Hardware Engineer's Conference) Taipei was held June 10 and 11
in, unsurprisingly, Taipei, Taiwan. The event, sponsored by the
governmental Institute for Information Industry, followed the huge Computex
conference in the hope of attracting hardware developers who are interested
in supporting Linux. Your editor, who had the honor of being invited to
speak at FreedomHEC Taipei, would assert that the goal was achieved; over
200 developers showed up for two days of technical talk about the Linux
kernel and the best ways to contribute to it.
Your editor arrived prepared with the talks which have become his stock in
trade in recent years. Of the two talks, the most fun was certainly had on
the second day, when the topic was how to work with the kernel development
process. Anybody who has given talks in eastern Asia knows that getting
audience members to participate and ask questions is not an easy task. But
the FreedomHEC audience was (after just a bit of encouragement) full of
questions and interested in having a
discussion which could have extended far beyond the allotted time. There
was, beyond doubt, a great deal of interest in working more closely with
the wider development community. Your
editor offers his apologies to Greg Kroah-Hartman, who had to wait rather
longer than was proper for the lectern to become free.
Greg's talks were quite well received; his 2.5-hour tutorial on writing a
device driver had the undivided attention of the full audience at the end
of a long day. Peter Stuge gave a talk on CoreBoot (once known as
LinuxBIOS). Harald Welte's talk on GPL compliance was also well received;
the audience seemed much more interested in how to work with the GPL than
how to get around it.
FreedomHEC was not dominated by outside speakers, though. Developers Jim
Huang and Matt Hsu from 0xlab,
who were clearly
having a great time, discussed their work with the Qi bootloader. Fred Chien
covered a number of hacks ("dirty" and otherwise) to make Linux boot more
quickly. Joseph Chan of VIA discussed the various challenges he
encountered while working to merge a driver into the mainline. They all
appeared to be interesting talks; unfortunately for LWN readers, they were
also all in Chinese, so your editor's reporting is necessarily spotty.
The Chinese-language talk which looked like the most fun was a high-energy
session led by Chen Ing
Hau, perhaps best known as the (since repentant) author of the
Chernobyl worm. CIH (as he was referred to there) went deeply into the
process of reverse engineering the appropriate register settings to drive a
wireless network adapter. The talk proceeded with all the ups and downs of
a good detective story, with the culprit, naturally, being caught at the
There is a certain missionary aspect to attending this kind of
event. Harald Welte described
it this way:
In about 8 hours I'll depart for FreedomHEC Taipei 2009, an event
where members of the Linux development community try to help
Taiwanese hardware vendors understand the Linux development model.
I personally believe this kind of event could not be any more
important. The traditional PC and embedded hardware industry still
has a very, very limited understanding when it comes to properly
supporting Linux, aiming at the universal solution for best
end-user experience. In order to achieve this, the FOSS development
model needs to be understood, as well as the value of going
mainline with the drivers/ports.
The group of industries often referred to as "Taiwan, Inc." has often shown
a lack of understanding of how our community operates and, seemingly, a
lack of interest in being a part of it. So FreedomHEC looks like an
attempt to bring the Good Word to that part of the world. Certainly some
people need to hear it.
But your editor is not sure that those people were at this conference.
What went down at FreedomHEC was hackers talking to other hackers, and they
were having quite a good time in the process. It looked an awful lot like
a Linux-oriented development conference.
Your editor has spoken in
parts of the world where people seem to view software development as just
another job, and not a particularly inspiring one at that. But Taiwan was
not one of them. There are a lot of people
working on interesting projects, and they show that excited, creative spark
that suggests good things are on the way. They look like they want to be a
bigger part of our community.
To that end, events which present information on how to work with the
global community are helpful. But one thing is worth pondering on. When
asked if they felt that their managers understood the importance of and
value in working with the free software community, very few members of the
audience raised their hands. Taiwanese developers, it seems, don't need
much help in this area, but their bosses do. This is natural; why should
Taiwanese managers be more enlightened than their counterparts elsewhere in
the world? To solve this problem, we are going to have to engage in
education at higher corporate levels. Management can be won over with
sufficient persistence and energy - most of the time.
Events like FreedomHEC are helpful in this regard; they can give the local
development community encouragement and the tools needed to carry the
message to their companies. And there is always value in gatherings where
developers can meet and talk about things over beer. FreedomHEC Taipei
2009 was an exemplary event of its kind; its organizers (led by Chao Lung
Huang) deserve strong congratulations. Your jet-lagged editor is happy to
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