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Hello from OSCON 2005!

Posted by davidvc on August 4, 2005 at 12:43 AM PDT

It only seems appropriate that my first blog entry is at the
O'Reilly Open Source Conference, a place where it seems everyone
blogs.


I came here because I've just recently gotten involved in the
Apache Derby open source
project, and want to learn as much as I can about the open source
culture, community and tools. Derby has just had a couple good
milestones – just last week we graduated from incubation
(somebody here called it “probation”) and is now
officially part of the DB project, and just today we did our 10.1
release with a lot of great new features and bugfixes.

I am sure you may ask why Sun is getting involved in Derby. Well,
here's my take on it – it's great to have a 100% Java,
easy-to-use, embeddable database for Java developers. It makes it
really easy to do iterative development, unit testing, and so on.
It's also great because you can embed it in your application VM,
making it essentially invisible to the end user. So, it only makes
sense that if we want to promote Java development, we should have a
database like this. I also think Derby is a great database for
software research and higher education – it has all the key
components of a relational database system, it's open source,
well-structured and well-commented, easy to download, install and
distribute – perfect to put in the lab and hand off to
students.


Anyway, whatever the reasons, I am having a great time working on
this product, getting exposed to the open source community, and
working with a great set of engineers. Who am I to complain? :)




I can't help but notice that, although there is a Java track here,
Java is not the language du jour, and is actually treated with a bit
of disdain. Most of these folks are very much working with scripting
languages like PHP and Perl and Python. A new one on the block is
Ruby, created by Yukihiro
Matsumoto with the intent to “maximize the joy of programming.”
Surprised me, because I enjoy programming very much in Java, but I
guess that's not true for everyone. It appears to have a lot of the
qualities of Java, along with the scripting-language/LISP feature of
dynamic typing, which allows you to very quickly write and test what
you're doing without a compilation step. Looks interesting, I'll have
to investigate further.




I went to a very interesting session this afternoon by one of the
best speakers I've heard in a long time, Robert
Lefkowitz
, entitled Open
Data: How the RDBMS Is The Key That Unlocks Proprietary Applications.

I came late and by the time I got there he had finished his main
topic and was launching into a fascinating idea. His contention was
that for many systems and applications, what is locks you into a
vendor is the data and how it is stored in the database – the
schema -- not the source
code. You can't migrate from Vendor A to Vendor B if this migration
involves reworking all your data into a new schema – you're
locked in. His proposal was that just as SourceForge and java.net
are gathering places for building communities around useful source
code, we need a “schema forge” to build communities
around useful schemas. You would have a project to define the schema
for healthcare, or calendaring, or event management. This would
allow open source projects and even proprietary vendors within a
given domain to standardize on a single schema, delivering on the
promise of flexibility and averting vendor lockin. This is done
already, within services organizations and other closed groups such
as governments, scientific domains, etc. The idea is to apply the
open source model to this. I find this fascinating and think it's a
wonderful idea; I would love to see it come to fruition.




I was invited to Sun's
hospitality suite this evening. Not until I arrived did I discover
it was for Open Solaris. I was surrounded by kernel hackers! At one
point I watched lighthearted verbal attacks and parries between folks
from FreeBSD, Linux and Open Solaris. I know I studied operating
systems in college, but these guys were talking in Greek as far as I
could tell. Bryan Cantrill was there, one of the inventors of
Dtrace.
He shook hands, and immediately sat down with one of his buddies on
the couch, popped open his laptop, and started working through code
with him. Wow.


Overall a very interesting and enlightening conference.