September 30, 2002

OS X conference, day -1

Yet another trip out. Wheee. It's amazing how boring and tedious frequent travel can get. This'll be the sixth trip this year, with at least one more to go.The airports don't (yet) blur together, but I've been in a lot of them this year. At the moment I'm in minneapolis, though only for a few hours of layover on the way to the OS X conference. I think I've hit a dozen airports so far this year (some, like Bradley in CT, multiple times) and there are still more to go.They each have their own personal character. Bradley, the local airport to me, is small and a bit scruffy. JFK is the quintessential new york airport--cranky, idiosyncratic, and a massive pain in the neck. Denver's really open and expansive. Minneapolis is a nice airport but definitely expensive.Bleah. I never thought I'd get jaded by flying, but apparently I have. Hopefully it'll wear off, as I do, or did, like to fly. Maybe it's the transfers--after the third airport in a day they get decidedly less interesting. All the security makes it difficult to get a good feel for them as well, since so much is off limits or difficult to get to.This trip is making me feel kind of old, as well. Someone left a copy of the weekend Financial Times in the waiting room at Bradley and I picked it up. (I knew I was going to run short of stuff to do if I had no seat power, which I didn't have) After I blew through my book, I started in on it, which is when things started getting surreal.Not because I understood what they were talking about in it--economics has lots of voodoo but it's not particularly difficult. And I've spent enough time in financial circles to understand the language. (And the subtext of who's getting screwed by whom, over what, in which power plays) Nah, the scary thing was thinking It might be good to drop some cash in a diversified Japanese stock fund, given how the market's been performing in the McDonalds grabbing dinner.

Getting into San Jose was interesting, as there was a minor medical emergency on board, then two of the three luggage carousels the airport has broke. (That was fun) I'm staying with friends while in San Jose rather than at the conf hotel, so I broke down, took a taxi, and hit the sack early. Well, early local time, at least.

Posted by Dan at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2002

Belated birthday goodness

My birthday rolled around while I was in Zurich, so I didn't get a chance to celebrate it at home with the family. Well, Karen didn't forget, and got this for me, courtesy of eBay.

Yep, that's right, a Tonari no Totoro hiragana drill puzzle thingie. Suitable for three year old children, and other folks looking to learn Japanese. (Like, say, me :)

Posted by Dan at 03:45 PM | Comments (1)

Sound and Fury

Well, the project finally cracked RC5-64, using brute-force keyspace searching. While this is, in itself, mildly interesting, what's really made me notice is the after-effects.

You see, the key was originally found in July but, because there are a number of obnoxious people out there filing massive faked "key found" notices to the system, it wasn't noticed until August, and because of scheduling issues with RSA labs, the announcement didn't happen until today. But that's not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that the folks decided to clear out all the stats for packets sent after the winning packet was received. And the aftermath of that decision.

The project keeps stats, updated daily, and puts them up for viewing. There are teams, and you can get stats on daily and overall rankings by individual and team, there are mildly pretty graphs, and people use it for ego-wanking. And, like anything else people stroke their egos to, there was (and probably still is) a fair amount of furor over the decision to trash all the packet numbers after the winning packet was received. And there's also a lot of furor over the furor--the people who don't understand why people are upset.

The group dynamics are the important part. You've got the people participating for the ultimate reason behind the contest--to break the encryption and prove something or other. (Personally I moved over to OGR ages ago, as I find that's an actually useful thing to do, though the project has problems) But you also have the people in it purely for the ego boost having Big Numbers gives you. And neither side understands the other, or at least the vocal ones don't.

There's a lesson to be learned in all this, of course

Posted by Dan at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2002

Joys of beta software

Well, Mozilla (or possibly chimera, I'm not sure) managed to eat my Mozilla bookmarks. On the one hand that's not a bad thing, as there was a lot of crap in there, and the manage bookmarks window didn't appear any more so editing them was problematic. On the other, well, there's a fair amount of stuff I did want that I don't use often enough to have at my fingertips.

At least the history made it easy to grab the placed I've checked within the last week...

