OSCON 2006: Day Two


The keynotes on Day Two of OSCON 2006 had a substantially different flavor than those of the prior day. Simon Phipps of Sun presented some interesting observations in his “Zen of Free” presentation. r0ml presented a raucus, energetic evaluation of “how much open source to use”, which upon reflection I think served almost as a counterpoint to Simon’s remarks.

One thing I noticed is that most of the speakers Thursday morning seemed to be silently equating open source with Free Software. Free Software is a subset of open source software, but not all open source software is Free Software. I recognize that the conference is the O’Reilly Open Source Conference, but it was still mildly troubling to see the blurring of this very important line. Richard Stallman would have been livid (“isn’t he always?” was someone’s retort in #oscon when I shared this observation).

Sessions I attented Thursday: Subversion Best Practices: this was a very fast introduction, given by a couple of Google employees who are core Subversion committers (the same pair gave the “Surviving Poison People” presentation the day before). It wasn’t terribly technical, or in-depth, but it was a good overview of why you’d so some things in certain ways with Subversion. I’m 200, You’re 200: Codependency in the Age of the Mash-up: apart from the horrible pun in the title (200 is the HTTP status code for “OK”), this was a very interesting examination of things one ought to consider when building an aggregate solution using all the various building block APIs available today. For example, if you’re making some sort of map overlay system, how will your app degrade if your chosen map service is unavailable? How can you make your service flexible enough to plug in any service as needed? The questions asked weren’t ones I normally consider, so this was a pretty good session. Google: TBD: The Google folks were able to schedule a session without telling anyone what that session was to be about. Early this week they update the session data from “To Be Determined” to a vague statement about a product launch. The room was packed, as Gooogle unveiled their Code Hosting project. It looks to be an interesting competitor to SourceForge and the other project hosting services – Google is sticking with their GMail “labels” interface, and is radically simplifying the project creation process by restricting your project to one of seven pre-defined license. I applaud them for taking a stand to reduce license proliferation. The project also encourages better bug reports by pre-filling a form’s text field with those questions that really ought to be included with every report. It looks like a good service, but it’s still pretty rough around the edges (they were literally working on it the night before the presentation). Writing Maintainable Code with PHP: there wasn’t a whole lot in here that I didn’t already know. This was more a reminder to keep trying to do the things I already try to do when writing code. Nonetheless, it was a good refresher, and I’m glad I went. Leap Ahead with New Intel Platform Innovations in 2006: this was in the “Products and Services” track, which was specifically created for sales pitches and commercial product demonstrations. I went to this sessions because we’re constantly comparing Intel and AMD server solutions at work, looking to get the best bang for the buck. I’ve been rusty on hardware developments for a long time, so it was pretty exciting to see what’s coming in new Intel CPUs. The Virtualization Technology is one of the most exciting aspects, giving real improvements to Xen and the like. There’s also some real advances coming in terms of network processing, where Intel is going to offload a lot of network “stuff” from the CPU to special-purpose components on their new chips, resulting in significant throughput improvements. This will be important to us, as we roll out gigabit to the desktop. Ubuntu: Community Building for Human Beings: this was a fun, laid-back look at how Canonical grew the wonderful community behind the Ubuntu GUN/Linux distribution.

I ate lunch with Rich and Ken again. We joined Rasmus Lerdorf, of PHP fame. During the afternoon break, DrBacchus and I snuck into the Press Room to record a few cookiecasts. It was a little noisier than I would have liked, but I think they came out fine.

We had dinner at a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant with a few folks on the #oscon IRC channel. It was a very mellow dinner, with pleasant conversation ranging from the value of the conference (from our employer’s perspectives) to reminiscence of the heady 1990s when money was everywhere.

After dinner we zipped back to the convention center to attend the BOFs. Birds of a Feather are self-organized get-togethers focused on a specific issue, so that people can meet and discuss something that might not have had a formal presentation. I had hoped to attend the Ubuntu BOF, but missed it. So I went to the GPG Keysigning event, which also doubled as a CACert assurance event. I was the only CACert Assurer present, so I was pretty busy checking IDs and signing forms. It was neat to meet everyone, though, and when I was done with my CACert duties I got to go back around to everyone and trade GPG keys.

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