July 29, 2004
OSCon Day 1

Day One Started off much better than my arrival. Up bright and early at 6am PDT, thanks to my non-translated timezone-ness, the morning light was lovely. Wandered down to register for the conference formally, got my materials and acquainted myself more with the facilities and coffee services.

The two morning keynotes were Tim O'Reilly's "O'Reilly Radar" and Robert Lefkowitz' cryptically entitled "The Semiasology of Open Source". O'Reilly's overview of the space was guardedly positive - ORA sees that their book sales are moving nicely, but that conference participation is up markedly over last year (scuttlebutt on the floor was that they had anticipated 1200 participants but that 1500 ended up registering in the end. There are certainly a lot of people here, with crowded rooms being more normal than not). Tim touched on the perils and promises of web-connected services becoming the norm, with the obvious question of who owns the data that makes using a service like Amazon or eBay so valuable. It's the aggregate of the data that builds the corporate value, but it's in turn the individual's ownership of the data that makes it valuable to that user.

Robert Lefowitz had a funny but abbreviated tale of the development over time of the meaning of Open Source - loosely based on his experiences with OSS inside of AT&T. Nat Torkington introduced him as having 130 slides, and truly he didn't make it all the way through. But some interesting asides were had on misunderstandings of what ownership is, the misplaced impacts of generalised accounting rules, how one cannot enslave interns, but one might be able to enslave computer programmers, and so forth. I'll be looking for the slide deck to be posted, though the multimedia inclusions from Princess Bride may make that either a large or an illegal download.

Attended a handful of sessions through the day to more or less benefit. This year sessions are limited to 45 minutes in length as an attempt to get more into the docket. This is proving hard for presenters, as they often really get going in depth by about minute 30. It's a no win situation, of course, unless OSCon bumps to longer days or abbreviates the breaks more.

I had high hopes for the session on Jabber as a System Building Tool. And it was a nice discussion of where Jabber has been used in the wild as more than just collaborative chat. But the meat was missing to a degree - but there were some interesting gems, including the somewhat antithetical (but unchallenged) remark that the DARPA folks had moved from the reference and OSS versions of jabberd to the closed source jabber.com build 'for better support'. I expect the small integIn part the session did serve as a good endorsement for the Jabber Developers Handbook, which I'll have to keep my eyes out for.

The Chandler for Developers session was quite good - they'd pruned and honed their presentation down to fit into the alloted slot nicely. This boiling down was a nice counterpoint to their extensive and useful wiki, where I've languished trying to figure out the stack in a way that my less experienced brain can handle it. They are definitely making progress, and in the BOF they admitted how much they'd rediscovered from earlier OSS development experiences, like Mozilla (it's no mistake that they have on staff Mitchell Baker from the mozilla.org).

Two Lightening Talks stand out in my notes. One was the implications of pperl, a dramatic speedup of file-handling and/or string parsing in perl. The other was the NGO in a Box being put out by the Tactical Technology Collective.

Something the Wigle guys may want to look at is integration with Geocoder for address to Log/Lat (and thus AP) mapping....

Had a very quick but interesting hallway coversation with Joe Blaylock, one of the once or twice removed Church of Purple folks. He's doing some interesting work (in Python, which is interesting) to create a generic, XML-RPC accessible purpler. With luck, there'll be running code very soon to play with.

In the evening, attended the Chandler BOF. The OSAF folks have some tough problems ahead of them, but they are getting to the point where they'll have running code soon also, running enough to keep a calendar, at least. I still have some concerns about getting data in and out of their repository (for mobile devices), but I was delighted to see the visceral awareness of how they are doing what they do in public, and how they're adjusting to it. This transferral of internal and external knowledge and weakening boundaries is a topic for continued rumination.

Dinner (I promised AZ some non-technical content!) was a lovely bit of Tuna at Three Degrees, a restaurant focussed on local produce near our hotel. Sitting on the water, I can again grasp why people like the PNW.

Posted by esinclai at 09:52 AM
They're still at it....

A while back I whined about WBEZ and their poorly formatted solicitation bounceback letters.

Well, I got another one today based on my monthly donation, and....

It's still broken. The same red text is there, waiting to be replaced.

So despite the hype, apparently not everyone is deep i the conversation, eagerly reading weblogs to find out how they're doing?

Maybe they need Ed Koch on their board or something...

Posted by esinclai at 08:57 AM
July 28, 2004
OSCon Day 0.1

The bag arrived safely a bit after midnight.

As a bonus encounter, the delivery guy worked for a time at the CBOT in Chicago, where he worked in an office that was doing early commodities arbitrage. He moved out to Portland in the 80s, where he hasn't made nearly as much money, but has been much happier on less in the PNW.