Posted by Dan at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2002

Guess priceline loses

For reasons I don't want to get into (but are profoundly stupid) I forgot to book tickets to the Mac OS X conference next week. This isn't a huge deal--I'm going regardless, the only question is whether I have to pay for some of the ticket or not. (Oreilly will pick up a portion of the cost, as I'm giving a tutorial)

So, I went to priceline to check things out. Made a reasonably low bid, figuring that if it's not accepted I'll just try again higher. No problem, right?

Well... no.

They came back with an offer almost $200 higher than I put in, which I chose not to accept as I can get the tickets cheaper elsewhere. So I go to rebid. And I find I can't.

Priceline gives you one bid per potential trip. Period. You miss it, you can't try again. I suppose this is to keep people from bidding really low and slowly inching up. What it's really done is lost priceline my business, as I can go elsewhere (southwest in this case, a carrier they don't bid for) and get the tickets. They lose, too bad.

Posted by Dan at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2002

Perl Walkabout, the aftermath

Well, the trip through Europe's done, and I'm back home. The question, then, is what have I learned from my first-ever trip outside the states?


1) If you're changing planes at JFK, you need at least two hours between flights. If you're going from an international to domestic flight, you need at least three

2) There's more than one way to do things, and they're mostly all right. There's no One True Way to make a plug, or a light switch, or a bed, or bedclothes, or a bathroom, though some ways can be better than others.

3) Culturally, nobody forgets anything. It's been more than fifty years and nearly three generations, but lots of folks are still pissed at the Germans for World War II. And WWI. And quite a few other things amongst other countries. I swear, I was waiting for someone to just haul off and belt Jos at YAPC::EU.

4) Larry really is as nice a guy as he seems, but he's human too.

5) It's appallingly easy to be provincial if you're from the US, or another country where you've not had to deal with the rest of the world in any sort of equal way. (I'd bet its the same to some extent with folks from China, India, or Russia, but the US entertainment hegemony works against that to at least a little extent) It's interesting, and a little embarrassing, to watch it in other people, too.

6) It's way too easy to get hung up about your potential provinciality. The world's a big place, and if you head out into it sometimes you just need to say "fuck it" and deal.

7) You know those obnoxious American Tourists? Well, they're just as obnoxious when they're here and not tourists.

Anyway, I'm damned glad I went, and I'm really looking forward to being able to do it again.

Posted by Dan at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

Perl Walkabout, day 12

Friday, the last day of the conference, and my last 'real' day on trip.

I was up late the previous night, so I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. Not great with a morning presentation, but still, that was fine. Because of other scheduling things the talk got cut down to 30 minutes from 45, which made for a fast presentation. My iBook crashed getting set up (dead battery) so I started a little late and ran over some, but it still went OK.

The rest of the day was bits and pieces, though I did sit through almost all of Damian's Quantum::Superpositions talk. That was, as always, interesting, and he'd updated it since the last time I saw it.

The topper to the conference was the YAPC::EU auction, in which Greg McCarroll auctioned off a whole load of stuff. The two Parrot t-shirts went for about 70E each, which wasn't bad. The color of the website went for 450E, and my signed YAPC::EU mug went for 35, so we all know what's important. :)

Afterwards, we all headed to the nice section of Munich (as opposed to where the university was) and had dinner. A good chunk of us (including much of, as far as I can tell) headed out in search of a pub and, after some wandering around, found one. I ended up at a table with Greg, Jos, and James, and we talked until we left, around 1AM. It was a grand time, and the first time I've been in a bar that I actually enjoyed myself. (Though the waiter thought I must be sick, as I wasn't drinking anything alcoholic, but I can live :)

Jos was kind enough to let me crash in his room (I'd not managed to get reservations at the St Paul through Saturday morning, because of the impending Oktoberfest, and originally had a different hotel for that one night) and, well, I did.

