Linux, politics, and other interesting things
Last year at LCA Crispin Cowan suggested to me that I make a joint offer of a combined tutorial on SE Linux and AppArmor as a way of publicly comparing the two technologies. I ended up not accepting the challenge, among other things I had a long-term project going in production in early December that needed some ongoing support.
Crispin’s plan B was to just give a lecture about AppArmor. Recently Crispin joined Microsoft  and John Johansen of Suse was going to give the talk in his place. The LCA people made a minor mistake by having the conference web site give the description of the tutorial option  (which I don’t believe was ever going to happen as I had not accepted the offer), but it’s easy to understand the webmaster copying the wrong description when the one person makes two offers (which I believe is not a common practice).
So this morning I and about 150 other people were waiting in the main lecture theatre and no-one from Suse turned up.
Being fairly audacious when the announcement was made that the event was officially cancelled I stood up and asked if anyone would like an impromptu talk about SE Linux instead. The audience received that idea quite well.
My talk wasn’t as good as I had hoped, not having had a proper breakfast or any caffeinated drinks reduced my mental stack space. So I could talk well on one topic but when questions diverted me to a side topic I found it difficult to remember the previous point I was making. Fortunately when giving an impromptu talk with no notes or presentation materials the audience expectations for a consistent plan of the talk seem reasonably low. ;)
I started by talking about my SE Linux Play Machines. Some of that material had been covered in previous talks at other conferences (such as at a previous SE Linux Symposium), but some things (such as my use of Xen) I had not previously covered, but none of it had been mentioned in a talk in Australia for a while. Having given an hour-long talk about SE linux yesterday to an audience with many of the same members I wanted to start by talking about something that they hadn’t heard before, and I was also wearing a Play Machine T-shirt (with the root password printed on it) . After I finished talking about my Play Machines and started covering some of the same material as yesterday about a quarter of the audience left (which was fair enough).
I then spoke about general SE Linux issues, largely in response to questions. I covered the differences between the policies (including the history of policy development), the JFFS2 XATTR development (and how SE Linux couldn’t be used on an iPaQ without it), issues of disk space usage for XATTRs for SE Linux labelling on various filesystems and how it drives the use of context mount options, poly-instantiated directories (including some discussion on how the actual storage location for such directories can be on a different filesystem and how this could be convenient when using encrypted filesystems), how Apache/PHP work in a SE Linux environment, and a lot more.
I couldn’t resist mentioning to the audience the irony that I had declined a challenge for a joint presentation and then got a sole presenter spot (and a large audience) due to the Suse guy not showing up.
For future situations I plan to load lecture notes from all my common talks on my iPaQ. Then next time I have such a speaking opportunity I can give a better prepared talk.
Update: It turned out that the LCA people had been informed that the Suse talk was cancelled and had made a mistake, see this link for details.