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Ottawa Linux Symposium, 26-29 Jul 2001

OLS 2001, Wed

For the Ottawa Linux Symposium 2001, Ratz and Joe again stayed at the one time Ottawa jail, (now the Ottawa International Hostel, or as they used to be known, Youth Hostel). We found the cost ($20/night) and the decore (open barred cell doors, stone walls, 6 bunks/cell) more to our style than the local hotels (at $120/night). The front door has a set of buttons to get in after hours - the staff stamps your receipt with the code as you leave in the morning, and the code changes every day.

the corridor outside our cell, random inmate on the left, Joe relaxing in the chair. Here's the corridor outside our cell, with a random inmate on the left and Joe relaxing in the chair. Note the solid walls and strong doors - they just don't make them like that anymore. There's none of the sheet rock wall and plywood door nonsense that you'll find in the $120 hotels. Note the aliasing on the heater bars on the floor at the left.

Joe's and Ratz's bunks at the Youth Hostel Come inside, check out the accomodations. Bring a lock for your locker (under the bottom bed).

Ratz's bunk at the Youth Hostel Ratz even gets extra head room at no additional charge.

Joe holding Policy Routing book in front of the Ottawa Jail Here's Joe at the front of the Ottawa International Hostel. Ratz had brought with him the book on iproute2, "Policy Routing Using Linux" by Marsh (Sams, 2001, ISBN 0-672-32052-5), which I didn't even know existed. Previously Julian seemed to be the only one on the LVS mailing list that understood it all. Get your copy now (for more info, see the HOWTO).

Joe and Ratz discuss policy routing.

We found Lars the first morning. Horms has proved more elusive, and we didn't even see Horms at the free beer bash on the 2nd evening. We've exchanged e-mail so he knows we're looking for him. He's time shifted by 14hrs, having just arrived from Australia. This should put a nocturnal hacker in perfect sync for a day conference, so the absence of Horms is unexplained. He may be replying to e-mail from Sydney for all we know.

Not deterred by missing people, Joe (left) and Ratz (right), right away headed for the Byward Market to discuss the "ip" tools.

Real beer at last. Stuff you don't see south of the border. (When I got back, I tried special ordering it, but they don't ship it south of the border. What ever happened to NAFTA? They can't withhold the stuff from us. The US should invade Canada.)

Joe, Chantelle and Ratz

Our lively discussion soon had other people interested and we were quickly joined by Chantelle, who wouldn't believe that people like us would choose to stay in a jail, till Ratz showed her his Hostel ticket with the after-hours keycode.

The best talk of Wed was given in understated style by Jeff Dike of User mode linux (UML). Jeff Dike must be the Steve Wright (the comedian) of Linux. This is a kernel run as an application under another kernel (eg Linux or even windows). You can boot mutliple user kernels, each has its own virtual NICs etc and you should be able to test all your routing and LVS setup with multiple virtual machines all running as jobs on one machine. In the near future Jeff expects to be able to create virtual CPU's so you could test your code on a virtual 64 CPU SMP linux box on your laptop. The performance will be terrible of course, but you can test that it works. I also like the UML logo.

The evening's talk at the beer bash was given by Hugh Daniels, a politically active Linuxer, who leads (among other things), the IPSec FreeSWAN project. Hugh talked about the Russian coder, Dmitry Sklyarov, who has been detained without bail, in an unknown location, for coding something that is legal to do in his country and which allows people to exercise their rights under US Copyright law.

Hugh also took the Linux coding community to task for writing code that no-one can use. (e.g. clearly LVS can't be setup by the average person). Hugh's point was that the code isn't finished till anyone can use it and anyone can understand the docs. Until then Windows will dominate the market.

Other speakers during the day (eg Alan Robertson of the Linux-HA project) also addressed other manifestations of this problem - e.g. that commercial people are sick of porting to the ever changing Linux APIs. How many of us are looking forward to rewriting our working ipchains firewall rules for iptables, no matter how much better iptables is than ipchains? How many of our employers are looking forward to paying for the rewrite?

