Monthly Archive for June, 2009

Bar Camp Seattle 2009

This past Saturday I hopped over to Seattle for Bar Camp Seattle 2009. I wasn’t able to make it to last year’s event, and since we haven’t had many Bar Camp’s in Seattle, I wanted to see what was happening. As usual, there was a wall where the schedule was developed as the day went on.

BarCamp Seattle 2009

I was happy to see that there were a number of people involved in organizing the event. Those folks were easily distinguishable by their red and yellow propellor beanies.

BarCamp Seattle 2009

The Bar Camp / Foo Camp structure for a conference is pretty liberating when compared to the usual pre-planned, eyes forward conference. However, it’s not enough to guarantee a good event. I’ve attended a number of these kinds of events, and in my view, who actually turns up is just as important as how the event is structured. Bar Camp Seattle had a lot of people who were interested in talking about various social media related topics. I have no idea if any of those sessions were any good, because I didn’t end up going to any of them. I ran into and met some developer type people, but not as many as I hoped to. Despite the use of Pathable’s cool registration / attendee matchmaking system, I didn’t find it that easy to make use of the information printed on my badge. I would have loved some clever mixer based on the badge labels or something along those lines.

Brian Rice and I (but really mostly Brian) ran a session a session for people interested in programming languages. I was pretty happy because the session was very interactive, but the session length of 30 minutes made it hard to get very far during the allotted time.

BarCamp Seattle 2009

The best session that I attended was a session that was literally and figuratively off the grid. Brian Dorsey put up a session for sitting outside under the nearby bridge. The weather in Seattle was really beautiful last Saturday, so it really begged for being outside. There were about 9 or 10 of us who wandered out and sat talking about a wide range of topics. I enjoyed the sense of flowing from topic to topic, shifting naturally with the flow of conversation, the changing of roles of various participants as the topics changed, and so forth.

I think that I am at a crossroads as to the value of these generic, unstructured events. I helped organize the first Seattle Mind Camp, and I am glad to see that there is now a Bar Camp in Seattle as well. At the same time, I’ve frequently left these events feeling unsatisfied. Beforehand I am filled with excitement at the possibility of meeting new people from other tribes / fields and somehow stirring the pot of creative juices. Most of the time, I end up leaving without that stirring having occurred. If I look back over the last four or five years worth of conferences that I’ve attended, only a handful of “unstructured” events really stand out. Those events were Foo Camp and the Scala Liftoff, and in both cases, I would say that the particular sets of people involved made a huge difference.   

Thoughts on WWDC

Some thoughts on yesterday’s announcements:

MacBook Pros

The laptop refresh was a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting anything until Intel’s Nehalem based laptop CPU’s and chipsets hit the market late summer or early fall. The basics of the machines haven’t improved that much, and won’t until that happens. I’m wary of the unibody built in battery – I had to have my MacBook Pro batteries replaced recently, and the built-in battery would make that a lot harder. As a photographer, I like the wider color gamut of the LCD, but I don’t like the glossy finish. I also find there replacement of the ExpressCard slot with an SD card slot odd. It would have been more “Pro” to at least use a Compact Flash slot.   

In any case, I’m not in the market for a new laptop, so the minor changes and the nice price reduction don’t mean much to me at the moment.

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard, on the other hand, is of great interest to me now that my primary box is a Mac Pro. I’m eager to have OS X taking better advantage of the all the hardware threads in the box. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion of this in the keynote, but I also understand that having more than 2 cores is still a bit out there. I’m also disappointed that there was no mention of ZFS in either the workstation or server editions of Snow Leopard.

I guess that Snow Leopard is not as ready as many people (including me) thought. It won’t be shipping until September. Apple has taken a very reasonable approach to pricing the upgrade. The biggest issue for me is that I’ve been having problems with 10.5.7. I uninstalled it from the MacPro, and my work laptop wigged out on me last week during JavaOne, and I am very suspicious that the problems are 10.5.7 related. Jeffrey Zeldman is chronicling his own set of problems with the update. It’s going to be a long time between now and September if Apple doesn’t sort this out.

iPhone 3.0

The iPhone 3.0 stuff was pretty much a rehash of what was previewed back in March. The only surprise was the “Find My iPhone” feature, which really ought to be a standard feature. I’m not sure if I’m going to buy MobileMe just to get this ability. Everybody is going to get an upgrade to this version of the software so there’s nothing but happiness all around.