Posted by esinclai at 09:06 AM
OSCon Day 0

OSCon Day 0 started off with a whimper....

The flight out to Portland was lovely, marred by the loss of battery power on the laptop just in time to get a nice view of Mount Hood and related majestic peaks. Kids on the plane took pictures, which for some reason amused me.

My ski down the peaks came quickly when I learned upon arrival that my bag was missing and would be coming in on the next flight. With barely enough time as it was to get to the hotel and get sorted in time for the State of the Onion speech, I gave them the name ofmy hotel and was assured they'd get the bag to me before bedtime.

It's bedtime now, and no bag. Thanks United for the free flight, but not so much for the dirty laundry my co-conferencees may have to put up with tomorrow.

Hooked up with my roomate easily, found the room, and found one and then the other of my coworkers here.

Travel whining aside (and I have faith it'll get sorted out before long), the State of the Onion was a fine Larry Wall speech - quiet, appearing disjoint until it all comes together in a whole - the importance of community in Open Source, not just for projects, but for the people involved. Larry built this around the significance of screensavers to his thinking - Rorsach patterns for his life since surgery. Some laughs, some wet eyes at the end.

Paul Graham gave a second speech regarding the important qualities that make a hacker; modeled in part on his Hackers and Painters essay (now book, coincidentally released by ORA), with a few jabs thrown in at Java. As a stump speech to advertise the book, it was effective. As a reminder to the converted as to why they are (or perhaps should feel) important, it was equally effective.

Finally, Damian Conway gave a substitute speech for the annual Quiz Show. Ranging across bad puns, the game of life, and Klingon, it topped a good day off nicely.

Tommorrow will be a whirlwind tour of sessions in conflict with one another. Too many ideas, too many rooms, too few me.

Posted by esinclai at 01:16 AM
July 26, 2004
Traveling Shoes

I did the calculations the other day. AZ and I are traveling fools over the next several weeks. And this seems to happen each Fall... To Wit:

  • This past weekend we were in the Southern Annex, surveying storm battering and planning next steps there.
  • This week I head Westward to OSCon. I'll be there the week, getting geeked up and catching up with friends who I don't see nearly enough. I've tried to plan a route through the conference, but looking at it again this evening there are just too many conflicts. This is good - it makes my self-funding the trip seem that much more worth it.
  • Then I come back for a near week's worth, we take a trip to MI for a wedding, another week's work, we take another trip to Columbus to see the Butter Cow in its soft yellow glory.
  • Then we turn around for a week (clearly laundry has to get completed sometime), and then back to the Southern Annex for more dispersal processing. Then home for a couple weeks and our second annual trip to London and Bloomsbury-ana. Along with visiting with friends and family (and friends' new family members!), this year Sissinghurst is on the route, as well as another attempt at Chartwell.
Posted by esinclai at 09:59 PM
July 11, 2004
So Long John

Walking uptown to meet AZ for a movie this Friday, I was struck that one of my favorite views - from walking down the river, across the Sun-Times building to see the John Hancock building and its skyscraping glory, will soon enough be no more.

Replaced by a behemoth, no doubt less respectful of the river, in the name of Mr Trump. While it remains to be seen if the riverscape can be as lovely, and yes change is inevitable...

John Hancock, I shan't long see you this way.

Tourists, your chance to see this vista is running out!

Posted by esinclai at 08:59 PM
July 09, 2004
Subscription Plays

Last week I had a couple thoughts (jumbled) about subscription hits, in the guise of supporting works of public good. But there's another prevalent version of this in the technowilds, of course, which is subscription service access to software and resources.

In the past week Microsoft got some press by promoting (again, this must be the fourth or fifth time they've done it) hosted services for Small and Medium businesses. This would open up a nice revenue stream that would augment the renewal costs businesses go through when they upgrade every other (or every third)) version of Office or Windows that the coding monsters at MSFT push out; nobody can afford to perform a full upgrade every year or two (and with release schedules in Redmond slowing to a more realistic level, hopefully we won't need to).

At the same time, Apple appears to be ramping up their own .Mac subscription offering, though unlike Microsoft, this is firmly pitched at household and singleton instances. From the scuttlebutt, while the enhanced .Mac Sync services in Tiger are still away a bit under a year from public deployment, at the WWDC this year Apple had stong promotion of the .Mac SDK which opened a number of eyes to reusing that underpinning. Getting developer buy-in forms a nice undersell for the service, as users get one-click access to features that make their computer more network-centric, it enhances the features which Apple has bundled into .Mac

For the user community, Apple has kicked off a tour of promotion for .Mac, complete with T-Shirts and promotion (it's coming to Chicago on the 16th, but confusingly is not listed on the public iCal for the store).

