Censorship is bad, mmkay?
Free speech is not any different just because there's the internet involved. And any country attempting to close its internet borders in the name of censorship should be defeated, for the fear of setting a precedent. Censorship anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.
Otherwise very soon, the internet will turn into a series of █████ which will only be used by █████████████, unless ██ take action and stop the █████████.
So, visit ███████████████████ to learn more about what's going on.--
Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself.
-- Potter Stewart
I'm sorry, I just received a late update (at great cost) from Anthony Baxter.
The last keynote from Linux.conf.au was about the upcoming Python "We'll break all your code" 3k. Perhaps not quite keynote material, but it covered a gamut of issues which will break old code when the move happens - and he did work for a colorful company. The set & dict comprehensions, function annotations and dictionary views are probably worth the terrible loss of reduce(), my favourite companion to map(). And obviously old style classes & string exceptions were excess fat to be trimmed anyway. But there was more interesting code to test.
>> from __future__ import braces File "<stdin>", line 1 SyntaxError: not a chance >> import this
And check the output twice.--
I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particularly if he has income and she is pattable.
-- Ogden Nash
I was there, but I didn't talk. Didn't sit around either.
Yes... I stood behind people.
And then, I came back. With a somewhat odd feeling at the back of my mind. Somehow, unlike all the other years, this year it felt more like a JNU event, rather than an ILUG-D event. What with the focus shifting off software into the rather vague (for me) realms of freedom. Maybe it was the conclave or the dinners, it didn't scream out ILUG-D like it used to - but that may not be a bad thing, per se.
Shall just have to wait and watch.--
In this country we enjoy many freedoms; freedom of speech, freedom of thought and indeed, the freedom to do neither.
Occasionally, I do wonder why I do what I do, especially with software. The answers I've got with might not make sense to everyone - actually, it no longer makes too much sense to *me* today. But one thing's remained the same - it wasn't the money then and it isn't money now.
Everyone admits that more money helps (talks, walks you home and even buys you dinner). But the question at hand was whether money, more accurately, the presence thereof, hurts open source projects. And Stormy Peters began with that question, into her LCA '08 keynote.
The internal motivations to write F/OSS usually are weakened when there's greenbacks flying. Not to mention money brings in the people who herd it, from the clan of MBA (not to be confused with N.W.A). The processes and rest of the beasts of communication, reports and roadmaps which follow aren't necessarily bad, but they aren't "fun". But even when hacking hasn't been instutionalized, money is a selective reward, which splits the community into those who are paid and the rest. Dunc-Tanc is a classic example of this divide in action. And I'd personally lost that rush the moment I start equating efforts to money - there's a stress level which you can't pay me to take up, but in which I used to live day in & day out.
Stormy Peters takes on the topic from the point of view of someone actively involved in funding open source projects & developers. Occasionally, I run into clearer insights than mine, but conclusions I gathered from the talk are something to a closer look at.
Once a f/oss developer, always a f/oss dev. Even when you've gotten off the rush for some project, pushing it along as a good engineer, the hacker in you doesn't sit around. So, even if you don't do the same for free, it's very likely you'll do something else for the same reasons you did it first - look at the ex-Eazel folks. Anyway, history might just rhyme or pun, or maybe people just go do the same again ( *cough* Gnome Online Desktop), but whatever they already did - is not lost.
Anyway, to the objective reader, I'd suggest that you ignore my blatant bias in the above post and go watch the video.--
It's classic percolate-up economics, recognizing that money is like manure: It works best if you spread it around.
After all the dust from the miniconfs settled down, the real conference began with a real treat - Bruce Schneier talking on Reconceptualizing Security [video (~150 MB)]. The keynote was about dealing with security as an intangible feeling as well as the reality of security.
Lemons: But before I head off into what that talk was about, let me introduce a new concept - Market for Lemons. The idea is that when the quality of a product (like a used car) cannot be assessed easily, the bad car (i.e a lemon) would sell for a profit, while the good car wouldn't have any customers because it is expensive. The scenario is exactly tilted towards the dishonest seller, in the absence of proper information and/or blacklists for lemon peddlers.
The security software market right now is such a one (I'd say that the job market is too). Products which are pure snakeoil are completely indistinguishable from real products from a brochure or presentation. As was clearly illustrated today. The company which invests more efforts in creating the illusion of security would potentially win over someone who has been actually spending time & effort to secure their product. The price war cannot be fought between good & bad without enough in-depth information about stuff under-the-hood.
There is probably a sweet spot between real security and the illusion of security, which would be profitable. It wouldn't be bullet-proof security by any stretch of imagination, but the sense of security wouldn't necessarily be misplaced. Which is what the profit-oriented capitalist economy would gravitate to, provided there was enough awareness & information about what is actually in the box.
Q&A: I actually got to ask Bruce Schneier a question - about the meta-stable state of this balance, where every new development/marketing tactic would again upset the market off this point. He admitted that it was an interesting question, but suggested that it would probably dampen into insignificance (think about soaps & detergent brands).
Anyway, there I was, communicating to Bruce Schneier without encyrption.--
There's small choice in rotten apples.
