SELinux talk at RVaLUG – 20140419

This morning I gave what was a pretty well-received talk about SELinux. We got into the important definitions and pretty down deep into how type enforcement works. Lots of practical examples and fun stuff.

Of course why spend hours coming up with a new slide deck when you can borrow from amazing work done by co-workers. 🙂

The slide deck I used was a slightly modified deck used (last I know of) for a Red Hat TAM Webinar last April.  It also came with a set of lab questions that we didn’t have time to go through today.

And of course, there is the SELinux Coloring Book.

The talk was long for a LUG meeting (right around 90 minutes plus a little follow-up), but the interaction was great and I think we had some good communication going.




Speaking at RVaLUG this month — Systemtap Introductions

I’ll be talking this month at RVaLUG (, giving an introduction on an amazing Linux tool called Systemtap (

From the Systemtap homepage:

SystemTap provides free software (GPL) infrastructure to simplify the gathering of information about the running Linux system. This assists diagnosis of a performance or functional problem. SystemTap eliminates the need for the developer to go through the tedious and disruptive instrument, recompile, install, and reboot sequence that may be otherwise required to collect data.

SystemTap provides a simple command line interface and scripting language for writing instrumentation for a live running kernel plus user-space applications. We are publishing samples, as well as enlarging the internal “tapset” script library to aid reuse and abstraction.

Among other tracing/probing tools, SystemTap is the tool of choice for complex tasks that may require live analysis, programmable on-line response, and whole-system symbolic access. SystemTap can also handle simple tracing jobs.

Current project members include Red Hat, IBM, Hitachi, and Oracle.

This should be a great talk and an even better discussion afterwards. Be sure to come on out.


Making Open Source Better with LUGs

>When I tell people I work “with Linux”, most of them have a vague idea of what I do for a living. Granted, some of them think if involves dark basements full of hardware that looks like it’s from War Games, but at least they’re in the right ballpark.

A (very) few of them actually perk up and mention that they’re interested in Linux a little. Usually this is phrased as “Oh, I tried out Ubuntu on an old laptop for a while”. This is when I go into something that looks a little more like this scene from Tommy Boy than I care to admit.

Unless I’ve seen this person previously at my local LUG meeting, odds are the first impression is out. 
My poor salesmanship notwithstanding, I often find myself wondering why desktop use of Linux is still lagging behind. With the debut of Gnome 3 recently, I find myself wondering that even more, because that experience is at least as good as the one with Mac OSX 10.6 (I use them both every day). 
So how do we, as the ambassadors and experts of Linux, make our own community better?
The LUG. 
I know. It sounds weird. The first thing that most people think of when they hear “Linux User Group” is acne, debates about kernel logging, and nerd-sweat. But I truly believe that the Linux User Group can be a game-changer in how Linux is perceived and used. 
Take a look at the Mac Genius Bar. Come in. Test drive a Mac, and talk to people who know way too much about it who can show you how and why it’s better than Microsoft. And if you have a Mac, come in and learn cool new stuff whenever you want in a very comfortable, low-hurdle environment.
Why can’t a LUG do that? And do it better?
Make it the focus of a LUG meeting, and take away the $2k price tags. You can have people come in who are interested in Linux (or just interested in not paying for Windows or Mac OSX), and have your own community of experts show them how Linux can be superior for them no matter what their needs are for a computer. Lots of LUGs have “Install Fairs” already. Why not make them “Welcome to Linux Fairs”, and include some basics on the user experience, as well?
The second thing that the Genius Bar does so well is that softening of the initial learning curve and offering soft support to people when they come in.  A LUG could easily man an email address that new users could ask questions on, or have online forums for that purpose, or make videos, or any of a thousand other cool things that would help someone get comfortable in Linux more easily. And if the LUG takes it on as a community it could easily be a superior experience for everyone involved. Not only would more people use Linux, but the people in the LUG grow, and the current members would gain experience by generating that support network. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, and well worth the effort.
The long and the short of it is that even now we people in the Linux community like to walk around and feel a little bit superior about using Linux to solve our problems better. That’s great. But instead of just walking around I think we should be showing other people how they can do it, too.

Breaking Down Barriers to Entry – Has your LUG kept pace with the kernel?

One of the largest stigmas still attached to Linux is that “it’s too hard to learn and use”. One of the easiest ways to dispell that myth is to get someone around people who enjoy using and making Linux and show them not only how easy, but how amazing it can be as a tool.

A local Linux User Group has the ability to be an incredible entry point to do this, but unfortunately they’re still stigmatized more than Linux itself. Has your group kept up with Linux itself in the adoption of new technologies, concepts like social media, and does your group have a goal of growing FOSS/Linux contributors? If not, should it? And if so, how can it?

This thought popped into my head a few hours ago, and I’ll be exploring it more fully over the next few weeks.