PGDay UK – User Group meeting

PGDay UK took place at 30 Euston Square on July 7th. The location is perfect as it’s easy to get to via underground, buses or trains.

After the usual registration, refreshments, welcome and introductions came the long-awaited talk “Working in Open Source” by Liam Maxwell, CTO for Her Majesty’s Government. This talk was followed by Magnus Hagander, President of PostgreSQL Europe, who alerted us to the new key features of the next release which is now available in alpha and soon to be available in beta before the final version is released towards the end of the year. Some new key features include:

Magnus Hagander - New features in 9.5

Magnus Hagander – New features

“Upsert” (INSERT … ON CONFLICT): 5 brings support for “UPSERT” operations.

BRIN (Block Range Indexes): BRIN stands for Block Range INdexes, and store metadata on a range of pages. At the moment this means the minimum and maximum values per block.

pg_rewind: pg_rewind makes it possible to efficiently bring an old primary in sync with a new primary without having to perform a full base backup.

Import Foreign Schema: with PostgreSQL 9.5, you can import tables en masse. You can also filter out any tables you don’t wish or limit it to just a specific set of tables

Inheritance with foreign table:  Foreign tables can now either inherit local tables, or be inherited from.

David Kennaway showed us the challenges presented in a financial services environment and how PostgreSQL fits into the strategy at Goldman Sachs.

Mike Lujan from Manchester University talked to us about the AXLE project… but what is the AXLE project? AXLE, advanced analytics for extremely large European databases, brings together a diverse group of researchers covering hardware, database kernel and visualisation all focused on solving the needs of extremely large data analysis. The project partners are 2ndQuadrant, Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Portavita, the University of Ljubljana and the University of Manchester. The project, like PostgreSQL, is of course Open Source.

With “PostgreSQL Back Up and Recovery: Best practices and tools” by Devrim Gunduz, we discovered solutions for common issues along with pros and cons for each of them. There are of course many backup solutions – both open and closed source.

Gianni Ciolli gave us some “PostgreSQL Administration Recipes”. These recipes should enhance the user’s experience of PostgreSQL by making it speedier and more effective.

Marco Slot discussed the internals and performance of pg_shard and some of its latest features. pg_shard is a free, open source extension for scaling out PostgreSQL across a cluster of commodity servers.

In his “Fun Things to Do with Logical Decoding” Mike Fowler looked at trigger-less auditing, partial replication and full statement replication. Was that fun? I am not so sure!

The next talk had a great title – “The Elephant and the Snake” – could it be a story by Rudyard Kipling or one of Aesop’s fables? No, but Tony Locke told us how to connect from Python to PostgreSQL, including tips and tricks.

Simon Riggs - The future

Simon Riggs: The Future

The day ended with a plea from Simon Riggs for users to upgrade and test the new 9.5 release to ensure the version is bug-free, helping the PostgreSQL community currently working on the 9.6 release and beyond.

With around 100 people attending the conference, PGDay UK 2015 was one of the most dynamic PosgreSQL meetings that I have ever attended. The audience was very diverse, coming from universities, big corporations, small companies and government institutions.

Thanks to the sponsors 2ndQuadrant, EDB, Brandwatch and CitusData, we were provided with good food and a drink reception at the end of the day.

Interested in PostgreSQL? Why not come to the PostgreSQL conference Europe 2015, which will take place in Vienna on October 27th to 30th? Hope to see you there!

OSS4B 2013: Prato opens the door to open source

Il BacchinoOpen Source Software is one of the most dynamic resources for business: the Open Source philosophy of code availability and redistribution is actually a great opportunity for the development of a more flexible, responsible and reactive model in business and organisations in IT management.

Next September 19 and 20, Prato will host a conference on Open Source Software with several worldwide names of Open Source philosophy and ICT innovation.

Arno Valley: IT friendly

For the first time the city of Prato, set in the Florence area – one of the most “IT friendly” areas in Italy – will host OSS4B: Open Source Software for Business.  This international conference promotes the adoption and usage of open source software both in business and mission-critical environments.

oss4b-logoOSS4B is a two-day event of talks and workshops with international speakers who will cover all the features of Open Source Technology: hardware solutions, methodologies and procedures of project management and organisation, best practice principles, business models, research and development, training, marketing, social media engagement, licensing and many more.

OSS4B’s target audience is CEOs, developers, database administrators and network and Sys Admins, as well as project managers from the fields of finance, technology, information, data, marketing, risk/security, law, networking, web, mobile and others.

