Jul 08

OSCON 2008 Recap

This year was my second year at OSCON in Portland, and it’s pretty amazing for me to look back at last July and know that I was working at OSAF. A lot can happen in a year, but what didn’t surprise me was the amount of people that I interacted with at the con that I had met during my OSAF experience.

A few things come to mind when I think about the conference as a whole. First off, who gave OSCON a Ruby adrenaline shot? The Ruby track was pretty extensive, and I would say more prominent even than the Python track this year. I felt like many of the talks were very introductory with very few actual visual demo’s of things “working”. I know that OSCON brings a very diverse crowd.. but please, please come up with some way to show us if things are advanced, or not. I really get absolutely nothing out of introductory level JavaScript sessions, but a title like “Digging into the guts of JavaScript” could pretty much mean anything under the sun.

Some of the most interesting talks I attended last year had to do with open mapping and location services, I know you want us to also attend the “Where” conference, but these things are part of Open Source and should be represented at OSCON!

I really enjoyed the talk about CouchDB, I hadn’t heard about it and really enjoyed how it opened my mind up to some new concepts about how your application should interact with a database. I would advise everyone to check it out at http://incubator.apache.org/couchdb/.

Another was the “Django Tricks” talk, this was great because he just ran through a bunch of really cool examples — one of which was introspecting a sqlite db to build models from the schema. Pretty cool stuff! Additionally, I think Ted Leung nailed his talk about “Open Source Community Antipatterns”. A lot of the ideas and concepts weren’t new to me, but it always helps to get a more detailed overview from someone who has seen these patterns repeated over the last 10 years.

The best quote I heard was that the “Second OSCON starts at 6pm each night.” I completely agree with this, the social aspect of the conference is invaluable, but be careful about all those free booze — they sneak up on you if you aren’t careful.

I do feel as if I should have done a Windmill talk this year, I didn’t see anything from Selenium or Watir and if we had been a little farther a long with the next iteration on Windmill it would have been a great venue to get some serious exposure. I may attend some other conferences this year, or wait till OSCON next year for Windmill to make it’s big splash.

Jul 08

Oscon 2008 Schedule

Every year I like to make myself a road map of how I will be spending my time during OSCON. As there are so many interesting possible talks, gatherings and social events it’s tough to get to all the things you care about.

At this point in my career my focus is on Web Development, Test Automation (specifically for the web & browsers), and social networking. Obviously on a moment by moment basis your interests are pulled in varying directions, but that sums up the bulk of my attention.

If you are interested in the full schedule grid, it can be seen here: Oscon 08 Schedule Grid.


  • 8:45 AM: Welcome
  • 9:30 AM: Keynote
  • 10:45 AM: “An Introduction to Ruby Web Frameworks” (It’s going to be tough to convince me to move away from Django)“Changing Education… Open Content, Open Hardware, Open Curricula” looks more interesting today.
  • 11:35 AMThis one is tough, either “Web Graphics and Animations without Flash”, “Beautiful Concurrency with Erlang”, or “Beyond REST? Building Data Services with XMPP PubSub”, “CouchDB from 10,000 ft” apparently thats the thing see, or “What Has Ruby Done for You Lately?
  • 12:20 PM: Really important, LUNCH!
  • 1:45 PMProbably “Thunderbird 3″, maybe “The Open-Source Identity Revolution”
  • 2:35 PM: “Caching and Performance Lessons from Facebook”, never know when this one might come in handy working for Slide inc.
  • 4:30 PM: “Open Source Community Antipatterns”, I’m really looking forward to hearing Ted Leung explain how to NOT run an Open Source Project…
  • 5:30 PM: Probably “Give your Site a Boost with memcached”, or “Shell Scripting Craftmanship”
  • 8:45 AM: Keynote
  • 9:30 AM: Keynote
  • 10:45 AM: “Open Source Microblogging”
  • 11:35 AM: “This is Your PostgreSQL on Drugs”
  • 1:45 PM: “CSS for High Performance JavaScript UI”
  • 2:35 PM: “Stupid Django Tricks”
  • 4:30 PM: Either “Fixing Hard Problems Through Iterative QA and Development” or “Effective Software Development with Python, C++, and SWIG”, as I have worked with both speakers (Clint Talbert, Robin Dunn) respectively. OR “Machine Learning for Knowledge Extraction from Wikipedia & Other Semantically Weak Sources. This is a hard one..
  • 5:20 PM: Couple interesting choices jump out at me here: “Code is Easy, People are Hard: Developing Meebo’s Interview Process”, or “Designing Political Web Apps for MoveOn.org” both could be really cool.
  • 9:30 AM: Plenary
  • 10:45 AM: “Toward a Strong Open Source Ecosystem” by Sara Ford at Microsoft? Interested to see what she has to say…
  • 11:35 AM: Oh hell yeah, “Searching for Neutrinos Using Ope Source at the Bottom of the World”
  • 12:30 PM: Plenary
  • 1:30 PM: Plenary, Bye Bye’s
Off to the train to Seattle…


