December 10th, 2009
So, as I promised yesterday, here’s a quick wrap-up of my FUDCon experience. This was my first FUDCon, and it was definitely a lot of fun. My photos of the event are up here.
I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and met James and Will at the airport – they’d been delayed. We got to the hotel and unpacked, then headed over to Boston Pizza for dinner and refreshments:
After that, we went back to the hotel. I came back down to the lobby, met a few others, and headed over to Irish Pub (as it was christened for the weekend – it was really called Dub Linn Gate, but the name was in small letters and not lit up, while Irish Pub was in much larger, illuminated letters). For a long time we thought no-one else was really there, then discovered the back room where they’d all been sitting for the last two hours:
I spent the rest of the evening discussing sports with Jarod Wilson (j-rod), over a few more refreshments. We all left Irish Pub around 1:30, and I fully intended to go to bed, but somehow got pulled into an earnest lobby discussion of the Fedora mission statement with John McCann, Mel Chua and others. It seemed rather important at the time, but the ten people I told about this discussion the next day gave me exactly the same routine: blank look, pause, then “We have a mission statement?”, which leads me to suspect any details about wording in the mission statement are not perhaps of vital burning importance!
In the morning we all rode the bus to the main site for the event, Seneca@York (Seneca College’s site at the York University campus):
We all packed out the largest lecture theatre for the introductory session. Others have noted that we managed to pretty much break the BarCamp style of organization by having a ridiculously awesome number of people pitching talks, but I provide solid pictorial evidence!
That’s the line-up to pitch talks – it actually wound all the way up that side of the room and then across the back of the theatre. Luckily, my talk on how to get involved in Fedora QA was included in the ‘user track’, so I got a guaranteed spot on the roster. In the end we wound up with five rounds of talks. I was in the second round, unfortunately going up against the ‘What’s New In The Kernel / X.org’ talk, so I wasn’t expecting many attendees.
In the first slot I attended Steven M. Parrish’s talk on how to report good bugs, to support a fellow BugZapper and provide any additional info I could. Steven had a good attendance of both existing project members and curious folks, which was great. His talk was excellent – a really clear and concise guide to generating a good bug report, and well delivered. You can read the live log of his talk here.
I then gave my talk – an overview of the activities of both QA and the BugZappers, and the many ways you can get involved with both. I was happy to have about 12-15 people in attendance, including a few plants – thanks to James and Steven and Denise! – but also some interested Fedora and Red Hat people, and some curious prospective new members as well, which is who I was really hoping to talk to. I was very happy to have two women I didn’t recognize attending, and I really hope they come on board in some capacity (please do, if you’re reading!), being an active participant in the Great F/OSS Gender Wars and all. It was the first time I’ve ever given any kind of presentation anywhere, in fact, and I think it went pretty well, all considered – many thanks to Steven and Denise and James (again) for filling in many little bits of information and resources that I’d forgotten to include. You can read the log of my talk here, as provided by Steven – it’s awesomely concise, yet contains all the useful stuff I said.
In the third session I went to a talk by pretty much the entire Infrastructure team on collaboration – working together as a group, and the lessons they’ve learned (both positive and negative) through being quite a big group working on a wide range of projects. It was a pretty loose format, but very interesting, with a lot of useful nuggets of information for anyone who’s involved in group collaboration on F/OSS projects (or any others, really). I videoed about half of the talk – that’s with Matt Domsch, who will be uploading all available recordings of the event soon. I think Remy DeCausemaker may have better video of the whole thing, but never mind! In the mean time, you can read the log here.