Kim and Dragos, DevOps and Kanban at OSS4B

The two main focuses of OSS4B are DevOps; the method of integration between software development and information technology, and Kanban; the scheduling system for Lean and Just-In-Time Production.

gene-kim1-150x150Keynote Speakers are:

  • Gene Kim, researcher focused on IT operations security and compliance, co-author of Tripwire and author of the best-seller “The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps and, Helping Your Business Win


  • dragosDragos Dumitriu, Kanban Training and Coaching for Software Engineering and Service Delivery, General Manager at David J. Anderson and Associates Inc, a global management consulting firm providing Lean and Kanban solutions improving performance, communication, and collaboration for knowledge workers.

Both Gene Kim and Dragos Dumitriu will be in Italy as speakers for the very first time. Dragos will also be teaching a workshop on Kanban on September 23rd and 24th.Register here.

Networking at OSS4B!

OSS4B 2013 is a great opportunity for those working in ICT to learn something new and improve their skills. This is a fundamental part of the “continuous improvement” culture that knowledge workers of today value – especially when dealing with open source software.

Futhermore, being able to build and cultivate connections and relationships, both professionally and personally, is another important aspect of succeeding in any work environment, not just ICT. Networking and building professional connections is what OSS4B is also about.

“Open Source Software for Business” represents a unique professional development opportunity in Europe. Inspiring speakers will address key organisational issues and be available to answer your questions.

From Wednesday 18th right through until the evening of Friday 20th September there will be various events where participants can meet, interact and share common interests or experiences. Much attention has been given to social events, ensuring that OSS4B participants unite to form a connected and interactive community throughout the conference.

Value for money: not only does the registration fee include all of the above, it also covers your meals (coffee breaks, lunch breaks and Thursday’s dinner) and, thanks to our sponsors, we are offering the Italian “aperitivo” that will follow the conference.

As a final note, I encourage you to read the “IT Revolution Manifesto” written by Gene Kim (Opening Keynote Speaker at OSS4B), Kevin Behr and George Spafford.

OSS4B: a family friendly conference

While speakers and attendees are busy with OSS4B 2013, their families (including children) will have the chance to participate in a special programme to ensure they make the most of their stay in Tuscany. Fun activities are scheduled throughout the conference, the weekend and the workshop.

The organizers of OSS4B are offering a 35% discount to the friends of O’Reilly. To benefit from this discount, please enter promo code OREIL35952201309 when registering.



Think, Code, and Experiment

Last week the 5th Open World Forum took place in the very heart of Paris, and this year af83 was again strongly involved in this major European and French Open Source event.

We are totally dedicated to the subjects tackled and the values at the very heart of the Forum: “the Open Digital Strategies”. This is the reason of our unfailing involvement in organizing and running it. The Forum’s format has undergone a number of changes last year while I was Chairman. I really wanted to make the event evolve, to be more comprehensive, pragmatic and accessible, while keeping its forum and think-tank dimension: a place where ideas are born, an event after which communities change and projects are formed. Hence, two dimensions were added to the conference:

  • Code, to gather the best developers
  • Experiment, to share with the general public who is often interested but kept apart

This is the best way to reconnect executives, companies, developers and their users.

So for the second year, three tracks coexisted (Think, Code and Experiment) to put Open Source in everybody’s hands – decision makers, developers and general public – through various talks and demonstrations held by more than 250 speakers and exhibitors.

It was as always a unique opportunity to meet the key players of the domain and take part in in-depth reflections on Open digital strategy, but also test the latest Open Source technologies, attend high-level talks and see artists’ performances, new Open interfaces for the home and Open Source robot operating systems.

The Think track was richer than ever, tackling a range of topics as wide as Open Data, Cloud, Embedded Systems, NoSQL databases, security and legal issues related to free solutions, the importance of education and training, communities, prospective and strategy, Open Source business models, R&D and industrialization, mobility, Open standards, Internet of Open stuff…

These were covered in keynotes, debates between a panel of experts, feedback from CIOs, case studies, innovation awards and less informal exchanges between participants: two intense days! There were great speakers, for example, Ralf Flax, Suse VP of Engineering, who has the soul of a true Open Source developer.

For those still in doubt, this year’s conference confirmed several points: Open Source is not only for the lower layers of the information system anymore, and can be highly efficient for answering various issues, from small to global companies as well as public services and organizations. It is strategic – but it also needs a considered strategy. With the increasing importance of software in our lives, Free and Open Software are more than ever relevant, allowing each player to have control of key components. It also proved that the ecosystem is ever-growing, lively, full of innovation and energy and has real economic weight.