While at smaller scales than Windows, Apple appears to have a somewhat easier time getting people to move OS' when they do their periodic upgrades (it was yearly, now it looks like it'll be more like 15 months between Panther and Tiger, if I guess correctly) - John Gruber has done some nice ad hoc analysis of this. But assuming for Apple this adoption slows down commensurate with release schedules, and the number of iLife enhancements that cost money slows, getting more people to cough up the $100/year for a .Mac membership will provide a nice smoothing of the revenue curves (as will ITMS, of course).

As a shareholder (minority is too strong a word for my ownership...) I applaud this move to promote their offerings. As a subscriber to .Mac (and I feel that the money was well spent while I went through my rebuild week recently), I'm pleased to see new services coming out.

Posted by esinclai at 07:31 AM
July 07, 2004
NotCon Presentations Online

A number of the presentations from NotCon 04 have been archived online.

Not just the presentations, but a number of audio and video captures have made it online. Apparently there is a canonical source for them - but as the creator states, they'll all end up in archive.org eventually.

Some good stuff to be prowled through.

Posted by esinclai at 10:09 PM
Danzig or Cheney

AZ "What is that, the Dick Cheney video?"

(see also the mirrors listed on the home of AZPunk. For me, at least, the torrent didn't uncompress cleanly....)

Posted by esinclai at 07:31 PM
We laughed, we cried, we added it to our wishlist

Copy Editors of the world, drink another swig of coffee and stay more alert. And get a copy of Kill Duck Before Serving...

For if the rest of the book is as funny as the segments posted in "We Regret The Error" at MUG today.... It'll have you in stitches, just as it did AZ and I just now, falling from our chairs and keyboards.

Posted by esinclai at 07:19 PM
July 05, 2004
Giant Robot

The NYT has today published a nice article (under the byline of Randy Kennedy, which name I've seen before on similar articles, if memory serves) on one of my favorite magazines that crossed over the zine to official pub line - Giant Robot. Replete with anecdotes about their tough formation (sadly, my run starts at issue number 2, rather than what sounds like a delightful number 1...), their increasing influence in promoting-but-not-promoting Asian and Asian-American culture, and their irascible but friendly zine nature.

Huzzah, I say. Those are the good publications, the ones that stick true even as they grow larger in print run and page count.

Posted by esinclai at 09:44 AM
July 04, 2004
JJ Letters, JHS Letters, SWS Letters

The Guardian is running a piece about yet another missing letter from Joyce to Nora. The piece is cleverly entitled Portrait of the artist as a lecherous young man

In the process of cleaning out my parents' house (astute observers of my life will note that this has been taking years, not months, weeks, or days), I've been happy to come across a number of letters written by my family; mostly the weekly letters from my mother to her own mother, but also some gems like letters home from camp when my mother was ten years old.

I certainly have found nothing like the letters Stanislaus had kept tucked away.

Nor, to my chagrin, any new clues to my parents' early courtship and meeting. Though there's clear evidence of the archivist tendencies I inherited, so far they haven't moved in that directions. It isn't too surprising - most relationships are lived on in the day to day, not in epistolary romances. But to find a hint of their youth....

Posted by esinclai at 10:31 PM
July 01, 2004
This is not about Konfabulator

This entry is not about the Konfabulator dustup, a dustup which seems far overstated, especially since the author of Konfabulator, Arlo Rose, has since made some more reasonable statements than many of those who chose to speak on his behalf. In the spirit of letting reason reign (*sigh*), I'll reserve further comment on the somewhat apt point that developing in limited volume markets carries fairly dramatic risks, and single-threading yourself in a limited market only serves to provide a multiplier to that risk.

No, this is because Michael Hanscom reminded me that I wanted to shout out quietly for John Gruber's move to be more independent as a writer by securing some financial reward for his writing. To that end he's raising memberships for Daring Fireball. The immediate rewards are a little slim in aspect - access to full text in his RSS feed (ok, that's actually not so slim), a regularly updated linked-list feed, a T-Shirt, and an entry in a contest. But it's also that you provide a seed for more writing about UI and related issues from John, more thought food.

And yeah, the T-Shirt looks pretty keen as well.

Now, is this a way forward? How many micro-subscription writers can be supported this way? How many people will pay a sawbuck for Gruber, another for, say Ihnakto, and a third for a Michael Swaine, say? On top of paying your public radio tax, your community radio tax, etc etc. One can only open one's wallets so many times a year, tax deductable or not. Micropayments for products you can feel have worth in advance feel like a gamble. Maybe a federated token system, lighterweight than micropayments, would allow authors to get paid, if that form could be yet-reinvented...

Oh, and this is not a Blogs are Journalism piece either.

Posted by esinclai at 06:51 AM