2012 – Day 1 (Monday)

This week I’m at, 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:

Chris Neugebauer
Chris Neugebauer waiting for the conference to begin...

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.
  • My Little Ponies
    Yes, those really are My Little Ponies.
  • 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.
Guinness Pie
The Guiness Pie I had for dinner. Yum.

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. 2011 – Day 1

Today was the first proper day of, which is being held this year in Brisbane. This morning we were treated to a welcoming speech by conference organiser Dr Shaun Nykvist, and a presentation on the Google Summer of Code happening this year. In the welcoming speech, Shaun detailed how the organisers and volunteers had to work against water and time to get the conference ready despite Brisbane’s horrific flooding:

“I’ve got some lovely photos of our old venue with sandbags against the flood zones. It’s a shame the sandbags were about three metres lower than the water.”

After morning tea (some very lovely cakes and biscuits were provided) it was time for the Miniconfs. During the morning session I attended the Open Programming Miniconf, organised by my friend Chris Neugebauer. The first talk was about perl5i, which is a package of library modules for perl that makes it an almost usable language (almost, I don’t think that there is anything can truly save it). It was very interesting stuff, seeing how the syntax and semantics of a language can change. The speaker (Michael Schwern) was brilliant as well, which is always nice.

The next talk was about the F# programming language, designed by Microsoft. Brian McKenna’s speaking wasn’t great (but it was his first big talk, so that can be forgiven). Although I dislike the idea of languages that run on top of runtimes (such as JVM and .NET), F# looks like a good invention. Indeed, it’s basically where Microsoft develops and tests features that might be useful to put into C#.

After that was a talk by Brianna Laugher on generating English-language text using software tools, from a set of data. She was using it as part of her job at the Bureau of Meteorology to automate the generation of weather reports from their models. The idea was hugely interesting, and something that I want to implement. However, I didn’t really understand how the generation itself worked… quite a few arcane symbols seemed to be in use. I think I got the general gist though.

The final talk before lunch was about Go, the programming language developed at Google. I originally thought Go was a programming language for children, but I’ve now been set straight. It looks like something to test out… which is being added to my very long list of stuff to try now.

After lunch I went to see two talks from the Haecksen Miniconf. The first was about how open source software can help save the world, mostly by developing open source software to fix natural disaster problems, and doing it really really quickly and cheaply. The second was about setting up an overly-complicated home network, an area with which I am well acquainted.

Then it was back to the Open Programming Miniconf, where I learned about the demise of Java (basically, the Java community is dead, but Java itself will probably survive, and the JVM will definitely survive). The final talk before afternoon tea was about how to create compilers for the JVM using a parser written in Scala. Unfortunately due to the use of Scala I lost most of the detail of the talk, it went straight over my head. Which is a pity, because I was really looking forward to that talk. Ah well, guess you can’t win them all. After all this though, I was really interested in designing programming languages and compilers. I might have to give it a go.

During the final session of the day I was treated to a brilliant talk by Adam Harvey, who is a PHP developer (i.e. actually develops the PHP interpreter) telling us about the state of the PHP language. It seems Debian Stable is hugely out of date… but this is nothing new. He’s a great speaker, and I look forward to hearing his talk tomorrow, even though I don’t know what it’s about.

Last up was Jethro Carr, a hacker from NZ I know from attempting to complete his 30 Days of Geek challenge. He talked about the software revision control management tool thing he wrote, and talked about the benefits of using such software. Personally I quite enjoy using Redmine, but it’s requirement for Ruby means that I might be looking for an alternative when I get around to setting up my own installation. Currently I use the Quokforge service, run by one of my friends on

So that was day 1. Or rather, the official day 1. Since then I’ve bought a printer and been to an Irish pub. More LCA news coming tomorrow, I hope.