Some words and pictures about ApacheCon 2008 in New Orleans.
Opening Eye Candy · This one’s not too far north of LA.
Like many hotel windows, mine had a view occupied in large part by other hotel windows. On the first morning when I got up, though, they weren’t boring.
The Conference · Let’s be controversial: I think the really important tech conferences in the world of Open Source are OSCON, RubyConf, PyCon, and ApacheCon. The Linux conferences seem to have become very biz-focused, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In that lofty context, ApacheCon is maybe struggling a little, compared to the others.
But there are a lot of good things. First, the conference has a hefty travel-assist budget, so a lot of people are there on merit rather than their employer’s expense account. Also, the big active Apache projects are really stuff that’s at the centre of the universe: Web server, Java middleware, and so on; so it’s definitely about theory not practice. I found the quality of the sessions I attended to be totally excellent.
On the problem side, the Apache Software Foundation has, either by policy or by accident, been charging madly off in all directions. For all the talk of the “The Apache Way”, there are a lot of people who really don’t have very much in common with a lot of other people aside from the Apache License.
Also, three days is maybe a bit too long; on the Friday afternoon, the sessions were very thinly populated.
Finally, and I almost hesitate to say this, I sense a certain loss of energy in the Java-specific parts of the ecosystem. There’s no good reason for this; the Java platform remains the single largest developer ecosystem, however you measure it, and there are very few deployments that don’t include some pieces of OSS. I don’t know, maybe there’s a hole in the ecosystem for a Java-specific open-source conference?
The People · Gosh, I love hanging out among open-source geeks. If any of the people in these pictures want to be identified by name, drop off a comment or email me and I’ll add that.
Don’t they look great? And if you wanted to Let Your Geek Flag Fly, you could get a temporary tattoo:
I really liked it; it’s probably a good idea they weren’t offering the real-tattoo option given the climate of tribal enthusiasm.
The Technology · I now know a whole lot more about Hadoop; It seems remarkably mature given how recently-arrived in the world it is. So, if you have a problem that’s susceptible to large-scale functional-programming approaches, it’s plenty ready to go. The question remains open whether there are many such problems outside the well-known domains of index-building and logfile analytics.
Since I’ve been doing a lot of work on mod_atom, my own particular interest was the sessions clustering around the Apache server itself. I was particularly impressed by Colm MacCárthaigh's httpd-tuning talk, from which the following graphic of the system calls emitted by Apache serving a typical GET request out of the filesystem. Here’s one of his slides:
That data is via DTrace; on which subject I have to mention the session on the subject by Theo Schlossnagle. For his big closing-showpiece example he showed how you can instrument Apache to characterize the exact performance of a module under production load. Since I have been thinking heavily about how to profile and then optimize my own Apache module, Theo seriously turned my crank.
Anyhow, a productive conference by any measure.
The City · New Orleans ain’t what it once was. There aren’t too many streets that don’t have boarded-up buildings in one or another stage of decay. I gather that some of the less-affluent neighborhoods remain largely empty.
Having said that, it’s still a superb place to eat and drink and walk and drink and listen to music and drink. Did I mention it’s a good place to drink? Back in the Katrina aftermath I wrote “Hey New Orleans: when you get yourself back together, I’ll come down and spend a bunch of money on booze and music, that’s a promise.” Well, the combination of too much programming and preparation work up until I gave my talk, and the fact of a 6AM outbound flight the morning after it, severely restricted my drinking, but I did eat very well and took in some fine music by Trombone Shorty which I’ll write about separately.
Speaking of eating, the highlight was the Crescent City Brewhouse; the duck entrée was something special, and the fresh Pilsener was a refreshing change from NOLA’s mainstream local brew, Abita, which is frankly more than a little boring.
The music, it’s everywhere; one night, some of the vendors at the conference sponsored a jazz-funeral march (the coffin was said to hold the corpse of proprietary software), featuring the Rebirth Brass Band, who were totally excellent.
I’ll close with a shot from the funeral.
Hey New Orleans, I’ll be back.