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March 2004
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2004-03-07 »

Conferencing in Germany

I'm in Germany right now at Chemnitzer Linux-tag. Chemnitz is a town, and Linux-tag means "Linux day," which is slightly wrong because it's actually two days. The going theory for the misname is that the correct, pluralized name would be "Linux-tage", but we stupid anglophones would probably mispronounce "tage" much worse than we mispronounce "tag", so they leave it the way it is. Plus it might have been only one day, once upon a time.

Speaking of stupid anglophones, there are only two of us here (me and dcoombs, who is doing a talk on WvStreams), in a conference that some estimate has about 1800 German-speaking attendants. This is strange. In fact, I was getting really worried at first about the fact that we spent a lot of money to fly us here and neither of us understands, well, any of the talks. However, pphaneuf was totally right: the point of a technical conference isn't the presentations at all. It's the conversations you have with people outside of the presentations. And I've learned a lot by talking to people:

IPv6, Itanium, Dylan, Subversion, Non-sucky X Compression!

It turns out that IPv6 sucks much less than I thought, and Intel's Itanium sucks much more. Both of these revelations came to me from Matthias of, who showed me seamless, painless, easy IPv6-over-IPv4 and told me about his actual experiences programming efficient Itanium assembly language. So in both cases, he ought to know.

I also had an interesting discussion about the Dylan programming language. Tim Pritlove, a big proponent of the language, told me why it was theoretically so great, and I bounced him some tough theoretical criticisms (thanks, slajoie and pphaneuf, for providing me with most of these) that he mostly answered satisfactorily. Of course, nothing proves a language like actual real-world use, and, well... it doesn't have any. Still, very educational. I might try it out and see if the only reason it's not popular is that people like me don't try it out.

Other bits of wisdom: Subversion seems really good, except your whole repository is in one big, probably corrupted bdb database. Nomachine has now GPLed the important parts of their very excellent (I tried it months ago) NX X/VNC/RDP/etc protocol compressor. If you've tried other X protocol compressors before (eg. the worse-than-useless LBX), forget them; this is the real deal. And now you can get away without paying for it!

But most importantly of all:

German Bathroom Construction

German bathrooms are totally awesome. And I mean that not in the, "Yo, d00d, that awesome stuff totally r0x!" kind of way, but rather that when you experience one of these bathrooms, you are actually in awe. It's the kind of awe that makes you think, "You know, if me and this bathroom got in a fight, the bathroom would definitely win, big time."

In Canada, bathroom stalls simply don't lock properly. Don't get me wrong - they all have locks - but the locks, when they aren't actually broken, almost never line up with their sockets. This can't be just shoddy construction - it's shoddy construction combined with some kind of fundamental misdesign.

All German bathrooms, on the other hand (and let's be frank: I've tried a lot of them now, so I oughta know) are built like tanks. Not coincidentally, the Germans also invented tanks. The doors are super-solid, always line up perfectly, and have double locks. "No, I don't think that's locked enough, let's turn it one more time so it's extra locked!" And you're just not going to get out until you unlock - twice. I know, because I'm locked in my hotel bathroom as I write this.

In fact, all German construction seems to be this solid. You get the distinct feeling that anything built by a German is simply not ever going to fall down. And then you realize that we - yes, we, the people with the vastly inferior bathrooms - were actually at war with these people, twice, and somehow they lost. It's hard to believe.

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