I’ve been in Portland, Ore., this week attending the inaugural LinuxCon, hosted by the Linux Foundation. The event was a bigger draw than the organizers had anticipated, with about 600 attendees registered, making the WiFi in the rooms a bit spotty and the keynote hall a bit crowded, but all in all more interest in Linux is a good thing. The sessions have been a mix of big picture Linux evangelism to detailed technical sessions for developers with the weakest area being sessions that were designed to attract the systems administrator set.
Linux from the kernel to the big picture
Highlights so far have included a kernel maintainer panel discussion featuring Linux kernel founder Linus Torvalds, Jon Corbet of LWN.net, Chris Wright from Red Hat, IBM’s Ted Ts’o, Novell’s Greg Kroah-Hartmann and moderator James Bottomley. While many positive things were said about the panel discussion, one sentence uttered by Torvalds got the most attention.
“We’re getting bloated and huge, and yes it’s a problem,” said Torvalds in reference to the size of the kernel. “I would love to say that we had a plan. Our icache footprint is scary.”
Yes, the neat tight kernel that Torvalds envisioned and worked to build when he founded Linux is now much larger, with mutiple releases and thousands of lines of code added each year. But as Matt Asay, vice president of business development at Alfresco and blogger at CNET pointed out, this bloat may not be a serious cause for concern as Linux moves into more technologies like mobile devices — instead, perhaps we should celebrate the massive community involvement and progress.
Speaking of Asay, he was the winner of the “Fake Linus Torvalds” competition that the Linux Foundation launched in the weeks leading up to the conference. Each of the competitors used the Linux Foundation’s Twitter account to post missives as if they were the real Torvalds.
On Tuesday OpenSUSE community manager Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier started the day off with a presentation in which he used music as an analogy for Linux. Some highlights were his comparison of Duran Duran with Ubuntu for its “insane” popularity, and The Velvet Underground with Debian, because almost everyone that hears The Velvet Underground wants to go out and start their own band just like almost everyone that uses Debian decides they want to build their own distribution. But, said Brockmeier, Linux should strive to be more like The Beatles. He presented some of the trouble spots that are preventing Linux’s overwhelming popularity (referring to the platform as a “one hit wonder” — on the server) including a glaring lack of marketing and a dearth of functional applications that allow people to do the things they want to do — especially music and video projects.
System adminstrator and developer sessions
Beyond the keynotes, Monday and Tuesday each offered attendees four opportunities to sit down and learn about specific technologies. These sessions were divided into tracks focused on developers, operations, and business interests. I stuck to the operations tracks and found a mixed bag of discussion, product overview, and technical details.
By far the best session I attended was given by Kir Kolyshkin of the OpenVZ project. Kolyshkin presented the product with the right amount of background information and definitions of terms and specifications, and then moved on to the technical details of how and where it could be implemented and gave specifics of what the system needs and what would need to be done from a sys admin perspective.
But sadly, some of the other sessions felt more like an extended sales pitch or didn’t really seem to match with their advertised descriptions. From the feedback I heard from other attendees, the developer sessions were a lot more useful in general.
I give kudos to the organizers for branching out beyond the developer community and involving operations staff in the conference, but there is some room for improvement next year.
With that, I’m off to the final day of LinuxCon!