Archive for the ‘Brian Aker’ tag
Day two of the conference was a little disappointing, as far as sessions went. There were several time blocks where I simply wasn’t interested in any of the sessions. Instead, I went to the expo hall and tried to pry straight answers out of sly salespeople. Here’s what I attended.
Paying It Forward: Harnessing the MySQL Contributory Resources
This was a talk focused on how MySQL has made it possible for community members to contribute to MySQL. There was quite a bit of talk about IRC channels, mailing lists, and the like. However, the talk gave short shrift to how MySQL plans to become truly open source (in terms of its development model, not its license). I think there was basically nothing to talk about there. I had a good conversation about some of my concerns with the speaker and some others from MySQL right afterwards.
There was basically nobody there — I didn’t count, but I’d say maybe 10 or 12 people. I think this is a telling sign.
Architecture of Maria: A New Storage Engine with a Transactional Design
I was interested in this talk because I’m interested in the tension between Falcon and Maria (and between Falcon and everything, for that matter) but I left and went to the expo hall again after a bit. The talk was good but I’d already seen and/or read it, and the question-and-answer component wasn’t enough to keep me there.
The MySQL Query Cache
This was the second session I gave at the conference, and again it was standing-room-only, with nearly 300 attendees according to the person who was watching the door. The questions were frequent and added a lot to the discussion. Slides will be on the conference website when they post them.
Grazr: Lessons Learned Building a Web 2.0 Application Using MySQL
I was keenly interested in this talk because a) I am a big fan of Patrick Galbraith’s work with many different projects, and b) I had heard a lot about Grazr but didn’t know much about it. However, I missed most of the talk. About ten minutes into it, I got a call I couldn’t refuse: my wife!
However, I did sneak back into the room for the last bit too. And I gave Grazr a try. Unfortunately, I got really confused by it; I tried a bunch of different ways to import my Google Reader’s OPML. I got that to work, but then I couldn’t figure out how to read the feeds in the OPML via Grazr. Then I think I figured that out (I’m not sure) but it didn’t strike me as a very handy way to read my feeds. I’ll try taking another look at it later if I get time. (I’m all ears if there’s a better way to read feeds).
This one was mostly for fun. I knew a lot about UDFs already (I’ve created some) and I knew about the pluggable storage engine API. But I didn’t know about pluggable event daemons. Holy cow, what a great way to shoot yourself (or your server) in the foot! All the power of an atomic bomb, with all the safety of SPF 5 sunblock in a nuclear attack. Or something like that. But darn, it sure is nifty. Brian is a great speaker too — very lively.
You know, there’s another way to extend MySQL that most people don’t seem to know about, which Brian didn’t mention. That is procedures (not stored procedures). They are sort of like a post-filter for a result set, and like UDFs they’ve been around forever. I have never heard of anyone writing their own, but there’s an example in the server itself: PROCEDURE ANALYSE.
I went to the expo hall to meet and greet many of the companies that Percona (my employer) is already working with (doing independent benchmarks, performance verification, analysis etc) or will be in the future. I also wanted to grill some of the vendors on their technology. Usually I find them very cagey; they claim X times faster this-or-that, but won’t tell you how, and won’t tell you what their systems don’t do well. I don’t understand why they take this approach; you can’t hide your system’s strong and weak spots. There is no security through obscurity, and shrewd independent observers are going to get to the bottom of it with or without your permission.
So, for instance, I was talking with Tokutek, who claimed to be a drop-in replacement for InnoDB with 200x better performance and apparently no downsides. However, on closer questioning, I did get him to admit that the system has table-level locking. Thus it won’t give any concurrency, so saying it’s a drop-in InnoDB replacement is questionable. And the comparison against InnoDB seemed contrived to create a worst-case situation with bad tuning and a workload so it would perform terribly. An honest comparison tunes both systems to their highest performance and measures them; you can’t tune one system as badly as possible and compare it to the other’s best-case performance. I pressed on further and asked about range scans in some specific cases (they claim they’re great at range queries, and equal to InnoDB on everything else). At last they admitted they can’t perform well on some very common queries such as real-life queries InnoDB performs very well on for me. They said these are “point queries” but that’s not true; you can design indexes to support many different ways to range-query a table in InnoDB and get great performance. So it sounds to me like Tokutek’s storage format is extremely narrowly focused, and there is indeed a trade-off. I will be interested to see how their technology develops, though. It’s not done yet.
There are a lot of Maatkit t-shirts walking around, which makes me happy. If I’d printed 200 of them, I probably could have given them all away. I was wearing a PostgreSQL t-shirt myself. Proudly, I might add. I’m not the only person here who’s interested in PostgreSQL. This morning I met a person from EnterpriseDB.
