Tag Archives: conference

OpenWest 2017 Roundup

When I first discovered the Open West conference, I was told it was the biggest US open source event that I'd never heard of, which is a pretty apt description. Open West brings together technologists interested in Open Technology in Sandy Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. This is a community regional Open Source event, run by volunteers, which means the program is much more varied than what you'd see at an event focused on a particular open source technology stack.

With up to 13 tracks happening simultaneously, there were lots of great moments for me over the course of the week. I'm just going to capture a few of them.

OpenCV Trials and Tribulations

There was a great talk by John Harrison at Lucid Charts about trying to do something interesting with OpenCV, and failing. He was giving the talk in the spirit of the Journal of Negative Results: reporting a hard problem they tried and failed at, and the dead ends they ran into.

It started as a hackfest project, could they take a screen shot with a camera of a flow chart, and use OpenCV to turn that into a symbolic flow chart in their tool. Turns out if you write all connecting lines in red, and all shapes in black, it's not a very hard problem. Also turns out, even in controlled user experiments, you can't get anyone to do that. It fails UX. And while they did build a system that worked with black lines everywhere in controlled lab environments, it worked with 0% of customer taken images, and the path to improvement wasn't clear, so after a 2 month experiment they stopped.

While they are primarily a Java shop, they did this entire project in python, because while "there are OpenCV bindings for every language you can imagine, all the interesting examples are only in python." Which goes to show how import an open and vibrant ecosystem of consuming tools is to the success of a project.

Writing Ethical Software

This was an interesting talk by James Prestwich on writing ethical software, that started with a brief history of schools of thought on ethics over the last 3000 years. The primer was just straight up informative, and the presenter actually did a quite good job being neutral through all of that.

Then we were posed with an interesting question. Software is now mostly about mediating complex interactions between people. If you look at other fields like Medicine and Law there are oaths and codes of conduct that their practitioners take because of how much their work affects people's lives.

We have collectively decided that certain things, like land mines, should not exist in the world. We have treaties on that. But as software eats the world, we're not having the conversation about what software should not exist, for any reason.

There weren't answers during this talk, it was mostly questions and attempting to start a conversation. But for anyone who works in software it's a good thought exercise to have. What are your personal ethical boundaries about software you would create or contribute to? It's also a much better conversation to have well in advance of any actual ethical conflict, because things are rarely bright lines, but long slippery slopes.

Hardware Track

There was a dedicated hardware track on the main stage for the whole conference, at least a third of the talks were related to home automation in some way, and 80% of them centered around a project that used a Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi has managed to go across the entire hype curve and is now climbing away on the plateau of productivity. We went from neat idea, to unobtainium, to toy projects, to boxes full of pis in basements, to real productivity over the last 5 years. Yes, there are lots of other cheaper, neater, more powerful platforms, but the ecosystem around the pi just makes it the no brainer work horse.

I was actually a little surprised how many home grown Home Automation systems people talked about there. I did have pieces of something like that before discovering Home Assistant, but now it's hard to imagine doing all the work that the community is doing for me.

One of the projects I thought was most interesting was air quality monitoring with the esp8662. For about $30 they can build each monitoring unit, then find places throughout the community they can plug them in (need power and wifi). They are collecting it all in a
central MQTT broker and doing reports on it to try to get a better baseline on the air quality in the Salt Lake City area.

Patching People

The stand out keynote of the event was Deb Nicholson on patching people.

Any group of humans, and they ways they interact, have bugs, just like software has bugs. A people bug is like a software bug, it's unintended negative side effects of things that are happening. The point is, patching people is actually not all that different than patching software.

Filing "bugs" against people is a little harder than software, because no one likes to accept criticism. So as such, she put forward the idea of "calling in" vs. "calling out". Take the person aside, privately, and say "I think you were trying to do X, but the way it was said excluded a bunch of these people. Maybe saying it this other way would be more effective?".

The other thing to realize is none of us is above this. We all make mistakes, and need some patching from time to time.

After this talk I'm going to try to be better about calling in when I think it will help. In open source projects, they live or die by the longevity of the community, so patching the community to be more inclusive and welcoming is key.

So many more good moments...

Honestly, there were so many other good moments as well: chatting with folks about Home Assistant after my talk; seeing the state of the world on different AI cloud platforms; thinking about localization and culture in software; getting my head around the oauth model; json web tokens.

