[Linux-aus] President's Report: October / November 2006

Jonathan Oxer jon at ivt.com.au
Mon Dec 4 09:58:03 UTC 2006

Note: this report is also available online at

Hi LA,

Time for another quick look at the cool things you've all been up to!
Before we get into the regularly scheduled programme, though, a quick
reminder that we're now in the election period for the 2007 Committee:


Prepended-postscript: Each time I start to write one of these
President's Reports I think "not much has happened since the last report
so what am I going to write about?". Then when I look back over the last
couple of months and start collating all the material I'm stunned once
again how active the local FOSS community is and the breadth of
activities that LA is involved in, and it ends up taking about 8 hours
to write the report! I suppose I shouldn't be surprised anymore but it's
still heartwarming to see the sheer scope of the energy and enthusiasm
in the organisation.

= Recent Events
* GPLv3 Forum
There's been controversy surrounding the upcoming version 3 of the Free
Software Foundation's General Public Licence, so the Cyberlaw Centre
organised a forum to allow various luminaries to discuss the issues
publicly and answer questions from interested parties. The Forum was
held in Sydney last Thursday and thanks to a $2000 grant from Linux
Australia there was no charge for attendance. The principle speakers
were Eben Moglen via teleconf and Andrew Tridgell in person, supported
by a panel of experts. I would have loved to attend but unfortunately it
wasn't practical to get up to Sydney for the day so I'll have to settle
for the recording once it becomes available.


* AU-US FTA / DMCA / Copyright Amendment Bill 2006
It's finally happened. The Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 has just been
passed by the Senate, so now all we can do is wait for January 1st (the
dreaded "DMCA-day" for Australia) to arrive. It still has to go back to
the House of Representatives for final approval and any amendments but
we now have a pretty clear picture of how the new laws are going to

With so much backlash and negative publicity the Attorney General's
Department called a public hearing on Tuesday 7 November. Of course the
hearing was called at short notice with little publicity and allocated a
small timeslot, but at least it means they can claim they solicited
public feedback! No, I'm not cynical at all   ;-)

As usual Kim Weatherall has continued to provide excellent commentary on
the whole schemozzle.


* Peoples Choice Community Member Of The Year Award
Congratulations to the nominees for Community Member Of The Year: all
nominees where worthy candidates having made great contributions to the
FOSS community. Special congratulations though to Melissa Draper, this
years winner! Melissa was nominated for her work with the Australian
Ubuntu Loco team as well as her work in promoting Linux and FOSS both
locally and globally.

Melissa receives a free ticket to LCA2007 in Sydney thanks to Team 7 and
up to $1000 from Linux Australia towards travel and accommodation

Thanks also to the judging panel who had the unenviable task of picking
a winner from among the excellent nominations.

* AUUG Annual Conference
The annual Australian Unix User Group conference took place in
mid-October in Melbourne, and Linux Australia was extremely well
represented: a significant proportion of the speakers were LA members. I
did a couple of talks including one on encouraging a return to the
"looking under the hood" roots of computer-related training at school
level in order to build a much stronger and more innovative local ICT
industry by turning out not just technology consumers but also more
people with intimate knowledge of how modern technology works
internally. The talk was later repeated at LUV, and it's a message that
we really need to get out to the broader ICT and education sectors.

The conf was also a particularly special event for me personally because
I won an enormous jar of smarties by (nearly) guessing how many were in
the jar! Oh yeah, and I got a funky Yawarra net4801 / Soekris box to go
with the Smarties.

* October Face-to-face Committee Meeting
If I provided a detailed report on the October Committee meeting in
Melbourne it'd be as long as the rest of this email, so to save a few
electrons from an unnecessary death I'll just reference the agenda and
notes instead. Many of the other topics covered in this report came out
of discussion at the October meeting and no doubt you'll see many more
covered in the coming months as we start to move on some of the
suggestions. I'm very excited about the potential of LA as a mechanism
to provide even more services to the Australian FOSS community so
there's lots to look forward to:

* Talk at MelbPCUG
In November I had the opportunity to do a talk at Melbourne PC User
Group, one of the biggest computer user groups in the world. With more
than 9000 paying members, 4 staff, a permanent office in Chadstone
Shopping Center, a monthly glossy magazine that puts most industry mags
to shame, and monthly meetings attended by hundreds of people in a huge
auditorium at Deakin University it's certainly a very vibrant and
powerful organisation. I was invited to speak about web development
rather than in the context of FOSS and/or Linux Australia, but I'm
angling for an opportunity to go back and present the LA message at a
future meeting and possibly to have FOSS-related content included in
their magazine. I gave away a copy of "Ubuntu Hacks" at the end of the
talk and they seemed very interested so we'll see how it pans out.

