WWDC 2004

I just returned from Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), a 5 day event in San Francisco at the Moscone Center. It was a fantastic week! I suppose I’ll start with the travel debacle…

I was under the impression that somebody in my company was including me in travel arrangements that were already being made for WWDC for two other guys from my company. As it turns out, I was not included, and didn’t know this until a scant 1.5 weeks before the conference. So, there was a mad rush to get plane tickets and hotel reservations. I fed the information to the lady who normally books my flights, and she took care of it. Unfortunately, I somehow got the conference dates wrong, and didn’t realize this until we hit cruising altitude on the way to SF – one week early. I landed and tried to get travelocity to shift my hotel reservations ahead a week, but they wouldn’t, and all of it was non-refundable. Fortunately, alaska was cool enough to let me fly back to Seattle that night for a minimal fee. The hotel reservations were completely wasted.

Now, my company isn’t exactly uh… profitable, and so I didn’t really feel comfortable asking them to cough up more money cause of my dumbass mistake. Not to mention the fact that they sprung for my WWDC pass ($1200). As such, I figured I’d try to get accommodations for myself on the cheap. Of course, that close to go time, that wasn’t happening. Round-trip airfare started at $400 (I have since learned that I should have checked prices to san jose or oakland), so I opted for an Amtrak ticket on the Coast Starlite, which clocked in at around $250 for a round trip. I consulted with the other guys from my company who shared a room in a hotel near the conference location, and they were happy to let me crash on the floor.

The train ride was scheduled to last just less than 24 hours. What I didn’t know is that Amtrak is completely retarded with respect to their timetables. It seems that the published schedules are a best case scenario, and they are almost never on time in reality due to things like sharing tracks with freights, broken signals, equipment problems, etc… If I had known this, I probably would have flown, since the schedule had us arriving barely in time for me to catch the beginning of the conference. One of the coolest parts is the very first session, where Steve Jobs comes out and does his thing, and pulls the covers off the new stuff. I was rather disappointed during the trip as we got further and further behind schedule; about as disappointed as I was because there are NO POWER OUTLETS on the train. Okay, there is actually one per car, which might as well be none, cause I wasn’t able to sit near it.

The entire trip took something like 26 hours….. looooong and quite boring, since all my batteries were dead about 12 hours into the trip. I left Seattle on Sunday morning at about 10, and I didn’t arrive at the convention center until just about noon, completely missing Steve’s keynote. Fortunately, it was all videotaped and is streamable from Apple (but I was still bummed).

After checking in and getting my badge (and a pretty nice backpack containing two t-shirts and the developer preview of the next major version of OS X and OS X Server, and a copy of Apple Remote Desktop 2.0, and an XSan beta), I hooked up with my friend Victor, who does stuff with os x server for apple. He gave me the lowdown on what I missed at the keynote. I won’t bore you with the technical details; it’s all published on apple’s website.

Since I arrived at about noon, I headed for some lunch action. The fairly hefty price tag for the conference does come with a good amount of value, including breakfast / lunch, and plenty of snacks and drinks through the day. The food wasn’t spectacular, but certainly not bad (the service and catering staff, however, was quite excellent). It was pretty clear they knew how to run a conference. For example, the lunch buffet was *highly* parallel, resulting in virtually no wait time.

As far as the facilities went, there were plenty of accommodations for laptop users (which I believe included every single person I saw there). Lots of tables / power strips / ethernet drops, broken up into little pods that were scattered around the place. One really big problem was the wireless situation. The density of laptops made it virtually unusable at times; based on my considerable knowledge of 802.11, I don’t think there’s really any solution other than more ethernet drops. At one point, while trying to get the wireless to get me some frickin packets, I was actually getting icmp ping times in excess of 110 seconds. The wired network access was fantastic, though. In typical apple fashion, they hand out public IPs in their 17/8. I heard somebody saying they had an oc3 as the connection; I was pulling down stuff at just about 4 MB/s at one point.

After lunch, it was on to the sessions. Throughout the course of the week, there were a bunch of 1.5 hour sessions on a wide variety of topics, covering 5 or 6 logical tracks (things like Core OS, hardware, quicktime / media, etc) spread over three floors, in halls of varying size. There were also a handful of open labs, focusing on different things such as IT / Enterprise, speech technologies, internationalization, compatibility testing, etc. Finally, there were a few displays out in the main lobby areas. These included the new BMW / iPod showcases (they had three or four pretty fly autos up in there), and the new LCD displays, including a DUAL HEAD 30″ LCD setup that was simply amazing… takes a $600 video card and two dual-link DVI connections to push all those pixels, but omg…

Overall, my opinion of the sessions is good, although there were too many slides and too few demos (or no demos at all) in some of them. The audience used to be pretty much solely developers, but now also includes IT folk such as myself, and the requisite bunch of CIO type folks, or just people with too much money. Even still, it was by far the geekiest bunch of people I’ve ever been around at that scale.

