Delan Azabani

linux.conf.au 2014, day 5: sockets, satellites and scaling

I suppose that's it. As I've mentioned, linux.conf.au, my first technical conference, can only be described as a rollercoaster that was over too soon looking back. I've learned more from experts in open source communities in these last five days than I probably have in months of my own accord. Let's take a look at the last day.

The keynote was the highlight of the day: with a title like Deploying software updates to ArduSat in orbit, Jonathan Oxer lived up to the impressive precedent set and more. Through an amazing feat of engineering, the ArduSat project has made it affordable (under $300!) for individuals and classrooms to run experiments on the Arduino platform in low earth orbit for a week at a time — with development, testing, execution and results all in the browser.

Lennart Poettering's D-Bus in the kernel woke me up to a blind spot in my knowledge: inter-process communication. Linux is apparently unlike most other modern operating systems in that the kernel only provides IPC primitives such as sockets, FIFOs and shared memory, but no richer interfaces built on them.

That's where D-Bus aims to fill the gap, and among other things, moving it into the kernel will help improve performance (message copies, validations and context switches) from 10/4/4 to 2/2/2 for a full-duplex message. Radical. Impressive.

Simple DIY Engine Management for simple software hackers by Josh Stewart showed that it's possible to make an inexpensive, hacker-friendly engine management system for passenger vehicles using an Arduino. I'm nevertheless slightly concerned about an increase in natural selection occurring given bad inputs to the programmable microcontroller.

Rusty Russell proposes an alternative transaction network for Bitcoin that makes some compromises to reliability of verification in favour of a system that will scale far more easily through to a future of 100,000 transactions per second and higher.

Concluding the conference, Jason Cook drilled down to the most effective means of tuning TCP in the kernel, sofware and hardware to achieve optimal performance for the Web and similar network traffic patterns.

The next two linux.conf.au events will be held in Auckland and Geelong respectively, so I suppose I'd better start saving up now. Good night, fellow hackers!