I've had people asking me what's up with OSCON this year--is anything interesting happening or can they skip it and watch "Alias" reruns instead. I can't make your decision for you (the relative attractiveness of the Alias lady and Damian Conway is something I'll leave to you to weigh) but I can definitely talk a little about what I'm jazzed about.
Things are getting very interesting in OSCON keynote space. Last week at etech, Mitch Kapor unveiled Chandler, the email/calendar/address application developed by his Open Source Application Foundation. So much that's interesting here for him to talk about: it's in Python, the idea of starting a non-profit to develop software, the balance between developing an application and developing a platform for third-party addons, .... And now there's actual code for you to try.
Sssh, don't tell anyone, but Tim's going to keynote at OSCON. It's not on the schedule yet, but it's going to happen. We were talking today and he came out with a formulation that tied together a whole bunch of technology things that we both find interesting. I guess I'll wait until he writes up a description rather than come out and say "he'll talk about ...", but I think he'll be trying to show a wider context for open source and identify some other things that open source hackers might be interested in within that context. I wish I'd been able to attend his etech session, but look for some of the people he spotlighted to make an appearance at OSCON ....
And then there's Miguel. I love Miguel. The first time I saw him was at a USENIX conference, and it was back-to-back KDE and GNOME sessions. The KDE guy was this staunch conservative German intent on seriously promoting the reliability, stability, and deployment-readiness of KDE. Then out bounded Miguel, speaking at 240 wpm and waving his hands, and he said "and we put this in and we put this in and we put this in because because because oh just because it's cool, yeah!" The poor KDE guy didn't stand a chance.
Of course, I hope Miguel doesn't speak at 240 wpm in his keynote. I'm watching Mono more closely than I'm watching, say, Python. I've done a little C# and .NET hacking (very little) and I like what I see. For some reason, I find C# less distasteful than Java. I can't say why, it just feels better, even with those ugly [square brackets]. I'm sure I'll get a dozen "I've used .NET and it SUCKS!" replies, but the very little I've done has been pleasant. I'm a bit boned on the Mac until they support OS X, though.
Stormy Peters works for HP in my own town, Fort Collins. She's talking directly to the theme of the conference, the way that open source and proprietary software often coexists rather than it being an all-or-nothing situation. Miguel's an interesting aspect of this, come to think of it, with his work bringing the best of Microsoft to open source. She works for a company that's making a big investment in Linux, and she'll be presenting the financial story behind why adopting open source is a good idea. These arguments have actually been pretty hard to find.
From the other side of the coin, we have Paul Buck (one of the eclipse.org bigwigs) to why IBM is participating in Eclipse. Eclipse is a big open source IDE, primarily for Java but with language-specific add-ons (including one for Perl). If you've ever tried to get your company to let you release something as a CPAN module, you'll know that it can be hard to convince a suit that it's smart to give back too.
I always like to make sure that we don't focus too hard on technology, so there are two somewhat more obliquely open source talks. The first is Milton Ngan, back to talk about the second Lord of the Rings movie and hopefully drop a few hints about the third (whose volume of special effects has, apparently, caused the release date to be moved). For my money, his talk last year was the best keynote ever. I went to visit him a month or so ago in Wellington, and got to see some of the work they were doing for the last movie (which, by the way, I can't wait for).
And, last but not least, George Dyson talking about von Neumann. This talk comes via Tim, who strongly recommended George to me. He's going to talk about the early days of computing with von Neumann's work at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study. He knew everybody working in the glory days--he invited Turing to become his assistant, he worked with Church, he used Aiken's Harvard Mark I, he used ENIAC, he knew John Backus, etc. This bio page has lots of good information on him, and some great anecdotes.
Whew. What a lot of keynotes. Every year I try to cram more and more in, because it's so hard to say "no" when there's so much interesting activity in our world. And I'm sure it's going to be like this next year too. In fact, if you have suggestions for people you'd like to see at OSCON '04, drop me a line: gnat AT oreilly.com.
Nat Torkington is conference planner for the Open Source Convention, OSCON Europe, and other O'Reilly conferences. He was project manager for Perl 6, is on the board of The Perl Foundation, and is a frequent speaker on open source topics. He cowrote the bestselling Perl Cookbook.
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