OLS 2001, Thurs

Horms We found Horms. He appeared 5 minutes before his afternoon talk on supersparrow. Horms had already time shifted and was living his normal schedule - he just isn't normally up this early. This is what a person who stays at $120/night hotels looks like.

Here's the LVS people at the conference after Horms' talk - (L-R) Ratz, Lars, Horms, Joe.

No, Lars is not standing on a chair, he really is that tall. (I think he's a center in the SuSE basketball team).

With Horms was Drew Streib (who I know from the beowulf mailing list), recently ex-VA Linux, and now working for the Free Standards Group. The FSG decide whether grep lives in /bin, /usr/bin or /usr/local/bin. I've been wanting to know why configure scripts put everything in /usr/local/bin now and all my upgraded utilities, which used to live in /bin and /usr/bin, now can't be found by any of my scripts. Drew explained that any 3rd party code (which turns out to be code installed on top of the distribution by people such as yourself), goes in /usr/local/bin (or /opt/provider_name etc). If I want grep to go in /usr/bin, then I have to put it there myself. (I thought I was being a nice guy by following the recommendations of configure).

Drew was one of the people who started sourceforge, runs and personally funds a free indexing service and works closely with the EFF (which I find is in San Francisco and is separate from, but works closely with the FSF, which is in Boston). The FSF is Richard Stallman's group of software people. The EFF is a group of lawyers under John Gillmore interested in preserving your FSF rights.

I award Drew an honorary membership of the LVS community for his work with the FSG and EFF and also for his relentless determination to party. I usually get up about 4am and so am not used to the party lifestyle, but clearly Drew is. Last night he guided Ratz, Horms and myself through dinner and then to the bars in the Byward district in downtown Ottawa. At dinner Drew asked the waitress for recommendations for a place to have some fun. There we were, admittedly dressed a little strangley for some guys off to have fun (I was wearing shorts and because it was unexpectedly cold had underneath, long blue running tights covering my legs), clearly a bunch of wild and crazy guys. She looked at us, thought a minute and sent us off to what turned out to be a a gay bar. Drew chatted with a pair of females, while Horms and I discussed our high school experiences growing up in Australia. Fairly soon, Drew wanted to move on, so we set off for more fun. I know I get up pretty early, but I was amazed, wandering around at 11:30pm (4.5hrs before I get up) to see the number of people out and about. Canadians must get up really early. I was pretty much partied out by then and went back to the jail for the evening, while the other 3 guys headed off for even more fun than I could handle.

OLS 2001, Friday

helical footbridge Here's something I liked - a helical footbridge. I was perplexed. The steps are cantilevered from a central pole and I had a hard time calculating the load bearing moment as a function of step number. (I still don't have an answer I'm happy with.)

On the right across the road is the conference center. In the background on the left is parliament house.

On the immediate left is the Rideau canal. Is has trendy outdoor restaurants (that no-one seems to be using). It was built following the 1812 war, when Canadians realised that the Americans could blockade the St Lawrence River and force Canadians to drink American beer. It's several 100km long, took many years to build and used a considerable fraction of the country's money to build. It's never been used to defend the country, and now is used for boats to get from the inland lakes to the St Lawrence. In summer, a festival is held on the canal where people race rubber duckies, and have marathons.

Considering it's bitterly cold in winter and Canadians are excellent ice hockey players, I would have explected that they'd have a Hans Brinker type skating marathon in winter, but they don't. They don't have a canoe race or a log rolling race either. I discovered the reason on a subsequent trip. The canal has locks every couple of km and the speed skaters would have to climb 3-10m lock gates. With the ice in the canal, I don't expect the locks could hold back the ice and they may even drain the canal in winter.

looking down the locks The photo is looking in the same direction as the photo of the helical stairs and is about 100m further behind the stairs. You're looking down the locks to the St Lawrence river. The river has parks on both sides of it and you can walk for serveral miles in both directions on both sides of it. It's very nice. Few cities have preserved land like this.

