Linux, politics, and other interesting things
LCA 2013  is starting so it seems like time to finish my write-up of LCA 2012.
As usual it was a great conference, although I got sick immediately after getting there which reduced my ability to attend.
A major unofficial theme of the conference was Android. Most delegates seemed to have Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Nexus seemed to be the most popular phones. Many delegates had two or more phones for development purposes. A large portion of the casual conversation at the conference concerned Android.
There were a couple of really interesting talks about the Serval mesh networking project  which involves Android phones running in ad-hoc Wifi mode for long range communication without any official base station. Serval allows transferring messages, pictures, and voice calls. If you need to get longer range you can mount one phone in a convenient place and other phones will decide to use it as a relay – there is no need to have a dedicated relay device (such as a mobile phone tower or Wifi access point). Serval is supposed to work with Wifi access points but due to Java not exposing some networking details to the higher levels of software the code that was available at the time of the conference didn’t support networks other than a /24, which meant that the conference Wifi network didn’t work with Serval. As an aside most people at the conference who installed Serval were using a development version that was newer than the version on the Android market. I can’t remember what the extra features were though.
Serval was designed for emergency situations, it can be installed on phones (and pushed to other phones via Wifi) in the field and allow communications when the infrastructure is broken. Also it’s designed with some aim of circumventing censorship which among other things means that there are no facilities for tracking use. I think it would be really handy to be able to in some way track viewing of or interest in images that are transported via the mesh (maybe by something similar in concept to Google +1). Then in a crowd sourced environment people who take photos would be encouraged in their work by audience appreciation.
One thing that interests me is the possibility of using Serval on a cruise ship. A cruise ship is an environment where mobile phone calls are unreasonably expensive, cabin phones aren’t much use (who pays for a cruise and hangs out in their cabin?), and where there is usually a Wifi network installed. If a ship has a single bridged Wifi network that allows connecting to Wifi before authenticating for Internet access (which is probably the common case) then you could transport VOIP over that network without paying – and without incurring any expense on the cruise company. One of the Serval developers assured me that this should be possible, of course a cruise ship with 3,000 passengers probably doesn’t use a /24 for their Wifi so the current versions of Serval won’t work…
At the “geek my dinner” event (a party where everyone brought $20 of food/drink which was cooked by volunteers) an artist showed me some art work that she created on her Samsung Galaxy Note (which was the biggest phone on sale at the time), it was very impressive. She recommended Picasso Mirror Draw, Sketch Free, Sketch Book Mobile Express, and Freenote as free graphical programs for Android. Samsung has a Noteworthy Project advertising campaign based on the artistic uses of the Galaxy Note which has some good videos of artists .
Chris Neugebauer and Paris Buttfield-Addison gave an informative and amusing talk about Android UI development (this link has the video) . It’s a pity that I missed seeing that one live but fortunately the video is of high quality.
As I’ve become interested in Sociology I couldn’t help but notice the pictures that accompanied the rules about cleaning the dormitory (which were displayed over the kitchen sink), it seems to imply that cleaning is only women’s work. I wonder whether the people who created that poster deliberately chose pictures of women or whether they just chose the first available pictures from a collection of stock photos.
Someone who was near my dorm room seemed to not realise how their alarm impacts other people. For the first two mornings I was woken repeatedly after 6AM by someone who was pressing the snooze button on their alarm. When sleeping in close proximity to other people the reasonable options involve some combination of having no loud alarm, immediately turning the alarm off and getting up (not pressing snooze to have it go off repeatedly), and setting the alarm for a time when almost everyone wants to get up (EG 1 hour before the first session).
Chris Neugebauer organised the Unprofessional Delegates Networking Session which was a great event. It was an event held at the same time as the Professional Delegates Networking Session with the difference being that you had to pay $5 for food and there was no free drink. A lot of great people attended the UPDNS so I’m glad I don’t pay for the PDNS. It seems that we won’t have a UPDNS this year unfortunately.
LCA is always great fun and very educational. I recommend attending every year.