Posts Tagged ‘fossin’

Talks at FOSS.in 2012

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Let me recap the talks held at FOSS.in a bit. It’s a bit late, I’m sorry for that, but the festive season was a bit demanding, timewise.

FOSS.IN

The conference started off smoothly with a nice Indian breakfast, coffee and good chats. The introductory talk by Atul went well and by far not as long as we expected it to be. Atul was obviously not as energetic as he used to be. I think he grew old and does visibly suffer from his illness. So a big round of applause and a bigger bucket of respect for pulling this event off nonetheless.

The first talk of the day was given by Gopal and he talked about “Big Data”. He started off with a definition and by claiming that what is considered to be big data now, is likely not to be considered big data in the future. We should think about 1GB RAM now in our laptops. Everybody ran 1GB or more in their laptops. But 10 years ago that would not have been the case. The only concept, he said, that survived was “Divide and Conquer”. That is to break up a problem into smaller sub problems which then can be run on many processing units in parallel. Hence distributed data and distributed processing was very important.

The prime example of big data was to calculate the count of unique items in a large set, i.e. compare the vocabulary of two books. You split up the books into words to find the single words and then count every one of them to find out how often it was present. You could also preprocess the words with a “stemming filter” to get rid of forms and flexions. If your data was big enough, “sort | uniq” wouldn’t do it, because “sort” would use up all your memory. To do it successfully anyway, you can split your data up, do the sorting and then merge the sort result. He was then explaining how to split up various operations and merge them together. Basically, it was important to split and merge every operation possible to scale well. And that was exactly what “Hadoop” does. In fact, it’s got several components that facilitate dealing with all that: “splitter”, “mapper”, “combiner”, “partitioner” , “shuffle fetch” and a “reducer”. However, getting data into Hadoop, was painful, he said.

Lydia from KDE talked about “Wikidata – The foundation to build your apps on“. She introduced her talk with a problem: “Which drugs are approved for pregnancy in the US?”. She said, that the Wikipedia couldn’t really answer this question easily, because maintaining such a list would be manual labour which is not really fascinating. One would have to walk through every article about a drug and try to find the information whether it was approved or not and then condense it to a list. She was aiming at, I guess, Wikipedia not really storing sematic data.

Wikidata wants to be similar to Wikimedia Commons, but for data of the world’s knowledge. It seems to that missing semantic storage which is also able to store information about the sources of the information that confirm correctness. Something like the GDP of a country or length of a river would be prime examples of use cases for Wikidata. Eventually this will increase the number of editors because the level to contribute will be lowered significantly. Also every Wikipedia language can profit immediately because it can be easily hooked up.

I just had a quick peek at Drepper’s workshop on C++11, because it was very packed. Surprisingly many people wanted to listen to what he had to say about the new C++. Since I was not really present I can’t really provide details on the contents.

Lenny talked about politics in Free Software projects. As the title was “Pushing Big Changes“, the talk revolved around issues around acquiring and convincing people to share your vision and have your project accepted by the general public. He claimed that the Internet is full of haters and that one needed a thick skin to survive the flames on the Internet. Very thick in fact.

An interesting point he made was, that connections matter. Like personal relationships with relevant people and being able to influence them. And he didn’t like it. That, and the talk in general, was interesting, because I haven’t really heard anyone talking about that so openly. Usually, everybody praises Free Software communities as being very open, egalitarian and what not. But not only rumour has it, that this is rarely the case. Anyway, The bigger part of the talk was quite systemd centric though and I don’t think it’s applicable to many other projects.

A somewhat unusual talk was given by Ben & Daniel, talking about how to really use Puppet. They do it at Mozilla at a very large scale and wanted to share some wisdom they gained.

They had a few points to make. Firstly: Do not store business data (as opposed to business logic) in Puppet modules. Secondly: Put data in “PuppetDB” or use “Hiera”. Thirdly: Reuse modules from either the “PuppetForge” or Github. About writing your own modules, they recommended to write generic enough code with parametrised classes to support many more configurations. Also, they want you to stick to the syntax style guide.

Sebastian from the KDE fame talked about KDE Plasma and how to make us succeed on mobile targets such as mobile phones or tablets. Me, not knowing “Plasma” at all, was interested to learn that Plasma was “a technology that makes it easy to build modern user interfaces”. He briefly mentioned some challenges such as running on multiple devices with or without touchscreens. He imagines the operating system to be provided by Mer and then run Plasma on top. He said that there was a range of devices that were supported at the moment. The developer story was also quite good with “Plasma Quick” and the Mer SDK.