What’s not so happy is that some of the features will be unavailable because AT&T isn’t ready to support them: MMS and Tethering. I’m not really sure that I would actually use the MMS. I do most of my picture sharing via Twitter or Facebook. I am pretty sure that I would use tethering, either when riding the ferry or when traveling for work. However, if AT&T adds another $30 a month for the privilege, I probably won’t do it. I can get a Boingo account form $10 a month. True that it won’t work everywhere, but it will work on the ferry and in major airports. Does AT&T really think that we don’t know how to comparison shop?

iPhone 3GS

The iPhone 3GS is a nice upgrade. I’d be happy with the speed, but I’m going to get a speed increase (supposedly) from the iPhone 3.0 software. Faster 3G data would also be nice. The battery life improvements don’t cover the 3G radio usage, which is how I pound my iPhone.   

There are two features which really stand out to me: the compass and the camera.

I travel a lot, and I get mixed up a lot. Having the compass to help decipher directions would really be a help to me. I can think of several occasions in the last 6 months, where I could have saved some aggravation if I knew what direction I was pointed in.

The improvements to the camera look really good. Chase Jarvis is calling it the photographer’s iPhone, which is pretty much a no brainer. There was no mention of speeding up the amount of time it takes to get the camera to come on, which is one of my biggest gripes with it. Is it really a decisive moment camera? No way. But it looks like it is a much better camera than what we have now. I could probably justify $199 to upgrade my 16G iPhone 3G – it’d be a lot cheaper than a camera.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to get to do that. At least not until December 2009, due to the subsidized pricing of the iPhone. Lots of people are complaining about this, but that’s the way that the carriers have always worked. It’s not something new, in fact, its a sign that AT&T has a little more pull on Apple that we thought. So I’ll be waiting at least until December. The problem is that if I wait till December, I’m only 6 months away from the next iPhone product launch (if they keep to the current schedule), and as TechCrunch points out, if Apple lets its exclusive contract with AT&T expire in 2010, then you’d actually have carrier choice. That would be a good thing, and since getting onto Verizon’s huge network can only help iPhone sales, I’d bet that the iPhone is on Verizon in 2010. That’s not an impossible thing. Verizon made its first appearance ever at JavaOne this year, a sign that things are starting to change over there. I guess I’m going to wait and see how AT&T treats me between now and then. But they should be painfully aware that people are buying the iPhone, not the carrier.

CommunityOne / JavaOne 2009

This was my second year attending these events as a Sun employee. Everything in software at Sun seems to revolve around these two events. For quite some time before the show, people are working away furiously getting things ready to be unveiled, myself included.


For me, the big theme at CommunityOne was cloud computing. Sun itself was emphasizing cloud stuff and the latest release of OpenSolaris, 2009.06, which were the main topics of the CommunityOne general session. The Sun Cloud is due out sometime this summer, so much of the cloud part of the session was having partners come up and tell about their experiences working with our cloud. The OpenSolaris team has done a huge amount of work in 2009.06. The feature that stuck out to me the most is “Crossbow“, which is a completely rewritten networking stack. Solaris already had CPU virtualization technology built into it via the zones feature. Crossbow makes it possible to virtualize networking configurations. This means that you could run an instance of OpenSolaris on your laptop (either natively or via VirtualBox, VMWare or whatever) and actually have a virtualized data center configuration running right there. That’s pretty interesting stuff.

I went to several cloud sessions, and I’d have to say that the current state of cloud computing is pretty rough. At least that’s true at the Infrastructure as a Service level where Amazon and the Sun Cloud are. As an example, I went to a good presentation by fellow Sun employees on cloud computing patterns. I happened to be sitting with James Governor and Stephen O’Grady of Redmonk, and I turned to Stephen and said “these patterns are all at a level that I never want to have to worry about”. The patterns themselves were fine, but I personally don’t want to have to deal with things at that level in a cloud platform. There is lots of room for improvement and innovation in this space.

My CommunityOne talk was called “Programming Languages for the Cloud”.

The talk is based on my experience as a language guy who has been asked to work on cloud computing stuff. As such, I’m really trying to raise questions (for which I don’t yet have answers) about places where work on programming languages might usefully intersect with cloud computing. I figured that this would be a niche kind of talk, so I was very surprised to find myself in one of the larger rooms at Moscone, complete with a live video feed. I was even more surprised to see that the room was pretty full. After the presentation, one of the engineers working on Apex (their domain specific language for the cloud) came up to the front. We ended up having lunch and I learned a bunch interesting stuff about their experience withe Apex. This sort of thing is what makes conferences worthwhile.


