OSCON 2009: Day Five

Here’s my summary of day five, but it’s a little late. I didn’t get a chance to post it Friday because the wireless got cut off promptly at 2:30 PM. Yeah, I had my aircard with me, but I was too busy talking technology at the tables with my fellow geeks. It was a good time, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The day started too early, but I think that was because of the late night at the SourceForge CCA party. I managed to get to the conference center in time to catch the last two keynotes, but like most keynotes, I didn’t get much out of them. They were entertaining, though.

Following the keynotes was an interesting, but thoroughly uneducational, history of JSON. I should have gone to another talk, but such is life when you have 13+ sessions to choose from and only a summary to go off of.

After this, I attended a talk about data scalability. I learned more in this session than in most others, but there was little practical advice given. It was all theory and no practical solutions to the problems presented. However, given the scant 45 minutes the talker had to fill, I’m sure he left lots out just to shoehorn the talk into such a short time. I’m glad I attended this session as it refreshed my knowledge of what I already knew about scaling databases and gave me new items as food for thought.

The closing keynote of the conference was very entertaining, and I’m glad I sat through it. The part about “What PC can I buy for $1500 when using Linux?” was phenomenal. Now, I just need to find $1500 lying on the street. 🙂

Then came hanging out with the friends I had made during the week. I had about three hours to kill. During this time, I helped one of the Ubuntu guys install Jaunty on a newly won HP netbook that another fella had won. Well… When I say helped, I mean I loaned him my aircard so he could install a few minor packages and get some critical updates installed. He did all of the work. I’m quite impressed by the speed of Jaunty on the new HP netbook. It made me wish I had won one of them. I think there were a total of six given away during the week.

Then came a quick train and bus ride to the airport, waiting around for a couple of hours at the airport and a very late flight home. I managed to make it home, get a shower and crawl into bed around 12:45 in the AM exhausted and happy to be home.

All-in-all, OSCON 2009 was a great trip, and I’m hoping to make it back again next year. Now to dive into my notes and prep a presentation here at work….

OSCON 2009: Day Four

The day started like any other with my alarm going off on time. I snoozed it a few times, but still made it to OSON in time to check my email and hang out with my fellow geeks for a short while before my first session started.

Then I made it on to Introduction to Forensics which was a great session. There was tons of good information presented, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the slides. Even without the slides, I made copious notes that will make BossMan happy.

Immediately following this was a wonderful presentation by Chris Shifflet about human behavoir in regards to security. There were a few good videos he presented to support his position, and I learned quite a bit about the psychology of usability and user behavoir. I think I came away from this presentation with some good stuff. I can’t wait to pass on this knowledge.

Then came lunch and some expo hall time. I had actually covered the entire expo hall the day before, so I spent some time at the various booths that had intrigued me from the day before. I learned a few more things, especially about GPLv2 vs. GPLv3. I’ll have to admit that the swag from this year does not match the years before. That’s Ok, I guess. It just means that my coworkers will be a little disappointed in me this year. Sorry guys.

Following lunch and expo hall time was a great speech by a Firefox staff member about their efforts to scale their web sites to handle the great, record breaking, Download Day, and I learned quite a bit in this session. Though most of the talk was focused on getting TikiWiki to perform better, I still learned some valuable lessons.

Next came High Performance SQL in PostgreSQL, and it was a sorry-ass talk. The examples were all contrived and at a high school programming level.There were very few actual business-practice type examples given, and I turned to my email to pass the time. I probably would have walked out of the session, but I was in the front row and I didn’t want to cause a scene by walking out. Such is life.

I spent the next break just hanging out and talking to some Ubuntu guys. They were all wearing “Ubuntu Guru” t-shirts. I enquired about acquiring a t-shirt like what they had, but was told it was a limited edition local group thing. One guy gave me his email address and contact info just in case he got more in the future. He promised to send me one if I got in touch. I love the open source community!