Posted by Dan at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2002

Perl Walkabout, day 11

Thursday was something of a goof-off and socialize day. Saw Nick Clark's "When perl isn't fast enough" talk, as well as the lightning talk session, a session on code obfuscation (which later brought the first perl 6 obfuscated code segment) and Jos' "Poe for beginners" talk. The poe stuff was OK, I expect, but his tales of misspent youth were more amusing.

We caught the last bits of Damian's Perl 6 Prospective talk, at the regex part. It always runs long, and of course he doesn't miss the opportunity to pass on the hard bits to me. That's OK, it's more or less in fun.

Dinner was the p5p get together, at a restaurant who's name I can't remember. (Though it's in the basement of the city offices, apparently) Pretty good, and we lingered for hours afterwards talking about various perl things. Casey West was at the table with us, and he provided an interesting contrast to the rest of the folks. He and I were the only non-europeans there--Casey's from Pittsburgh, and I'm from Connecticut. What struck me was how provincial I felt. Yeah, I wasn't nearly as bad as Casey, but then he's a lot younger than I am. Cultural arrogance combined with relative geographic isolation's not a good thing.

After dinner I was up until near-two AM at the hotel just talking, mostly with Jos. It was nice. I don't get out enough socially at home, and I do regret that.

Posted by Dan at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

Perl Walkabout, day 10

This was wednesday, the first real day of the conference. I honestly don't remember much about it, which just goes to show that I should be more timely with these things. Ah, well, I'll live.

In the evening was the speaker's dinner, held out in the middle of nowhere, relatively speaking. Still, the trip out was fun, and the dinner itself was great. (Well, alright, the food was just ok, but the company was more than worth it)

Afterwards we caught up with a few folks in the hotel lounge who'd not gone to the dinner and talked until they tossed us out for the evening. A good time indeed.

Posted by Dan at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

Perl Walkabout, day 9

Today was a travel day, from Zurich to Munich. Well, Munchen, give or take some high-bit characters. I don't know why exactly the city has a different name in English than it does in German. Odd, but not for me to say what's right or not here. Not my language, nor my city.The train trip was about four hours, and the scenery was quite nice. Hugo, Larry, Damian, Allison, and Gloria (Larry's wife) shared a first class compartment. Which basically means we had a glass door, a bit more space, and reserved seating. Not particularly fancier than the other seats, but being able to be together was nice.We got into Munich around 2PM, and it was a reasonably quick walk a few blocks to the hotel. I was staying at the St Paul, mainly because I knew Jos and Ann were staying there. Ann, alas, couldn't make it, but Pete Sargent, Artur Bergman and his girlfriend, and Andreas Koenig (along with a few others) were there. It took more than two hours of walking around to finally find the conference venue. Streets in Munich are... interestingly marked, with streets often changing names depending on which side of the intersection you were on, and I was generally on the wrong side. The "map" (a word I use with some caution) didn't help. Luckily the building was plastered with YAPC flyers, so when I finally saw it from the right side getting in was no problem.I'd arranged to have dinner with Jos at 6, so I headed back to the hotel, which is where I bumped into Artur. We hung out with Artur's girlfriend and Pete Sargent, waiting for Jos to show up. That happened at around 7:30--apparently there was a late start on the head end.Dinner was at the restaurant down the street, and a grand time was had. We accumulated another dozen or so folks from YAPC we gathered, and, well, it was just darned fun.

Posted by Dan at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2002

Perl Walkabout, day 8

Today was our day off, the lot of us perl 6 folks. David, one of our hosts at ETH, took us to Luzern to show us the sights. It was a short train trip, then a walk around the center of the city and through some of the narrow, winding streets. That was pretty cool.

We found an old fortification wall with towers along it, and took a walk through. It was great, and we got an amazing view of the city. And cows. (Which we've seen rather a lot of in various forms) Though these cows were much more realistic being, after all, real cows. (We'd seen the most gaudy red with white crosses paper mache cow in the railway station gift shop)

Luzern is on a series of interconnected lakes, and after lunch we took a boat ride down the lake to catch a cable car up the side of a mountain. Then rather more of a hike to an elevator, which took us up even further, to the very top of the mountain. It was about 2100m total elevation, and the view was astounding. We just wandered around and looked. I took some pictures, but they don't do the place justice.

