In this post I will define what I believe to be the most important projects within the Apache Projects for building scalable web sites and generally managing large volumes of data.
There are data sources out there, but which data source you choose depends on which technology you wish to get experience working with. The experience should be of the technologies you are using, rather than what the data is. Certain datasets pair better with certain technologies. Simulating the data can be another approach. You just need a clever way of generating and randomizing your fake data. Thirdly, you can use a hybrid approach. Take real data and replay it on a loop, randomizing it as it goes through. Simulating the Twitter fire-hose should not be too hard, should it?