This is definitely a conference I'd love to get to again, and a great community event they've built there. Thanks to the OpenWest organizing team for such a great show.

My thoughts from TEDx Longdock

The moment I found out that someone was running a TEDx in our area, I was intrigued. The moment I realized John Rooney was one of the organizers, I signed up, as I knew this would be good. I was not disappointed.

The TEDx Long Dock event had a nebulous theme going into it. If I had to extract the theme afterwards it was about connections and community. Some remarkable people were there. Incredible stories of creation that were inspiring. I walked out of something from almost every talk, however after a couple of days of reflection I think there are a couple that will stick with me the most.

Will Etundi gave a talk near the end of the day on the importance of celebration, just how much turning anything into celebration changes the conversation, tone, and productivity of everyone involved. He gave a challenge to deliberately celebrate something every week, be  it big or small. I'm all in on that.

Sarah Jacob gave possibly the tightest and most TED light talk of the event, on how Tango changed her life, got her connected, and the importance of connection in everything we do. It was even followed up with a dance on stage, which was truly amazing. This is one of the talks that I want to see again, and can't wait until the video is posted.

The funniest talk of the day goes to John Cappello, a lawyer, who gave an overview of the planning process in NY, and what his ideal town would be and how they'd use it. People think of the comprehensive plans as a way to stop things you don't like, but forget that the comprehensive plans are just as much a tool to create the kind of community you want. I also am with him that every town needs a brewery.

More bits of inspiration from this day keep tricking into my head. I woke up from a nap this afternoon with the song we ended the day on looping in my brain, which means I'm probably about half way through my sub conscience digesting it all.

I'm hopeful this is the start of an annual event. Even if it wasn't under the TEDx brand, I'd be back. The organizers all did an incredible job, and a very amazing day came out of the whole thing.

 

My Thoughts on the Central PA Open Source Conference

I love this new movement of small regional open source conferences that seem to be springing up everywhere. Democratizing the conference space by making it local and affordable is a wonderful thing. When I was at Ohio Linux Fest last year, I got told I should really check out what the folks in Harrisburg were doing with the Central PA Open Source Conference. Given that a trip to Harrisburg would also mean a good chance to visit friends in York as well, I submitted once their call for papers opened up. Having just gotten back from CPOSC, I can tell you they are doing some really great awesomeness there.

First off, the quality of the people at CPOSC is just really amazing. Every random conversation I ended up in was really compelling, and made me wish there was more time between sessions to have even more of those. I learned some very interesting things about mobile web development when I didn't know, I learned quite a few interesting Drupal tricks that are invaluable, and I found a really vibrant and welcoming open source community in Central PA.

The facilities were brilliant. We were in the Technology Building for Harrisburg University, on the 12, 13, 14th floors, which were truly state of the art. Touch screen controls for all the rooms, power wired to all the desks, really good chairs... just all around brilliant. The flat screen displays in the hallway we even flipping through Linus quotes all day, which while a little detail, really helped set the atmosphere.

The organization was really tight, which I always appreciate as a speaker. The speaking blocks were 50 minutes, with 10 minutes in between. The organizers ensured every session started on time, and ended on time, giving 10, 5, and 1 minute warning cards. The graphics on these included Veloceraptors and Wolves, which I didn't even realize until after my talk. A well run event is one that seems like no one is running it but, mysteriously, everything is just where it needs to be when it needs to be there. That's was CPOSC to a T. To everyone that made CPOSC happen behind the scenes, I applaud you greatly.

The schedule at CPOSC was great. The speakers and content were top notch. I've now learned that on the presentation win scale there is something even better than a perfectly in context xkcd comic to make your point: using video from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to explain software architecture. My only regret on the speaker front is that by consuming one of the slots with my own talk, I inevitably collided with a talk I actually really wanted to see.  Oh well, thems the breaks.

Finally, my audience was great. I had somewhere between 50 - 60 people in my talk, all were very engaged, and really focused on what I was saying. I felt really good about how the presentation went (though I've of course got my mental list of things I'd change afterwards, it's never a good talk without that), but I did feel that I was on my game. I got a number of great questions at the end of the talk, and people coming up to me later in the day asking more questions and just striking up conversations that followed from there (see point 1 about the quality of the people being excellent).

