OSCON 2011, Portland

Once again, the O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) was held in Portland, Oregon.

It was held in parallel at the Oregon Convention Center with the O’Reilly OSdata and OSjava Conferences at the beginning of the week, and then later a knitting conference.

The conferences were well-managed, as usual. Great economy: lots of job notices and recruiting appeals. There was some chatter about Tim’s anti-harassment blog post.

Executive Summary:

  • HTML5/CSS3/AppCache are what should have been available 20 years ago, and are significant improvements that allow both desktop and mobile development in HTML. Although the HTML5 video tag gets a lot of press, HTML5 includes equally important forms improvements.
  • DNSSEC is complex and new signatures should be generated every 30 days or less (to reduce replay attacks by limiting the signature validity period), which is a burden on companies without a full-time DNS hostmaster. Third-party DNS hosting companies are salivating over DNSSEC.
  • MySQL long-term stewardship is still in question, with Oracle hemorrhaging MySQL developers and closing access to their bugs database, but MontyProgram and Percona maintaining strong forks.

Here’s my notes on some of the tutorials and talks I attended:


HTML5 & CSS3: The Good Enough Parts
Estelle Weyl, Standardista.com

– transform-origin is key to snowflake demo looking realistic, easy to use
– background resets everything, so use individual properties
– background-position – use all 4 values
– background-size auto contain cover, handy for iPhones
– text-overflow: ellipsis
– minimal HTML5 document:

<!doctype html5>
<meta charset=utf8>

(head and body are implied)
– or even send tags in server headers
– changed most elements
– <i lang=””> useful to style
– small tag useful for legal smallprint, since there’s no copyright metatag yet
HTML5 Boilerplate – good way to learn HTML5 and CSS3
– tabindex=”-1″ allows JS to set focus and not bother user otherwise
– spellcheck=”true” | “false”
– itemtype=”http://data-vocabulary.org/Person”
– new input types
– placeholder, pattern, required, spellcheck, validate
– a@b is deliverable for internal email servers. hmm.
– meter, progress, output widgets
– button generator at css3button.net
Voronoi diagram demo
– web workers

Monday Lunch

Benjamin, Ubuntu
– loves CloudFlare
– likes Linode

Talked to an open mapping data fellow about various projects. Google ToS is scary when it comes to that kind of data.

Monday Afternoon

Moose is Perl: A Guide to the New Revolution
Ricardo Signes, Pobox.com

– detailed talk about Moose features and syntax
– chatted with other folks at break time about topics like CSS::Inliner and Mojolicious web framework (with minimal dependencies) by Sebastian Riedel.

Tuesday Afternoon

Three For Five – Functional HTML5 & CSS3 for Designers & Developers
Jason VanLue, Envy Labs and CodeSchools.com

– good training session with fun sample – a beer menu created from 1 photo (CSS3 text scaling and rotation) and HTML5/CSS3 styled text
training class is available online for $75 (also jQuery and 2 Rails classes)

3-for-5 Beer Menu
Click to Enlarge

Tuesday Night

Puppet Labs Logo

– went to Puppet Labs office for CloudCamp lightning talks, which started about 90 minutes late
– nice office, typical start-up look across from a small park. Comfy little meeting rooms with leather sofas a la Netflix.
– about 5 lightning talks total, 2 were sales pitches, 2 had 40 slides crammed into 5 minutes. ick.
– Puppet Labs CEO gave a good talk on optimizing Puppet for a client with 10,000+ nodes. Converted XML::RPC to REST, which doubled performance from 500 to 1,000 qps (I talked to Randy Ray about that, and he wasn’t surprised and that would be the case on simple requests), did some more work and maxed out at 2,500 qps. Enabling SSL did not slow down requests.
– got too crowded for me, and also fire department, who manned the exits and counted people as they entered and left.

Puppet Labs Office
Photo credit: Jacob Helwig


Creating a Scalable JavaScript Application Architecture
Nicholas Zakas, NCZConsulting

An AJAX client only cares about getting the data it wants, not response codes, etc.

Use layered JavaScript client architecture:

– sandbox
– application
– library (Dojo, YUI, MooTools, etc. )

Author of “High Performance JavaScript”

Wednesday Lunch

I talked to Ben Golub, CEO of Gluster.

– 80% business, 20% scientific
– users include box.net, Pandora.com
– written in C
– minimum is 2 nodes for replication
– lots of people use it in EC2
– office located in Sunnyvale.

