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Foo Camp Day 2 and Day 3

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 5-Feb-2007 09:43

I am back at the base, after an uneventful trip back home from Warkworth to Auckland by road, then flying down to 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!








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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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