EuroOSCON on the BBC

This week’s edition of the BBC programme Click Online contains a report about EuroOSCON. The transcript is here and the Real Audio stream is here. The programme is repeated a number of times on various BBC channels (mainly News 24) over the next couple of days.

It’s the first report in the programme, but its worth watching the introductory section that precedes it, just to hear presenter Stephen Cole’s slightly patronising comments about Open Source. Oh, and the report describes the conference attendees as looking like the Hair Bear Bunch, but that seems to have been edited out of the transcript for some reason.

It’s good of course that the BBC is covering the Open Source movement, but they still seem to think that we’re a bit of a bunch of weirdos. Perhaps they should have looked at how much Open Source software they use internally before coming to that conclusion. Or maybe that’s how they came to that conclusion…

EuroOSCON Day 3

Late, but I thought it was worth recording what I did on the final day of EuroOSCON.

As always, we started with the keynotes. Marc Heglund talked about privacy issues and the possibility of an “open data” movement. David Heinemeier Hansson talked about the secrets of Ruby on Rails and MySQL’s Kaj Arnö showed us his holiday snaps. Then Luis Casas Luengo gave a very impressive talk on how one area of Portugual is making great use of Open Source Software in education.

The morning’s final keynote was Damian Conway speaking about “Maximizing Non-stakeholder Buy-in by Leveraging Depatented Generic Information Transfer Protocols”. I don’t want to give too much away about this talk, but if you ever get the chance go and see it. You won’t regret it.

After the coffee break I went to see Roger Margoulas talking about Open Source Data Warehouses. Roger builds data warehouses for O’Reilly (I had seen some of his tools in another talk on Tuesday) and he had some really interesting things to say on the subject. Nice to see that in one of his examples he used the Template Toolkit to build an SQL query.

Talks were running a bit late, so I had to rush off to Jouke Visser’s talk about pVoice. I’ve known Jouke for many years and pVoice is a great project which uses Open Source Software to help disabled people.

After lunch I decided on another slightly non-techy talk. Stef Magdalinski is always an entertaining speaker so I decided to go and see him talking about “open sourcing everything”. He was basically looking at a number of knowledge areas and discussing which ones might be amenable to being distributed using a model like Wikipedia.

Then I went to see Johan Vromans talking about his Template Toolkit add-on called TT2Site. This is a simple way to build it web sites using the Template Toolkit. It’s a far simpler approach that the one we talk about in the Badger book. It might be useful if you have a small site to build or maintain.

After another break the conference wound up with Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Freedom Foundation talking about what the European Broadcast Flag plans could mean for the sharing of information. It’s a frightening prospect.

So the conference ended. I stood around in the corridor for a while talking to various people before heading back to my hotel. In the evening, the Amsterdam Perl Mongers had organised a special meeting so a number of us went off to that. Much fun had by all.

All in all a great conference. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a OSCON and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed them. This was a bit of an experiment for O’Reilly and I hope they think it was a success and organise another one next year.

Thanks to Nat, Gina and all of the conference team for organising.

EuroOSCON Day 2

Very late, but here’s a summary of what I did at EuroOSCON on the second day (Wednesday).

The keynotes started with Rael Dornfest talking about how “Annenuation is the new Aggregation”. He was followed by Red Hat’s Michael Tiemann talking about quality management. We then had Jason Matusow from Microsoft nicely illustrating how, hard as they might try, Microsoft just don’t understand Open Source. He did, however, announce that the licensing on their Shared Source program would be greatly simplified into three licenses. There then two keynotes which largely passed me by before Paula LeDieu gave an interesting talk on how the Creative Commons team are trying to see how their philosophies might apply in the world of scientific research.

A quick break and I was off to see Leon talk about his new, improved Perl debugger. It looks great, but unfortunately the web-based version doesn’t seem to install on my system. I’ve sent in bug reports. I then went to see Ben Goodger talking about the fantastic successes that the Firefox team have had in getting their product accepted into the mainstream.

After lunch I went to see CL Kao talking about his new version control system – svk. For my projects I still use CVS, but I should probably look at using something a little more up to date. It was particularly nice to see Karl Fogel from the Subversion project applauding so loudly at the end of CL’s talk.

I then stepped away from technical talks for a while to see Daneese Cooper talking about Free and Open Source Software in the developing world. Daneese works for Intel and it was interesting to hear her point out that Intel doesn’t really need to care what software people run on their chips – but that as a lot of proprietary software that is used in the developing world is pirated then you could see why they might have an interest in advocating the the use of Open Source Software. After a while this talk took a bit of a patronising “taking beads to the natives” tack which made me a bit uncomfortable.

Another coffee break and then I was of to see Jutta Horstmann talking about migrating to Open Source databases. This was a good overview of the Open Source database world, but a lot of the migration techniques were equally applicable for any kind of database migration whether the source and target databases are Open Source or proprietary.

