It’s time to share a little secret with you about the congress planning process. With hundreds of talks and workshops handed in, it’s hard to keep an overview. In fact, it’s probably impossible. During the planning phase of 21C3 (last year’s congress), we conceived and hacked Pentabarf, our open source conference planning tool and database frontend (don’t ask about the name, it’s a Discordian thing). Actually, “we” is not quite correct, our hero here is Sven, coder extraordinair and high-order hacker, whom we probably cannot be grateful enough to for making this beautiful beast possible — this included a complete rewrite of the codebase in Ruby. Pentabarf helps us to track speakers and events and warns about potential conflicts when compiling the Fahrplan or schedule of the conference (confirmed speaker without contact data, speaker is scheduled to hold two talks at the same time etc.) and we also use it to review and comment on submissions we get from potential speakers.
Among other things, Pentabarf was also used for planning Datenspuren, the privacy symposium of CCC Dresden and What the Hack. It has a nifty and powerful web interface with many configuration options and different export possibilities as XML, HTML, iCal and vCard and does all kinds of cute AJAX tricks for searching and sorting entries (talk about being fully buzzword-complient). The source is available through a subversion repository (svn://pentabarf.cccv.de/pentabarf/trunk). There is also a bug tracking system and a mailing list.
Oh, and Pentabarf exports the schedule you can find on the website! We were happy to have the schedule online in November this year, but our joy was interrupted when FX, one of our speakers, sent us an e-mail asking us whether we were aware of the fact that our Fahrplan web page crashes Internet Explorer 6.0 with a stack overflow. Did we do that on purpose? Ummm. No. It seemed that Eris, goddess of chaos and confusion, had sneaked in a little feature in the HTML export that triggered an unfixed bug in IE. What a nice way to start the congress… Thankfully, FX took the time to report the bug to Microsoft:
Subject: IE 6.0 SSL Warning dialog stack overflow
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 11:26:13 +0100
IE seems to have an issue with pages served over plain text HTTP where
images and possibly other resources are embedded with HTTPS links and the
certificate validation fails. The browser displays the appropriate warning
dialog for each embedded element, causing a stack overflow and termination of
the process. The speakers page of this year’s CCC Congress serves as
unintentional example and led to the discovery of this bug.
Tested with: IE 6.0.2900.2180.xpsp_sp2_gdr.050301-1519 / XPSP2 German.
672D 64B2 DE42 FCF7 8A5E E43B C0C1 A242 6D63 B564
So, no need to worry. The bug is reported. Microsoft even wrote back. They will take care of it and start the next step. Interestingly enough, they call it “investigation“…