Diary of a geek

April 2005
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Andrew Pollock


Other people's blogs


RSS feed

Contact me

JavaScript required

Saturday, 23 April 2005

Well, that happened... (or reflections on the conference from a delegate's point of view)

Okay, now that I've braindumped about organisation stuff, I'll braindump about the conference in general (what I experienced of it).

The (warm body) networking was the best part for me (again). It was terrific that so many overseas Debian and Canonical/Ubuntu people were here this year (or was it just that since LCA 2004, and probably more importantly, Planet Debian, I recognise more names?). It was great to meet for the first time Scott James Remnant, Colin Watson (who has a totally awesome accent), the much maligned James Troup (who I didn't get an opportunity to buy a beer), Mako, Matthew Garrett, Matt Zimmerman, and probably a whole bunch of other people that I've forgotten to mention.

One of the definite highlights for me was the opportunity to have a one-on-one chat with Mark Shuttleworth. He is one exceptional person. He's got himself one metric spankload of money, but he's doing some really good stuff with it, rather than just pissing it up against the wall being an uber-rich dude.

He laid out his vision (and it really is visionary stuff) for where he wants to take Ubuntu and what he wants to do, and I was really impressed with the breadth, depth and clarity of what he had to say for himself. He knows exactly what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, and he's got the money to make it happen. Totally inspirational stuff. As I have said before, I think I need to jump on the Ubuntu bandwagon.

I also made his talk about going to space, and that was truly amazing. Again, here was a guy with a metric spankload of cash, and rather than just paying his way into it (granted, he did part with a wad of cash to get in) he went through all the rigorous training, and really became a cosmonaut, complete with a mission to accomplish while he was up there. I really don't think "space tourist" is a terribly accurate definition for him. From the sounds of it, it took some real determination on his behalf to get to where he got. He told his story really well, and you can tell he really enjoys talking about it. I hope that one got video recorded successfully, as I really want Sarah to see it.

I didn't catch a lot of Eben's talk, which was one I really wanted to catch, because I was running around trying to deal with drinks for lunch, which had been overlooked. Everyone was raving about him and his talk though, so that's another one I hope I can catch on video.

Unfortunately I didn't see a lot of what I really wanted to catch, which was the Debian Miniconf. I came in the tail-end of Mark Shuttleworth talking about Ubuntu and Debian. I suspect it was a similiar spiel to what I'd had when I spoke to him earlier, so hopefully I didn't miss too much. There was just too much initial registration stuff and general firefighting to do to allow me to have the first two days totally not doing organisational stuff. Oh well. I should have seen that coming.

I caught bits and pieces of Ted Ts'o's Recovering from Hard Drive Disasters tutorial, and what I caught was pretty cool. I missed the Bitkeeper part of Tridge's keynote, which was right towards the end, because I was doing morning tea preparation stuff, but based on some of the media coverage, it sounded interesting. Hopefully that one was recorded okay as well. I think I caught bits and pieces of Jeremy Allison's CIFS to the UNIX Desktop talk, but kept getting dragged out to attempt to deal with the issue whereby some flog was running a rogue wireless access point, and doing all sorts of nasty man-in-the-middle attacks on people. That really pissed me off (the fact that someone came to the conference and did that). Unfortunately due to the nature of wireless LANs, we really couldn't do a lot about it, but there was a small lynch mob of geeks (myself included) running around for the remainder of the day running iwlist scan on their laptops non-stop, attempting to get a whiff of the bastard again.

I was really looking forward to JB's talk about Asterisk. As it turned out, I had done my RHCE course with him last year in Brisbane (small world). The talk was disappointing. JB was an inexperienced speaker (but it is good to give those types an opportunity to improve) and his talk wasn't technical enough, and a lot of people actually thought he was trying to sell Asterisk, and it was perceived as being too salesy.

I successfully caught all of Martin Pool's talk about Bazaar-NG, and it was really excellent. (I still don't have the whole GNU/Arch, tla/baz/Bazaar/Bazaar-NG thing 100% clear in my head though, not being a really big user of revision control systems).

I also caught all of the OzTivo talk, unfortunately not realising it was on at the same time as Marc MERLIN's talk about spam evasion with Exim. Fortunately I did have a bit of a chat with him at the Professional Delegate's Networking Session, and he's convinced me that I need to give Exim a thorough investigation.

Andrew Morton's keynote on Friday was good. I was really interested to hear what he had to say, but was having a bit of trouble catching everything from right up the back. Fingers crossed the audio was recorded successfully. He didn't use any slides so that's all I really need.

I caught all of Elizabeth Garbee's talk on Tuxracer. I was really impressed by her speaking ability. She was really confident, spoken extremely well, and was humorous. The content probably wasn't technical enough for LCA, but it was great to see a young woman presenting, and it was a really enjoyable presentation nevertheless. I'm glad the CFP guys selected it.

That was about the extent of the talks that I made it to.

I'm really looking forward to Dunedin, where I can socialise more and generally be a normal delegate again. In the meantime, I can get back to having a lifestudying.

Oh yeah, shutterbug Michael Davies took a whole heap of photos, which I'm currently hosting for him, and are proving quite popular.

[06:31] [lca] [permalink]

Well, that happened... (or reflections on the conference from an organiser's point of view)

Phew! LCA 2005 is done, and I have to say that I'm personally fairly happy with how things went. There were a few things that we could have done better, but overall, I think it was a pretty rocking conference, which was Steven's main objective.

I figure now is a good time for a braindump, so stand back, here goes...

