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Sunday·25·May·2008

Google Open Source Jam and Webtuesday Hackday //at 22:45 //by abe

from the Clubbing-for-Geeks dept.

I was at two geek events in Zurich this week: At the Google Open Source Jam Zurich on Thursday evening and at the first Webtuesday Hackday on Saturday.

Somehow I expected both events to be quite similar, but they weren’t.

Google Open Source Jam

When I read “Jam” or “Jam Session” I think of Jazz musicians spontaneously playing together. So for me “Open Source Jam” sounded like a hack session where some spontaneous coding is done. But there was no spontaneous collaboration at Open Source Jam at all. It’s just (more or less spontaneous) talks about different topics and chatting. So I was quite disappointed from that event.

There were though quite a lot of people I knew from e.g. Webtuesday, Chaostreff or Debian. I even met some people I just knew from IRC until then.

Half of the talks were sole propaganda talks though, e.g. for Webtuesday Hackday, OpenExpo and Soaring as a geek sport. Not really wrongly placed talks, but not what I expected in talks at Open Source Jam.

The few rooms and floors I saw reminded me very much to IKEA Children’s Paradies, just even more motley. Though it felt all sterile and wasn’t by far as cool as I expected after what I read elsewhere of Google offices.

I also think that several of the Google employees showed some contrived friendlyness, and questions I asked e.g. why I have to give them my e-mail address and employer’s name (what do unemployed or self-employed people do?) got answered with answers I do not really believe – like “for security”. A leopard doesn’t change its spots. A data squid probably neither, even not at events labeled with OSS and said to be for the community.

I suspect that finding new employees is one of the reasons behind such events at Google. But after my first visit at one of their locations, this company still makes me feel uncomfortable. And I’m even more sure than before that I wouldn’t want to work there.

Not sure if I’ll attend the Google Open Source Jam a second time.

Webtuesday Hackday

Webtuesday Hackday also was not as I expected, but still more close to my expectations: the Webtuesday crowd gathers for hacking instead of having long talks. :-)

There were surprisingly many people from outside Zurich, from Munich and Belgium, from Lake Constance and Lausaunne – not only the usual suspects (who were there anyway ;-).

The event took place at Liip’s new office. They still look a little bit empty and steril, but all the toys (mini rugby balls, Wii, plush figures on floor lamps) and people around made them very alive. And they had very cool lamps in the form of their company logo in the office. They sure have a good interior designer. :-)

Although most participants found time to do some hacking, many found less time than they expected so we hope that we can glue the talks a little bit more together in regards of timing to cause less interruptions of the hacking.

The food was also better at Hackday, too, but mostly because we ate outside. ;-) For lunch we were at Lily’s Stomach Supply at Langstrasse (very recommendable!) and in 6he evening we were at Pizzeria Grottino 79 near Helvetiaplatz. Had a Pizza Vesuvio with Gruyère cheese there.

Hackday also had a surprise for me: The IRC channel at Hackday was but when I entered the channel there were someone in I didn’t expect there: tklauser aka Tobias Klauser aka tuxedo. Even more surprising, he read about my project idea for Hackday – a semantic feed cache proxy – and liked it, so he decided to come over to Zurich and join the project.

We didn’t came that far until Tobias had to leave again, but the progamming language and partially also libraries had been nailed: Ruby and it’s WEBrick framework. After the Hackday I worked on it a few more hours and it now already saves feeds to a cache. The Mercurial repository is at http://noone.org/hg/sfc-proxy.

There were several reasons which spoke for using Ruby instead of Perl (my favourite progamming language and the one I’m most experienced in): Ruby brings HTTP and RSS support already in it’s standard classes and Tobias is more experienced in Ruby than Perl. I started to learn Ruby a few years ago to look beyond my own nose and to get my hands dirty on some object-oriented and nice programming language, but I hadn’t found an appropriate project until now, so this was one more reason to not do it in Perl.

I also worked on my Debian package of Conkeror during Hackday. It’s already usable and I now use Conkeror as primary web browser on my EeePC, but e.g. the man page is still missing. As soon as I have the minimum in necessary documentation ready I’ll let it upload to Debian Experimental (since its dependency XULRunner 1.9 is also only in Debian Experimental yet). The Mercurial repository for the Debian packaging of Conkeror is at http://noone.org/hg/conkeror/debian

Those who were still at Hackday in the evening decided that the Webtuesday Hackday should become a regular institution and should take place approximately every two months, but stay a one day event (for now). I already look forward to the next Webtuesday Hackday.

No more NDA for events hosted at Google Zurich? //at 19:14 //by abe

from the big-monopolistic-american-company dept.

