS
speedup talk I ended going to the Kernel Report by Jonathan Corbet of [Linux Weekly News]( ,
interesting but probably not as good as the first session since I read his column every week already.

For the next session there were several good talks listed and I went to one by
Dirk Hohndel of Intel which was advising people on how to work with hardware
vendors and giving a bit of an insiders view from hardware vendors of open source. Interest again and he definitely indicated that some of the vendors
(especially video cards and wireless) had a lot of IP tied up in drivers which
they would not be going away while most others could probably be worked with.

The last talk was a little disappointing, I went to Carl Worth’s talk on X
acceleration but found there wasn’t a lot of content. It was sort of a rundown
of 5 years or so of history followed by a summary of where their effort was
up to. Probably could have been compressed to about 5 minutes.

As a sidenote I found that I was getting quite a few questions about my Eee
at the conference so I got to practice my tour. There were at least 20 other
people with one and many of them had install alternative desktops on them
already. Asking around I’ll probably install the [eeexubuntu](
version of the the [xubuntu]( desktop.

The Penguin dinner this year was a little different in that it was held
at [Melbourne Night Market]( which
is a big outdoor food hall (Which slightly reminded my of the [Hawker centres]( I
saw in Malaysia). There was a bit of confusion with the organisation at the start with
a giant line forming to one of the bars when there were 3 others just around the corner
along with all the food. However once that was sorted out people seemed happy.
The arrangement was that were were given 8 $5 tickets to buy food and drink with at the stalls inside.

I picked a German hot dog, some vegetarian Indian and a middle eastern meat
sandwich which all tasted pretty good and left me full. However as
[Mary Gardiner mentioned]( there
wasn’t as much mixing as previously and I ended up leaving a little early. All
wasn’t lost however since I had a very interesting conversation with a Sysadmin
from [Wollongong](
about jobs, technology, etc.

I forgot to mention that on Tuesday night I ended up sitting near
[Andrew Tridgell]( who had
a [Sony Reader]( that he was showing people. It
looked quite cool and apparently has a bit less DRM than usual with Sony. I
try and avoid buying Sony where possible though due to their bad reputation


The New Style – Tuesday at 2008

Big day for me on Tuesday with the Sysadmin Miniconf happening. We (
Ewen, Andrew and myself) and the other Miniconf people all had to be in
at 8am to setup for out Miniconfs. It turned out this was a good idea
since the controls in our room were not working and one of the
University techies had to fix it remotely, the MySQL people had to move
completely when there room’s equipment didn’t work at all.

After we started our room filled right up, past overflowing so we ended
up swapping with MySQL and moving into the big theatre in the block. I
think we had close to 150 people at most talks so a big success.

Apart from a couple of small glitches (mainly with the sound) and the
printed programme being out of date the day went pretty good. Ewen and
Andrew kept things ticking over and I mostly avoided getting too
stressed, collecting slide copies and actually listening to the odd

I think the one I liked best was Lindsay Holmwood’s puppet based one in
the early sessions. It was very well presented ( Lissig style with lots
of simple slides) and the content was great. The slides from all the
talks along with video should be available on the web very soon.

The rest of the talks were all good as well, feedback from others was
pretty positive and I think I’ll definitely try and do it again next
year. Due to time constraints the maximum talk length was just 25 minutes
but keeping to this meant we got a lot more talks into the day although I
would have liked more depth sometimes.

After the end of the Miniconf I went to the Speaker’s dinner. I wasn’t
actually speaking at the conference but Miniconf organisers got invited
along too which was really cool.

The venue was nice and I got to talk to some interesting people who I
hopefully didn’t bore too much


Rhymin & Stealin – Monday at

First thing Monday I decided to go to the Virtualisation Miniconf to
something labeled “Keynote”. Unfortunately it appears their schedule was
completely screwed so one of the later talks was happening. I didn’t find
this interesting so I snuck off to Debian and caught the “State of the Debian
Project” talk which was pretty interesting.

Due to the brochure being printed a few weeks ago, the timetables from
many of the Miniconfs are out of date. While this is 100 times better than
last year when nothing had been printed it is still frustrating. The organisers
were really cool and let me print out a couple of our the Sysadmin Miniconf
schedule so I’ll hang this outside our room tomorrow to give people the
latest schedule.

At this point I really have to thank the organisers, so far they have been
incredible efficient and helpful beyond the call of duty. So when I’ve asked
for weird and non-standard stuff like printouts they have been really
nice, helpful and complete good about doing all them. I’d like to give them a
big thank you and a “You guys rock!” .

I dropped into the Multimedia Miniconf for the next session and caught
an overview of some new Dirac codecs from one of the people at the BBC
and then 3 quick talks. The first was a great update on the ogg
projects by [Chris Montgomery]( ,
the second was a report on a FOSS survey which was a little wasted when the
presented spent the first 10 minutes going on about her organisation and
I missed the 3rd.

For lunch ended having a very nice Italian lunch of pasta and bruschetta
( I love bruschetta) with some guys so I was a bit late back to the next

I caught the end of a session at the virtualisation Miniconf ( I
apparently missed the good ones this morning) and then over to
debian for a discussion about “Why don’t the big guys love Debian”, some
good points discussed although I think some people are hung up about
shipping binary modules, for large companies that want to run Debian on
servers binary modules are not important, solid support and someone to
yell at is. For the last session I squeezed into the security Miniconf
to heard about ssh exploits

Afterward a bunch of us went to Lydon St for the Sysadmin ( and friends)
dinner. After a bit of problem with the venue we ended up in a nice
place and had a good pizza dinner with a bit of ice cream afterward


Time to get ill

After a few problems with delayed flights I finally got into Melbourne.
for Meet some people from NZ and we shared a taxi into the
venue ( $42 total ).

