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Good times with Apache

Fancy a trip to ApacheCon in Dublin?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

ApacheCon 2006 is coming up. And this year it's in Dublin, a city famous for knowing how to have a good time. We confidently expect the regular conference on Apache technologies to be not merely productive, but also tremendous fun! So for your diary, that's the week of 24 to 28 June. Register before 29 May for the EarlyBird Discount.

In common with an increasing number of many organisations, Apache has a virtual community. It is united not by the dictates of pointy-haired management and the traditional office of the 19th and 20th centuries, but by shared values and goals, and the virtual office of the future. For most of the team, ApacheCon represents the best chance to meet face to face with colleagues and users, and an excellent opportunity to look outside our own particular interests and view the wider picture.

Of course, ApacheCon is more than that. It is primarily a week of tutorials (two days) and presentations (three days) on Apache technologies and their applications. A new track this year is the "Business Track", providing a forum for issues like commercialisation, marketing, licensing and intellectual property for open source projects, to run alongside the introductory and techie presentations.

Presenters range from core developers to end-users, and talk on subjects from core technologies and new developments to applications and case studies. Indeed, some of the most interesting presentations come from end-users, who may bring new and unexpected insights to everyone. For instance, a very memorable presentation at ApacheCon 2005 in Stuttgart was El Reg's own techie Aaron Crane explaining the workings of the Register's CMS, built from standard components of the webserver with a liberal dose of added ingenuity.

Some of the topics to be covered at this year's ApacheCon in Dublin include:

  • Installation and administration of Apache software such as the webserver, Geronimo, Tomcat, SpamAssassin, Cocoon, Portals and Web Services.
  • Web applications development with Apache and third-party tools in C, Java, and all the popular scripting languages (Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, Tcl).
  • Web applications: systems for content management, transformation and aggregation.
  • XML technologies.
  • Security, testing, performance, load balancing and high availability.
  • Case studies from well-known end-users, such as eBay and the BBC.
  • Business, community, and the ASF.
  • Related technologies, from AJAX to subversion.

The timetable for tutorials and sessions is published at http://www.eu.apachecon.com/, and has full details of the scheduled sessions as outlined above. Nearer the time, the schedule will fill out with other events.

BoF (Bird of a Feather) sessions provide an opportunity to discuss subjects of interest in an informal setting and, for example, gauge interest in whether an idea is worth pursuing; either privately or in collaboration with other developers. The work leading to the Apache DBD framework followed a BoF convened by Yours Truly at ApacheCon 2003 in Las Vegas, in which a built-in database capability was identified as worth pursuing. Another regular feature is "lightning talks": five-minute slots in which to present an idea. Everyone is welcome to put forward their ideas, and proposals are selected at random! Lightning talks can be serious or humorous, and aim to be thought-provoking.

Finally, of course, basic needs will be satisfied with (in no particular order) ample eating, drinking, socialising and - for the hard core - hacking. As with any conference, the social side will tend to be best if you know people and/or are a natural extrovert. If this will be your first ApacheCon, there's still time to introduce yourself in the online fora such as IRC and mailinglists, so you don't start out as a stranger!

What really is Apache?

In this column in the past, I've sometimes used the word "Apache" rather loosely, to mean the Apache webserver - the software that powers two thirds of all websites. Of course, that's how it all started back in 1995, with a webserver project built on foundations established by the NCSA server. But today, Apache really means the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) and its various projects, of which the webserver is just one among many.

There are a number of entirely separate projects, ranging from SpamAssassin to XML tools (Xerces/Xalan), to web services and publishing frameworks. The org.apache namespace is one of the most important in the Java world, with several major projects being based in whole or in part in Java.

Apache today is a set of values and a way of working that unites the various projects. It is characterised not only by open source but also by open processes, meritocracy, an open, commercial-friendly license, and by diversity within every project team. Some Apache projects started life with commercial vendors such as IBM, and have been donated to Apache as the vendor sees the advantages of the Apache processes. In such cases it is particularly important for the project to be backed by a substantial and diverse community, so that there is no risk of the project simply taking the Apache name while remaining effectively in the hands of a single vendor.

This gives ApacheCon yet another purpose: bringing together the various projects, and exposing developers and users to those projects we might have some interest in, but are not in touch with in our day-to-day work. For example, I expect my presentations on Apache (the webserver) as an applications platform may be of interest to some outside the core webserver community, and at the same time I hope to learn more about the Apache Axis platform for XML-based web services, which appears relevant to my current work.

See you there!

Your humble scribe looks forward to meeting his readers in Dublin, where he may find the odd moment between speaking, eating and drinking to be harangued on his manifest shortcomings as a writer or, erm, let's not dwell on other possible subjects. There may be other ApacheCon events later in the year (there is, of course, customarily an American one), but I promise that I'll only go on about the one here in my backyard. ®

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