The 2015 edition of the venerable linux.conf.au conference took place in New Zealand last week, and thanks to the benefits of modern technology, most of the conference’s program can be viewed on YouTube.
There are many, many hours of talks to do with all things Linux, open source, and free software, but I’ve picked out a quartet of the best ones I’ve seen so far.
Eben Moglen keynote
If you only have time to watch a single keynote from this conference, make sure it is this one.
Moglen is the chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, and gave a wide-ranging keynote on the issues impacting the free software movement, privacy, and freedom. In the time since his last keynote at LCA in 2005, Moglen said that free software is in a lot less trouble than it was a decade ago, and now has fewer, if any, real devoted enemies, and that they are weaker than they were in almost every respect.
He predicted that in a decade’s time, the most important set of patent laws in the world would not be those in the United States, but in China.
“This problem will afflict us, that is to say the people who actually make technology, comparatively lightly; it will affect our industrial partners enormously, and their strategic responses to the problems they will face will be the most interesting of our challenges with respect to the patent system in the next 10 years,” he said.
“As was the case in the last round, we are thinking more about the nature of their problems than they are because they are dealing day to day with the problems of running their businesses.”
With the issues of Snowden, data retention, and privacy coming to a head in Australia, Moglen said that many of the arguments are similar to those made when PGP arrived in the 1990s.
“People have been made afraid that if you let communications be secure, the villains will win. I must tell you that I heard a lot of that in the early ’90s over PGP too.
“I had a bet with a reporter … whether it was going to be pedophilia or nuclear terrorism of which I was first going to be accused in every public meeting.”
The revelations of Edward Snowden showed that there is “no longer any hope” in trying to prevent private or public power from wanting to turn the internet into a tool of totalitarianism, he said.
“We sacrificed tens of millions of lives in the 20th century in order to avoid living in societies where the state kept track of everybody you knew and listened to every phone call.
“We call that totalitarianism, and we thought it was OK to ask young people to go out and die to try to keep it from happening.”
Moglen was previously the Free Software Foundation’s general counsel, and was heavily involved in the creation of GPLv3.
Flying with Linux: Andrew Tridgell
On a lighter note than the Moglen keynote, Samba founder Andrew Tridgell gave a presentation where he was situated in Auckland, but was SSHed into a model plane in Canberra.
The plane made use of ArduPilot, and Tridgell demonstrated how the plane is capable of returning telemetry, following a predetermined course, all while compiling a Linux kernel.
IPMI: Because ACPI and UEFI weren’t terrifying enough
Matthew Garrett gave his yearly update on how bad the programming and security on firmware that resides on servers truly is.
If you are a system administrator and do not wish to sleep at night, then this is the talk for you.
Linus Torvalds Q&A keynote
Torvalds was joined onstage by Bdale Garbee, chairman of the Debian technical committee, Andrew Tridgell, and kernel contributor Rusty Russell.
The discussion covered a lot of ground on the issues surrounding Linux, and is well worth the time spent watching.