I’m (sporadically and with much delay) blogging my yearly pilgrimage to linux.conf.au 2014, this year being held at the University of Western Australia in Perth.
Today’s keynote was given by Kate Chapman from the Humaritarian Openstreetmap Team. It was awesome. I’d heard of OpenStreetMap previously but not really paid much attention to it either as a technology or as a community. I was impressed by both. On the technical side it’s great to have a map that can be easily edited by anybody, Wikipedia style, and has as much information as you could want on it. On the community side, I was really impressed by how they went from a bare outline of Haiti just before the earthquake there to a complete map of pretty much everything only a few weeks later.
I immediately installed JSOM, the OpenStreetMap native editor and started adding points of interest I know exist around my suburb. It was surprisingly easy to use and the near-instant results proved satisfactorily addictive. I hope to get into this more in the future.
Open Programming Miniconf
I spent a large portion of the day in the open programming miniconf. There were several highlights:
(the people pulling tissues out of the box were racing the OpenShift setup process to see which was faster).
Adam Harvey’s talk where he wrote a PHP microframework in 15 minutes in front of the crowd, partly to prove it could be done and partly to prove that you shouldn’t bother. I’ve always been dubious of frameworks for small peices of code, simply because PHP provides most of what you need (which is Adam’s point). I guess the problem comes when this one-page script evolves into a full application before anybody realises, and using a framework from the beginning would have saved a lot of headaches down the track. It’s a tricky one to judge.
Tom Eastman’s talk on serialisation formats. I’d never considered some of the problems with these formats that means that even in formats such as YAML or JSON there are security vulnerabilities that are continuously overlooked. Unfortunately I had to leave in the closing minutes of this talk to attend to an emergency, so I missed some crucial information. I’ll definitely be revisiting this one when the talks are released for download.
Walking into Perth
For dinner tonight we decided to walk into Perth via King’s Park, which proved to be very pretty. We also ended up walking back via the foreshore along Mounts Bay Road, which was a bit of fun since (for some reason I can’t quite figure out) we decided to run part of the way back. Turns out running is fun if you’re in good company. Who knew. The total distance was just under 12km, so I probably even burned off the energy from tonight’s dessert, a sticky date pudding from the British pub in Murray St (good stuff, though a bit dry).
Now the miniconfs are over, and the conference proper starts tomorrow. For delegates it’s a fairly unnoticeable difference (only real difference being that the talks aren’t grouped into rooms by subject anymore), but it marks almost the halfway point. There’s also the penguin dinner to look forward to, which this year looks to be an upscale picnic on the Matilda Bay foreshore.
This week I’m at linux.conf.au, the southern hemisphere’s premier open-source conference. This year it is being held in Ballarat, about an hour’s travel from Melbourne. I’ll be documenting the trip and conference as much as I can given the limits of my enthusiasm and awakeness.
Monday 16th January:
Monday is the real start of the conference. First thing to do was register and pick up the conference badge and bag. While eating breakfast (a lovely cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs for me!) I looked over the provided schwag to see what free goodies had been obtained. For most of the delegates (including me) the item of interest this year was a Freetronics Leostick, an Arduino development board in an absolutely tiny form factor. Then it was time for the conference proper to begin!
First of all was a welcome before morning tea. The sponsors and volunteers were thanked, and the conference rule #1 was revealed: Be Excellent To Each Other. So much awesome. After morning tea (where I filled up on caffeine like a camel on an all-nighter) it was talk time. Some highlights from the first day:
I particularly enjoyed Adam Harvey’s talk on migrating to PHP 5.4. His style of speech is very fun to listen to, and you always feel like you’re learning some kind of juicy gossip of how the PHP team makes decisions (which, of course, you are). I know now not to use the PHP functions that I didn’t use anyway, because it seems about half the language is being deprecated. Luckily it is the right half, including the much-hated magic quotes feature.
Rob Thomas gave two talks. The first was on building a redundant PBX system using Asterisk and a heap of BASH scripts. It seems pretty cool, though unfortunately I have no use for such a thing. Michael does though, and he almost immediately tried to get a quote off Rob to install the system at his work. The second of Rob’s talks was on common mistakes made when trying to create a highly-available Linux cluster. This tied in with his other talk, still including the same PBX system as demo material, but was a bit more geneal. Both were highly entertaining and hilariously hilarious (yet, that hilarious!) and only involved me getting rickrolled once. Oh, and those talks were where the picture of the My Little Ponies came from.
Peter Serwylo gave a talk on performing static code analysis on PHP code. He showed us a cool program written by a german bloke to do this (both names I have forgotten however :(). This really piqued my interest; I’ve heard a lot about static code analysis but really failed to see it progress any further than trying to correct variable names or tell me when I have the wrong class member. This trawled the entire function call tree and tried to find security flaws (most of which end up from being non-escaped characters passed to database queries). Very informative. That talk, along with a few of the lightning talks from the open programming miniconf, really want me to do more investigation into what programming languages and compilers can do.
After the day’s talks it was time for dinner. But what to do for dinner? An Irish pub is never a bad idea. Ballarat’s is Irish Murphy’s, and they do a very good guinness pie. It was amazing. After that, back to the dorms for some blog post writing and some much-needed sleep.