-- William Shakespeare, "The Taming of the Shrew"
Looks like I'll be able to make it to freed.in. Except, in a departure from the usual, I'll not be presenting there. I wasn't online or in any state to prepare a decent proposal for the conference. I'll be attending it as a vanilla delegate to the conference, possibly talking about something during the conclaves.
I wouldn't miss it if I were you (even if I were me, which I am).--
Nothing will dispel enthusiasm like a small admission fee.
-- Kim Hubbard
Monday: I had this illusion that I had no jet lag after reaching melbourne. So, I headed out to the security miniconf. The WiFi wasn't up yet (it never is for the first day). The couple of talks I was really focussing on was the OpenSSH one and the 'aggressive' Network defense one.
The latter talk had some interesting 'facts' about ICMP. The ICMP host redirect used in the sense of "talk to the hand" packet dumping. Also suggestions for an ICMP quench message to be un-deprecated as well as a lot of ire directed at sysadmins who just drop ICMP at fire-walls.
The OpenSSH talk had a fair amount of detail about writing secure code and more importantly retro-fitting security into existing code. Ironically, it began by quoting a Microsoft research paper as inspiration for a lot of work. Moving on, it shows how different is sshd compared to the standard unix daemon. Rather than move ahead accept-fork model followed very successfully by apache, sshd uses accept-fork-exec to run a master and slave process. The master handles all the higher privilege functions while the latter handles the protocol/crypto/book-keeping functionality.
Tuesday: I slept off till late afternoon. Woke up in time to peek into the gaming miniconf and walk around between Lygon st. & Swanston st.
Still not adjusted to local time yet, but the extra coffee seems to be helping today.--
So little time, so little to do.
-- Oscar Levant
LCA '08 beckons and so does a fairly long vacation down under. The blanks left behind have been filled up and I'm sitting in Singapore right now and as usual this trip was also run quite close to the wire in terms of scheduling. But I'm here and on my way.
I'll be reaching MEL by Sunday night (yes, sleepover at the SG transit hotel) and then the week goes into the conference. After which, I plan to hop onto a kangaroo and head off along the coast to Brisbane (that's about as clear my plans are).
If any of you feel like putting up this low-budget traveller somewhere on that coastal route, ping net dot php at gopalv (in reverse).--
Gosh that takes me back... or is it forward? That's the trouble with time travel, you never can tell.
-- Doctor Who, "Androids of Tara
As fox2mike told me, "We're missing a kick-ass conference" (sitting behind the scenes).
Conferences are unnecessarily cruel on the organizers. After five days of FOSS.in, I was left drained & empty rather than re-energized. Compared to the last year, when I said it was Ardeo Redux, this year my emotions are completely different. Was no fun, this conference - show up early, baby-sit the hack center, feeling sick in the infernal cold snap. Anyway, I suppose that's what responsibility steals from all of us.
Kudos to everyone who's worked tirelessly behind the scenes all these years.--
Some people grow with responsibility -- others merely swell.
Unlike last year, this year I had a pl_n.
It's a little sketchy now, but looks like I've got cash for the tickets, without doing anything too extreme .
Post conference, I've got about a week to get from Melbourne to Brisbane via some sort of ground transport, along the gold coast. Hopefully, I'll be able to find some company to drive and share gas money with. Otherwise, I need to figure out how public transport can take me to point B from point A possibly passing through point Sydney.
But before all that, foss.in beckons.--
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
-- John Lennon, "Beautiful Boy"
Shreyas, Karunakar, Pradeepto, Tejas, Suparna, Kartik and Naba are on the other posters. The elusive Karunakar had been captured by the able hands of spo0nman - during Freedel '06 (danke for the Creative Commons). And a rockstar-like Pradeepto from one of my FOSS.NITC '06 pics (but for some other pics from that trip ... *cough*).
Anyway, if you want to get on one of these posters - just follow Sankarshan's advice.--
The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.
It's too late to write anything about it now. Enough good things have been said of how it has been run and the whole vibe of the event, but I'll add my two cents anyway (and my mug made it to the newspaper article).
WiFi The WiFi coverage was awesome. Except a lot of people who had borrowed laptops for the event had no clue how to get it working, not to mention requiring kernel upgrades to get it working. Just for the sake of recording it, this is how you set up a franken-net NAT quickly.
iptables --flush iptables --table nat --flush iptables --table nat --append POSTROUTING --out-interface eth1 -j MASQUERADE iptables --append FORWARD --in-interface eth0 -j ACCEPT echo 1 | sudo tee /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward ifconfig eth0 10.0.0.1
Then everyone else joining up on that hub can pick a 10.0.0.xx IP and set my machine as a gateway. But after nearly everyone got their WiFi working, the environment got a bit more interesting.
There were a bunch of decent hacks - some of them functional, but not technically brilliant and vice versa. For example, the flickr offliner was an interesting hack - but without offline writes and conflict resolution, it wasn't really cool enough. Or the first prize winning Map canvas hack, which never worked with zoom or pans - which was sad because being able to convert from YCoordPoint to YGeoPoint would have made a lot of cool hacks possible (and was just an overlay of canvas painter on a map div). But I wasn't a judge, merely tech-support.
