Fueling the Future

Fueling the Future

Article from Issue 158/2014

LinuxCon Europe – one of the best GNU/Linux events of 2013.

The European leg of LinuxCon [1] took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, October 21-23, 2013. On offer was probably one of the best GNU/Linux international events of 2013. The keynote speeches and presentations were certainly some of the best that I have seen in the 13 years that I've been traveling around the international conference circuit. What follows is just a short report. For more information, check out the various YouTube videos [2], the pictures associated with Twitter under the hashtag #linuxcon, and Facebook.

Keynote Speeches

On Monday morning, the proceedings were slowed by a 30-minute delay, but the speakers and attendees quickly made up for this with the usual show of speed and adaptability for which GNU/Linux developers are known. The opening speech given by Jim Zemlin was a rousing call to arms for the informed and present GNU/Linux supporters. Zemlin gave a factual telling of how Linux now runs on most mobile devices out there and runs the Internet. The International Space Station runs GNU/Linux, and even the US Navy's newest warship, USS Zumwalt, is powered by GNU/Linux [3]. Everything is penguinized. We won! The audience gave a loud round of applause at the end of his speech. After Jim managed to pull himself out of the baying crowd, he introduced Mark Hinkle, who is Director of Community for Citrix. His talk, which was called "We Won. What's Next?" also went down well with the audience.

Then came the knockout blow. Some readers may have already grasped that web applications like Twitter and Facebook, used the right way, can be a superb marketing tool for your business and might even help your daily life along a bit. Thus, it's no surprise that Twitter has decided to enter the world of open source developers. At about 11am, Chris Aniszczyk, Head of Open Source at Twitter, presented his version of "The Twitter Stack." It was a well-informed presentation of how the past and future of Twitter has changed thanks to open source software developers. Twitter started on a monolithic architecture and moved to a service-oriented one relying on open source software. Chris's slides for this lecture are on SlideShare [4].

On Tuesday morning, we had the customary Scottish autumn welcome to the day. Bright and breezy with a few showers and some great views of Calton Hill and Edinburgh Castle in the distance.

At 9:30am, Mac Devine, who is the Director of CloudFirst Innovation and Chief Technical Officer for IBM Cloud Services, presented "Gain the Competitive Edge with Next Generation Cloud Platforms." He has 24 years of experience with networking and virtualization. Mac, if you have ever seen him, is someone who can only talk and move at twice the normal speed of the average person. He can make a Hollywood tap dancer look like a bumbling gardener. He described how he realized that social networking and cloud were the future and that you just have to get up there and do it. In a changing world, you can't sit around for long. At one point, Mac said, "Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Just be afraid of not learning from them."

Next up was a keynote panel: "All about Next Generation Cloud Platforms." It was moderated by Mac Devine; Duncan Johnston-Watt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer for CloudSoft; Steve Chambers, Chief Technical Officer at Canopy Cloud; and Rich Miller, CEO of Telematica Inc. This session took up where Mac left off, in that the panel nailed down the key requirements of next-generation cloud platforms and how they are radically starting to change the cloud computing landscape.

Then, Yannick Pellet, Vice President of the Advanced Software Platform for Samsung Research America, presented "Fueling Samsung R&D Innovation with Collaborative Open Source Development." Yannick is the person who advises the rest of Samsung about open source strategy and development. His talk gave a fascinating insight into the workings of Samsung and their interest in open source software.

After the day's presentations, many attendees wandered over to the Ghillie Dhu pub at the other end of Princes Street [5]. The food and drinks there were included in the cost of registration. This social event provided a great night out and a chance to relax.

Wednesday dawned, and people were still holding their heads from the raging party the night before. Some coffee helped, and attendees were back in the Pentland lecture theatre for the final day of the conference. This was the one that everyone was waiting for. The opening keynote presentation was "Where Are We Going?" Dirk Hohndel, Chief Linux and Open Source Technologist for Intel, and Linus Torvalds, who wrote the GNU/Linux kernel and is a Fellow of the Linux Foundation, sat down for a question and answer session [6] [7]. Those who have seen this talk before are familiar with the sometimes serious and sometimes funny parts of the inside workings of the GNU/Linux project. There was much applause from the crowd at the end of the presentation.

Next up was Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer for F-Secure. His talk was about "Living in a Surveillance State" [8]. The recent revelations about the NSA were discussed at some length here – not something for the faint-hearted. In a surveillance state, everyone is thought to be guilty. What does this mean today, and is there anything we can do about it?

Other Presentations

The conference itself took place on many floors of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. It was well thought out and offered something for everyone – not just cloud or virtualization. As at most conferences, there is too much information for any one person to take in. Out of the whole, I will quickly mention:

  • "Introduction to Tizen & Architecture" by Yoonsoo Kim, who works for Samsung.
  • "New Technologies HTML5" with Hisashi Hashimoto from Hitachi.
  • "Everything I Know About the Cloud, I Learned from Game of Thrones" with Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier, who works for Red Hat.
  • "LibreOffice on Linux" by Michael Meeks, with Collabora. It's well worth going to any presentation by Michael.
  • "GlusterFS Architecture and Roadmap" with Vijay Bellur from Red Hat.
  • "Raspberry Pi – Getting Started and Creative Applications" with Ruth Suehle, who works for Red Hat.
  • "World of Tanks: Linux and Open Source Inside" with Maksim Melnikau of Wargaming.net.
  • "The Kernel Report" by Jonathan Corbet from LWN.net was probably one of the better presentations of the week.
  • "Conducting Defensive Information Warfare on Open Platforms" by Ben Tullis was definitely well worth attending.

Wednesday night saw attendees put onto coaches and driven round the corner to the National Museum of Scotland. Why would anyone want to go to such a dusty place for a night out? The answer is for tasting scotch, for food, and for the mobile casino that had been brought in from Glasgow. The closing few minutes of the evening saw a complete pipe band assemble and play us out of the room: a wonderful example of Scottish hospitality at its best. Everyone was impressed, and it made a fine end to the week's proceedings. Absolutely amazing conference and a wonderful end to such a great show.


LinuxCon was billed as "The only event in Europe covering all matters Linux – offering collaboration and education for everyone in the ecosystem from developers and maintainers to sys admins and architects to business executives and community members." Whether this was a correct description or not, the organizers put a great deal of work into presenting a fine and well-organized conference. Hope to see you there next year.


  1. LinuxCon: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/linuxcon-europe
  2. Search YouTube for LinuxCon Europe 2013 – Linux Trivia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOKAe8IO4OE
  3. The Navy's newest warship: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/10/the-navys-newest-warship-is-powered-by-linux/
  4. Evolution of the Twitter Stack: http://www.slideshare.net/caniszczyk/twitter-opensourcestacklinuxcon2013
  5. Ghillie Dhu: http://www.ghillie-dhu.co.uk
  6. Linus Torvalds Interviewed on Stage at LinuxCon: http://youtu.be/jjRAKuis7T8
  7. Kernel developer panel: http://youtu.be/VDsHxJjvKSk
  8. "Living in a Surveillance State" by Mikko Hyppönen: http://youtu.be/lHj7jgQpnBM

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