Well, I’m just writing this on the train on my way back from Wolverhampton and this year’s LUGRadio Live. For those unaware, LUGRadio is a regular podcast, issued roughly once every two weeks, by a group of four Linux Users with interests in different things giving them the chance to discuss and comment upon the latest occurrences in the open source world… and usually includes them insulting each other. The language can occasionally be a bit explicit, but is usually pretty funny. For more information on the podcast, check out http://www.lugradio.org.
LUGRadio live is a relatively new event of theirs, first run in 2005 and is held once a year, inviting various speakers to come down and keep the guests informed on a variety of topics… and drink beer.
I quite wanted to go to last year’s event but didn’t get the chance because of work. With being back this year in time for it I decided to go down and see what it was like. Going down on my tod was a bit of an experience, but here’s my summary of it, all from a complete n00b perspective. Any incorrect statements / understandings are entirely my responsibility. 🙂 All the pictures should be clickable to see a larger version of them, or can be found in the Flickr set here.
For those interested in reading further on, I’ve basically tried to divide this into four areas:
- Day 1
- Day 2
- In Summary
I decided to get the train down to LUGRadio Live for a few key reasons:
- The LUGRadio site showed the venue as being right next to the train station
- I wouldn’t be able to make the Friday night pre-show drinking session and didn’t fancy getting up at some completely ridiculous hour in order to drive there (by the time I allowed myself ‘time-padding’ for getting lost.
- It turned out cheap.
Booking the tickets through QJump was straighforward and, even though it meant I had to leave Lancaster at 07:24, picking up the tickets through the Fast Ticket machines was fairly painless. The train’s were on time and got me into Wolverhampton around 09:45, leaving plenty of time to find the venue. Couldn’t have been smoother to be fair.
Looking online, the easiest place I found to book before being home was at the Novotel, which was only about 5 minutes walk from the venue in the end, which was perfect. Easy to find, and with quite a number of guests staying there. Not wanting to be late though, I didn’t check in there until the lunch break, but only staying a night meant I only had a small bag with me so it wasn’t particularly inconvenient to lug around.
Getting to the venue from the train station was easy thanks to the helpful signs attached to the lampposts, and, once the doors opened, getting in was quick and seemed fairly well organized. At this point the bags of corporate tat (or ‘Nutsacks’ as they were wittily titled..!) were handed out on the door containing a plethora of stuff, which you can hopefully see in the below photos.
Included in the pack were: a Red Hat jacket, OpenSolaris Starter Kit DVD, Ubuntu 7.04 Live CD, Google Code notebook, an O’Reilly pencil, an OpenSolaris pen (which glows red when ready to write…) and a weird shaped Yahoo pen, and the LUGRadio Live Programme, along with some paper advertisements for various upcoming events – not too shabby.
The programmes were well laid out and easy to see what was going on, although it seemed the actually signposting of the different rooms could have been a little better, with me hearing quite a few people sounding confused about where exactly things were meant to be, although the introductory segment by the LUGRadio team helped this along. More or less according to schedule, about half an hour after doors opened the LUGRadio team kicked off with their introductory speech and set the ball rolling. The first talk I fancied attending was to be held in the same spot, so I just kept rooted to the same place in preparation 🙂
Thomas Vander Stichele
Flumotion: The Only Way to Stream
I don’t know much about Flumotion, and in fact only came to hear of it through looking at the work the Elisa project were doing, but in all honesty this talk was the one that grabbed my attention the most out of the first talks of the day, and I’m glad I went.
As one might expect from the first talk of the day, there were a couple of minor issues with the actual presentation of things – I was sat fairly near the back and felt the speakers were a tad quiet for the occasional sentence or two, but that’s a minor gripe. The only other minor gripe, which more than likely couldn’t be helped, was that, being in the Atrium, the (albeit rare for this summer) sunlight that we had right above us shining through the glass roof meant that the projector was virtually impossible to see until the clouds temporarily came to the rescue. It wasn’t a huge deal, as it happened, but it was frustrating having to squint to try and make out what was on the projector.