I am going to try a new thing using the Word Press app on my new iPhone 3G, to jot down small blog entries of points during the talks, then fill out the rest of the entry with more detail later.
It’s 2:41 now, so lets see if I can get to that 8:45 AM.. yowch.

Jun 08

IE Web Development Tips

As a web developer you are probably aware of that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you suffer when posed with the idea of testing your freshly written JavaScript that works perfectly in FireFox.

For years now, we have had to ‘suck it up’, and pour a glass of scotch to get through an afternoon of testing in IE. As I am now a Web Developer at Rearden Commerce who currently caters to an audience of enterprise users instead of your standard bay area geek population — I have to make sure everything I commit works nicely in IE.

Last week after a few hours of IE testing, and dirtying my code I worked so hard to perfect and refine with alerts everywhere I decided that there HAD to be a better way to do this. I went ahead and spent many hours searching the web, installing everything I could find that promised to make IE development easier and happily I can say — it was a success.

First and foremost however, there are a few tips I can give you right off the top that will make your life easier. Before you take the plunge into line by line alerting, go through your code and do the following;

* Remove unnecessary commas in your data structures:

( FF ignores this one, but IE will give you an error that isn’t helpful )

var superNinjaObject = {
me: 'adam',
home: 'oakland',

* Don’t try to access characters in a string as if it was an array:

( Works in FF, but IE will simply give you undefined and not tell you a thing )

var myString = 'Welcome to the Jungle';
$('mynode').innerHTML += myString[14]; //Broken in IE
$('mynode').innerHTML += myString.charAt(14); //Compatible alternative

Now we can get to what you are really interested in, the new tools:

1. Internet Explorer Development Toolbar

Get It: Microsoft Downloads

This is Microsoft’s best stab at a firebug equivalent. This gives you all the flexibility you need to inspect the DOM tree, look at CSS, Scripts, Images, Network etc. To put it simply, it makes IE development something you can swallow. I can’t image going back to IE development without this. Unfortunately it is missing two things, the first is the absolutely necessary JavaScript shell. This can be solved by using the IE JS Bookmarklet that you can find at blog.monstuff.com. Add this to your favorites and then whenever you need a JS shell, pop this up and hack away ( I agree it would be nicer if it was built in ). The second is the ability to set breakpoints and step through your code debugging and introspecting objects and variables. I do have a solution for this, see new tool number

2. Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition

Get It: Microsoft Express

This is the solution to your break pointing, stepping, introspecting needs. The way you use it is a bit awkward, but it does complete the development experience. To use this you need to create an empty web project and then start debugging. This will launch IE and bring you to a blank server page off the local MS web server instance. At this point you can go ahead and plug in the URL of the app you are wanting to test. Additionally if you have set any ‘debugger;’ statements in your source it will pick that up and automatically ask you if you want to start debugging there, or continue on. When you stop the debugging session in VWD it will kill your browser, so beware if you have to navigate to some deep point in your app you are probably going to get frustrated if you write buggy code. :) At it’s 1.4 Gb space requirement it’s hardly a comparison with firebug — but it’s certainly a step up from alerts all day long.

3. Microsoft Script Editor

Get It: Jonathanboutelle.com

If you don’t already have it installed, a good midpoint between nothing and Visual Studio Express is the Microsoft Script Editor which comes with office 2003, heres a video on how to use it, Video. Thanks for the feedback blogosphere.

I hope this made your life at least a small amount easier, happy IE developing.

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