He tried to have devices manufactured by Chinese companies and told some stories about the problems involved. One of them being that “Freedom” (probably as in Software Freedom) was not in their vocabulary. So getting free drivers was a difficult, if not impossible, task. Another issue was the size of orders, so you can’t demand anything with a order of a size of 10000 units, he said. But they seem to be able to pull it off anyway! I’m very eager to see their devices.

The last talk, which was the day’s keynote, went quite well and basically brought art and code together. He introduced us to Processing, some interesting programming IDE to produce mainly visual arts. He praised how Free Software (although he referred to it as Open Source) made everybody more creative and how the availability of art transformed the art landscape. It was interesting to see how he used computers to express his creativity and unfortunately, his time was up quite quickly.

Drepper, giving quite a few talks, also gave a talk about parallel programming. The genesis of problem was the introduction of multiple processors into a machine. It got worse when threads were introduced where they share the address space. It allowed for easy data sharing between threads but also made corrupting other threads very very easy. Also in subtle ways that you would not anticipate like that all threads share one working directory and if one thread changed it, it would be changed for all the threads of the process. Interestingly, he said that threads are not something that the end user shall use, but rather a tool for the system to exploit parallelism. The system shall provide better means for the user to use parallelism.

He praised Haskell for providing very good means for using threads. It is absolutely side effect free and even stateful stuff is modelled side effect free. So he claimed that it is a good research tool, but that it is not as efficient as C or C++. He also praised Futures (with OpenMP) where the user doesn’t have to care about the details about the whole threading but leave it up to the system. You only specify what can run in parallel and the system does it for you. Finally, he introduced into C++11 features that help using parallelism. There are various constructs in the language that make it easy to use futures, including anonymous functions and modelling thread dependencies. I didn’t like them all too much, but I think it’s cool that the language allows you to use these features.

There was another talk from Mozilla’s IT given by Shyam and he talked about DNSSec. He started with a nice introduction to DNSSec. It was a bit too much, I feel, but it’s a quite complicated topic so I appreciate all the efforts he made. The main point that I took away was to not push the DS too soon, because if you don’t have signed zones yet, resolvers don’t trust your answers and your domain is offline.

Olivier talked about GStreamer 1.0. He introduced into the GStreamer technology by telling that its concept is around elements, which are put in bins and that elements have source and sink pads that you connect. New challenges were DSPs, different processing units like GPUs. The new 1.0 included various new features better locking support that makes it easier for languages like Python or better memory management with GstBufferPool.

I couldn’t really follow the rest of the talks as I was giving one myself and was busy talking to people afterwards. It’s really amazing how interested people are and to see the angle they ask questions from.

Talking at FOSS.in 2012, Bangalore, India

Friday, December 28th, 2012

As reported, FOSS.in took place this year, in Bangalore, India. I was fortunate enough to be invited again to this leading Free Software event in India, if not Asia.

Queueing people trying to get in to FOSS.in

The event hosted many very good people and it was a real pleasure to be surrounded by smart folks that love Free Software. It’s a real honour to be invited and speak on the same stage as these people. And it’s an honour to be able to talk about Free Software in a so called developing country and try to form the next generation of Free Software hackers.

There were many talks and I think I will follow up with a separate post about that.

My first talk went really well I think (others do seem to think so, too). The audience seemed to be genuinely interested and I enjoyed being on stage. At some stage, I need to revamp my slides though. I usually go with TeXed slides, but for the GNOME ones, I keep using LibreOffice. One of the minor problems is, that I want to play videos from within the presentation. I can do that (more or less) with LibreOffice and PDF can also do it. But this is not working with my version of Evince :-\

Anyway, thanks to hasgeek.tv, we have recordings of FOSS.in (Day1, Day2, Day3)! And here is my first talk live on tape:

The second talk was a surprise for me, because I was told just a few hours in advance that I need to give another one. Apparently someone couldn’t come and the slot needed to be filled. I jumped in and did my show. I was still a bit hung over from the night before, but it went off well. Except for the fact that my laptop went off the presenter desk. It’s a bit shaky still, so if you happen to have a spare machine that’s decent enough, let me know. Anyway, I have to say, that I dislike the fact that I was told just a few hours in advance that I had to give another talk. But I appreciated being the one that is considered to entertain the people the most. Also very interesting was that I sat on a panel that Lenny moderated. I remember well when Lenny was asked to do that for the first time last year in Japan. He does it well and again, I felt very honoured to be invited to sit next to all those important people, eventually being considered being one of them. However, it appears that there no videos yet.

As for the rest of the trip, we went to Sri Lanka and did a round trip there. An interesting country indeed. Very developed. Not as affordable as expected but still very good value for us whities.