I spent the first day of JavaOne prepping for my presentation, “Seeding the Cloud”, which was about some ways that tools could help developers who choose to build applications in the cloud.

Ashwin Rao and I had some pretty interesting demos lined up, but we had problems with the internet connection in the room so a number of the demos failed. I learned later that the internet connection for all of Moscone Center had gone out, which made me feel slightly better. As someone commented to me, it was a good illustration of some of the weak points of the cloud (web, really) model.
The demonstration that I really wanted to show was an extension of some work that the Kenai team has done. Kenai is going to have support for doing continuous integration via Hudson, and the machines for doing that can be allocated as cloud instances. This is great if you have a project in Java or some other language that has major build steps. Another use for a dynamically allocated farm of machines is to do web UI testing on browser combinations. Back at PyCon, I put a bug into Adam Christian and Mikeal Roger‘s ears about this. Adam and Mikeal are the primary guys behind the Windmill web UI testing framework. Adam has been working with Hudson author Kohsuke Kawaguchi, and between the two of them they came up with a way for Hudson to start up a bunch of different browsers on different operating systems. If my demo had worked, people would have seen me kick off a Hudson build from inside of Netbeans 6.7, and then we would have watched (via RDC) the various browsers running though some UI tests on a web application. Oh well.
I spent the rest of JavaOne ducking into various language and concurrency talks. Jonas Boner gave a very nice talk comparing some of the concurrency mechanisms that are available on the JVM. Alex Miller gave a talk on Java concurrency gotchas. The net effect of Alex’s talk was to reinforce the fact that we need one or more of the mechanisms that Jonas covered in his talk. Also in the concurrency vein, I stopped in on Philipp Haller and Frank Sommer’s ‘s talk on Scala Actors. Probably the most fun concurrency thing was a random conversation with Clojure author Rich Hickey and Jonas Boner in the speaker room.
JavaOne is big on the keynote / general sessions. I only went to two, the opening session, and Bob Brewin’s technical keynote. The big news (to me) in Bob’s keynote was Mark Reinhold’s demonstration of a modularized JDK. This is cool for a variety of reasons, like reducing the footprint of the downloads, ability to build distribution packages trivially, and so forth. But the thing that made me happies was news that the CLASSPATH is finally going way, to be replaced by a file.
The opening general session was very subdued. There were a variety of partner / sponsor segments, but things were really running at a low energy level until the end when Scott McNealy took the stage and then introduced Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Despite Ellison’s reassurances to the Java community, it was a sad moment. I’ve only been at Sun for a little over a year, but my history with the company is pretty long. When I was in grad school, Brown was on of the first large installations of Solaris (replacing SunOS). Like many developers, I’ve used Java over the years. Sun has made a number of very important contributions to the computer industry, and it’s sad to me that a company so full of innovation was unable to remain independent.
This year things were so busy and frenetic that I really didn’t have much time to pull out the camera. Between presentations and meeting up with Sun people from all over the world, there just wasn’t time. Here are a few from the few times that my camera escaped its bag:
JavaOne 2009

Bob Brewin’s Technical Keynote
CommunityOne 2009
The Extra Action Marching Band on the CommunityOne Expo Floor
CommunityOne 2009

The CommunityOne Party

CommunityOne 2009

The CommunityOne Party

CommunityOne 2009

The CommunityOne Party
CommunityOne 2009

The CommunityOne Party

CommunityOne 2009

The CommunityOne Party

CommunityOne 2009

The CommunityOne Party

CommunityOne and JavaOne

I’m here in San Francisco for CommunityOne and the first 3 days (Tuesday through Thursday) of JavaOne.

Today at CommunityOne I’ll be giving a talk called “Programming Languages for the Cloud“. This is an exploration of areas where programming languages might intersect cloud computing.

Tuesday afternoon at JavaOne Ashwin Rao and i I will be giving a talk called “Seeding the Cloud“, where we’ll be giving a developer centric view of cloud computing and cloud computing issues. We’ll also have demos of some of the cloud developer stuff we’ve been working on.

If you are around and want to meetup, you can always get a hold of me via Twitter.