And when the hacking was all done, we partied out the night, to the rhythms of TAAQ.--
When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
-- Samuel Johnson
I had gone to Freed.in to talk on something slightly unusual. My talk was on "!0 Things You didn't know about Python" - and as usual, I overdid the technical bits of the talk. But at least someone will remember memoization can improve your factorial code. So, here are the slides and let's leave it at that.
The whole conference schedule was packed with familiars from #linux-india - but the absence of Lap_64 and Lawgon was felt rather heavily. Nearly all of ILUG-Bom was present at the conference, even the Panvelkar.
There were some interesting things which came up during the conference. One of them was the SME Panel discussion where the adoption of F/OSS in the small & medium enterprise was discussed. The hurdles to most of these arise from the lack of support and surprisingly, vice versa.
As one of the volunteers commented, the paid-for support structures in place are leaning precariously on the seniors in the community. Where there is an OldMonk or BigBeard, there isn't really a gradation into a lower echelon of cheaper support for simpler tasks which a newcomer can take up without incurring much risk. The vicious cycle of establishing a reputation versus requiring one is present in the system.
Repurposing the LUG to handle the responsibility as a contact point was discussed and IMHO was a waste of time. A community organization with democractically inclined operation cannot do that job effectively. Involving it in monetary transactions brings in a large number of problems which are best solved by incorporation elsewhere.
Secondly, there was f3ew's talk on Building Online Communities, which was mind-mapped unconference of sorts. I'm still working on my Breaking & Entering Communities talk, but this sort of served as a stage to throw out some of my material. I personally think that we need help in contributing to communities rather than going about building them.
And as the conference wound down, we all packed our bags and headed out to Manali.--
I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon.
-- Howard Chaykin
Yahoo! Bangalore is throwing a hack fest on the 5th of October and all through the night. If you've ever done something with pipes, YUI, y! mail or flickr apis, this is the place to be for you. And it doesn't even matter if you like writing RoR based backends or greasemonkey funk - what matters is how it works and what it solves.
The hack session is by invite only and we've got a submission queue for you to put in your geek credentials, so make sure to put all your cool hacks in the list. And take a good look at what happened at the previous hack days for inspiration.
It is going to be a "Bring your Own Laptop" hackfest of the kind you've never seen before. To keep the tempo, we'll be trying to put up a strong team of hackers from Yahoo! to help you hack (and more importantly, appreciate the uber-coolness of your hack-in-construction).
Watch hackday.org for more announcements. Hope to see you there ... so start planning!--
To whom the mornings are like nights,
What must the midnights be!
-- Emily Dickinson
The old Freedel you knew is no more. The new & improved incarnation of the conference is to be named Freed.in and to be held this September in Delhi. It is a community conference and run by the ILUG-D community (*ahem*, the usual culprits). The Call for papers is open, so if you happen to be India & working for a cool F/OSS project, put in a paper now.
I've been to the conference last couple of years and it has been an awesome experience.--
No group of professionals meets except to conspire against the public at large.
-- Mark Twain
Some of you might have seen me wearing this tshirt. But it was one of those things which me and mojo came up with. After a couple of nearly non-starts, we finally got a half-decent t-shirt design for the Y! Bangalore frontend engineering conference. Nearly completely borrowed the style and attitude of xkcd, threw in a bit of self-deprecating humour (It's so uncool, that even I don't do it).
Somehow the more catty punchline, "When you're *this* pretty, you don't have to do anything" (as said by the machine to the ex-(*heh*)-asperated girlfriend), wouldn't fit into the speech bubble. But this one still is pretty kick-ass.--
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
For those who've not been keeping track of what I've been upto, I did manage to make it to OSCON. A couple of days too late, but in time to get there, revamp my slides (after I sat through a couple of php sessions) and give a kickass talk. The last minute jet-lagged efforts to tailor the slides to the crowd was very much worth the effort.
But the fun part of the talk was about four minutes into the talk when Amarok decided to splash up an OSD message which said in loud bold letters - I Wanna Have Your Babies. Panic ... brain skips a beat. Well, there was nothing to do but close Amarok and really make people forget they ever saw it. I think I succeeded in that task - nobody's reminded me about that yet, but enough people have said that it was entertaining. And that's a new experience for me :)
In conclusion, I came, I saw ... I talked.
PS: slides and bazookatooth on IRC reminded me that Amarok said "Girlfriend/Avril Lavigne".--
Confidence is simply that quiet, assured feeling you have before you fall flat on your face.
-- Dr. L. Binder
In a development which is becoming depressingly familiar, my travel plans are in a mess. As of right now, I have no flight tickets, not hotel booking and not even an ETA on when both these things will be fixed up - and the conference starts on Monday. It's not like this is the first time or even the the second time this has happened.
But what's really different this time from those two is that finally for once Yahoo! is paying for my travel. For the previous two journeys, I had booked my tickets myself (and blowing up a year's savings each time), which ensured that I had a travel agent to call up and bug. And both times I did manage to get where I wanted and everything did work out nicely. But ever since I heard the "We'll check again on monday" on Friday afternoon, I've sort of given up.
But two out of three ain't so bad ...--
One possible reason that things aren't going according to plan is that there never was a plan in the first place.
