Embedded Linux Conference Europe and our Second Yocto Project Developer Day

Posted by Scott on Oct 25th, 2012

In early November I’ll be in Barcelona for the European Embedded Linux Conference. Once again, I’ll also be involved with running another Yocto Project Developer Day on Nov. 8, the day after ELC-E officially ends.

The intro level hands-on lab class I’ll be teaching has been reworked considerably based on feedback I received from the first event we did in February, to allow for more independent learning/exercises. And as before, we’ll have some hands-on labs for experienced Yocto Project developers as well in addition to a panel discussion.

I’m really excited to help people get started using our build system, and to meet our OpenEmbedded contributors from across the pond. Don’t be a stranger!

Embedded Linux Conference and Yocto Developer Day

Posted by Scott on Feb 12th, 2012

I’ll be in Redwood City, CA next week for the Linux Foundation’s Embedded Linux Conference. Additionally, I’ll be helping to run the Yocto Developer Day on Tuesday, Feb. 14th.

We’ve got a full day of presentations and hands-on labs geared toward embedded Linux development with Yocto, both for new users as well as more experienced folks. I’ll be teaching the intro hands-on lab with Jessica Zhang, as well as presenting Techniques for Troubleshooting Common Build Errors in the intermedite developer track.

Most of all, I’m really looking forward to meeting members of the OpenEmbedded and Yocto community in person. So please say hello if you’ll be at either of these events!

Open Source Bridge Will Rock Your Socks Again This Year

Posted by Scott on May 16th, 2010

Last year marked a new first for Portland, OR – the birth of the Open Source Bridge technical conference. In a previous post I expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about how awesome last year’s event was. Those weren’t just kind words – I found myself moved enough by the incredible activism and community in the Portland tech scene to get involved for this year’s conference as a volunteer. That’s right, Open Source Bridge is back in 2010! June 1-4, to be exact.

This year’s event has an outstanding presentation lineup and will be held at the Mark Building of the Portland Art Museum. I had a chance to tour the venue with the OSB organizing crew and must say that the location is really unique, inspiring, and truly fitting for a conference of people who are working to improve the world through quality open source software projects. There will once again be a 24-hour hacker lounge (a major highlight from last year), this time on-site at the Mark Building.

One of the great things about OSB is that it’s a very diverse gathering of open source citizens, and offers a great opportunity to expand your horizons to learn about tools and platforms you may not have encountered before. I will also be giving a variation of my PLUG Advanced Topics talk on OpenEmbedded if embedded Linux systems pique your interest.

Check out the Open Source Bridge website to learn more and register. Trust me – it’s gonna rock your socks.

Startup Weekend Recap – Rawr!

Posted by Scott on Mar 8th, 2010

Last weekend I had an incredible time launching an idea at Portland Startup Weekend. Somewhere around 50 folks showed up, and exciting products were started by nine different teams.

I had my heart set to work on an embedded Linux project over the weekend, and pitched an idea to create a device that could play internet radio streams over FM. This simple media server would allow you to walk around your home with a cheap FM radio and listen to internet radio. Given that the purpose of the event was to embrace constraints and have something noteworthy to demo by the end of the weekend, I felt this was a viable goal to work toward, even if the feature was somewhat of a novelty.

To achieve this, I took an older model Gumstix Connex embedded ARM board, loaded Angstrom (an OpenEmbedded-based distro) onto it, and paired it with an off-the-shelf FM radio transmitter I picked up Sunday morning from Radio Shack. I organized the following milestones and knocked them down one by one:

Milestone 1: Select a command-line media player that can play remote mp3 streams (I used mpg123) and verify that it can be run on the gumstix board with good performance (cpu utilization was only around 10%). Some scripts also had to be developed to make sure that network streams would get restarted if they failed or cut out suddenly (this can happen frequently with internet radio).

Startup Weekend Portland - Getting Alsamixer Running on the Gumstix

Milestone 2: Create a web-based interface for controlling the device, allowing the user to select one of several streams and start or stop playback of them, using a crude user interface.

