2009 wrap-up (incl Open Source Databases Mini-conf): Day 0-1

It’s no secret that I love My first was 2003, in Perth and I’ve been to every one since (there are at least two people who’ve been to every single one, including CALU as it was called in 1999).

I’ve been on the board of Linux Australia for some insane proportion of the years since then (joining in 2003). Linux Australia is the not-for-profit community organisation that puts on It’s all volunteers and amazingly enough we have more than one group of people wanting to put on each year!

This year, we Marched South to Hobart.

Here I detail what I saw, what I wish I saw and whatever else comes to mind.

Sunday – Before the conference

Ran into Bdale while checking in. Short flight down. A million and one people on the plane and on the ground that I knew. It must be

Seeing way too many awesome people I know, checking into accommodation (oh my, what a hill), registering for conf, beer and then off to a “ghosts of conferences past” dinner – where a few people who had organised previous’s were hastily gathered together to chat to part of the 2010 team.

Monday – Open Source Databases Miniconf Day 1

Oh, that’s right – I’m running the OSDB Miniconf :)

First up, Monty Taylor spoke on “NDB/Bindings – Use the MySQL Cluster Direct API from languages you actually like for fun and profit”. Possibly taking the prize for the longest talk title of the conference. The NDB API is not SQL, it’s what the MySQL server (and one day, when Monty and I get around to it, Drizzle) translates SQL into for NDB. That being said, you can (pretty much always) write NDB API code that dramatically outperforms equivilent SQL (for a variety of reasons). Monty maintains the NDB/Bindings project that lets you use languages other than C++ for the NDB API.

At the same time as Monty was speaking, I wish I’d been able to fork() and go and see “Is Parallel Programming Hard, And, If So, Why?by Paul McKenney and Michael Still talking about MythNetTV (pull RSS feeds of video in as MythTV programs).

After morning tea, we were meant to have “InnoDB scaling up and performance” by Bruce Huang, but he was a no-show. Hint: if you don’t want bad things to be said about you by conference organisers, either show up or let them know you’re not able to make it.

Instead, we led a crazy Q&A type session around the room which was a whole lot of fun. Really a “ask the experts” meets running up-and-down stairs with a microphone.

Next up, Arjen Lentz who runs Open Query spoke on “OurDelta: Builds for MySQL”. The best way to describe OurDelta is a “distribution of MySQL”. It’s the MySQL server plus a bunch of patches provided by various people that haven’t yet made it into the main source tree (for any number of reasons).

At the same time (if you’ve never been to, you’ll find that you often want to be in at least 3 places at once) I would have really liked to see “MythTV Internals by Nigel Pearson” (I co-wrote Practical MythTV with Michael Still, which is having a “second edition” in wiki form over at as well as the panel on geek parenting as this may be something I’m one day faced with.

Up next: Russell Coker filled in for Kaigai (same talk, different speaker) to talk on The Security-Enhanced PostgreSQL – “System-wide consistency” in access controls. I found this quite interesting and different approaches to database security are worth looking at. Modern applications (read: web applications) don’t map their uses to database users at all. There are usually two users on the database server: the super user and the user that the app uses. It would be nice to have a good solution for those who want it.

Again, If I had the ability to be in two places at once, I would have also seen “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love ACPI” by the extremely handsome Matthew Garrett.

Monty Widenius (blog here – and yes, we have two Monty’s now… which does cause confusion) talking about the Maria storage engine. Maria is based on MyISAM, but adding crash safety and transactions (among other things).

Again, if I was able to be in several places at once I would have also seen Rusty‘s “Large CPUmasks”, Nathan Scott talking about “System level performance management with PCP” and Bdale’s “Collaborating Successfully with large corporations”.

An awesome start to the conference.

iTWire – Linux Australia election results are in – but is there a mandate?

iTWire – Linux Australia election results are in – but is there a mandate?

I mostly disagree with the conclusions drawn by David here.

On voter turnout, this year we were consistent with previous years (see previous graphs, and reproduced below):

We’ve even been on a (slow) increase. How do we increase this number though?

There are also other factors as to why people didn’t vote:

  • Happy with any combination of candidates (this was voiced at the AGM)
  • Not aware of voting timeframe, or in the middle of LCA prep/travel (how do we deal with this? Longer voting time? automated pestering of people via email from the membership system?)
  • No/limited choice in executive positions

If we look at the people standing for positions over the years (reproducing this graph from previous post):

It’s quite possible to assume that many people are happy with who’s standing for executive, and not too worried about OCM positions.