Last monday afternoon, I tore myself from the mundane grind of office to go listen to Eben Moglen talk about GPLv3 and Beyond. The evening that was to follow was as brilliant as the golden monsoon sunset. I happened to miss the GPLv3 conference that went on last year, mostly due to personal reasons and I'd been out of the loop from the whole license process.
A Benevolent GPL: Most people assume GPL version 3 is going to get tougher on those who violate the license. But I was surprised to learn about the amnesty period for bonafide violations, to give the errant a chance to redeem themselves. The termination clause allows for a sixty day period to get back to compliance and avoid the penalties associated with copyright infringement.
Patents: I didn't hear this from Eben Moglen, but it bears repeating - "Where they were supposed to patent new inventions, companies have taken to inventing new patents". And with all due respect, that is exactly what is wrong with the current patent regimen.
The whole Microsoft deal was discussed in the meeting, where the failure of them to act up on the violations would automatically bring in Laches into effect. The FUD might actually work against Microsoft, even if they come up with the list of 253 patents because they will be deprived of all royalty claims for infringements wilfully ignored. Essentially, they're eating into their own war chest of patents with the bluffs.
The Process: There were several comments made about the GPLv3 process, which raises the bar for the creation of new licenses. If someone like OSI decides to ask more questions about community involvement in the development of the license, the proliferation of open source licenses will come to a quick grinding halt. Even moreso, the LGPL is going to become truly GPL+LE (for instance, dotgnu's class libraries and GNU classpath are GPL+LE rather than LGPL).
There will always be people who write BSD licensed code, but it lacks the unifying nature of GPL. The proprietary forks for most successful projects are doomed to die, due to the lack of the very things which make their mainline a success. It is a living tree which only sprouts dead branches - an enormous waste of manpower thanks to short term myopia.
Adoption: In this context, it would be good to remember that something as popular as Firefox is dual-licensed under GPL version 2 or *later*. As far as the world of code is concerned nearly all of that is as good as GPL v3'd, after the first commit which says "version 3 or later".
Freedoms: There have been too many comments of companies like Tivo and others who abide by the legalese, but violate the spirit of the license. But it serves some purpose to point out that the intention of the license upgrade was to plug some of the legal loopholes which have come up during the last half-decade. Those who shall suffer are those who have been exploiting those loopholes.
Essentially, the license makes no pretence about the freedoms it tries to protect - the users'. In turn, it does protect the developers who in conjunction with the former, makes up the community - from underhanded attacks by for-profit redistributors. Basically, there are people who will lose out due to the changes, but it somehow looks as though the license is slanted the right way for Joe Hacker - both for individual gain and altruism.--
The difference between the Mafia and an insurance agency is that the latter doesn't burn down your house if you don't pay.
So as it turns out Linux Asia '07 was sponsored by Microsoft and Novell. Even before this was announced, the local LUG - ILUG-D decided that they would boycott the event, and they went through with that decision. But what was to follow is probably competing for the longest single flamefest ILUG-D has ever seen - no holds barred. But the IRC conversations are getting more and more interesting.
<OldMonk> spo0nman: i have very high regard for his intellect <OldMonk> didn't you see the subtle and suave way in which he insulted me in this channel? <spo0nman> OldMonk: you stink of sarcasm. <sm|CPU> Feel the power, know the wisdom <t3rmin4t0r> "sudo intellectual" (n): <t3rmin4t0r> intellecutal whose facts are true because of who he is (or his uid) <OldMonk> t3rmin4t0r: it strenghthens your argument if you blast your own side first <OldMonk> after that you can be as rude as you like and no once can take offense
IMHO, except for the lone exception of bluesmoon, there were no other Indian speakers of note amongs the speaker panel. I think bluesmoon could've made a stand in the situation - but LinuxAsia paid for his flights (heh, more miles) and there are enough people in Delhi to meet. Amidst all the flame wars, Sudev seems to keeping his head - being clear about his worries.
I'd given LinuxAsia a wide berth because it has a definite CxO trend to it and is really a media circus, run by real media companies, with a definite slant towards appeasing sponsors (alright, explain away the Google Maps Api talk on day 2).
I really wish Freedel was happening this year in Feb, like it was suggested amidst the heat of September, last year.--
All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.
-- Chou En Lai
I suppose it is my own damn fault for not participating. But unlike last year, the hackfest was during daytime, which severly limits my coding abilities. Like so many other people who started hacking during college, my peak hours of coding lie between 7 PM and 11 PM, with the extended version running upto 3 AM - and the muse of coding cannot just turn on & off, on demand. Not to mention my laptop was showing more bad sectors than a minefield in Cambodia.
But what *really* saddens me is the first question titled jail break. I'd discovered this design flaw in chroot() quite a while back and broken out of a real production chroot. On the other hand, I'd have never really made it with the image processing example.
Maybe there was a point - but Hindsight is always 20/20.--
Given the choice between accomplishing something and just lying around, I'd rather lie around.
-- Eric Clapton
As I sat around in the keynote today, listening to Kathy Sierra go on and on about users, bits of Jono Bacon's and Zonker's talks popped up. You could classify projects as belonging to three categories - scratch your own itch, benign neglect and user centric. Most library and system developers tend to belong to the middle category, where their users are actually developers and the project waddles along according to the core dev's plans.
