Had a pleasant day looking at a few different languages at Kensington Town Hall again. Organized by Carsonified and StackOverflow, so sounded interesting and Darren Kenny offered me his ticket, so too good to miss really. I did sit there at one point, thinking that I should really be doing some work instead of hearing about languages that I haven’t enough time and energy for, but overall it was quite an inspirational day.
There was a view of python from Michael Sparks. Seems too easy when you have someone like this doing the demo. I will definitely look further at Django on the Google App engine.
Joel Spolsky walked us through the FogBugz system. We definitely need a simple system for project management, but is this simple enough? They have the experience, so perhaps I should give it a try. I would prefer a longer trial than 44 days. It’s not enough to commit to. The two person option is just not capable of using with a small team. I’m teasting teamworkPM at the moment and it would be an interesting comparison, but I’m not sure that I trust the system to interpret the dubbious information put in by the programmers.
The Android SDK is now version 2.0 and Reto Meir showed us a few of the new additions. Android now has control of Bluetooth connections, the contacts data on the phone and there are camera routines to play with the image effects.
Pekka Kosonen of Nokia showed a few slides on the Qt development system. It’s a system that Nokia have bought in and give away for free now. It is C++ based, capable of running on Windows and Mac as well so it will compete with Air, I suppose. Their demo at lunchtime was a bit unplanned and didn’t go too well, but that’s probably just down to installation. Looks interesting enough for a second view if you’re doing mobile development anyway.
Phil Nash showed a very simple iPhone demo, to show that it is really that simple once you have got past the initial shock of Objective-C. Once you can read the language, there are a huge number of libraries there to help do most tasks with only a few lines of code.
Joel talked about why StackOverflow has become a top site, and then Jeff Atwood talked about how it came about. Programming is not a simple task; programmers need the passion to deliver the best possible experience to the end user. Also suggested that writing is the biggest skill needed and suggested “Elements of Style” rather than some of the programming theory books.
Jon Skeet and the Pony were entertaining and showed that even maths, text and timezones have difficult problems. Jon is at Google (ex Yahoo) and has extensive experience of these while trying to make it all international. He blamed three types of people, the User, for making the obvious thing to do, different each time, the Architect for adding layers of abstraction and the Developer for not understanding the User and Architect.
Paul Biggar gave a talk about how not to design a scripting language, which made me think about all the simple versions that I’d done and how many of them are not in use any more. Interesting. Should I go back to threaded interpreters….? They’d be much quicker nowadays, but not enough time in my life, I’d better stick to plain old python and C#. He suggested “Engineering a Compiler” by Cooper and Torczon. He uses tracemonkey in Firefox. Not sure what the conclusion was – don’t use eval/include, use meta programming.
Christian Heilmann from Yahoo! gave a speedy look at their Developer Tools. YUI v3 is their latest cross browser sdk and is on all their and Googles edge servers around the world, so is really quick to load. They have a css grid builder which looks good for planning a quick page layout for any browser. His suggestions were to use events all the time and to not reinvent what someone else has already created. There are so many widgets out there, use mash ups to create your web site. Use APIs to specialist sites, YQL the query language to filter the data from the feed, then YML to layout the page. It all looked pretty simple. If you’re serving your own data, put it into openTable and this will give you a standard API for everyone to use.
All in all, I could probably have learnt as much of one or two of these languages in less than the time I was there, but the inspiration and networking is something that will add some karma to my life. An hour or two of relaxation. Thanks to StackOverflow and Carsonified.