Open Source Language Roundtable Webcast: Wednesday, July 22nd


O’Reilly’s conference on Open Source, OSCON, takes place this week in San Jose, California. One of the events taking place at OSCON is the Open Source Language Roundtable, the abstract for which appears below:

We all have our favorite languages in our tool-belt, but is there a ‘best’ overall language? If anyone can hash that out, it will be the members of this roundtable discussion, some of the stars of the open source language space. This wide-ranging session, hosted and moderated by the O’Reilly Media editorial staff, and broadcast live on the web, will try to identify the best and worst features of each language, and which are best for various types of application development.

The roundtable will me moderated by O’Reilly Media’s James Turner and will cover the following languages, listed below with the corresponding panelist:

  • Java: Rod Johnson (SpringSource)
  • Perl: Jim Brandt (Perl Foundation)
  • PHP: Laura Thomason (Mozilla)
  • Python: Alex Martelli (Google)
  • Ruby: Brian Ford (Engine Yard)

You can catch this roundtable even if you’re not going to be at OSCON because O’Reilly is webcasting the event. It takes place this Wednesday, July 22nd at 10pm EDT (7 pm Pacific) and is expected to run 90 minutes. It costs nothing to catch the webcast and you’ll even be able to ask the panelists questions via chat, but you’ll need to register.


“Make Web Not War” in Toronto This Wednesday!

Make Web Not War: Toronto - Wednesday, June 10th

About Make Web Not War

If you’re interested in web design and development, you should attend Wednesday’s Make Web Not War conference. It’s being presented by Microsoft Canada and is about the how open source tools like PHP and Microsoft technologies like IIS and SQL Server 2008 can be used together to make great web sites and applications. No matter how much (or how little) Microsoft technology you use in your web development, there’s a lot to see at Make Web Not War!

Who’s Speaking?

We’ve got a number of speakers, each talking about some different aspect of the interoperability between Microsoft and open source technologies, as well as their experiences and lessons learned working in the web industry:

David Crow

David Crow, Microsoft

David Crow is an emerging technology and start-up advocate. At Microsoft Canada, he is responsible for helping Canadian start-ups through programs like BizSpark (details at David helps companies understand emerging technology and design practices for creating compelling digital experiences. David focuses on helping companies to extend their customers’ reach with next generation technology for the desktop, digital devices, standards based applications for the Web, and rich media applications. He has been named Toronto’s Best Web and Tech Evangelist for his efforts in DemoCamp, BarCampToronto, Founders & Funders and StartupEmpire.

Mano Kulasingam

Mano Kulasingam, Digiflare

Mano Kulasingam is a founding partner and principal interactive designer /developer with Digiflare, focusing on presentation layer technologies like Microsoft Silverlight, Windows Presentation Foundation and SharePoint 2007. He also has several years of experience developing B2B and B2C eCommerce and Content Management Web applications using ASP.NET (2.0 and 3.5) and Visual C#. His design skills include working with the latest professional design tools including Microsoft Expression Studio 2, which has earned him a Microsoft Expression MVP nod. He is a co-founder and host of the Toronto Silverlight User Group.

Brendan Sera-Shriar

Brendan Sera-Shriar,

Brendan is a prominent member of FlashinTO, PHUG – Open Source Culture, has taught web design at Long Island University Brooklyn campus, and has been a professor at Seneca College in the School of Communication Arts for over 7 years. Brendan currently owns and operates BackSpaceStudios, a web company specializing in WordPress development, social media applications. He is also the founder of PHUG, an open source community for designers and developers with currently over 4000 members, faculty at Seneca College, and organizer for WordCamp Toronto 2009. Brendan has contributed to many open source projects including papervision3D, red5, Firefox, WordPress, and Drupal, just to name a few.

Stephen Nichols

Stephen Nichols, Softcom

Under the brand we offer Shared and Virtual Web Hosting as well as Exchange 2007 and WSS hosting to customers around the world.

Stephen is Vice President of Sales at Softcom, a Gold certified Microsoft Partner based in Toronto and specializing in transactional hosting with a focus on the SMB market. His key role is to oversee the customer life cycle experience and drive new sales opportunities through the direct, affiliate and partner channels.