Probably the coolest part about this conference for me was all the people I met, and being able to hang with all the people who work in and around apple that I already know (which turns out to be quite a few; something I didn’t realize until this week). I was also looking forward to meeting with the #macdev and #opendarwin crews, which are both heavily represented at WWDC.

#macdev had a dinner scheduled for Tuesday night at the Gordon Bierche (sp?). 14 of us showed up, a number that has apparently grown considerably over the years (this is my first WWDC, but they’ve been happening for something like 11 years now). It was neat to be able to put names to faces, and shoot the shit with a veritable who’s who of mac developers. Though I’ve met a ton of IRC people in ‘real life’, this wsa the first time I met any of this crowd. Ambrosia Software picked up the tab for all of us – thanks Andrew! There were some beers had at the GB… just enough to work up a serious thirst for MORE BEER. We pilled into cabs and took a ride across town to some bar that I believe has historical significance to that crew. These dudes know how to party, let me tell ya. As they’re all IRC fiends, we talked about the good ol’ days of the mac scene, and about various items worthy of geek pride.

I always like hanging out with people who are way better than me at something I’m interested in. My development skills are virtually non-existent, since I work primarily in a systems administration context – the most I ever do is perl, shell, tcl, and a smattering of applescript. All of these guys are professional developers, some of whom have a fair amount of my own money from products I’ve registered. Fortunately, I know enough about stuff to converse semi-intelligently; enough to understand cool stories about wacky shit that some of ’em are into.

We stayed and drank for quite a while, and I was more or less laughing my ass off the whole time. It’s rare for me to party with more than a handful of people, and even more rare to actually be interested in conversing with everybody in a such a group. When we were finally finished, 5 of us decided to walk back downtown, which provided the opportunity for more conversation, and even some (more) recreational activities. Didn’t get back to the hotel until about 4 or so, waaaay hammered. It was a fantastic night, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s #macdev dinner.

Thursday was also a lot of fun. I was invited to lunch with these two guys michael bartosh and joel rennich, who are both pretty top-knotch apple trainers, and helped develop some of apple’s current training curriculum. Also present was an editor from O’Reilly. We were there to talk about the upcoming book we’re working on. It’s primarily mike’s book, but he asked joel and I to write a chapter each to help speed things along – I got the firewall chapter, he’s doing VPN I believe. It’ll be my first officially published work outside of the web, and I suppose it’s pretty cool that it’s an O’Reilly title (it’s a book about OS X Server).

After the sessions on Thursday was the Apple campus bash. They provided charter busses to haul everybody from SF to cupertino, which is where apple’s hq is. I have to say that apple turned it out nicely. Pretty sweet stage and lighting rig, though the band was ‘jimmy eat world’, which to me is boringly average ‘rock music’. When will people get enough of the same shit over and over again… There was much food and drink…. oh, the drink. They were flying through kegs at a high rate of speed, and I lost track of my own count.

Upstairs in one of the buildings, they had what they call a plugfest, which is basically where hardware developers bring their stuff and see how many devices they can get online at once. The numbers weren’t that impressive when I was up there, though there was some pretty cool stuff, like a 3d scanner which has this arm holding a stylus, which you then use to trace the contour of the object. Also saw the open-sourced rendezvous stuff in action on a windows and linux box.

The ride home was a blast. Once again apple hired a ton of tour busses to haul us back to SF. They clearly showed experience when choosing busses with bathrooms. The bus was packed with drunk mac geeks, many of whom had their laptops open. I jumped on iChat rendezvous and started pumping out the pictures and sounds, since I usually travel with a reasonable cache of entertaining media. I think the highlight of the ride was when some dude up front held up his 17″ powerbook and played the clips I was sending him, and we all mad libbed sesame street.

Friday seemed rather subdued, but I did catch two really nice sessions… one on advanced final cut pro, the other on logic audio 6. These particular sessions represented what I wanted out of all the sessions; almost pure demo, very fast paced, packed with all the billion little things that improves average workflow…. especially relevant with a creative application.

Though I had a round-trip amtrak ticket, the thought of another 26 hours on that damn thing frightened me; so, I bought a one-way ticket from San Jose back to Seattle on Alaska air. Friday afternoon I took the caltrain from SF to SJC, then cought the flight… it was pretty uneventful, though I have to say, caltrain beats the crap out of amtrak as far as scheduling and accuracy goes.┬áVery fun times :) Can’t wait to do it again next year….

Here are some photos.

For now, though, it’s on to damon’s for some july 4th funs :)

About dre

I like all kinds of food.
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