In the fourth session I went to Bill Peck’s and Will Woods’ talk on automated testing – it was a combination of Bill’s talk on Red Hat’s automated testing system, RHTS, which has been open sourced as Beaker, and Will’s talk on Fedora’s own automated testing suite, AutoQA. I already knew most of what Will talked about regarding AutoQA, but it was great to see it all pulled together for a pretty big and interested audience. Bill’s talk about RHTS/Beaker was great, and filled in a lot of blanks for me. It’s interesting to see how the two systems have been designed to meet different needs, and Will and Bill had some good ideas about how they could work together in the future. Y’know, to fight crime. I tried to do the live logging of this talk, and my extremely inexpert attempt can be found here. It’s incomplete, cutting off in the middle of Bill’s section, as I was on a very poor wireless connection at the time and got cut off before the end of my writing actually reached the server.
Finally, I went to Diana Martin’s talk on the anthropology work she’s currently doing on the Fedora project (at our invitation!) It was a fascinating introduction to the work she does, and sounded like it could be very valuable (and interesting) to the project. I’m only sorry I forgot to ask a couple of questions, and that I didn’t manage to do an interview for her before the weekend was up (she was trying to interview as many people as possible). Happily I was able to help out a little bit in getting her wireless working (it’s a Broadcom…) later on in the weekend! The log is here.
So that was it for the presentations day. We headed back to the hotel, and prepared for the infamous FUDPub, which was taking place at Dave and Buster’s. This place is billed, partly, as an arcade. Now, I’m trying to be kind, but I’m an arcade snob, and the DnB arcade was, by my standards, frankly crap. Luckily, arcade participation was not mandatory, and in fact we were parked in the pool / snooker area, with nibbles and soda. I loaded up on pizza (yes, more pizza) and sharked the pool tables all night; my foolish victims inexplicably unaware that I grew up with a six foot snooker table in the basement, spent more time at college playing pool than studying (probably), and on one night that will live forever in legend, once ran fourteen games in a row on a Saturday night at Numbers. So I ran through most of the attendee list like a knife through hot butter, until I ran into Greg DeKoenigsberg, who – obviously having had as much of a misspent youth as I did – was made of sterner stuff. In our first game he ran the table on me down to his last couple of balls, then promptly managed to pocket the 8 ball. After I sportingly replaced it and played on, missing a hilariously easy ball of my own, he potted his last two balls and then scratched on the 8 ball – possibly the first time I’ve ever beaten anyone twice in one game without ever sinking a ball. He beat me in our second game, but I won the third, thus comfortably taking the undisputed FUDPub Pool King title. Well, maybe in my head. The event as a whole sadly failed to live up to its debauched reputation, probably because everyone had stayed up late the night before, and we all headed back to the hotel quite sober and reasonably early. I would have headed back at 11:30, but Scott Sullivan and I discovered the one snooker table hiding in the back corner. In case you’re not familiar with the game of snooker, it can briefly be described as ‘hard pool’, with the note that it takes two people who aren’t really really good a minimum 45 minutes to finish a game. I made the single best snooker shot I’ve ever played – a red two feet from the bottom left corner, with the cue ball tight on the top rail – but was trumped by Scott’s ridiculous 24-foot double of a red clean past the pink half blocking the top corner, which was the single best snooker shot I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen Stephen Hendry play live). Even if it was an outrageous fluke.
The last two days of the event were all about hackfests. My major project during these was helping John Poelstra revise the Fedora release criteria, along with James Laska and a Cast of Thousands (or at least dozens. Okay, a dozen. Ish.) We blithely hoped to have this done by lunch on the first day, but it actually wound up swallowing most of the two days for me. Still, it was worth it – the final criteria are a massive improvement on what we had before, I think. They properly document what we expect to have working at each release point, and provide a sound basis for the QA acceptance tests – before this, the tests were the de facto release criteria.
I hoped to help Pascal, Mel and others from the news and infrastructure teams work on Fedora Insight – the new Fedora news system – but just wasn’t able to get free to do it, sadly. Still, it sounds like they got a lot of good work done without me (imagine that!) and things are moving along fast. I’ll have to learn how to write my FWN beat into Insight, soon, which is great. Most of the hackfests looked pretty much like this:
a mid-sized group of people around a table, getting work done when not making extremely geeky jokes. It was a fun time. I did get to move around a lot and chat to various people. Over the three days of the conference, I must have talked to at least 20 people about Poulsbo. It’s a very hot topic, and it’s only going to get hotter. The theme is still one of massive confusion – no-one, however well placed, seems to have a clue what Intel’s upcoming hardware is actually going to be, exactly, and what Intel’s plans are as far as providing drivers for it (and updating the ones for Poulsbo) is concerned. I suspect this includes most people at Intel. Sigh.