We caught the 4:35 train back to Zurich, and met up with Fritz, our other host, for a nice dinner. It was an entirely pleasant end to this leg of the trip, and a productive leg at that. Now to get things packed up for tomorrow's trip to Munich by train.

Posted by Dan at 07:15 AM | Comments (0)

Perl walkabout, day 7

Today was the last of the perl 6 syntax/semantics sessions.

Have you ever been in a room full of people trying hard not to kill each other? It was like that. We had six people involved with the discussions, and we're all strong-willed and have our personal take on things. It was worst between Damian, Larry, and I, as we're sort of the internal triangle. I was getting damned testy by the end, and I think the only reason I didn't start pitching cups was that they weren't ours.

Still, in the end, we got a lot done, more than I thought we might. It was also a phenomenal amount of work. (Much, much more work than I figured) I'm glad we did it, but I'm glad it's over, too. Another day and I think we'd be at each other's throats.

Dinner was the Crazy Cow again. It was good, cheap, fast, and tourist-friendly. Larry and Gloria didn't join us, as they had other things in mind that evening, and that was kind of nice too. A smaller group (Damian, Hugo, Allison, and me) makes for a more relaxed dinner, I think.

Posted by Dan at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

Perl Walkabout, day 6

Today we spent the whole day hashing over object inheritance, method and sub parameter declarations, attributes, and properties. We finally nailed down how variables get typed, get attributes put on them at declaration time. I'm hoping to nail down delegation semantics, and if we can do that I think we're set to get objects into Parrot. I hope so, at least. (We may have to take one more look at calling context, but I think we'll hammer that out Sunday)

Had a bit of fun with Jos on IRC. Alas, no joy getting my last day in Munich moved to the StPaul, though. He managed to extend his stay calling in last week, but this time, well... Too close to Oktoberfest.

Took a stroll down towards the lake for dinner, and ended up at a small asian food place. It was good, and cheap, which was nice as it was my turn to pick up dinner. We've been round-robining the bill and I feel a bit guilty getting the cheap one, but on the other hand I'm the least employed and did actually flag down the waitress so we could get out at a reasonable time. This is the first dinner we've gotten out of before 9PM.

Posted by Dan at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

Perl Walkabout, day 5

The final day of the two-day public perl 6 conference. Allison gave her tagamemics talk, then another three hours of Damian doing his "The sky isn't falling" talk and, since there was a bit of time left, his programming in latin talk. (Abbreviated, for lack of time) Definitely a wild time.

Then lunch, Hugo's perl 5.10 talk, and then a Q&A session with all of us. The Q&A went well. I'm not sure everyone was entirely satisfied, but generally people seemed to be happy with the answers they got, which was good.

Dinner, mail answering, and general after-hours stuff afterwards. Fritz took us to a nice place in downtown Zurich. Good food, nice atmosphere, and it's definitely nice to have someone who speaks the language around for a crutch, though we've been doing pretty well.

Posted by Dan at 07:10 AM | Comments (0)

Perl Walkabout, day 4

Today was the first day of public presentations. Larry did a keynote, then it was Damian for three or so hours of non-stop Perl 6 coverage. Whee! Then a swift walkaround for lunch, followed by my pair of presentations. Rather frenetic, and even at that pace I had some slides I didn't get to. It was a great crowd, though, lots of good questions. I closed down this day of the conference, and I'm comfortable that things went well. Now I need to annotate my slides, as I need to generate a PDF for them to put on the web after YAPC::EU

Dinner was at the Crazy Cow, a semi-fast-food place. They do odd things with their hamburger, but it was good.

Posted by Dan at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2002

Perl Walkabout, day 3

Today was an all-meeting day. Spent the day in a room with Larry, Damian, Allison, and Hugo, working out some bits of the object model and sub calling protocols. Interesting work. Fair amount of tension, as we're all reasonably clever people with our own ideas on things, but it all works out, which is really nice. There are still two more days of this to go, though, so we'll see how long that lasts. :)

We did make good headway, though. I think sub and object semantics will be finished by the end of the weekend, even if the syntax isn't 100% nailed down.

