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LinuxConf Tasmania 2009: Devils, Schoolgirls, Never Reboot Again, Geekcars, and More - page 2

Klingons, Sugar, Accessibility, Computing Without Electricity

  • January 29, 2009
  • By Akkana Peck
Thursday was also packed with useful tutorials, including Donna Benjamin's well-named The Joy of Inkscape, Andrew Cowie's GTK tutorial, an Arduino tutorial by Jonathan Oxer and Hygh Blemings, and a kernel lguest tutorial by Rusty Russell ... all held in the same time slot. Good thing they put video of all these sessions online!

After the tutorials there were still more interesting talks, including a robot-powered clarinet by Mark Sheahan and Peter Chubb. But the hit of the conference was a Ksplice talk by Jeff Arnold. Ksplice is a way of inserting patches into a running kernel -- without rebooting. In theory you may never need to reboot again! Arnold gave demonstrations of how the system works, and the whole conference was buzzing with discussions about the talk afterward. This is definitely one worth catching on video when the recordings become available.

Sometimes the last day of a conference is a winding-down day, with lots of people skipping out or going home early, but not at LCA. Friday talks included a Matthew Wilcox on optimizing performance for solid state drives, Kymberly Cox on a Linux-powered robotic rescue bear, Paul Fenwick on Perl 5.10 and Matthew Garrett on why Linux power management still sucks (hmm, the title was "Power Management that Works" but that's not what I remember from the talk). Jonathan Oxer and Jared Herbohn gave a fun presentation called "Geek My Ride" in which they demonstrated their ridiculously over-instrumented cars -- the cars weren't there in the lecture hall, but they started them remotely and had someone rev the engine while they displayed the output of a remote RPM sensor. And Bdale Garbee showed off his open hardware and software powered model rockets, slightly upstaging Kevin Pulo's very interesting "Fun with LD_PRELOAD" presentation.

A conference isn't all talks, though. There's a lot of socializing and hacking behind the scenes ... and then there are the formal conference social events, particularly the "Penguin Dinner" held on Wednesday night with a charity auction following. This year the auction was for research to save the Tasmanian devil. Devils are the largest carnivorous marsupial, native only to Tasmania, and they're facing extinction due to a strange and pernicious cancer that causes facial tumors, killing the animals by rendering them unable to eat.

At auction was one item: a large format numbered print of a beautiful, award winning waterfall photograph by Karen Garbee, wife of Debian luminary Bdale Garbee. Bidding was spirited and rose very quickly into the thousands of dollars, at which point things got complicated, with coalitions of multiple people bidding, and other people offering matching offers under certain conditions. In the end the auction raised something close to $40,000 (the exact figure is still being tallied) ... but only on condition that Linus Torvalds shave Bdale's beard, which Bdale said he's worn since 1982. Moved by the plight of the poor Tasmanian devils, Bdale generously agreed, and the shaving commenced on Friday at lunchtime. It was covered by a local television news station and showed up in the local Tasmanian paper the next day.

Next year's LCA will be held in Wellington, New Zealand, and it's well worth attending for anyone in that part of the world. Everyone else, keep an eye on Linux.conf.au, where videos of the talks will appear eventually.

Akkana Peck is a freelance programmer whose credits include a tour as a Mozilla developer. She's also the author of Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional.

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