[Phpmyadmin-devel] Public Reportback on OSCON

Robin H. Johnson robbat2 at users.sourceforge.net
Fri Aug 4 08:34:33 CEST 2006

Hi everybody,

So a reportback on OSCON 2006. This is the publicly consumable part, as
with my MySQL UC report.

The trip down was a pain - this is worthy of mention because none of us
are American. The US INS (immigration/customs) guy that I had to speak
to had absolutely no understand of open source software, or that we
could give something away. He asked if I had some proof that I was
associated with phpMyAdmin as a business (he kept referring to it as
such, no matter how many times I pointed out we were closest to a
community organization) - so I showed him one of my phpMyAdmin business
cards, and the 11x17 posters I had 

Do not be tempted to lie to these guys, they use infra-red cameras
trained on faces to try and detect it.
This still did not help his understanding of phpMyAdmin and open source,
and he opened his drawer and got out his dreaded orange rejection pad
(by which they deny you entry into the USA) - I had to rack my brains
and make very fast analogies at this point - and eventually I succeeded,
but it is NOT an experience I would like to repeat again.

A number of the other folk at the conference admitted to having similar
troubles while crossing various borders.

The rest of the journey down to Portland was uneventful - I had time for
a brief bite of lunch in Seattle once the bus stopped, and before the
Amtrak train left (I'll take the European rail system, even that of
Italy over Amtrak anyday however).

On reaching Portland, I was grabbing a cab to where I was staying, which
turned out to be interesting in itself - the cab driver was Eritrean,
and could not understand my South African accent whatsoever, to the
point where I had to write down the address.

Originally, I was going to be staying with a fellow Gentoo developer,
but about a week ahead of time, he had roommate issues, and wasn't able
to offer me a place. A few other Open Source leads didn't help either.

So, in the same vein as MySQL UC 2006, I used CouchSurfing.com, and
ended up on a fold-out futon bed, 1.5 miles from the convention centre.
My host said she could loan me a spare bicycle, so I brought my helmet
and other gear down. She asked that I keep her identity to myself, for
various reasons.

CouchSurfing as a concept works out reasonably well. You get a couch or
better to stay on, and generally just try to lend a helping hand while
you are there (I helped in the kitchen, read a bedtime story to my
host's daughter and her friend, tuned up the bicycles, and a few more

The Wednesday morning cycle to the convention centre was ok - I had
previously made a brief study of Google Maps, and was told by my host
that the convention centre had two very large spires that were good
landmarks to orient by within the NE district of Portland. The ride was
a bit interesting, the route I picked based on Google Maps turned out to
go via some of the slummiest parts of town, which felt marginally unsafe
at 8.15am.

Got to the convention centre, signed in, rigged up the 11x17 posters in
the booth (as visible in the photo that Marc linked to, which was taken
by the ZDNet photographer, early on Thursday morning, right after the
doors opened for non-exhibitors), and said Hi to the other dot-org
booths around my area - a bunch of the same people that were at MySQL UC
- Apache, WITI, FSF.  Fired up the CVS HEAD demo on my fiance's laptop,
and waited for the first crowd to come in.

As a general summary, while exhibit hall passes were free for OSCON - it
was much subjectively quieter than MySQL UC - most of those that did
come in exhibit hall passes were just there to scoop freebies - and did
not interact with any booth without freebies. At the breaks between
sessions, there was a good deal more activity in the exhibit hall - due
to the refreshments and snacks. For folks approaching the phpMyAdmin
booth I had a number of folk complaining of not getting it working, but
after some targeted debugging questions, the source of their troubles
were Apache/PHP, not phpMyAdmin in any form.

I had a number of UI designers make interesting comments about the PMA
design - such as the cookie login message (from a Databases professor at
Stanford) that I brought up for Marc's message freeze request. Some of
these I see we are already working on (like the present thread for
tracking server/database etc in a cookie). Some more of them I intend to
dig out my UI design textbooks and examine more closely to see if there
are logical ways that we can improve them.

There were no comments about the lack of bleeding edge functionality -
even those that I specifically asked about a stored procedure editor
admitted they did not have a need for one.

There was one notable functionality request, and it's got some
low-hanging fruit we can consider - an explicit tab-separated value
(TSV) export format - in the same vein as our CSV export.
The second part of the request was considerably more complication - and
that was IMPORT functionality for CSV/CSV-Excel/TSV/XML data.

I went for lunch Wednesday with teh Gentoo developers, courtesy of
E-Trade - who are apparently very large Gentoo users - discussions had
about application packaging were very in-depth.

The afternoon was similar to the morning, just hanging in the booth, and
speaking to interested conference attendees.

There were a lot of full conference attendees that just breezed by the
booth shouting out things like 'Great software!', 'We use it everyday!',
and similar slogans of support.

Starting at 15h30, the free beer came out. Nothing as elaborate as the
party at LinuxTag last year, but still very good quality micro-brewery
german-style beers (which Portland is famous for), incl. a nice triple
Bock, and an Altbier similar to that which Alexander had going last year
at LinuxTag for us.

The exhibit hall for Wednesday wrapped up at 5pm, and everybody (incl.
exhibitors) was kicked out so the caterers could set up the
IBM-sponsored reception. The 6pm reception was reasonble - good
appetizers, and a lot more beer and wine.

From there, some of the Gentoo developers and myself went to two of the
open-bar parties that were taking place in nearby hotels - the first was
slow, and badly attended, with a Jewish kleizmer (sp?) [with a story
attached linked to Metallica], and more beer, but no food.
The second party was a lot more active, held by O'Reilly - their hotel
suite was shoulder-to-shoulder people. I engaged in some interesting
conversations with Google employees, before calling it a night around
11pm, so I could cycle back while still marginally sober (and able to
stay upright on the bicycle).

Thursday morning saw me figure out a different cycleroute to the
convention centre - one that turned out to be safer from people and
traffic (there are cycling lanes painted on the road, but DON'T cycle in
them with the traffic unless you have a deathwish, they do NOT like
cyclists). Rigged up the laptop demo again, the ZDNet guy came by and
grabbed the photo of the booth with me busy setting up the laptop demo.

Thursday seemed much quieter. I had an interesting discussion with a
group of high-school youth that were developing a MySQL-based library
book tracking system for their school, and helped out with their
database design. I arranged for 50 blank CACert CAP forms and also did
CACert assurances at the booth during Thursday, as I found that I was
not going to be able to attend the keysigning event Thursday night.

Ate the conference boxed lunch at lunchtime, it wasn't noteworthy in any
way. Come the 5pm teardown time, I grabbed my stuff, and departed. I was
informed of a few more parties, but I turned them down due to my pending
early departure on Friday morning. Stopped at a bookstore on the way

I had a light dinner out with my host, cooked up my famed
near-diabetic-inducing chocolate sauce which was then served over ice
cream and strawberries. Grabbed some sleep before the morning and
leaving to catch the public bus to the train station at 7am. The return
journey was much better, baring the initial 1 hour delay due to a train
derailment south of Portland.

The private report portion will be a followup email to the usual

Robin Hugh Johnson
E-Mail     : robbat2 at users.sourceforge.net
GnuPG FP   : 11AC BA4F 4778 E3F6 E4ED  F38E B27B 944E 3488 4E85
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