[Linux-aus] Linux Australia President's update

Jonathan Oxer president at linux.org.au
Thu Apr 28 09:34:02 UTC 2005

Hello World,

When the new Committee had our first face-to-face meeting in Sydney in
February we resolved to make some procedural changes that would make the
operation of the organisation more transparent. I hoped that with those
changes it wouldn't be necessary to do regular "From The President"
updates since everyone would know what was going on already, but talking
to a bunch of people at LCA has shown that many of the things LA does
are still rather behind-the-scenes so I thought I'd take this
opportunity to do a brief status report. I know that personally I had no
idea of the true extent of LA activity until I joined the Committee, and
I suspect many other members aren't aware of many of these initiatives

Turns out the list of things LA is involved with is quite long (grab
yourself a coffee and a biscuit, you'll need it!) so I'll just touch on
each item briefly. People involved with each specific item should feel
free to elaborate, and if you're at all interested in any of these areas
please say so.

linux.conf.au 2005
As expected, LCA totally rocked! Steven Hanley and his team pulled off
an awesome conference that fully lived up to the expectations built up
by previous years. They maintained the high standard in relation to top
notch speakers and threw in a couple of fantastic twists, including a
1GB memory stick given away in every session, an IBM X40 laptop given
away each day, hot-air balloon flights for any speakers who felt so
inclined, video recording and streaming from all sessions, and a very
well run wireless network that covered the entire venue. The showbags
were packed with more schwag than anyone expected and generally a great
time was had by all.

Rusty did his traditional and very entertaining T-shirt auction at the
conference dinner with over $2000 raised for Sids And Kids, and was
himself made the inaugural winner of the annual "Rusty Wrench" award,
dreamed up by Jeff Waugh to honour those who make outstanding
contributions to the FOSS community. Eben Moglen received a standing
ovation for his "footnote" presentation on intellectual property, Tridge
demonstrated how to implement a BitKeeper client in a single line of
shell without any prior knowledge of the protocol, Mark Shuttleworth
made us all jealous with tales of his trip to the space station, and
Rasmus worked tirelessly to deliver an entire day of PHP wisdom before
easily winning a beer-chugging competition (much to jdub's amusement,
who commented "ah, *now* I understand PHP!").

I'd like to publicly thank Steven and the rest of his team
(lca2005.linux.org.au/people.php) for all the time and effort they put
in over the last 14+ months to deliver such a great conference

I could write a whole report just on LCA, but there has been plenty of
coverage in the media already so I won't go on now. Feedback and
comments from those who attended is welcome: please share photo gallery
URLs and stories with the list, or you can direct specific feedback to
feedback at lca2005.linux.org.au.

linux.conf.au 2006
Mike Beattie is the man with the mission, and he's working hard to get
everything ready for LCA in Dunedin next year. He's rounded up a bunch
of volunteers and booked the venue, and next month representatives of LA
and several previous LCAs will meet his team in Dunedin for the annual
Ghosts Of Conferences Past session where he'll learn the painful reality
of the hot water he's got himself into  ;-)

There's not much up yet, but keep an eye on lca2006.linux.org.au to see
how things are coming along. Personally I'm itching to get there and
with LCA being held later than usual this year we now have an unusually
short gap until Dunedin. January 2006 is not that far away, so I hope
you've got your skates on Mike!

Community Code
Community Code is an initiative to allow those receiving Newstart
unemployment benefits to work on FOSS projects and have the time they
spend counted toward their Mutual Obligation benefit, while also
building up experience and references that can be used when applying for

Matthew Palmer did a well-received lightning talk at LCA explaining what
it's all about, with his talk receiving media coverage in The Australian
and other places. A very motivated team of FOSS developers has been
working to put the scheme into place for a little while but in order to
fulfil the requirements of the Federal "Community Work" placements for
the Newstart allowance it needed a legal identity and insurance cover.
Linux Australia is providing that structure with the Community Code
group forming a sub-committee under LA, allowing them to make use of our
insurance cover and other benefits.

