August 15, 2006

A slow start at LinuxWorld

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

SAN FRANCISCO -- The LinuxWorld Conference & Expo lurched to a start on Monday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco with half-day tutorials and after-hours parties for the early birds.

As per usual, the first day of LinuxWorld consisted of tutorials only, while the exhibitors worked furiously to get their booths set up before the exhibit floor was scheduled to open on Tuesday morning. While Robin 'Roblimo' Miller was off getting video of attendees, I had the opportunity to attend some of the tutorials -- but not before hitting the press room and picking up a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet through a loaner program for press at LinuxWorld.

I had hoped to make use of the 770 from the show floor and while I was in the session hall, but the wireless network was either too weak or too overcrowded for the 770 to get and keep a connection.

Hands-on hacking?

I'd hoped to attend Greg Kroah-Hartman's "Write a Real Working Linux Driver" session, but it had been cancelled. Instead, the first session I sat in on was "Hands-On Hacking: Attacks and Countermeasures," presented by David Allen, president of CR Consulting. About 40 people turned up to hear about attack methods and ways to deal with them.

Unfortunately, the presentation was not a "hands-on" affair at all. Instead, Allen spent three hours discussing various types of attacks and what technical measures or policies could be used to counter them. Most of the information Allen presented was pretty basic; in particular, he could well have spent much less time on social hacks. Still, some of the questions indicated that at least part of the audience was relatively new to security concepts, and probably found the session to be much more valuable than those of us who have a moderate amount of experience dealing with security.

After a one-hour lunch break, I went back for the second three-hour session of the day. "How to Create, Destroy, and Recover Software RAIDs under Linux" by Dustin Kirkland turned out to be something of a disappointment. Kirkland spent too much time at the beginning of the session discussing the types of RAID and taking questions from a particularly inquisitive attendee at the back of the room. I enjoy sessions where the presenter takes questions during the presentation, but a good speaker knows how to control the audience and will shut down questions when they start to derail a presentation.

After we finally got past the various types of RAID, Kirkland moved into the demo section of the talk -- and got bogged down by problems with his demos. I'm not sure if Kirkland was unprepared, or simply the victim of Murphy's Law, but after a while I decided to skip the rest of the session and catch some fresh air.

A minor update on open source Java

Sun invited members of the press to the W Hotel after the conference for an update on open source Java. Sun had not one, not two, but three execs speak at the event to unleash the news that they have a vague roadmap for releasing Java as open source, and that we can expect the first, partial release by the end of 2006.

Rich Green, executive vice president of Software at Sun; Laurie Tolson, vice president of the Java Platform group; and Alan Brenner, vice president of the client systems group, each got up and talked about a lot of things we've already heard -- the number of times NetBeans has been downloaded, how popular OpenSolaris is, why Sun's pursuing an open source strategy, etc.

The meat of the announcement, and you certainly couldn't support the Atkins diet on it, was that Sun will be releasing Java C and the Hotspot VM as open source throughout 2006 and 2007.

What's still missing? Sun hasn't chosen a license, or a governance model, and can't say which parts of Java will be open sourced first. Since Sun plans to release parts of Java in 2006, I asked if that meant that the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3) was, by necessity, ruled out -- since the GPLv3 won't be released until 2007. Sun's execs wouldn't even commit to that.

With any luck, the news will flow a little more freely from other open source companies at LinuxWorld during the rest of the week. The conference kicks into full gear today. The exhibit floor is slated to open this morning at 10 a.m., and there's a full schedule of sessions and talks, starting with a morning keynote by Larry Lessig.

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