Category Archives: apachecon
Three days of ApacheCon@home – not far short of a full regular ApacheCon. A comparable number of presentations, far more attendees, but missing some fun elements like lightning talks. I felt too knackered to blog on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, but a few more thoughts bear recording.
In fact it wasn’t just the evenings I felt knackered: I felt diminishing returns on the contents, both presentations and social (not helped by more glitches with the technology). If a change is as good as a rest, the
changerest associated with a conference venue and atmosphere is perhaps essential to the familiar experience. Which leads me to the thought: this would have worked better as three separate one-day events. Shorter events could perhaps be themed further for different timezones.
And of course, the primary reasons for making it a multi-day event – to get a decent return on the overhead of travel and accommodation, and to make the most of the in-person event – is gone. It seems to me that more and shorter events make a lot of sense in the online space!
Regarding the substantial contents, I attended several talks in the Geospatial track. Of particular note was one by Lucian Plesea, whose interests seem to have a huge amount in common with my own. His work on accessing and visualising huge datasets look a lot like what I was aiming for with the HyperDAAC, a couple of generations on in terms of both computing and Big Data. Dr Plesea is working at ESRI, so hopefully his work shouldn’t languish unnoticed as HyperDAAC did!
Furthermore, at the core of his implementation (and talk) is a set of Apache modules, practicing what I preach in terms of making it his application server. I was gratified by his reference to my book in the BoF at the end of the day (after his talk). His modules are open source at github, and look interesting, and perhaps deserving of packaging for a wider audience.
This year, for obvious reasons (covid), ApacheCon is taking place entirely online. Today was the first day. So what was it like?
Well, obviously it’s not a Jolly in a nice hotel in an interesting location, as the best events have been. Does that detract from it? Well of course those are part of the magic of the best ApacheCons – above all Budapest, where both the hotel and the city were fantastic. On the other hand, the money saved could buy quite a decent week’s holiday somewhere of my choosing! Better to focus on what did or didn’t work well in terms of presentations, communication, networking.
The economics of online worked nicely for lots of people, bringing in several thousand attendees compared to a few hundred at a “normal” event. A poll suggests that eightysomething percent of those thousands are attending their first ApacheCon: evidently a lot of people find it a lower hurdle (as I do). So we’re embracing a much bigger community, which is fantastic – so long as we don’t disappoint.
The times also worked nicely for us in European (and indeed African) timezones. While Americans, Asians and Antipodeans had it taking much of their nights at one end or t’other, here it opened at 09:30, and ended with BoF sessions at 21:00, much like a regular ApacheCon. The benefits of being in the middle of the world’s inhabited timezones!
After one or two initial glitches – a very short learning curve – the technology worked well. Presentations were clear, with the presentation window split to show the presenter, his/her screen, and a text chat window in separate panes: pretty-much ideal. “Corridor” action was, I thought, less successful, but then I’ve long found text chat easier to work with than face-to-face, which is why I don’t even have a webcam and audio system on my desktop ‘puter. Text chat there was a-plenty on every possible topic, but then we don’t need an organised event to benefit from that.
In terms of contents, the programme was easily as good as any I can remember. I enjoyed and was inspired by a number of talks, including some not merely on subjects but on projects with which I had no previous familiarity. In fact I think it worked rather better than sitting in a conference room, and I found it easy to stay alert and focussed, even in that after-lunch siesta slot when it can be hard to stay awake.
A major theme this year is the rapidly-growing Chinese community at Apache. In recent years it’s moved on from a handful of individual developers contributing to Apache projects, to quite a number of major projects originating in China and with Chinese core teams coming to Apache. Sheng Wu – a name I’ve hitherto known as a leading light of the Incubator and also lead on one of those projects – gave a keynote on the subject.
I don’t recollect when we had the main discussion of the language issues of Chinese communities coming to Apache, but some of these are now fully bi-lingual, with English being ultimately the official language but Mandarin also widely used. Mandarin was also used in a few of the morning’s talks – morning being of course the eastern-timezone-friendly time of day (and there was also a Hindi track). One Chinese speaker whose English-language talk I started to listen to proved hard to follow, and I found sneaking out unobtrusively a minor benefit of the online format!
