One conference to bring them all and in the summer bind them: LCA End of Days

My final LCA06 report from the land of Dunedin, where the shadows lie. Although I’m here until Monday, I doubt my Internet will be working for much longer.

Started the morning at the usual time, which gave me an extra hour of bumming around (reading my LPI book…) before the (10am) keynote of the day.

And what a keynote it was. Mark Shuttleworth (The Ubuntu guy for those who’re playing along at home) gave a presentation about how collaboration works in successful projects, how it doesn’t work in unsuccessful projects, how to get projects to cooperate with each other, and how to get localisation from people who aren’t programmers. And he packed it in hard, leaving a fairly long period for questions. There were of course a few fairly long questions asked, so this was all for the best.

Amongst Mark’s major points were that the barriers to entry for things like bug tracking systems and translations are too high. Anything that isn’t debbugs needs you to register to post a bug, and you lose 50-70% of hits at that stage. Translation systems that aren’t Gnome currently require you to email around .po files, requiring the translator to edit them in plain text, and some even muck about with more esoteric tools. Gnome provides a neat program, and apparently so does KDE, to handle all that for you.

Mark’s other major point was that distributed revision control systems will turn the language of development from mailling lists to patches. A question from the audience pointed out that mailling-list review of patches (eg. linux-kernel mailling list, and we do this on FreeRADIUS-devel too) would probably suffer if people were just branching things, working on them, and then pushing them back upstream… It’s an interesting puzzle, but between this and the translations stuff, I’m the closest I’ve ever been to looking at contributing to Ubuntu… Scary.

For the one scheduled session of the day I went to a talk from Matthew Garrett about projects dealing with the loss of maintainers or pvioltal people, and how they can deal with it. I can relate, since I am both a sucker (I was kind-of the FreeRADIUS 1.0.0 Release Manager), and soon after moved, changed jobs, and basically stopped posting to (but kept reading what I could of) the FreeRADIUS-devel mailing list. I’ve been lucky that FreeRADIUS is a good, stable package, and so I don’t think my long periods of inattention have caused the Debian package to suffer.

After the barbecue lunch and ceremonial shaving of the luminaries (including Rusty’s moustache!), I attended one of the best-of session, about The RepRap, an attempt to produce a low-cost von Neumann Universal Constructor. And not only is this cool as heck stuff, it was heartwarning to see a geek from a different field, and know that much as our interests diverge, we are united in geekness.

It was also good to see that there are good jobs for geeks, doing geeky things for the betterment of humanity. Especially when one of those things is building the world’s largest nanobot.

At afternoon tea, I scored some Ubuntu 5.10 i386 CD sets, which I think I’ll take back to work and put on a desk with “Free! Try Linux without risking your data.” sign on it or something.

This reminded me that I haven’t checked WhirlPool in a week and a half, and I haven’t yet picked up Omiyage… Still, I will have tomorrow and Monday morning to do so…

Also sitting around the link, reminded again to try WorldForge and Thousand Parsec… Also to find the mesa 6.4 packages and see if the r300 driver’s been updated.

And a note about Blender that slipped my mind for yesterday… It’s awful without a mouse. In fact, a two-button mouse would be pretty awful, but shift-F11-touchpad is particularly not an easy thing to do with only two hands.

Went to the panel discussion, which was largely focussed on patents, trademarks, and how best to promote linux onto both desktops and SMEs.

Finally, was the conference close, where prizes were awarded for the programs for drawing the raffle, then the raffle was drawn, and during demonstrations of some of the other programs submitted, my ticket was drawn. >_<. Although I dunno if I really wanted one of the shirts, it looked like someone’d scribbled all over it, and it’d need some heavy-duty washing…

The total money raised for the John Lyons Chair was just over AU$48k, which is a sterline effort. We also raised NZ$1800 or so from the raffle for the NZ version of Kid’s Help line, which is an excellent cause. Hack fest winners were announced, much thanking of those who have sacrificed so much to get this going, including Mike Beattie’s second standing ovation (The only presenter I saw get a standing ovation was Van Jacobsen), which was well deserved.

Mike mentioned afterwards that the photoblog prize had been completely forgotten, so hopefully they’ll judge it anyway, and we’ll have something pretty to look at on the CD. There’s also supposed to be a written-blog prize, but I suspect my abuse of the “Excerpts” box may count against me. Unless the judges share my sense of humour. ^_^

I must say I have had an absolutly brilliant time. I’ve been rushed off my feet, exhausted, tired, I sat my second LPI exam tonight without having read the last three chapters of the Exam Cram book (It still only took twenty-two minutes by the wall clock… I hope I passed!) and on top of all that I’ve been coughy and snuffly when I wasn’t writing in pain from my throat. And I’d do the whole thing again at the drop of a hat. Or preferably a spiral.

Of course, like anime.au (with which I’ve been involved on the other side a couple of times, but which is only one day, rather than six) these things take so much time and effort to prepare, that managing one every year is quite impressive, even though it’s a new team each year. It’s been suggested that 2008’s LCA location be selected more than twelve months out to give them more time to prepare, but for me, my eyes are firmly fixed on LCA07, Sydney. (Their site’s not up yet as of this writing, but yesterday it wasn’t even in DNS. ^_^)

Unless I’m in Japan, of course. I was actually looking around yesterday afternoon in the link, at all these people, these luminaries of my industry and my passion, and wondering if Japan is the right choice… I mean, there’s CBIT now, and I’d hate to leave that. But it’s not what I want to do… And there’s the other project I may have mentioned, which I will be having a meeting about next week, with luck… And yet, having come this far, how can I not go further? Maybe I should be searching harder for Open-Source jobs in Japan, and combine my interests. Sure, I love teaching, and I love teaching languages… But it’s so scary!

I guess it comes down to Feel the fear and do it anyway. And I suspect if I do get to go on JET, as long as I have an Internet connection, I’ll be able to spend more time on my hobbies than I do now. Or maybe not.

A final thought on LCA06… I hope everyone realised the sense of humour it must have take to aware LCA06 to a New Zealand team… ^_^

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