The talk itself was pretty interesting, even if it did touch on one or two things that were way above my (somewhat simple) level of comprehension. Thomas himself admitted to a few minor errors of judgement before giving his speech (new distro, hacking the example the night before etc) but I don’t feel they detracted from his speech at all. Overall he came across clearly, and obviously well informed and passed some good information along. Occasionally I felt he stumbled in terms of delivery, but then I’m hardly in a position to criticize!
Sounds like Flumotion and it’s associated projects have some really cool ideas and don’t need too long before they gain a stronger and stronger foothold in their respective areas. Elisa is one project I’m really interested to see how it comes along.
But I Don’t Code…
I’ll be fair. I went into this talk (not knowing the title) expecting to come away dazed and confused, given what I knew and had read of Alan Cox in the past and his somewhat general uberness in terms of technology.
However, I was pleasantly surprised at his talk which dealt largely with a lot of the other factors that make up a project / company as well as detailing some of the trouble points that Open Source projects in particularly tend to come up against (documentation, anyone?), based largely on his own experiences.
An interesting speaker, I (as a relative layman) found his approach interesting and fairly common-sense, and is someone I would recommend more people hear from. Whilst there were the occasional ‘in-jokes’ (most of which I managed to vaguely understand from listening to LUGRadio and reading LXF) the main bulk of the talk was straightforward and really did a very good job on reiterating the important roles non-coders / developers play within the community. Food for thought, certainly.
Besides all of that – good beard.
Seriously though, a very interesting talk well presented.
Adam Sweet’s Gong-a-Thong Lightbulb Talk Extravaganza
Not much to say about this one really, I guess the picture’s speak for themselves!
Fair play to Adam though, he certainly put the ‘thong’ into ‘Gong-a-Thong’…
As far as the talks themselves go, I have to admit to struggling to hear a few of them, although there were some interesting ideas mentioned, and of course some acts of sheer brilliance (the beer comparison… bravo). Glad I witnessed it… if you know what I mean.
The Mass Debate
Panel: Becky Hogge [Open Rights Group], Chris Di Bona [Google], Nat Friedman [Novell], Steve Lamb [Microsoft]
A.K.A. The Nat and Chris Show… 😛
Basically questions from the audience directed to the panel, which meant a good chunk of the portion of the segment appeared to be dedicated to Microsoft-bashing before finally moving onto the more dedicated topics of DRM and specifically the BBC’s recent decision over the ‘iPlayer’. Interesting points were raised all around, with topics digressing temporarily to discuss the Novel / Microsoft thing, Google’s stance on various issues and the role of the desktop in the future given the recent trend towards web-based apps. Some interesting questions and answers from all sides of the equation, although Chris and Nat did tend to dominate the show, largely complimenting each others jokes and comments. Still, very funny to watch, and, as mentioned, some very valid points and arguments raised on all sides.
Chris Di Bona
By far the most entertaining speaker (that I saw) of the first day, Chris gave all of us a quick run through basically of what Google is and associated activities (summer of code, contribution to open source projects and the like). Very funny guy who, by all accounts, kept everybody entertained!
Some interesting pieces of information given in the talk, some of which help to explain why EvE Online is playable using just WINE now, although I never figured the connection could lie from Google giving back to the code from their Picasa work and such. Interesting stuff.
Probably not as information packed as some of the other speakers on the day, but very entertaining and interesting in his own right. If you get the chance to see him speak (and have some remote interest in the subject matter) I would thoroughly recommend seeking him out.
LUGRadio Live and Unleashed!
