Morning came and I found myself at the beautiful Airport
Hilton^W^WVancouver Hyatt, standing in line to register for LinuxCon.
Ponytails, beards; jeans and t-shirts, but also jeans and open-neck
dress shirts. (OH in line: "Yeah, we really have to leverage
first-line early adopters to get that community buildup...")
Coffee, starchy sweets and free stickers, then gawking at maddog and
thinking that forgetting my FSF pin was worse than forgetting my
business cards. Some signs of Scary Viking Sysadmins, which reassured
Sign on the window: "Don't miss the Complimentary Morning Yoga at
Vancouver Corporate Yoga at the Royal Centre!"
Then at 8:55am, the BELLS OF GOD rang in the lobby, interrupting the
conversation I was having with the Oracle folks ("No, we have no plans
to close-source VirtualBox. No, we cannot let you fly Larry Ellison's
jet.") to let me know it was time to go to THE OPENING KEYNOTE ZOMG
THIS WAY. I clutched my hands to my head and staggered into the
ballroom, bleeding from my ears, took a complimentary Band-Aid and
found a seat.
I overheard someone behind me saying "Dude, you can see maddog here
and Linus and all these people you only read about!" I turned around,
noticed that they were from the Oregon State University Open Source
Labs, and said "Dude! You work at a place that hosts Mozilla! And
Gentoo! I'm not worthy!" Geek love...is it wrong?
The first presentation was from Jim Zemlin, pres. of the Linux
Foundation. As the head of a non-profit, he was in the mandatory
uniform of jeans and a grey hoodie, and his theme song was "Eye of the
Tiger" (no, really). His talk: where would we be w/o Linux? Well, we
wouldn't have that creepy as hell IBM commercial about Linux that I
saw described as "Children of the Corn-like". Seriously, it was
Next up, the CEO of Red Hat in jeans and open-neck dress shirt, and
his theme song was that goddamn "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Good Good
Good Good (Good Good) Good Ni-i-i-i-ight" by the Black Eyed Peas. His
talk: where is Linux going to be in 20 years? Spoiler: he doesn't
know. I just saved you a) 30 minutes of a semi-interesting speech (he
started with Slackware in the 90s, he says) and b) sorting through
8,000 goddamn retweets of that TechCrunch article("RH CEO: I Have No
Idea What's Next") while looking for any, ANY interesting tweets re:
the conference. (I'm spoiled from LISA.) (Note: they showed up later
in the day...but they're still thin on the ground.)
Assertion from RH CEO: Google, Facebook et al. would be nowhere w/o
Linux, for only Linux provides easy, cheap prototyping without
bureaucracy/licensing/etc. Sorry, what happened to the BSDs? Did I
miss something? And another example: "Could Facebook have taken off
if they were using Oracle Solaris with Sparc Servers, charging $10 per
user to register?" Notice a) ORACLE ORACLE ORACLE and b) ignoring the
actual FB business model of selling your data to the highest bidder.
Also, he used the phrase "leading business thought leader" to describe
Okay, so after more sugary starch and not enough coffee, I wen to the
FreeIPA talk. This is definitely an interesting project, and I think
I should have been using this a long time ago. Benefits:
Everyone does LDAP organization differently, which makes mergers
hard. Also, there's no enforcement of relationship integrity.
FreeIPA handles of those things (standard layout + automatic
XML-RPC, CLI, Web interfaces, all of which do everything.
System Security Services Daemon -- offline credential caching FTW.
Kerberos + NTP + DNS automagic.
(Contrary to rumour, Larry Ellison was NOT at the back shouting "This
does NOTHING that NIS 4 won't do!" I don't know how these things get
I left early, because while I agreed that I shoulda used FreeIPA a
long time ago, it wasn't telling me much more than that. I ducked
over to Greg Kroah-Hartman's talk on the stable kernel, and basically
showed up in time for him to say "No more questions? Okay, then,
thanks everyone." I wanted to buttonhole him afterward about how in
hell Broadcom was persuaded to release wireless drivers under the GPL,
but he was being buttonholed by other actual developer types...I
figured I could stalk him later. (Incidentally, his voice is quite
deep; someone in the audience had an app on their phone that showed it
was 0.8 metric BarryWhites.)
I needed coffee, so I headed to the Starbuck's in the hotel. And who
should be in line in front of me but Linus Torvalds his own bad self?
True! Not only that, but he was trying to grift the poor cashier with
the ol' San Francisco Shuffle. He was paying with a gift card, but
there was a minimum order of $10 and he was $0.37 short, so can't you
just add a small service charge...he walked away with his coffee, $53
in cash and the keys to the staff bathroom. If you ever meet him in
person, hold on to your wallet with both hands.