After the first day of hackfests I skipped out of the planned downtown skating trip to go and visit a decent arcade – Lovegety Station, the Toronto area’s last remaining decent Japanese-style arcade, as far as I can discover. I had been planning to go with Duv Jones, a Fedora community member and Toronto area resident who was at FUDCon and goes there regularly, but we got split up at FUDCon. Happily, after I made my way there myself (thanks, Google Transit), he found me there, and we had a great Korean dinner and a really interesting conversation about Fedora, other distributions and operating systems, web rendering engines, and many other topics, before going back to play some more games. Lovegety’s a decent little arcade, not as big or popular as the main Vancouver arcades, though:
On the first hackfest day, I made it back to the hotel a little after midnight, tired, and somehow got stuck in the hack suite which had been organized until about 3:30. I managed to do about twenty minutes’ worth of FWN writing in between taking pictures, experimenting with white balance metering, attempting to fix random hardware problems for people (we got one non-booting kernel update fixed and Diana’s wireless working: yay), providing working internet to the room via my cellphone’s wireless access point functionality (seven hackers all accessing teh intarwebz through my measly Touch Diamond was fun), and random conversations. It was a lot of fun, but I could have done with the sleep!
On the second hackfest day, I hit up Lovegety again right after the conference – having more or less got the transit figured out by this point – then headed back to Irish Pub with a group in the evening. Got through a pint and then half a pitcher of Keith’s in record time while holding court (increasingly incoherently) on working for Mandriva, the RPM / RPM5 situation, and other things of which I have only vague memories. Got to talk to Luke Macken for the first time, which was great. After Irish Pub kicked us out (very politely), we wound up back in the hack suite, discussing free culture and personal foibles of legendary F/OSS figures – very amusing. Luke and I discovered our shared enthusiasm for the drums (him real, me fake), which was fun.
In the morning I had my last rather nice breakfast buffet of the weekend, then shared a cab back to the airport with several others and waited for my somewhat delayed flight back to Vancouver. And that was my FUDCon! It was a great experience, definitely recommended to anyone who’s managed to read this far. I’ll be at the next one for sure. I keep suggesting FUDCon Yellowknife, but people inexplicably don’t seem to jump at the prospect of -35 C weather…
Random things I didn’t work into the above: had some good chats with Adam Jackson about X.org stuff and Poulsbo (again) – always good to meet someone you frequently work with face to face. Spoke with Justin Forbes about upcoming kernel changes, it was great to learn about what’s coming up and also fun to catch up with my Red Hat orientation colleague! Talked to the awesome Adam Miller about many and varied things, most exciting of which was definitely his enthusiasm about doing automated testing of the Xfce spin and working it into AutoQA. I suggested he go and discuss his ideas with Will Woods, and they seemed to make some solid progress on hackfest day #2. Caught up with Brennan Ashton on that old chestnut, the BugZappers triage metrics project – he got plugged into a Fedora Community discussion which included a plan to pull in various statistics modules, which seemed like a good way forward. Talked with David Malcolm about a cool script he’d written for auto-triaged Python bugs filed by abrt, and promised to help him try and co-ordinate with the abrt team to give the code a future independent, maintained and useful existence. Brought Mel Chua up to speed on the Test Day process, and successfully enthused her as concerns using it to help make sure Fedora Insight is a success when first implemented. And many, many other conversations, not all of which I can manage to bring to mind right now – apologies if I’m leaving you out! It was definitely an awesome weekend. Sorry for the gigantic post.