From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Monday, January 18, 2010

LCA2010: Day 1, Wellington, New Zealand

I have the privilege of attending linux.conf.au, LCA2010 in Wellington, New Zealand, representing Canonical and Ubuntu at one of the most reputable Linux and Free Software conferences in the world. While LCA has been around since 1999, this is my first attendance.

Here are a few of my notes and highlights so far.

Day 0, Sunday, January 17, 2010...

The event actually open the previous afternoon, with registration and a Newbie Welcome talk by Rusty Russell. Rusty discussed some of the history and traditions of the conference. We adjourned to a nearby watering hole, the Green Man Pub, where we newbies were treated to a round of beer. I talked a bit about LXC containers with Rusty. He expressed a lack of confidence in the security of containers, claiming that if he has root in a container, he can do very malicious things to the host with iptables in the guest. As a side note, the schwag bag is actually pretty impressive ;-)

Day 1, Monday, January 18, 2010...

The day started with a welcome plenary in the auditorium. The general organization of conference was discussed. The highlight was this hilarious video about Wellington:
And there's a charity auction this week, benefiting a local life-flight charity. The winner(s) of the auction get to participate in a training mission aboard the helicopter, dangling on a cable below the helicopter. Sounds like fun!

The first two days of LCA consist of a series of mini-summits. I attended all of the Distro Mini-Summit sessions on Monday, organized by Martin Krafft.

Aside... This was the first time I met Martin in person, however, I certainly recognized his name. When I interviewed for a job with Canonical, the feedback I got at the end of the interview was that I had tremendous Linux experience, but I was light on Debian specific expertise. Later that I week, I bought Martin Krafft's book, The Debian System, and read it cover to cover. I eventually got the job. I think I owe Martin a beer :-)
The first session I attended was led by Lucas Nussbaum about Debian Quality Assurance. He noted that Debian is well known and respected for long/bumpy release cycles, and in general, quality. Debian has a famous "Release when ready" policy, that is unique among all Linux distributions. Each package is "owned" by an individual developer. Debian also has the concept of "Release-Critical bugs", which block release. There are also "Non-maintainer uploads". Lucas notes a real problem in Debian with "data aggregation". There is no "Launchpad" for Debian. There are a bunch of disparate sites and databases (PTS, BTS, UDD, etc). Archive rebuilds identify FTBFS problems and toolchain bugs. Lintian provides extensive static analysis of source and binary packages.

The next talk was about the Linux Standards Base, by Bdale Garbee. I've been around the LSB in one way or another for several years. I certainly understand why it's important, and I think it would be really advantageous to the Ubuntu Server. Bdale's talk was interesting, in particular coming from a Debian person. It's been my experience in the Debian/Ubuntu world that there's quite a bit of hostility toward the LSB due to it's dependence on RPMs. So it was an eye opener to hear Bdale speak favorably of it.

Martin Krafft then talked about vcs-pkg.org. All distros are trending toward DCVS packaging. He gave a lot of credit to Ubuntu for leading the way, with Launchpad and bzr, noting bzr's impressive merge conflict resolution handling. There was a bit of dialog with a Fedora developer present, noting that Fedora is also moving all packaging to git (from cvs).

Michael Homer of GoboLinux then talked about domain specific package systems. Most in the room agreed that this presents an interesting, as yet unsolved problem for most distros. The key idea is there are other non-distro sources of software, such as CPAN Perl modules. Similar repositories exist for Python, Ruby Gems, Java. Matt Zimmerman also mentioned Firefox add-ons, noting that these have actually been pretty successful, and not really causing havoc within Ubuntu. Members of the audience (including myself) noted that some big software vendors are just packing up their entire toolchain and libraries with their software in a tarball, or even virtual machine image.

Scott James Remnant had a session scheduled to talk about Upstart and Boot-times, but he had some travel issues, and thus we just continued the previous discussion.

The next talk was on OpenSolaris packaging. It's basically RPM. I didn't have a lot invested in this talk.

I gave the next talk, about Launchpad, from the perspective of an upstream maintainer and developer. Here are my slides, shared under the CC-by-SA 2.0 license. I'm proud to say that the room was packed, standing room only. The Launchpad development team are holding their own Launchpad Mini-Summit at LCA today. I expect they will talk in much greater detail about all things Launchpad.

Finally, Lucas Nussbaum closed the day talking about Debian/Ubuntu collaboration. It was quite an interesting talk, similar to some things Lucas talked to Ubuntu developers about at UDS-Dallas. I asked if he ever thought Debian would adopt Launchpad for at least some of its features (the bug tracker, for starters). Lucas and Martin agreed, "no", Debian would never want to depend on Canonical hosting a Debian critical service. Perhaps, and it's a long shot, but perhaps they might do this if they could start their own Launchpad instance. But they suspect most Debian developers would be against this.

I had a couple of beers with some of the Launchpad Team (Tim, Jono, Michael), and Lucas at a nearby sports pub. I swear, cricket is a complicated sport.

Finally, I finished my evening wandering around Wellington, taking pictures, a few of which I'm entering into the LCA2010 Photographic Competition.

My entries for the the Courtenay quadrant of Wellington are the following images. Cheers.







Until tomorrow!

:-Dustin

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