LCA09 Day -2 – Saturday

After leaving my packing etc to the last minute I caught the plane over to Sydney and then to Hobart  during the day on Saturday. Fairly eventful (although I think people were paying a bit more attention to the safety demonstration after the crash in New York last week) except for the quick glimpse of A380 in Sydney and Qantas losing my bag  (which had me worried for the rest of the day since I just had the clothes I was in, my wallet, passport and laptop. )

Fortunately Qantas rang me on Saturday evening to say they found the bag so I won’t have to spend all day Sunday buying clothes and other random stuff in Hobart.

Landing in Hobart the airport is pretty small (no air-bridge) and a bit of a trip out of town ( $15
hotel bus ). I thought the landscape looked a slightly greener shade than other parts of Australia and the houses a bit older than average.

The Hotel I’m in for tonight is just past the casino and only 10 minutes walk from the University so not situated too badly. I went for a walk to dinner and got into the main Sandy Bay shops after around 20 minutes ( The Casino restaurants looked overpriced and not that great ).

Wandering around I ended up trying a fish-and-chip place since I hadn’t had that for a while. It was okay but at best a 6/10 . Unfortunately the nearby German bakery is closed tomorrow so I’ll have to wait till Monday to try it. The pizza place looked nice (in a cheap pizza sort of way).


SSL my blog

I’ll be at all next week and I’m planning to update my blog a few times. The problem is that I’ll be on a wireless connection so prone to people sniffing my passwords.

So I thought I’d see if I could get https going on my server. A quick google found a page on generating self signed certificites and another on lighttpd as a ssl proxy so with a bit of tweaking:

#### SSL engine
$SERVER["socket"] == "" {
                  ssl.engine                  = "enable"
                  ssl.pemfile                 = "/etc/lighttpd/server.pem"
                         = ""
                  proxy.server = (
                       "" => ( ( "host" => "", "port" => 80 ) )

Which work well enough for me to post this article via. Obviously self-signed certifcates are not the best sort of thing for public sites but in my case I just have to make sure I get my browser to trust the cert before I leave and from then on I can be pretty sure I’m connecting to the right site and nobody is sniffing my traffic.

This evening I’ve been doing the slides for my lightning talk next week. Everything is turning into a bit of a rush since I leave early Saturday morning. But I think I should be okay.

Share minus 1 week

Just had my last weekend in NZ before 2009 . I’m flying over this coming Saturday and back the Saturday following. So this weekend I’ve cut down a bit on other stuff and been prioritizing LCA.

I sent sent out a call for lightning talks to the LCA attendees list. So far we’ve got 3 confirmed lightning talks for the Sysadmin Miniconf and with a 1 hour slot on each day we have plenty of space for more. I hoping that a few first-time presenters will do quick talks about things like how they deploy apache or which monitoring system they use. Sometimes it’s very hard to get a feel for what other people are doing and a 5 minute talk on a simple tool can really help a lot of people.

Towards that I volunteered to do a 10 minutes (approx) talk on mondorescuse and PXE based on some stuff I’m doing at work and a previous blog post . My main bit last night and today was getting some screenshots of mondorescue and doing a little testing of stuff I didn’t cover at work.

I did my own screenshots since I couldn’t find any under a nice license ( I’ll release mine under Public Domain ) and the ones at work using VMWare client under Windows XP didn’t look right. To get mine I just ended up using KVM on my desktop and the built-in gnome-screenshot program.

A couple of interesting links:


Sysadmin Miniconf programme up

I’ve just posted the programme for the 2009 Sysadmin Miniconf !

This year we were allocated 2 days by the programme committee so we have 15 full length talks by some great speakers on a wide variety of topics. Have a look for yourself to see which ones you are interested in.

I’ve not yet updated the lightning talks but we have a few already and are still looking for more, so contact lca09 @ is you are interested in presenting.

Share 2009 Sysadmin Miniconf – Last week for proposals

We just got into November which means that it’s just one week till proposals for the Sysadmin Miniconf at 2009 close.  We have a bunch already but still some space left ( since we have a two days space allocated ).

Have a look at our call for proposals page for details. One thing we are trying to encourage is a wide range of talks so even a 10 minute talk about how you did something is welcome.

Proposals close on the 10th of Novemeber so don’t delay.


Miniconf at LCA 2009

We got word a couple of days ago that the [Sysadmin Miniconf]( had been accepted
for [ 2009]( and [the media have been informed](
so I can can say so publicly.

