tekx – my thoughts

A conference in which our intrepid hero learns that your brain can explode from too much awesome but that, in itself is awesome.

It’s been about a week or so since tekx ended and I figured that (since I didn’t do one last year) I should put my own personal thoughts down. This was my second year at tekx and I was looking forward to the conference and it did not disappoint my expectations. Oh yeah, I’m going to write like my live blogs were and do mostly stream of thought with as little editting as possible. Want the TLDR version? It was fucking awesome, you should berate yourself for not finding a way to go and resolve to be there next year.

So last year at tek, I twittered my thoughts/notes on the sessions. I twittered so much, that only @spooons and I seemed to be in competition for most tweets tweeted at tek (that last snippet could almost be a tongue twister). I had meant to compile those thoughts into more formal posts/notes. That didn’t work out as planned. This year, I saw a post in the attendees google group about the use of recording devices in sessions which lead me to purchase a Flip MinoHD with the full intent of having something to barter for other people’s recorded sessions. It wasn’t until the tutorials and first session that I realized I just had a flimsy excuse to by myself a HD recording device. The tutorials were too long to record and the first session made me realize I’d never get good positioning for the camera to have a decent recording. This is when I thought up what turned out to be the best idea ever…I wrote my notes on my blog and posted them decided to do live blogs about the experience. Go ahead and look at the other posts if you want my specific thoughts on each tutorial and session. This post is some additional after-thoughts and what-not.

Day 1: the arrival

I got in later than I thought I would for check-in due to a combination of weather and traffic. It was amazing how familiar and less nerve-wracking the drive up is when you know some people who’ll be there early and are less intimidated by the prospect of getting lost. After decompressing from the trip (and missing dinner with @frozensolidone and some others going to Giordano’s, I ended up joining @elazar, @derickr, @sweatje, and a bunch of other people at Shoeless Joe’s (aka Pantless Pete’s, Thongless Tina’s, Braless Betty’s…). We ate, drank and had all manner of tek fun. Some of us even made plans for Lost the next night.

Day 2: I’s gunna lern me sumting

Among other things I learned at the tutorials, was how to spell properly. >.>

Also learned that your brain can explode from too much awesome but that, in itself is awesome. The tutorials I attended were Bad Guy For A Day and Best Practices.

Black first-generation iPod Nano.
Image via Wikipedia

Arne‘s talk was about security and showed us how to view our sites in the way a hacker would. He also went over social engineering practices and a whole bunch of things I’ve talked about already. The best part was when he just got done talking about how easy it is to steal information with a USB stick by letting people’s natural curiousity cause them to plug the USB stick in their computer and letting whatever nasty thing you have there do its job from there. He of course proceeds to hand the stick he held up to demonstrate his point and saying that the source we’ll be going over will for the rest of the tutorial. One thing I didn’t put in my live blog that was going through my head was that the USB attack isn’t limited to just flash storage drives. I remember back in 2005-2006 that one could perform the attack with an iPod. Since the iPods back then were able to double as mass storage device, it wasn’t tough to find a kind soul that would let you “charge your iPod” (maybe i shouldn’t quote that. makes it seem like a euphemism for sex and not a hacker attack) on their computer. I had tried it out by loading the necessary things onto a iPod Nano I had and testing it on my personal machines. I never did get to try to use a friend as a proper guinea pig. Anyways, the point of that rambling was that Arne might want to use something other than the USB stick that has the tutorial source as a visual reference. =D

As awesome as Arne‘s tutorial was, it was the Best Practices tutorial is one of the things that made the trip worth every single penny and more. First point of awesome is the amount of varying topics they managed to cover was mind blowing. The fact that Matthew Weier O’Phinney (@weierophinney) and Lorna Jane Mitchell (@lornajane) were presenting was another point of awesome. I couldn’t begin to espouse the level of respect I had for these two before this tutorial and the tutorial itself has pretty much ascended them to godhood in my eyes. I had feared this tutorial would be a bad choice since I’m familiar with and practice a lot of the best practices they covered. They kept my interest on topics I should’ve been going “been there, done that” and when it came to things I wasn’t familiar with, they gave a lot of food for thought.

Since this was a Lost night (and the night before classes), @frozensolid, @xiian and I ended up watching Lost and geeking out instead of going out.

Day 3: it has begun

For a lot of people Day 3 is Day 1. I feel bad for those people, they miss out on a lot. Let us take a moment to mourn the awesomeness they lost.

