OSDC 2008 Review

OSDC this year was the most organised of all the events I’ve been to. It still has a very geeky feel to it, but there’s more polish starting to take over. This is probably largely due to a core of the organisers having done quite a few of them now, so they’ve learned a lot about how to put on a conference, and the feedback from attendees is helping them to improve things.

Highlights for me were:

  • Getting a demo of OpenSocial, OpenLayers and Google AppEngine from the engineers themselves, and hacking on the stuff itself. Still a bit over my head, but I’m starting to have some idea about how it might be usedful.
  • Chris DiBona’s keynote on how Google manage open source licensing issues. He’s a very smart guy, and an excellent presenter. Really top stuff from him, and he had an excellent answer for my question about why they chose to use existing licenses instead of creating their own (a la Sun, Microsoft, et al).
  • Python 3.0 is looking quite good. List comprehensions everywhere is going to be neat. Shouldn’t be too hard for me to port my code, since I’m mostly using 3.0-isms anyway.
  • Anthony’s keynote was good fun, as usual.
  • Andrew Tridgell’s keynote on Samba and the whole Microsoft/EU antitrust case was fascinating. I have some interesting plans related to this, if I can make it come off.
  • The catering and facilities all over were pretty good. Not the best I’ve seen, but then tickets to the conference weren’t $1500 either.
  • Adam Kennedy showing off a tool called Asciio, an ASCII version of Visio, in day 1 lightning talks. Amazing hack, and I had to buy him a beer because it did line routing.
  • Anyone with a CPAN account will have access to a full set of Microsoft Windows versions to test against. This is a huge win for Adam and the Perl community, so well done.

Other points of note:

  • Compared to the boffins at the conference, I don’t know anything about computers or programming. I am in awe of what these folks get up to in their free time.
  • Larry Wall’s keynote was surprisingly… well, dull. Larry’s not a particularly dynamic speaker, it appears, and I’ve not been a Perl nut for some time, so a lot of it probably didn’t seem relevent to me, though the dynamic parser-within-a-parser concept looks pretty cool. I found it a bit hard to stay engaged, unfortunately.
  • Microsoft were making somewhat obvious attempts at saying “Hey, we’re totally into Open Source, guys”. They were a sponsor, but that doesn’t give them a free pass. Sun were doing this too, but they have a better track record on open source.

More on the Microsoft thing: It was a bit… jarring, in the way they came across. They seemed a bit too keen on playing nice and being friends. Almost as if the last 10 years of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and all the proven-in-court dirty tricks should just be swept under the rug. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

Microsoft has been an enemy of open source for far longer than they’ve been a friend. Many of us are quite bitter about the way this multi-billion dollar company has done business, and seemingly got away with it. Healing that kind of ill feeling isn’t as simple as buying people breakfast and letting them play a bit of Gears of War. It seems only prudent to view a company with that sort of track record with skepticism when they start to talk about how much they love Open Source.

That said, the new post-Bill Microsoft appears to be moving slowly in the right direction. I view this with cautious (some might say suspicious) optimism. If they do indeed believe in the new vision of cooperation and interoperation, then this can only be good for IT people everywhere. Only time will tell, and this is the important point for Microsoft people to understand: it’s going to take a lot of time to overcome the ill feeling towards your company. If you’re serious about this, you’ll just have to take the time to prove to us that you really have changed. Maybe you really are a rare kind of leopard.

I’ll just keep a respectful distance for now, if it’s all the same to you.

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  1. Microsoft getting into interoperability? Now that would be IT leadership during this malais we’re in (or heading in to).

  2. Yeah. Freakshow, innit?

    We still need a decent Visio equivalent on Linux.

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