I can't wait until CPOSC 2011, and will definitely do my darnedest to get down to it. Knowing how good the speaker pool is now, I'm going to have to make sure I keep my game up to play there.

Central PA Open Source Conference open for registration

CPOSC is now open for registration.  It's in Harrisburg PA on October 16th (a Saturday), which makes it about a 4 hour drive from here in Poughkeepsie, NY.  This will be my first year there, but based on the list of talks they've got posted I'm sure it's going to be great, and not just because I'll be talking ;).

If you are in the mid Atlantic area, and are interested in Linux and Open Source, you should check it out.

Midhudson IEEE Cloud Computing Workshop - Friday November 6th

Our local IEEE chapter does an annual fall workshop each year.  Last year was robots (which I apparently forgot to blog about...).  It was quite good, and showed off robots for largely military and educational purposes.  Some live demos (not for the military types) and videos were shown over the course of the day.  Good times.

This year the IEEE is doing their workshop on Cloud Computing.  While the website and pdf still say Nov 3rd... it's not, it's Friday the 6th (this event is always on a Friday).  I'm going to repost the details embedded in the PDF here, because while google deals with PDFs, it's a lot easier to refer people to a website.

Sponsored by: The Mid-Hudson Section of the IEEE and The School of Science and Engineering, State University of New York, New Paltz Co-sponsored by the Mid-Hudson IEEE Computer Society

When:  Friday, November 6, 2009

Where:  The Terrace Restaurant, SUNY New Paltz campus (all campus facilities are fully accessible and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act).

Registration Fee: $20 per person - free to Mid-Hudson IEEE members or students with valid ID (includes coffee breaks and buffet lunch, plus CD ROM with presentation materials and invited papers). Please contact the organizers for information on registration fee waivers due to economic hardship. Advance registration payments (checks drawn on a U.S. bank only) may be made out to the CAS 8600. Send check to: School of Science and Engineering, 1 Hawk Drive, State University of New York, New Paltz, NY 12561. Attendees may also register at the door on the day of the workshop.

Scope and Purpose: There has been a great deal of recent interest in new ways to deliver information technology (IT) resources to large organizations. This has been driven by significant reductions in the cost of computing cycles, mass storage, and network bandwidth, as well as a desire to pursue more federated data center designs, reduce operating expenses, and conserve energy. One significant emerging trend involves outsourcing selected business to IT service providers; the enabling technology and business model are both referred to as Cloud Computing. There has been a great deal of discussion around what cloud computing actually means to the IT industry, maturity of the enabling technologies, and training a new generation of IT staff. In this workshop, we’ve invited a number of distinguished speakers with first-hand experience in cloud computing to describe their work and share their vision for the future. The emphasis will be on development of cloud computing architectures, software, and networking for a range of practical applications, and on the viability of this approach for emerging data center designs. A panel discussion on current trends and directions in this field will also be included.

Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with the guest speakers through informal discussion breaks throughout the day, and a question/answer session will be held at the end of the panel discussion to assess those attendees wishing to apply for continuing education units under the New York State Professional Engineers program (there are no prerequisites for this workshop). Attendees will also have the opportunity to provide written feedback on the various sessions during the day. Invited papers and other presentation materials will be made available on CD as part of the registration package.

Agenda (as of Oct 23):

8:00 – 9:00 On-site registration and coffee
9:00 - 9:30 Welcome (Dr. Daniel Jelski, Dean, School of Science and Engineering, SUNY New Paltz; Dr. Baback Izadi, (2009 Chair, Mid-Hudson Section of the IEEE) Prior and future SUNY workshop topics (Dr. Casimer DeCusatis, IBM)
9:30 – 10:00 Dr. Casimer DeCusatis, IBM, and Todd Bundy, Adva Optical Networking, “Cloud Computing Fundamentals & Applications”
10:00 – 10:30 Michael Haley, IBM, “Emerging Cloud Data Centers”
10:30 – 11:30 Brian Goodman, IBM, “Building the compute cloud: firsthand experience”
11:30 – 12:30 Buffet Lunch, The Terrace Restaurant
12:30 – 1:00 Carolyn DeCusatis, Pace University, “Converged Networking for Cloud Data Centers”
1:00 – 1:30 Dr. Robert Cannistra, Marist College, “A new curriculum for cloud data centers”
1:30 – 2:00 Dr. Aparicio Carranza, City College of New York, and Jorge Martinez, EMC, “Migration of legacy storage area networks”
2:00 – 2:30 coffee break
2:30 – 3:00 Aneel Lakhani, IBM Global Services, “Cloud Computing showcase data center”
3:00 – 4:00 Panel Discussion, “The future of enterprise data centers: what will be the role of cloud computing ?” (all invited speakers)
4:00 – 4:15 Concluding Remarks (Dean, SUNY New Paltz)