The opening keynote was given by Josh Holmes. The sheer amount of disdain, hatred and anger Microsoft has caused me to have over the past decade made me leery of the keynote. On the one hand, they were (according to all I heard) a major sponsor this year and on the other, they are responsible some of the most bloated pieces of shit in the computing world. So when I read the title, I simultaneously WTF’d and giggled.

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

This may become a rant so the TLDR version is: Josh Holmes managed to win me over. I’m not on the Dark Side but I do see Windows as more than a bloated game console. I think Cal Evan’s post on Microsoft summarizes things best.

With that said, I will carry on with the my thoughts on the keynote. To be brutally honest, Josh Holmes rubbed me the wrong way at first. Here’s this guy demanding that we be enthusiastic in our answers to his questions. I haven’t finished my Red Bull yet, I’ll be energetic when I damn well feel like it thank you very much. I think if I wasn’t intent on making unbiased notes that could be used by others, I would’ve tuned out the rest of what he had to say and that would’ve been a major loss on my part. For all the jokes that I want to make about the contrast of a guy from the company who made Word trying to tell us to keep things simple, he touched upon a lot of what is wrong/tough about enterprise development. Hell, what can sometimes be wrong about development in general. Sometimes in our narcissistic need for a beautifully engineered solution, we over-engineer things. I’ve seen this happen more often in large companies but sometimes you see it in smaller shops. You have someone who needs a hammer but instead you make them a Gnomish Army Knife. We shouldn’t add complexity to a simple solution. We need to understand have to understand what our frameworks are doing in order to understand if they truly are the solution to the problem at hand or if we need to use a different tool. We need to concentrate on prioritizing features by ROI, look at usability and test, test, test. These were all sentiments I can stand behind. I’m perfectly happy to continue using OSX at home and Ubuntu at work but Josh’s keynote has opened my mind to considering windows deployments. The man did his job well. I say if he can crack the armor of a curmudgeon like me, they should probably give him a raise (totally not sucking up since he’s now following me on twitter. >.> <.< ^^). Seriously though, if part of his job is to turn over or chip away at the “FUCK Microsoft” crowd, then he is doing the job well.

The Zend_Form session given by @akrabat was another thing that paid for my trip. The decorators are something I have been struggling with for quite a while. I later ran into him and was flattered by his compliment on my write-up. He even accused me of saying a lot more than he did (or something to that affect), which I can only say that he gave me a lot to work with and he said a lot more than he probably thought he did.

Derick Rethans is truly the master of time and space. He completely obliterated my mind with his session. I couldn’t even do a decent write-up in there. In fact, I think I’m still recovering. The longest day of tekx got even better as I went to @tswicegood’s git session. I’ve been debating switching the version control we use at work from Bazaar (bzr) to git. I don’t see the switch anytime soon but did see some hotness beyond offline commit.

Eli White’s presentation on Code & Release Management was awesome. Not only because I’ve been trying to streamline my code & release management systems but also because Eli kicks ass as a speaker. I really wish that I could’ve made his earlier talk but it conflicted with the Zend_Form talk. I think I may have to do a separate tekx inspired post on this talk, it might help me with applying what I learned from it. People should bug me if I don’t have something up in a couple weeks (next week is personally busy otherwise I’d say next week. gonna need at least 2 weeks).

The last session of the day for me was @s_bergmann’s talk on continuous integration and inspection. This was a nice complimentary session to have after @eliw’s presentation and after the tutorial from the day before. I’m surprised that my head didn’t explode from so much Best Practices being thrown at me in so little time to process.

I honestly don’t remember what happened that night. Must’ve been really kick ass though. Or my mind is overloaded with so much awesome from the whole tek experience that it doesn’t want to taint it with memories…

Day 4: I want to be a rock star

No, I’m not talking about being that kind of rock star but about Rock Band (which we’ll talk about later). In retrospect, I don’t know what I was thinking. After a few mind-blowing days of tek, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to obliterate what brain cells I had left with a dose of more high level sessions. The day before I at least had some previous experience to bind to what they were talking about. Today, yeah…not so much.

I started out with Derick Rethan’s talk on Xdebug. Even though most of the talk was an overview on Xdebug and how it can be used in your development process, there are 2 things to keep in mind:

  1. The talk is given by the creator of Xdebug
  2. That creator is Derick Rethans. Maybe it’s  just me, but the man is intellectually intimidating. He could recite a Beavis and Butthead script and make me feel like I’m missing something blatantly obvious.