Then came the Perl Lightning Talks. The organizer, R Geoffrey Avery, roped me into speaking at them. We had TONS of technical difficulties as my netbook did not like their video system at all. I still managed to get my Perl script converted to DOS format, so I could open it up on a Windows machine in Notepad. Then I gave my three minute (I had up to five minutes, but didn’t need it all) speech on how Perl saved my bacon when it came to calculating hundreds of binomial distributions for game balance in a role playing game I am working on in my spare time. It was the first time I had spoken in such a large group of strangers in a long time, and I didn’t do a great job at it. I did OK, but not great. It was still a rush, and good practice for future presentations that I may want to give in front of crowds.

Then I attended a session regarding xdebug in PHP. I learned quite a bit from this session, and I can’t wait to bring this information back to work to spread the joy. It’s a good thing to use.

Then came the cream-of-the-crop of the parties for OSCON…. The SourceForge CCA (Community Choice Awards) party. This is the blowout blast of the entire conference, and what I was really looking forward to. While there, I hung out with some really excellent people, swapped some great stories, gleaned some good information, and got another tattoo… Yes, a third tattoo. It’s of the camel from the O’Reilly Perl book. It fits quite well with what I do for a living, and I’m very happy with it. It’s not a precise representation of the Perl cover, but it’s close enough to make me happy. Here’s the pic.

Perl Camel Tattoo

Perl Camel Tattoo

Pardon the sorry quality of the photo. It was done with my cell phone. I’ll have better pictures to post when I get home and have access to a real camera.

After getting the tattoo, I hung out with my fellow geeks and had a good old time. This is the first time since hitting this low, low altitude (I normally live at 7.400 feet) that I’ve gotten a good buzz from the alcohol at the party. Then again, it could be from the serious amounts of ibibement that I took part in.

Today was a really good day of technology, tattoos, geek-dom, and just plain old learning.

See you tomorrow from the last day at OSCON!

OSCON 2009: Day Three

Day three is in the books, and it was a really good day.

I started out the day in the expo hall and ran around met a wild array of vendors hawking their wares. Ok. That sounds a little bad, but everyone is trying to make a buck these days. I learned quite a bit from a few of the vendors, and a little bit from some of the others.

After the expo hall trip was a visit to room B2 for a session on using FOSS (Free Open Source Software) in an educational environment. I love seeing what the educational institutions are using as far as FOSS goes, so I try to attend these events. It was quite educational, and the speaker was very enthusiastic.It was a good session to attend.

Afterwards followed a long hike to J3, which was all the way at the other end of the conference hall. This session was about teaching kids how to program. It was a great overview of some of the K-12 software that is out there. I was hoping to use some of the information in regards to methods of teaching my team how to do their job (not all of the, but some of them.) I didn’t come away with lots of information in that regard, but I did discover lots of new tools for dealing with teaching kids how to think logically. That’ll help once Kiernan, my son, is old enough to type and use a mouse.

More expo hall and a quick lunch followed this session. Nothing too exciting here, but learning more from expo hall vendors. I did renew my FSF (Free Software Foundation) and EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) memberships during this time. I think I was a month overdue for both of them.

I skipped the next session, which would have been Programmer Insecurity and the Genius Myth, in favor of having a lengthy talk with the PostgreSQL guys about why my work should upgrade from 8.1 to 8.3/8.4. BossMan: If you read this… We need to do the upgrade ASAP. Lots of security, performance and maintenance issues are resolved in the more current versions. Hot Plate Item!

After talking to the PostgreSQL guys, I went to a session about the state of SourceForge, which revealed all sorts of cool new features and tools SF has released recently. It convinced me to move my three open source applications from my personal server to SF. It’s a bullet point on my growing to do list for the future.