Next up was James Turnbull's talk on OpenStack and Puppet.
(ObSartorialNote: sat next to jeans + polo shirt + black & red running
shoes, talking to jeans + open-neck white dress shirt; I'm guessing
startup manager + mid-level VC.) This was quite a cool talk. If
you're not familiar w/OpenStack (and I wasn't), it's meant to be a way
of managing all your cloudy stuff (VMs, storage, networking, etc) no
matter who the provider is. Think high-level API for spinning up/down
instances, with low-level plugins (or something) worrying about how to
do it with AWS, Rackspace, Eucalyptus...
So far they've got Nova (compute instances), Glance (image service)
and Swift (simple blob storage, very little metadata); coming RSN is
authorization, dashboard, block storage, message queueing, database
and load balancing (code name Atlas, which is just the coolest thing
ever). But even with just those three components production-ready (or
nearly so), PuppetLabs is getting ready to migrate something like 20
VMs they use for testing over to OpenStack.
Written in Python; an advantage of that is that it allows sysadmins
and other non-ninja-programmer-types to contribute. It's all
API-driven, with an HTTP/REST interface.
Currently supports Ubuntu; working to get CentOS/RHEL in there, but
it's a while off.
His demo was using OpenStack within a VM to create another VM, then
configure it with Puppet. He introduced this with a slide of five
turtles all piled on top of each other in a pond.
Puppet is used for managing the new VMs; nothing prevents you using
Cfengine. That said, they're building modules (is that the right
term?) for Puppet that will be able to manipulate OpenStack directly.
One of PuppetLab's customers is quite interested in OpenStack. They
are -- get this -- a mortgage broker company that drives an
18-wheeler full of computers to state fairs and such, then sell
mortgages on the ground to punters. Right now, fixing problems with
the computers/servers is a PITA because they're in back of beyond
with no spare parts, service folks, etc. The ability to just magic
VMs out of the ground, and destroy/re-create them if there are
problems, is very, very appealing to them.
I talked to him after the talk. He insists that there is no bad blood
between Luke and Mark Burgess, and that rumours of cage matches are
completely unfounded. (I don't know how these things get started, I
I asked him about packaging support in Puppet; Cf3 basically washes
its hands of the matter, saying "I'll run your stupid installation
commands but don't come crying to me if everything breaks." He said
that this is a subject of much debate between Cf3, bcfg2 and Puppet;
Mark's feeling is that it's simply not solvable, and his (James') own
feeling is that it's merely non-trivial. He's trying to find a way to
inhale the package manager's graph of dependencies and merging it with
Puppet's own, but myriad differences in package manager behaviours are
making this difficult.
After that was "What's inside benchmarks" by Oracle. I stuck around
for a while, but it was simply not that interesting. I moved on to
the "PowerNap your data centre" presentation by Dustin Kirkland,
and this was definitely better. PowerNap is a Python script that will
watch for activity (processes, disk or network IO, whatever) and lower
power consumption if it thinks the machine has been idle long enough.
Matthew Garrett was there, and offered to help put this in the kernel
(if I understood his questions correctly).
At my work we don't pay for power (it's a university) so that
incentive is out; instead, we worry about capacity, and this might
help. A friend of mine who works with render farms was interested in
modding the code so that it would throw an idle machine into the
render farm, but return it to interactive use if someone sat down at
Oh, and PowerNap version 3 will be a client/server thing -- client
says "Hey, looks like I'm idle...tell me what to do"; server will say
"it's before 5pm, so stay fully powered no matter what."
I headed to the FreedomBox talk next. Eben Moglen was in the
audience, and I took the opportunity to thank him for his speech (I
think it was this one). (Hands shook: RMS, Eben Moglen; Linus
The talk was interesting, as is the project itself. The goal is a
personal server, running Free software, that creates and preserves
privacy. Personal == something like a plug computer; if it's in your
home, some legal jurisdictions treat data very differently than they
do if it's on an external server. Privacy == enabling
privacy-respecting/creating apps to replace current privacy sinkholes
like Facebook et al. They're starting with Debian, due to long
history with it, an eventual goal of creating FreedomBoxen easily with
"apt-get", and to ensure that their work survives the project.
I'm going to be keeping an eye on this, and I suggest you do too.
I went to the Q&A with Linus, and it was interesting. He said he'd
been asked by people to skip version 3.1 because of bad memories, but
was still considering naming 3.11 "Linux for Workgroups".
He got asked about the Google/Android dispute. He said it'll probably
happen, it's a couple years out at least, the Google team is
relatively small and oversubscribed...and anyhow, he's not afraid of
And after that, it was beer o'clock with Paul. Fun times.