Sunday, August 16, 2009

HAR2009 thoughts, returning back to earth..

I just got back from HAR2009, and am slowly returning to earth. HAR is the fifth installment (or sixth, depending on who you speak) of the 'HXX' series of hacker events here in The Netherlands. These usually attract in the order of 2000 of the best geeks of Europe (& beyond), and HAR2009 was no exception.

Over 2200 people trekked to Vierhouten, to attend 106 presentations, many many parties, and have lots of fun. Most of them slept on-site in their tents or caravans.

The event lasts four days, but many people arrived early, and some of them are staying late to help with cleanup.

But for me it is over now, and like I said, I'm slowly returning back to earth. It was tremendous. Awesome to the point that I nearly got emotional when it really was time to go home.

I have tried and failed to express in words why events like these are so wonderful (and why HAR2009 was the best yet), but it is not working. It is one of these 'You had to be there' things. Suffice it to say that if you are a geek at heart (and I am definitely one), this was the place to be.

I did a presentation on "DNS Security in the Broadest Sense", here is a photo just before my presentation, while Niels helped me out because my HP #$@#$ 'netbook' failed to switch to the proper resolution, even though I had tested this on the projector a few hours earlier:

(image courtesy of

My presentation: pdf

Badly transcoded movie of the presentation, will be replaced at a later point with a better one:

My lovely son Maurits watching the live stream (this photo is NOT shopped!)

(many thanks to my wife Mirjam, who is very pregnant, but insisted that I went to HAR, because she knew it meant so much to me!)

A video Interview in Dutch about my presentation can be found on

Update! Interview (in English) on HARFM can be found here (plays in Firefox 3.5, otherwise try VLC)

All in all, it was a TREMENDOUS event, and I am told people liked my presentation. I'm also proud that PowerDNS powered the whole HAR2009 DNS infrastructure, and that it held up and was not compromised. A good thing at a hacker conference.

I'm also proud that both PowerDNS and Fox-IT could play a part in this. Aldert, I don't believe you when you said HAR2009 would not have happened without us, but the thought is much appreciated! It must have been the good food at our BBQ :-)

There are moments from HAR2009 that I will never, ever, forget again. Thanks to everyone that made it happen!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PowerDNS is The Hackers Choice!

Very brief note to let you know that I'm thrilled that PowerDNS will be serving the HAR 2009 visitors! It has previously also been used by the same people at CCC congresses.

I'm very proud of this, and I hope the Recursor and Authoritative Server will continue to do well for such demanding users. And if there is any issue, the maintainers can rest secure in the knowledge that 24/7 on-site support is available.. from my tent.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

PowerDNS Recursor released!

I'm pretty proud of this release, or to state it better, proud of not having a real reason to do a release for over a year.

Over the past year, the PowerDNS Recursor has gone places I never thought it would go, powering the majority of internet subscribers in some large countries.

It is very rare for a project that services so many people, to exhibit so very little problems. I'm probably just lucky in this respect, but it still feels good.

However, since the world moved on over the past year, version 3.1.7 became somewhat hard to compile on modern Linux and UNIX distributions. In addition, Solaris 10 changed its ABI slightly, causing Recursor to crash quickly under heavy load.

So after a week of testing, has been released today, with no new features, only bug fixes.

For more details, please see the announcement.

Moving closer to pizza perfection!

I truly love a good pizza, but it is a rare event to find one. So, I've long been baking my own pies, at first in a normal oven and later in a special pizza oven. Although the "G3 Ferrari" looks impressive, mine is bright red, it is a decidedly weird machine.

For example, it has four heat levels, 1, 2, 2.5 and 3. One has to wonder how that happened.

I've read with great gusto the wonderful works by Jeffrey Steingarten which cover with great precision how very good food is made, including pizza. Jeffrey's book emphasized the importance of high heat, and even mentions the very same "G3 Ferrari" oven I have.

So, I've been using it to make pizzas of very varying quality - sometimes tremendously good, sometimes less so, and I never knew why. Like many aspiring pizzaiolos, I blamed my flour, and I assumed the professionals were using special brands.

Then I discovered the page of Jeff Varasano, who is a bigger pizza nut than I would've thought possible. It looks like he spent 10+ years figuring out how to do it, and from him I discovered the stunning secret: all pizza recipes I've ever seen in books, or online, are wrong. So, I set out to follow his instructions to the letter, which indeed led to very good and elastic dough.. and still no good pizzas ensued from my oven!

(in brief, any recipe which starts out by lumping all ingredients of the dough together and instruct to after mixing 'let it rest until it has doubled in size' is pretty far removed from reality. For more information, see Jeff's page)

Several months passed, and this weekend I found myself with some time off (since our son Maurits was spending time with his grandparents), and I decided to try again, this time using science.

Recall the Italian pizza oven with heat level '2.5'? It turns out the thermostat of this oven is a lying through its teeth! With the aid of a high-heat thermometer, I discovered the awful truth that the temperature of the oven has very little to do with the settings of the thermostat.

It turns out that the "G3 Ferrari" only reaches the required temperatures (400+C, around 750F) when the grill is red hot and has been on non-stop for quite some time, no matter what the thermostat may say.

So today, using my trusty thermometer, I timed it such that the oven reached this stunning temperature just when my pizza was ready.

And lo, it was wonderful!

To the non-pizza-enthusiast, this may not sound like a big thing - but this is an important step in my ongoing quest: be able to entertain large amounts of guests with mouth watering pizzas.

To be continued...