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I just returned from LinuxCon, the Linux Foundation’s premier conference, held this year at the warm, muggy Boston waterfront. There were many interesting items to report, these are only a few:

  • MeeGo is emerging as a powerful alternative to Android, partly due to its excellent user interfaces (albeit highly Intel-centric driver support) but, in my mind, mostly due to its adherence to open-source standards. In opposition to Android’s divergence from mainline, MeeGo‘s central philosophy is very much in line with the Open Source Way, and that is a very good thing to see in embedded Linux. I am hopeful that they will adopt much of the incredible work being done by the Linaro folks in bringing ARM support to Linux in general. Note as well that MeeGo has been selected by GENIVI as the reference software for future in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems, and MeeGo certainly looks up to the task. I may be forced to revise my prior opinions about netbooks as a result of the demos I encountered.
  • Oracle had a large (though relatively ignored) table at the conference, and Oracle SVP Linux & Virtual Engineering Wim Coekaerts gave an interesting keynote the first day explaining some of the Linux-based work going on inside Oracle. This, however, was immediately overshadowed just after the conference when Oracle sued Google over the use of Java, a suit which appears to be not only baseless but outright hostile. News like this confirms the worries many of us have about Oracle’s stewardship of the valuable open projects they have acquired along with Sun Microsystems: Java, VirtualBox, and of course MySQL, which some have opined was the reason for acquiring Sun in the first place. (Personally, I tend to think it has more to do with Sun’s enterprise server customer base.)
  • Speaking of MySQL, Monty’s excellent team has countered with a new fork called MariaDB, which looks remarkably like MySQL under the hood. They have also started a community: AskMonty.org, a meeting place for open database enthusiasts. AskMonty.org is the central point for MariaDB and provides downloads, a blog, and a developer wiki.
  • On Monday, Teaching Open Source gave an education mini-summit that I was honored to help organize. Between 20 and 30 interested folks – educators, administrators, students, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals – came together to discuss the best methods for teaching open source and getting students involved in the processes and communities early. Many fantastic ideas were explored. Video and audio should be available soon, and Fedora hero Máirín Duffy has written up an excellent set of notes on the day.
  • Yours truly gave a resounding talk (standing room only!) on the subject of desktop Linux entitled Desktop Distribution Showdown. The slides are available [PDF], and look for an article on the subject very soon be sure to read the exciting companion article.

All in all, LinuxCon and the Education mini-summit were intense, informative, and highly community-oriented. I was glad to meet new friends and see old ones, and I am already looking forward to next year.


Thanks to all who attended the Desktop Linux Showdown! Had a great time. Slides are now available.


Community Leadership Summit (CLS)

The Community Leadership Summit is an important annual 2-day unconference event at which close to 200 community leaders get together and swap stories and best practices. What makes this summit unique is that it is not entirely made up of technical leaders – a number of participants work in social media, and in fact many of them work outside technical circles altogether (one this year was from an improv comedy community). This year I helped organize the conference by servicing the wiki in the weeks leading up as well as moving chairs and such during the event.

CLS is itself a community of community leaders, so it is a great opportunity to discuss meta-issues. One of the most interesting themes this year was the difference between community management – the day-to-day handling of problems, efforts to stimulate interest and maintain membership, etc. – and community leadership, which is a much more fluid concept. Leaders occur naturally, but must be cultivated in order to flourish. In this respect, I really appreciate the ideas of Karsten Wade, a worldwide Fedora community leader who titles himself a “community gardener”.

I attended several very stimulating unconference sessions, including but not limited to:

  • Why Bother? covered community member intent as well as retention and motivation http://www.communityleadershipsummit.com/wiki/index.php/WhyBother
  • Getting Along, covering the acceptance of open-source in proprietary communities & vice versa
  • I ran one session called “Jam Session” in which we discussed the benefits of alternative social communities (like music jams, rural communities, homeschooling groups, etc.) and the skills one can learn that transfer directly into community membership. It was attended by 11 other community managers from diverse backgrounds (O’Reilly, Google, LinuxFund).

If anyone reading this has a photo of the session board, I’d love to see it – the ones I wrote down seem to have disappeared.

OSCON

OSCON is sort of a zoo in the sense that there is far too much to see and do, and with 17 different simultaneous tracks there was no way to do it all. Here’s what I did do:

Monday:

  • Get Started with the Arduino – A Hands-On Introductory Workshop, an excellent half-day tutorial
  • met with Symbian maintainer Lars Kuth
  • met with SheevaPlug expert Bryan Smith
  • evening BoF session on Teaching Open Source

    Wednesday:

  • keynotes by Tim O’Reilly and several others
  • 5 FOSS in Edu Projects that Changed the World with Mel Chua and Karsten Wade
  • Plug Computing Primer about Marvell’s SheevaPlug, by the excellent Bryan Smith
  • How to Boot Linux on the Beagle Board, given by me to about 75 people and featuring demos & long discussion with about 7 people in the hallway afterward
  • Google Open Source Update 2010 given by Chris diBona and Carol Smith, who manages Google Summer of Code
  • Expo hall reception, rubbed shoulders with open-source greats
  • Embedded Linux Community BoF, which I ran, was an hour-long stimulating conversation mostly about commercial embedded Linux
  • long conversation in the hall with embedded Linux & education folks, followed by a quiet sushi dinner with several who remained

    Thursday:

  • keynotes in the morning, including one by SETI chair Jill Tarter
  • previously-unnanounced SETI developer meeting at lunchtime
  • MeeGo Technical Overview
  • afternoon social jam session in the hallway, at which I met several fascinating folks I wouldn’t have met otherwise
  • Educating the Next Generation of FOSS Developers with Luis Ibanez
  • Opportunities for Students to Contribute to FOSS Projects with Heidi Ellis et al
  • some time spent in the event hall with the MeeGo folks in the Intel booth
  • Effectively Managing Documentation for Open-Source Projects by me, presented to over 100 people with a lengthy discussion afterward
  • evening reception at the DoubleTree hotel where I met a few cool Rails developers as well as O’Reilly conference leads Alison Randall and Ed Dumbill

    Friday: quite weary, headed for home

    Whew! Now I need to finish my slides for LinuxCon…


This week, I am traveling to Oregon to attend the Community Leadership Summit Sat-Sun and O’Reilly’s OSCON Mon-Fri. That’s a full week of high community involvement, and I am looking forward to every minute of it.

As regular readers know, I’ll be speaking at OSCON on the subject of the BeagleBoard, my favorite inexpensive single-board computer based on the ARM Cortex-A8. I’ll present detailed instructions on how to boot several flavors of Linux (with demos!) and I’ll have a prototype of the new BeagleBoard xM that is set to debut at the end of July. My talk is Wednesday at 2:30 just after Bryan Smith’s presentation on the SheevaPlug, which I am very much looking forward to hearing.

I’m also looking forward to the Embedded Linux Community BoF, which I’ll be running on Wednesday evening at 7pm. This BoF is opposite the recently-announced Android Hands-On, but I am hoping to stimulate a conversation more about the embedded community in general than about specific distributions. The roundtable discussion will likely focus on non-mobile embedded computing, particularly build systems like OpenEmbedded and the new crop of inexpensive reference platforms, and how communities can accelerate development, even among corporations (witness GENIVI, open-source success in the automotive industry).

I will also be joining the Teaching Open Source crowd at the Education BoF on Monday evening, where we hope to discuss many issues surrounding the Open Source Way and its impact on open-source concepts in education. A splinter group (ha!) will very likely stay late to discuss the schedule for the upcoming Education Mini-Summit at LinuxCon, which I have the honor to help organize. I’m also speaking at LinuxCon about desktop Linux and holding another Embedded BoF.

Yes, I love participating! Life is a contact sport, if you do it right.

Feel free to comment if you plan on attending any of these events, and you will win one (1) Jefro.net business card and a hearty handshake at the event in question. See you at the show!