Wednesday Afternoon

HTML5: All about Web Forms
Estelle Weyl, standardista.com

– use label tag with forms to ease navigation for end-users
– use placeholder attribute, better for screenreaders than JS coding
– multiple autofocus defaults to last one in HTML5
– type=”text” is default, so tel, email, etc. degrades on all browsers back to text
– form element can disassociate parent form, useful for AJAX multiform pages
– input types good for mobile devices to show useful soft keyboard for url or email input types
– numeric step options
– test date and numeric input types for usability. Scrolling birthdays or zip codes is painful
– still need JS
– Opera is first with new UI features but last with artistic design, so currently has hideous tooltip appearance
– list and datalist like exploded select. Include select for IE backward compatibility
– meter, progress and output UI elements
– input type=text x-webkit-speech, now on Google homepage

HTML5 in Your Pocket: Application Cache and Local Storage
Scott Davis, ThirstyHead.com

– 4 million Macs, 32 million iDevices in last quarter
– Basecamp Mobile
“Dive into HTML5” by Mark Pilgrim online
– cookies should be called thimbles, only 4k
– HTML5 localstorage supported in IE8, FF 3.5, so practically all
– 5 MB, QUOTA_EXCEEDED_ERR, can’t increase now
StatCounter browser stats
gist 350433: Storage polyfill using window.name and cookies
– no version of IE or FF support web SQL and they probably won’t, FF for philosophical reasons
– cache manifest
genManifest bookmarklet
– FF about:cache and Firebug are handy to see caches
– appcache has no expiry date
– date stamping manifest file causes re-download
– 404 causes none to be saved
– treat appcache as only slightly more secure than cookies, which are round-tripped
– webplication
– still sandboxed from local file access, could use node.js or signed app
– See W3C HTML5 offline

Profiling and Detecting Bottlenecks in Software
Bryan Call, Yahoo!/Apache Committer
PowerPoint .pptx

– usual savings (machines, moving parts, get smart)
– top, htop
– vmstat, dstat
– time cmd
– Boost logging does small writes, allocates memory when it gets behind, causing both IO and memory pressure
– profilers like oprofile and google profile cause 1% to 8% slowdown
– valgrind’s callgrind much more resources
– oprofile has script to convert output to kcachegrind
– opcontrol –deinit
– sysctl nmi_watchdog off
– opcontrol –no-vmlinux
– opcontrol –daemon
– google profiler userland, LD_PRELOAD
– env CPUPROFILE=/tmp/mybin.prof /usr/local/bin/my_binary_compiled_with_libprofiler_so
– caching: don’t do the same work twice
– choose the correct algorithms and data structures: dqueue vs. List, hash vs. trees, locks vs. r/w locks, bloom filter
– reuse memory, stack vs. heap, tcmalloc
– make fewer system calls (larger reads and writes)
– faster hardware, bonded NICs, SSDs, RAID, CPU, more cores
– read How to Profile Apache Traffic Server
http_load now uses epoll
– he made ab multi-core

From kernel.txt: “nmi_watchdog: Enables/Disables the NMI watchdog on x86 systems. When the value is non-zero the NMI watchdog is enabled and will continuously test all online cpus to determine whether or not they are still functioning properly. Currently, passing “nmi_watchdog=” parameter at boot time is required for this function to work. If LAPIC NMI watchdog method is in use (nmi_watchdog=2 kernel parameter), the NMI watchdog shares registers with oprofile. By disabling the NMI watchdog, oprofile may have more registers to utilize.”

CoffeeScript: A New Hope for JavaScript
Scott Davis, ThirstyHead.com

– trainer, author, worked on Comcast/Time Warner TVs which mostly use WebKit
– little language that compiles into JS
– JS V8 headless, like node.js
– PhantomJS is headless HTML, handy for testing
– Google GWT compiles Java to JS
– “transpiler”
– install node.js
– install npm
– npm install -g coffeescript
– –tokens, –nodes like java p
– immediately invoked function expression IIFE
– coffeescript: string interpolation #{name}, “””
– objects with left-hand spacing like python


DNSSEC @ Mozilla
Shyam Mani, Mozilla Corporation

– BIND 9.7 is nice for DNSSEC
– Keys are everything, protect them. Have a backup plan.
– Cisco core routers by default don’t expect large DNS transfers:

policy-map global policy class inspection_default inspect dns maximum-length 4096

– DS was live, no signed zones
– watch log levels, can be chatty and quickly fill disk with logs
– DNSSEC has no immediate benefit to end-users, since resolvers don’t honor it
– their logs show 1000:1 dns vs dnssec queries for last 6 months, but growing

Ask Google Engineers Anything
Chris DiBona, Google

– 55 Google employees attending OSCON this year
– mostly end-user questions about Google+ circles and API
– or running Go on android
– or why does my telco not do firmware releases for my smartphone
– or not happy with Google search results this month
– I asked about original reason for GFS. Originally, the hardware was really that flaky, and Google even actively bought bulk refurbed computers and RAM, sometimes off the back of a truck. Got a gopher plushie in return.
– also some good feedback complaints: google groups UI inadequate for managing 350 groups in an Education scenario
– inadequate data import tools for non-profit users of groups, mentioned by a religious charity.