What that keynote actually did for me was to rationalize the use of some emotional play into a proper strategy targetting users rather than consider that an insult to their intelligence (or rationality). Well, I'd rather term it more generally as acceptance of their sensitivity and essential humanity, now. The three talks combined have given me a bit of things to think about, about the mistakes I've made over the past couple of years in handling dotgnu. Until we threw up the Southern Summer of Code, the project was literally stuck in a rut.
The talk dealt with the suck zone of doing anything, which makes a lot of sense to me. The hardest part to do is the first few bits, which everybody knows. But what was hammered in was the message of hope and of course, pride. The concept of levels and a set path upward for someone who comes in is pretty good, especially for a slightly large community - sort of mirroring Jono's breaking and entering a community comments (well, he didn't say that - but that's sort of what he meant, I think).
Happiness is a compile away !: The other thing that she talked about was about flow and meaning. I can pretty much relate to the first, which I prefer to call deep hack. And to conclude, a bunch of jokes - ending it with a high note after the heart pullers (like the puppy and the baby photos) in the middle. I absolutely loved Chris Blizzard as Volverine - a good movie that was ... oh, wait.
"This isn't right. This isn't even wrong." -- Wolfgang Pauli
I've said this before and let me say this again - we need to let people play around with stuff. The freedom, stability and all the other advantages of F/OSS do not appeal to the layman - you've got to get him interested by other means, if only to start with. And IMHO that's exactly what LCA Open Day did.
There were people of all ages, sizes and interests around. And quite a lot of interesting stuff, even for seen'em all folks like me. For instance, there was this cool motion detection and tracking tool, projected onto a huge screen. I realized what it was when I walked in and saw a few stars move exactly like I did. As I stepped back, those exploded and were replaced by others tracking the other folks coming in. Perfect eye-candy which can keep people interested in the show (which it really was). But what really caught my eye was the MythTV demos, running on some sw33t spankin' hardware.
I think it can be called a total success in terms of attendance and crowd pulling ability. But it sort of pokes fun of my previous post about LCA not being an evangelism event - I don't mind, really.--
The problem of leadership is inevitably: Who will play God?
-- Maud'Dib, Dune
I've been asked this question a couple of times today. Whenever I mention that I've flown in from Bangalore to attend this conference, someone does ask again - What brings you here ?. Considering the loopy hoops I've had to jump through to get here - in fact, not having an apartment to go back to in Bangalore - I've asked myself that question more than a few times.
Why LCA ?: There are a lot of conferences around the world. Some of them are commercial, or rather of a more corporate flavour - which basically covers a fair bit of them. Then there are conferences focussed on evangelism, which I'm not really into, can't sit around teaching people stuff. And then there are those organized for users, like our grand old install fests. But in between all these, right there in the sweet spot of developer heaven is LCA - developer stuff and literally nothing else.
Why this year ?: Now, that's a really interesting question. I had to think a lot about that. First up, last year had been awesome - I was totally transformed when I went back to India. I was sort of in a pit, in a lot of ways, somewhat like this year. But that whole week at Dunedin sort of put the spirit back in me and I came back raring to code out all 8"sorts of things - which I did, even slayed that bug from hell.
But three days into the conference, I'm still not even at level zero. It is the little things isn't it ? The laptop I had borrowed from yahoo has a crap hdd and is randomly destroying bits of my data - photos mostly. Basically a b0rked bit of hardware is an irresistable challenge and wasted a fair bit of my time.
And the other fun thing was meeting new people. Except this year, half the people I met were people I already knew from last year. Being split up into multiple hostels doesn't help that and neither does the lack of a common room in New College.
I've still got two days left to go and probably the cricket match on saturday. All of which and the rest of the week of not coding should push me out of this coding lull (no code since mid-nov, zOMG).
*fingers crossed* ...--
When in doubt, mumble;
When in trouble, delegate;
When in charge, ponder.
-- James H. Boren
First up, this blog has been delayed. The wifi network at the conference hostels weren't up yesterday and I had better things to do than write blog entries in the pavilion.
GOODMORNING FREEDOM LOVERS: Every morning, for all of last week, sometime around morning sydney time (which is 3:30 AM for me), jdub arrives on #linux.conf.au with this message of freedom, love and well, morning.
Only Speakers can heckle: Jdub went into the introduction full on. Starting from the photos of the team - who have managed to juggle with a colossal budget of 500,000 AUD. And with some embarassing pictures, we headed on to tackle the other special things about this LCA - which have nothing to do with each other.
What if distros were sofas ?: And then it got into a bit of distro bashing - with debian and gentoo taking the brunt of it. Debian got a couch without a back, which doesn't give (*wait for it*) much support, but if we as a community all sit together and lean back, we can support each other. And well, gentoo got an IKEA chair.
Embedded miniconf: I attended the Qtopia greephone talk, firstly because Rhysw works on that and partly because I wanted to see how QCop stuff works. The talk was interesting and they actually managed to get the demo off coding live.
Slacked off most of afternoon and headed off downtown in the evening - more on that later.--
The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.