= Project Sub-Committees
* linux.conf.au 2007
It's so close now I can taste it! Registrations have already shot past
450 so you'd better register pretty soon to ensure you have a spot. The
extended payment date for Earlybird registrations is only a few days
away now and the payment gateway is fully operational after some initial
teething troubles so if you've already registered but not paid you can
do that now:

The programme has now been published with full details of each session:

The first keynoter has been announced: Andy Tanenbaum, author of Minix,
the original inspiration for the Linux kernel:

The various Miniconfs have also sent out their Call For Papers:

The conference site also has info on the partners program, the Open Day,
and heaps more:

* Education
Nothing to report.

* Advocacy
Nothing to report.

* Media
Nothing to report.

= Administrative Sub-Committees
* Mirror

The mirror team has been so successful collecting content that they've
run out of disk space! The existing mirror has been somewhere in the
region of 98% disk usage for a while now, and being a 1RU pizza-box
machine there's just no physical room to stick more disks in it so we're
playing server-musical-chairs instead.

The machine that was bought to host the lca2006 site has been pretty
much idle since a static snapshot of the site was moved to LA's main
server earlier this year, and it's a roomy 4RU machine with plenty of
space for disks. It's a waste to have it sitting idle so I installed an
extra 2TB of disks in it before Anna Potter very kindly drove it up to
Canberra to become the new mirror.linux.org.au. While Andrew Pollock is
briefly back in AU he and Steven Hanley will do the migration to the new
hardware which in turn will free up the old mirror for other purposes.


* Admin Team

The old lca2006 box needed to be freed up to become the new mirror, but
it was still acting as a DNS server for the "linux.conf.au" domain so
first the domain had to be redelegated. Andrew Pollock took care of
doing the zone updates and in his copious spare time (not!) also did
some maintenance on the access privileges for some of the mailing lists
running at lists.linux.org.au.

* Press
Nothing to report.

= Grants
Grants have been pretty quiet lately, so if you have an idea for a grant
please head on over to the Grants page and submit an application. Surely
we can find some worthy projects to give money to!

* PHP Training Course Project
Robyn Manning submitted a grant application for $900 to assist with
development of a 12 week x 3hrs/week PHP training course including
training materials which will be made available to the FOSS Community
and to do a trial run of the course with 5 students. The grant was
approved and the project should be getting underway any time now.

= Upcoming Events
* Elections
As has been mentioned in a bunch of places we're now in the nomination
period for the 2007 Linux Australia Committee, so if you know of someone
who you would like to see on the Committee please nominate them now:

* Open Source Developers Conference
The third OSDC starts this week in Melbourne. OSDC complements
linux.conf.au very well, providing a focus on scripting languages and a
forum for discussion of use of FOSS tools for proprietary development,
topics which are not normally well represented at LCA. Once again LA
will be very well represented amongst the speakers:

* Speech by Family First in South Australia
Janet Hawtin reported that the Hon Dennis Hood MLC (Family First) will
be making a speech in the SA Parliament about 2.45pm this Wednesday 6/11
at S.A. Parliament encouraging the uptake of Open Source software, and
that Ubuntu CDs will be distributed to at least the Upper House MLCs and
most likely the Lower House members as well. I'm not sure what coverage
of the speech there is likely to be but if you're in Adelaide you may be
able to attend Parliament as a personal observer and hopefully we'll
hear feedback afterwards. A draft of the speech was circulated among
various people for comment and it appears that it will encourage the
uptake of FOSS in schools by restructuring the funding criteria to
better suit FOSS licences, and also the creation of a publicly
accessible facility where people can trial and learn about FOSS. Both of
those are excellent objectives and I hope the speech is well received.

