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Fedora Miniconf and foss.in/2010

A very delayed post on the Fedora Miniconf and foss.in/2010.

foss.in/2010 was held on the 15th, 16th and 17th of this month in Bengaluru. I could confirm my attendance very late, so I missed out on the CfP and a chance at speaking in the main conference, but I could manage to get a speaking slot in the Fedora miniconf. Thanks to Rahul for accomodating me at a short notice.

One of the main things I was looking forward to was meeting my team-mate Juan Quintela. Though we met recently at the KVM Forum 2010, I was going to use this opportunity to catch him and discuss some of the things I’m working on that overlap with his domain, virtual machine live migration, and get things going.

The other thing was to get to know more people — Fedora users and developers from India who I’ve spoken with on the irc channel but not met, other developers and users of free software from around the world. Add to that a few people who I’ve worked with and not met and also people whose software I use daily and who I want to thank for working on what they do.  It was also nice meeting the old known faces from the IBM LTC in Bengaluru — Balbir Singh, Kamalesh Babulal, Vaidy, Aneesh K. V., et al.

It’s always a certainty that there will be users of virtualization (particularly kvm) stack and it’s nice to get a feel of how many people are using kvm, in what ways, how well it works for them, and so on. That’s always a motivation.

The Fedora miniconf was on the 16th. The schedules for talks for miniconfs aren’t published by the foss.in people, so it was left to us to do our advertising and crowd-pulling. Rahul had listed the speakers and the talks on the Fedora foss.in/2010 wiki page. I went ahead and took out a few print-outs for the talks and assigned time slots for each talk depending on the suggested length given by the speakers for their talks as well as the slot allotted to the Fedora Project for the miniconf. The print-outs of the schedules were meant to be pasted around the venue to attract attention to the remotest section that was to host the miniconf, Hall C. However, we just ended up keeping the printouts as handouts at the Fedora stall that we set up. The Fedora stall was quite a crowd-puller. And since it was set up on the second day, we didn’t have to compete with the other stalls since they had their share of attendance on the first day.

The other members of the Fedora crowd, Rahul, Saleem, Arun, Shreyank, Aditya, Suchakra, Siddhesh, Neependra, … have written about the Fedora stall and their experiences earlier (and linked to from the Fedora foss.in/2010 page).

The Fedora miniconf was a great success, going by the attendance and the participation we had. My talk was the first, and I could see we had a full house. I think my talk went quite well. It could have been a little disappointing for people who expected demos, but I wanted to aim this talk towards people who had a general sense of using and deploying Fedora virt as well as Fedora on the cloud and also at people who would go and do stuff themselves rather than being given everything on a silver platter. This does resonate also with the foss.in philosophy of recent years of being a contributor-oriented conference rather than a user-originted one, so I didn’t mind doing that. Gauging by the response I got after the talk, I believe I was right in doing that. (I even got one email mentioning it was a great talk by the CEO of a company).

The other talks from the Fedora miniconf were engaging, I learnt quite a bit from what the others are up to. Arun’s talk on packaging emacs extensions was entertaining. He connects with the audience, I liked that about him.

Aditya’s talk on Fedora Summer Coding was a good call to students to participate in the free software world via Fedora’s internship programme. He narrated his own experience as a Fedora Project intern, which touches the right chords of the intended audience. I think doing more such talks will get him over the jitters of presenting to a big crowd.

Suchakra’s doing good work on accessing an embedded Linux box via a console inside a browser tab — it’s a very interesting project.

Neependra’s talk was a good walk-through of using tracing commands to see what really happens in the kernel when a userspace program runs. He walked through the ‘mkdir’ command and showed the call trace. This was a good demo. He spoke about the various situations in which tracing tools could be used, not just for debugging, and that should have set people’s thoughts in motion as to how they could get more information on how the system behaves instead of just using a system.

Shreyank’s talk on creating a web tool for managing student projects and the Fedora Summer of Code was interesting as well. It was nice to see the way an actual student project was designed and developed and how it’s going to make future students’ and mentors’ lives easier. This talk should have served as a good introduction to the flow and process students have to go through in applying, starting, reviewing and completing their project.

Apart from the Fedora miniconf, I attended a few sessions in the main conf. James Morris’s keynote on the history of the security subsytem in the Linux kernel was very informative. Rahul’s keynote on the ‘Failures of Fedora‘ was totally packed with anecdotes and analyses of the decisions taken by the Fedora project and their impact on the users and developers. Fedora (earlier Red Hat Linux) is one of the oldest distributions around, and any insights into the functioning and data as to what works and what does not is a great source of information to look for building engaging communities of users and contributors.

Lennart‘s two talks on systemd and the state of surround sound on Linux were not very new to me. However, there were a few bits in there that provided some food for thought.

