Posts for September 2008

Last Day at Jaoo

Wednesday was the last official day of the JAOO conference, and once again it featured a bunch of interesting talks. I attended these:

50 in 50
This was todays keynote by Richard P. Gabriel and Guy L. Steele Jr. Before the talk, there had been some speculations about the title; was it 50 programming languages in 50 minutes ? Or what did it mean exactly ? It turned out to be 50 comments about programming and programming languages, in 50 minutes. These focused on the history of programming and did so in an entertaining and enlightening manner. This was a certainly a great talk - and for a "young" programmer like my self what was not even born when Ada and Algol 60 appeared; it provided also some historical insight. Only downside to this talk, is that the schedule was affected by the fact that it was more like 50 in 75 - the talk took about 75 minutes; but with this quality of technical and on the same time entertaining talk, that does not really matter for me.

Five Considerations For Software Developers
This was also a dual talk with two presenters - Frank Bushmann and Kevlin Henney. They talked about architecure and specifically five considerations that drives design quality. Those were:
  • Economy - the idea that software must be built for a reason and should not have an complicated or elaborate design just because it *might* be needed in the future.
  • Visibility - in the sense that the design must be easily discoverable.
  • Spacing - basically the idea to separate concerns and make sure not to bake the design into deep inheritance hierarchies that xould better be expressed with composition.
  • Symmetry - in that API's should be symmetric with the example that if you can create something with a Factory, said Factory should also be able to destroy it
  • Emergence

LINQ + New Microsoft Things
This talks title is actually wrong, since Erik Meijer primarily talked about LINQ, and very little about "New Microsoft Things". To be fair, he did not have much time to cover it all since the talk got started late because of the schedule slip at the keynote earlier on the day. LINQ was covered well, however, and from a slightly different angle than Anders Hejlsberg talked about earlier in the week. Erik talked about Expression trees and how they represent code as data. This makes it possible to hand an expression tree to an interpreter for a given query language, that can then execute it in the given domain. This is why we (in theory) could forget all other query languages such as XQuery or SQL, and only use Linq-to-Xxx - given that someone writes a Xxx extension to LINQ, of course.

Real World Refactoring
This talk about Refactoring by Neal Ford addressed the challenges that goes into actually performing refactorings in code. It was very hands-on and offered some good advice on how to structure refactorings. One of the best pieces of advice, I think, was to time-restrain major (multi-day) refactoring efforts to an estimated period of time before-hand. If you cannot complete the planned refactoring in the planned time, take the time to rethink the problem, and find out if you are doing it right. If not, you can throw the refactored code away and try again, instead of keeping on a track, that might resolve to more complicated code than before; because new knowledge has beeng gained during the process or because the refactorings was not well enough planned and thought out in advance.

JavaScript As An Assembly Language
This second presentation by Erik Meijer was primarily about Volta, an exciting new technology from Microsoft's Live Labs. The project basically promises to make it easier to make multi-tier applications that can run on the server and work with any client, with parts being executed on the client. This is done by decorating methods with custom attributes, that marks them for running on the client. The Volta compiler will then "compile" those to javascript, that can run on any client (or, if Silverlight is available on the client, the code will run in Silverlight as .NET IL). Erik explained the technology behind, and how they generate javascript code and the various problems involved in that. I do not think that this technology is quite ready to be used in the wild yet, but it should definitely be interesting to see how it evolves in the future. The documentation site on Live Labs seems to be down for the moment, however, this blogpost also explains the technology in more detail.

Concurrent Programming with Concurrent Extensions to .NET
In this talk, Joe Duffy, gave an introduction to the parallel extensions to .NET, a new API for writing concurrent applications with .NET. These extension is in CTP right now (so it's preview technology, not recommandable for production use). Joe promised though, that these APIs will be part of the .NET Framework version 4 release. These new APIs promise to make it easier to write concurrent applications with .NET with little overhad, both mentally for the programmer, but also performance-wise for the machine. The presentation featured running demos and code, and I believe that the new APIs are quite well-designed and that there is definitely a need for this kind of API in todays world of multi-core hardware. However, as Joe pointed out, there is no such thing as a free lunch; and even when using this API, of course you need to think hard over concurrency issues and side-effects before you can put it to use. The system makes it easier for you to program concurrently; but you can still fail badly if you do not understand what it does under the covers.

JAOO Day Two

Today on JAOO has also been packed with interesting talks. I attended these:

V8: The Javascript engine inside Google Chrome
Keynote by Lars Bak about the all-new javascript engine that was implemented by his team in Århus for Google Chrome. This javascript engine is about 10 times faster than other javascript implementations. Lars explained how this is possible in a very dynamic language like javascript, by creating classes that can be reused; if another object with the same properties is created, which tends to happen often. Optmizations can then be applied to those classes. Furthermore, Chrome compiles the Javascript code to native code so that it can run really fast on any platform. Lars mentioned a few other major improvements, and this was a very inspiring and interesting talk - even though he had some problems with the projector in the beginning.

