What a blast. Beer, wine and free Karajoz Coffee mixed with the extremely hot evening helping a lot of the conversations to flow.
Open source program manager at Google and software evangelist Chris DiBona was the feature guest. He's in New Zealand to network with the local open source community, participate in the Kiwi Foo Camp and have some time with government officials.
The panel examined digital democracy and counted with the participation of Alastair Thompson and British-based Kiwi Rob McKinnon. Thompson is the founder of Wellington-based internet news site Scoop. McKinnon is the brains behind www.theyworkforyou.co.nz, a website designed to make it easier for Kiwis to keep an eye on our parliament.
The whole series of Karajoz Great Blend events are promoted by Russell Brown’s group weblog site Public Address with the help of Karajoz Coffee Company, Idealog magazine, Hatton Estate Wines and Monteith's Brewing Company (oops, sounds like a TV ad).
Jut before the main talk of the night we had the opportunity to see trash video creators Matt Heath and Chris Strapp of Back of the Y-fame. The duo showed the audience videos from early work in Dunedin to British TV appearances and a forthcoming feature film, The Devil dared me to.
I always have a laugh when I see Karajoz's posters around. They are really cool (although I think the Italian barista on L'affare is not bad either).
Of course the spokesperson said this was a policy only for large sums of money, and should not be applied to a single operation of such small amount and would investigate.
Here's a good reason to stay away from a bank that invest so much in advertising, but forget to train their people in common sense... The thing is that I simply dislike bad customer service, and I tend not to return to places that can't provide a good experience.
This is from the same bank who brought us pago.co.nz (I can't even bother to link to it), with all its security flaws.
Telecom New Zealand's users seem to be ahead of the game now, since Sierra Wireless announced it has validated its current PC Card and embedded module product portfolio on Windows Vista. Windows Vista WHQL signed drivers are ready for all current Sierra Wireless EV-DO cards, including the AirCard 595, used by Telecom New Zealand (pictured below). You can find more on Sierra Wireless' site.
This is great news, because Telecom is introducing their CDMA EV-DO Rev A service here in Wellington on the 22nd February, so I will be able to use the AirCard 595 on my laptop running Vista.
Meanwhile Novatel still hasn't replied to my query through their support pages about availability of signed drivers for their HSDPA cards, used by Vodafone New Zealand. Vodafone New Zealand has announced their upcoming support for Windows Vista, with the required software for Windows Vista being available shortly, but with no specific date for signed drivers as required for Windows Vista 64 bits.
UPDATE: Vodafone has released drivers for Windows Vista (no 64 bit yet).
Check Juha's post "DRM behind lack of Vista drivers", where he extends the discussion on New Zealand's Peter Gutmann's "A cost analysis of Windows Vista content protection" paper. This piece of research caused furor around the Internet when released, requiring Microsoft to issue a rebutal with a post on the Windows Vista Blog, plus posts on the Free Software Foundation's Bad Vista campaign site. You can read the complete coverage again from Juha's blog.
But every time someone points on how evil Microsoft is in writing DRM code protection into its software and how great Apple is, I return the question with "what about Apple's own DRM?" (how some people answer a question with another question is something for other discussions).
Steve Jobs himself has posted this on Apple's "Thoughts on Music":
...When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.
Is it clear now to everyone that Apple also puts DRM into the content it sells, and protects the content on its iPod media players and iTunes client?
Steve Jobs continues:
So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free [on retail CDs], what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.
Great. See the thing? It's not Apple or Microsoft. It's the music and movie companies. Content distributors.
Move on now. Talk to your lawmaker about this.
It was the first Foo Camp event outside the U.S. and Europe, and we had the privilege of having together Open Source gurus, technology enthusiasts, entrepeneurs, inventors, hackers and even two New Zealand ministers in attendance. People from New Zealand, Australia, U.S., the UK, Denmark got together to create this wonderful knowledge event that happened for three days in Warkworth.
Attendance is the wrong word, because being a non-structured, flat hierachy conference the content is created on the fly, by all participants. We have various accounts here on Geekzone (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) and I am sure you will find other blogs (1) about this.
Now a group decided to post a page on Wikipedia, to record the event. Being an offspring of the original Foo Camp, of course a link from the original entry was placed.
Here comes the thing: someone decided to delete the entry, saying it's not worthy. Not only that, but this person is now posting in the talk page that even the original Foo Camp entry was spam and should be deleted as well.
How ridiculous. This person obviously know nothing about the conference, and is not even interested to know.
It just shows that the power of censoring something has shifted. And again, censoring has been placed in the wrong hands. In one of the sessions, Russell Brown compared the government managed Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand with the public managed Wikipedia. What's happening now just goes to show that while one will be maintaned by officials, albeit with limited number of articles, the other one will be censored by people hiding behind aliases and impossible to argue with.
More on this story from Juha's request for attendees to fill the page.
Some pdfs for your reading pleasure:
Foo Camp on Wikipedia
Kiwi Foo Camp on Wikipedia
Talk page for Kiwi Foo Camp on Wikipedia
What really annoys me is when you ask a valid question about a current device, and companies such as Novatel Wireless don't even bother replying to requests put through their own on-line customer support service. I've waited for a week now, but no answer.
Those damn HSDPA cards aren't cheap, but Novatel customer support services are for sure.
As you can see we here at Geekzone are one of the sponsor for this talk. For the sake of search engines (which still can't read image contents):
Chris DiBona (Open Source Program Manager - Google)
7th February 2007 (yes, I know, the picture shows the wrong year!) from 11:30am through 1:00pm
Old Government Buildings LT3, Victoria University, Wellington
The weekend was great, in terms of content, company and weather. Perfect for Kiwi Foo Camp (Baa Camp as we are calling it). Couldn't be better.
