Apache Week
   
   Issue 220, 27th October 2000:  

Copyright 1996-2005
Red Hat, Inc.

In this issue


ApacheCon Europe 2000, the first ApacheCon outside USA was held on Apache Week's home ground from October 23rd to October 25th. As promised, Apache Week was there in London to cover the conference.

Early Monday morning at 8 am, we had a brisk walk from the Hilton London Olympia hotel where we were staying to the Olympia Conference Center about three blocks away. There was no fear of losing our way as shortly after leaving the hotel, we were greeted by a succession of signboards displaying the familiar Apache feather, leading us straight to the conference center.

Our first day did not really get off to a good start as during the registration our records were not found in the database. Luckily the organizers were efficient enough to resolve this problem quickly and we were handed our passes and complimentary ApacheCon bags containing three thick manuals of conference proceedings and other goodies.

As the conference package included light breakfast and lunch for all days registered, we all had empty stomachs that morning. We really should have taken the word "light" literally as to our dismay breakfast consisted of only one plate of biscuits per table, and tea or coffee. The only difference was you could keep your dirty cup after you had drunk your coffee or tea. As this was the case, there were plenty of seats for us to take our pick but like the other attendees, we did not stay long for breakfast.

The conference had three main parallel "unthemed" tracks of classes or talks with one hour, one and a half hours or two hours time slots. There were a total of 42 classes, covering the Apache web server, XML, Java, mod_perl, PHP, and a case study of the real-life implementation of the Apache web server. The classes were spread over three days, including a busy Monday that packed in 21 of the 42 classes. There was also an additional concurrent track of talks by vendors namely, Sun Microsystems, IBM, MyComponents.com, and Oracle, with a sprinkling of BoFs (Bird of a Feather sessions) as well.

Opening Plenary

As we were approaching the auditorium for the opening session at 9 am, strains of a western tune drifted to our ears and for a split second when we stepped into the room, we thought we were transported back in time to the wild, wild west as the formidable figure of Ken Coar loomed above us on the stage with a cowboy hat on his head. Later he revealed that the piece of music we heard was "Apache", one of the many western-themed hits by the Shadows who reigned unchallenged as Britain's top band between 1960 and 1963.

After the welcoming speech, Ken Coar proceeded to give an update on the schedule where one talk was cancelled and a few were swapped. This was not good news for those who had already decided on the talks that they were going to attend. For the few unlucky ones, this change caused their chosen talks to be back to back so they have to go through the mind-boggling task of making a choice again. The official number of pre-registered attendees was about 900.

XML from Outer Space and Apache 2.0

For my first of the seven classes on the first day, I decided to attend "Toward the Semantic Web: a View of XML from Outer Space" given by Stefano Mazzocci, Cocoon's creator in the Apache Cocoon project. The attendance was so high, that even with extra chairs some delegates were left sitting on the floor. This talk gave a clear explanation of the XML model and the "semantic web", covering many of the technologies that the W3C are developing to shape the future of the World Wide Web. Stefano described the ways in which XML can be used to overcome some of the problems inherent in today's Web, and demonstrated how they can be implemented using Cocoon, Xalan, and other Apache projects.

After 2 hours of XML, an hour of Apache 2.0 by Ryan Bloom was my next stop. The major changes in Apache 2.0 are the implementation of MPM (Multiple-Processing Modules), APR (Apache Portable Run-Time) and I/O filtering. No release date was decided for an Apache 2.0 beta, although Ryan promised it would be as soon as possible.

Lunch

Lunch was served between 12 pm and 2 pm but talks were still being held during these two hours so it was either lunch or class. At 1 pm, I had no choice but to forgo a class as hunger beckoned and I joined one of the two long queues to collect my meal at the reception and bars area. Seats were limited but as the turnaround time was quick (no one loitered at the lunch tables), everyone managed to find a place at the tables in the end. A bit short on space but at least it worked out well. After a meal that was nothing to shout about, I had just enough time to drop by the Sun's Internet Pavilion to check out my emails before joining the next class at 2 pm.

More talks

It was time for a change so I joined a business-oriented talk instead of another technical one. Peter Moulding gave a few useful tips for convicing higher management to use Apache instead of other proprietary web servers in his "Apache in the Real World - Beating the In-house Bias" talk.

After this was another two hours slot class and it was "Introduction to Apache Server" by Rich Bowen for me. This class was more for users new to Apache so I left halfway to listen to "AxKit - an XML Delivery Toolkit for Apache" presented by Matt Sergeant. AxKit is implemented as a Perl Apache module using mod_perl that provides on-the-fly conversion from XML to a variety of format, such as HTML and WML for WAP phones. It provides similar functionality to Cocoon.

