AlexJ's Computer Science Journal

LinuxCon Europe 2015 – On stage (part 2)

[Article is part of the series on LinuxCon Europe 2015]

The evening of the first days contained another set of keynotes. They started with the Kernel Developer Panel. Aside from the chat with Linus, this is the most interesting part of the LinuxCon, in my opinion. The panel is formed of a couple of kernel maintainers, with Greg Kroah-Hartman the most known and the usual presence. It was rather short for the potential it had and covering questions from the conference attendees.

The first question was if the kernel still needs more developers and the clear answer was “YES!”. Linux is the biggest collaborative project in the world, but it still needs people to keep it going. As a reply-question, one of the panelist raised the question if the current structure can manage more and more developers. The consensus was that even though it’s not a big problem now, it could use some improvement with focus on better communication.

Expanding on that, does the Linux kernel need more maintainers? This question sounded familiar, since I’ve heard it before at the Kernel Panel at LinuxCon 2013 in Edinbough. Maintainers are needed and they are hard to get. They represent an important role in the kernel’s development and it’s not the most glamorous job. Maintainers not only require the dev skills and the knowledge for that specific subsystem but they also need to read a lot of emails, give feedback and actually merge patches. Again, communication is a keyword and everyone agrees that more needs to be done to attract people to this position. There was the question if some subsystems have maintainers that don’t want to pass responsibility to other (new) people even if they can’t keep up themselves. But it looks like most of the times this is not the case since it’s generally accepted that people understand the peer-to-peer relation within the project and that it is a meritocracy so if people prove themselves worthy, they can become maintainers if they want.

Another topic is testing and continuous integration within the Linux kernel. Greg was optimistic about it, and said things are pretty ok. It’s not an easy task, but several automation tools have been put in place to help things out. Tools like Coccinelle (since Julia Lawall, the developer of it was on the panel) was given as an example of things that make patches more reliable to merge.

Following the Kernel Panel, a representative from SuSe came on stage for a presentation about DevOps. DevOps is another of those buzzwords that you’ve been hearing lately. Most wrongly consider it being a position which implies someone that does both the job of a Developer and the jobs of a Sysadmin. In fact, DevOps is more of a workflow in which both Developers and Sysadmins are aware of the other one’s needs and expectations. This presentation focused on the idea of taking DevOps in a multi-vendor environments and sharing the DevOps workflow across companies. Not an easy task and maybe not something you would want to do, but the guys from SuSe told the story how they do it, with the help of a tool called OpenQA.

The final presentation of the day was about patents. The CEO of Open Invention Network (with whom I talked earlier in the day at the OIN booth) came to talk about what his organization has been doing for the last 10 years. They deal with something geeks don’t really like interacting with: legal stuff. OIN has been working with companies like Google, Red Hat and SuSe (who are also the sponsors) to create shareable pool of patents which involves Open Source technologies. Yes, most of us don’t like patents but they do exist and they’ll be around for a while. Someone needs to take care of the dirty work and both buy needed patents and defend against patent trolls.

The first day was rather packed with interesting things to do and see. It ended with Jim toasting a pint of Guinness with the guy from OIN, after which were were all treated to one in the lobby.

Coming up, the chat with Linus and a day about containers.


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