Yann Larivee

Yann Larivee, PHP Quebec

Yann Larrivée has been developing web applications for over 7 years and is currently offering PHP consulting services. In the past he has worked in many position from, project manager for a Linux consulting company to web architect for a well know company in the gaming industry. He also founded the PHP Quebec community in 2003 and organizes an international PHP conferences and an IT JobFair.

Get Windows Server 2008 R2 for Free!

Windows Server 2008 R2 logo

Windows Server 2008 R2 is a great server operating system, and this is your chance to take it out for a spin! Bring a machine to the Make Web Not War Installfest – it could be a server, desktop or even a laptop – and we’ll walk you through the process of installing your own free copy (which is good for a year). Space is limited – we’ve only got room for 100 people, so sign up soon!

See the Utltimate FTW! Throwdown

The Ultimate FTW! Throwdown was a challenge pitting student developers against professionals to develop a new PHP-on-Windows app or port an existing PHP-on-LAMP app to run on Windows Server with IIS. There were even bonus points for apps that made use of SQL Server as their database!

We took in a bunch of submissions, and the judges have narrowed it down to two finalists, one student, one professional:

Dac Chartrand In the professional corner is Dac Chartrand, whose submission is Sux0r, a content-management system incorporating blogging, RSS aggregation, bookmark repository and photo publishing, all with a focus on naive Bayesian categorization and probabilistic content. The extra Bayesian/probabilistic goodies allow Sux0r to auto-categorize its content and users to train it to categorize better.

Casron Lam His student opponent, Carson Lam, submitted Transit DB, which aims to transform the way commuters interact with public transit information system. The application is Carson’s answer to the question “How can we provide a modern, clean and user-friendly interface for transit data in cities?” The current version covers public transit for the Metro Vancouver region.

Dac and Carson will be competing for bragging rights and cold hard cash – may the best project win!

(For more details about the Ultimate FTW! Throwdown, see its page on


Telav audience device

We don’t want to do all the talking at Make Web Not War, we also want to hear from you!

That’s why, when you arrive at the event, one of the first things we’ll do is hand you an AVW-TELAV audience response doohickey. It’s a microphone for the Q&A sessions at the end of each presentation, but it’s also an instant audience polling device for quick surveys that we’ll have throughout the day.

Chill Out

All work and no play makes you a dull and burned-out web designer or developer, which is why we’ve also got a lounge where you can just hang out, meet the speakers, ask me questions about Microsoft’s web tools and tech and play XBox games.

Win prizes

We’ve got all sorts of prizes that you can win throughout the day, from software to books to trainign courses to Zune media players to XBox games to a brand new laptop.

Get Fed

Yup, we’re providing breakfast and lunch. You can’t conference on an empty stomach!

Okay, How Much to Attend?

Around this much:

Canadian $10 bill

Instead of charging a standard admission, we’re charging a “Donate what you can” rate, with all proceeds going to, an anti-bullying group. The suggested donation is a mere $10.

When and Where?

Once again, Make Web Not War takes place this Wednesday, June 10th and runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m..  It’s happening in Toronto at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management (55 Dundas Street West – that’s Dundas between Bay and Yonge, right by the Best Buy and Canadian Tire). There’s parking aplenty in the area, and it’s right by Dundas Station on the Yonge/University/Spadina subway line.

Map picture


How Do I Register?

Visit the Make Web Not War registration page and fill out your details, and we’ll see you there on Wednesday!


The “Make Web Not War” Accordion Video

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

The Make Web Not War event in Toronto takes place in exactly one week! We’ve been spreading the word about the event and I thought I’d do my part by helping out with a video, accordion-style:

MAKE WEB NOT WAR – VIDEO FOUR – TORONTO from The Biz Media on Vimeo.

There’s only one mistake in the video – “accordion” is misspelled. If you’d like the follow me on Twitter, the correct ID is AccordionGuy, not AccordianGuy.

