Free Software and Open Source Symposium: Day Two

Day two.  Started with an interesting talk about Javascript and accessibility.  There is some pretty cool work coming out of the University of Toronto.  I was unaware of the Accessible Rich Internet Applicatios (ARIA) specification.  (more information from Mozilla).  Very interesting and effective specs to make javascript accessible.  Their specific work at the moment focuses on Dojo, and I have to say… Dojo, at least the widget models they use, are pretty darn impressive.  Note to self: investigate Dojo more.  Rich text editor looks great too.  The folks at jQuery are onboard also, but I don’t get the impression they are as far along yet.  ARIA has pretty good support in Firefox and Opera.  No word from MS or Apple that I could find.  Great hour, great info.

Next hour sucked.  Why is it that fires always start on Friday mornings?  Anyhow, took an hour, got a bunch of fires put out, got some ExpressionEngine work done, and was ready to go by 11 to listen to a pretty fun discussion of the history of Open Source - aimed at the idea of “learn from your damn mistakes man!”.  Made everyone in the lecture hall think.

Now its lunch, and I’m off to each veggie sandwiches.

update:  The ARIA presentation was by Simon Bates and David Bolter.  I wish now that I had given them credit originally in this posting.  Great job by those two.  Anyhow, Simon has graciously posted his presentation and source code online at for those interested.

Free Software and Open Source Symposium: Day One

First day of Free Software and Open Source Symposium (FSOSS) is in the books.  On the whole it was a great day (IBM talk exempted – ugh, more later).  Apparently they pronounce FSOSS as “eff-sauce”, which seems more logical then what I was saying I guess, which was basically just me repeating “eff” and “oss” over and over until the person I was chatting to got bored.

I first heard “Usability Anonymous”, presented by Jay Goldman and David Crow.  Apparently David took a job at Microsoft, as was well known, since he spent probably 5 minutes apologizing, and making sure everyone knew he used a Mac still.  They did really good job of bringing humour and insight into the topic of usable design.  I got some nice tips, and a few great resources I hadn’t known about (I’ll post those in another post).

A few interesting points… 5 of the top 10 features requests in MS Office are already in there, and have been for more then 1 version.  Users just didn’t know about it because in some cases it was buried under 11 (11!) menu options. Yikes. It did remind me of ExpressionEngine though.  The control panel interface has grown largely organically over the years, and is overwhelming until you get used to it. Really, it’s an issue of discoverability; somethings in there, but nobody knows its there.  Anyhow, great food for thought in my own work, including the ever growing menu of BambooInvoice.

Next up was a good talk from Mozilla about reviewing other people’s code.  It was good, but what I mostly took out of it was a pretty interesting discussion by Benjamin Smedberg (also of Mozilla) about a specific javascript engine review, and some fuzz-testing that happened.  Essentially, they feed the javascript engine a valid, but largely non-nonsensical chunk of js and then eval, uneval, eval, uneval and then compare the results of the 2 unevals to see if they’ve changed.  Great idea, and it actually may explain something I’ve seen in my own work recently (a situation where IE may not be unevaling something correctly). 

Next, another Mozilla presentation.  Mike Beltzner.  Nice guy.  Funny. Charismatic but scattered. He reminds me of me after I went off coffee cold turkey, and then went back on.  In a total act of injustice to his discussion, I’ll summarize it with 3 of “summary points”.  (1) Listen to your community; (2) Lead your community; (3) Let your community play and experiment.  Good advice.

I was ready for a break with lunch, and afterwards my notes got a lot more scattered.  Sorry.  A few interesting random points.  SourceForge has 90 servers, and does 647 TB of monthly traffic.  They use a MySQL database to log connections, and then pass the connections to Postgresql if it passes a few heuristics that gauge if they are under a DOS attack.

Then I (sadly) ended on a talk by IBM, which felt more like I was in a time-share presentation. They are pushing (at an Open Source conference) an agile development methodology they’ve dubbed “Open Commercial Development”.  Where does the “open” come in you ask?  Well, I’ve opted not to include my notes here as I don’t want to appear overly critical, suffice to say I think they should reconsider the use of the word “open”.  My favourite quote “open could mean a lot of things… I don’t think they realized that people might associate it with open-source”.

Ended with a keynote by Bob Young, founder of RedHat. Now that man has personality.  Great speaker, infectious attitudes, and all in all, an inspiring man, who appropriately bashed Microsoft to endear himself to the crowd ;)

3 great CodeIgniter links, and masking your CP in ExpressionEngine

So tomorrow I’m off to a two day open source conference.  Not sure how much I’ll be around for on the net, but probably a lot… but still, I wanted to mention a few things before I holed myself away to revel in geekery.  First, there are a few well known CodeIgniter community members who are doing some cool stuff, and deserve our attention.  I’m a big fan of this work, and this contribution to the community.  Guys, you don’t hear it enough.  Thanks!