Along with the CxOs, the Forum once more gave room to developers with the 2 day Code track in collaboration with a lot of vibrant communities. It hosted for example the FUDcon FEDORA,, Android and GoogleTV presentations and workshops and many more on Cloud, NoSQL, and HTML5. aims to gather French-speaking developers from all communities involved with programming innovative technology and free languages (e.g. Perl, Python, Ruby, PHP, SmallTalk, Scala, Clojure, Erlang and Haskell). We had the opportunity to attend high level talks by, among others,

  • Harald Welte (German hacker involved in a lot of free projects such as NetFilter, OpenMoko, GPL Violations), who spoke about Osmocom and Erlang;
  • Dodji Seketeli (RedHat Senior Software Engineer) on the upcoming GCC4.8;
  • Christian Couder (Senior Release Engineer) on git bisect, a invaluable tool to detect regressions;
  • Michael Scherer on the benefits of devs and packagers’ collaboration;
  • A presentation of the robot NAO and how to program it by Aldebaran engineers

… in short, a geek’s dream come true! Some of the OSDC sessions were recorded and will soon be available online, so check here  to catch up!

Finally, Saturday was the occasion to welcome the general public, to exchange and experiment around free art, internet privacy and neutrality, and contribute to projects such as Open Street Maps. Children weren’t forgotten – with this year’s KidExperiment (the mini conference for kids, hosted/carried out by MiniShare, HacKIDemia and the “Petits débrouillards”) which included  workshops and hands-on manipulations to dive into programming and code…

Co-founder, AF83 and Bearstech, Chairman of Cap Digital Collibri Community, Board of Silicon Sentier , President of the OWF 2011 ( France)
Louis is the co-founder of two companies, AF83 and Bearstech. AF83 is a Digital Agency, providing cutting-edge development, marketing and UX design services, based in Paris and San Francisco. Bearstech is an Open Source pure player, which provides IS management services, as well as responsible web and product development services. Louis is also heavily involved in Silicon Sentier and one of the founders of La Cantine, and is the chairman of Collibri, the free software & “open innovation” workgroup of Cap Digital, representing 150+ French companies and labs working with new technologies and free software.

With the great help of Marie Ailloud.

Comments from Josette – Watch this space for details of Open World Forum 2013 – I will be there, will you?

Fun at Strata and Velocity – London 2012

Last week I attended two conferences organised by O’Reilly: Strata (themed around Big Data) and Velocity (performance and administration of web applications).

Recently I have been exploring various NoSQL databases, so when I heard the Strata conference was coming to London for the first time, I decided to attend – after all, many of the NoSQL products are very closely associated with the world of Big Data.  Seduced by the discount for booking both, on a whim I decided to attend the Velocity conference as well.  Two days for each, so that would be 4 days of presentations.  I made sure I had plenty of sleep in advance…

Strata came first.  My goal here was to get a wider understanding of the whole Big Data scene – hot technologies, interesting problems that the community faces, and so on.

My first impression was that this is a field still being explored – even the problems are not yet well-defined.  Several of the speakers offered their own definitions of “Big Data”.  I think it was George Dyson who suggested that the Big Data era began when it became cheaper to keep all your data than to spend human effort to delete it.  A more subjective definition was that you know you have Big Data when you have to start thinking about the size of it – which suggests that the threshold will rise as the state of the art moves forward.

I’ve not seen Hadoop in real deployments, so it was interesting to hear the war stories about that, but there were plenty more technologies under discussion.  I heard about RDF, Clojure, Cascalogic, techniques for visualizing and exploring data, and much more.

Funnily though, one of the talks that had the most impact on me was not a “deep techie” thing at all: in the last session on Tuesday, Felienne Hermans of Delft University spoke about PhD research she’d done into corporate use of spreadsheets.  We all are vaguely aware that Excel gets (ab)used for all sorts of things – largely because it is a quasi-programming environment that is used by non-programmers – but do we really know the true extent?  A spreadsheet can combine data, logic and presentation with a complete failure of “separation of concerns”.  Felienne had worked with an investment bank where the management initially estimated there might be 10 thousand spreadsheets; the correct figure was more like 3 million.  A timely reminder that while we worry about the challenge of slightly rough data in our databases, there’s a whole lot of business-critical stuff out there in users’ home directories…

Velocity followed on Wednesday and Thursday, and here my objective was to catch up with a field where I was a bit stale – my real web experience dates from 5 years ago, and of course things have moved on.  There was a lot of talk about DevOps, but this isn’t so new to me; instead I tried to cast my net wide, and went to talks about queueing, monitoring, stories of real-life experience, and various new technologies.