For more details about Make Web Not War, see:


“Make Web Not War” in Vancouver and Toronto

"Make Web Not War" - Vancouver, June 2nd / Toronto, June 10th - Microsoft and open source technology, together on the web

The “sea change” that’s been going on at Microsoft for the past little while is one of the things that convinced me to join the company and one of the factors in their even asking me to come in for a job interview. One of the most telling signs of this sea change is in Microsoft’s new approach to open source and web, with initiatives like the Open Source Lab, improved standards support in IE8, PHP on Windows, the Web Platform Installer and Open Source Initiative-approved MS-PL license, to name a few.

We know that the web is a big salad bar of various technologies put together by different vendors and organizations, and at long last, it seems that we’re cool with that. We’ve been reaching out to web developers of all stripes, from Microsoft “true believers” to people who don’t typically build their stuff with or on our stuff.

Make Web Not War is an event being held in Vancouver on June 2nd and Toronto on June 10th where we invite people building solutions on the web – whether you build on Microsoft tech or not – to get together and:

  • Hear from people who build on open source and Microsoft technologies
  • Network with other web developers living and working in your area
  • Learn about the latest Microsoft technologies and how they work with open source
  • Get technical training to build your web development portfolio
  • Win prizes and get your Web Warrior DVD featuring all the latest Microsoft Web Resources

The Vancouver event takes place today, June 2nd at Microsoft’s Vancouver office (1111 W. Georgia, 11th floor). It’s a half-day event featuring a presentation by Morten Rand-Hendriksen from Pink and Yellow Media as well as breakfast, a web partner community showcase and a lunch social.

The Toronto event takes place on Wednesday, June 10th at the Ted Rogers School of Management (use the entrance at 55 Dundas Street W.) and runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. It’s a full-day event with presentations by:

The Toronto event will feature breakfast, keynote, web partner community showcase, another keynote, lunch, breakout sessions, a Windows Server 2008 InstallFest, a web developer technical session and the FTW! competition final showdown. It’s be a very full day.

The registration fee for both the Vancouver and Toronto events is “donate what you want”, with a suggested donation of CAD$10. The money will go to a good cause:, the anti-bullying network.

Whether you’re a died-in-the-wool ASP.NET type, think in PHP or create new web applications by typing in rails mynewapp at the command prompt, Make Web Not War has something for you. For more details about Make Web Not War, check out the official site.


PHP on Windows: The Undiscovered Country

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

I’m doing a lot of running around today. First, I’m off to the University of Waterloo to talk to students about PHP on Windows and the PHP FTW! contest. Then, it’s back to Toronto, where I’m headed downtown to catch up with Garrett Serack from Microsoft’s Open Source Software Lab to talk about The Empire, Open Source (which includes PHP, of course) and how they fit together. If this sounds like a conversation you’d be interested in joining, drop me a line!

To give you a taste of what Microsoft is doing with PHP, I present the slides from Garrett’s talk, PHP on Windows: The Undiscovered Country, which he gave last year. Things have advanced since then, but I thought it would give you an idea of what The Empire is thinking and where we’re going with PHP on the Windows platform:


Got Time Tuesday After Work?

PHP logo


  • you’re a PHP developer or curious about what Microsoft is doing in the world of open source
  • you’re in the downtown Toronto area tomorrow (Tuesday, May 12th) after work
  • you like free food and drink

…then drop me a line. I’m helping out at an event that you might be interested in.


My Afternoon at MeshU

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

I caught the afternoon sessions of MeshU, the day of workshops that precedes the Mesh Conference. MeshU had three tracks – Design, Development and Management – and I chose to attend the sessions in the Development track.

Leigh Honeywell at her presentation at MeshU

Leigh Honeywell on Writing Secure Software

First up was HackLabTO cofounder Leigh Honeywell, (pictured on the right) whose presentation was titled Break It to Make It: Writing (More) Secure Software. She works at the MessageLabs subsidiary of Symantec, which makes security products for email systems, and before that, she worked as an independent security consultant. Simply put, security is both her job and her hobby.

