My talk picks for #lca2020 – Who’s Watching?

Wow! It’s that time of year when linux.conf.au has come around, and this year, for the first time, it’s in the stunning Gold Coast, 13th-17th January 2020. After having a read through the schedule, I’ve made a plan for which talks I’d like to see.

Monday and Tuesday – Miniconfs

Monday and Tuesday of conf are Miniconfs – essentially special interest groups in different areas of open source. The schedules aren’t all up for Miniconfs at the time of writing, but on Monday I’ll probably be somewhere between Creative Arts, Documentation and Sysadmin. On Tuesday I’ll be between GO Glam (top work, Sae Ra Germaine and Hugh Rundle!) and Identity, Privacy and Security (likewise, Ben Dechrai!). In particular, I’d like to hear William Brown’s talk on the psychology of multi-factor authentication. I heard William talk at PyconAU lightning talks earlier this year and he’s an excellent presenter.

Monday night is the Linux Australia Annual General Meeting, which I’d like to attend. Voting is open for the elections, if you’re a member. You’re not member? You should be. It’s free as in beer, and free as in freedom.

Wednesday – Main conf

I’ll be giving my talk on Wednesday about SenseBreast – a mastectomy prosthetic that was developed as a student project as part of the Masters in Applied Cybernetics at the 3A Institute earlier in the year. Apart from that, I’d like to see Karen Sandler’s talk on how to understand the intentions of others and build stronger communities. Karen is amazing, and I always get something out of her talks.

Keith’s talk on his new Snek Python-based language for embedded devices will be great for the Pythonistas, but I’m also worried that the fragmentation in this space – Micropython is a clear leader – will actually make adoption of Python on embedded devices and micro-controllers harder. I also don’t want to miss Daniel McCarthy’s talk on building hexapod robots – I know Daniel from the two years I spent leading GovHack Geelong and he has an incredible mind.

Dr Peter Chubb is always an excellent presenter, and his talk on electronics from household components promises to be entertaining. David Tulloh is always a leader in the “crack track” of LCA (his Linux microwave talk from Geelong 2016 is unmissable), and I had considered going to his presentation on KiCAD PCB-drafting software, but I think it will be over my head. Those in the HPC space might want to consider seeing Hugh Blemings’ talk about the OpenPower stack and ecosystem, which focuses on open hardware for HPC, which is a relatively new development.

Thursday – Main conf

On Thursday, I want to see Marissa Takahashi’s talk on an ethical data infrastructure, and Christopher Bigg’s talk on privacy-preserving IoT, but they’re scheduled together.

I definitely want to catch Opal Symes’ talk on collecting information with care. She has a rich, and challenging narrative to share and we all stand to learn a lot from her journey. Nicola Nye’s talk seeks to challenge the prevailing opinion that capitalism and ethics can’t co-exist, and I want to hear more on this.

Friday – Main conf

On Friday, I’ll be giving a tutorial on Scribus, and will probably need a break in the morning, but I do want to catch mnot’s talk on security internet protocols, and the work that’s left to be done in this space – particularly given how antiquated TCP/IP is now, and that Australia doesn’t have good penetration of IPv6 yet.

What are your picks? Leave your comments below.

Book review: The Reflective Practice Guide by Barbara Bassot

The Reflective Practice Guide: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical Reflection

The Reflective Practice Guide: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical Reflection by Barbara Bassot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is an accessible, well-structured guide both for those new to reflective practice, and those guiding or instructing others in the discipline of reflective practice.

It provides solid, but not overwhelming, theoretical foundations for different approaches to reflective practice, and pragmatic, easily-implementable strategies for structuring reflecting writing, responding to emotions in reflective ways, and understanding the role reflective practice plays in life-long learning and professional development.

I only wish this book had been recommended to me much earlier.



View all my reviews

State of my toolchain 2019

What’s changed in the last year?

As you might be aware, I’ve been doing a writeup of my toolchain every year or so for the last couple of years (2016, 2018). There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • The type of work that I do has changed in that time, necessitating exploring different tools, and different equipment
  • And the technology that I work with continues to evolve – new models, new ways of working, and new mindsets – and our toolchains need to evolve to

This year, I’m studying a Master of Applied Cybernetics at the 3A Institute in Canberra – back to being a student; which I haven’t done for five years. Interestingly, my tools of choice 5 years ago have remained steady – Zotero for referencing, LibreOffice for writing essay type work, and Atom as my IDE of choice.

