EuroOSCON 2006

EuroOSCON 06

This week (18th - 21st September) I've had the opportunity to attend and be involved in EuroOSCON06. This was primarily to increase my understanding of opensource, but also to promote Open Solaris. This was my first OpenSource conference so first I'll make a few general observations before moving on to details about the sessions.

EuroOSCON06 was this year in Brussels, a city I'd not visited before. It's a surprisingly small city for the self proclaimed capital of europe. There are some very beautiful parts as well as some rather seedy parts, and being small the seedy and wonderful nestle uncomfortably together.

There were some other Sun employees (Martin Man Peter Dennis, Patrick Finch, Darren Kenney and Gary Pennington). I'd met a few of them before but we're from very different backgrounds so we had different reasons for wanting to attend EuroOSCON and promote OpenSolaris.

So I took the EuroStar from London (I was booking the trip just as the security scare happened last month so thought this would be easiest). Met with Peter Dennis on the train and worked through some demos we could show to people. We had a BOF and a Booth on Wednesday so thought we'd try and show some cool stuff.

The Demos

We decided we'd show how easy it was to set up and build OpenSolaris. I had a media kit with me on the train and by the time I was in Brussels had installed a build machine environment on my laptop and was happily building code, cool!. We also wanted to show some zfs features, and some zones features. There is a new facility in OpenSolaris to allow you to create a Zone on one system (preferably on a zfs file system, and then take a copy of it to create a new zone. If your using zfs it will sanpshot the filesystems rather than copying data meaning you get use the zfs snapshot facility meaning it is rather quick. This is done with zonecfg clone -s

You can then dettach that zone from your current system (using zoneadm dettach),and as the zpool was on an external disk we moved the USB disk to another laptop and imported the pool (zpool import ) and attach the zone to the new laptop (zoneadm -z attach -F -n ). It then just works as it did on the old system. I was amazed and can see how useful this is going to be.

Observations

Some things struck me. First - everyone uses Mac their. This surprised me as although it is based on an opensource OS, it is far from and OpenSource product. Second - There are a lot of people on the conference gravy train, they obviously go to a lot of these. That's fine, but it did distort the audience a bit. Finally Licensing both of Projects and data is still a big worry for this community.

It was well worth going this year to promote OpenSolaris. People were falling queing up at the booth to talk to us so on to some more detail

The Booth and the BOF

Wednesday had us setting up the booth for OpenSolaris and manning it. We had intended to take turns, but we were so busy for the whole of the morning that we all were talking pretty much all morning to various interested people. We had some "OpenSolaris Starter Kits" Containing the install media, the source and the compilers, along with a coupl of livedvd images. Overall they went like hot cakes everyone seemed excited by OpenSolaris. I even persuaded a guy from Google to take a look. The afternoon was a little quieter so we could go off to a few sessions, but Still a steady stream of interested people.

I gave more demos than I can remember - people were excited about how easy it was to use ZFS and how simple building opensolaris was. Dtrace is still a big thing and now it's in macOS the community can see am example of why they should be involved with OpenSolaris

The BOF was at the same time as one from Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth, so we weren't expecting many and we had a few, though not as many as I would have hoped. We talked through SMF, Zones, dtrace, ZFS among other things and the people seemed interested. The funny thing was that Mark Shuttleworth failed to turn up and the Ubuntu BOF got rather heated.

The Sessions

KeyNote Speakers: Tim Orielly, Tor Norretranders

Tim Orielly spoke about data, and licensing (as you'll see licensing seems to be a hotly discussed topic at the conference. It's not something that has ever interested me but it is clearly important. Tim was commenting that if you put it on Myspace but can't take it anywhere else is it really yours? Same goes for applications that run on the web server rather than in your own system, what is to stop the owner of the webserver doing what ever they want. I feeling he was blowing his own trumpet saying he'd pointed this out in 1998 or something but only now people are taking him seriously. He was trying to say (I think) that in the Web2.0 world where everyone contributes on line the things you put in your blog or on some one else collab site you may not own the rights to.

Tor gave a very funny speach about the motivations for participating in opensource. He stated it was about

Glow-> The nice feeling we get when interacting with someone else
Show -> Showing off and helping others gets you noticed (or laid as he put it)
Flow -> You are constantly changing.
2.0 -> We're getting back to a bartering type economy.

Certainly I enjoyed it and the first two points are clearly right, the rest felt a little forced, but then it was well made.

Industrial strength Email and Calendar: Flaorian von Kurnatowski

Without realising it I'd wandered in to the Products and Services track. Basically Opensource friendly companies promoting their products. That said he didn't push his company Scalix too much. What he observered was that you needed to have a true replacement for Outlook before people would be able to move away from Microsoft. It seems Outlook is very closely tied to all other Microsoft apps and if you remove them you loose a lot of functionality (and he said Outlook is 50% of the license fee too).

Until OpenOffice can provide that or has an equivalent it will not considered by many people. Also 90% of Admins have never done a migration of mail systems so they're scared of it, there need to be good migration tools.

Final point was that Calendar services do not have any standards which is why Calendar infrastructure is even harder to do than email.

Channeling OpenSourced in Europe: Ranga Tangachari

Back in the OpenSource world I was interested by this session. I'd assumed that this would be about getting the most out of OpenSource in Europe but instead it was a talk about how his company made money in Opensource by encouraging the Channel (resellers)

His assertion was that Communities provide innovations and companies provide Products (more the just projects, fully tests and supported things). In the middle are the Channel which adds value by things like locaization and training. Being a pool of deployment experts.

You need to encourage the Channel by giving them what they care about which is

1) Margin
2) Professional Services Opportunities
3) Maintenance (recurring revenue)

Think beyound Downloads they only mean one click, find examples of happy customers.

Big Data and the Open Warehouse: Roger Magoulas

This was a dissapointing presentation about what Orielly do about data storage and data mining. It was unfortunately simply a run down of tricks tips, products and techinques used by the Orielly guy in their data centre. There were some interesting things mentioned though which I will go and look at.

SecondLife and Opensource: Jim Purbrick

I'm intrigued by SecondLife, it's a game where the whole purpose is to make "Stuff" and "Hang Out" and generally share or sell what you do. I have looked at it and it is cool, but I haven't got my head round Why? yet.

SecondLife is not (yet) opensource but the Guy from LindenLab was explaining that the big difference with second life to other MMORPG games is that the players create the world. LindeLabs couldn't have provided enough content to keep people interested, but because it is created by the game community they reacon they get ~6500 man years of content development per year! (not even EA could manage that for one game I think) All of this is a course up for sale or copy depending on the desires of the community member

There are interesting aspects to the way LindenLab have architected their set up, like each now plot of land requires a new server so they're adding new servers at a huge rate.

Over all the crowd were excited by SecondLife. I didn't see them as engaged in any other session

Afternoon Keynotes: Steve Coast, Adrian Holovaty

Steve Coast: Open Data: An interesting view of "Good enough" data. He uses a gps held by volunteers as they go about there daily business to look for a plan of cities, making it available via OpenStreetMap. Most map data in the world is either govenement owned (like the Ordanance Survey) or not of great quality. Creating good enough Open Data which can be shared will be enough for some and will consequently bring down the price of Closed Data).

Adrian Holovaty: Journalism through Programming:

Facinating and slightly scarey view on providing access to the raw data used by journalists via web applications. He works for the Washington Post and is involved in a few projects one of which is Faces of the Fallen. Another one he quoted was to look at your MPs voting reacord TheyWorkForYou. Now I can see the point of this, and will certainly be checking on what my MP is doing, but I am slightly worried that this requires balance. We're asking the public to draw conclusions from only a small amount of the data (as the records published on line are incomplete), where as journalism is all about weighing up all the information and providing a balanced summary for consumption.

Open Useability: Jan Muehlig

A talk to encourage open source projects to include Useability eningeering in the project to make the user experience of Open Source Products as good or better than closed source, something we have often complained about. His greoup OpenUseability is working to promote this and it seems to boil down to publishing best practices, which noone does yet.

Making It Work: Louis Suarez-Potts

A talk about how to build succesful OpenSource projects. He comes from OpenOffice Which is both a succesful project and a really useful product so he should know what he's doing.

He talked about the two different approaches. The organic where a few friends start up with a common goal, and the Sponsored, where a corperate entity is driving towards a set of goals. Eitehr way you need to do the following

Pick the right license
Have a neutral environment (ie safe to contribute)
Have transparent governance and processes
Make decisions in public
Have clear decision paths
Use good communications tools (everyone liks IM these days
Have immediate gratification (easy and fast contribution)
Market your project
Have the right Product

I found this quite encouraging as I felt OpenSolaris has it about right

OpenSource and Freedom: Why Open Standards are crucial to protecting your linux investment: Jim Zemlin

This talk was aimed at promoting the LSB(Linux Standards Base To make sure applications will run on the largest number of Distros. LSB dictates the minimum number of components available within the Distro so your application can rely on them. This is to encourage growth over Microsoft. He quoted what happend in the Unix world when the standards fragmented and he is absolutely right

KeyNote: Florian Muller Roml Lefkowitz

Florian Muller Spoke about lobying in the European Parliament to limit the changes to Patent law which some companies are trying to tighten up to protect their IP, while OpenSource are trying to go the other way. I was left slightly disconcerted that someone with such a one sided view was having an effect on our laws.

Roml Lefkopwitz Spoke about the need to internationalize and localize the source code and languages used in opensource projects. Nice pie in the sky thinking, but misses the point that the source should not be the documentation, we need documentation before we can worry about such things.

Xgl and Compiz - New X11 features and the OpenGL Accelerated Desktop Matthias Hopf

Facinating talk about the future of desktop from Suze At last a talk with lots of technical details and a neat demo at the end demonstrating the desktop mapped on to a 3d cube running two movies and Quake 3 at the same time on different faces of the cube. All of this should soon also be possible in Solaris and I think it's vital we do it.

The End

If you got this far then well done :) It was a lot to read.

Technorati Tags: Solaris OpenSolaris EuroOSCON EuroOSCON06

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