Leigh provided an informative and entertaining summary of the most common security vulnerabilities in applications and the recommended best practices for writing secure apps. Here’s a photo of her slide showing OWASP’s ten principles that you should follow in order to write secure applications:

"10 Principles" slide from Leigh Honeywell's security presentation at MeshU 2009

The ten principles are:

    1. Minimize attack surface area
    2. Establish secure defaults
    3. Least privilege
    4. Defense in depth
    5. Fail securely
    6. Don’t trust services
    7. Separation of duties
    8. Avoid security through obscurity
    9. Keep security simple
    10. Fix security issues correctly

She also covered what OWASP considers to be the current top ten vulnerabilities:

    1. Cross-site scripting
    2. Injection flaws
    3. Malicious file execution
    4. Insecure direct object references
    5. Cross-site request forgeries
    6. Information leakage / improper error handling
    7. Broken authentication and improper error handling
    8. Insecure cryptographic storage
    9. Insecure communciations
    10. Failure to restrict URL access


At the end of her presentation, Leigh listed a couple of books that she considered to be valuable security references. One of them was Writing Secure Code, Second Edition, written by Michael Howard and Steve Lipner and published by Microsoft Press.

This was a surprise to many people in the audience, the majority of whom were not building apps on Microsoft technologies and generally (and often mistakenly) think of the term “Microsoft” being synonymous with “insecure”. A number of people chatted with me after the presentation and it seemed like this was one of many things from Microsoft that caught them by surprise, along with other unexpected things including the MS-PL license, CodePlex and the Open Source Lab, the new emphasis on standards and interoperability…and hey, even taking on “unlikely” evangelists such as David Crow and me.

Here’s her slide deck:

Pete Forde Does the iPhone Dance

Next was Pete Forde, one of people behind the development shop Unspace and the RubyFringe and FutureRuby conferences. He started his presentation, Is That an iPhone in Your Pocket, or are You Just Happy to See Me?, with a Napoleon Dynamite-esque dance number set to the tune of Start the Riot by Atari Teenage Riot. Here’s the video of the dance that Leigh Honeywell shot:

And here’s the video that I shot:

Pete’s presentation covered the options that developers have when building iPhone apps. For the curious, here’s the deck he used:

The one thing that he wanted you to take away from his presentation is, in his own words:

Consider iPhone web applications and side-stepping the iTunes Application Store (and their 30% gross cut) completely.

The one thing that I took away from the presentation (in addition to the one above) was that it’s not all smiles and sunshine in iPhone development land. Yes, the iPhone provides an excellent user experience and the App Store has been a hit with the customers and many developers. However, a good chunk of Pete’s presentation was about how some of the biggest obstacles for iPhone developers come from Apple itself; I’ve heard that there were similar grumblings at an iPhone developer meetup that took place later in the week. I think that there are some things that Windows Mobile developers (and the Windows Mobile team at Microsoft) can learn from these obstacles, and I’m going to write about them in a later article.

Chris Wanstrath and the Story of GitHub

Chris Wanstrath The final presentation of the afternoon, Building a Business with Open Source, was given by Chris Wanstrath of GitHub, a hosting service for software repositories created with the Git distributed version control system. There are a number of open source projects hosted on GitHub, including one you might not expect: Microsoft’s very own IronRuby.

Chris explained that GitHub was an answer to a problem that he and his friends had: they were working on a number of open source projects, so many that managing them was “beginning to wear them down”. GitHub was created as a solution to that problem: it took care of the tedious parts of source code management so that they could focus on their code.

Although GitHub hosts a number of open source projects and uses Git, which is open source, it is not open source. Chris explained that managing an open source project takes up more time that he or the others on the team have. “Ironically,” he said, “starting GitHub has given me less time to work on open source.” After hinting at his dissatisfaction with the GNU General Public License, an audience member asked "Does the GPL cause you nightmares?"

“Yes,” he replied, after which he endorsed his preferred open source license. “MIT license all the way,” he said.

Octocat, GitHub's mascot To promote GitHub, they took an approach that was closer in spirit to evangelism than standard marketing. “Companies still believe in old-school advertising, and they also think that what works offline works online,” he said. So they rely on the standard offline methods of promoting their wares: advertisements and marketing campaigns. In the online world, people trust their peers, so they opted for an approach that he called “guerilla marketing”: instead of spending money on ads, they spent money to hang out with developers, buy them beer and pizza and provide “a human face” to GitHub. He summed up the approach with a good one-liner: “Who knew that actually spending time with your customers would be good for business?" A great point, especially in today’s word-of-mouth-y, interconnected world.