Monday, May 21, 2007

JavaOne Day 1 (afternoon & evening)

The afternoon keynote was a very nice technical deep dive into the various technologies announced, as well as some demos showcasing other impressive stuff. I'll highlight a few here but I really encourage those who weren't at the conference to spend time on the webcasts. Bob Brewen invited Danny Coward to walk us through developments of Java SE. Apparently, it is being downloaded to the tune of 50M per month! What is particularly encouraging is that 30M are upgrades to SE 6. I remember working with 3 clients recently that were stuck at SE 5 for the simple reasons that they had no time to qualify their app/product for SE 6, or that SE 5 was the latest rev allowed by their corporate standards. That's life in the IT world but its kinda sad especially in the cases when no real porting effort is required and coupla hours or at most days of testing will yield noticeable performance gains. Heck, as a consultant my role is to give customers what they want so if they still want to pay me to tune their old JDK 1.3.X or 1.4.X software, so be it!

Back to the main announcements: OpenJDK is good for expediting the absorption of innovation into mainstream Java, Java SE 7 is looking to include superpackages (not exactly the same as a JBI service assembly but has similar goals), extension of Java bytecode for dynamic languages, and possibly extension of Java with new language features (type inferencing, closures maybe?).

Danny called Charlie Nutter and Tor Norbye up on stage to demo using NetBeans to develop a JRuby on Rails app (music DB with speech recognition & synthesis) and deploy it on Glassfish. There was even code completion in Ruby, very impressive! Can't remember exactly when during all the hoopla I heard it, but Ericsson was invited up on stage to share that they are basing all their open source IMS switch software on Glassfish. With telco infrastructure going towards standard IP, network operator switching software goes FOS, cool!

Bob also spoke of the evolution of the typical application client from web-based (thin) through AJAX to being Integrated, i.e. being web-launched yet having richer interaction like desktop apps of old (again). We were shown how Jmaki & Phobos on Glassfish v3 (which btw started up in 463ms!) could leverage existing AJAX widgets for extreme productivity. So let me get this straight ... NetBeans can now be used for developing in JavaScript, PHP and Ruby as well.

But what really blew us all away was what NASA had done on top of JOGL with their World Wind project. I have since installed it on my PC and can tell you that it is truly breathtaking to spin the earth around and zoom in on your favourite places (esp. on a 27" LCD, snigger). As though it wasn't enough that we now have a FOS geospatial browser SDK. Ken Russell, project lead of JOGL, then came up and did some showboating ;-). He used NetBeans' Matisse GUI builder to create a mashup (in about 3 minutes) that used World Wind to fly us in to all our favourite places on the globe. He clicked on Moscone Center and we flew in from this view until we were hovering several hundred feet over Moscone.

Ken then he shared how he came across some folks at OOPSLA last year who were using JOGL to build on-screen instrumentation panels. So after some collaboration between those folks from DiSTI, NASA and Sun. DiSTI used their GL Studio to build an F-16 flight simulator over NASA World Wind, using a FOS flight dynamics toolkit that Ken had apparently ported from FORTRAN to Java at Caltech. Did I hear right? Anyhow, the flying was very smooth and the audience was oohing and aahing all the way. The snapshot I have on the left is from their website. The shot I took midflight is quite blur, otherwise you'd also enjoy the soft toy Duke on the instrument panel.

I also attended the Mobility and Device General Session hosted by Laurie Tolson but was not too impressed with the apps on display. OK, so they have myspace on Java ME now, good for them. Maybe its taken so long for many services to debut on Java ME that the only thing that will impress me now is a new killer app that saves us loads of time in our daily activities, or connects people in ways people hadn't thought about yet. Oh well, maybe next year ...

The dot bust years (2002 to 2004) were tough on most people trying to start new companies, or move their company's growth on to better trajectories. But for those of us on regular paychecks, it brought a reprieve in both traffic conditions on the highways and crowds at tech conferences. Well guess what? The bad times are truly over and the crowds seem to be coming back. Guess I shouldn't complain. One thing nice about crowds at tech conferences like JavaOne is that programmers are generally compliant people who know how to play their part in order for the larger system to work. Though not cheerful unless they are with friends or free coffee is being dispensed, they know how to queue up without fuss. At first I thought the 20 minutes between sessions was overly generous as it does not take that long to get across Moscone. But the ushers were rather militant in not letting attendees enter session venues more than 5 minutes before commencement, so the queues outside snaked all the over. Everyone soon got the hang of looking for the orange sign with white numbers to locate the end of the queues for their next session. I rather dislike queuing so I spent most of the breaks at the Pavilion, terminals or bookstore, often getting into the sessions coupla minutes late. Always missing the queue, and occasionally some introductions. To each their own ...

Speaking of Pavilion, I thought it was very nice of Sun to give tours of Project Blackbox at the Pavilion. It is innovation like this that gives me hope that mankind can think ourselves out of our planetary energy crisis. Here's to all the engineers out there who habitually think out of the box (pun appropriate) to change the rules of the game (and I say this with my arm stretched out holding a tall glass of OJ). Btw, of all the toys I brought back home this trip, my toddler really likes the rubber Blackbox on container truck toy they gave for taking the tour. Only Jay Jay the Jet Plane and his pal Snuffy get more of his attention.

You gotta check out Project SONIA (youtube vodcast), the Java-powered Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). OK, it looks more like a bobsled but this sub is quite impressive. Even more so when you find out that it was done by students who are not getting paid or even receiving any academic credit for their work! I remember getting 2 or 3 semester CS199 credits at Cal for my 6-month internship with Sun's factory automation group, and that's on top of the US$12.50 per hour I was making as a Junior. C'mon profs, have a heart, these guys definitely deserve some college credits. Or is there some Tom Sawyer wall-painting gig going on over there?

One of the best kept secrets of JavaOne is the Pavilion party on the evening of the first day. OK, so hundreds of JavaOne alumni remember it from previous years but it is a good thing that newbies may not know about it, and the alumni that know about it may not remember to be at there around 7pm. Even though the other food was good, I have no recollection of it. All I remember is putting lots of horseradish on the succulent roast beef and washing it down with red wine. Scott Lea and I basically ate our dinner while lining up for other items. One thing hasn't changed over the last 20 years ... Sun sure knows how to throw a good party!

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