Weekly Rewind #32

rewindlogoWell, well, well. Hello again everyone, apologies for missing out on a Rewind last week but I did post 3 audio diaries this week, so I thought it was a bit redundant. It’s been a hell of a week, I know I say that every time, but I’ve been at LinuxCon 2009 in Portland hanging out with people I’d only previously read about. It was also my first time in the States. It took me 29 years but I finally made it over the water. So many interesting cultural differences and things to see, it was all a bit of a blur. Especially when combined with the jet lag. I arrived back yesterday morning but missed a night’s sleep because of the plane and the time difference. I slept 16hrs last night and I still feel like I could drop off any minute. It’ll take a few days adjustment I expect. So with a bucket load of stories to tell (far too many to fit in actually), here’s my week:

Jim Zemlin's Keynote

Jim Zemlin's Keynote

On Monday it was the first day of LinuxCon and I cramped into the main room with everyone to see Jim Zemlin’s opening keynote. It was called “Linux By Numbers” and basically involved Jim showing a number on the screen, followed by an explanation of what it meant. The thing that stuck out in my mind was over 10,000 lines of code added to the Linux kernel every week. But perhaps more importantly, over 5000 lines removed. That’s a hell of a turnover and shows just how many people are working on the Linux kernel worldwide. It was mind numbing to be in a room with so many of the most famous people in the Linux world. I was sat with Bradley and Karen from the Software Freedom Law Center, which was amazing enough in itself. They’re both really great people and I owe them a lot, having someone like that introduce you to people really makes a difference. For example, I was stood in the coffee area after the opening keynote getting a drink with Bradley and Karen when Ted Ts’o came over to say hello. As we were all stood talking I looked to my right and noticed Linus Torvalds stood about 6 feet away chatting with Bdale Garbee and others. I thought at first it might be the jet lag playing tricks on me and I was dreaming, but it was real. Bradley, Karen and I then went for lunch at a Thai place with Jeremy Allison. Jeremy is a close friend of Bradley’s, he works at Google now and he’s the co-creator of the Samba file server. Turns out he’s a big Red Dwarf fan and we talked a lot about that. Over the next few days I ate with Jeremy a few times and also had great fun watching him conduct the quiz dressed as Steve Ballmer. He spent about an hour getting into his costume and it was a closely guarded secret who he was going to be. More about the quiz later.

On Monday night I went for dinner with Bradley and Karen. We were also joined by Mike Emerick from IBM and GNU telephony guru David Sugar. We ate at a Lebanese place and I had a really nice kebab, the whole meal was lovely in fact. Good company too. David works for Canonical now and he’s a really interesting guy. I went to his talk on secure telephony with GNU tools on Wednesday. I also spent a fair bit of time with Mike over the next few days and we became good friends.

Karen & Bradley

Karen & Bradley

Tuesday began with breakfast at the hotel restaurant. I saw Karen in there but she told me she was “sat with a table full of lawyers”, which loosely translated meant “save yourself, it’s too late for me” I think. I sat near the Canonical guys and could hear them discussing various problems with the kernel or other things. It was hardly a riveting conversation, but as a Linux user I can only say I’m glad there are people out there who want to discuss this over breakfast. I was sat opposite Jim Zemlin and some other faces I recognised too. I never really got a proper chance to chat with Jim and I regret that. I wanted to interview him for the show at some point but he always seemed to be mad busy. Hopefully we’ll get him on the phone in future. I then went to watch Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier’s keynote entitled “A Musical Look At Linux”. Far from actually being a stage musical it was a comparison of certain Linux distributions to rock bands, both subjects close to my heart. It was an entertaining talk and some of the messages in it were good, but I disagreed with his assertion that Chuck Berry invented rock and roll on his own. He played a large part in it no doubt but most of the rock & roll bands who came later were more influenced by Bo Diddley, a criminally overlooked legend. Musical differences aside I had a chat with Zonker later and it was good to see him again after meeting in Berlin earlier in the year. I watched Bradley and Karen give their talk about GPLv3 exceptions and thought it went very well. There were a lot of questions and discussion, which is never a bad thing. Later I grabbed some take away lunch with Bradley and Jeremy, before returning to my room with it to get some stuff done on the laptop. I watched some more talks in the afternoon and actually managed to talk to Linus for a bit. By “a bit” I mean 5 minutes maximum, but it was fun. He signed a programme for me and I had the idea to get as many people as I could to sign this programme. I recorded interviews with Jeremy, Greg Kroah-Hartman and the folks from the Parrot Project in the afternoon. I also hung out with Jono Bacon and caught up, which was nice. We went to an Indian place for dinner, Bradley, Karen, Jeremy and myself. Bradley spent ages looking up reviews online and trying to find somewhere good, we all agreed it was pretty average in the end though. I guess they deserve a bad review, the food was ok but you could have timed the speed of service with a calendar. From the restaurant we walked to the Linux Fund party which was in a nearby bar. It was loud and quite lively with Randal Schwartz in charge of festivities, he knows how to party. I caught up with Randal briefly which was good, we used to talk online sometimes and he’s a really good guy. Jono Bacon was also there and he gave me a signed copy of his new book “The Art Of Community”, which was very nice of him. The drinks were free (as in beer) and we had a good time. Bradley headed back to the hotel a bit earlier, while Karen and I stayed out. We were kicked out in the end when the bar closed at some time early the next morning. I walked back to the hotel with Karen and we had a good chat. It was a great night.

