Evening at Crossroads

There were a lot of people at the Seattle bloggers meet tonight. I love the chaos of big gatherings with conversations flying in all directions. Thanks to Sam Ruby for pulling it together. I managed to get introduced to most of the people there, but according to Anita Rowland’s site, I missed a few. Just a few moments from the evening:

Roland Tanglao was there; I discovered that he is the guy behind VanEats, and the hook-up if you are looking for places to eat in Vancouver, B.C. There is so much good food in that city.

Sam Ruby took me to task on yesterday’s post, pointing out that Apache Foundation is funded by users more than anything else. I could reply here exposing how Apache is the instrument of a vast and secretive anti-Microsoft conspiracy, but I won’t. Sam seems to think that I was just spewing rhetoric for effect, and no doubt he has a point.

Miguelimpressed everyone with an impromptu demo of a C# app he wrote using Gtk# on Linux. It was very graphics-heavy; a photo album with thumbnail views bound to a database and some nice special effects. I was really shocked at how nice the widgets looked and how fast the GUI runs. Apparently they are doing some cool things with declarative design of GUI and using C# attributes. I want to try doing some Gtk# stuff from my own C# apps on Windows now.

Slammed!

Well, I didn’t get slammed— I run SQL 2000 on my laptop (for my RDF Triples Database), but Ihad already installedSP3 (and I run a recent build of SQL 2003 on my server).

Many geeks like to point out “sysadmins who haven’t updated their patches for six months” as the cause of worm outbreaks like this. If everyone had updated their patches within the last six months, this worm would not have spread; but I think that misses the point. Sysadmins don’t keep up with patches; just as the sun rises in the east. Blaming sysadmins does nothing to solve the problem.

Pleasantly, the industry this time seems to be responding much less neurotically than in the past. Within hours, most of the large network carriers had begun to block infected packets from crossing their routers. This actionlocalized the infection to broad segments of network, and then response teams at various sites started sniffing out infected subnets and quarantining them. The response didn’t succeed in preventing some serious outages, but things could have been much worse. And it’s the first time I have ever seen such a pragmatic and broad-based response to a network attack like this. The cooperation between different disciplines inspires hope in me.

Blocking traffic at routers was largely a manual job this time, but there is no doubt that NSPs will be working to improve their ability to coordinate and automate such “immune system” responses in the future. And site teams who went through the drill this time of hunting and quarantining infected segments will now have the experience and the incentive to put in place well-oiled response plans, training, and tools.

Incidents such as this have, in the past, involved a lot of finger-pointing and “not my problem” attitudes. It seems with this attackthat the industry is finally growing up a bit and working together to solve the problems. I hope thatthis translates into more work on proactive cooperation between software vendors, network vendors, and service providers.

CLR on Linux and FreeBSD

The Sys-Con site has an interesting post about the whole “Java open, .NET closed” meme. The Mono Project just won “Best Open Source Project” at Linux World Expo, an honor that is well-deserved IMO. In an industry where open-source projects have often become vehicles of politics, propaganda, and punditry; Mono team is all about making cool stuff that works.The whole Apache project is impressive in the spirit of the pre-bubble open-source projects, but Apache’s heavy dependence on BigCo funding (IBM, Sun, etc.) kind of disqualifies themand spoils the romance.

Anyway, the point being raised by the Sys-Con site is “.NET runs on Linux, so how can you say it’s proprietary?” And of course, it is true. I’ve had no problems compiling and running C# programs on FreeBSD (Rotor), and Mono goes well beyond Rotor for functionality. The comments, and the referenced Salon article,indicate that people are still not getting it — Microsoft wants .NET to be completely open! There is clearly a deep mistrust in the minds of many developers that MSFT would really want to compete on a level playing field, but that’s not the way people at Microsoft see things. Maybe I can explain:

  • MSFT wants to win. The big guy always tries to block access, while the little guy always fights for equal access. It’s the behavior that people accuse Microsoft of, and it’s simple business 101. The thing to keep in mind is that Microsoft is actually the “little guy” in some businesses. For example, MSFT kept reverse-engineering AOL IM so that MSN IM could interoperate, and AOL kept blocking MSN by changing the protocol. In the case of Enterprise Application Servers, Microsoft is still puny compared to Sun, IBM. It is very strategic for Sun and IBM to pitch lousy proprietary solutions like Java and RMI, because they know it keeps Microsoft out. As long as they keep feeding you news stories about how territorial MSFT is, you will never notice as they block access to their cash cows.Confucius say, “when it comes to ‘open’, always trust the little guy and fear the big guy”.
  • MSFT birthright is software.Java comes froma hardware company. Most engineers at MSFT would be insulted at the thought that they couldn’t compete without dirty tricks; especially against a hardware company. Morale isn’t that low, people don’t believe that they need to use dirty tricks, and they are completely fired up to show everyone once and for all who rules software. Many people in the industrywere drunk on propaganda and bubble money, but when the hangover clears, they’ll never doubt these guys again.
  • MSFT needs new markets. The picture of a mother hen jealously protecting her nest is not an apt description of a Microsoft hungry for growth. Microsoft needs to create new markets to be successful. New markets require new infrastructure to be built, and Microsoft is willing to invest the money to enable these new markets to form. XML and .NETare like terraforming a new planet, because we need an additional place to live. The fact that other creatures will live on the new planet is not a matter of concern — the other wildlife contribute to a more beautiful ecosystem.

I Hate Mozilla

Over the weekend, I spent a few hours re-writing my blog template so that it uses nothing but XML, XSLT, and CSS (with no tables). The idea is that I could completely separate presentation from content, and all presentation (CSS and XSLT) will be applied at the user’s browser. This way, each localweb browser will automatically cachethe presentation bits, and all that actually gets downloaded when I change something is the XML (RSS) file.

It worked beautifully on IE. I expected some problems with Netscape/Mozilla, but I was disappointed to find that they still do not support linking to CSS post-transform via the tag. Eventually I found a workaround, though — just use