Rich and varied fare for open-source conference

Conference to address embedded open source among other developments

The open source software conference, taking place in Wellington all this week, will cover a healthy mixture of technical, social and even “small-p” political topics — as well as allowing open source enthusiasts to chew the fat.

The increasing use of open-source software in embedded components will take the conference outside mainstream ICT, with Keith Packard’s account of the Telemetrum amateur rocket-control computer and Philip Court presenting on the use of open-source components in electric vehicles (EVs) and their interface to the grid. “The long-term intention,” he says, is “to create an environment of collaboration, interchangeability and continuous improvement within the EV market.”

Also attending the conference with his latest “RepRap” open source 3D printer is Vik Olliver, one of two Kiwis on the eight-person international project.

At the more familiar ICT core of open source, Linux, Jonathan Courbet will give an update on recent developments in the Linux kernel and Ted Tso will talk about the filing system associated with Linux in its current version, ext4.

A number of sessions will touch on interpersonal relations within the Linux community, a vital underpinning of open-source development and an important difference from proprietary software when it comes to getting support. Matthew Garrett speaks on “Making yourself popular: a guide to social success in (and for) the Linux community”.

There is a mini-conference on “The business of open source”, which Josh Berkus opens in an ironic vein with “10 ways to destroy your community”. Sessions are scheduled under the business heading on everything from managing patents to training and running finances — using open-source software, of course.

On the local front, Don Christie of CatalystIT will update the conference on the NZ Open Source Society’s trial of a free open-source desktop with central and local government agencies. This was started last year (Computerworld, August 24, 2009) against the background of the failure to negotiate an all-of-government, three-year licensing deal, called G2009, for Microsoft software.

The theme of government open source in government will be taken up by former government CIO Laurence Millar, who will speak on “how government procurement can better support open” and will engage in discussion with Stephen Schmid from the office of the chief information officer of Australia and Andrew Stott, director of digital engagement for the UK government, in a mini-conference or “miniconf” on “Open and the Public Sector”.

This and the business session are two of more than a dozen miniconfs held today and tomorrow in preparation for the main conference. Other topics include graphics, parallel computing and multimedia.

Four keynote speakers will be kicking off the morning sessions. Gabriella Coleman, from the department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University said last week her provisional title is: “These are the best of times and these are the worst of times: historical irony and the global politics of intellectual property law.”

Benjamin Mako Hill is a technology and intellectual property researcher, activist and consultant and may also contribute to a strong thread running through the conference on open source’s intellectual-property challenges.

London-based writer and blogger Glyn Moody wrote a history of free software and open source, Rebel Code, published in 2001, and has also written on the genetic code and bioinformatics.

Internationally known technical writer and conference organiser Nathan Torkington will give the fourth keynote.

— Front page picture: Fred Benenson

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