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LinuxCon China 2017: Trip Report


Linux Foundation held a combination of three events in China as part of their foray into Asia early this year. It was a big move for them since this was supposed to be the first time Linux Foundation would hold an event in Asia.
I was invited to present a talk on Hardening IoT endpoints. The event was held in Beijing, and since I have never been to Beijing before I was pretty excited for the talk. However, it turned out the journey is pretty long and expensive. Much more than a student like me can hope to bear. Normally I represent Mozilla in such situations, but the topic of the talk was too much into security and not aligned much with the goals of Mozilla at that moment. Fortunately, Linux Foundation gave me a Scholarship to come and speak at LinuxCon China which enabled me to attend LinuxCon and the awesome team at Mozilla TechSpeakers including Michael Ellis and Havi helped me get ready for the talk.


The event was held at China National Convention Center. It's a beautiful and enormous convention center just middle of Beijing. One of the big problems I soon realized after reaching China is, most of the services in my mobile was not working. The great wall (the firewall not the actual one) was preventing most of the Google services I had, unfortunately, that included two apps I was heavily relying on. Google Maps and Google Translate. There, of course, is a local alternative to Google Maps which is Baidu Maps, but since the interface itself also was in Chinese, it wasn't of much help to me. Fortunately, my VPN setup came into my rescue and that has been my source of relief for the next two days in China.

Pro Tip: If you have to goto china and you rely on some form of service which might be blocked in China. It's better to use a good VPN. One you know will work there or roll your own. I had rolled my own since my commercial vpn also was blocked there.

The day started with Linus Trovalds having an open discussion regarding which way Linux is moving. And with very interesting aspects and views.
One of the recurring theme in the discussion, which kept coming up was regarding how the core linux maintainer circle worked. And why it was being relied on only one those very few people. The reply was most stimulating.
The very interesting quote from him was
Among the other talks I really liked:

The other talks were interesting as well. I would have really liked to attend three more talks, namely by Greg on serverless computing on edge, by Swati on Kubernates and by Kai Zhang on container-based virtualization, but that one clashed with my own talk.

My talk was on the second day and on a relatively good time, which was especially important for me as the conference wifi was the only one where I could work on my slides.
Lesson Learned: Don't rely on Google Slides in China
Fortunately courtesy to my vpn I was able to work on it and have a backup local copy ready for the talk.
That room was pretty big, didn't see this coming
What I did not anticipate earlier was how eager people were for the talk. In a nutshell this was how the room was looking when I took the podium.

My first reaction was: Wow that's a lot of people! Guess they are really interested in the talk!
And then: Shit! I hope my talk is as interesting as all of the super industry relevant talks going on around me in all other rooms.

Fortunately, the talk went pretty well. I always judge my talk based on how many queries, questions I get after the talk and also how many reactions in twitter. Judging on the number of queries afterwards I guessed atleast it wasn't that bad. I was though super disappointed on the complete radio silence in twitter regarding my talk. Only to realize later that twitter is also blocked in China.

To Do: Next time come up with better ways to track engagement.

My only complain here was, normally every Linux Foundation conference records your talk. LinuxCon didn't. Though they did upload all our slides, so if you want to go over a textual version of what I presented, have a sneak peak here. I will be all ears to listen to your feedback

SecurityPI - Hardening your IoT endpoints in Home. from LinuxCon ContainerCon CloudOpen China

This would have normally finished my recount of the event, but this time it didn't I finally went to a BoF session on Fedora and CentOS, and ended up having a 2 hour long discussion on the various issues Mozilla and Fedora communities face and pain points with Brian Exelbierd. We temporarily suspended the discussion with no clear path to a solution but with a notion to touch base with each other again on it.

Conclusion: LinuxCon was a perfect example of how to handle and manage a huge footfall with a multilingual audience and still make the conference good. The quality of the talks was astounding as well as speakers. I really loved my experience there. Made some great friends (I am looking at you Greg and Swati :D), had some awesome conversation.

And did I mention the speakers at the day caught up and decided we needed a memoir for us? Which happens to be us discussing everything related to Linux to Mozilla to security in Forbidden City
That in a nutshell were the speakers
Like I said, one hell of a conference.

PS: If you want to talk to me about anything related to the talk, don't hesitate to get in touch using either my email or twitter.

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