Saturday, July 12, 2003

OSCON Day Five

george dyson's keynote went back and covered some lesser known parts of the history of computing, back to the days of vacuum tubes. i mean it's amazing to think about the time when they actually didn't have the word 'bit', but he's working on preserving the history of those days, much of which had been in danger of being lost. i was amazed by a number of the things he mentioned, and i think everyone here was thankful for this view into our culture's lesser known history. in conclusion, he thanked everyone here for working to keep computers open and non-proprietary, because that's the way it started, and that's the way it should be, and upon leaving the stage, he was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience.

the next keynote was from miguel de icaza, of gnome/ximian/mono fame. i was always impressed with miguel during the short time i was contributing code to mono, and he did not dissapoint me. the demo was impressive (they ran eclipse under mono, via a java bytecode to IL translator), and him and nat friedman demoed a cool application they've been playing with that tries to integrate all of the different disparate data sources we interact with on a daily basis (IM, email, files on disk, and many others), so it can show you items related to whatever you're currently working on. it's still under development, but even so it was impressive, and it serves as a good example of the kind of thing one can only do in an open source system, since hooking in to all the applications one works with in a proprietary os would be much much harder than it is for them on linux.

i couldn't miss jeremy zawodny's talk mysql scaling pains, since i've been reading his weblog for some time, and he has always seemd like a very sharp guy. needless to say, he did not dissapoint. he covered a lot of neat things, some mysql specific, and some not. i'm sure he's got his slides online somewhere, so i'll have to forward copies of them along to the various people at work who are using sql databases, especially those using mysql.

i skipped out on jeremy's next talk so i could hear ask talk about the single sign system they built for it's a neat system, integrating various different web sites, cvs access, bug tracking, and probably some other things i've forgotten. the whole thing is backed with a mysql database, and when they can't write their own perl code to hit their systems, or hook mysql in to the application in question directly, they dump the data out periodically to whatever format the system in question requires (this is how they do cvs authentication and authorization). oh, best of all, they talked about subversion! they're using mod_auth_mysql for authentication in apache, and mod_authz_svn for authorization. they were a little annoyed that mod_authz_svn only supports flat files for configuration, but they conceded that it's very new software, and that they'd be on the lookout for better ways to make it work in the future. after their talk i went up and talked to them for a while about how they're using mod_authz_svn and what they'd want in the future. it was pretty much what i'd expected, they don't like that there's no way to have an anonymous user that doesn't have to log in, but recognized that it's a flaw in the way apache authorization works at the moment, and they want something that's more flexable in where it gets it's data, either by calling into mysql or something else. i'm sure such things will come in time, as mod_authz_svn is currently more of a proof of concept than anything else.

ask had to run out on me because he needed to set up his laptop to display this year's perl movie i'm not going to say anything about it other than that it's damn funny (if you know who the people in it are), and you should watch it once they've got it up somewhere for download.

the last talk of the conference was one of the guys from WETA, the group that does the special effects for the lord of the rings movies. they do everything on a gigantic linux cluster, and he showed a lot of pictures and movies, and in general it was quite cool. one of the more amusing comments was that in the down time between the movies they apparently ran seti at home on the cluster, and immediately jumped near the top of the team listings ;-) unfortunately, they didn't have a preview of the return of the king for us (last year apparently there was a preview of the two towers), since it's being saved for the dvd, but he did assure us that if we thought the battle of helm's deep was cool, we should love what they've got in store for us next.

in typically geeky fashion, we spent the afternoon wandering around powell's, and i showed remarkable restraint, only buying one book. justin did not show as much self control, and ended up shipping a ton of stuff home since he would not have been able to fit it all on the plane with him. apparently a lot of the conference attendees had the same idea we did, as i kept recognizing faces as i was wandering around the store.