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FOSDEM 2007 - Report
Posted by: on Saturday, March 03, 2007 - 20:44
Submitted by ironfist
Last weekend me and David (dholm) visited the Free Open Source Developers European Meeting (FOSDEM) in Brussels. Southern Sweden and Denmark was hit pretty hard by a blizzard and for a while our chances to even get to Brussels were slim..

Click 'Read more' for the entire report.
A few weeks ago me and David decided to attend FOSDEM so we quickly booked a hotel and flight to Brussels. We decided to go down on Friday, the day before FOSDEM so I decided to take the train to David the day before. On that Thursday southern Sweden was hit hard by a blizzard that stopped all train traffic. The railroad company SJ cancelled all south-bound trains and I got my money back. They recommended me to take a bus instead which I did. The bus was a couple of hours late, but I got down there, eventually. Me and David checked out the flights for next day and we saw that our flight was cancelled.. We went to Copenhagen Airport early Friday morning and got a new ticket for Friday afternoon.

Around 18:00 we landed in Brussels and went straight to the hotel to check in. We just dropped off our bags since we had to rush to FOSDEM Beer Night that was held at a bar on Friday evening. We went there and talked to some people and later we went out for some dinner. We walked around Brussels and took a taxi back to the hotel late that night.

David posing in our hotel room

On Saturday morning we woke up early and had breakfast. Then we took the tram to University of Brussels and FOSDEM. We actually got there like 09:50 - ten minutes before the first keynote start. We were lucky!

The first keynote was about European software patents. The speech was held by Pieter Hintjens from FFII, Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure. He informed us about the current software patents in Europe and the strong lobbying for patents in the European Union. FFII are based in Brussels and work hard against the patents.

Pieter Hintjens

In the second keynote the One Laptop Per Child-project (OLPC) was presented by Jim Gettys. Jim talked about why their project is needed and why it will help young children in developing countries. He was sure that the laptop will help children learn how to read. He presented the hardware and informed us how the laptop can shut down the CPU and other chips to save power. When the machine is turned off the WiFi chip keeps running and will forward wireless packets from other laptops in a gigantic mesh network.

Jim Gettys showing the laptop

The third and final keynote was named 'Liberating Java' held by Simon Phipps, Chief Open Source Officer at Sun Microsystems. Simon announced that Sun Microsystems has joined the Free Software Foundation (FSF) as corporate patron. He talked abit about license issues, software patents within Sun Microsystems and the community. Simon really embraced all work the Java community has done and he is very happy to be able to GPL the entire Java programming language.

Sun on software patents

After these three opening keynotes it was time for lunch. After lunch all smaller seminars and workshops started. I decided to listen to Aleksey Bragin when he talked about ReactOS.

ReactOS is a Windows-compatible operating system. When loaded you can run Windows applications as if you were running the real Windows operating system. It does this by virtualizing the Win32 API and other things. The current version is 0.3.0 and is in beta-stage. It will not replace your WindowsXP system yet. Patience my young Padawan..


The fifth presentation i chose on the first day of FOSDEM was about LinuxBIOS. LinuxBIOS is a project working towards replacing your current x86 BIOS (Award, Phoenix, etc) with a minimalistic Linux kernel that will significantly speed up your booting. When booting your Linux OS with LinuxBIOS you will have a login prompt after just a few seconds after switching on your computer. A few seconds, compared to maybe a minute with normal BIOS. It doesn't stop with Linux though. You can boot many operating systems with LinuxBIOS, even Windows 2000 and OpenBSD.

These five presentations were all held in the big Janson hall. The next presentation I went to was in the Gentoo room in another building. Bryan Ƙstergaard introduced me to SELinux. Security-Enhanced Linux is a way to tighten up the security abit more in your Linux system. Today several distributions such as Fedora, OpenSUSE and others use SELinux by default, or lets you choose to. It was a very technical presentation and if you want to know more about it I suggest you visit the NSA SELinux website.

The last presentation I attended on Saturday was OpenMoko. OpenMoko is an open-sourced operating system for smartphones and is currently developed for the Neo1973 smartphone. The entire presentation is available as an AVI-file at RapidShare. The Neo1973 smartphone has WiFi, GSM/GPRS, GPS and much more. Everything accept the GSM/GPRS-chip is available for modification by open-source developers. The law prevents most people to fiddle around with GSM frequencies. :-)

Free Your Phone!

After the first day at FOSDEM we went out to a restaurant and then visited a few bars and night clubs. At 04:00 we were back at the hotel and was ready for a four-hour sleep until 08:00 when we had to get up to check out from the hotel and head for FOSDEM. I was pretty tired..

The main track before lunch was about security. Since I study IT-security it didn't take much thought to decide where I would be during those three hours.

The first presentation was about security testing. Pete Herzog is the creator of the Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM). He is the managing director of the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies (ISECOM). To give you an insight of what he talked about I will quote the website:

"The Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM) is a peer-reviewed methodology for performing security tests and metrics. The OSSTMM test cases are divided into five channels (sections) which collectively test: information and data controls, personnel security awareness levels, fraud and social engineering control levels, computer and telecommunications networks, wireless devices, mobile devices, physical security access controls, security processes, and physical locations such as buildings, perimeters, and military bases."

A cool tool called Metasploit was presented in the second speech. Metasploit is used to test systems for various exploits such as rootkits. The system with most known exploits is Microsoft Windows. Metasploit will aid you in your Windows security testing. To see a list of all exploits the application tests click here. As you can see it's not only Microsoft Windows, but a majority.

Metasploit taking over a Windows 2000 SP4 desktop using VNC

The last speech before lunch was the Bacula network-backup project. The founder Kern Sibbald showed us how the system works and how much easier it will be to use Bacula to backup multiple computers and servers to disk or tape. With Bacula you have a server that controls the backup network and login to all computers and downloads everything that is going to be backed up. You configure the backup cycle, but the default 'Weekly' was recommended by Kern.

After lunch I took a break for a few hours and used the wireless Internet access to catch up on e-mail and forums. Yes, I admit! I am an Internet addict! But to my defence there were no particularly interesting seminars -- for a non-developer like me -- before 16:00.

At 16:00 I went back to the big Janson hall to listen to Jeremy Allison talking about Samba. Samba was presented as the future of all networking filesystems. With Samba you would never ever have to use NFS again. The current version is 3 and Jeremy told us that version 4 will be entirely different. Samba 4 will be a complete 100% working Active Directory domain controller. There will be no need for companies to invest in expensive Windows Server licenses just to run Active Directory. Samba 4 will take care of this for you, at no cost at all. Jeremy promised us that Samba 4 will not be released before these things are met. The time was running fast and I had to go maybe 5-10 minutes before the speech was finished so I can't say if he gave us any timeline for Samba 4. We had to go to the airport and fly back home to Sweden.

All my pictures from FOSDEM can be found here.

/Kristian, Editor.

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