Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Mon 29th Jun, 2009

SELinux for SLUGs

Last Friday I gave two talks at the Sydney Linux Users Group, at the new Google offices. It was a pretty full-on day, as I'll explain in another post, and I was keen to get to the meeting pretty quickly. Fortunately the light rail in Sydney is pretty good, and finding ones way from the Star City stop to the offices was pretty easy. I happened to meet two people who were also going to the meeting, a lady escorting her young nephew (if I recall correctly) - she came and asked me if I knew where the linux group meeting was. I talked with them for a bit on the tram, but I'm sorry to them if I was a little distracted - my thoughts were on getting to the meeting, getting set up correctly and giving the talk.

We arrived in the twilight zone between the day, when the lifts allow you to get to any floor without a pass, and the night, when the SLUG Google employees were shuttling people up to the fifth floor. So we climbed the ten flights of stairs - I was in the need of a bit of a stretch. I then picked up my name badge - they were using Anyvite, so they could print out named labels easily for those that had bothered to RSVP on the site so beforehand. I had a brief bit of hesitation when my laptop shut down because it thought it was out of power, a curious interaction between the failing battery and Fedora 11, but all came good. Then it was time to work out how to get connected to the projector.

This was the source of two startling discoveries. Firstly, Fedora 11's screen detection now works pretty much seamlessly - if you plug in a new screen and click the 'Detect Monitors' button, it just finds the new output on the VGA port and sets it up appropriately. Secondly, Open Office 3.0 has a 'presenter' mode that can take advantage of two screens and display your 'now and next' screen on your laptop screen while the projector just displays the current slide in all its streamlined beauty. This was one of those "Wow, It Just Works™" moments where you see how fast the pace of Linux development really is - I was all ready with arcane xrandr voodoo but this just worked perfectly.

Sadly, due to slight cabling problems my laptop was sitting on a server cabinet six meters away, but when I muttered to the nearest person that what I needed right now was a wireless presenter device, the same guy just pulled one from his bag and handed it to me. Whoever you are, you really made my day - thanks! Still, I would be deprived of the handy 'now and next' view and would occasionally have to look over my shoulder to make sure I was talking about the right thing. I'd practiced both talks beforehand, so I was able to move on fairly smoothly. If you're going to do presentations, you have to do this - reading off your slides or looking at the screen to see where you are is really embarrassing.

The two talks went well, though I didn't receive anywhere near the amount of heckling that the CLUG people gave me when I gave the same talks. The questions asked were generally quite insightful, and I had to think hard about my answers. I remembered to restate the question for the microphone, and got to give two T-shirts to people who asked good questions. So overall I was pretty pleased about how it went.

I was talking with Andrew Cowie after the talk, and he gave me some very useful advice for approaching talks in the future. After you've done your initial bit of research working out who you're talking to and what level your should pitch your talk at, you really just have to go for it. I'd been worried that it might be too technical for some and not technical for others - and it was, of course; the point is that that's not really my problem. There always will be that spectrum of knowledge in the people attending a talk at a volunteer organisation, and it's not the presenter's problem to try and cater for everyone. You simply have to do the best you can and reach the most people you can, and not worry about whether you've got everyone interested.

After the talk I got to spend a bit of time with Andrew talking about trades and professions, what makes good meetings and presentations, and many other things that are now lost in the blur that that Friday became. He's an excellent speaker and, like me, wants to see people doing the right thing - being moral and ethical in all their dealings. I also have a small envy of his globetrotting ways, and admire his ability to write Java as fast as think about it in Eclipse, so it was good to get a chance to talk to him for an extended time rather than the usual 'nod in the corridor' meetings we've had in the past.

Overall, a good night. I've put both the SELinux for Beginners and SELinux for Sysadmins talks up on SlideShare for people to read.

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