Monday, April 30, 2007

Report: Linuxfest Northwest, Saturday

After hearing about it from a friend (specificallly, that I could get there for free courtesy of Pogo Linux), I decided to go to an actual Linux...fest... and take in the nerd atmosphere without getting some sort of otaku or gamer disease. Unfortunately, I could only go on Saturday. I would have loved to hear Brad Fitzpatrick talk about how LiveJournal scales their databases, among other things.

The bus left promptly at 8:06AM. The movie they were showing on those little screens scattered throughout the bus was the X-Files movie, which I have no intention of watching, so I caught up on some reading for one of my classes. One amusing thing that I noticed on the way up was that there was a "Lychee Buffet" restaurant at the freeway exit for the college. If you think about it, it sounds rather disturbing.

I had roughly 15 minutes between the time that the bus arrived and the first presentations. In that time, I got a bunch of CDs from the Ubuntu and Oracle tables (it was like the Oracle table was having a fire sale - I got an Oracle DVD and an Oracle Linux DVD), and some stickers from the FSF table, including the "Bad Vista" one.

The first talk that I heard was on copyright and open source, by Karl Fogel (of CVS/SVN fame). It was really interesting, given my affinity for history (especially regarding science and technology). He talked about the parallels between the era of the printing press and the present-day. I didn't realize that copyright (or proto-copyright) was created as a censorship/printing restriction tool by the official guild of printers.

The second talk I attended was on strong authentication, in particular multi-factor authentication. It was very informative, especially in regards to how those one-time password keyfobs work.

Presentation number three was about practical honeypots. I wasn't really impressed with it overall. It was rather high-level, and the presenter admitted that he had only started working on it that morning. A lot of it seemed like common sense, like being preemptive, only concentrating on exploits that are relevant to your particular systems, etc.

The last talk I observed was on scaling web services, by a lead developer from Real Networks. He reminded me of Penn from Penn & Teller. It was a very engaging talk, and it gave me a new perspective on scalability, that is, it's essentially an organizational problem, as opposed to a technological problem.

A closing thought: I would have loved to have gotten one of those stuffed SuSE would have fit in well with the Tux I got in Canada several years ago.

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