Software Development ain't what it used to be

I made a quick trip to the Software Development Expo this afternoon, conveniently located in the San Jose Convention Center. I only went to the expo, not to the sessions, and I don’t know if there were any hot sessions conflicting with my visit, but here are my impressions anyway:

I arrived at 3:15pm; there was no one ahead of me to register.

The longest line I saw, by far, was at the kiosk where you could fill out a survey about the conference in exchange for a free T-shirt.

KnowNow ( is making a big play at this conference — between their booth, exhibit, and free Internet connectivity area, they had more floor space than any other two companies. All 20 or so of the terminals in their connectivity area were in use, but I didn’t see anyone waiting in line, either.

The most crowded booths were those for Addison-Wesley and Apress, both of which were selling books for 20% off.

Microsoft had a large booth right by the main entry to the show. When I got there, they were demonstrating Visio.Net, which drew a crowd, but the rest of the booth was fairly empty. They were giving away time-limited copies of Visual Studio .Net for a short survey and a swipe of your badge — this also entered you in a drawing for an Xbox.

IBM had a large booth right by the secondary entry to the show. When I got there, a demo was going on and it was moderately crowded; the rest of the booth wasn’t particularly busy. But some of the IBMers I talked to said that this show was drawing better crowds than last year.

Other companies of note with booths showing some activity: ActiveState, Borland, MySQL, Rational, SlickEdit, and VA Software (SourceForge).

As always, the software locking people were there: Aladdin and Rainbow.

There weren’t any hugely obvious trends, other than smallness and emptiness. The “Web Services Pavilion” had four companies and was the only “Pavilion” on the floor. XML tools were moderately popular; so was Java and C++, as you’d expect at this kind of show.

There were no good tchotkies being given away, and hardly any candy or T-shirts. I came home with an unswiped badge and empty hands!

He’s better at Python than Virginian

Today, Mark Pilgrim makes the claim that

“Henrico” [as in Henrico County, Virginia] is pronounced “en-ree’-co”. The “H” is silent, the “i” sounds like “e”, and the accent is on the second syllable.

I don’t know where Mark got that misinformation, but I grew up in Henrico County, and I can assure you that I always heard it pronounced as “hen-rye’-co” (with a slight accent on the second syllable).

Luckily, Mark’s Python book does not suffer from pronunciation problems, and I highly recommend it.

Back on the air!

The replacement Nexland Wavebase arrived today, and I’ve gotten it plugged in and configured — wireless is alive and well at the old homestead again!

And I finally got to the YMCA again for the first time in a week or so. I could tell, too.

Other than that, it’s just been busy busy busy, with nothing particularly interesting to type about. Tomorrow, I hope to go to Software Development Expo and look around — the first time I went there, I won a mountain bike, which I sold to a colleague; that became the initial payment to xeriscaping our front yard. I’m not sure I can afford to win many more prizes like that.

Pushers? In Berkeley? Mooooo…

We’re just back from an afternoon in the Peoples’ Republic of Berkeley (which has been colonized by Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, Eddie Bauer, and Blockbuster Video, to name but a few corporate presences we saw along Shattuck Avenue). The goal of our trip was to see the new Flying Karamazov Brothers show at Berkeley Rep [no link, because their domain seems to have been stolen], L’Universe, about which more anon, but we planned our day to allow for traffic problems which, fortunately, didn’t happen, and so we found ourselves with a couple of spare hours in Berkeley.

After finding a parking place, we wandered over to the University of California to enjoy the open space and relative lack of cars for a while (especially since it was too early to pick up our tickets). After collecting the tickets, we wandered down Shattuck, looking for The Other Change of Hobbit, a science fiction bookstore owned by fellow fans (who we haven’t seen in many years, but what of that?). We didn’t find it; Jeffrey wanted to visit Barnes and Noble in search of the fifth volume in the Essential Spiderman series (as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been published yet — if you know differently, write me), but I thought that was a dangerous idea, and so we turned back towards the theatre.

Suddenly, Diane called out, “there it is!”. She’d spotted The Other Change of Hobbit (I guess I should have looked it up before leaving home…). We only had twenty minutes before showtime, but Jeffrey really wanted to see if they had the book they wanted, and I kinda wanted to look around, too, so in we went.

It turns out that they don’t carry much in the way of comics (which was fine with me). The guy behind the counter didn’t want us to leave empty-handed, though, so he asked Jeffrey how old he was and then ran over, grabbed a book, and told him he had to buy it and read it. Pure pusher behavior, except that the first one wasn’t even free!

The book? Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy, which, strangely enough, I’d been thinking about a few days ago. I agreed that it was a good book and happily bought it for Jeffrey (suspecting all the time that I had a copy at home, which I did — the copy I bought today cost $6, while the one I already owned was ninety-five cents!), and he’s already started to read it. As is well known, the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12, and I didn’t want Jeffrey to wind up doomed to Star Trek books, so this was a good purchase.

Now, about L’Universe…if you have a chance, go see it. It’s nearly two hours of Karamazov comedy, juggling, and music, wrapped in a bit of science (mostly accurate). I was surprised that the theatre was half-empty, but I haven’t seen much publicity for the show, either (I just happened to notice it mentioned in teeny print in last week’s Merc). The juggling is limited to balls and clubs — for the fancy stuff, we’ll have to wait for Catch to come around…it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Terror Trick!

CFP Day Three (and last)

CFP Day Three (and last)

The morning started out well — I managed to spend a few minutes in the exercise room in the hotel. Not as long as I’d like to have spent (I probably shouldn’t have had dessert last night, but it was awfully tasty!), but better than doing nothing, and most of the time I’m at a hotel, I do nothing because I can’t manage a full workout.