Panorama from Sigiriya Rock

I hope that the FOSS.in team manages to pull it off again next year. I really believe that the event impacts the development of Free Software in the region. And without such an event, great opportunities are lost.

As usual, thanks to FOSS.in and the GNOME Foundation for supporting me to go there.

FOSS.in 2012 \o/

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

FOSS.IN

After it didn’t happen last year, it will this year! I’m talking about FOSS.in, the premier Free Software conference in India, if not Asia. I’m very pleased to see that this event managed to pull it off again. Also, everything seems to be very much in time this year, so I expect things to go down smoothly.

If you have something cool to share and want to attract a highly motivated audience, which doesn’t only want to listen, but also to do something, then you should consider submitting something. The FOSS.in 2012 takes place, again, in Bangelore, India, from 2012-11-29 until 2012-12-01.

FOSS.IN

The Call for Papers is closing soon, so hurry up!

FOSS.in last edition 2010

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

I had the pleasure to be invited to FOSS.in 2010. As I was there to represent parts of GNOME I feel obliged to report what actually happened.

The first day was really interesting. It was very nice to see that many people having a real interest in Free Software. It was mostly students that I have talked to and they said that Free Software was by far not an issue at colleges in India.

Many people queued up to register for the conference. That’s very good to see. Apparently, around 500 people showed up to share the Free Software love. the usual delays in the conference setup were there as expected ;-) So the opening ceremony started quite late and started, as usual, with lighting the lamp.

Danese from the Wikimedia Foundation started the conference with her keynote on the technical aspects of Wikipedia.

She showed that there is a lot of potential for Wikipedia in India, because so far, there was a technical language barrier in Wikipedia’s software. Also, companies like Microsoft have spent loads of time and money on wiping out a free (software) culture, hence not so many Indians got the idea of free software or free content and were simply not aware of the free availability of Wikipedia.

According to Danese, Wikipedia is the Top 5 website after companies like Google or Facebook. And compared to the other top websites, the Wikimedia Foundation has by far the least employees. It’s around 50, compared to the multiple tens of thousands of employees that the other companies employ. She also described the openness of Wikipedia in almost every aspect. Even the NOC is quite open to the outside world, you can supposedly see the network status. Also, all the documentation is on the web about all the internal process so that you could learn a lot about the Foundation a lot if you wanted to.

She presented us several methods and technologies which help them to scale the way the Wikipedia does, as well as some very nerdy details like the Squid proxy setup or customisations they made to MySQL. They are also working on offline delivery methods because many people on the world do not have continuous internet access which makes browsing the web pretty hard.

After lunch break, Bablir Singh told us about caching in virtualised environments. He introduced into a range of problems that come with virtualisation. For example the lack of memory and that all the assumption of caches that Linux makes were broken when virtualising.
Basically the problem was that if a Linux guest runs on a Linux host, both of them would cache, say, the hard disk. This is, of course, not necessary and he proposed two strategies to mitigate that problem. One of them was to use a memory balloon driver and give the kernel a hint that the for the caching allocated pages should be wiped earlier.

Lenny then talked about systemd and claimed that it was Socket Based Activation that made it so damn fast. It was inspired by Apples launchd and performs quite well.

Afterwards, I have been to the Meego room where they gave away t-shirts and Rubix-cubes. I was told a technique on how to solve the Rubix-cube and I tried to do it. I wasn’t too successful though but it’s still very interesting. I can’t recite the methods and ways to solve the cube but there are tutorials on the internet.

Rahul talked about failures he seen in Fedora. He claimed that Fedora was the first project to adopt a six month release cycle. He questioned whether six month is actually a good time frame. Also the governance modalities were questioned. The veto right in the Fedora Board was prone to misuse. Early websites were ugly and not very inviting. By now, the website is more appealing and should invite the audience to contribute. MoinMoin was accused of not being as good MediaWiki, simply because Wikipedia uses MediaWiki. Not a very good reasoning in my opinion.

I was invited to do a talk about Security and Mobile Devices (again). I had a very interested audience which pulled off an interesting Q&A Session. People still come with questions and ideas. I just love that. You can find the slides here.

As we are on mobile security, I wrote a tiny program for my N900 to sidejack Twitter accounts. It’s a bit like firesheep, but does Twitter only (for now) and it actually posts a nice message. But I’ve also been pnwed;-)

But more on that in a separate post.