It's early days yet but this looks like a great scheme and I'm really
excited to see where it goes. Check out www.communitycode.org for more

Grant Scheme
The LA Grant Scheme has been around for a while now but it's been fairly
inefficient so far in giving away money. The concept of the scheme is
for LA to provide funding for specific projects related to furthering
the interests of the local FOSS community. That sounds fine in theory,
but in practice it's remarkably hard to decide who is a worthy recipient
of the funds and at what level to set the requirements.

In our current budget we have $2000 / month allocated to the Grant
Scheme but we've fallen way short of disbursing the budgeted amount. I
feel this is a scheme which has fantastic potential but at the moment is
not being utilised as well as it could be, and perhaps we need to open
up discussion about what the scheme is intended to achieve and what the
guidelines should be for acceptable recipients. More info can be found
at www.linux.org.au/projects/grants and if you know of a cause that
could benefit from LA funding please speak up.

Planet Linux Australia
linux.conf.au 2004 head honcho and past LA Committee member Michael
Davies recently put together a Planet blog aggregator which includes
feeds from many Australian FOSS developers, and it's a great way to keep
track of what's going on in the local developer community. If you want
to know what people are up to I highly recommend you head on over to
http://planet.linux.org.au and take a look.

Open Source Forums
LA Vice-President Pia Waugh (congrats on the wedding Pia and Jeff!) has
been busily rounding up speakers and delegates for a series of very
successful Open Source Forums which focus on specific topics of interest
to the business community.

The first forum examined the issue of software patents, and was followed
up by a forum regarding Linux on the desktop. Pia is very enthusiastic
(is she ever anything else?) about continuing the forums with other
topics such as open-source business methods. If you'd like to see an
Open Source Forum come to your city make sure you get in touch with Pia
(pia at linux.org.au) and check the project status at

The Open Source Forums are a great way for LA to make contact with
businesses and make them aware of the issues that face the FOSS

"Free" Trade Agreement
Oh my, where to begin with this one? Rusty Russell has put in a huge
amount of work wading through the changes wrought by the AU-US FTA, and
has spent more time learning lawyer-speak than any self-respecting
programmer should have to. However, this is an issue that won't just go
away if we stick our heads in the sand so it's critical that we
understand how it will impact our community and what, if anything, we
can do about it.

As FOSS developers we should already be well attuned to the importance
of personal freedom, and legal changes that threaten to reduce our
freedom to develop software should be recognised as a challenge to the
very basis of our community. This is an area which I personally know far
less about than I should and I'm sure many other developers feel
overwhelmed by it as well. LA has an information page at
www.linux.org.au/projects/fta/ which provides a good introduction to the
issues and includes a number of suggestions for specific things you can
do to help fight for your freedom.

This is an area which really gets under my skin. The idea that I could
be legally prevented from sitting down at my computer and writing
whatever code comes into my head seems to me very much like an erosion
of the right to free speech. If I'm not copying someone else's code or
writing software to do something illegal, why should I be stopped from
writing it? Why should I have to spend thousands of dollars to do a
patent search to find out if I'm even allowed to write a piece of code?
Rather than foster innovation as they were intended to do, patents are
having the opposite effect within the software industry and are
crippling our ability to be creative.

Software patents and associated IP nastiness is very bad news for the
entire software industry, and I strongly encourage you to learn more
about the issues and get involved in the ways suggested on the
information page.

Media Training
As FOSS moves further into the mainstream the development community is
coming under more media scrutiny than ever. To help high-profile members
of our community do a good job of representing us to the press LA has
funded a couple of media training courses for a number of interested
people including LCA organisers, some LA committee members, and various
FOSS developers. The latest training day was run last Wednesday during
LCA and was a great success.