I got my tickets to Sydney confirmed on Thursday evening, for an extra 200 USD, making it a round 1400 USD. Right now I'm sitting in the lobby of Changi airport, literally chained to the power plug by an office laptop with a b0rked battery. It must've been the lack of sleep, jet lag and the location in combination, but I found myself reminscing about my trip last year (without the aid of my blog).
No, it isn't the talks that I remember about the conference - well, with the possible exception of the Damian Conway keynote. Other than the thrill of my first foreign excursion, the conference didn't quite have the sterility of the average technical conference - wasn't a single lecture in what I attended.
But the people were more interesting than the talks. And I think the 24x5 nature of the conference, because of the hostels, plays a big part in encouraging interaction. And when such a large number of interesting people are thrown together, stuff's bound to happen.
And then there are the conversations - I remember one which started off about Women & FOSS (remember D00d3tt3z on ILUG-d ?), which turned into a discussion comparing unicycle hockey with unicycle polo.
As someone said - couple more sleeps till lca '07.--
A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
For the past weekend, I've been roaming the corridors of FOSS.in. I've never attended a talk about something I could figure out for myself, but still there were four talks which I sat through - a grand achievement, compared to the meager two talks last year.
But I wasn't in Bangalore for most of last week. I'd gone home to tie up some loose ends and cleanup my act before I dived into the conference. I reached back in Bangalore only early morning of Thursday, just in time to catch up to some sleep. I took a preliminary peek at the venue on thursday itself. The place was hum of activity with the volunteers stuffing delegate kits, falling lampshades and power mayhem.
And then on friday, it all began. As I watched the lines for registration grow, I noticed a general paucity of the number of delegates this year. Since the conference was on a weekend, I had hoped for more students in the crowd, but that was not to be (as far as I could make out). But thanks to the weekend, there was a larger crowd from outside Bangalore and that's always a good thing.
Since I was a care-free delegate, I had planned to do a security BoF at the conference. But when that didn't quite materialize, I gave up on the idea. Backporting a dbus-send shared connection patch was trivial, but was wasted because we couldn't get beryl to flip the windows for the projector display. Except for that random hack, I didn't touch a single line of code during the conference.
The inaugural keynote was by Suparna Bhattacharya, a kernel developer from IBM. As much a fan I'm of minimalistic development, I skipped out early to find a decent cup of coffee instead. My abominable behavior notwithstanding, it is a proud day for the Indian FOSS community to have an Indian on the podium, for a change.
And then I ran into a surprise. One of the dotgnu libjit developers, krokas, had flown in to India and met me in one of the corridors. Even though I'm not a great fan of his business ideas on professional opensource, it was nice to actually meet one of your fellow developers face to face. Met a couple of people from Microsoft too, discussed a bit of C#/.NET technical quirks (GC-able assemblies), dodged the "what'll it take to get you to work at Microsoft" question and kept wading through the crowds.
One of the talks I actually attended, by Andrew Cowie touched up on a few problems the ubquity of mono brings along, especially considering the latest Novell developments. Initially voiced by Seth Nickell, I find it is a valid concern. For instance, I've never suggested dotgnu to anyone who's wanted to write an application from scratch. Anyway, that talk covered all the normal obstacles that developers place in the way of external contributors and in general was interesting enough to keep me from wandering out.
Another one of the talks I dropped into was Get Rich with Php5 talk by Rasmus. I knew from the slides that it featured my work for the last year - APC. But the content of the talk was still interesting, especially the benchmark numbers for each increment.
The BoF tents looked more interesting than last year. But the initial lack of chairs killed a bit of the enthusiasm. Also moving the FOSS Expo area out of the main lobby area made it almost pointless. Before long we had converted the project expo into a live demo for ioquake3 - sweet GPL love from Id. Though Dalfry ruled the roost for the first fragfest, I eventually climbed the levels due to the basic advantage of knowing the maps by heart.
The other couple of talks I dropped into were the panel discussions about 10 years of Linux India and spo0nman's monitoring with nagios talks. The panel discussion was slightly boring, mainly because the panel wasn't split on most of the issues and the crowd lacked the trolls required to make the discussion interesting. And the only question I held in my hands was about the history of PCQLinux, without which half the FOSS folks in India today wouldn't have ever used it - probably the action of greatest consequence in the last 10 years of FOSS in India. But that was skimmed over with a passing reference.
And then there was the cool stuff left - the jokes, the corridor conversations, the conclusions and the arguments. I'll let a few pictures speak for themselves. And maybe this video (mp4, 12.1 Mb).
But let me calm some fears expressed in the discussions. The growth of FOSS in India has been fairly organic for the hobbyist category, while the explosion of user mass worldwide has pulled up the number of programmers getting paid to write FOSS. The community entries in this game has still retained single digit significance in the last year as it has for the past years - but that is not something to get alarmed about, because we've now got employees contributing to FOSS. Things could be a little better - but that's always the case.
All in all, a good conference. But I've got more plans for next year. Rather than mere BoFs, we should be able to run a mini-conf in the middle of a conference with the speakers present. I suspect that it might be possible with a bit of fine-tuning in the event in real time, rather than organizing a whole parallel set of talks. But next year is nearly a year away ;)--
People who go to conferences to talk are the ones who shouldn't.
Today afternoon, Yahoo! will pay for your coffee.
Just make sure you land up at Taj Westend, to listen to eminent Yahoo! speakers like Sumeet B. Mulani, Rasmus Lerdorf, Philip Tellis and Gopalrathnam Venkateshan (not me, the other gopal). The talks will cover the breadth of frontend technology Yahoo! uses, from PHP into the YUI libs, JSON and other fnuk.
Make sure you show up and drink in the talks ... uhhh.--
When we talk of tomorrow, the gods laugh.
The LCA submissions have been rated, reviewed and the letters sent out. And it shouldn't come as a very big surprise that my talk hasn't been selected - here's to all those who said "Yeah right, save your talks for real conferences". I can't honestly say that I'm not disappointed, mainly because there is no point in talking about libjit in 2008 - it would have crossed over the bump into old & busted. And I'm definitely not going to submit a talk to conference which I haven't attended - I'm too fragile to go through an audience mismatch again.
But on the other hand, it is a testament to the quality of conference. if my talks aren't good enough, that sure is a conference which I shouldn't miss - which brings me to the real reason why I'm depressed right now.
My LCA 2006 trip in total cost around 1.4 Lakhs (~3200 USD) - of which dotgnu chipped in 1700 USD, Yahoo! chipped in 600 USD and I pulled the rest of the ~1000 USD. But this year, I see no reason for DotGNU to pay anything, because most of my efforts have gone into APC rather than the usual creative energy vented out on dotgnu. Since I have switched teams & manager, I think Yahoo! will wash hands clean, especially after what happened to spo0nman.
Since I'm not getting a raise this year, despite complaints, I don't think I can build a slush fund to fulfil the extra ~2000 USD (7 months' savings) - but even for the 1000 USD part, I'll probably have to give up a few luxuries. There's a bit of me that says I should be more optimistic, but deep inside me I know why I'm not.--
Disappointment leaves a scar which ultimate fulfillment never entirely removes.
-- Thomas Hardy
Last year, Atul had coined a phrase, "The Guru Shishya Syndrome", in a mail to the list. The year has passed us by and now in one of the recent posts, he has had to re-hash it, only with a little bit more sting in its tail (Crikey !). And I say that probably because it touches a few raw nerves - something which was probably more my fault than Atul's. But just so that you know what I'm talking about, let me re-quote that entry with my inherent biases and emphasis added.
For example, if you are involved in a FOSS project and have solved a problem in that area that helped the project improve its performance, ... stop believing that your contribution was too small to talk about, stop believing that your "overlords" in the headoffice in the USA are the only ones who can think.
I don't have a talk proposal for FOSS.in/2006. I had been vacillating about giving a podium talk for a while - I'd rather talk with a 10-15 member group than "to" 45. But eventually, I didn't have to make the decision. On Sunday as the deadline approached, I was sitting at a close relative's bedside, in Cochin hospital. But even without that twist of fate, I wouldn't have been talking about APC or giving a generic dotgnu talk. But before I go into the reasons for such unreasonable behavior, let me digress into some other territory.
'Jool Noret' effect: To give you some context, this is a character from one my favourite fantasy books - Dune. An excellent fighter who spent a life time achieving perfection with melee weapons. But what sticks in your mind, while you read about this character, lost in all that drama, is his philosophy - "I have so much left to learn, to start teaching".
And as I've previously blogged about, shining a light into the darkness of your ignorance only serves to highlight the shadows cast. In essence, what makes me good (IMHO) is what prevents me from stopping the journey to evangelize or pick laurels.
And even if I had actually gotten time on saturday or sunday - I wouldn't have submitted an APC: Maximizing Throughputness talk, I would've talked about something new, fresh & risky - something like Scripting your Application or probably about using lua or python to script your events and build plugins in (like this). Last year, I did a talk on Firefox: Plug it in - and I'd never written a single firefox extension till the talk schedule was out. But that was a good talk, because I understood and tackled a lot of the problems a newbie faces while writing their first extension. Compared to that, my contributor talk on dotgnu had a definite So On & So Forth feel to it.
I can't afford to experiment with topics or technology at say, LCA (here's why). For my LCA talk proposal, I'm actually planning to write a minimal basic-block JIT for PHP to show off libjit, but that's not quite pushing the boundaries for my personal knowledge - it is more of use than explore. FOSS.in, on the other hand, is as close to a home ground as it gets. That gives me a bit more confidence to do something which I'm not already an expert in. Rather than rehash what I already know, I'd like to pick up something new and run with it.
I'm quite aware that this is completely at cross-purposes with what a conference organizer would obviously want. Rather than have me skim the surface of a new topic, they'd want me to go deep and technical in something I'm really good at. But that sort of expert speak works only with a lot of audience involvement which just does not happen in a group of 50+ (hardly even in groups of 20). Bouncing ideas off others requires that you shouldn't need to wait for someone to shut up before you speak.
So all in all, I'd rather do a BoF with 20-odd people and end up with a new idea, than go the Attention Class! route that the podium talks force me to. If I didn't submit a talk, it had nothing to do with any bigshot from the US headoffice, but with fate keeping me offline on the weekend.