Once this was done, here was a break in the action. I ran to my hotel room, dumped my bag, and returned to the expo hall to try to collect more swag. I ended up not winning the HP netbook from Intel, but I’m going to try again tomorrow. I had a good time learning more about various technologies from varous vendors and it was a good time (and free soda/snack thanks to SourceForge.)

After this came a great talk about filesystem performance and databases. It turns out that ext3 is not the best solution for database performace. BossMan: If you read this… We need to think about going to xfs for our databases! There was some great empirical evidence on this topic, and I can’t wait to return to work to share this with our DBA.

Next came a great talk about Inspekt. It’s a way to sanely manage superglobal data in PHP and do so in a secure manner. I’m going to rework the previously mentioned open source applications of mine to use Inspekt and then maybe move that knowledge into to some work-based applications to lock things down even tighter. I think it’ll be great. I’m also going to join the mailing list for this tool and see if I can contribute back to it because it’s such a great idea.

Follow the last session was more expo hall time which included free beer and free pizza. It doesn’t get much better than this. I talked to a guy I met last year and we had a good time talking technology and geek stuff.

Then I ran to my hotel room (notice a theme?), dumped all my stuff, threw on my horrendous glow-in-the-dark yellow T-Shirt from Linuxfund and made my way to the Motif Lounge where there was a party underway. After a couple of hours of free drinks and talking with my fellow geeks, I made my way back to the hotel (no running this time) to write this up and head to bed.

Having said that…I’m off to the softness of my pillow.

See you tomorrow!

OSCON 2009: Day Two

Day two started out like day one, and I found a great seat up front in the Hacking Web Sites tutorial. I was really hoping for some serious hands-on experience at hacking a web site. I don’t really need the experience since this is kind of my specialty in the security field, but it’s always nice to pick up new tips and tricks. The tutorial was mostly theory with some practice thrown in to boot. Even though the talk wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I did come away with two pages of notes and some good ideas on what to do in pen-testing and what not to do in coding. Good stuff.

The second tutorial was also security related, but this time we were learning about locking down PostgreSQL. The speaker was very good and knew his stuff. He ran through all sorts of scenarios from default installs, how to fix them and how to break them. The notes were very very good, and I also came away with a few pages of notes to hand off to my DBA back at work when I return to the office. I also have a booklet packed with detailed information that is also useful. We also covered quite a bit about encryption, ssh tunnels, SSL and similar topics. This was all review for me as we use all of this at work already, but it was a good refresher of the knowledge, and I even learned a new trick that I think will help me at work. We’ll have to see how that pans out.

After the tutorials, I ran off to find food in the form of a Philly cheese steak which was really nummy. I did this solo as I could not find a familiar face to snag to bring with me. Ah well. It was nice to have a little solo-based downtime.

Then it was back to the conference for the Ignite Talks and the O’Reilly/Google Open Source Awards. The ignite talks were fantastic, though a couple of them got a little political, and that always rubs me the wrong way.

Congrats to all of the winners of the awards, and thanks to the speakers who entertained all of us before and after the award ceremony.

I need to speak to one of the ignite talks, but first let me explain what they are. Each speaker has 15 seconds per slide and 20 slides. Do that math and you realize that they only have 5 minutes to cover a topic. What topic? Any topic. There were talks about hacking assistive technologies for disable people, textiles, a new movie rating system someone wants, improving the lives of teachers (we’ll come back to this one), the semantic web (thanks Damian!), and fixing rigged elections in Nigeria.

The one that really spoke to me was the one that ended up stating there are no open source tools or collaborative efforts to help teachers teach. This gaping hole in our technological wonders leaves our children at a disadvantage. I think I can help out with this effort, and I tracked down the speaker after the event was over. I managed to fight my way through some overly wordy people, and got my business card in the teacher’s hands. Anyone that knows me even a little, knows that I would love to be a full time teacher, but I can’t afford to live the way I do on their salary. The hope is to teach night college once I finish my Masters degree, but we’ll see how that goes. In the mean time, I can put my current skills to good use and maybe help this teacher out with his lofty goals of improving the lives of his fellow teachers.