After attending four classes and missing one due to lunch, there were two more talks to go with 3 hours in total, an hour and a half each. Sterling Hughes, co-author of the soon-to-be-published-in-November "The PHP Developer's Cookbook" gave a very technical talk on "Extending PHP4" covering the PHP API and compiling a PHP extension in detail. The talk covered the new scripting engine in PHP 4, Zend. Like a traditional interpreter, the old PHP scripting engine would execute scripts while parsing them. The new Zend engine operates using the more efficient model of pre-compiling the script.

The last class of the first day was a highly entertaining and animated talk by Ralf S. Engelschall, author of mod_ssl, mod_rewrite, and much more. The talk, "Security Solutions with SSL", covered the evolution of mod_ssl, described its features, and gave twelve useful configuration examples. Each of the beautifully presented slides included an amusing quote to lighten up the atmosphere of this heavy subject.

The LongevIT Spa

After a long day of exhausting technical classes, it was time for a relaxing night event named "The LongevIT Spa" at the Rock sponsored by IBM WebSphere. Round trip transportation from the Olympia Center was provided. Most delegates had absolutely no idea where the coaches were taking them. The Rock is a newly opened nightclub. There were free cocktails and beers; head, neck and shoulder massage; and two virtual reality simulators that emitted smells too but we were too conservative to give the latter two a try.

Despite the free flowing drinks, sushi and loud music, we were desperate for a decent meal at 10 pm so we nipped out for dinner and were back by 11 pm for the coach back to our hotel. In doing so, we missed the raffle and the bag of goodies given away by IBM - a pair of slippers, t-shirt, CD-ROM and etc. We were real tired when we reached the hotel and could barely walked to our room. What a day!


The schedule for the second day was not as punishing as the first day. There were only a total of 12 classes held on this day with only four to attend with three keynotes. There was ample time for lunch and for visiting the exhibition that didn't start until 12 pm.

Sun Microsystems Keynote

The first session of the second day was "JCP (Java Community Process) and Apache" presented by George Paolini, Vice President of Technologies and Advocacy. Basically he talked about the role Sun has working with Apache Software Foundation and the roadmap for the Java 2 platform.

Configuring Apache and mod_perl Applications

Juggling between Java Application Servers, mod_snake, and mod_perl, I finally dropped the former two and settled on the latter. In a nutshell, Eric Cholet talked about configuring Apache with Perl using <Perl> sections and @PerlConfig, and configuring mod_perl applications using PerlSetVar and custom configuration directives. The main question is why would anyone write Perl codes inside Apache httpd.conf file? One of the benefits is that in a many virtual hosts environment, Perl codes can be used within the httpd.conf to generate suitable values for directives based on some external variables.

IBM Keynote

Next Dr Kristof Kloeckner, Vice President of Business Integration Development and Director from IBM Hursley Laboratory enlightened us on how IBM relates to open source both as a contributor and a beneficiary.

Exhibition

Soon it was lunchtime. Only an hour of IBM Management Briefing, "Infrastructure for Web Services" in the Vendor Theatre overlapped with the two hours lunchtime so there was time to visit the exhibition. Around eighteen companies including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Covalent Technologies, Thawte, Zend Technologies Ltd, Eliad Technologies took part in the trade show. There were a coffee stand in Sun's booth and two romper rooms with pinball machines and two Sega Racing Arcade machines. We picked up more freebies such as a Tomcat cup and t-shirt, cap, and magazines and even tried our hand at a pinball machine but alas, we were not Brooke Shields.

More Talks

Soon it was time for three more classes within the next four hours before the long awaited guest keynote by Douglas Adams. I filled the next three hours with Tomcat by attending "Migrating Apache JServ Applications to Tomcat" by Craig McClanahan and "Advanced Tomcat Configuration and Performance Tuning" by Costin Manolache who was a fast speaker and completed his very technical talk in just an hour within his two hours slot. Then it was an hour of "Improving script and handler performance under mod_perl" by Stas Bekman who unfortunately had to wrap up his talk quickly as delegates were waiting to enter the room for the final keynote of the day.

Covalent Technologies Guest Keynote

"Living in a Virtual World" was the keynote everyone was waiting for. The whole auditorium was filled to the brink and the audience were not let down as Douglas Adams soon had them in stitches with his urban myths and unique perspective about computers.

Reception

The last event for the second day was the reception serving cocktails and hors d'oeuvers on the Exhibit Floor. "Bop Ad" was definitely the STAR of the day as fans, ASF members and fellow Apache enthusiasts alike queued for his autograph and a free paperback copy of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". With that, I ended the day and retreated to the haven of my hotel room.


Next week Apache Week will have coverage of the last day of ApacheCon Europe 2000 as well as a competition for your chance to win a signed copy of the "Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" kindly donated by Covalent.


Comments or criticisms? Please email us at editors@apacheweek.com