Banter-a-plenty from the LUGRadio team as the usual insults got bounced around the room. Prizes were given, what’s ‘fooked’ was discussed, and a couple of interesting newsbites were mentioned: Ade leaving the show being the bad news, his replacement being announced (although I hate to admit forgetting the guy’s name right now…) [edit: Chris Procter], and the good news being that next year will see the very first LUGRadio Live USA around March time, followed by LUGRadio Live UK at a similar time as this year (July-ish). LRL USA should be good event, and it sounds like quite a few of the UK guys will be trying to get there for it – it certainly should be quite a show!
Lots of funny moments, especially the distribution of LUGRadio Seasons 1 – 4 CDs… heads up!
Another early start for the crew to make sure everything was back in place after the party the night before apparently carried on until the early hours (I left at 22:30 so I’m basing this on hearsay!) and doors actually opened a few minutes later than planned, although to say that was a big deal would be a bit of an over-reaction! With a similar sort of schedule to the day previously, everyone must have had another hectic day making sure things stayed reasonably on schedule and credit needs to be given to them seeing as it was.
BBC / Kamaelia
I’m still undecided on this one to be honest. By the sounds of what he mentioned near the start of his talk he was originally going to talk about the role of Open Source within the BBC a lot more, but apparently ditched that in favour of Kamaelia in order to talk about something he found more interesting. Whilst I’m sure this was sincere on his part, as he certainly seemed very enthusiastic about the project, I still have this nagging voice in the back of my head that says that also smacks of convenience given all the recent (in my opinion, justified) comments on the BBC ‘iPlayer’ that is only available to Windows users. It annoys me that I think that, because the talk he gave was interesting and, from what I understood of it, Kamaelia does sound like a truly interesting application with some very cool possibilities. I can’t help thinking that perhaps the reason I have my suspicions is because I didn’t really understand all the subject matter and because I went in expecting to hear more on the iPlayer situation. Preconceived notions and all that.
So, Michael, my apologies for not writing more constructively on your talk – the technical issues I simply wouldn’t do justice to so I’ll leave it for people better qualified! I did however enjoy what I understood of it and one day when I try and teach myself to programme a little I will try and have a proper look at Kamaelia. So thanks. 🙂
Certainly managed to rival Chris di Bona’s talk the previous afternoon for entertainment, funny moments and general enjoyment, as Nat started by talking about the beginnings and growth of the New English Dictionary, through to it becoming the Oxford English Dictionary and the clear comparisons to things in the Open Source world. He also went on to talk, somewhat predictably, a bit about Novell and the Novell-Microsoft deal and a lot about the importance of usability and highlighting some of the contributions Novell and Ximian have made to the community. Differentiating between copyright, trademark, patents and… the other one I can’t remember the name of was also pretty useful and informative and certainly opened my eyes to just how confusing a lot of this stuff must be, and also how scary some of the actions being taken by the so-called ‘Patent-whores’ is.
Being the one talk I had picked out since way before the event that I really wanted to see on the second day, Nat certainly did not disappoint and, judging by the reactions of those around me, that’s not just my sentiments. It was informative, easy to understand, got the points across effectively, and brought a higher level of audience interaction and involvement to his talks than some of the other speakers had done over the weekend, keeping people engaged and actively interested in what was going on.
The talk / questions slightly overran into the lunch hour, but I don’t think anyone minded that too much.
Just don’t mention the red circles… 🙂
The Hour of Power
I’ll be honest, the main reason I went to this was because the name intrigued me.
I felt, having listened to the podcast for a while, that I should really know what the name meant and what the section was about, but I’ll have to be honest and say I didn’t. I’m glad I went though.
For those of you who are wondering, the hour of power is a little bit like the lightning talk idea, except without a gong, and without Adam Sweet in a thong… thankfully. It’s a chance for various people to show off (when the projector was playing nicely or the network assigning IP addresses to allow people to show the online demos… :)) some of the latest and greatest in various projects that they’re taking part in and provide a little bit of information about them. Basically, this is where the shiny stuff goes.
Despite not knowing what it was going to be about, this soon became one of my favourite segments of the weekend with some really interesting stuff being demo’d. I’ll try and keep it brief as I hit the segments one by one. Apologies for any spelling errors on names.
