One day at Ubuntu Down Under

Ubuntu Down Under (UDU) was the third Ubuntu conference and was held in Sydney, Australia. The first was held in Oxford, United Kingdom and the second one in Barcelona, Spain. The conference went for a whole week, starting on Monday 25th of April.This date turned out to be a good choice (for me anyway) since that Monday was ANZAC day, a national holiday. This meant that I had to push my way through crowds of spectators watching the ANZAC day parade on my to the conference, but it also meant that since I didn’t have to work, I was able to go in the first place. Having found the hotel where the conference was held (in a very fancy suburb), the place looked quite welcoming. In the reception area of the hotel, a pole was put up with colorful signs pointing the way of the Canonical conference rooms. The first room I entered was the install fest room, which had been organised by SLUG (Sydney Linux User Group). There was only a handful of people there getting Ubuntu Hoary installed. I had a chance to get a pressed Hoary CD, since they had boxes full of them standing around. One fellow started installing Ubuntu on his Apple laptop which must have been quite dated because when I came back to the install fest hours later, the installation still wasn’t done.

I went on to check out the other rooms. Unfortunately there was no schedule of talks and BOFs to be found in the hotel so I had to ask one of the SLUG guys to look up the schedule on the UBU wiki through the wireless access point, which they had set up. Each room pretty much looked the same: many small tables with developers huddled around them and a few white boards to put down important points. There were free snacks and soft drinks available, so I grabbed a lemonade and sat down at one of the tables with all the Ubuntu developers. Many of them were pretty big guys wearing geeky t-shirts promoting Debian, Python or encrypted emails.

They all had laptops. I don’t know what they used them for (besides to update the UBU wiki), but it definitely looked very good. The majority of the German KDE hackers had brought their white Apple ibooks. But of course their operating system wasn’t named after big catlike predators but rather had a penguin as its logo.

A lot of the BOFs started of with “Feature x does not work properly / at all in Hoary, what can we do about it?”. For example, there was the issue of video playback. Within in 15 minutes the Canonical employees had identified the problem, proposed possible solutions and assigned work to developers (which happened rather dictatorial). In this case Sebastian Bacher got the job of trying to integrate Xine with Ubuntu. Another topic was blue tooth support. Matthew Garret had noticed that currently under Ubuntu it is possible to list all blue tooth devices in the area, but he said that he also wanted to do useful stuff with those devices. For that purpose Windows was booted up from Matthew’s laptop (just to see what the competitor has to offer). Right at that moment Mark Shuttleworth came over to tell the teams to make sure they sum up each BOF with a list of points to work on. When Mark noticed that Windows was running on Matthew Garret’s laptop he got slightly upset (who wouldn’t if one spends millions of dollars (assumption) in the development of an alternative operating system, just to find one’s employees to be playing around with the competitor’s product) and made a gesture as if he was feeling sick and wanted to puke, which made the whole team laugh.

The team borrowed a blue tooth mouse from one of the KDE guys to see how it would work under Windows. The mouse worked fine, besides all those hackers had heaps of problems trying to figure out which buttons to press (and in what order) to turn the mouse on and off. The Windows experience ended with a “Windows is not really good a operating system.” by Matthew Garret.
At the end of the day UBU was a good experience, but I did feel very uncomfortable among all those developers, since there were hardly any (maybe 2-3) other non-developers there. On the wiki it said that everyone was welcome to attend, but the conference wasn’t set out that way. It was merely a bunch of hackers sitting together and more informally then formally discussing what they should do for the next release of Ubuntu: Breezy Badger (due for release in October this year). And from having met the people who work on this release, I think it’s going to be a good one.

About the author:
Michael Sacher currently studies,lives and works in Sydney, Australia. His homepage is here.

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