25 July 2007

OSCON 2007: Wednesday

Wednesday and Thursday of OSCON are made up of 40-minute sessions after a morning of keynotes. This morning's keynotes started with Tim O'Reilly himself. He talked about how successful Web sites these days are more about user data than they are about the software driving the sites. He listed flickr and del.icio.us as examples, and he listed a few new sites, as well:
  1. freebase: "a structured, searchable, writeable and editable database" of just about anything/everything
  2. dabble DB: looks like an impressive online spreadsheet service
  3. open ads: "the web's largest ad-space community"
  4. hadoop (an Apache project): "a framework for running applications on large clusters of commodity hardware"
Tim also mentioned that StumbleUpon had been purchased by eBay (I didn't know that).

Next were a couple of guys from Intel: James Reinders (a suit) and Dirk Hohndel (looked like he belonged on a snowboard in the Swiss Alps). They talked about the new Intel Threading Building Blocks, a C++ parallelism library (you'd use this library to write software to take advantage of a multi-core architecture). Intel has open-sourced this technology, and there's even an O'Reilly book about it. Hohndel also mentioned moblin.org: Linux for Intel-based devices.

Next up was Simon Peyton-Jones, a researcher who talked about concurrent programming. He said that one approach to addressing the challenges of concurrent programming is to wrap code in a database-like transaction (with a transaction log) to acheive atomicity (like a journaling filesystem, I guess). At that point my eyes started glazing over, and I became hypnotized by his bright red sweater with a picture of a red-eyed treefrog on the chest. (It was really a very interesting keynote, and he's a good speaker--I just didn't understand a whole lot of it.)

Then Tim O'Reilly interviewed Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical. As I'm not a passenger on the Ubuntu bandwagon, and was still recovering from the amphibious atomicity assault, I went looking for coffee or something.

During the course of the day, I attended a handful of sessions, including a couple about nagios (a host- and service-monitoring system) and APD (for profiling PHP code). I enjoyed David Verba's "Practical Design For Web Developers", a discussion of user-centered design (whose 'further reading' bibliography included several interesting-looking books). Perrin Harkins' "Care and Feeding of Large Web Applications" was also pretty cool: he talked about the challenges of devoloping, maintaining, and distributing an enormous Perl-based codebase (the Arcos CMS/CRM).

But my favorite of the day (and maybe of the whole conference) was Joseph Smarr's High Performance JavaScript. I highly recommend the slides from his talk about the development process of the Plaxo online calendar and address book synchronizer.

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