It’s had now been 4 days since the conference began (I’m writing this in the past perspective because I’ve been lazy.). It’s only the second day of the “real” conference, where all the long, meat and bones talks were held.
This is a continuation of this post here about my first linux.conf.au, here.
First up we had Matthew Garrett deliver a great keynote speech, which was expected. I’d watched his talk the day before and I definitely wasn’t going to miss this. Once again he totally nailed it. In this talk he explored the controversial UEFI Secure Boot. You see, secure boot is a good thing, because it stops a computer whose boot has been compromised by a virus. The problem the free software community has with it is that there isn’t provisions for intentionally changing the boot image, (for instance when installing Linux). Other scenarios in different but comparable fields include Android phones who (sometimes) allow you change the boot image, but only if you turn off boot verification completely thus making a modified OS more vulnerable to attacks. Ideally there would be a way to self sign packages allowing them to boot without turning off secure boot. Here’s looking at you, hardware manufacturers. Watch to video here.
Programming Diversity by Ashe Dryden [ Video ] was not just about diversity with regards to women but other unrepresented people in the programming world too. This presentation was really well done, the slides were great and everything was referenced. This is my favorite quote from the talk and it really resonated with me because I’ve had this argument with people in the tech field way too many times that it is rather depressing so whenever I see someone championing diversity in the field I have a glisten of hope.
Then you might be thinking well “maybe women just aren’t biologically predisposed to programming”. You know maybe there’s just something in their brains that just makes them not good at programming, not good at writing algorithms or figuring this stuff out. There’s got to be, there has to be some kind of science to explain why we have this problem. But we actually do have science… in the exact opposite direction. There is no physical or biological difference that shows that anybody, regardless of their race or gender, is better at being a programmer. There is none. And a lot of the things that we talk about when we talk about things like evolutionary biology, which is what this question kind of hinges on, is the fact that you assume that there is some kind of addition that you get to being person for being a programmer. As if you can outrun a cheetah because you are a good programmer.
When I told people I was attending the talk, a surprising amount of people went down the whole evolutionary biology track almost as a knee jerk. I’d like to point any of my peers who feel like they agree with this line of thought to this post by a certain, Gentoo using lecturer who navigates his desktop solely via keyboard and writes all unit material in LaTeX.
From Kookaburra to the Cloud: where to now for copyright in Australia by Ben Powell [ Video ] was a very informative talk on the efforts to introduce a US style fair use to replace the current fair dealing. In summary (although I do recommend you watch the talk) fair dealing lists certain situations in which copyrighted material can be use without getting permission from the copyright holder, while fair dealing lists certain (usually four) factors which are weighed up against each other to decide whether or not the use of unlicensed copyrighted material was ‘fair’. The difference being that fair use is dealt with on a case by case basis which tends to keep up with the times more than fair dealing. For instance, one ludicrous example is that we are allowed to copy video from VHS to other devices but not DVDs. This kind of copyright law could allow court proceedings to reflect common sense instead of shoehorning outdated laws into current situations.
Below The Line: Fixing The Voting Process With Technology by Benno Rice [ Video ] followed Benno’s story of developing a web-app to try and combat the somewhat dirty tricks that candidates play in senate elections to try and get in by allowing people to preplan their below the line vote. I commend Benno for keeping his apolitical hat on throughout the entire process, thus strengthening democracy rather than strengthening a particular party. These kinds of talks frustrate me because while Benno has made a difference, I wish he didn’t have too. Clearly if somebody needs to make an unofficial web app in order to make our elections fair something is wrong and needs to be changed stat.
Disaster Recovery Lessons I Hoped I’d Never Have to Learn by Bdale Garbee [ Video ] made me and I think everybody else who saw it immediately evaluate our current backup procedure and almost certainly conclude it needs to be better. Seriously, watch it.
Finally I ended up at Introduction to Go by Mark Smith [ Video ] was an introduction to Google’s recently developed programming language Go. Having never used go, I’m pretty amazed at the fact that in the tutorial we made a multi-threaded chat program in about 45 lines. Go is a powerful language and as someone who hates locks/mutex management, I think I’m going to try learn some more. Another thing I like about Go is that the executable are completely self contained. Not having a interpreter or JVM needed is a real bonus when you might be distributing to someone who might not have them installed.
My linux.conf.au adventure is concluded here.