Unfortunately, the FOSS.in team announced, that this will be the last FOSS.in they organise. That’s very sad because it was a lot of fun with a very interesting set of people. They claim that they are burnt out and that if one person is missing, nothing will work, because everyone knew exactly what role to take and what to do. I don’t really like this reasoning, because it reveals that the Busfactor is extremely low. This, however, should be one of the main concerns when doing community work. Hence, the team is to blame for having taken care of increasing the Busfactor and thus leading FOSS.in to a dead end. Very sad. But thanks anyway for the last FOSS.in. I am very proud of having attended it.

FOSS.in 2010 does take place \o/

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I am delighted to see that this years FOSS.in will indeed take place. There were rumours about it not happening but fortunately you will have the opportunity to have a great time from 2010-12-15 to 2010-12-17!

You might have realised already, that his is only three days:

This year, the event is 3 days instead of the usual 5 days -  a 5 day event was simply too exhausting for everyone (participants and team). Also, we have moved the event into the middle of December, to give students of colleges that usually have their exams end-November or early-December a chance to attend. Our American friends will be happy to note that we have moved the event safely out of Thanksgiving range :)

As last year, I expect the conference to be great. I do hope, that GNOME will be well represented, especially since GNOME-3 will be released and we have the potential to attract many new hackers. Also, because the KDE folks were staffed very well and we were not.

Bugsquad Talk @ FOSS.in

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

FOSS.in has finally finished and I really enjoyed being invited. It was a real pleasure having all these talented and energetic hackers around me. It’s definitely on my top-conferences list. You could feel a real hacking spirit and it’s really sad that it’s already over.

The closing ceremony featured TRDP, a really really good Indian band playing fancy music. I was told that they are pretty famous in India and that FOSS.in was lucky to have them there. Hence we were all nerds, a Twitter wall companied the band showing recent tweets concerning the event…

Closing and Twitter Party

Closing and Twitter Party

Besides the entertainment, the program itself was pretty good as well. I disliked the keynotes to some extend though. I felt that they were mostly not really relevant to FOSS because the content was obsolete (i.e. one guy basically showing how to do shellscripts) or otherwise out of scope (i.e. a free robot operating system).

I have to thank the organizers of FOSS.in for running that conference and inviting me. Also, I need to thank the GNOME Foundation for subsidizing my trip.

The Bugsquad Talk went pretty well, I’d say. Around 5 people were interested joining the Bugsquad and I hope that they’ll stay around :) Unfortunately, the GNOME project day took place on the last day, making it unattractive to start something new because you can’t ask anyone anymore the next days.

Sponsored by GNOME!

Also, compared to other organisations such as KDE or Fedora, GNOME was highly under-represented. KDE had sweaters to give away. Admittedly, they were not very well designed but hey, it’s sweaters after all! Also, they had very fancy leaflets shortly describing what KDE was, why they rule and how to contribute. Very well done.

(Broken) Fedora stickers

(Broken) Fedora stickers

Srini brought GNOME T-Shirts which was fine but somewhat boring. Seriously, I have gazillions of T-Shirts and think other people do so, too, as nearly every project or company gives away T-Shirts. So doing something new is a smart thing to do. I hope the GNOME marketing team will come up with something fresh and shiny (hoodies? shoes? underwear? “GNOME” Keys for the keyboard instead of Windows Keys?).

Srini giving away GNOMEy T-Shirts

Srini giving away GNOMEy T-Shirts

FOSS.in – Impressions

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

The second day of FOSS.in, Indias largest Free Software conference taking place in Bangalore has just finished and the conference has been very awesome so far. The people are smart, the food rocks and you can feel the hacking spirit everywhere. While the venue itself has a high technical standard, the network over wifi is damn slow. It’s 6kB/s on average so I’m barely able to transfer data.
foss.in Logo

Since Maemo Bangalore is giving some N900s away if you hack, port or package something awesome, I want to download the SDK. But with the bandwidth contraints, it’s not really possible :-/

Dimitris Keynote on the first day was on how to build a revolutionary free software project. I enjoyed his talk although I did not really get the point. It felt like instructions for a general FLOSS project and not a revolutionary in particular.

Harald Weltes talk on how to Opening Closed Hacker Domains such as DECT or GSM was very exciting and I really look forward to have some time to play around with that. He really enlightened the crowd and showed us why it is important to get FLOSS into those areas which are highly dominated by the proprietary world.
harald@foss.in
The conference is mostly about getting stuff done as opposed to listen to fancy talks. It’s not that that the talk are not important but that actually doing stuff is as well. Apparently, Indian conferences tend to be rather passive. Anyway, it has been really great so far. If you happen to be around, feel free to join us :)

My GNOME bugsquad presentation on Saturday is well prepared but I’m still waiting for feedback of the community.