We're now considering running more media training courses to allow other
FOSS developers to take part, and are also considering running advocacy
courses as well. If you're interested in taking part in a future media
training or advocacy course please start jumping up and down now. Oh,
and maybe send an email to the list as well  ;-)

AGM [!]Success
I don't want to go into this in detail right now, but something we need
to do some work on in coming months is an examination of the election
process that was followed at the last AGM. The objective of moving to an
online process was to allow greater community participation but due to a
couple of teething problems such as lack of a reminder at the start of
the voting period there were very few votes cast.

My personal feeling is that we should continue with an online election
process after making some procedural changes to ensure everyone is
clearly informed each step of the way, and there were some good
suggestions made at LCA about ways to get the best of both approaches:
the personal contact possible through having the AGM and election at
LCA, combined with the accessibility of an online election process. I'll
seek feedback on this in the coming months but it's not a burning issue
right at this moment. Getting it sorted out before the next AGM is
important, but we've got a lot of time left yet and other burning issues
to concentrate on.

State Reps
Each state has been assigned an LA Committee member who is responsible
for maintaining contact with LUGS and representing them to the rest of
the Committee. Since there was a bit of doubling-up of locations the
assignments don't all follow the state of origin of each member. Details
of the state-reps program are on the LA website at
www.linux.org.au/australia/lug-comms.php but the names are out of date
so if someone with sufficient access (ie: not me!) to make changes to
the site could make the necessary changes to the list I'd appreciate it.

Donation Processing
Mark Tearle and Anthony Towns have been working on a project to allow LA
to accept donations on behalf of Australian FOSS projects and
developers. LA is already holding funds on behalf of Debian and Samba,
and many FOSS projects have no legal structure within Australia or the
facilities to accept donations online so Mark and Anthony have put in
place a system to allow LA to accept donations on their behalf and
disburse the funds as the project directs. The system is still in early
stages but if you are interested in having LA accept donations on behalf
of your project please check out the details at

At LCA this year we had the honour of a visit from Mark Miller of Linux
Professional Institute. LPI is a community-driven organisation that
provides multi-level professional certification for Linux developers and
sysadmins worldwide, and LA has partnered with LPI as their local
representative. Last year LA paid for a number of Aussies to be
certified as proctors, allowing them to oversee the testing process and
making LPI exams more easily accessible to local developers and

As Linux moves further into the mainstream we are going to see increased
demand for certified practitioners as organisations look to hire Linux
experts. No matter what the sceptical among us may think of the ability
of certification to demonstrate actual skill or knowledge, the reality
is that certification is relied on very heavily by recruitment agencies
and non-technical employers since they have no other way to separate the
real experts from the wannabees. Having some form of Linux certification
will become increasingly important in coming years and from what I've
seen the LPI examination process is very well done, providing a real
test of ability rather than just a rubber-stamp approval of memorised
answers like some other certifications. The examination content has been
developed in collaboration with the FOSS community and is a real test
even for experienced sysadmins. A large part of the reason for Mark's
visit was to recruit local developers interested in providing input into
the next round of revisions of the examination material, making sure the
exams really do accurately represent what the community thinks should be

You can find out more about LPI at www.lpi.org, and if you're interested
in taking an exam, becoming a proctor, or just finding out more about it
please make yourself heard.

Task Tracker
The Linux Australia task tracker has been running for a little while now
at www.linux.org.au/tasks. There are categories for a bunch of things
such as Grant Proposals, LCA2006, LPI Certification, and Accounts, so
it's a great way to see what things the organisation is up to. As we go
on more issues will be added to the task tracker and it will start to
provide a more comprehensive overview of LA operations. The system
allows users to attach comments to specific tasks so please register
yourself and get involved if there's anything there that grabs your

There are other topics I could talk about as well but I think I need to
rest my fingers for a while! If any of the topics above has caught your
attention *please* say so on the list. I'd love to see this update spark
discussions about every single topic I've raised, and if there are any
other areas you think LA should become involved in I'd welcome your
input on that as well.

Cheers   :-)

Jonathan Oxer
Linux Australia

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