The key changes are;

  • A change in the main laptops I use
  • I’ve adopted Trello / Pomodone / RescueTime as a combination for personal productivity, with Passion Planner as a written diary / visual planner
  • My Fitbit Ionic died an inelegant death and has been replaced by the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro

Main laptop

My Asus N76 finally gave up the ghost and had unrecoverable hardware failure, including failure of the Bluray/DVD-rom drive that was built in – it’s not worth repairing and I think I’ll send it to disposal / recycling after taking 7 years’ worth of stickers off the front.

You were a Good Computer, N76. You were a Very Good Computer.

In my previous Toolchain tear-down, you would have read about my interest in System 76‘s Oryx Pro 3. One of my friends was selling hers (huge thanks, Pia!), and I immediately fell in love with this hard working, nerd-first beast of a laptop. I chose to flash it with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS rather than System 76’s POP OS, basically because I’m so familiar with Ubuntu and I didn’t want any additional learning curve. This machine continues to be my desk-based workhorse of choice. It’s a beautiful, solid, high-performance machine, but it’s not a good mobile choice.

Enter the ASUS Vivobook (my model is the X510UQ). I bought one of these devices for Mum, as she needed a new machine, and was so impressed with it – it has 16GB of RAM and a reasonable NVIDIA GPU (!) that I went back to the shop and got one for myself. The mobility is so-so – with a battery of about 4 hours if the screen is reasonably dim, but then I tend to run a lot of CPU- and battery-hungry apps. It’s lightweight, has HDMI out and 3 USB ports and the small bevel means plenty of screen space. I’ve set it up to dual boot Windows and Ubuntu, and if I’m honest it could use a much bigger SSD. That will be a holiday job.

Mobile phone

My Pixel died a couple of months ago after the battery life suddenly dropped to less and 30 minutes after the update to Android 9 – a problem that seems to be quite widespread. I’ve been on a Pixel 3 since; primarily because it’s what JB Hi-Fi in Geelong had in stock. The camera is amazing, and I’ve finally ditched my 3.5mm audio jack headphones for Bluetooth headphones.

Wearables

My Fitbit Ionic was a beautiful device until a release of Android in around November last year; after which I could no longer pair the Ionic with the Pixel phone. Getting support for this was incredibly problematic; it was difficult, time-consuming and very poor after-sales support from Fitbit. As a result, I ditched Fitbit and made the switch to WearOS, and have been on the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro ever since. The device is too chunky for most women, but well, I’m not most women, and it fits on my giant fat wrist just fine. The battery life isn’t great, but I’ve found that the heart rate monitor is the largest drain on battery.

One gotcha with the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro is the charger. I bought two chargers with the device, and managed to “fry” – short circuit – them both by running higher than 1 Amp current through them (with a high current charger). This is well documented on Reddit. This was pretty poor poor IMHO for a high-end smartwatch.

WearOS has been an unexpectedly smooth experience; it doesn’t have the ecosystem or the integration that FitBit has, but that’s also a positive. I can choose the apps and watch faces that best suit me, from multiple different vendors. I’ve settled on the Venom watch face in neutral colours.

A smartwatch remains a key part of my toolchain – moreso than ever.

Quantified Self

I continue to use and be very happy with RescueTime and BeeMindr. I’ve been through a myriad of to-do tools in the past few years and seem to have settled on a combination of both Trello and Pomodone this year. Pomodone is beautiful; it’s an electron-based app that’s available for Linux (Woot!). Seriously considering upgrading to the paid version in a couple of months if it continues to prove its value.

For visual planning and diarising, I went to Passion Planner, driven by being a full time student again. I’ve been very happy with the model it uses – iterative goal setting and pattern-forming, and have already bought in my 2020 diary. As a visual person, it gives me plenty of space to visualise, to draw and to map out plans, goals and actions. I used the medium size this year, and found it marginally too small; so have upgraded to the large size for 2020.

Headphones

No change, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro bluetooth headphones are still fantastically awesome.

Streaming Media

No change, still Spotify premium.

Input devices

No change.

Voice Assistant

No change, still the awesome Mycroft.AI

Internet of Things and Home Automation

I’m on residential college this year at Burgmann College at ANU. Their Wifi network is a 5Ghz spectrum, PEAP/MSCHAPv2 authenticated beastie, and nothing much in the IoT space speaks to it, because IoT standards and security, what are they even? 🙁

It feels really weird to have to physically turn my light off now – my default behaviours have been changed by home automation.

Gaps in my toolchain and how they’ve been plugged

In the last edition of State of the Toolchain, these were my key bugbears:

  • Visual Git Editor – I’ve given up on this and learned to love the command line. In hindsight it’s been a great learning experience, and my git fluency has improved out of sight (hah!).
  • Better internet – ANU is on gig internet. *laughs in TCP/IP* I’m going to be in dire straights though if/when I have to go back to a copper-based NBN FttN service *cries in copper*.

Have I missed anything? What do you use?