Roads Less Taken

A blend of programming, boats and life.

Dyncon 2011, Retrospect

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So it’s monday and I am getting started with work but thought I should try writing a retrospective of Dyncon 2011 during the day. In summary it was a nice and largish crowd (about 85), a spacious and good venue in the middle of the city (office of BWin/Ongame) with a great view from the 11th floor and a good lineup of speakers. Perhaps I am getting old though but having this many speakers doing 40 min presentations for two full days… well, I kinda like to have time to sit down and chat with people and show stuff and so on. Not much time for that, and 40 minutes means that most presentations got stressed for time even though flying on a rather high level. But still, a fun and interesting conference!

For me the most interesting part was talking with Joe Armstrong, it turned out he wanted a bridge between Erlang and Squeak and was looking for someone to write a Socket server for him in Squeak. Funny enough I know quite a lot about that, but more on that in another post. I was also somewhat pleasantly surprised about his knowledge of the Smalltalk community and his view of Smalltalk. I forgot to point him to my “bashing” of his OO article a few years back :)

At the end of the day I would say it was a success but if I were to organize a follow up conference I would try to have a few longer presentations, mixed with a some very short ones. And also put in some other kind of “format” - like a panel debate and also more time to just “hang” together and self organize a bit. Well, just my 2 cents.

Dyncon 2011, Day 2

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Day one must have ended with lots of beer because people were quite late for day two. 15 minutes late Carl Lerche finally started his Ruby presentation. One thing I found interesting was Ruby Modules vs Monticello extension methods (in some ways I presume this is how Modules are often used - to extend other classes with behavior). Evidently “method extensions” to the class side in Ruby doesn’t work like extensions to the instance side, it does in Smalltalk of course :). Then Carl described ways to still do this, but it looked complex, and also explaining there are lots of “hooks” when messing with the MOP. Is that a good thing? If Rubyists use this a lot, then I presume utter hopeless confusion might occur.

Obviously there is a difference here I think between the Smalltalk and Ruby mindset - in Smalltalk we are always in runtime, but that doesn’t mean we go crazy on the dynamic axis - that would pull the rug out from the development environment and its capabilities in navigating and describing the code base, in much the same way as a macro system does in C/C++. Next part was about various techniques using Ruby blocks, like for example messages taking optional blocks… hmmm, trying to figure out what I think of that. “” was showed as an example. Reading on the net shows that there is a lot of… complexity regarding blocks in Ruby, doesn’t look nice. I hate needless complexity. Evidently Ruby 1.9 is cleaning up blocks - curious if anyone could elaborate on that compared to Smalltalk.

Next up was Tom Hughes-Croucher from Joyent presenting Node.js. In essence this is about hard scaling of network applications. He began by talking about scaling issues with regular forking architectures and V8 and the AreWeFastYet website etc. Javascript is indeed getting an awful lot of performance attention these days and that of course makes it the “assembler of the Internet” and a compelling base platform for more and more things. Although I do understand this I still don’t really see how Node.js would be extremely better than say Nginx + a backend that doesn’t allocate insanely much memory per user session? For example, using Nginx (or Cherokee) with a Squeak backend running AJP, it would be fun to compare performance wise.

Sergi Mansilla then presented Cloud9, a web based IDE for Javascript. Mmmmm, well, I don’t get excited about that because I am a Smalltalker and the things I can do with Squeak/Pharo … sorry, I don’t want it in the browser! What about interactive graphics visualization? Really good browsers? Sure, it can be done, and compared to vim/emacs it might be cool. But I want to be able to hack my IDE for example. It is clearly a really ambitious project though and worth keeping track of since they are pushing the boundaries of what you can do on the web.

Robert Virding doing another presentation around Erlang, similar to the one Joe did yesterday but still different. Focusing more on principles but also with some code examples. Somewhat interesting, but I didn’t follow it too closely.

After lunch Björn Eiderbäck started his presentation on Smalltalk directly in the latest version of VisualWorks from Cincom. The style of Björn’s presentation is to interactively using the Smalltalk environment trying to quickly “dig into” code and using its tools. This style easily gets side tracked but in order to make non Smalltalkers understand the “beauty” of Smalltalk it might be the way to do it in a short period of time, Shock and Awe. :)

The day continues but I am posting this now anyway.

Dyncon 2011, Day 1

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In place at Dyncon 2011 at Bwin/Ongame in Stockholm. Quite a nice crowd and the day was started with Joe Armstrong presenting Erlang. I had never seen Joe speak before and it was a fun and interesting presentation, although of course only “skimming” some areas. I found it fun that he referenced Alan Kay where he stressed that “it’s the messages”, given his earlier harsh view on OO. I couldn’t help starting to think about how some of Erlang’s concepts could easily be implemented in Smalltalk and what that could give.

Next up was Yehuda Katz presenting Sproutcore. An “all” javascript framework to build “rich” client apps in the browser. Hmmm… there are so many of these now. Claims a proper MVC architecture. But I really don’t want to build my apps in Javascript :). Generating Javascript - yes, writing it - no thanks. And I am really not impressed with frameworks/toolsets that are template oriented with various quirky ways of “binding” stuff together. I have become too spoiled by the HTML DSL approach in Seaside to think template engines are “cool”. Ouch, my eyes hurt!

No More Coppar!

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Our ADSL broke a week ago and the operator decided to NOT repair it, since they can’t see the economy in doing so.

After pondering the options I decided to try 3G all the way. Since I already have a Telia USB modem (Option icon 505) I just needed a good wifi router that can use it.

Ended up buying a Dovado 4GR, really simple to set up and to upgrade firmware in. It is important to try different locations in the house though, got 3x more speed near the window on the second floor.

Next move is to get ip-telephony working on top.

Skype Interview With Dan Ingalls

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Before the summer I had the opportunity to do a Skype interview with Dan Ingalls, the “Guido/Larry/Linus” of Smalltalk.

The interview was part of a guest lecture I did at DSV for the DYPL course (dynamic programming languages) held by Beatrice Akerblom. In the end I only used a smaller quote because most of the topics in the interview ended up being more interesting to “true believers” than to Smalltalk newcomers.

I admit to not having planned the interview in perfect detail so rather quickly it degenerated into an informal discussion, with my daughter interrupting at random places. :) So I did some “post production work” and edited it into approximately 22 minutes of Q&A. For technical woes, see my earlier post.

Since the ESUG 2010 soon is here (can’t attend unfortunately) this is my small contribution, enjoy (10Mb).

regards, Goran