I arrived around noon on Sunday and the registration for my accommodation
( Trinity ) didn’t open till 1pm so I sat in the shade chatting to people
and trying to get my cellphone to work.

My room is on the 3rd floor and a little old but nice enough, the whole
college has an old feel with hundred year old main buildings (at least
they look) 100 years old.

The conference venue is just 10 minutes walk away from Trinity so I
wandered over and signed up. I’m professional this year so a bit more
stuff than previously. After that I went with some people to Lygon St
for an ice cream.

The newcomers session was pretty good, some others have already blogged
about it. Afterward about 50 people went to a local pub (across the
road from trinity ). The pub had just opened just last week so it was
still not 100% work with staff fairly new and only a few a couple of
beers on tap. In the end I was feeling a little sick so I went home a
little early. Talked to plenty of people during the day and caught up
with a few people from previous years, this would of course be easier if
I actually could remember names and faces, roll on the Sense Cam clone


No Sleep to Melbourne

Just one day till the start of [ 2008]( so
I thought I should do a few posts. This one was supposed to out yesterday
(Saturday) but I ended up getting distracted. So just pretend this was
posted 12 hours ago.

For the rest of this week I’ll be in Melbourne attended and
related events. If you are new to LCA then see the [main site]( or
read the [First timers]( that I
wrote a few months ago.

The Main event I am looking forward to is the [System Administration Miniconf](http:// on Tuesday which I am helping to organise. The programme
is online [here]( although there
might be a last minute change or two.

Monday is the first day of the Miniconfs with Community Wireless, Debian,
Education, Embedded, Fedora and Multimedia, Security and Virtualisation all
happening. I’ll probably spend most of the day at the virtualisation Miniconf
but I have to do a detailed check of the other miniconf’s schedules to spot
cool talks elsewhere.

On Monday night an informal dinner has been arranged at a local Italian place
for the the Sysadmin Miniconf and anyone else who wants to attended. Details
are here


Work :(

Every day it looks more like management have decided me and the rest of the
team just get to look after old stuff until another team builds and runs the
replacement. We have been trying to fight this for a while but it doesn’t look
like we are going to be able to fight this.

Half the “interesting” stuff (products not technology) is already gone and
most of the rest looks like following over the next 1-3 years (things don’t
move fast).

Looks like my main option is to go elsewhere, so if anyone knows of anything…


Govt accidentally releases information?

So the government releases a Cabinet paper on [this page]( about
“New Digital Advisory Body to be established” and invites people to:

Download a copy of the cabinet paper [Potential Merger of Higrowth and the Digital Strategy Advisory Group]( confirmed on Monday 12 November by Cabinet.
*Some items in this cabinet paper has been removed because it refers to financial or other sensitive information*.

So I download the PDF document and find I can highlight blank section with my mouse and read the financial and other data. Only problem
is that I don’t know if it supposed to be secret or not. Anyway. told a few people just in case.

Tight timeframe

National Library and SSC consider the timeframe for establishing the new
body is "ambitious."

No Xen in Gutsy :(

As detail in my [previous post]( I
am upgrading and installing Xen on one of my servers to replace a dodgy one. However
I got stuck earlier in the week because Xen is currently broken in the latest
version of Ubuntu ( 7.10 or Gutsy). See this [bug 161783 on launchpad]( for
details of the problem. So far nobody in Ubuntu seems to have noticed the
bug so I don’t know when it’ll be fixed, hopefully in the next few days.

I had a little play about bypassing it but I really don’t want to hack libc since
that’ll completely kill the box if I make a mistake.

Another separate thing I noticed this week is that since I don’t watch any TV ( I
watch TV programmes but not broadcast TV ) I don’t have any idea what the latest
cool ads are (at least not the New Zealand ones). Perhaps somebody could create
a simple system where I can watch the “hot” ads that I currently miss on TV. Like
the “Mr T” one that I’ve been hearing about.


Court News

I was called up for jury duty this week. I had sent a letter asking to be
excused but no luck getting off.

I’ve been called up twice before, the first time I was on a jury while the
second time I got challenged and didn’t have to serve.

This time around it was the Auckland district court so it’s fairly busy with
around half a dozen jury trials running at once. However the whole system
is pretty slow so I took a book (as advised) and managed to get through
quite a few pages while waiting around.

Eventually I was picked along with about 25 others (there were two other
trials starting that day) to go into court, our names were called out on
at a time and people walked forward to take their seat unless one of the
lawyers challenged them. I got challenged so got to go home (well work really)
Monday and another go on Tuesday.

Tuesday we had another twenty-something people go into the court. However it
turned out this was the same trial as Monday. Apparently a witness had dropped
out so they had to restart with a few changes dropped. Of course I got called up
again but the lawyer recognised me and challenged me again (same with at
least 1 other person). Sort of amusing I guess although the charges were
fairly serious.

I get another go tomorrow (Thursday) so I still might end up on something.

The whole process feels very inefficient, lots of waiting around in rooms
with lots of other people wondering what is happening next