Also, just a quick ExpressionEngine tip (EE doesn’t get enough of my attention on this blog, despite the fact that I spend several hours a day working with it).  If you aren’t masking your control panel... you should be.  It couldn’t be easier, and it will save you from problems like… oh I don’t know… to pull an example totally out of thin air that absolutely didn’t happen to me... your browser histroy showing it while your laptop is hooked up to a projector in a room of 50 people.  OK, I confess… it did happen to me.  Fortunately, with a masked CP, I just FTP’ed in and renamed it at break.  Easy-peasy.  Makes me glad I was masking it!

And finally, just for fun, here are 2 links that made me laugh over the last 2 days. How to survive a zombie attack (pure awesome), and the super-est.

Next up, hoping to write a bit about the conference.  I’m hoping for a chance to steal a conversation with a few Mozilla guys, and Bob Young (founder and CEO of Redhat).

Until next time!  Signed,
Little Bobby Tables

Toronto Area nerds: Anyone attending Free Software and Open Source Symposium

Free Software and Open Source Symposium
Seneca College is sponsoring another Free Software and Open Source Symposium (they creatively call it “FSOSS”) on October 25th and 26th.  Its become an annual event.  I’ve been there the last 2 years, and can attest that its getting better each year.  I have high hopes for this year, although the workshops don’t look particularly exciting to me.  Some of them sound interesting I guess, but I’ll probably go more to socialize and hear the speakers.  I’m attending this year with fellow nerd Cliff Persaud, but I’d love to meet up with any other area geeks who plan on attending.  If you think you might go, then drop me a line.  Worst case scenario, we can have a beer or three after the conference.

There are a bunch of interesting speakers, including representation from Mozilla, Red Hat (Bob Young), Novell, Komodo, Facebook, Sourceforge and many more (yes I’m deliberately leaving Microsoft off my list of “notables”) The EFF are always great when they present (and yes, I’m a dues paying member), and you meet so many interesting people. You also meet “interesting” people (I’m doing that two-finger quote thing in the air right now), but its always a good time.

Unlike my trip to SxSW, where you couldn’t stumble aimlessly out of your hotel room without stepping on a Mac (there were NO Windows machines to be found), what makes FSOSS notable in my mind is the number Linux laptops floating around.  Everyone is always eager to show off Linux to you.  I still doubt I’ll see any Windows machines though.

So if you’re from Toronto or surrounding area, and have a few days, come nerd out with us.  I’ll make a followup post after its all said and done.

Few notable links recently

OK, these are the laziest of possible posts, but there have been a few things I’ve found in the last few days that I wanted to bring up.

Beta software? Firefox “gets it”

Beta and bleeding-edge software has become something of a joke in “web 2.0”.  I think Paul summed it up nicely when he said he loved you.  But “beta” does serve a really important role - to allow interested users to advance test software that they love.  In a world where so few organizations “get it”, I was grateful to see that Mozilla understands.

First sign of brilliance - the “beta” or test version of Firefox 3 is called “Minefield”.  And the logo is equally great.
Mozilla Minefield icon

Nothing says “things just might go wrong, use at your own caution” like an image of the world represented like one of those exploding balls from the old Looneytunes cartoons.

Robot Sculptures

Now these guys understand killer robots…

lineup of robot sculptures


There are many great webhosts… but some suck

I might be stuck using one of the crappy ones right now for a project I’m working on.  Seems that they run only IIS (I mean honestly… a professional host without a single *nix box?) and it was just explained to me by their “sales guy” that I should be grateful that they’ll even let me run PHP on one of their boxes “because they usually don’t” but “the tech guy said (I) knew a lot”, and they were an “important client”.

Uh huh. 

I should add that I won a bid wherein I explicitly laid out that I would be using a PHP framework (CI of course) and would require either a MySQL or Postgres database.  It was revealed to me after I won the bid that the fact that I planned to use open source technologies was a major strength of my bid.

The rub?  They’ll provide me with a MySQL database for the low, low price of $100 per month.

“Indeed” was all I could bring myself to say as I politely hung up the phone and told the client to switch hosts, pay these blackmailers, or find an ASP.NET programmer for their pro-opensource project.

sidebar: PHP 4 turned 7 years old recently, and PHP 5 is about to turn 3.  I hope more hosts start adopting more quickly.
sidesidebar: You’ll be shocked to read that this host is giving me PHP 4 ;)

Status update, May 10

I’m not dead, but it’s been a bit since I wrote anything (13 days… yikes).  So to that end I promise a few more interesting CodeIgniter things that I’ve been working on will emerge shortly on this blog.

Feedburner experiment over - it crashed and burned

A little while ago I switched my blogs RSS feeds to Feedburner.  It has not gone well.  The feeds are up and down, the interface is clunky, and as Derek Jones pointed out, it wasn’t really giving me anything I didn’t already have.

I’m not interested in an unreliable service, and it turned out to only be an exercise in frustration.  I’ve switched back the feeds to and intend to leave it like that.  If you subscribed to feedburner, feel free to change back, although I’ll continue to maintain both.

Pardon the interruption… but Feedburner crashed and burned…