After that I was off to Elazar’s talk on new SPL features in PHP 5.3. The talk was awesome, even though I could only keep up with parts of it. The crayon analogy to sets was so clever I didn’t get it until he explained it to me. Can’t think of a easier visual though.

@auroraeosrose‘s talk on streams, sockets and filters gave me a lot to think about. I’ve only vaguely worked with them before but I feel that her talk has prepared me for when/if I need to do extensive work with them.

I ended the day’s sessions by going to @lig’s talk on scalability and mysql. I somehow missed the part at the beginning where she said the talk would be at an intermediate to advance level of knowledge of using MySQL. This was good and bad for me since I hope that I might be approaching the intermediate level and very much consider myself a n00b. The good news is that I found out about a whole lot of hotness that’s in MySQL 5.5. The bad news that about halfway through the talk my brain effectively called me out on the overloading and decided to shutdown. That half of the session, I was effectively going “bwah? how do I make a note on that. I’m pretty sure she said some words there.”

After a thoroughly exhausting day, I went with a group to Giordano’s to get pizza. OMG awesome pizza. I want to move to Chicago and nom that pizza. The next part of the tek adventure was Rock Band night (told you I’d get to this part). I forget what may have originally been planned for the evening activities, but I do know that @elazar and I did conspire to shape it into Rock Band. Ok, we were going for karaoke but then it turned into Rock Band. Microsoft was gracious enough to help the endeavor by providing some of the necessities (360 and the Rock Band 2 band set). I was in one of the 2 bands in the ultimate showdown. We unfortunately lost due to unnamed, *cough* Tom *cough*, reasons. The coolest thing of the evening was that the whole Rock Band package was given out to the top band to split amongst themselves. Grats to @zburnham, @frozensolidone and @engyma (if I recall correctly) on winning. I did manage to show off some drum skills when the set was properly calibrated. I also met a cool dude from Maryland named Mike that plays real life guitar. I gave him my information for him to keep in touch but unfortunately did not get his before leaving tek. Sad Panda. The night’s festivities continued on to more rocking out at @eliw’s room. I managed to use my Flip MinoHD and get some recordings but since then haven’t gotten to upload them. Maybe I’ll find time this week. @rdohms provided some refreshments for the festivities and much awesomeness was had that night.

Day 5: closing time

I tried to go to Ben Ramsey’s talk on memcache and apc but only made it partially through because I was sneezing up a storm and felt miserable. I spent part of that session and the next recouping. Sadly I missed @lornajane’s Open Source Your Career session which I heard was chock full of asskickery. I did however make @auroraeorose’s talk on cross platform php. The talk was highly informative and entertaining. In fact, in addition to Josh Holme’s speech, this was a deciding factor in my conclusion that Microsoft showing that they’re not only playing the game but playing to win. Windows development environments are becoming less of a joke and I’d be dumb not to look into the feasibility or at least keep an eye on things. Marco’s closing remarks were short and sweet where he encouraged us to give back to the community and that user groups are the lifeblood of the community. I swallowed that Kool-aid and ended up starting up a user group the following week. @dragonbe, @caseysoftware and a bunch of others were kind enough to give me some tips on starting one up since I missed the community panel in favor of checking out the cross platform php session.

Some people left right after and got hit by the @eliw curse. I elected to stay because last year leaving after, I got hit by the ground travel version of the curse. Needless to say, staying for the extra night was worthwhile in general. I got to go see Iron Man 2 with @dragonbe and @rdohms. We introduced Mountain Dew to @dragonbe, which he apparently enjoyed. As we got back, we ran into some of the tek stragglers and went to Shoeless Joe’s. The next day @rdohms and I went and got some IHOP food. I was meaning to get there for breakfast all week. If you’ve actually read this far, I commend you. Did I mention that I babble? Maybe I should mention that at the beginning when I do next years writeup.


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

3 comments on “tekx – my thoughtsAdd yours →

  1. Excellent write-up Chance 🙂

    Clearly, I must have said everything you noted. It's amazing how much I can get through!



  2. Re: Rock Band… In my defense, “Living on a Prayer” sounds much simpler than it is… and much more difficult than the 2 note bass line for “Sabotage”

    Also, we were like, 40k points ahead of second place… I consider it a charitable contribution and plan on writing it off at tax time 🙂

Leave a Reply