I would post the teacher’s name and possible contact info because he put them on his slides. However, I was an idiot and didn’t bring a laptop, pen, paper or papyrus/reed with me to do some note taking. I wasn’t expecting to need to. I just hope he doesn’t lose my business card.

That’s the wrap up from today. I just got a tweet from one of the award winners. They’re heading out to a nearby bar to do some celebratory drinking. I’m going to run out and join them since it’s only 9:30 PM and tomorrow doesn’t start until 10:45 for the classes (the keynotes start earlier, but I usually skip them.)

OSCON 2009: Day One

Day one of OSON 2009 was a fantastic experience. I got to my first tutorial, PHP The Good Parts early and got a good seat. The tutorial ran through so many parts of PHP that was just not aware of and that can help me improve my programming. Of course, most of the items are just a month old (part of PHP 5.3) so this means upgrading all systems to PHP 5.3 if I want to take advantage of the items. We’ll see what use cases I can come up with to justify the upgrade. I can’t wait to show off some of the new things I learned with my fellow developers.

Lunch was good and I spent it with some fellow geeks. I learned a little bit about the Human Genome Project and how Perl is used to facilitate this process. I’m quite impressed that Perl can handle 8-12 terabytes of data crunching to sequence a gene. Very impressive. I’d love to get my hands on that code to see what it’s like. Probably won’t happen, though.

The second tutorial was about Perl 5.10 and what is new in the language. I was hoping for more examples of “You did it this way in the past, but now can do it this different way” but there wasn’t much of that. It was a solid half day of new features flying at me, and I’ll admit that I didn’t absorb much of it because there were few practical examples. I did get my hands on the slides in PDF format for later review. Maybe reading them at a more leisurely pace will allow me to gather in the knowledge. It seemed like most of the tutorial covered Unicode details, so I guess that is where Perl 5.10 has made the most strides recently. That’s good to know even if it doesn’t affect me directly since I don’t deal with Unicode characters all that often in my Perl work.

I attended a BoF (Birds of Feather) meeting about running PHP on multi-core systems. The folks at Sun Microsystems really did their homework for this BoF and have contributed back to the Zend engine and the open source PHP engine for improving performance in a multi-threaded multi-core environment. We swapped business cards because they have some experimental items that I want to play with and I offered to beta test some things for them on my AMD 64-bit mulit-core server.

Once that BoF was done, I headed out to pool and dinner with Chris from Yahoo! We had a good time eating some good food, drinking some good beer and shooing lots of pool at the First Market Pool Hall.

It was about midnight by the time I landed in bed after a hot shower and I slept fairly well out of pure mental exhaustion.

OSCON 2009 – Photos

Here are two photos that I’ve taken so far from OSCON 2009. I love the first one as it shows exacly how close I am to the conference center from my hotel.

This is the view from my hotel room at OSCON 2009

This is the view from my hotel room at OSCON 2009

The second one is of a beautiful building that is across the street from the conference. It’s just great!

Beautiful Spanish building across the street from OSCON 2009

Beautiful Spanish building across the street from OSCON 2009

I might post more photos later if I take them with my phone. We’ll see how things go.

OSCON 2009: Day Zero, Part Two

I made it to my hotel, got settled in, and headed right next door to the OSCON registration area. I got my badge and bag of goodies. The bag this year is not as good as the ones from the past two years, but that’s OK. It’s another bag with the name of my favorite publisher on it.

The “swag in the bag” was mainly advertisements from the various vendors. I leafed through them and trashed most of them. The past two years, I kept most of the adverts and ended up trashing them at home. No sense in carrying them around or flying them back home when they’ll just end up in the same place.

The items I did keep from the bag were two magazines, a Think Geek catalog, an OpenSolaris CD, a notepad (though not as cool as the ones Google gave out last year), and a advertisement for SourceForge’s annual award party. If you remember, last year’s party is where I got my first tattoo. I might get another one this year. We’ll see how things pan out.