Ohio Linux Fest 2009

If you had told me the biggest community Linux event in the United States took place in Columbus Ohio, I don't think I would have believed you before this last weekend.  But Ohio Linux Fest blew away all my expectations, with 1100 in attendance, it was a truly phenomenal event.  There were many great stories from the event, but I'll just drop in a few highlights.

OpenSim Presentation

My main reason for being out there was giving a technical presentation on OpenSim.  I've done this presentation in a few other places, so this information I was quite comfortable with, and even had a bit of live demo.  Because I had a last minute tech issue with my laser pointer I wasn't really paying attention with how full the room had become once I got started.  I must have had at least 200 people in that room, and 250 is probably not an unreasonable guess.  Compare that with the 15 I had a Linux World last year, and you get a sense of how much more committed people are here to the tech agenda.

I had intentionally kept the content light and short, as I'd always run over in the past, and the OLF folks are very strict on time keeping (which I highly appreciate as both an attendee and speaker).  With my talk going from 4:00 - 4:55, I had slides, then a live demo, then figured I'd open up with questions.  The slide portion went over ok, but it was hard to guage where the audience was at, when I got to the live demo at 4:25, things seem to perk up, and as I'd already gotten a quick audience question when starting up OpenSim I decided to go for broke, and just end the demo after 10 minutes and open up the floor for questions.  Leaving a 20 minute question gap was a gamble, because I'd been in a few other presentations that only got 1 or 2 questions at the end, but I figured I could always go back to playing with things if it got really quiet in the room.

It didn't.  I had questions from all over the floor, must have answered at least 10 of them in that 20 minutes.  That even included a question from Doug McIlroy, the evening's keynote speaker.  After the talk I had another half dozen folks follow me out and ask more questions out in the hallway, always a great sign.  I couldn't have asked for a better audience, and really appreciate what the organizers of Ohio Linux Fest are able to pull off year after year.

The Guys from NOOSS

Before I left for the event I was found internally at IBM by on of the guys from the Northern Ohio Open Source Society to do an interview with them on OpenSim for their live all day podcast.  That was a great time.  Even though I'm becoming less active in the OpenSim project now, I'm hoping this push to get the word out on the project helps further grow the community.

As we wandered out from the after party the NOOSS guys had moved their recording setup to the lobby, and enticed us with some Great Lakes Brewery beer and Scotch to hang out on the NSFW portion of the podcast.  Don't go and listen to that unless you are a brave soul.  It did however let me put in a plug for my Brother In-Law, Andy Tveekrem, who has recently left as brew master of Dog Fish Head, once was the brewmaster of Great Lakes Brewery, and is planning on setting up a Brew Pub in Cleveland next year.  I'll have to get word out to the NOOSS guys once they open, because their impecable taste in beer means I'm sure they'll find a home there. 🙂

It's worth the 11 hours in the Car

There were so many other good times, too many to retell here.  Joe, my driving companion, took some video on the trip, which we may manage to cut down to something reasonable for posting online.  It took us 11 hours each way to get there and back.  Before the trip I was really concerned that it was going to be a lot of driving for not much.  But this event was definitely worth the drive, and I'm already planning on going back next year, speaker or not.  It was a really great event.

O'Reilly Open Source Conference

For the third time I attempted to get a paper in for OSCON, however, unlike the last 2 attempts, this one was accepted. 🙂

The paper is entitled "Easy as Pie: Making Graphical Desktop Applications with Perl and Glade", based on my personal experience learning enough Glade to do the ExifTagger project, though the reality is that the way Gtk2 maps up to other high level languages, such as Python and Ruby, the talk should be pretty broadly applicable to any high level language developers.