OSCON Day 3 - the Tutorials are over and the Sessions have Begun

by James Goodwill

It’s 8:45 PM Wednesday and I have just finished my first full day at my first O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON). It was whole lot of fun.

The day started off a bit slow—I had some real work that kept getting in the way. But once I had gotten my phone calls out of the way, I headed over to the conference and caught the tale end of Erik Hatcher’s Applied Ant session—it was extremely interesting. It was chock full of information and went passed the simple basics of Ant. Erik talked about Ant with everything from EJBs to web services and then he went on to one of my favorite topics, unit testing. Erik really did a good job of explaining his information and gave an extremely useful presentation.

After the Ant presentation, I had lunch with Erik and Doug Cuttings (the creator of the Lucene project) at Champions. It was a lot of fun getting their opinions about different open-source business models. I like to hear about how people intend to make money off of open-source. After all we all need to make a buck, eventually.

With a burger and some fries in my belly, I decided to augment some of our lunch discussions with a session on Lucene. This session was, conveniently enough, given by Erik again and included Doug in the back of the room. I really enjoyed this topic. Prior to lunch I really had no experience with Lucene and this was a perfect conclusion to some of our discussions. Erik introduced Lucene and talked about what it is (a high-performance, full-featured text search engine written in Java) and then went on to give examples of how it is used and who is using it. He showed us how to index documents and then showed us how these documents are searched using the concept of an analyzer. It was extremely interesting. We looked at analyzers that searched documents using simple key-word searches to complex fuzzy-logic searches. If you need to integrate an advanced search engine into your applications, this is a great place to look.

After this session, it was time to hit the exhibitor hall. I really did not expect very much (I still want to know where all of the open-source groups get their money), but I was pleasantly surprised.

ActiveState has obviously found a way to make money off of open-source. They have a very nice looking IDE, Komodo, that is focused on development with Perl, PHP, Python, Tcl, and XSLT. I wonder why some of the other IDE vendors have not consider some of the open-source languages. I hope these guys can sustain themselves.

The group that I was most impressed with was Jabber. These guys have a very interesting model and they also have many commercial companies that actually use the Jabber protocol to develop messaging applications for the enterprise.

As they described it to me, Jabber is an XML protocol for the real-time exchange of messages between any two points on the network. One of the most common Jabber applications is instant messaging (AIM, MSN, etc.), but what sets Jabber apart from the other protocols is that it based on open standards. It is not proprietary like AIM or MSN, therefore anyone can write a messaging application that uses the Jabber protocol. And as a bi-product of using Jabber, they are automatically using the same protocol as many other messaging systems. Interesting stuff, open-source the protocol and let the commercial vendors build products on top of it. I will have to look into this further.

Well, that about does is for my Day 3 of OSCON. It is now time for some dinner. Tomorrow should prove to be just as interesting as today—see you then.