- Zaheer kicked things off with his quick demo of the desktop recording application Istanbul designed for the Gnome desktop (simple and clean, minimal config). He demo’d it by recording some of the latest features included into the Elisa project – a media center-type project based on Fluendo – effectively making this two demos in one. Elisa is a project I’ve heard quite a lot about and so it was really nice to see it in action ‘first-hand’ so to speak, and Istanbul / Desktop recorders in general were something I was curious to see how clean they were under Linux. Besides the apparently known bugs that Elisa displayed (the last viewed picture / video shot hangs around when you go back to the main menu) it looks genuinely very interesting and seems to be getting smoother and smoother. As far as the Istanbul demo goes, again this looks pretty stable and appeared to work fine with a few cool options (window recording, selection recording and the like) although with it only recording into OGG Theora, I presume this means you then need run it through a converter to get your screencasts into a ‘format for the masses’. Still, OGG would do for me.
- Neuro moved onstage next to talk to us and demo a bit of Second Life to us. This was quite interesting as, like most people, I’ve heard a lot about Second Life, but (perhaps unlike most) it really don’t hold any particular interest to me. One really key piece of info Neuro mentioned though, that I’d never really thought of before, was his emphasis on the fact the Second Life is not a game – it is exactly what it’s title suggests and is a second life – real life companies are in there and people are making and investing real money in game. So whilst it comes across as being similar to another MMOG, it is in fact, not a game. A difficult concept for me to get my head around, to be honest, but also seems to make sense. He then went on to try and demo it, which had to wait until the end of the other talks, as the ethernet didn’t want to assign him an IP address too quickly! The demo when it came appeared a bit dark due to the extra lights shining near the projection screen, but looked alright. Again, it’s hard for me to actually be impressed by it because it’s just not my cup of tea. Although his comments on the amount of data they deal with at Linden Labs was kind of scary…
- Next up was Juski to talk to us a little bit about MythTV and some of the latest improvements going on in it. This was of particular interest to me as MythTV is something I’ve looked at quite a lot over the past year or so, although I still haven’t really given myself the time to try and set it up (having heard a lot of things about the joys of setting it up…). To be fair, Juski didn’t disappoint. Whilst a lot of the features were things I knew and had heard about already, there were a couple of really cool things he mentioned and demo’d, namely the TimeStretch feature, which allows you to speed up the video and audio playback of your recordings to up to twice their original speed (depending on your computer specs, presumably) whilst keeping them legible and avoiding the usual ‘squeaky-voice-syndrome’ assoicated with speeding up the audio. This effectively means you can take a half hour recording, watch it in 15 minutes, and still understand almost everything (although I presume thinks that are originally spoken quickly would be lost) and with it all at the pitch it was intended to be at – pretty cool. He demo’d it to us at 1.2 times the original speed, and it worked smoothly, although I don’t know the specs of the desktop tower he was demo’ing on (it didn’t look new…). Another cool feature mentioned was the recent addition of the ZoneMinder CCTV plugin, allowing all you Big Brother enthusiasts to keep track of your own ZoneMinder CCTV cameras through the MythTV frontend. I don’t know how exactly the additional functionalities work out (recording and timing for example) or if those options are even available for it yet, although I would imagine it would work like the normal TV recording, in which case MythTV shouldn’t have a problem with it. As usual, MythTV simply looked good, although my guess is that Juski maybe knew how to configure his box pretty well… 🙂 Still, a very interesting talk and some cool features.
- Next was the only person not to physically demo something, due to a laptop problem apparently, which was Alan Pope, talking about screencasts and the project he is running over at http://screencasts.ubuntu.com, which is something he started in order to try and bring a certain amount of quality and usefulness to a counter a lot of the crappier screencasts he was seeing all over YouTube and the like. This actually sounds like a really ambitious project, currently only creating for Ubuntu under the Gnome desktop (because that’s what he uses and knows well) but this was effectively a public call to get other people onboard from other distros / desktop environments to try and increase this database of useful screencasts as well as for seeking out any new ideas or wishlists that people would like to see and know how-to-do. As part of this he also briefly touched on some of the different Screen Recorders available under Linux and which ones he’d recommend and why, and put real emphasis on why applying certain limits and criteria are important in maintaining the quality. Definitely a worthwhile project and one I’ll look into more. Keep up the good work Popey!
- Last up (excepting Neuro’s Second Life demo) was Joe Shaw talking about his result from Novell Hack Week, the currently titled Banshee Media Server which effectively and simply streams your Banshee Music collection across the web. Although clearly still in it’s early days, this actually looks pretty cool and quite easily configurable, although quite how legal publically streaming your music across the net is I don’t know. I’m sure I heard somewhere there’s some problem with it, although I could well be wrong. Still, this could easily be solved by coming up with a login system for it, meaning effectively only you can access it. Pretty funky. And seeing as he mentioned it as the intro to his talk, Joe, I just finished watching the season finale of The Sopranos… brilliant. I know it got a slating by a lot of people, but I thought it was pretty cool.
The Path to the $100 Embedded Linux Media Center
Another talk I’d been pretty interested to see what it was about after receiving the programme, this talk by Joe Born from Neuros narrowly beat the LUGRadio Live Quiz in gaining my attention. Unfortunately I missed the start of it due to the Hour of Power marginally overrunning it’s slot time, but believe I still got in before the first slide was passed over.
The talk itself seemed pretty interesting, as Joe got to talking largely about the importance of the embedded market and media center devices specifically in the next few years, given as how it’s the one key are in which no one company or system as really taken a key share of the market (although admittedly Apple seems to be pretty set on sealing that as fast as they can). And the more he mentioned this the more I sort of felt that yes, he’s pretty much correct.
Obviously, part of his talk was his demonstration of one of the Neuros machines which was interesting to see, especially as this is a Media Device that’s built and packaged by them, using a lot of Open Source software although obviously incorporating some proprietary aspects (MP3 codecs, for example – at least that’s how I understood it). The demo was pretty interesting and seemed to be nicely packaged, although it struck me that the interface side of things, along with some of the extensions could and no doubt will gain a lot of useful ideas from similar software options currently out there. XBox Media Center for example was exhibitioning both days and shows some really great interface work, and of course there’s MythTV that’s been around for a while, also exhibitioning there, but then, considering they’re manufacturing as well, I guess they have plenty of areas to think about, along with plenty of time to improve it.
I’ll be fair, when I first decided I wanted to go to this, I really didn’t know quite what to expect. I sort of expected to come out of it having not understood a hell of a lot and was pleasantly surprised to find almost everything a lot more accessible than I had expected – which I guess is reasonable considering the podcast itself never really goes into explicit details about complicated things and is more an overview of certain issues. The only talk that really bordered on completely losing me (as mentioned) was Michael Sparks, through no fault of his own, it should be added, just that the material covered was different to what I expected and, whilst sounding like a pretty interesting project, touched on a lot of coding things that I simply don’t know enough about to fully grasp.
The whole event seemed to run pretty smoothly. Of course there are always going to be hiccups and technology issues to deal with as part and parcel of it – that’s the nature of the beast – but the crew seemed to do a brilliant job of making sure things were ready and in some sort of order and truly deserved all the applause they received.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m still amazed at the entrance cost of only a fiver considering all the information that was on offer and the amount of time and hardwork that must go into organizing such an event. Besides which, the real sense of community that seemed to exist was very refreshing and a nice thing to be a part of.
All in all it was a great experience and I can well imagine I’ll be at the next one, although right now I’m quite seriously considering seeing if the USA one will be feasible.. everyone needs a holiday after all…!
If I haven’t typed it already, thanks again to the LUGRadio team and all the crew and speakers for a cracking weekend!