It looks like the following Miniconfs have been accepted:

* Open Source databases
* Kernel
* Sysadmin
* Virtualisation
* Linuxchix
* Myth TV
* Gaming
* Mobile
* Multimedia
* Free As In Freedom
* The business of open source software

I guess the main differences from previous years are the MySQL and PostgreSQL
miniconfs have been merged. There is no Debian, Education or Gnome miniconfs
and I guess Mobile has replaced Embedded. It’s interesting to see the loss of the regulars, I guess
in some cases it is because they have their own regular conferences.

The last two miniconfs ( “Free As In Freedom” and “The business of open source software” )
are also new, I guess they will be fleshed out.

We’ll be updated the Sysadmin Miniconf [website]( over the next few days
and the call for papers should be out next week sometime.

I also posted an [email to the NZNOG list](
asking about interest in a Sysadmin thing at NZNOG 09 ( in Auckland the week after LCA 09 ).
have a quick look and pop me an email if you are interested.


“ First timers Guide” updated

I’ve just updated [the guide]( a
little as [ 2009]( gets closer. The
main changes are:

* Updated to point to Hobart
* Mention “Open Day”
* Added photos of Menu and Badge

If you have suggestions for further fixes please contact me.

I’ve also added a few ( unsorted ) photos from [ 2008](
and the [ 2008 – Sysadmin Miniconf](


End of July Misc post.

As usual I’m a bit behind in stuff but the excuse this time is that around 6 months
ago I started playing chess competitively again ( previously was when I was still at school) so
I’ve been spending a bit of time at it. Right now it involves going to
[the club]( ( site being redone soon) one evening
a week, the odd tournament and some study and practice on [sites like this]( .

I’m now [ranked]( 332nd= in the country but
I think with a bit of work I could be in the top 200 in a few months if I keep at it.

Other stuff that is happening is that a proposal for a [Sysadmin Miniconf]( has been submitted
to [ 2009 in Hobart]( More details to come.

Some links:

A good paper at Usenix 2008 on [Handling Flash Crowds from your Garage](
[PDF version with the diagrams]( .

…and an interesting article on [How long will we be trapped in this mobile hell hole?](
panders to my dislike of mobile applications.

And finally a Watchmen Trailer / Heroes Mashup video:


Catchup and EeeXubuntu

Yesterday I installed [EeeXubuntu](
on my [Asus Eee PC]( [Xubuntu]( is
a version of Ubuntu designed for low-specification computers while EeeXubuntu
is a slightly tweaked version of that that installs some drivers and such
for the Eee.

I was pretty impressed with EeeXubuntu ( probably pronounced “Easy-buntu” ), I
followed the instructions and burned the ISO image on a flash drive. Then it was
just a matter of pressing escape on boot up to make it boot from the drive instead
of the normal internal drive. The EeeXubuntu install is also a live boot disk
so I played around with it first to make sure I like it before I installed
it over the top of the Xandros install my Eee came with.

The default desktop now looks like this (click to go to larger image):

and is pretty similar to a normal desktop install. The Xfce desktop doesn’t
seem to be missing many features that I got with my normal Gnome desktop on
Ubuntu so I am pretty happy so far. All the hardware (except the camera which I have not tested) works
okay and both Suspend-to-RAM and Suspend-to-disk work. Boot times are a little
slower but I am happy otherwise.

I partitioned the 4G disk with 500MB of Swap (very low priority) and the
Operating System uses just over half of what is left. Even better I can use
the normal Ubuntu software repositories so new software is easy to install

On the subject of my Eee I haven’t posted before about my “Eee Kit” which I carry

The kit comes in thick plastic bag with a zip (not zip-lock) to seal it and
consists of the Eee power supply, a small mouse ($20) and a tin containing
some headphones and a 4G flash drive. It all seals up nicely and takes about
as much space in my bag as the Eee itself. About the only thing I miss would
be a short piece of cat5 cable.

Other Items.

+ I am currently reading [The discovery of France]( by Graham Robb
which is a fascinating book on how pre-WW1 “France was a land of ancient tribal divisions, prehistoric communication networks,
and pre-Christian beliefs. French itself was a minority language.”
+ A torrent of all 2008 talks and slides is available [here]( (12GB).
+ NZNOG 2008 has posted conference slides for [Wednesday]( and [Thursday/Friday]( along with [videos]( (still being updated).
+ The Sysadmin Miniconf slides are now up for [ 2008]( and [NZNOG 2008](
+ I recently got involved with the [Mailop]( group, which is a list for Email Administrators.
+ I’m currently working out my notice at my current job and going to start a new one in a weeks time. More details later.


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