The success of Chinese projects coming to Apache was demonstrated by two of today’s most interesting talks – by Western speakers (one American, one German) who don’t speak Chinese, but have become members of the respective core developer communities by virtue of participating. One was about the project itself, but Julian Feinauer’s talk was specifically focussed on the community: how a bi-lingual community works in practice (a question on which I’ve mused before, for example with reference to translations of my book, and regarding nginx). Answer: it’s working very well, with both languages, with machine translation to help “get the gist”, and with bilingual members of the community. And there are gotchas, when an insufficiently-comprehensive translation leads to confusion.
Summarising the Chinese theme, I think perhaps Sheng Wu’s keynote marks the point I dreamed of when I wrote the preface to the Chinese translation of my book.
Congratulations to Rich Bowen and his team on adapting to the circumstances and bringing us a fantastic event! More to come, about which I may or may not blog.
I’ve already posted from ApacheCon about my favourable first impression. I’m happy to say my comments about the fantastic city and hotel have survived the week intact: I was as impressed at the end of the week as at the start. Even the weather improved through the week, so in the second half – when the conference schedule was less intense – I could go out without getting wet.
The main conference sessions were Monday to Wednesday, with all-day schedules and social events in the evening. Thursday was all-day BarCamp, though I skipped the morning in favour of a bit of touristing in the best weather of the week. Thursday and Friday were also the related Cloudstack event. I’m not going to give a detailed account of my week. I attended a mix of talks: a couple on familiar subjects to support and heckle speakers, new and unfamiliar material to educate myself on topics of interest, and – not least – inspirational talks from Apache’s gurus such as Bertrand.
Socially it had a very good feel: as ever I’ve renewed acquaintance with old friends, met new friends, and put faces to names hitherto seen only online. The social scene was no doubt helped not just by the three social evenings laid on, but also by the fact that all meals were provided encouraging us to stay around the hotel, and that the weather discouraged going elsewhere for the first half of the week. The one thing missing was a keysigning party. Note to self: organise it myself for future conferences if noone else gets there first!
I’ve returned home much refreshed and with some ideas relevant to my work, and an intention to revitalise my Apache work – where I need to cut my involvement down to my three core projects and then give those the time&effort they deserve but which have been sadly lacking of late. Also grossly overfed and bloated. Now I just have to sustain that high, against the adversity of the darkest time of year and temperatures that encourage staying in bed. 😮
Huge thanks to DrBacchus and the team for making it all happen!
A great venue
It’s lunchtime on the first day of Apachecon. Too soon to assess the event as a whole, but I’ve formed a view on the venue.
Of all the ApacheCon venues I’ve been to, I think this week’s seems the best. The Corinthia Hotel is about as good as any I’ve encountered, and we’re in a nice area of the great historic city of Budapest. Amsterdam is the only past-Apachecon city that can really rival Budapest, but that was let down by a bad conference hotel. And conversely, where I’ve encountered decent hotels, they’ve been in some altogether less pleasant or interesting locations. At worst we’ve had poor hotels in poor locations.
Come to think of it, that’s not just Apachecon, it’s conferences of any kind, even stretching back to my days in academia.
Of course, my perception may be coloured by individual circumstances too. I’m not doing anything stressful like giving a talk or tutorial this time. And I may have been fortunate to have been allocated an ideal hotel room, overlooking a quiet quadrangle where I can open the window wide for fresh air without being disturbed either by outside traffic or hotel noise.
Just a couple of flies in the ointment. The weather in bleak November isn’t entirely conducive to getting the most from Budapest. And there are not sufficient power outlets to wield the laptop everywhere around the conference. Even if that’s (arguably) a good thing when in a presentation, the shortage of power points applies even to the designated hacker area, which is itself not a strong point of the event.
OK, time to get back to conferring!
We had a very small keysigning last Wednesday at ApacheCon (thanks Jean-Frederic Clere for organising it). I exchanged identity details with about 20 others, many of whom I already know.
Today I got around to digging up my list of details, and signing 11 keys I hadn’t already signed from some earlier event. If you were there and I got your details, my signature on your key should now appear on the keyservers.
ApacheCon last day
OK, most of it hasn’t happened yet. I’m sitting in the ASF pioneers panel, a non-techie event to celebrate 10 years of the ASF, and lighten the day. Just checked out of the hotel and left the luggage with concierge.
This afternoon sees the best Apache HTTPD sessions. I’m not giving any of them, but I’m down for the easy task: chairing two sessions. May miss out on blogging them, as we’ll be off to catch the ferry later this afternoon.
After two days of pissing rain, the weather has cleared up and the sun is shining. Poor ol’ Sarah got soaked twice while touristing the city during the day, but it looks like she’ll at least be spared travelling with wet stuff.
