OSCON 2003 Day Three
Conferences need naptimes.
Tim O'Reilly started the day with a keynote that explored the relationship
between open source and web services. We spoke later that night, at the
author's signing, about the curious gift some people have for developing new
abstractions. Once you realize that two existing projects or ideas can be put
together in a new way, you wonder why you never noticed it before. I'll talk
more about that in a moment.
Paul Buck followed with a demonstration of IBM's Eclipse IDE. What struck
me is that his short demo looked exactly the same whether stepping through Java
or C++ code. It sounds like the future of Eclipse development will be in
plugins. I'm reminded of Mozilla... maybe there'll be a framework unification
Next I escorted Sun's Danese Cooper to the Speaker's Lounge. She's been
back and forth to Europe several times since I last saw her in Santa Clara a
few months ago — the EC is making decisions about open source adoption,
apparently. She'll probably have more to say on this. href="http://www.dibona.com/">Chris DiBona, ex-VA and Slashdot leader, was
upstairs, and we chatted about his new game company. The game industry has
always seemed to be five years behind the times for what works in software
development, but it sounds like he's got his head on straight. I'm hopeful
that his technical and business acumen will lead to a successful company.
Ward Cunningham and Brian Ingerson demonstrated
href="http://search.cpan.org/search?query=Test::Fit">Test::Fit before a
packed room. Fit is a framework for customer testing — just define a set
of inputs and expected outputs in a simple HTML table and link to a Fit runner
that will run the tests. If you make this available, for example, on a Wiki,
it's very easy for customers to start writing tests.
It was interesting to watch Mark-Jason Dominus, who arrived a couple of
minutes late. He's very clever, and the wheels in his head are always turning.
When Ingy explained that you could use Fit tests as baselines for the behavior
of any language, just linking to any other website that actually contained the
Fit runners, Dominus' hand shot up. "How does that work?"
The Fit runner just looks at the HTTP Referer variable to determine the
calling page (the one that defines the tests), grabs the HTML, parses the
tables, and returns a slightly modified HTML page with the test results.
That's the kind of simplicity and interconnection Ward's really good at.
That's the kind of thing Tim's thinking about when he talks about data, not
Brian Aker, fresh on his new job as Senior Architect at MySQL, shocked the
world (or, at least, me) when he announced that he'd embedded Perl in MySQL and
was using it for stored procedures a couple of years ago. Of course, it did
segfault rather often. Fortunately, it's highly mature now. In his talk on
"Making MySQL Do More", Brian showed the embedded function API. You can write
new functions for MySQL in Perl, Python, PHP, and Java. (Keep asking him about
Ruby.) You can link to C libraries; he's used Image Magick and zlib. I'm
excited about how easily you can modify queries —
SELECT DIFF(foo) anyone?
Lunch was decent. My brother met Dominus for the first time and, I think,
was a little intimidated.
The Perl Lightning talks are always worth watching. Though a few were
repeats from YAPC, it's always nice to see such a wide spectrum of interests
and ideas all crammed into short, sweet talks. Andy Lester spoke on getting a
job, though he refused to tell me how to give up a job when you have too many.
Allison Randal sang "Allison's Restaurant" again, about Perl 6 Development.
Autrijus Tang brought down the house by rapping, in Chinese, about 1% of his
favorite CPAN modules. (There's no truth to the rumor that he learned Chinese
in two hours just for the talk. He's that smart, though.)
Phil Tomson, Portland native, introduced SWIG. I had hoped for more
details about how it worked, but he gave a good overview and I learned a few
things. Phil's loves are electronics (chip design), Ruby, and SWIG, and he'd
put them to use on a recent job on a large integrated circuit manufacturer in
the Beaverton area. Chipzilla? My last serious attempt to use SWIG was
several years ago; it's picked up a lot of momentum and polish since. In
particular, I'm impressed that you can override and seamlessly go back and
forth between Ruby and C++ objects — that's a goal of Parrot.
Next, Greg Stein packed dozens of people into a much-too-small room to
discuss Subversion. Apparently CVS has quite a few warts. (Yes, that's irony.
I've used Subversion very happily for almost a year. I was convinced the first
time I used
svn move.) Lots of interesting features are planned,
though lots of interesting features are scheduled for "post 1.0". It's nice to
see a project with well-defined goals that sticks to those goals. If you want
to see how well an open source project can be organized and run, you'd do well
to examine Subversion.
The Author signing was next. Brian Aker showed up partway through and it
was very interesting to sign books with a co-author present. He lives in
Seattle but we never seem to show up in the same place at the same time. Oh,
and we gave away lots of mugs and lots of t-shirts. Surprisingly, we were all
out of calendars. Finally.
After the signing, I had a chance to speak to David Axmark from MySQL.
He's as good natured and smiley in person as he was in his talk. He has lots
of (good-natured) plans about taking over the world, though he's not sure the M
in LAMP can stand for any other open source databases. (Hey, I'm generous. I
don't even call it MostgreSQL!) We also talked slightly about the challenges
of working with remote developers. MySQL has several Russian programmers,
including one in Siberia. He has to travel as far through Russia as he would
in Europe just to get to Sweden.
Karen Pauley of Kasei came downstairs
at that point and had a conversation with Allison Randal and myself. Karen and
Tony Bowden had reviewed href="http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/extprogpg/">my book. We had a nice
talk about dealing with customers and some of her programmers. I'm not sure
that insulating developers from customers is the right decision; sometimes a
little conversation can make everyone more productive.
Randal Schwartz threw a party to celebrate the release of his
href="http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/lrnperlorm/">Alpaca book. As usual,
Stonehenge Consulting rented a bar, invited everyone in the area, and let
loose. I'm not sure anyone remembers the party.
Nat Torkington also had a few people over to the presidential suite.
There's a great view of the Willamette River and several bridges. (I'd not
seen OMSI's submarine since OMSI moved from by the zoo to down on the river.)
Lots of Perl people were there and I spent more time talking than I intended.
Good fun, but I got home way too late and got up way too late. Again, naptimes
would be wonderful.