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SouthEast LinuxFest: What You Missed

Posted by donp On June - 11 - 2013Comments Off

I have to say, if you missed the SouthEast Linux Fest, you definitely missed out!  It’s still a small, but growing Fest, and I missed a couple of notable groups this year.  Even so, the speakers and their subjects were fantastic.

Living here in Charlotte, along with having a day job now, gives me a better opportunity to attend the Friday sessions.  I wish I could have gotten away on Friday morning to hear one of our Charlotte Linux User Group members, James Lloyd, discussing the new systemd, the service manager intended to replace the init daemon.  However, I did get to hear Dan Good talking about regular expressions, which is really useful when you are searching for a string (or a sequence) of characters.  The string you use as the search term really acts more like a “class” or maybe a “superset”, if you will, of the characters you really want to find.

I then listened as Deb Nicholson, from the Open Invention Network, discussed the state of software patents.  The problem with our patent system probably has as much to do with a seriously underfunded USPTO as with the design of the laws around patents.  As one would expect, there was great discussion about making it easier to find “prior art” to help reduce the number of patents that are approved in face of the fact that prior art exists.  There were several other Friday sessions I wish I could have attended.  It might be just as well as I would have had a really tough time choosing between some of the earlier sessions.  The whole Friday pre-lunch slate was, for me, a 5-way tie.  Seriously, given the slate of sessions, I had some really tough choices this weekend.

Even so, Friday night was the speaker’s dinner and I had the chance to meet Joey Hess and Richard Hipp over a decent meal by The Blake Hotel.  I was familiar with Joey Hess’ name from the Debian community, but I knew nothing of Richard Hipp, who happens to be the founding developer of SQLite.  Some of you may be familiar with SQLite.  Mykel Alvis advised us in advance of his sharp-tongued keynote coming up on Saturday evening.  Mostly, it was just fun to see all these great minds just sitting back and enjoying great conversation.  I would not be surprised if something interesting were to happen between SQLite and Git-Index.  Just saying.

A few CharLUG members at the booth

A few CharLUG members at the booth

Saturday morning was another day.  I helped man the Charlotte Linux User Group table for the interested passers-by.  We were situated between the PostgreSQL and the Fire Eye tables, which gave me an opportunity to get some fresh perspective on hierarchical data in an object/relational database management system from the PostgreSQL guy, Michael ??? before my presentation on the ltree add-on module for PostgreSQL the following day.  Two tables over, a bunch of locksmiths had quite the attraction going.  Beyond them, the Arch Linux distribution guys had a well-manned table.

Fire Eye, FALE & ArchLinux, from the CharLUG booth

Fire Eye, FALE & ArchLinux, from the CharLUG booth

Slackware fans setup shop for a while, and the Fedora crowd had a table, though they didn’t seem to get much love from any of my fellow LUG members.  One of the more ironic things was seeing the MySQL booth next to the MariaDB booth.  The MySQL Community Manager told me that Oracle (for whom he works) has really put some solid muscle behind MySQL.  Whether anyone trusts Oracle is another question, but it sounded good.  I was very disappointed by the absence of the KDE and OpenSUSE crews.  And, oddly, Red Hat had speakers on hand, but no booth.  Yeah, that’s right, the same Red Hat that has corporate offices just 3 hours away in Raleigh.  Go figure.

In the afternoon I more or less deserted the CharLUG booth to attend some of the sessions for myself.  That was ok, since some of my fellow CharLUG members willingly hung around.  I caught Ruth Suehle’s discussion of the Raspberry Pi as well as Doug Burks’ discussion about the Security Onion that brings several other well-known tools (Wireshark and others) together.  That one got a few tongues wagging, even if it seems like you better be prepared to invest in some good hardware.  Joe Brockmeier told us why it might (or might not) be a good idea to align your software project with a software foundation, all based on his experience with OpenSUSE and, later, the Apache Software Foundation.  Dan Good offered a second session to talk about Bash scripting.

I also caught Mykel Alvis’ keynote session on “How Lack of Discipline and Cooperation Leads Us Toward Failure”.  As promised, his keynote was sharp-tongued and to the point.  To me, blunt or direct is one thing.  Crude is another.  I don’t think he got too ugly and he did make a point.  I’m sure most folks appreciated his style.  Still, I think my grandfather said it best – a dictionary is a great tool when you’re at a loss for words.  And, give Alvis credit – when a developer raised a question about differences with his management over a given tool, Alvis was clear that he (the developer) could be part of the problem.  And that kind of honesty really is valuable.

There were the usual distractions, of cou… say, is that a tatooed, kilt–clad squirrel playing a Sousaphone?

Kilt-clad squirrel playing a sousaphone

Kilt-clad squirrel playing a sousaphone

I think a kilt is going to be on my shopping list for next year.  That should be fun.  I’m at least partially Scottish and Charlotte is settled by Scots and Germans.  Or, since I was born in Germany, maybe I should don lederhosen and bring some bagpipes.  That should draw some attention to the CharLUG booth.

Sunday was the third and final day of the conference.  It was obvious early on that most folks had cleared out already, heading back to where ever they came from.  I would have had to do the same, if I were attending the Ohio LinuxFest.  Still, there were a few of us diehards back in for the final day.  And were we ever in for a treat!

After spending one session manning the CharLUG booth, I went on to hear Kellep Charles discuss Conducting Security Assessments in a Linux-based Environment.  Given his work at the Pentagon, it might come as no surprise that he emphasized office ‘politics’ as much as technical details.  Tim Fowler’s session, “Don’t Be a Target”, was awesome  – and also very scary!  This is a class that should be required for consumer computer users.  If you’ve ever used your local coffee shop’s wi-fi to connect to Facebook without getting hijacked, it was probably just dumb luck.  Let me put it this way, Tim advised us to de-activate our wi-fi if we were concerned about security – and that we really should be concerned about security – just before he hijacked many of our connections, displaying remembered (but out of reach) network connections.

I then headed over to hear fellow CharLUG member, Jason Edgecomb, introduce OpenAFS, a distributed filesystem.  As a system administrator at UNC- Charlotte, he manages the files for a few thousand  users.  I had heard about OpenAFS, but not all that familiar with it.  I walked away thinking this could be useful in a variety of situations.  The great thing about these sessions is that you can ask questions – and learn from what others ask as well.  His session and mine were both under-attended, given most people were leaving and the organizers were starting to break down the display hall.

I spoke on using an add-on module, called “ltree” with PostgreSQL to manage category trees and other hierarchical data structures.  The few in attendance were definitely enthusiastic.  One had downloaded and installed ltree while I was presenting on it.  Another saw how he could use it in his system log database to help with analysis.  It’s great when you see people “get” the gist of your presentation, but it’s even better when you know they’re already starting to put your information to good use.  And, by the way, you can download the slides from this post.

Like I said, we had a great deal of fun in the midst of really awesome sessions.  Speaking of putting information to good use… Remember that demo I mentioned about hijacking wireless connections?  Yeah, well, I got some settings I need to go change on my laptop.  See you next year!

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