The Velocity conference seemed slightly more “corporate” than Strata, perhaps because it seemed mostly to be about better ways of tackling well-known problems, rather than working out what the heck the problem actually is.  Strata was asking, “What do I do with all this data?  Is there a business model hidden in there, or knowledge that I can extract?  How can do I do any of that?”.  In contrast, Velocity mostly concentrated on more specific questions for a more mature field: “How can I monitor the performance of my app around the globe?  What metrics should I track?  Can I use DevOps-style agility to improve stability and deploy releases more quickly?”

At both conferences there was a good selection of exhibitors; particularly at Velocity where the more mature problem space means there are more players with competing offerings to sell.  As a fan of open-source, I find it encouraging how many of the free products now have companies to back them and sell extra support (and conversely, how many companies choose to open their core products).  Most of the stands were definitely geared to the technical nature of the conferences and were able to deal with proper in-depth questioning.

The least satisfactory aspect of the whole thing was the hotel conference rooms.  All of them had the same narrow chairs bolted together in rows.  I’m certainly no “big guy” but I was at least an inch or two wider than the chairs, so in a well-attended talk everyone ended up very tightly wedged, or taking it in turns to lean forward.  In most of the rooms the projection screens were low and you couldn’t see the bottom half of slides from the back.  A plus for the hotel was the good-quality food; though this may not have helped with the narrow seating!

As you’d expect, this event has sparked a whole lot of questions and further research to do.  I’ll certainly be looking into a bunch of new technologies – Hadoop the Definitive Guide is first up on my reading list – but it seems that statistics is going to become a surprisingly in-demand skill as businesses try to extract the patterns from their data.  Statistics in a Nutshell next, perhaps…

Overall, my first experience of these conferences was very positive – in both cases, it was a great way to get a survey of the scene and drill down to a few more in-depth areas too.  Of course I can’t speak for anyone who had more specific objectives, but it seemed that the corridor conversations around the formal talks offered plenty of opportunities to make contacts, and get into more detailed discussions.  I suspect I’ll return in the future, hopefully with some stories of my own to tell!

Gordon Banner looking lovelyGordon Banner is a sysadmin and infrastructure consultant who is interested in almost anything technological, but when forced to specialise will concentrate on supporting developers and maintaining applications at enterprise scale.

State of the Embedded Market

The embedded market has always played an important role in the decision making process of industrial firms and that importance is growing every year.

Many companies use real-time systems, require electronic design or develop custom firmware; the choice of tools and software is driven by experience, background and different mindset.

There are 4 fundamental aspects that influence those choices:

  • Open source: often neglected for fear or uncertainty about the licenses, it’s a great resource of software and libraries
  • Hardware: which are the most popular microcontrollers, what are the parameters relevant to hardware’s choice and which are the most important information sources.
  • Software Development: what OS / IDE / Tools are common, why are they chosen, what are the most important features, which libraries are popular and what is their life cycle inside the project.
  • Real-Time OS: which is the most popular? Do they bring real benefits or are they too complex? What is the best choice between a commercial or open source RTOS solution? What are the expectations on an RTOS?

Currently, the embedded industry is lacking a well defined identity. Embedded development is usually split in two competing camps, the pure hardware field and the software field. On the contrary, typical problems can be optimally solved only with a synergy of skills and technologies from both camps.

That is still not clear, at least in the Italian market, where the approach is often simplistic or, worse still, focused only on one of the two components.

This is the premise that pushed us to create Better Embedded, the first Italian conference dedicated to embedded development. The conference was born from a very simple need: to broaden the training in embedded in Italian territory and thereby increase the quality of the products.

The event will cover advanced topics, introducing and explaining in collaboration with national experts and excellent companies, the latest news and best practices for developers and designers, what’s on offer, what are the dynamics of the product, which are technologies with which you can develop and improve your idea and your project.

Particular attention is given to open source solutions, an important opportunity for the embedded industry, yet little appreciated in our country, to the exclusion of excellent projects like Arduino.

The conference is a great opportunity for professional training and to build new relationships with customers and partners in the market.

In its very first year, the event is organized by Develer Srl, a company engaged in the design and development of high quality software and hardware, also known for its experience in organizing training events of great thickness like:

  •  Europython, the European Conference on Python (to be held this July again in Florence)

If you like the sound of this, then sign up for one or both days, and I look forward to see you in Florence!


Since 2009 Francesco Pallanti is the man behind all the conferences organised by Develer;  he does not shave too often, plays guitar in a rock band and drives a Speed Triple around the Tuscany montain pass.