Now that I’m checked into the hotel and the conference, I think it’s time to go in search for food and drink.

Oh. The hotel room here is awesome. It’s the closest one to the elevator and is very spacious for a single person. I like it quite a bit. The only downside is that you have to pay $13 a day for Internet access. I’m not paying that when I have my aircard with me and it’s reliable and secure. Not sure what level of security the hotel has on their wireless…

OSCON 2009: Day Zero

I’m sitting at my gate for my flight to San Jose, CA as I type this. I made it to the airport in record time, made it through security in record time, and have killed off an hour with some reading. Now I’m killing more time typing this up.

This is my third trip to O’Reilly’s OSCON, but this is the first time I’ll be going to San Jose. Actually, this will be my first trip to California. I just hope it doesn’t fall off into the ocean while I’m there.

While going through security, I decided to experiment with something. I know. I know. Dealing with TSA is not the best time to try a social experiment, but it was harmless. I tried to chat up every agent I had to deal with. It started with the one giving directions to the least crowded security line, continued on with the two directing traffic, and went on with the three I had to deal with that were actually doing the security work. I dealt with six TSA agents in total, and I asked them how their day was going, encouraged them to have a good day, and little chit-chat items like that. It was a fun experiment, and I encourage other people to try to do the same. With my very small sampling of TSA agents, I found that 2 out 3 agents are too busy with their days to offer a smile or make eye contact with the passengers they are screening. The other 1 out of 3 were very friendly and helpful. I enjoyed my few brief moments in their company.

I might post again later tonight from my hotel room once I’m settled in. We’ll see how it goes. For now, I have more reading I want to do before it’s time to pack up and get onboard the steel, titanium and steel tube with wings that we cal an airplane.

Kindle? No Thanks.

I was seriously thinking about asking for a Kindle as a gift for Christmas. They’re a little steep, but I would love to be able to buy and read books without lugging around the weight of the books. That was until I read these two stories.

It seems that Amazon is selling e-books for their wildly popular Kindle and then stealing them back from the consumer (with a refund) by deleting them from their customers’ Kindles with a remote kill switch.  Imagine if you bought a book from a brick and mortar store, then woke up one night to find the sales clerk or manager digging through your book shelves to reclaim the latest Stephen King book you brought home a few weeks ago. I imagine someone would get thier sorry ass shot for stealing books back, even if they meant to leave your cash on your shelf in place of the book.

As far as I’m concerned, Amazon is stealing from their faithful customers. What else will they do with the Kindle in the future? I can’t wait to see how else they will screw over their customers. I’m not going to be one of them. That’s for sure.

Backup Disaster

Here’s my backup schema.

My laptops (3 of them) and flash drives (a handful of them) get backed up to an external hard drive named “Helix”.

Helix, in turn, gets backed up to an identical external hard drive named “Operator”.

Now that the scene is set….

I had successfully backed up 2 of 3 laptops and all my flash drives to Helix. While laptop #3 was being backed up, I decided to save a little time and wiped Operator to make room for the fresh image coming in from Helix.

Well… Dammit… During the backup of the third laptop, things went all screwy and the hard drive at itself. Now I’m left with no backup of anything I deemed important. You see, there was data on Helix that was not on any of my laptops or flash drives. I’m not sure what to do now other than to fsck Helix and see if I can recover the drive. I really hope that I can because I can’t afford to lose the years (decades?) worth of collected data, files, music, PDFs, pictures and more. I just hope the fsck works. It churned all night last night and didn’t finish by the time I had to leave for work. I have the drive plugged into my laptop now, and a second fsck is churning away. I hope things come out well. We’ll see…

Now to figure out an affordable solution for backing up the data that just lives on Helix and none of the laptops or flash drives. *sigh*