Milestone 3: Improve the user interface by AJAX-ifying the playback controls, and add an indicator to show which stream is currently playing. This was done using the jQuery javascript library. The resulting web page still lacked a lot in the way of style, but it worked as intended and the HTML passed W3C validation.

Milestone 4: Integrate and test this setup with the FM transmitter and portable receiver. Polish the concept and prepare the demo.

The final result? Check it out:

Screenshot of the Streamasourus Rex Web Interface

As you can see, I had a bit of fun with the project. I named the device Streamasourus Rex. The T-Rex was lifted from Dinosaur Comics. Also, the guys from Mugasha (a Portland-based electronic music webapp startup) were at the event, so I thought it would be fun to surprise them by playing one of the DJ sets they offer from their site during my demo.

I have no intention to follow-through and actually create a business or product out of this, as I have my hands full of interesting projects as it is. But the exercise itself was extremely valuable and is something I hope to keep doing. It’s also wonderful and energizing to meet and hang out with people who don’t just think about ideas, but actually execute them and take some risks.

At the end of the event, each team demonstrated their progress before a panel of experienced entrepreneurs. EyeClash, a team working on integrating videoconferencing with online flash gaming, was chosen by the panel as one of the most exciting projects, and they are receiving three free months of office space at NedSpace.

Team EyeClash

I’d like to thank everyone who came out and put effort into trying something new, and especially to the organizers of the event, who did a great job keeping things rolling. I doubt this will be my last Startup Weekend!

Portland Startup Weekend, March 5-7th

Posted by Scott on Feb 22nd, 2010

In a kind of interesting mix between unconferences and programming contests like the Rails Rumble, Portland is holding a Startup Weekend event the first weekend in March. The idea is to bring together people of different backgrounds – including software developers, marketers, attorneys, and so on – and see what kind of product ideas they can start developing over a focused weekend of effort. With a bit of luck and a lot of elbow grease, some of these ideas and teams are likely to blossom into full-fledged technology startup businesses.

When I first read about this event I felt a kind of nervous energy as the realization crept in that yes, this was going to be one hell of an effort, and I would have very deep regrets if I didn’t give it a shot. So I registered for the event and look forward to some high-intensity growth experiences.

For the most part I expect the product ideas to be web application or web service-related. However given my background in embedded Linux systems, I’m planning to bring a couple of embedded boards with me and see if anyone is interested in developing an idea based on a physical product that could be sold. I’ve been becoming a big fan of the gumstix platform, but am also quite excited about the Sheeva Plug.

If anyone else in the Portland area is reading this and is even remotely considering attending, I urge you to go for it! Even if a viable business doesn’t come out of the weekend, there’s no doubt it’s going to be an incredible way of networking with other startuppy people and learning a lot about yourself.

Open Source Bridge Conference – One of the Best

Posted by Scott on Jun 22nd, 2009

From June 17 – 19 I attended the Open Source Bridge Conference in Portland. This was a relatively small, all-volunteer run event that really impressed me. The event was created in response to O’Reilly moving a couple of high-profile conferences out of Portland this year, including OSCon and RailsConf.

Open Source Bridge (OSB) focused on the use and development of open source software in many contexts. I really liked that several of the talks were on the theme of using open source in government and business, including making a living from working with open source software. Portland Mayor Sam Adams gave a one of the keynote talks, and I sincerely believe he “gets it” or at the very least wants to get it, and recognizes Portland’s unique positioning as a center for open source software developers to live and work.

I’ve been to a number of conferences before, from tiny ad-hoc “unconferences” such as BarCamp to huge O’Reilly ones such as RailsConf. I have to say OSB was one of the best events I’ve ever been to, and definitely trumps all of the other ones in terms of value. They focused on hosting the conference at a quality venue (the Oregon Convention Center) and had an outstanding 24-hour hacker lounge on the 23rd floor of the downtown Hilton. But to lower costs, they didn’t spend oodles on things that don’t really matter at events, such as catered lunches.