The long building to the right and below is the old train station. The trains used to go across the bridge (across the river). Now the train station is an art museum.

releasing the water in the locks Small craft seem to be going down the locks all day (none seem to come back). Park staff release the water by pulling a plug on the end of a chain.

the boats closer up The water level adjusts in only a minute or two...

boats moving down the locks and the boats come through.

The boat owners pay, the tourists like it and come back and spend more money next year. Ottawa makes money at both ends of the transaction.

animals outside parliament house On the slope overlooking the River next to Parliament house, one of the citizens keeps a little zoo/hospital for recovering injured animals. I can't even remember what these are and can't identify them from the photo I'm sorry to day.

Everyone with a laptop (and that's most people) is plugged into the internet via a wavelan card you can rent. The wavelan server box and router and the desktop boxes are in the lounge space just outside the conference rooms. Ratz spent the day getting his new Dell Inspirion 8000 laptop going. He got it a week ago, had installed the kernel on the plane trip over and had taken a day to get his wavelan wireless ethernet card to work. He debugged the NVidia binary video driver finally getting X going by putting a wrapper around it. Unfortunately being a binary driver from NVidia, there is no-one to accept the patches. His sound card didn't work either, but it did by the end of the day and Ratz had posted the patches to the internet and the maintainer, got replies from the maintainer and 22 people in Switzerland (where Dell dumped a whole lot of these laptops apparently), who were glad to have their sound cards working at last. It appears there are a lot of patches and fixes floating around with no-one to accept them (particularly the proprietary binaries) and no way for people who need the fixes to find them. The code we can download from is only the tip of the iceberg.

Ratz and Harald Here's Ratz(L) and Harald Welte(R).

Harald works in the netfilter project and gave a presentation about iptables and netfilter. You'll be pleased to know that after ipfwadm for 2.0, ipchains for 2.2 and iptables for 2.4, we'll be still having iptables with the same syntax for 2.6. Horms and I grabbed Harald about the 2.4 transparent proxy which no longer works for LVS (it's all explained in gory detail in the HOWTO). This is because (as Julian explains in the HOWTO) the incoming packets come through the nat input chain and have the dst_addr changed. Harald showed Horms the relevant code and Horms is thinking about writing patch which restores the original dst_addr. Julian thinks it still won't work properly. Since fwmark seems to handle the things we did with transparent proxy in 2.2 kernels, we may just forget about transparent proxy for 2.4 kernels.

Canada is quite civilised: it's safe to walk on the streets at 2am, there's public transport to get home afterwards when you have a 0.15% blood alcohol, the restaurants are all in one area, close to the pretty river, and downtown and accomodation is cheap (if you like staying in jails). When we were splitting the money for dinner, Horms remarked that Canadians must drink more than americans: the money (notes) are different sizes, different colors and are waterproof.

I also noted that batteries are labelled by the number of maHrs in them, unlike in USA. I remember 20yrs ago writing to my senator (Leon Panetta), Ralph Nader and a few other people, that when I bought a pint of milk, I would get a pint of milk, but when I bought a battery I didn't know how many electrons I was getting. Only Leon replied and he said that he didn't think congress was ready to handle this problem.

Ratz next morning The big bash of the conference, on the last night, was sponsored by Ximian. Ratz didn't get back till the early (maybe even late) hours of the morning and found negotiating the buttons on the front door of the Hostel more trouble than it was worth and since the weather was pleasant and the grass soft, he curled up on the front lawn for a snooze. The staff came out eventually and asked if he wanted to come in. He didn't but they helped him in anyhow.

Here's Ratz the next morning at one of the side entrances to the jail (there's no lock on the gate, the photo is staged).

Joseph Mack jmack (at) wm7d (dot) net, photos courtesy of Ratz.