From an organiser's perspective (in the order they occur to me):

Waaaay too much pizza. The CLUG pizza guestimating algorithm clearly does not scale. We had something like 150 pizzas surplus to our requirements. The final batch of 100 that arrived went straight to Ainslie Village, where they were gratefully received, and about another 50 left over from the preceding 300 where dispersed around the campus of the ANU to random resident students and anyone else who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Oh, and we really didn't do a terribly good job of catering for the people with special dietary requirements. We went to the trouble of asking delegates if they had any when they registered, but didn't plan appropriate alternatives for the Saturday conference-provided pizza lunch, hence me making a rushed trip to the nearest kebab shop for half a dozen felafel kebabs for the vegans and the food^Wdairy intolerants.

Lightning talks fell off the radar. I think Steve thought that I was looking after them, and I certainly didn't think I was. They didn't even make the program, so they really got overlooked. We managed to shoehorn them into the program on the last day with me nominally coordinating them, but it was a bit too disorganised for my liking. I think they are a very important part of the conference, so they need to get factored in. Perhaps half an hour of them a day (first up, prior to the keynote?) would be a good way to do it in future.

Speaking of keynotes, giving away a laptop was certainly a great way to ensure attendance. Rob did a fantastic job of defragmenting the audience every day. I did find the latecomers, who insisted on clustering around the back rather than finding a seat, mildly annoying. The back rows of the theatres were also popular because the wireless coverage was better there. I had mixed opinions on whether people should be availing themselves to the wireless LAN during presentations, but everyone seemed to be doing it, so I guess go with the flow...

The birds of a feather sessions could have been advertised better. This was my responsibility. I had one delegate have a bit of a bitch to me at the Professional Delegates Networking Session about the sessions being too late and poorly advertised. I hope he email[ed|s] the feedback through to us so we get it straight from the horses mouth. I don't really know how we could have done that a lot better, scheduling-wise. I was keen on having 2 hour (maybe 1.5 hour would have been better?) BOFs, and with a pretty jam-packed program, this meant things had to stretch into the evening. The problem with this was that once people shot through for dinner, they didn't tend to come back again, so that realistically really leaves you with 9am until about 6 or 7pm at the latest, before people are going to want to run away and have dinner. I had 12 BOF slots, of which I think 7 I'd filled before the conference started by people emailing us. I wanted to preferably keep half the slots available for people to suggest topics during the conference, but I allocated the vacant slots to the later 2 hours, which I suspect is what the delegate I spoke to at the PDNS was pissed about. In hindsight, perhaps having them later in the week would have been better, however that would have required some serious rejiggery, because most other nights had something on, between the Penguin Dinner, and the PDNS. There was just a lot of stuff to try and cram in, and something had to give. Maybe running more BOFs in conflict with stuff would have worked.

The quiz show was a late addition to the program, and seemed very popular. It was a shame that it was up against the keysigning, with so many well-connected foreigners chosing to attend it over the keysigning.

The venue for the Penguin Dinner was a bit ordinary (mainly with respect to open space and audibility from the back of the room). We were a bit limited with where we could seat 500-odd people, within walking distance of the conference venue. I still think it was a fairly good night, even if I didn't manage to blow $2005 on a signed t-shirt :-) The food was pretty good in my opinion.

I think the conference venue itself rocked extremely hard (damn, that phrase is infectious). Having all the theatres in close proxmity worked well. Having it all in the one building was a definite bonus. The foyer ended up being big enough, even with the couches (and the couches were a brilliant idea).

The (data) networking was really good. I don't think anyone found the static IP addressing requirement humungously onerous. The proxy ARP problem that was bouncing MacOS X and Windows clients off the wireless LAN was a bit of a pain, but the fact that we could piggyback on the ANU's excellent wireless LAN was a real bonus. Bob did a fantastic job of getting a lot out of the ANU's networking guys. I think the terminal room was sufficiently good as well. Throwing a few PCs in there seemed to be well received, as they seemed to be in use most times I poked my head in the room.

I found the organisers' room was too far away from the action. It was good to go and chill out there, but the registration concession booth seemed to become the de facto organiser's room instead. That didn't seem to be a major problem though. I'm not sure how well patronised the speakers' and media rooms were. They appeared vacant the majority of the times I walked past them to go to the organisers' room (which wasn't that often).

Having ready access to a laser printer and laminator was bloody brilliant. I spent so much of the first couple of days just knocking up signage as the requirements popped up.

The slideshow in the theatres worked really well as an information dissemination technique (if I do say so myself). The technology we used to implement it was a little bit flakey (the theatre PCs were netbooted with a minimal Linux installation, and all ran svncviewer back to a central server, which had the desktop shared with rfb. If I'd had a bit more time, and done a bit more testing, I probably wouldn't have gone with something that shared the normal X desktop (or maybe a different VNC server that did), as it did some weird shit with what was exported via VNC if you switched to another virtual terminal. But it worked well enough. I had a lot of trouble finding a GNOME-based slideshow displaying app. I ended up using gqview, which was okay, but not great.

Some delegates seemed to be a bit grotty. Mikal lamented about finding apples cores under all the couches, to which I think Chris or Jeremy responded "those damn Apple users!". That was an amusing comment today. I think bins were in sufficient supply that there shouldn't have been as much mess as there was.

I think we overcatered morning and afternoon teas. I dare say LCA2005 will be forever known as the LCA where the delegates were stuffed with food to the point of popping. The coffee was good, and one of our main concerns (that we wouldn't be able to caffeinate enough people in the time alloted) was unfounded.

The cowbell worked well as an indication that the talks were restarting after the breaks.

Umm, I think my brain is starting to run out of things now...

But please, if you have some feedback, (positive or negative, but preferably constructive if it's negative) please email it to us.

I'm looking forward to attending LCA 2006 as a mere delegate again.

[05:39] [lca] [permalink]