I first heard about the Open Source Jam Zurich somewhere at BlogCampSwitzerland 2.0 (which was more a TechCrunch7 than a BlogCamp — why did the organisators call it BlogCamp?) and subscribed to its Google Group.

At Linuxday.at, hansmi (who seems to be assimilated bywork for Google) gave me a flyer about Open Source Jam Zurich. And while reading it, I noticed that it will be held at Google’s Zurich office. Remembering the need for early registration for one of the recent Webtuesdays because of signing an NDA being necessary to get into Google’s office, I asked him, if I need to sign an NDA if I want to take part at Open Source Jam Zurich. He acknowledge it and so I returned the flyer and forgot about the Open Source Jam Zurich.

Today Gürkan told me, he was at Open Source Jam Zurich at Google and he didn’t need to sign any NDA. He also told me that he knows other people which didn’t take part either because of the expected the need to sign an NDA. I was puzzled.

Did Google really started to realize that “Open Source” and “Free Software” doesn’t fit together with “Non-Disclosure Agreements”?

I hope so, because this would make it possible to come to all future Webtuesdays — my favourite local geek event — and not only to those not taking place at Google.

Wednesday·21·May·2008

A good day //at 17:43 //by abe

from the summing-up-smileys dept.

Today was a good day — at least if I average all the things happened today. And since Twitter.com is currently down and there’s no way all those things fit in 140 characters, I decided to pack them in a “short” blog post:

  • This afternoon one backplane of our newest backup server caught fire. :-( No collateral damages though. :-) The machine is currently at the manufacturer and should be back on Monday.
  • My EeePC (more about it in an upcoming blog post) recently overheated and switched off. It looked as if it since then didn’t turn off correctly anymore, but power and the fan stayed on although the operating system was shut down. Today I found out with help of the debian-eeepc-devel mailing list that my EeePC wasn’t damaged but the snd_hda_intel driver caused the machine to not shut down correctly. One rmmod line into /etc/default/halt and it shuts down perfectly and fast again. :-) See also the hint in the Debian Wiki.
  • Even more: I’m sure that it not even has been turned by being hit by something through its neopren bag inside my backpack as I initially expected. It turned out that I must have not noticed that it wasn’t properly shut down and put it in the neopren case in that condition :-( since the power button simply doesn’t work when the lid is close. The good news: It doesn’t seem to have carried away any damage. :-)
  • I had the same problem as Beat had: I couldn’t import certificates into my Nokia E51 mobile phone. I already tried to import the PEM and the DER versions of the CAcert root certificates but it just didn’t work. After Beat found out (Kudos to maol who pointed me to Beat’s blog posting), which certificate format is necessary, I found out that while the CAcert PEM certificates have the correct Content-Type header (application/x-x509-ca-cert) the DER certificates have not — they are served as text/plain. Downloading them to my server, adding the right content type to the config and downloading them from there again with the mobile phone worked fine and I now don’t need to acknowledge anymore the certificate of my IMAP server each time I want to read my e-mails on the mobile phone. :-)
  • One more EeePC thing. During a discussion on the debian-eeepc-devel mailing list, I noted that the maximum summed up resolution of the internal and external display seems to be 800×800, but it turned out that you can configure that in your xorg.conf. :-) The screen section of my xorg.conf now looks like this:
    Section "Screen"
            Identifier      "Default Screen"
            Monitor         "Configured Monitor"
            SubSection "Display"
                    Virtual         2048 2048
            EndSubSection
    EndSection
    
    See also the xorg.conf in the Debian Wiki.

So if I sum up the smileys in this blog posting, I get 5 happy ones and only 2 sad ones. I think being happy outrun being unhappy today. ;-)

Now I want to dive into my bath tub to get this smell of burning servers off me and my cloths. ;-)

Thursday·01·May·2008

Dilbert.com became even more better //at 16:07 //by abe

from the pure dept.

nion argued about the new Dilbert.com website now using flash instead of GIFs and I responded that it’s not as bad since Dilbert.com now also officially offers RSS feeds — without Flash.

It looks as if Scott Adams got more responses from nion type people since he divides the feedback to the new Dilbert.com site into three groups: Those who are angry about flash and bloat (mostly techies and linuxers), those who are fine with the design and features, but angry about the slowness due to overload and those who are fine with the design and features and ignore the speed. I’m in none of these groups.

But Scott Adams valued the feedback and responded especially to the first two groups of critics with something for which he couldn’t have found a better URL:

http://dilbert.com/fast

With this pure Dilbert, nion should now be happy again. I still prefer the RSS feeds though.

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert

About...

This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the IT Support Group (ISG) of the Departement of Physics at ETH Zurich.

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