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Thursday, 27 January 2011 13:12

LCA 2011: Ringing the right network switch


There are many things on which delegates to an Australian national Linux conference will compromise. But when it comes to internet connectivity, geeks are a little reluctant to cede ground.

Thus, not surprisingly, the provision of bandwidth - and reliable connectivity - stands right at the top of the priorities for any group of organisers.

This year, it was the same and all bases had been covered - until the floods came along and forced a lot of rethinking.

Jared Ring (below), a 28-year-old academic from the Queensland University of Technology, is the networking guru for the Brisbane conference. Along with James Iseppi, he has spent several sleepless nights, shifting things over from the expected venue - the Gardens Point campus of QUT - to what became the venue - the Kelvin Grove campus of the same university.

"I wanted QUT to host an LCA long before this," Ring told iTWire at the network operations centre this morning. "A few years back I approached Linux Australia and they told me that I would have to come through the local Linux user group, HUMBUG."
Jared Ring
But when the dream came true, nature rebelled. When the floods forced a change of venue, a massive amount of physical work was required. "We were able to keep the network design basically the same," Ring said. "Even the old port numbers are still there."

The fact that the Kelvin Grove campus is a hilly one didn't help; just getting around is a tiring business.

QUT had already provisioned network trunks at the Gardens Point campus. The shift over was facilitated by the fact that the organisers were able to use the QUT Campus network. Due to this a lot of the administrative work could be done remotely.

"The QUT network staff have been incredibly supportive," Ring said. "Without them, we would probably have found it very. very difficult to provide what we have."

One of the problems was with Urbanest, a hotel in South Bank close to the old venue, where a sizeable number of delegates are staying.

"Our biggest concern was to get the conference network to Urbanest," said Ring. "One of the buildings at the old venue was under water and I had to get in under escort to set up a line-of-sight link."

There was no power at Urbanest until last Thursday (January 20), hence it was impossible to set up the wireless access points needed.

"It had to be done on Sunday when delegates were arriving," said Ring. "We have been able to provide at least a majority of the people there with network access. And the network at the conference is working fine."

The conference's main connection to the internet, provided by AARNET, had also been provisioned for Gardens Point; that had to be changed as well.

One of the downsides of all this last-minute work is that, in the last month, Ring has not seen much of his wife, Thanh, and their 18-month-old daughter Victoria. He hasn't been able to put in much work at his regular job either.

He's happy that things have worked out as well as they have. "We've had to shift only one event, the speakers' dinner. The other events are going ahead at the venues as scheduled. It's a good reason to feel satisfied."



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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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