When I came back downstairs for breakfast, I ran into our closing speaker, Bruce Sterling and had him sign a couple of the books I’d bought during the conference (and yes, they were books he’d written!). I’m looking forward to his session — if it’s anything like his closing rant in Austin (Real Audio, be warned!) at CFP ’98, it’ll be well worth staying for (even though it means driving home through rush hour getaway day traffic).

State Senator Jackie Speier was this morning’s leadoff speaker, talking about her efforts to get a financial privacy bill (SB 773) through the California Legislature, and why it’s necessary (her assertion, which I agree with, is that consumers will be happy to allow their data to be used if there’s a benefit to them (and not just to the financial institutions), so that an opt-in policy should not affect the industry’s bottom line and would be in keeping with the California State Constitution‘s explicit right to privacy).

Now I’m at the second plenary session, this one on public records and the Internet. I’m afraid my brain overflowed during this session and I didn’t take good notes; I hope one of the other bloggers here will fill the gap for me when I write my trip report.

Speaking of other bloggers, I’m now maintaining a list of CFP 2002 Resources and Blogs for my convenience, and possibly yours.

I had to check out of the hotel before the deadline, and then I got into a discussion with the chair of next year’s CFP, Barry Steinhardt of the ACLU, and so I missed most of the “Are the Tools the Rules?: The Future of the Digital Commons” session. When I got into the room, DeWayne Hendricks, WA8DZP, was at the podium talking about the effect of wireless technologies at making the Net available in developing countries and depressed areas (such as Indian reservations in the US, where there are some interesting legal avenues towards bypassing FCC regulations; of course, FCC regs don’t apply outside the US). This was almost certainly the most technical talk at this CFP, and I’d been looking forward to it (I used to experiment in TCP/IP on Amateur Radio, and DeWayne was one of the leading lights in the area). Oh, well….

Now I’m at the lunchtime “Privacy Enhancing Technologies” session.

Ian Goldberg of ZeroKnowledge talked about the state of the world 5 years ago, and the state of the world now, pointing out that we don’t have much more in the way of privacy enhancing technologies now than we did then…and that some of the promising technologies then have fallen into disuse, such as DigiCash.

He divided the field into four classes, in increasing order of difficulty of real-world implementation:

  1. Single-party (such as the JunkBusters proxy)
  2. Centralized-intermediary (one intermediary, or multiple independent intermediaries – an anoymous remailer is an example)
  3. Multiple-intermediary (where there are multiple cooperating intermediaries required, such as their [failed] Freedom Network)
  4. Server-based (where the entire ecosystem needs to agree to use the technology, such as digital cash).

He also pointed out that hackers like to write code — but there’s a long distance between the code and a useful instantiation of the technology, and that distance is longer in as you move down the list.

I think he’s missing one point — a successful technology needs to benefit all the players, not just the customer (or not just the retailer). Credit cards, to take an example, took a long time to spread, but when they hit the tipping point, they quickly became ubiquitous. Debit cards took a longer time to make that leap because the advantages to consumers were more dubious (especially at places that have the nerve to charge a transaction fee!). Secure Electronic Transactions never took off, because the advantages were too dubious to too many people in the value net. (Did I just really write “value net?”!)

Lorrie Cranor talked about P3P and the AT&T Privacy Bird.

Paul Syverson talked about the Privacy-Enhancing Technology workshop and talked about the role of reputation in privacy-enhancing systems, and said that security relies on privacy (most people believe that the converse is true).

Marc Levine talked about the Martus (Greek for “witness”) project — providing privacy and security to human rights organizations around the world, for example with encryption and off-site (and out-of-country, in most cases!) storage of sensitive (dangerous!) information.

A spirited discussion followed the presentations, to which I added my observation above, expressed somewhat differently, as a statement that people won’t use a technology if they don’t know that they need it – the people using Martus know that the consequences of exposure may literally be fatal, but that’s not the case for, say, most Americans. And someone came back with the need for privacy preserving technologies for victims of domestic violence, for whom it may also be a life-or-death matter, even in America (or maybe especially in America).

The lunchtime discussion ran a bit long, so I missed the first part of the final plenary session, “Should We Meet John Doe? Civil Litigation and Anonymity in Cyberspace”. When I went into the ballroom, whoever had the mike was talking in deep legal terms, so I walked out again and took a final lap around the block containing the hotel, returning in time for a final coffee break (the hotel did a very good job with cookies!), and Bruce Sterling’s closing keynote.

Trying to summarize a Bruce Sterling talk is a foolish endeavour. I hope not to be a fool, at least not blatantly, so I won’t give a summary; instead, I hope that Bruce either publishes his talk [he did] or that the conference puts the audio file on the Web, and I’ll quote one line to give you a little bit of the flavor of his talk:

“Linux isn’t a competitive free market product — it’s a slave revolt!”

And then the conference was over. And it was only 4:45, so I decided that I had a chance of beating the worst of rush-hour traffic if I left right away, and that’s exactly what I did. Traffic was slow until I got onto the 280 extension heading South — then the only problem was staying within reasonable hailing distance of the speed limit, though traffic did slow again a couple of miles from my house. And I got home in time to join my family in welcoming Shabbat and for a wonderful dinner.

Now it’s off to Temple to help set up the Oneg; Diane reads Torah tomorrow at services, and we plan to go see the Flying Karamazov Brothers in Berkeley on Sunday.

Shabbat Shalom!