For the last talk of the day I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to see. There wasn’t anything that paricularly grabbed my attention. So on a whim I went to see Robert Lefkowitz giving a talk called “Shielding and Exposing Innovation”. I really glad that I did. Robert is a great speaker and his talk drew many interesting parallels between the open Source movement and Renaissance Italy. I learnt some interesting history too.

I hung around and spoke to a few people and a group of us went off for some food before returning to the conference venue for the Maker Faire (why “Faire” rather than “Fair” or “Fayre”) where a number of hardware hackers set up stalls showing their interesting (and often very weird) projects. Bumped into a couple of friends who I didn’t know were going to be there, had some interesting talks and, all in all, had a most enjoyable evening.

ActiveRecord Does It Wrong

I’m listening to the keynotes on the final day of EuroOSCON and David Heinemeier Hansson is talking about the secrets of Ruby on Rails. He talks about how they promote “convention over configuration” and how that means that you don’t have to describe the same object attribute multiple times. This is a great idea, but one of the key parts of Rails (ActiveRecord, the part that talks to your database) forces developers to break this rule. When defining objects in ActiveRecord you need to describe all of the relationships that the object has with other objects (tables) in the database. This is repeating information that should be stored in the database. All databases (well, all databases that you should consider for serious development) allow you to define these relationships in the database metadata. Why doesn’t ActiveRecord pull back this information from there? I suspect that it might be because most Rails users will be using MySQL as their database. And MySQL doesn’t exactly make it easy to extract this data.

I’ve written about this before. This post is really just here as a pointer so that new readers can find my previous articles.

EuroOSCON Day 1

Ok, so it was probably day 2 if you were here for the tutorials, but it was my first day here, so I’m calling it day 1.

Just a few brief notes so that I remember what I did yesterday, I’ll fill in more details later.

The morning started with the keynote speeches. Nat began by comparing Open Source Software with The Iliad (or was it The Odyssey?) Then Tim O’Reilly talked a little about the “O’Reilly Radar” and Simon Phipps talked about some of the Open Source initiatives going on within Sun. They were followed by Jeff Waugh talking about recent improvements in Gnome and Chet Kapoor talking about… er… something (sorry, I can’t really remember that talk). The day’s keynotes were rounded off by Alan Cox talking about computer security.

After a quick break I wandered off to the Perl track to see Abigail talking about the problems with Perl’s object system and introducing the new module Lexical::Attributes which is supposed to fix that. This was followed by the Perl Lightning Talks which were the usual interesting selection of short talks. I talked briefly about the results of the Perl Mongers census. People laughed at the jokes. Which was nice.

After lunch I saw Phil Torrone of Make Magazine talking about the new hardware hacking ethic which Make encapsulates and Aaron Crane talking about how the Register serves millions of pages each day using a combination of server side includes and mod_rewrite rules. After another break I missed the Perl 6 session to go and see Tim O’Reilly and Rogert Margoulas talking about the incredible amount of book sales data that they monitor. Finally I went to see a talk that was temptingly entitled “Enterprise Email is Broken” but it turrned out to be a sales pitch for Zimbra – which was interesting but as I’d already seen the videos on their web site I ducked out.

There was then an O’Reilly author signing session where it was good to catch up with some of the other authors that I know and the day finished with a Perl Advocacy BOF which I chaired.

More details later….

Update: The slides to my Perl Mongers Census talk are now online. More details will follow before too long.

EasyJet (part 2)

EasyJet had one last surprise for me. My plane from Stansted was delayed by over an hour. I was supposed to arrive in Amsterdam at about 17:00 local time. I finally landed at about 22:45 and eventually got to my hotel just before midnight.

Which wouldn’t have really been a problem, but there were some interesting things taking place last night and i missed them all.

From the barbed references in a couple of the keynotes this morning I wasn’t the only person to have this problem.


Remind me to never book another EasyJet fight. Ever.

I had booked a flight that left Gatwick at 14:35 getting me to Amsterdam at 17:50 (local time). It’s now 18:00 (London time) and instead of being in the bar at at the conference hotel, I’m typing this in the departure lounge at Stansted airport whilst waiting for a flight which doesn’t leave for an hour and a half. I’ll eventually land in Amsterdam jut before 22:00 (local time).

What happened? Well, my plane was cancelled. But I only found that out after an hour queuing to check in at Gatwick. Apparently the fog this morning delayed a number of EasyJet flights and the company decided that the best way to recover from that was to cancel most of their remaining flights out of Gatwick today. I’m not entirely sure that makes sense to me.

So there were no more flights to Amsterdam today. They could offer me a flight in the morning. Or a flight from Stansted. There was also a flight from Luton, but by the time I found out about it, I didn’t have time to get there. So I had to make my way back into London then out again. But, of course, that didn’t kill the five hours that I was delayed by. So I’ve spent the last couple of hours hanging around in Stansted.

Never ever fly Easyjet.