Belated FOSDEM 2013 trip report

February 12, 2013 in conference, fedora, fosdem, packaging, report

I’ve been to FOSDEM this year (again) and as always it’s been an interesting experience. You meet all kinds of people, you can create new contacts and realize different projects can share some code or at least approaches. This is just going to be a rundown of talks that I’ve seen (or most of them anyway).

(R)evolution of Java Packaging in GNU/Linux

I’ll start with talk Mikolaj Izdebski and myself gave in Java devroom titled (R)evolution of Java Packaging in GNU/Linux, since that resulted in some possible interesting cooperation. The  talk went reasonably well without any hiccups. We could have used more time for discussion and generic talk about Java buildsytems, but oh well. 

After the talk Charles Oliver Nutter (headius @ JRuby/JVM projects) mentioned Sonatype is already running conversion of all jar files to rubygems on their infrastructure. His idea (which seems pretty neat) was to make this for RPMs as well. He got us in touch with Jason van Zyl and it seems if we create conversion tool we might get this to run on their infrastructure. This actually ties in nicely with some work we are doing to improve life for Java developers on Fedora because they’d be able to install unlimited number of different Maven artifacts that could tie in directly to Yum/RPM and companies could limit access to Maven Central repository and just allow these RPMs.

The state of OpenJDK & OpenJDK7u & OpenJDK Q&A

These were talks by Oracle guys giving updates where JVM is going, and how does the schedule look. Nothing too interesting or worrying here, but it seems that Oracle is really trying to put more people working on JVM, plus there’s community participation as well. Mark Reinhold’s prediction was that OpenJDK board will stay the same after reelections in next few months.

Interestingly Q&A at the end of Saturday was waaay more calm than previous years. Maybe that has to do something with community around OpenJDK maturing? :-)

Porting OpenJDK to AArch64

One of the more technical talks about intricacies of simulating hardware that (almost) doesn’t exist. Our Andrews (Andrew Haley and Andrew Dinn) had some hard drive issues but they handled it pretty gracefully. The  trick with jumping between AArch64 and x86 code outside of simulator was quite interesting. Also interesting were notes on register usage by JVM and how number of registers helps or hinders implementations.

Community Management in Meat Space

Talk by our very own Leslie Hawthorn and Lydia Pintscher. Basically it was a quick tutorial for dealing with decision making and problems within communities. A sort of small prelude to Leslie’s keynote. It just had more duct tape :-0

Gentoo Hardened

This talk was done by one of more controversial people (one of co-developers of eudev which got a lot of flaming apparently). Francisco Riera used a volunteer to show various features of hardened kernels (not necessarily SELinux style) in Gentoo, how and why they operate in certain ways. Each change was accompanied with quite nice examples how in non-hardened kernels certain things could be misused. I missed last few minutes due to other talk.


Jeremy Allison talked about history and splitting of of Samba4 from Samba3 codebase. Apparently there was almost a fork due to “old” network filesystem guys and new “let’s create an AD” guys. Code still has samba3 & samba4 source directories but they are merging/cleaning them up. They have a lot of code bundled/developed in Samba4 to ease integration and configuration. KerberosLDAP..the list goes on. Makes me wonder if all of this was *really* necessary. I guess that’s why Jeremy added this bit to one of the slides:

We stopped checking for monsters under our beds when we realized they were inside us.

systemd, two years later

Surprisingly no flamewars. During the talk I (perhaps) understood why Lennart is facing so many of them though. I believe he doesn’t clearly state that “Yes, we reimplemented part of X in systemd so that it’s more reliable. BUT! You can still install that old thing, we won’t break it and you can still configure it”. Prime example for me being acpid, which Lennart replaced just to get power button working. That’s probably fine for 99% of use cases, but on a lot of notebooks acpid is primary way to handle interesting buttons that X knows nothing about (and perhaps we need them to work outside of X)

FreedomBox 1.0

FreedomBox is a project by Eben Moglen and Bdale Garbee, now mostly a software solution running on top of Debian systems to make private and secure communication without dependence on governments. And one important feature: it has to be usable by common people. There were already 2 keynotes about it in previous years. Now it’s slowly coming to 1.0. There was an interesting point about replacing CA infrastructure in webservers with p2p/gnupg trust principles and development of apache module that would be able to authenticate these.