There is also no way to express “I’m happy with any combination of candidates” in the election system. The query for “number of members voted” (see the source. incidently, i wish launchpad let you link to line numbers):

$result = $dbh->query("select count(distinct member_id) as count from election_vote where candidate_id in (select id from election_candidate where election_position_id in (select id from election_position where election_id=".$election['id']."))");

So if you didn’t vote for anybody, you’re not counted in having voted. Patches are welcome to fix this :)

If it’s uncontested, then many people just don’t put a 1 in the box. New MemberDB releases (what we’re likely to use for next year) have a drop-down menu of numbers, which may result in less of this. It could also be a few votes against the candidate – in the absence of another choice (or the voter choosing to stand themselves). In any of these scenarios though, it’s not a significant number of votes – all candidates got an overwhelming majority of votes.

I also feel that somebody joining the council who is *not* a new face is a very big plus. We want (and indeed need) people who understand the organisation.

I’d also like to contrast our 66 voting members to the 2006 ACS AGM with only 26 voting members present and the 2007 ACS AGM having 40 voting members present. I was unable to find out details on how many people voted for board members though…

So I don’t think Linux Australia is in a bad place with having 66 people voting… I just think it could be better.

Do we have a mandate? Well… it’s mind-numbingly simple to stand for council – get one other person to nominate you and nominate yourself. The fact that nobody has is a sign it itself (and we do have active members and the broader community watching us).

Linux Australia on Wikipedia needs references added

The Linux Australia entry in Wikipedia, has a “needs references” banner on it. It’d be neat if someone fixed this up (it’s pretty easy to link to the appropriate sources on

In fact… I’ll buy the person a beer (or other beverage of their choice).

History of voting in Linux Australia Council elections

Over the past few years (since we’ve been using MemberDB) total number of members voting has looked like this:

Year:Members voted - 2005:57, 2006:110, 2007:63, 2008:65

Year:Members voted - 2005:57, 2006:110, 2007:63, 2008:65

So what does this tell us? Err… Nothing much. Except that we should probably expect about 60-70 votes for this election.

If we look at how many candidates we’ve had for each position, it looks a little bit more interesting:

In this chart I’m using numbers of *candidates*, not nominees. I’m also using numbers that are after we’ve computed the results and already redistributed preferences for existing winners. e.g. if I was standing for President and Vice President and won President, I appear here as a candidate for President and not for VP.

What can we tell here? We don’t have too much choice for P, VP, S or T…  In fact, Google Spreadsheet is just drawing it all over each other so you can’t really tell.

2005 was the last year there was a choice in President. It was also the last year there was a choice for Secretary.

There was a choice of Treasurer in 2006.

There has been a choice of Vice President in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

There has always been a choice for OCM.

It’d be great if we set a record this year for how many people voted (which for those counting means we need 111 votes).

Running for President (of Linux Australia)

The other day, I accepted the nomination for President of Linux Australia in the upcoming election. The following, is the spiel I’ve put up to help make my case for electing me:

Hi, I’m Stewart Smith and I want to be the president of Linux Australia in 2008.

I have previously served on the Linux Australia committee both as Vice President and as an Ordinary Committee Member.

This year, I’m running on the following platform:
– Keep the organisation solvent (if we loose money, we go broke and don’t have an organisation any more… which likely means no LCA, which would be a disaster).
– Ensure an awesome LCA is organised for 2009
– Improve processes, especially in finances and book keeping
– Use LA’s resources for more things directly benefiting members (including investigating member services, talking to government to ensure Australian law is friendly to the needs of our members, supporting LUGs)
– Be inclusive and in touch with members, and what’s holding back other people becoming members.

In addition to being on the LA committee previously, I’ve also been on the LUV committee, am currently helping with LCA08 things and was rather active back in the (not too distant) past at my university. I’ve co-authored two books related to free software (Practical MythTV and the MySQL 5.1 Cluster Certification Study Guide), currently work for MySQL as a Senior Software Engineer on MySQL Cluster and live in Melbourne.

I’m also the author of this membership and voting software, MemberDB – and no, it’s not rigged but yes, it is free software.