I am deeply grateful for the work of OSB’s organizers and am absolutely certain I’ll be back next year. I attended interesting and relevant sessions, got to meet some great people, and did so without having to spend several hundred dollars.

Here’s a video from the hacker lounge taken on the first night of the conference:

Ruby News

Posted by Scott on Apr 8th, 2008

The RailsConf 2008 presentation schedule has been posted. I’m really looking forward to it as my first RailsConf.

Also, the April NH Ruby and Rails User Group meeting will consist of a live hacking/help session, so bring any code you’ve having issues with or would like a code review on and we’ll work on it during the meeting. Directions and details on the wiki.

PDF Conference Recap

Posted by Scott on May 21st, 2007

I have returned from the Personal Democracy Forum conference in New York City, and am feeling particularly excited from the energy and enthusiasm that was prevalent throughout the event. I met some very interesting people and all of them “got” the concept of CampaignLever immediately. Of course, these are people doing work in this field already, and don’t necessarily represent my target audience of grassroots activist groups on a tiny budget.

Larry Lessig - PDF2007 Conference

Larry Lessig gave one of the first morning talks, titled “Free Culture, Free Politics.” His presentation was nearly as engaging as his famous Free Culture one (you have to watch this if you haven’t already). Lessig is thinking forward and addressing a lot of issues which need to be taken action on now in order to preserve an open culture in the future, as opposed to a controlled and proprietary one that we are currently heading toward.

Lessig made it very clear (and I applaud him for doing so) that supporting copyright is not an either/or issue; he is not against the concept of copyright. Rather, he argues that we need a more nuanced view on copyright where limitations in certain kinds of media or contexts is upheld. The most compelling example he gave were televised political debates, which some major networks are trying to control the distribution and third-party use of. He also pointed out that nearly all of the major democrat presidential candidates have come out in support of placing the presidential political debates in the public domain or otherwise not restricting the use of them. The main exception to this was Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has been disconcertingly silent on this issue. Lessig also pointed out that “fair use” rights only guarantee one the right to hire an attorney and slog through years of litigation when a copyright holder wishes to interpret fair use in light of their own interests.

Seth Godin - PDF2007 Conference

Seth Godin gave a top-notch and entertaining presentation as well. Godin discussed how the old methods of marketing and advertising (i.e, buying eyeballs for large sums of money by interrupting people) is offering diminishing returns by the day, and that this also applies to political marketing. He gave a wonderful metaphor to demonstrate what’s wrong with the current process (I’m paraphrasing below):

How NOT to Get Married:

Go into a singles bar, walk up to the first potential mate you see and propose to them. If this fails, try another person, and so on.

Godin noted that political campaigns are doing effectively the same thing thing to voters, yelling their message to everyone they can interrupt, when rather what they need to do is to take things slower and start going on “dates” with people to build a relationship where permission is given to go on future dates and finally to get married (i.e, buy the product or vote for the candidate, volunteer with the campaign, etc).

The conference also included a series of demonstrations of political and activism-related web applications by meetup.com, change.org, mcommons.com, and eventful.com, among others.

So what could have been better? At the very end of the conference there was a panel discussion by the technology leaders of several presidential campaigns. This was boring as hell – all each person on the panel did was make inside references to the their work and processes and talk primarily to each other, not the audience. Nothing insightful came out of the panel as far as I could tell, and after a half hour or so I simply left to attend the post-conference cocktail party a bit early.

PDF2007 Conference Attendee Crowd

There was a good amount of professional networking going on during the breaks and afterwards, but I would have liked there to be more breaks to allow more of this kind of thing. The cocktail party afterwards was overcrowded and extremely loud. In my estimation, there were upwards of 300+ people in attendance (Update: the official conference count was over 800!).

Overall, though, this conference was definitely a worthwhile event, and reasonably convenient to me, being on the East Coast. I’m certainly planning to attend the next one, and hope to have a compelling, working product to demo and share with the attendees.

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