LCA 2009: Thursday (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 22 Jan 2009

LCA 2009: Thursday

The highlight of Thursday morning was a filler: one of the speakers had to cancel, so Paul Fenwick filled in with a combination of two short talks: "The Art of Klingon Programming" and "What's new in Perl 5.10?" I'm not a Perl programmer (at least not when I have a choice) but his talks were entertaining and even educational. What struck me most was that showmanship and humor don't have to detract from technical content. I'd had a discussion the previous day about the balance of offering lots of technical content versus entertaining the audience and not overwhelming them. Most technical talks are either dry, content heavy and so jam packed with information that you can't possibly remember everything, or lighter weight and glitzy but with not much real technical content and a "watered down" feeling. Paul's Klingon talk was one of the most content-full presentations I've seen at a conference, with lots of code examples, yet it kept the audence laughing, listening and grokking (to mix SF metaphors) all the way through. Showmanship can make it easier, not harder, to remember technical content.

In the afternoon, I'd been very much looking forward to the Arduino tutorial (Jonathan Oxer and Hugh Blemings) but it was a bit of a disappointment. The acoustics of the room and the handheld microphone, combined with the interactive nature of the presentation, meant that I could barely understand a word High Blemings said, and only some of what Jon Oxer said. (I've heard Jon Oxer talk before and never had trouble, so I primarily blame the room.)

Partway through, I skipped out to go check Donna Benjamin's "The Joy of Inkscape." It had been moved from its original lecture hall to a much smaller room with tables. The smaller room was Standing Room Only, a raucous and enthusiastic bunch who (the sitting ones, at least) were nearly all tapping away on laptops exploring either the demo Donna was showing or other Inkscape projects.

It was clearly a hugely successful and fun tutorial and I wanted to stay, but I couldn't find a place to sit where I could both see the screen and hear Donna, so I made my way back to Arduino. The second half, when they demoed various interesting sensors and a few unusual Arduino applications, was better than the first. But talking to folks later, a number of us were surprised because we expected a more interactive tutorial (the prep had encouraged us to bring or buy Arduino hardware).

The hot talk of the day was one I missed, after the tea break. I went to a talk on Spring, a robotics library (Clinton Roy), which was interesting enough and certainly popular (lots of people sitting by the door because all the seats were full) but afterward all I heard was people enthusing about Jeff Arnold's amazing Ksplice talk. He demonstrated a system of updating kernels in place, with no reboot required. People couldn't say enough about the talk, and I'm looking forward to downloading the video and seeing what I missed.

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