welcome to x a o t e c

This is the personal home page of me, Brian Huff. Some people just call me Bex.

Feel free to peruse the photo album, to see the wedding photos of Michelle and I. Our honeymoon in Tahiti was amazing!

You can also see the photos from our trip to Thailand, or our sailing adventure around the Virgin Islands. You can also take a look at some of the articles Ive thrown together about politics and technology. Beware, I'm considered somewhat opinionated...

Tue, 03 Aug 2004

Final Thoughts on OSCON 2004

As usual, some of the best talks were on Friday, to get everybody to stay at the conference as long as possible. The keynote about the David Rumsey map archive was unbelieveably cool. It recieved a well deserved standing ovation. The security talk was excellent as well, and the Subversion best practices help solidify my resolve to evangelize their product in our company...

Overall, the whole worthless 'Emerging Technology' jive that was so prevalent at ETCON 2003 wasn't as prominent. This conference was about real technology, and the presenters were not just some slick sounding snake-oil salesmen looking for venture capital. They were actual programmers with actual code. How novel.

Another thing that is becoming more and more obvious is that the 'Alpha Geeks' dont really seem to care about Java anymore. The panel with Eric Raymond, and Tim OReilly was not well attended. There wasn't a single Java talk on Thursday, and the rest of them were only partially about Java. The more Sun tries to clutch onto control, the more people will move away from it. That's why Im becoming a Python hacker.

What stuck Pete as funny was how political this place can be... any time somebody is presenting new technology, they need to explain why its needed. The answer is either because nothing like it ever existed, or because what does exist is crappy and wrong. Well... the problem with the latter is that the guy who wrote the 'crappy and wrong' software is most likely in the audience. There are two kinds of presenters - those who walk on eggshells, and those who suffer from angry glares. Even Microsoft bashing is a little tough, because they are a huge sponser of the event! On Open Source. Double plus wierd.

In closing, here are a handful of links to the tech goodies that I learned about at the conference:

  • OSCON 2004 - the home page for the conference. The presentations should be online someday...
  • David Rumsey Map Archive - a 100% mind blowing view of what's next for online libraries
  • Planet Planet - a Python based RSS feed aggregator for web sites
  • Python On Nokia - for real, Python running on the Nokia 6600 cell phone
  • Iron Python - a superfast version of Python for .NET by the guy who wrote Jython
  • Jabber - an XML based instant message protocol. IM is probably the next big thing since email and the web, and this toolkit is incredibly flexible
  • Free Geek - charity that recycles old computers, and rebuilds them for schools
  • Subversion - a source code repository that actually works!
  • Pear SOAP - a PHP implementation of SOAP that is super easy and full featured
  • CPAN - code repository for Perl... I wish Python had something like this
  • ALPH - a bridge between Flash and Ruby. Is it any better than Ming?
  • XQuery - love it or hate it, XML is here top stay. Hopefully Jason Hunter will make sure XQuery sucks less than XSL.
  • j0hnny - he hacks stuff
  • Nessus and Metasploit - excellent net security analysis tools
[20:49] | [] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Thu, 29 Jul 2004

Thursday Sessions

Todays talks were quite good. I heard some cool stuff about the state of Python 2.4, and how great a language it is for teaching.

The talk about Tsearch2 and POSGRESQL was interesting... although I dont think its quite ready for us to suggest to customers. The talk on PHP performance was a good high-level talk, and I picked up a few new Apache performance tricks.

I picked up a few things about whats currently available in the Python lightning talks, and about what's next at the state of the Python union talk. Its a big Python love-fest. Making something like CPAN for Python would be a good idea to help the community.

I also had the opportunity to meet Jeremy White, my boss's brother. He's one of the lead developers on the Wine project, which allows people to run Windows apps on Linux. Quite an important and incredibly difficult project indeed.

[18:00] | [] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Thursday Keynotes

The Dyson trio keynote was interesting. Its cool to see a great thinker like Freeman Dyson talk about topics like the future of technology. Although he's a bit of a science worshipper for my taste. If the purpose of science is to serve mankind, then humility should be considered a virtue on par with innovation. Just because we know our way around a research lab, doesnt mean we always know what's best for the world. Nevertheless, I was able to get a photo of the two of us.