I didn't decide. It was decided for me.--
If you understand what you're doing, you're not learning anything.
-- A. L.
The organization of FOSS @ NITC surprised me, compared to what I'd seen at other similar conferences. Compared to what went on at GNUnify, these guys are a lot more decentralized in organization and had quite a feel of a student run tech fest. I hardly saw any faculty running around, except for Amarjeet. The faculty was more of facilitiating the event rather than running the event and their pulls on the event was not quite obvious, if any. Quite heartening indeed from my point of view.
When we stopped the narrative last, I'd just reached NIT. We were put up in an AC room in the guesthouse on campus, with carpeting. After a cold bath and basic dressing, we headed out into the canteen for breakfast. Sadly, no appams or idiyappams were on the menu. After a strong coffee inside, we headed out towards the auditorium which was already fairly packed.
Fox2mike was delayed at the station and Pradeepto got the first slot of the day for the mere fact that he'd got there the day before. While pradeepto was trying to teach these kids how to use Qt and KDevelop, I was sitting outside with Premshree and his cousin building pnet on a borrowed laptop. It wasn't a very warm day, but the humidity was uncomfortable for someone from Bangalore. Despite the fact that I was sweating like a pig, I got the builds and presentation functional before I actually walked into the hall to talk.
My presentation had barely any technical content at all. It was basically about the history of dotgnu and how a few basic things in it are built. All that mixed with a few of the interesting incidents that all FOSS projects invariable end up having. People from various places just helping and keeping the project ahead of the curve - that kind of thing.
After that, we sort of hung around the corridors while fox2mike was preaching gentoo from up on the stage. I think except for a few ya maga or something like that at ti22, the rest of it was all in English. Out in the corridor, we got to see premshree talk to his cousin in malayalam. To put it mildly, if I hadn't laughed I'd have choked.
There were students from everywhere - I even found a group who had come all the way up from Trivandrum to attend this event. During lunch, I met a couple of CS students from my college. The point to be noted is that Trivandrum is further away from Calicut than Bangalore is.
After all that, we were treated with bluesmoon's Creative Commons talk. It basically had the flickr creative commons movie and a few walkthroughs in the creativecommons.org. Of course, the moves were amusing if not outrightly funny.
Basically, that's where the first day at the conference ended. Then we all rushed off to the beach to see the sunset and basically loosen up. And loosen up I did. I'll write about it later, so let's head onto the next day of the conference.
day 2: I woke up late on Sunday and reached the conference centre late. Premshree had already finished his talks and Kalyan's talk was in progress when I walked in. Quite near to where I was sitting, I found a guy from chengannur engineering college trying to break through the cyber-roam security system in the crowd. He has got a fair idea of how MAC address spoofing works now.
Coming back to Kallu's demos, I have never talked on stage about exploiting any system, especially among a crowd of enthusiastic kids. I've sort of tried to stay away from the l33t h4x0r image as far as possible. Considering that was how I came into the world of FOSS, it maybe ironic that I do not actually want these new kids on the block to take that path. The temptation to stray is too high and the opportunities to exploit are higher than it was in 1999. You can happily talk about buffer overflows and cracking binaries, but actually breaking a website when you're in the same legal jurisdiction is just stupid. I'm afraid some kids might actually try some of these tricks, despite being told Kids, don't try this at home. I don't want the guilt of having spoiled some kid's career because he tried to copy my stunts online. So what Kalyan showed at NITC, viz breaking rediff.com's payment system, sort of left me uneasy. But as someone remarked rather sarcastically, if everyone wrote secure code, Kallu would be out of business.
Fox2mike was breaking the college's keyword restriction on the keyword babes using ssh and there were people who were quite interested in knowing how. My answer to all of them is man ssh has enough info - read, learn, understand and use.
We were planning to demo Kororaa which is a live CD based on Gentoo which includes XGL and all associated eye candy. To download that, we went to the college CS labs - there were Fedora login screens as far as you could see. And then the debian workshop started.
And finally, it was time for the day's last talk - Shreyas' FOSS foundry. That was basically a sort of rush through of why you should be helping FOSS and why people aren't already. He made the mistake of asking the audience what he should do and I am almost reflexively replied Dance. Anyway, his talk was basically about Something, something and everything, not to forget the zen of something something. Basically, the idea was to show these kids what they could actually do to get started - report bugs, write docs etc. After all, if it isn't fun, it isn't worth doing.
We borrowed one of the student's souped up boxes and went through a bunch of reboot cycles of Kororaa with increasing amounts of RAM till it worked smoothly. We basically stripped all nearby machines of their RAM to get this one box upto smoking fast and silk smooth operation. On that, we demo'd XGL and all the compiz features we could. It took quite some effort to actually drag ti22 away from the box to give the rest of the audience a chance to even try the basic bits.
After that and a quick awards ceremony we all split up and went on our seperate ways. Our bus was at 9:15 and it was only 5:40 at that point. We spent the rest of the time playing basketball and watching the sunset. We had dinner (idiyappams and ishtu) and headed out on the bus.--
People who go to conferences to talk are the ones who shouldn't.