LibreOffice: cleaning and refactoring a giant code-base

I really like where LO is going. They’ve been mostly doing huge cleanups, getting rid of old cruft, German comments etc. Java dependency is going away. They have a healthy community, ood code review/unit test processes. All the right pieces. I can’t wait for when they really start adding new things.

Has GNOME community turned crazy?

Talk about various controversial features developed by Gnome is past few years. Mostly Gnome Shell. Vincent Untz made a good point: Gnome 2.0 was nothing like Gnome 2.3x. However when he asked audience if they thought Gnome 3.0 was ready for release even people who like Gnome shell said no. There were a lot of Gnome people in the audience who were co-answering questions.

The Keeper of Secrets

Our Leslie Hawthorn had a closing keynote, which in my mind was a continuation  of her previous talk. It dealt with handling community participants when they have problems they would like to keep secret while still allowing the community to handle their absence. Most valuable part for me was probably resources & references to other literature. Because let’s face it…you can’t really give a silver bullet generic answer, because each situation is different. I guess it could have been articulated more clearly, because some people in the audience never realized this in my opinion.

Now I can start looking forward to DevConf already.

DevConf 2012 – "How I Have Seen the Future"

February 21, 2012 in conference, devconf, fedora, Red Hat

We’ve had Developer Conference (DevConf) in Brno last weekend and there have been numerous interesting talks and hackfests. You can see the full programme on Fedora wiki.
This year we’ve had a pleasure to welcome a lot of our colleagues from other Red Hat offices around globe. And they in turn had some of the most interesting talks. I spend most of my time at talks dealing with filesystems, storage and other core components, but there were a few not-so-technical talks that sparked my interest.
Bryn Reeves had two talks, one titled “Supporting the Open Source enterprise” and the other “How to lose data and implicate people”. Sadly I had my own lab around fedora-review at the time of the second presentation, but if the first one was any indication the second one must have been great. The talk I’ve seen was dealing mostly with processes and tools our support uses to help customers deal with problems. And examples. Lots of interesting, fun examples of ingenuity of our engineers when dealing with bugs. Yeah, try replicating customer’s setup of few thousand machine grid where the problem occurs. Apparently “git, git, git, git, git, git” is the tool that is saving their lives every day (not surprising).
Other talk that sparked my interest was Lukáš Czerner’s “Btrfs – Design, Implementation and the Current Status”. While Lukáš is not a Btrfs developer, he is a kernel developer familiar with its internals and the talk contained a lof of technical information I haven’t known about before. “The root of the root of the roots” tree must probably be the motto of Btrfs. It looks to me that Btrfs has very powerful abstraction where everything is either a tree or node in a tree, but I guess only time will tell if this abstraction is going to be strong enough for the years to come. I am definitely looking forward to trying Btrfs in a controlled environment (for now).
Another feature that I was drooling over a bit was thin provisioning in LVM that was discussed in a talk given by Edward “Joe” Thornber & Zdeněk Kabeláč. It is a fairly recent feature (first upstream release with support for this was done in January) that allows one to thinly provide LVM volumes. What this means you ask? Well it means you can create 20 GiB volume “pool” that can contain 3 10 GiB thinly provisioned volumes. I.e. these volumes will start small and grow as needed. They will eventually also shrink when space is freed by the underlying filesystem. This of course requires the filesystem to support discard/TRIM commands, but this is not a problem for modern linux filesystems. As I see it thin provisioning teamed with snapshotting will change the way I manage my virtual machines for sure and I can’t wait to try it out.
Many people believe Btrfs will take over role of LVM in following years, but the way I see it Btrfs will simplify use cases that LVM is too complex for, while LVM will keep on improving support for more demanding scenarios. Because let’s be honest, LVM on desktop is just too darn complicated for an ordinary user/administrator.
I’ve been to FOSDEM few weeks back, and I have to say that DevConf was smaller, but no less interesting. There are projects or new features that I haven’t heard about, but caused some “WOW” monents for me. Definitely looking forward to next year! (and you should try to come too)