Apache Week
   
   Issue 221, 3rd November 2000:  

Copyright 1996-2005
Red Hat, Inc.

In this issue


Apache Week Extragalactic giveaway

As we mentioned last week, here's your chance to win an autographed copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy kindly donated by Covalent. All you have to do is answer this simple question:

Which of the following is not a book by Douglas Adams?

A) So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
B) The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
C) The Hitchhiker's Guide to Japan

Please send your answer (A, B, or C) to zz9@apacheweek.com to reach us no later than November 15th 2000. Your e-mail address will not be used for anything other than to let you know if you won. One winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries submitted; one entry per person, no cash alternative and editors' decision is final. Multiple entries will be fed to the ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.


ApacheCon Europe 2000: Day 3

On Wednesday, I was late for the first talk of the day, as I had to check out from my hotel. On this final day of the conference, there were only a total of nine talks running in the three concurrent tracks, two keynotes, a book-signing event, a few vendor presentations by MyComponents.com and Oracle, and not forgetting the closing plenary.

Managing your Web Site with Cocoon

When I reached the center at quarter-past nine, all three talks had started. I planned to attend "Running a Successful Web Hosting Business" by Frank DeChellis, one of the two business-oriented talks in this conference. Peering through the glass panel in the door, I couldn't find an available seat in that class so I sneaked unnoticed into the auditorium instead. This turned out to be a good choice, as the talk "Managing your Web Site with Cocoon" was very well presented by Doug Tidwell. Doug, author of an upcoming book on XSLT, demonstrated how the array of tools written by the Apache XML project (including Cocoon, Xerces, Xalan, and FOP) could be used to perform server-side transformations of XML documents. From a single XML document, HTML, PDF and WML could all be served to the client.

Oracle Keynote

Next came the Oracle keynote titled "Convincing Management to Embrace Open Software Development" by Brian Behlendorf, president of the Apache Software Foundation and cofounder of CollabNet. He gave a brief definition of open source, and the various licences used such as the Apache Licence, GNU General Public Licence and Mozilla Public Licence. He described how open source software is designed and built using the collective wisdom of a group of developers, with contributions from a large user community. When I heard the word "collective", images of the Borg flashed through my mind. Brian also offered some tips on how to make lawyers less nervous and ended the talk by sharing a list of free buzzwords: "reduce time to market", "increase margins", "expand public mind share" and "take ownership of your future", with the audience.

Lunch and Exhibition

The exhibition hours were only from 12 pm to 6 pm but outsiders were still registering on-site for exhibition passes. I was slightly taken aback when I was stopped and asked to show my pass (it was hidden under my jacket) at the exhibition entrance but I guess they were just being careful. During the two-hour lunch break from the main talks, presentations by vendors were still in progress. I ate lunch leisurely as most delegates had already taken theirs and no one was waiting for my seat. I had a pleasant conversation with two participants from Germany and the USA during lunch. The latter only heard about ApacheCon after the Orlando event. Instead of waiting for the next ApacheCon in the USA, he persuaded his company to send him to this one. The former was in charge of migrating his Netscape web server to the Apache web server all by himself. Both of them were very satisfied with the quality of this conference and the useful technical details that they managed to absorb from the talks. Oblivious to time, I missed the Wrox Press book-signing event at 1 pm by Peter Wainwright, author of "Professional Apache" but still, I managed to pick up a cute horsey toy known as "CocoJ" from Eliad Technologies booth.

More talks and keynote

At 2 pm, I was off to "mod_perl Version 2.0" given by Doug MacEachern. Because of the architectural changes in Apache 2.0, particularly the introduction of thread support, mod_perl has been rewritten from scratch. The presentation was served by Apache 2.0 and the development version of mod_perl 2.0, and Doug demonstrated use of some of the more advanced features of Apache 2 which are supported in mod_perl 2, including I/O filtering.

Soon James Davidson took over the stage for the "Guru Keynote" session titled "Jakarta Perspective". This was his personal account of the origins and goals of the Jakarta project. In a spontaneous talk, he reminisced about the history and progress of Tomcat and Ant including an insight into the various obstacles that had to be overcome in getting the ASF and Sun together. In his zest to deliver an up-close and personal look at Tomcat, users unfamiliar with the Jakarta project might have complained that he had neglected to give a clear definition of the Jakarta project. Nevertheless I enjoyed the talk as it provided a glimpse into Tomcat's roots.

For the final 2-hour class of the conference, I attended the talk, "The Backhand Project: Load-Balancing and Monitoring Apache Web Clusters" by Theo Schlossnagle. He clarified the differences between "load balancing" and "high availability" since they are often used interchangeably to mean both. Both mod_backhand and mod_log_spread were covered in this talk. Back to back with this class was "WebDAV and Apache" by Greg Stein which other delegates from Apache Week reported was an excellent talk about WebDAV and mod_dav.

Wrap-Up Plenary

The closing session hosted by Ken Coar saw only one third of the attendance of the opening plenary. He announced that there were about 1200 registrants (20 percent more than at Apachecon 2000 Orlando) with around half attending only the exhibition. With a panel of ASF members on stage, it was time for comments about the conference. The overall feedback was positive. Some complaints were that the Monday schedule was too tight and the Internet access was slow and not very reliable. One suggestion was to introduce lightning sessions where speakers would talk for five minutes on a subject. Hands-on sessions in the evenings were also suggested.

While most attendees came from Europe, there were also some from the USA, Canada, South America and even all the way from Japan. Delegates who attended both ApacheCon conferences this year commented that ApacheCon Europe was definitely better than the previous one held in Orlando. If this is the trend then it is good news as we can expect more improvement in the next ApacheCon, which will be held in Santa Clara, California from April 4th to April 6th. The location for the next ApacheCon to be held outside the USA is yet to be determined, but a hint was dropped about Australia.

Impressions

As in all conferences, there were various technical glitches when presentation laptops froze and batteries ran out, some inexperienced speakers, and not enough seats but these were all minor issues considering the excellent detailed technical knowledge that was imparted by the speakers. An annoying distraction was the occasional ringing of mobile phones during the talks. Perhaps the audience need to be reminded to switch off their cell phones at the start of presentations.

My personal opinion is that it is very important to pick suitable talks to attend based on your own requirements, as all of them seemed very interesting from the abstract provided. As soon as you are aware that the talk is not what you expect it to be, you must just walk out and join another talk. This may seem very rude to the speaker but to make the most of the conference, this is the only way. One suggestion is for the planning committee to indicate the level of technical knowledge required for the talk, so delegates can make a better choice depending on their own expertise. This conference was most suitable for "technical technical" people who wanted to know in depth about a certain subject and to talk to the authors of various modules but it also catered for higher-level managers and new users. With that, I end my report and hope to see you all at ApacheCon 2001 in Silicon Valley next year!


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