By user12619391 on Jun 13, 2005
Alas, this comes a week late.
Dimas demos Looking Glass
Charlie talks about NetBeans
Eric talks to some new CS students
FISL continued to be a fantastic experience. While on the first day (ignoring our formal morning session) we pretty much just hung around and talked with whomever we could lure to our booth with the promise of free t-shirts, DVDs, and candy1 (not to mention software), we tried to make the second and following days a little more structured. There is a lot of cool stuff in Solaris, and we wanted to make sure that some of the lesser known technology saw the light of day. Though we quickly discovered we could have spent the entire conference demoing Project Looking Glass and DTrace, or chatting about OpenSolaris, we felt obligated to try to break the popularity feedback loop.
We broke the last three days down into hour-long segments, and assigned topics to each. For each topic we had2 a short presentation we expected to consume only about 15 minutes, and left the rest of the time open for questions and discussion. This of course varied from subject to subject (e.g. DTrace was demo-heavy, OpenSolaris was more interactive), but the idea usually held. We posted the next two hours of topics on a side outside our booth and waited. Sometimes people would show up, sometimes not. While it may have been the case that the Fault Management Architecture and the Service Management Facility topics simply were poorly scheduled against some of the larger conference presentations, I personally think they suffered most from the lack of sexy names (as an engineer, I have a subconscious aversion to anything having to do with "Management"). Certainly the people who attended each found them interesting enough to stay through our presentations and ask a lot of good questions; perhaps all it would have taken to draw a larger initial crowd would be if we had done some spontaneous marketeering. We'll have to try "The Hardware Bouncer" and "SMF: Booty Guru" next year.
The other topics were more successful. Talking about Open Solaris was, of course, a lot of fun. Since I didn't get too many questions on the development mechanics part of my pre-session talk, I left that part out of my booth talk. I don't think it was missed (which is a little disappointing, but also understandable -- it's hard enough for a native English speaker to follow the volume of terminology and acronyms introduced). My only awkward moment during the conference had to be when, in my first Open Solaris booth talk, I tried to illustrate the possibilities of what the community could do with Open Solaris that Sun would not. Needing an appliance to use as an example, I quickly chose TiVo. While very recognizable in the US, I can't imagine they exist at all in Brazil. Upon seeing a sea of blank faces, I quickly backpedalled to the generic "personal video recorder" which, judging by the unchanged gaze of the crowd, was still a lost cause. Then -- and I have no idea how I got there -- I said "or a car". Few people design software for their cars, and those who do so for a living apparently have a hard time of it. That's when I decided to cut my losses and move on to my next bullet. The following day I ditched the appliance idea entirely and instead used the example of a MIPS port which was easily understood by all.
Our booth was open and inviting, and spacious enough to allow multiple large simultaneous conversations. Unfortunately, this meant it was a difficult for one unmiced person to fill the space, especially with the high ceiling catching a lot of the ambient noise in the hall. Miraculously we all seemed to escape with our voices intact. We had a well-stocked fridge in our booth; after some experimentation I found that soda was much more effective at soothing my throat than plain water. Much to my chagrin, the local staff quickly (after only my second can) dubbed me "Coke Boy". It was certainly a misplaced nickname, as I very seldom drink soda back in the states3. That said, I found the taste of the local soda Guaraná very appealing; it's a shame it isn't common in the US (assuming you can get it at all -- something I need to check the next time I'm at BevMo).
CodeBreakers and Solaris
The high point of the conference was, without a doubt, the people we met. Going to an open source conference as emissaries from a not-yet-open-source operating system, I was concerned we would be facing a surly welcome. To the contrary, almost everyone I talked to seemed more focused on technology than dogma. A few were justifiably skeptical4, but most were eager to see what were about, if not install Solaris as quickly as they could. It is almost inconceivable that the original plan was to bring 10 DVDs; we went through enough of the couple hundred we brought on the first day that we had to carefully ration the remains5. Perhaps the most enthusiastic were Thiago, Iru, and others from CodeBreakers, who are already working to form an OpenSolaris user group in Brazil. Hopefully we'll be able to make it to CONISLI in November to see them again, and the group they have started.
As much fun as the conference was, it was exhausting. We all slept extremely well the last evening.
1As Eric quickly discovered, the metallic wrappers around the chocolate candies would make a silvery mess of anyone's hands who ate enough of them. This was not intentional.
2Often written the night before. Or sometimes just a few hours before. Interestingly, the more impromptu the materials, the better they seemed to be. It shouldn't be too surprising; this let us tailor the content to our audience, which is always a recipe for more effective communication.
3 I suppose it's better than "Crack Baby".
4 While Sun has a long history of contributing open source, Solaris is unlike anything we, or anyone else, have done before.
5 Which for me meant: give one to anyone who came up to me and asked.