Juan‘s talk on live migration was packed full of experiences in getting qemu to a state where migration works fairly well. He also spoke about all the work that’s left to do. It was totally technical and I think the people who were misguided by it being labelled as a ‘sysadmin’ talk or by the title (expecting to migrate from an older physical machine to a newer physical machine w/o downtime) quickly left the hall. Whoever stayed back were either people who work on QEMU/KVM (esp. the folks from the IBM LTC) or people too polite to walk out.

Dimitris Glezos‘s talk on building large-scale web applications was a very informative one for me. I’ve never done web programming (except for html, css and a bit of php ages ago), and this was a good intro for me to understand what various web development frameworks there are, their pros and cons, the way to deploy them, the way to structure them, etc. It was evident he took a lot of effort to prepare the slides and the talk, it was totally worth it.

Danese Cooper‘s keynote on the Wikimedia Foundation was an equally informative talk. She spoke on a wide range of topics, including the team that makes up Wikimedia, their servers and datacentres, their load balancing strategy, their backup systems, their editing process, their localisation efforts, their search for a new mirror site in the APAC region, etc. I was interested in one aspect, machine-readable wikipedia content, to which they had a satisfactory answer: they’re migrating to semantic web content and would look at a machine-readable API once they’re done adding semantics to their content.

The other time was spent at the Fedora booth and talking to Juan and the other friends.

The foss.in team announced this would be the last foss.in, so thanks to them for hanging around so long. To fill the void, we’re going to have to step up and organise a platform for like-minded people from the free/open source software community around here. I’ve been part of organising some events earlier in different capacities, and I’m looking forward to being part of an effort that provides such a platform. There’s a FUDCon being planned for next year in Pune, I’ll be involved in it, and will take things along from there.

Foss.in

Foss.in/2007 is over and I’m back home. The slide deck on my kvm talk is now available.

This was the first time I went to foss.in and I really liked the experience. More than the talks, it’s the corridor discussions and meeting up with people that’s really the most interesting part. The place was full with people who have contributed immensely to the software I use everyday, and I couldn’t let go of such an opportunity to go and thank them personally. I definitely missed thanking everyone, so I think I’ll go there next year to make up for that. Danese Cooper gets my vote for the best talk: Trekking with White Elephants. It’s a great way to learn how to go about contributing to open source and years of experience in getting the management knowledgeable about free software. I’ve learnt these lessons myself through all these years and I’m sure young people out there will benefit a lot from these tips. (I will update the link once I get access to the final slides)

My talk on KVM turned into a demo session for KVM and explaining merits of the approach as opposed to Xen, as a few people in the audience had already used Xen and they wanted to know why KVM is different or better. Too bad, since I was hoping there would be contributors who would have liked to know how KVM actually works.

I wasn’t also too happy with the scheduling of the talks: there was a gcc talk in parallel with a kernel talk and a filesystem / distributed computing talk in parallel with another kernel talk. To make matters worse, Thomas Gleixner’s talk on the RT patches was added later in the same time slot as I was to speak.

Rusty has to be the most entertaining kernel hacker; in his inimitable style, he provided a grand finale to the event meant to encourage contributors to the FOSS community. He got me up on stage along with James Morris to speak about how we got involved with FOSS and the kernel.

The Linux kernel folks at IBM LTC Bangalore swore they wouldn’t let me go away easily and asked me to visit their office where people would ask me all sorts of questions on KVM. That was a very nice session that I had; they’re mostly interested in the power management and migration issues on kvm, and that got me pretty kicked, as I’m extremely interested in the power management and Green issues of late. Though I couldn’t answer most of the questions related to power management, I’m sure the kvm-devel list can help.

Moreover, quite a few people came up to me and asked about my work on the kernel and kvm and that was quite encouraging.

I’m sure I also caused inconvenience to people at the sponsor stalls asking them in what ways their company contributed to foss software. Most of them were there just to attract talent. I’m hoping the FOSS enthusiasts don’t stop contributing once they’re in those big companies.

Andrew Morton’s NOT coming to India!

It seems there’ve been a lot of calls that people are getting that are claiming Andrew Morton and Theodore Ts’o are coming to India to deliver talks on the kernel. Sponsors seem to be Novell, NetApp and some other companies.

Well, I confirmed with Andrew that this is a hoax. He’s not touring India, definitely not on the 24th of July, when these presentations are supposed to happen.

Things that made me skeptical of these: no talk anywhere on any of the forums, news sites. The caller couldn’t pronounce Theodore, Robert Love and Nat, Miguel aren’t on the talkers list even though Novell is sponsoring, she kept pestering for any friends that might be interested / in the same industry as I am in, and she kept asking me repeatedly how much industry experience I have.

Turns out, I was talking to Atul in Pune, and he received similar calls. Same agenda, same speakers, same date, just the location was Pune instead of Bangalore. Nice trick these people have come with to lure people into giving out phone numbers.

Rahul‘s suggested one nice solution to dealing with these people: sound very interested in whatever they’re offering, ask them to hold for 5 mins citing “someone’s at the door”, get back, sound very interested again, repeat.

Cool idea, give me a call, someone! I’m looking for low loan interest rates!