Language abuse bites back
In the early days of Tomcat, they settled on an architecture wherein tomcat is fronted by an HTTPD proxy, which would also serve the application’s static data. That makes sense, not least from a performance point of view.
But it gives rise to a by-product. Tomcat folks come to use the word static to refer to anything served by httpd and not tomcat, regardless of whether it is in fact static or dynamic. A minor irritation, but not one on which I’ve hitherto felt the need to rant.
Today that little abomination bit back, when Jean-Frederic Clere used it in his talk on proxying/clustering/loadbalancing solutions for tomcat. An audience member took the word at face value and questioned him on a usage that just didn’t make sense. Oops!
(no disrespect to Jean-Frederic – a much-respected developer, and since English isn’t his native language, he has no strong reason to feel the abuse).
ApacheCon day 1
Today was the first day of the main conference. It mostly feels very alive this year, though that may or may not have any basis in reality. Today was also hugely improved by the fact that we got a very good lunch, and my stomach was sufficiently recovered to enjoy it.
There were no talks today directly relevant to my work, so I thought I’d try some of the hadoop track, to learn a little about one of the ASF’s more exciting projects. Unfortunately Owen O’Malley’s introduction in the first slot was too packed to get in, so I went elsewhere. I did get to see Olga Natkovich’s talk on pig after lunch, but that was all for hadoop.
The other interesting thing was in the business/social track. I made a point of going to see Gianugo Rabellino’s talk: he’s a fine thinker and speaker, and always both interesting and entertaining. I hadn’t planned to, but I stayed on to hear Paul Freemantle on WS02’s business model: fascinating because it had so many echos of my own experience in, and WS02 appear to be making a success of it.
In the early evening was keysigning. Not so many this year: it wasn’t really adequately advertised. But I’m certainly exchanging signatures with a few new folks, which is always useful.
 Natkovich? Have patronymics gone unisex/politically correct?
The second day of ApacheCon week was the hackathon. Having had breakfast at subway sandwiches next door to the hotel on Monday, we tried again, but they had no bread. I managed to get a dicky tummy after no breakfast, and was running in and out a bit during the day, but that pretty-much cleared up by the end of the day.
In the hackathon, we had a chat around APR. Is there really a good reason for APR-UTIL to be a separate library (nope)? The work we’ve done recently to separate out big dependencies like the DBD libs is right – we don’t want to load a library we’re not using. One option is to follow this direction further towards full modularisation. And there seems little benefit in wrapping LDAP at all: so far as anyone knows, HTTPD is the only user of apr_ldap, and HTTPD can just clone what it needs from that code. Some of that discussion has already moved to the mailinglist, to get the views of a wider community.
Tuesday being also Sarah’s birthday, it was a lovely coincidence that de Nederlandse Opera were performing Cosi fan tutte in he evening. The production was a little strange: set in modern times, opening on a beach. Despina was – at times – something straight out of the red light district – and had the figure for it! By the end of the first act we were well-confused, but by the end of the evening it worked very well for us, and we much enjoyed it.
Coming out of the opera, we managed to get somewhat lost, before making our way to the Damrak and a reasonably decent late-opening pizza place that was sit-down rather than a dodgy takeaway. Didn’t join apachecon folks in the hotel bar afterwards, as I was still not exposing the tummy to booze. But I think I can draw a line under that today.
I think it’s now time to head down to the action!
Day 1 of ApacheCon Week was BarCamp. And it was lots of fun! In fact I preferred the friendly, informal style to that of the main conference: it’s more engaging, and it caught my interest in subjects that would otherwise probably have passed me by (such as Mahout, or a Lucene search), as well as more obvious candidates for my attention like open geodata, and apachecon classic themes like awareness of FOSS in education.
My “apache-helpdesk” session on support ecosystems for open-source projects was scheduled last, so we could have DrBacchus in (he was busy with training for most of the day). He and pctony are the people present at ApacheCon who I already knew to be leading lights of that ecosystem, and it would’ve been a shame to run the session without both of them. The session generated some discussion, but no great input from other projects, and I suspect the reality may be that httpd indeed leads the field. A few slides I used to prime the discussion are here.
Only fly in the ointment was having to faff off into town to find our own lunch. But that was amply compensated when I got the text from Sarah saying she was indeed – as hoped – coming to join me. After meeting her at the station and dumping her luggage back at the hotel, we went for a wander around town, ending up in a little thai restaurant where we enjoyed an utterly gorgeous meal. Yum!