How Not to Design Like a Developer: Open Source Can Look Good Too!
Chrissie Brodigan, Mozilla/Firefox

– KPI vs. git (different goals)
– @sirupsen
– story about the downloads map graphic for FF 4 – a developer silently removed social button graphics, limiting participation of wider audience. Marketing needs to explain why and how other staff fit into outreach programs.
– hang out on #projectdesign
– design contests are a good way to get them to come out of the woodwork
– designers hang out on twitter, not irc
– programmers should avoid big red buttons that scare users, and improve accessibility
– Inkscape, Blender, HTML and CSS are some Open Source tools for design mockups
– do AB testing or survey users
– designers want to be martyrs, so be careful they don’t offer more than you are willing to accept (start with 1 icon rather than the whole set)
– take a look at graphics libre for icons
Quitestrong.com 5 girls who do design

Gearman BOF
Brian Aker

– Gearman polls, beanstalk busy waits
– nice to have feature to give up to another thread
– monitor projects handle launching of workers
– Gearman has durable and non-durable queues
– is a superset of the crap you handrolled. Most of the homegrown apps peak at 50% to 60% of Gearman’s features
– Gearman is production ready, but the postgresql driver less so because of fewer test cases and Brian’s lesser familiarity
– setup ntp and use Gearman coalescence for redundant cron servers
– can inspect queue
– agnostic to backend
– 99designs.com looking at this, same use case as original developer
– I still think that if you already have a database app, adding a status column gets you a lot of Gearman functionality without one more moving part.

Monty Widenius, MontyProgram AB

– Monty mentioned that the latest release of MariaDB 5.3-beta has faster replication from group commit and performance improvements on the master, which also help the slave. Also subqueries and joins work much better.
– Monty talked about his Aria storage engine, which is a replacement for MyISAM that has both transaction and non-transaction modes. It’s intended for users who want the space savings of MyISAM. Over time it may compete with InnoDB.
– Monty’s responsibility is to convince Percona to merge into 1 source base sometime
– it’s estimated that although Oracle still has the InnoDB team, they may only have 1 general MySQL server programmer left.
– he explained that MontyProgram developers work 50% on feature requests from end-users, and 50% Open Source-related. So paid requests for 1 week of work really need to cover 2 weeks of developer time for that model to work. Typically a medium-sized change is roughly $12,000 and includes development, testing and documentation.
– Zmanda got FLUSH TABLES WITH READ LOCK NO CHECKPOINT for a beer, though. 🙂 Monty was able to find a code path that could be locked to prevent Aria and MyISAM from writing anything during the backup.
– I sponsored WL#232 for USD$100 to add a SHUTDOWN statement to MySQL
– Monty explained that MERGE tables may be a better choice than MySQL partitions for logging applications.
– attendees from MontyProgram, SkySQL, Percona, DeNA

AskMonty: MySQL “Wishlist” Session from an online travel agency
MySQL Manual 5.5: FLUSH Syntax

Perl Lightning Talks
Hosted by Geoff Avery

– a talk on why arrogant community members telling others that “they need a thick skin” is unhelpful
– a talk by a young Perl community member on getting commit access, and how others can get the spirit and contribute
– Larry did several talks, mostly encouraging backporting Perl6 features to Perl5 it seemed, perhaps as a replacement to going Moose
– nice song on the importance of public libraries, which face shutdown due to economic budgeting problems in Australia and USA
– nice comedy juggling act comparing programming languages. Perl6 was omitted as “nothing has been updated in 5 or 6 years”, prompting Larry to say that he was happy he has a thick skin. See above. 🙂
– afterward, I talked to a booking.com rep about why a European company needed to actively recruit in USA and world-wide. He said that European developers are happy working where they are now, and it’s easier to recruit in places with mobile workforces like the USA. He would like to hire a couple developers per week to meet their development schedule.

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