Posted by Dan at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2002

Perl Walkabout, day 2

Tuesday was a travel day. Took a car from EBI down to Heathrow, with a driver that seemed almost pathologically averse to using the motorways--I went through more roundabouts in that one trip than I've been in the whole of my life to date. That's not hugely bad, as I got in with plenty of time, and got to see the insides of rather a lot of English towns an villages. That was nice.

The flight to Zurich was uneventful. I think I rather like British Air.

The ride from the airport to the hotel was fun. Zurich is an old city, built on the side of a mountain, and it's got the most... interesting geography of any city I've been in to date. The architecture's lovely, but if you go anywhere you're likely to change elevation by a few dozen meters, even if it's just a walk to the local supermarket.

Anyway, after settling down I wandered over to our meeting room and downloaded (though not answered) all my mail from the past few days. Then it was off to dinner and bed. I think, luckily, that I've managed to not get hit with much in the way of jet lag.

Posted by Dan at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2002

Perl Walkabout, Day 1

I got into the UK this morning. Plane arrived at around 6, through customs, and off to the car EBI had sent. Things went really smoothly, and it looks like we missed london traffic by about 15 minutes. Lucky us, as it likely would've added around a 30 minutes to the drive. As it was, I got to EBI by 8 AM. Got the rounds living on coffee, penguin mints, and sheer bloody-mindedness. Yay, caffeine!

Spend all of today at the Hinxton campus of the European Bioinformatics Institute. It's a relly cool place, the grounds are huge and nicely kept, and the lab itself is just amazing. Lots of rooms with automated robots doing experiments in 96 well experiment dishes, generating huge gobs of data. Their data center's also really impressive. Lots of machines, lots of blades, and an amazing amount of heat.

Dinner was at a small trendy fish place in Cambridge proper. Good food, though I broke my cardinal food rule. (There were eyeballs involved. Don't ask) No time to look around, which was a shame. I do want to go back and look some more.

Bedtime was about 9 PM. That was a good thing, since I couldn't go much past that. :)

Posted by Dan at 02:23 AM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2002

perl walkabout, day 0

Started off on the Big Trip. First to Cambridge to speak at EBI, then to Zurich for the perl 6 mini-conference and workshop, then to Munich for YAPC::EU.

The few days before the trip were stressful--because of some communication issues, I got the due date of my OS X conference slides wrong, and found out way late. Bad. Plus the usual pre-trip stress. Things never go well around the house the few days before a trip.

The first snafu of the day happened in the lobby at Bradley. I was fixing up my slides (something the OS X conference had pushed off) and broke my damn power adapter for this iBook. iBooks have a cool little glowing plug where the adapter plugs into the laptop. Well, it's fragile. The silver cover is only held on by pressure, and after a while it comes loose. Then when you unplug it you do it by tugging on the wires that hold the cable into the plug assembly. (Which needs some sort of strain relief, though it doesn't have any) Went to unplug and snapped one of the wires. Bad. Of course it happened a half-hour before boarding, so there was no way to get a replacement.

Luckily the plane has seat power, and I have a pair of batteries. I'm hoping to get a replacement power supply, or to fix this one, in Cambridge. Fingers crossed. (I expect I'll at least be able to borrow one for the presentations, if nothing else)

Then my flight was a half-hour late getting in to the terminal at JFK. Not normally a bad thing, but it turns out that while I got in at terminal 9, my connecting flight left from terminal 7. There's a shuttle but, as I found, it loops in one way only, so I got to hit terminals 1 through 6 too. Ech. And when I got to terminal 7, the security lines were dragging. My flight was boarding by the time I got to security, and the doors were close to closing by the time I got seated.

But at least things are set. My first rework of the slides is done, all 58 of the things. I think I may have to go on a bit, but these slides should be slow ones. May have to add to them if I can get power.

Posted by Dan at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)