Debcamp 10 - the early days

After I finished an re-read my epic post describing my first day and a half at Debconf10 I suddenly realised that if I continue to describe the rest of 13 days here in such style and verbosity this would become a book, a boring one at that, so I decided to limit myself to 2 posts for Debcamp and then a post a day for the Debconf.

But about the first half of the Debcamp week there are things that are as usual and there are things that are not.

Let's start with the usual bits: more people arriving every day, evening parties are getting more and more fun and wild (or so people say) and the Internet and power at the hacklabs magically becomes more and more reliable day by day, the cabling mess grows organically trying to spread out evenly and not overload any individual socket, extension cords with non-local plugs appear and spread the load some more, people stress out, volunteer, crash out and repeat. All in all nothing can stop the freight train of few hundred Debian developers determined to have fun. With out own DFSG-free definition of fun. (But this year we appear to be running very close to the edge on volunteers - if we run out of those, there will be a train-wreck, so please volunteer!)

Now off to the unusual stuff.

The City is ... well ... it is cool and very, very impressive. It is not terribly different to me at least - I am used to such structure of the city: grid based layout of the downtown city (with some parks) and then branching out to separate, but different across-the-river districts and then sprawling out to slightly chaotic suburbs. Riga is very much like New York in the design. The difference is that New York is 10-20 times larger: the areas are 10 times larger, the buildings are 3-4 times higher on average, the streets are 2-3 times wider and yet have more traffic and there are far, far more shops, shows and restaurants. Also there is the subway. It is a great thing in that it hides the size of the city - take a bus downtown once, to find out what I mean - it takes ages to drive the distance that takes 20 minutes on the subway. I like this city, I am getting a feeling, that I could live here without much problem for me. So far I've only had this feeling in Riga and Berlin.

On the other hand this is USA. I've so far only encountered one bad thing about it, but it is a pretty big one - food. Basically all food that I've tried so far in the USA has been crap. It was tasty - salt, sugars and fat took care on my brain thinking it's food, but underneath that it was pretty crap: there was no texture, no content, no soul. The John Jay cafeteria where we are eating lunch and dinner is better than the most other options, because it is an all-you-can-eat buffet where you can choose your poison and it was also the place where I had the best piece of food in USA so far - a slice of pepperoni pizza, that had a bit of taste behind the fat. Also, surprisingly, the fast food options (McDonalds, Burger King, ...) are better than the equivalents in Europe, far better. In fact the fast food is cheap and in some cases tastes better than 'regular' food, so there is no wonder why people might prefer it in some situations. So it is easy to see how people just accept shoving bland fast food or bland all-you-can-eat food into their mouths and not think much about it and thus become fat and put undue stress on their health. I expect the average weight of Debian developers to increase by 5 kg by the end of the conference. If you want to prove me wrong, running with bubulle would help you a lot with that.

Events downtown. New York is a huge city with a lot of events going on every day, so everyone should be able to find something of interest for them. For me it was the free tickets for tapeings of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I got into both of those and for me The Colbert Report was by far the better experience. For one you can not get into Daily Show without a ticket (some tickets show up on the web site on the morning of the shoot around 11am), while 18 people from the stand-by list at Colbert Report got in. At The Daily Show you stand in a live line with ticket holders in one line and stand-by line separate. If you have tickets and arrive around 3pm you should be fine - any later than that and you risk to be standing outside even with a ticket. You find that out around 4.30pm when they hand out physical tickets - you have one, you get in. If not you might rush over to Colbert Report where a more humane system is used - a staffer takes down your name and email on a numbered list and then you can walk around until 5.30pm then they let the ticket holders in and after that call the names of stand-by people that get in. The Colbert Report studio is brighter, more colourful and closer to the action, also it is very rare that cameras block the view from the audience (which is common on The Daily Show). It might have also been my luck when I got on the most boring The Daily Show episode I can remember, ever. The best joke was a woman asking John is she could get a ticket for her friend in August. The warm-up act and crowd control at The Colbert Report was also way better: Colbert staff was hyper, security was ever-present, warm-up was funnier and very engaging (he grilled me for several minutes and I replied making the audience laugh very hard explaining that Latvia was like India of Eastern Europe in regards to IT exports) and Colbert himself was very gracious talking to us out-of-character before the show for a good 10 minutes.

Location, location, location. The talk rooms and event rooms and hacklabs are spread out across multiple buildings and there is a lot of other activities going on in those buildings besides Debconf, so moving between place might be confusing for the first day or two. Also the rooms are quite dark - that might cause a noise problem for me and the video team as we'll have to up the sensitivity settings on our gear. The video team is working on fixing that by throwing a bit more light on to the speakers. Elevators are wicked fast, but can also be confusing, because the ground floor is on a different number for different buildings - it can be G, 1 or even 4. Usually on campus there is a star next to the level with the exit.

The dorms. I am in the Carman building and it looks like its interior has not been updated since it was built - large ceramic bricks with very visible gaps (for the interior walls), raise-to-open windows, huge aircon fans that take up the whole bottom of the window, plumbing from the 60ies (at least). The security is weird - on one hand you have to give your room card to the guard when entering the building, but on the other hand the room cleaning crew can simply forget to close your door after they are done. Like this Thursday I returned to the dorm just before lunch only to find the door of my room open. No one was around and nothing was missing, but it's still worrying.

In any case I am steadily uploading photos from Debconf 10 to my Flickr page and new stuff should show up every day.