Sessions for Day 2 started at 10am. Of course, because the night before we had dinner, drinks, games and a light show brought by a couple of guys who hacked some bodysuits with LEDs and other lights, dancing in the middle of the field in the darkness of the night. Awesome stuff. Check the Foo Camp pictures on Flickr through the links in this post.
The first session I attended was "Open Source and consumer software", led by Ben Goodger (Google) and Asa Dotzler (Mozilla). Interesting take on developing software aimed at end users, interactions with developer and other bits.
I missed the Mozilla 3.0 session, but I heard all about it later from Juha. New features in Mozilla 3 will allow developers to create "disconnected" web applications that will work even when no Internet connectivity is available, by caching data required to process user's requests. Think of this feature used with Google Mail and Google Calendar for example and you can imagine what can be done.
Russell Brown, David Slack, Mark Cubey had a very interesting take on "Stories are the new data" and preserving our national knowledge, that non-copyrighted content (almost) everyone has in their heads, in the garden shed, in the back of the garage. Russell's comments on how Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand (government sponsored, experts only) compares with the people's Wikipedia and why Te Ara doesn't seem so important in the context of preserving digital culture, timely information and more. Good stuff Judith Tizard (New Zealand Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister with Auckland Issues, Minister of Consumer Affairs) was there. She actually attended both Day 2 and Day 3 of Foo Camp.
Tomizone's Steve Simms conducted a session on Wi-Fi and broadband sharing, with an appearance by Stan Swann, the guy who created the poor man's cookware wi-fi enhancer. Believe it or not, with a $10 frypan or wok you can increase the range of a USB Wi-Fi adapter to up to 3KM with line of sight. That's incredible and has been used in poor nations and some other areas to increase Internet penetration.
The session with New Zealand entrepreneur (and one of Kiwi Foo sponsors) Rod Drury gave us a peek into his latest venture. It's an accounting package that will take MYOB out of the business. But not a simple accounting package, but a Web 2.0 software as a service approach. His team designed a sleek web interface for one of the (in my opinion) most boring tasks any company will have. Xero.com is going live soon.
And what about "Fucking big websites"? This was the session lead by Arthur Bergmann, Operations Architect at Six Apart, of Typepad and LiveJournal fame. We learned about memcache, perlbal, gearman, dataqueue, mogilefs and more. We also found out that there are about 2,000,000 Typepad users and at any given instant there are about 500,000 people reading LiveJournal, with 100,00 to 200,000 http connections live. Also got some interesting tidbits like Facebook using memcache and dipping between 20,000 to 25,000 times to the cache system for data lookups.
Apparently they have a mix of MySQL 4 and MySQL 5 databases in the system, just "because it's a pain to upgrade", and they use "whatever works".
Chris DiBona ran a session on the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) program. Good stuff, and interesting to see the programme going ahead. Slowly but getting there.
Web statistics firm Hitwise was there and Luke Welling presented a session called "Lies, damn lies and flamebait". The most impressive sequence of charts was a comparison of Digg and Slashdot, showing that in October 2006 Digg crossed the big geek site and shot up in traffic. But then he changed the charts and showed how these two websites are still just a blip when compared to CNN.com for example. What an eye opener...
The funniest thing in his session was the discussion about the demographics segmentation called "PRIZM". What was funny about it? Well, the segment who most visits bittorrent.com is called "Shotguns and pickups". We all guessed was something to do with Wal-Mart not having DVDs for all their usual shoppers...
The "flamebait" in the session was a traffic comparison between all flavours of Linux (Redhat, Devian, Gentoo, Ubuntu, Suse) and databases. Very interesting material.
Even after a couple of suggestions directly from a Microsoft employee I still couldn't connect my laptop to the wireless LAN. Something to do with the drivers in use. Funnily enough, when I got back home there was a driver update available, and I bet this would have solved my problem. Damn.
A most interesting weekend, and I would do it again. I know Foo Camps are by invitation only, and I feel honoured to have been invited to the first one ever done in New Zealand, so here's hoping something happens again next year. Well done Nat. Thanks for that!
Search on Flickr for the Kiwi Foo tag or for Baa Camp tag for more pictures.
After this we had a crazy experience with a light show and a four way stereo sound installation, with four cars blasting out the music (yes, it was in the car park).
The Foo Camp is very unstructured with participants creating their own sessions and people can join anything they want. The Open Source movement is heavily represented here, from big names (Mozilla, Google) through less known but but not less interesting companies from Europe, U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
My Internet connectivity here is absolutely bad. I am on plan D already, and it goes like this: my Windows Vista laptop refuses to connect to any of the three wireless networks available (not that they are fast anyway, but it would be good). I don't know why, probably a compatibility problem with the Access Points? I see a lot of people using Mac laptops here, and even the odd Windows XP will connect. Am I the only one disconnected? Shall I buy a Mac laptop next?
I then tried Vodafone 3G. No go. We all know Vodafone coverage outside Wellington, Auckland and other main centres is absolutely appalling. You are lucky to get two bars on GPRS here.
Next I tried Telecom EVDO. Good signal reception but Telecom New Zealand in all their wisdom made a point of crippling the Treo 700wx Bluetooth and there's no Bluetooth DUN (dial up networking) on this device anymore, so it is useless. The Apache wasn't much better either with its Bluetooth DUN freezing every fiftee minutes, as we all know (but Telecom denies the problem).
So I am posting this on GPRS, and that's all I will do. It's impossible to read e-mails or even browse RSS feeds.
This is going to be an unconnected weekend, I see.