pmuellr is Patrick Mueller

other pmuellr thangs: home page, twitter, flickr, github

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ruby Hoedown, day 1

theRab tweets: "i'm afraid to google 'ruby hoedown' so i'll just patiently wait for your blog post". Here you go. BTW, no need to be afraid of Google (at the moment).

The Ruby Hoedown 2007 is a small conference covering Ruby topics, held in Raleigh, NC. At Red Hat HQ, the same place where barcampRDU was held last week.

Friday was just a half day afternoon session, though there was a testing workshop in the morning that I didn't attend. A bit over a hundred attendees, I'd guess, many from out of town. Usual list of sponsors, with one surprise: Microsoft; though obviously that's not a complete surprise.

I recognized a lot of folks there from last week's barcamp, and some from the erlounge meet-up. Some "Old Dudes Who Know Smalltalk" were present, including my evil twin, Rick Denatale, and someone I hadn't talked to in ages, Ken Auer.

Sessions this afternoon:

  • Exploring Merb - Ezra Zygmuntowicz

    Merb is Ezra's pocket-framework for web serving. Lighter than Rails. Ezra stressed twice that Merb "doesn't use cgi.rb" - I'm showing my n00by-ness by assuming this is a good thing.

    Between this session, and the camping session at barcamp, there appears to be active and interesting development still in the web server framework arena, at the lowest levels. Like the days in Java, before servlet. Sigh.

    One cool feature of Merb is supporting direct streaming of content. For example, if you need to return the contents of a file, you just return the file handle of the file where you would normally return the content, and the file gets streamed on your behalf. Handles uploads too, and it sounded like a lot of people use it just for the upload capability. Ezra also mentioned someone using Amazon S3 as their store, and making use of this feature, where Merb was really just the gateway between the streams (to/from S3, to/from client).

  • Next-Gen VoIP Development with Ruby and Adhearsion - Jay Phillips

    General notion here is that setting up Asterisk is hard, because the configuration files are large, monolithic, and complicated. Adhearsion makes that simpler, as your configuration becomes small Ruby programs. Which maybe you could imagine sharing with other people ("Want my call-center scripts?"), compared to the situation today where granular sharing isn't really possible.

    I don't have much need to set up a VoIP box, otherwise I'm sure this would be fun to play with. Jay did mention that Asterisk has VMWare images available, which would make it even easier to play with, although Adhearsion is not current available on those images. If I only had more time.

  • Keynote - Bruce Tate

    Really good talk discussing how Ruby became as popular as it is, how Java became as popular as it was (is?), what has dragged Java down in recent years, and some future thinking and advice.

    Best piece of advice: "Java didn't start as something that was complicated, it evolved into something that was complicated. Ruby is not immune to this."

    SmallTalk was mentioned; yes, sadly, with the capital T; so Bruce wasn't one of us I guess, he at least knew it was good stuff. OTI was even mentioned.

    Bruce mentioned the ultimate plan for Ruby: TGD - Total Global Domination. Hmmm, that reminds me of something.

I asked whether the presentations would be available on the web, and the answer was yes. In addition, the sessions are being recorded (audio and video) and will also be available on the web at some point.

Looking forward to Saturday's sessions.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

barcampRDU 2007

On Saturday I attended BarCampRDU 2007, and here's a quick round-up.

First, thanks to the organizers and sponsors; it was fun geeky way to spend a Saturday, and the amenities were fantastic, especially considering the price of admission. Especially enjoyed the catered coffee bar and lunch from Neomonde.

Here's a list of some of the sessions that were run:

  • Juggling
  • Distributed SCM - Bazaar, GIT, etc
  • Camping in 10 (Ruby)
  • Linux virtualization
  • Bug House, a chess variant
  • Podcasting
  • Ruby and X-10
  • TDD
  • Extending SketchUp with Ruby
  • GTD
  • OpenMoko
  • Grails
  • Geeks for Good
  • Startup Weekend
  • What's stopping you from doing something?
  • Open Services
  • OLPC
  • Digital Identity Management
  • FaceBook application development

Lots o' pictures here, and lots o' blog entries here.

Some of the sessions I went to:

Camping at 10
Very cool; I really need to dive deeper into Ruby. Completely random factoid: of the 15 laptops in the room for this session, 12 were Macs.

FaceBook application development
Quite illuminating. I had thought all those 'user generated' FaceBook apps were actually hosted by/on FaceBook, but they aren't. Which makes me even more leery of what those applications are doing with the data we're giving them. hmmm

Open Services
Whereas Open Source / Free Software has defined freedoms surrounding source code, the next battleground on the freedom front are the services we use on the web. What does it mean for something to be an "Open Service"? Not sure why Luis thought he "trivialized the discussion"; absolutely not. Lots of really interesting things to think about here. Especially as we find our data getting mashed up and otherwise reused in ways we never expected.

Other notes ...

Rather than take my laptop into the unconference, I decided to try living with just my Nintendo DS-Lite with the Opera browser. I've surfed a bit here and there with it, but not for an entire day. While it's quite capable at handling degraded 'mobile' sites, available for Google Reader, GMail, and Twitter, for instance, it's rather painful for websites designed for desktops. Most folks probably won't tolerate the slow, small device, especially compared to the iPhone. But having worked on embedded devices for years, I can easily overlook the limitations. It's a lot cheaper than the iPhone also.

All in all, worked out pretty good; checked my mail, checked twitter, checked blogs; posted a few twitters. A bit painful, pecking out messages on a tiny touch screen with a stylus, but worth it to not have to lug my MacBook around in a backpack. Just had to lug around my man purse.

Lastly, one thing I already knew, but had reinforced, was that all the kewl kids wear bright yellow / orange shirts from Threadless.