The second talk was pretty good as well. Bdale Garbee reinforced the idea that its hackers and inventors that push the envelope of science the best. People like Tesla, Goddard, or the Wright Brothers did things that everybody else said was crazy... Bdale tooted his own horn a bit about the amature satelites that he helped launch. Dang. Just like the X-Prize, the hackers are now after the final frontier!

[12:00] | [] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Wed, 28 Jul 2004

Wednesday Sessions

The best sessions today were Mono-centric. The Mono 1.0 release talk was interesting, hostorically speaking... and the talk about IronPython was well attended. Everybody hissed a bit when the author told us that he was just hired by Microsoft to fix the .NET engine... Im sure they'd rather he work on Mono, but we can't all work for Novell!

The future of Java in the open source community is looking somewhat grim. There was a panel with Eric Raymond and OReilly and a few guys from Apache and Sun... developers are miffed that Sun hasn't made Java more open... but at Java One the developers were miffed that Sun hasn't put the kaibash on forked versions of J2EE. Rock and a hard place, it seems.

The XML talks I attended were fairly good - PHP has some really nice SOAP hooks in PEAR::SOAP, Python hooks are not as good, and Jabber looks like its trying to replace the verbose SOAP altogether. It is a lot more powerful, and easier to secure and use... but people love their SOAP because it goes over HTTP, dont they?

[18:00] | [] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Wednesday Keynotes

The first keynote by OReilly was pretty good. He's still pushing the internet-as-an-operating-system jive. His latest theory is that the quality of the large databases (such as user reviews of movies or books) is what seperates the 'ok' websites from the 'great' websites. Obvious, sure, but frequently overlooked. His theory is that they might be able to brand themselves, and become the next 'Intel Inside' for web applications. If you dont have one of the name brands, your web services will suffer greatly.

I agree to a point... but there's a big difference between Intel and a data warehouse. Intel made a ton of money because they had the manufacturing infastructure and research and talent to keep the PC manufacturers supplies with chips. Its really hard to enter that market... just look at how long AMD took to get off the ground.

Compare that to a database. Their power hinges greatly on who legally owns the data. If I make a book review on Amazon, do they own the data? Or do I own it? Should these reviews be totally open, and usable by Barnes and Noble? Its a legal fine line, which makes it subject to copyright laws and the whims of Washington. Their power could collapse like a house of cards if they are not careful...

The second keynote was very funny, but he rambled quite a bit. Robert Lefkowitz had a good point that 'Open Source' means different things to different people, which causes a great deal of confusion in the business world. However, he offered no real resolution. He did have 150 slides, however... so it may have been buried in there somewhere, and I just missed it...

[12:00] | [] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Tue, 27 Jul 2004

Tuesday Tutorials

Like Monday, the Tuesday tutorials were a mixed bag...

The first tutorial was about wxPython widgets, and it was very good. The widgets looked very professional, and the wx libraries have been around for almost a decade... so its stable and performs quite well. The only thing that concerns me is deployment. Getting all the right libraries on a vanilla system to get the UI to look good would be hard.

The second talk was disappointing. I had wanted to go to the talk on advanced wxPython, but that was sold out. So I had to go to the one one getting DBAs and programmers to play nicely. I have no idea who the target audience was for that talk, but it sure wasn't me. I saw very little practical advice for either DBAs or programmers. This was very surprising, because the presenter worked on the human genome project. He obviously knew his stuff... I just dont think he's a good presenter.

[18:00] | [] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Mon, 26 Jul 2004

Monday Tutorials

The Monday tutorials were a mixed bag.

My first tutorial was about object oriented programming in PHP5 was less about PHP5, and more about teaching PHP4 people what object oriented programming is. I didn't learn much, and had a hard time convincing the PHP5 guys that the polymorphism in PHP5 is awkward and wierd. Oh well... its not like its a real language anyway.

The second tutorial, about advanced topics in the Python core framework was very good. It was a great overview of tips and tricks for writing Python, as well as a long brain dump of killer third party Python apps. Paul Prescod really knows his Python. It really got me fired up to use advanced Python a lot more.

[18:00] | [] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff