Mon, 26 Jan 2009 2009

This is a braindump so I remember, not any kind of ordered report.

Newcomer's session worked well: it's not about the content so much as making people feel welcome and less lost. (It's also about them meeting each other, which is my excuse for a deliberately lacklustre presentation). I said "newbie" twice though, and I hate that word. And I am just not sure what to say to someone who says last year's was better.

Miniconfs are supposed to be more chaotic than the main conf, so that's my excuse for lacklustre presentation for the Kernel miniconf. It was basically a bullet list of what's been happening with cpumask et al. Linus was off scuba diving somewhere, but noone shouted me down as an idiot, so count it as a win. Paul McKenney's talk was good as always, but too long for the slot (he had to skip slides just as he was getting to the stuff I hadn't heard before).

Attended the Geek Parenting session at LinuxChix miniconf; my take-home point was about finding ways of encouraging strengths (kids hitting each other with sticks? How about fencing lessons?) but not giving up on activities where kids need to get over a hump (example was violin IIRC). (Other take-home point: I should ask Karen and Bdale for advice, since Edale turned out to so well...)

Monday evening spent worrying at my Free as In Freedom talk. One reason I was really hoping that Kim Weatherall would make it to Hobart was that it needed some tightening. However, when unhappy with the refinement of the content, you can always make up for it by doing something flashy and stupid.

Tuesday I was less coherent in my choices of what I attended (Monday was mainly kernel miniconf). My talk at the Free As In Freedom talk was lukewarm, but I ended with the definitely unrepeatable "Software Patents as Interpretive Dance". And I doubt the camera captured it.

Wednesday's keynote by Tom Limoncelli was good, but mis-aimed for most of the audience who are not sysadmins. He would probably have re-calibrated it if it had been later in the week and he'd had more exposure to us. Jeremy Kerr's spufs talk was solid, and he rightly spent more time on the userspace SPU programming interface than on the filesystem as a fileystem. Peter Hutterer's "Your input is important to us!" was a classic "here's where the cruft is and here's what we're doing about it" talk. Then came my Lguest Tutorial prep session and Part I.

After last year where almost noone sailed smoothly through the preparation, I spent much more time on preparing the images and kernel for everyone. That way you could either boot my kernel on your laptop (and live without some things working for the duration), or use kvm or even qemu to run my entire image.

Unfortunately I blew away two required files in a last-minute cleanup of the kernel tree (I pre-built it to save compile time, but it always links vmlinux so I deleted those files to save space). Getting those back inside the image was an exercise in pain, as I bzip2'd the image on the USB keys otherwise I could have mounted them in place and fixed it myself.

So instead of scaring people off my tutorial with my sheer competence, I scared them off with incompetence. Colour me deeply, deeply annoyed.

Wednesday was the Penguin Dinner; traditionally it'd be Friday night, but it was Wed in Melbourne because of the night market and that seems to have stuck. I used to say that I disliked the auction; it goes on too long and very quickly 99% of people can't bid any more. And let's be honest: I'm just not that interesting that you want to listen to me for half the evening. But the emergence of consortia in recent years has changed this: it's not really an auction at all any more but a chance to get people to pledge Random Cool Things. Proof: the final consortium bid against itself several times. And we're actually big enough to make a difference to a useful cause. We still need half-time entertainment or something...

Thursday was Angela Beesley's keynote: again I felt that her content could have been more focussed for this crowd (assume everyone knows the basics and talk more about interesting facts and details). Also she was nervous and followed her script at expense of showing passion (until questions).

My tutorial went well I think: more finely calibrated this year, in that everyone completed something, and at least two people completed the Advanced series of problems. I will have to add some more advanced tasks for 2010 (yes, I have to do it again: I'm still pissed off at my setup blunder). A few people repeated it from last year; is that good or bad?

I went to Jeff Arnold's ksplice talk; I like ksplice but I had some lingering questions. I ended by promising to review the code for him. I want this in my kernel, even if my distribution doesn't: we've done wackier things for less benefit.

I hit the end of Hugh's talk: seemed like quite a good "grab bag of tools and techniques" talk. As expected (having worked with Hugh of course) I had heard of most of them, but not all. One I will review on video where I can google while listening.

Friday came, and my first day with no presentation! Simon Phipps gave an excellent keynote. He showed himself to be part of our world and gave a nice high-level "here's how I (and to some extent, Sun) see things" without wandering into a product launch or equivalent. I know Richard Keech saw differently, but I don't think he misrepresented RedHat (at least, assuming the audience were clued up: I can see how a more general audience could have gained a distorted impression).

Kimberlee Cox's HyKim robotic bear talk was saved by the cool content, but she's not a strong speaker and several audience questions made her seem out of her depth on the details (I didn't understand their points either, so I can't be sure on this one). But I do know that sometimes speakers switch modes from general into specific when asked a detailed question and you get an insight into how much they've been holding back so as not to confuse/bore/intimidate you. I didn't get that here.

I skipped most of Bdale's "Free As In Beard" lunctime session (not my pun, but couldn't resist), but suffice to say I will neither be waxing my chest nor singing Queen songs next year. Honestly, noone wants that.

I was late to Adam Jackson's Shatter talk and then late to Rob Bradford's Clutter talk, so I wasted my time in both of them. My own fault, yet it annoys me every year when it happens.

In the morning I had volunteered to take care of the Lightning Talks, and then went and found Jeff Waugh to actually take care of them. He acked, and I didn't have to think about it again; of course, he did an awesome job. My contribution was to start (noone wants slot #1 it seems), and give a very quick and dirty plug for ccan and libantithread.

The Google Party, like the PDNS and Speaker's Dinner, was well done. Conrad Parker asked if anyone else had been to all 10 conferences; as far as I know, only he, Andrew Tridgell, Hugh Blemings and I have been to all of them since CALU. We should form some kind of Secret Society. And only Tridge has presented at every single one.

I also discussed with Dave Mandala an awesome project which would also make a great 2010 presentation if it comes together. 6am flight home on Saturday morning, and I am now mostly recovered.

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