Failure Comes In Flavours
This talk by Mikael Nygard (who is not danish, by the way, though his name resembles a danish name pretty much) was divided into two sessions. In the first, Mikael talk about anti-patterns that lead to failure - such as depending too hard on third parties, or waiting forever for some external call. This talk featured some "war stories" about failures Mikael had helped to resolve in the past. In the second session, Mikael offered his advice on how to avoid failure and some patterns that can help in this. Though focus was very much on big enterprise SOA systems; the principles can be applied anywhere. I learned a thing or two in this session, that can be applied to my every-day work on web applications in a smaller scale.

Not your Grandfather's Architecture: Taking Architecture into the Agile World
In this talk, James Coplien talked about Agile architecture. He presented his ideas about adding roles as a concept to the object-oriented world of classes and objects. He argued that programs could be made simpler and get rid of polymorphism using his approach; I am not sure that I agree. There was no working code demo, so his ideas is still kind of abstract in my mind.

Successfully applying REST - Integration, Web-style
Stefan Tilkov talked about REST integration; a subject that I find very interesting, since we already use it in projects at work, and are planning to use it even more extensively. Stefan had some very interesting points about REST, and how it can be applied to a SOA world. I really like the clean interface you can make of a REST service, without much of the overhead and scaffolding that is neccessary in SOAP, for instance.

Top Ten Software Architecture Mistakes
This was a talk focusing on what not to do in architecture; so that we can avoid mistakes or bad decisions in our architecture. The talker, Eion Woods, had his list of 10 mistakes and how to avoid them, which was presented with a little bit of humour. At least some of the items is going to be on my list of things to check before beginning development of new projects.

JAOO Day One

Today, I've been attending the first day at the JAOO Conference. It has been an interesting day, and I am amazed by all the very talented people that speaks here at the conference, as well as by the quality of the talks. I have been attending these sessions:

Opening Keynote: Where Are Programming Languages Going, by Anders Hejlsberg
In this talk, Anders presented his take on how the programming languages will be evolving in the future. One point made, was that programming languages has not evolved much over the last 25 years - which was exemplified by a "Hello world" program in Pascal versus one in C#. The C# one was neither the shortest nor the most concise one. Anders believes that we will se more implementation of what he calls "internal domain-specific-languages", such as LINQ. Furthermore, he thinks that in the future the gap between functional and imperative programming languages will diminish, since they are already today starting to borrow the best elements from each other. Finally, he talked about concurrency and in-language concurrency constructs such as isolation, which Anders predicts also will be part of the main-stream languages in the near future.

Continuous Integration
The Continuous Integration talk was a great introduction to me into Continuous integration, since it is something, that I have little to zero experience with. We do have a build server that does nightly builds at work, but as Chris Read, the speaker, pointed out, that is not CI, though it is a step on the way toward succesful CI.

Google Chrome: The Invisible Browser
This was a talk by Ben Goodger, the Google Chrome UI tech lead, about the minimalist Chrome UI and the architecture and decisions behind it. It was interesting, though there was not much new to learn here. (Or perhaps I should know better than to attend UI talks, when UI does not really interest me. I am trying to learn ;-) )

LING and C# 3.0
This was the second talk by Anders Hejlsberg this day, and featured the new features in C# 3.0. This was info that I knew (mostly) in advance, but Anders explained both the how and the why behind the features - which was really interesting.

The talk about PowerShell was really good; even for me who know and use PowerShell in advance. It got beyond the covers on why the architecture and implementation works as it does, which was interesting and enlightening, and I left with a better understanding of PowerShell.

The Scala Programming Language
Scala is a language for the JVM, that I did not know much about in advance. The talk was interesting, but in "real life", I am probably never going to use it.

Why Functional Programming (still) Matters
This talk by Erik Meijer was propably the most interesting and entertaining one on Day One of JAOO. With enthusiasm, Erik explained about side-effects and why they are bad and what one should do about them (make them explicit if they cannot be avoided). He also demonstrated a few side effects, that can hit you in C# or other main stream languages with closures and lambdas, which was a pleasant reminder for me.

Attending JAOO

I will be attending the JAOO conference the next couple of days. It is my first time, but I have high expectations. I am not sure which sessions I will attend, but of course the opening keynote by Anders Hejlsberg will be a must.

I find it hard to choose - there are so many interesting subjects and speakers; and so little time ;-) If you are going to JAOO, feel free to drop a comment with suggestions on which sessions is a must for you, and why.

Visual update on the blog

Just a quick post to let you know that the blog has been updated with a much nicer theme. I hope I will get around to adding more interesting content to the blog shortly :-)