= Miscellaneous
A general note: I'd love to hear about various FOSS projects that Linux
Australia members have been working on. If you've had a significant
milestone please let me know and maybe it'll get a mention in the next

* Janet Hawtin's draft factsheets for FOSS in South Australia
Janet Hawtin has done a sterling job compiling a variety of resource
material for use in promoting FOSS in South Australia, including
information on Software Freedom Day; deployment case studies; documents
about FOSS in relation to government policy, education and innovation;
and introductory flyers. While the material she has compiled is all
SA-specific, I've suggested that Linux Australia could host the
materials and use them as the seed for providing similar material
targeting other states and national interests. For example, her case
study on the Linux Community Network at The Hut Community Centre could
become one of a number of case studies from around Australia.

Janet has done great work and I'd love to see it reach a larger audience
and act as a catalyst for similar efforts in other states.

* Sub-Committee Documentation
As I mentioned in an email to linux-aus recently, something the LA
Committee has tried to do more proactively in recent times is use
Sub-Committees as a way to officially "bless" various groups working on
projects in Linux Australia's name. This gives people working on
specific projects the right to publicly represent Linux Australia and
streamlines processes such as provision of public-liability insurance
and funding. We've been a bit slack about documenting this though so I'm
now trying to bring our organisational documentation up to scratch using
the Wiki. If you're involved in any of the Sub-Committees mentioned
above please help me out by filling in any of the blanks related to your
particular Sub-Committee:

* Web Team Sub-Committee
We're just in the process of formally creating the Web Team
Sub-Committee to kick (err, "carefully mould"!) the LA website into
shape and keep it updated as an ongoing effort so if you're interested
in helping out with the public face of LA please feel free to join in
the fun:

* Leon Brooks continues his recovery
LA Committee member Leon Brooks continues his recovery after a terrible
bicycle-meets-car accident early this year. The latest news is that his
cranioplasty is going well and he's almost certainly going to make it to
LCA this year: a truly incredible recovery from massive injuries and I'm
really looking forward to seeing his smiling face again. More details
are in his blog, but don't click the link below if you don't want to see
a picture of a head stapled closed!

* LUG reps joining Committee teleconf
Linux Users Victoria President Andrew Chalmers joined the Committee on
our weekly teleconf a few weeks ago, and it was a really useful
conversation. LA is following the "upside down umbrella" model as a
support mechanism for LUGs (among other things) but something I've been
discovering recently is that a remarkable number of LUG members have no
idea what LA is about or what it does. Inviting LUG organisers onto the
committee teleconf was a very cool idea that came out of our last
face-to-face meeting in Melbourne. I can't remember who suggested it,
but whoever it was - thanks! The plan is to regularly invite LUG
organisers onto the teleconf to find out how the LUG is going and what
LA could do to support them.

One of the things that came out of our conversation with Andrew was that
I offered to go along to LUV and do a "Meet Linux Australia" talk, so if
that works out well it could be worth doing a bit of an LA Roadshow
around the various LUGs with local Committee members presenting at LUGs
in their region.

So if you're involved in organising a LUG and would like to have a chat
to the LA committee on our teleconf or have your nearest committee
member come along and speak at your LUG please drop the Committee an
committee at linux.org.au

* LUG Organiser Communications
Also in LA's role as an inter-LUG communications facilitator (oops!
buzzword alert) we're looking at other ways to help LUG organisers pool
resources and reduce duplicated effort, including encouraging the use of
the existing LUG-organisers mailing list; a regular face-to-face meeting
of LUG organisers (most likely as part of LCA); access to teleconf or
other facilities for regular discussion; and some sort of mechanism to
allow sharing of speakers among LUGs.

This is an area that I personally feel needs a lot of attention. A large
part of LA's mission is to help LUGs help their local FOSS community and
we're really not doing that as well as we could. Some great ideas have
been raised though and hopefully we'll lift our game over the next few
months with LCA as a focal point for improving communication and

That's it for now! Did I miss anything? If so, please let me know.

Rock on Linux Australia :-)

Jonathan Oxer
Linux Australia

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