December 15, 2004

Linux Bangalore/2004: Hackers galore

Author: Mayank Sharma

, India's biggest tech-fest for free and open source software was
held in Bangalore, the country's IT hub, last week. Attendees from many
countries got to see more than 80 presentations delivered by 62 speakers
in a span of three days.

While Linux Bangalore has always been a hacker-focused event, this
year there were quite a few general interest talks as well. This shift
was also seen in the visitor composition. While the show is
traditionally popular with students and hackers, 2004 saw a greater number of
company developers and government and corporate people. But yes, only here
can you find a 14-year-old attending a session on "Being a geek."

The conference talks were grouped into nine sections: Kernel
Programming, Desktop Applications, Web-based Applications (LAMP), Embedded
Development, Enterprise Applications, FOSS Projects, FOSS User Groups, The
Business of FOSS, and Special Events. The full schedule
links to synopses of the talks and the official

Brian Behlendorf, best-known as the director of the Apache Software
, started off the official presentations with a packed hall
of more than 750 people. He talked about bringing the benefits of
creating and maintaining an open source software project into an enterprise
development scheme. A similar number of people attended his next talk on

Harald Welte, chairman of the netfilter/iptables core team, spoke on
how various vendors are confusing GPL with public domain software and
not fulfilling its licensing obligations. Welte also spoke on the second
day, giving a tour through the Linux 2.6.x network stack. He explained
various concepts -- the IPv4 stack, neighbour cache, sockets
implementation, zero-copy TCP, etc. His third talk of the event on the last day
was aimed at helping traditional businesses establish a 'business
relationship' with the free software community.

In the 120 seater hall, G Karunakar, lead developer of the IndLinux
Indian Localization project
, discussed the status of the efforts of the
various language teams and laid out the to-dos. Harish Krishnaswamy
from Novell spoke on Evolution and how developers can use its data server
to integrate their applications with it.

Day 2 began with the KDE guys, Scott Wheeler and Sirtaj Singh Kang,
presenting separate talks on how the desktop is becoming more than a
desktop and a look at KDE's roadmap. Novell's Michael Meeks spoke about and some of the issues it is facing. He talked about the
things Novell is working on and demoed some cool features in the 2.0

Andi Kleen from SUSE gave an overview of the x86-64 Linux kernel.
His talk was followed by one from Dipankar Sarma from IBM, who spoke on
using lock-free data structures in the Linux kernel. Sarma also
presented results of some performance measurements.

Day 3 was a techie delight. There were talks on using Gambas, an
introduction to Ruby, and one on how to create dynamic Web application
using Ruby. Andrew Cowie from Operational Dynamics spoke on an interesting
topic -- what it actually takes to successfully deploy and maintain
open source software from an organization's point of view. He warned about
the pitfalls of open source technology and used real-world examples to
stress his points. Andrew, who had earlier given a tutorial on rapid
application development in GNOME using Java, also spoke on building
national Linux organizations and how these could affect FOSS positively.

Nirav Mehta from MagNet WebPublishing spoke on test-driven Web
development and how monkey coders could be learn how to assure quality in
their programs. Philip Tellis spoke to a packed house on being a

Linux-Bangalore has never been much of an expo and 2004 was no
exception. Of the sponsors, Hewlett-Packard had the biggest booth. Red Hat,
Zend, Encore and other commercial vendors participated too. Free
software communities were also given booth space, and they had the same if
not more visitors than their commercial counterparts. IndLinux, the
Indian Localization project, used the space to show a localized desktop and
get user feedback.

Growing interest

According to the event Website, of the 2,800 people who registered
on the site
, a majority expressed their desire to attend the technical
tracks. More than 2,000 people were interested in attending the Kernel
Programming track. Most of the attendees were in some computer-related
job. What was surprising was the number of students attending the show.
While still quite a large number, there weren't as many as in 2003 or

At the same time, this year saw an increased number of people in
suits -- the government and industry type -- as well as speakers and
attendees from not only outside Bangalore but outside India.

And in what has become a tradition in several recognized tech fests,
Linux Bangalore/2004 witnessed its first hack-a-thon. It started as a
wager (for a cup of coffee) between the main organizer and a DotGNU
developer over IRC (#lb2004 at At the end of the event,
the hacker had successfully ported DotGNU to the Simputer (and found time to deliver a
talk as well)! In another similar incident, the organizers of the event
wrote a Linux driver for a Wi-Fi card of a vendor they had tied up with
to provide hardware for setting up hotspots at the event. (Never mind
that there was no ISP to provide bandwidth to the cloud.)

Every Linux Bangalore conference has been bigger and better than the
previous one. Next year organizers expect to see more hackers, bigger
hack-a-thons, larger crowds, and more talks. But a couple of things
won't be the same -- the name, which as per the organizers doesn't do
justice to the event anymore, and the location, which doesn't do justice
to the large crowds. The new name and locale, however, have yet to be determined.

Mayank Sharma is a freelance technology writer and FLOSS
migration consultant in New Delhi, India.

Click Here!