Yesterday was a bit slow in terms of interesting sessions, but there was a lot going on in the hallways, the expo hall, the meetings over lunch, and so on.
I’ve decided to start replacing L with GL in acronyms where L supposedly stands for Linux.
I’m not a big user of acronyms, because I think they are exclusionist and they obscure, rather than revealing. (This wouldn’t matter if I wrote for people who already knew what I meant and agreed with me, but that’s a waste of time). However, LAMP is one that I’ve probably used a few times, without thinking that it is supposed to stand for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python. In fact, it doesn’t refer to Linux, it refers to GNU/Linux. Therefore, it should be GLAMP.
Why does this matter? I try not to say Linux, unless I’m referring to a kernel, because a kernel is not an operating system. I try to be pretty careful about saying GNU/Linux when I’m talking about an operating system. An exception is a recruiting event yesterday at the University of Virginia, where I compromised my principles because of the noise. Trying to explain myself at that decibel level was just beyond my willingness, so I said we use Linux. If the potential recruits hire on with us, they’ll get to hear me say GNU/Linux. And if they don’t, maybe they’ll attend Richard Stallman’s upcoming talk at the engineering school there on March 27th or 28th (sorry, it’s not listed online, so I can’t link to it).
And you’ll see GNU/Linux used conscientiously if you read the book I’m helping to write, too.
GNU matters. A lot. You may not think so, but if it ceased to exist, you’d find out. That applies equally even if you don’t think you are a Free Software user. You have no idea how much you rely on Free Software in your daily life. And the GNU project has been and continues to be a keystone in that arch of freedom.
Brian Aker was a recent guest on the LinuxCast podcast with Don Marti. Brian has some interesting thoughts in this podcast and elsewhere on his blog, on motivations for writing Free and/or Open Source software. Here’s why I do it myself.
First an overview of the podcast, for context: the topics were storage engines, distributed version control, and motivation for open-source. (You should listen to it, if you haven’t — it’s short and Brian is a great speaker. I listened to it twice.)
I’ve been thinking for a while about why I write the MySQL Toolkit and innotop InnoDB and MySQL monitor for free. Some people have even tried to convince me to sell them. Brian’s comments gave me some things to think about.
The simplest — but incomplete — reason I is I like doing it, I have a lot of unfinished things I can’t finish fast enough to keep up with my new ideas as it is, and I don’t want to divert effort into making it a business. My feeling is that would add a lot to my list of things I need to learn and do.
But there are many more reasons, in fact.
- It helps me avoid commitment and the guilt of not meeting commitments — if I don’t get something done, that’s fine. What I do is more than nothing, and nobody should complain. And I know if I lose interest or for some other reason stop doing this, others can take it over. That’s why I made such an effort to put it on Sourceforge (and yes, it is more work to put it on Sourceforge than to do it myself. They don’t even back up your files for you).
- It builds my personal brand, helps me network, and opens doors for me. People know me through my work who wouldn’t know me otherwise, and vice versa. I get a lot of opportunities I suspect I wouldn’t have if I were trying to make a business out of these tools.
- My employer uses these tools. I build them to solve my own problems. 25% of the work is done anyway; why not release it? Releasing it also gives me the incentive to turn the tools into much more finished products, with real documentation and test suites and decent command-line behavior that conforms to expectations.
- My employer gets community improvements sometimes. Brian mentions the pervasive myth that when you open the source code for something you get a flood of improvements, feedback, and patches. As he says, this doesn’t happen. But it occasionally does, and seldom is better than never. This is probably one of the biggest reasons my employer lets me release things, under my name with my copyright, that I sometimes even work on while I’m at work. That, and we have a great company culture and my boss knows I believe deeply in Freedom, and what’s important to me is important to him too.
- I’m being of service, and that feels good. Brian is probably right that this is a fairly small factor for most people who develop Free Software, in my opinion.
- I’m learning and having fun.
- Brian comments on people who want to fill missing functions in a commercial product, and make money from that. I do provide missing functions, and that’s intentional, but it’s not to make money — it’s because I need it. Providing missing functionality is not an obvious and inevitable reason to write something, by the way. If I wanted to make a business out of some product, I could just as easily try to duplicate someone’s work but compete with them on quality or convenience. Or marketing and packaging, for that matter; we all know which very large company has made a lot of money doing that. There are many good business models.
There’s another element Brian didn’t mention: selling these tools would put me in a totally different frame of mind, one I don’t think I would enjoy. I can’t say for sure, but I think it would become a chore and I’d get burned out and resent it. Sometimes that happens anyway — but when it does I can take a break. I do spend quite a bit of free time on these things, as Brian says. Evenings, weekends, and so on. If you’re not willing to do that, I suggest you do it for a business.