Jeremy "Ballmer" Allison

Jeremy "Ballmer" Allison

On Wednesday morning I slept in and skipped breakfast. I then headed to the keynote by Bdale Garbee. He’s the head of Linux and Open Source at HP and according to his slides a very keen rocket maker. He was showing us pictures and video of his rocket launches out in the dessert. This was weaved into his overall talk which was about the future of Linux. After that Jeremy stormed onstage in his Ballmer costume shouting “Developers! Developers! Developers!”, the crowd loved it. He conducted the quiz pitting Community Managers against Kernel Developers. Team 1 comprised Jono Bacon, Zonker and Matt Domsch from Dell. Team 2 was Ted T’so, Greg KH and Chris Wright from Red Hat. The Community Managers took a commanding early lead and I felt a bit sorry for the kernel guys. They then rallied in the second round and themselves took a commanding lead. At this point it looked like the kernel team had it in the bag, but then Jeremy produced 2 remote control helicopters for the final challenge. The contestants had to land one of the choppers on a target to earn 5000 points, a lot harder than it sounds. Only Ted got close and most of the guys were more likely to kill a few people on the front row than score any points. That was until the very last attempt by Jono. He somehow managed to hit the target and win the contest for the Community Managers. It was very dramatic, and funny at the same time. In the afternoon I went to watch Mark Shuttleworth’s keynote speech and if I’m totally honest it was a bit of an anti-climax. It was ok but not very exciting and he didn’t come across too well I felt. A few people in the audience asked awkward questions, and he pretty much just evaded them. I don’t want to sound too negative, it was a good speech, just not what I expected. In the evening Bradley, Mike and I went to a pizza place a way from the hotel for dinner. Sadly Karen had to leave a while earlier in the afternoon to catch a flight. We then headed to the LinuxCon closing party and had more free beer and food. You can’t complain at that can you? I chatted to some folks from Gentoo and had fun. I was also witness to a conversation between Bradley and Ted T’so about getting the kernel relicensed under GPLv3. Obviously a complex topic. I’m not going to reveal any details of the conversation (sorry), but I don’t think it’s a secret that the kernel developers will take a while to become convinced about the virtues of v3.

On Thursday I took it easy most of the time. I had a little wander around the Linux Plumbers conference downstairs at the hotel. Technically I didn’t have a ticket for that part though so shhh. In the evening I met up with some Linux Outlaws listeners at the Rock Bottom Brewery near to the hotel for a fun evening. It was great to meet them and have a good long chat. The oatmeal stout at the brewery wasn’t too bad actually either. I had to laugh when the waitress got upset with us for requesting Guinness though. “You’re in a brewery!!” she replied. To which I wanted to say “yes, and we’d still kill for a Guinness”, but I didn’t. I am a polite English gentlemen, most of the time. Overall I had a great time this week and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to LinuxCon and meet some amazing people. There isn’t a lot else to report on other than traveling so I’ll leave it here. I could probably with another 1000 words without any trouble, but this article is bloated enough as it is. If you’d like to listen to my LinuxCon audio updates you can find them here:


Not sure if I’ll be doing Linux Outlaws tomorrow night. I’ll have to consult with Fab and see how my jet lag is. I hope to and I’m almost sure we will. On Wednesday it’s Liverpool LUG and we should hopefully have a new Rathole Radio at the weekend. I’ll also do some writing I hope and edit the interviews from LinuxCon. I’m not sure it will be quite as historic as this week, but there’ll be plenty to report back on I’m sure, and I hope you’ll join me.

Take care till then,



Writer, podcaster, musician, pop culture nerd, Linux geek, hacker, Liverpool FC fan and Merc With A Mouth.

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