# Thursday, 02 October 2008

JAOO-logo Last year was my first JAOO experience and I was fortunate enough to get to attend this year as well. My first experience with JAOO was very positive so I was looking forward to this year quite a lot.

The Keynote

As always we started out with a keynote which this year was held by Anders Hejlsberg from Microsoft and of course fellow Dane :). Mr. Hejlsberg talked about the future of CLR languages with three pillars forming the basis: Declarative, Concurrent, and Dynamic. Interestingly functional languages like F# and new language features like LINQ seemed to fulfill this quite nicely and so played a central role to his talk.

Anders delivered a solid talk and he even mentioned a new C# keyword which we can expect to see in the next incarnation of the language: dynamic. The idea is to declare a variable dynamic to enable easier lookup of methods than what we’ve got today with reflection. Sort of like dynamic dispatch known from dynamic language but keeping everything statically typed. Powerful stuff.

Interestingly he stopped by the Danish Microsoft HQ to give a similar talk the day before from which you can watch a clip which sums up his points.

CI and more CI

image For the the last year or so we’ve been hard at work introducing unit tests and, to some extent, test driven development. By introducing unit testing I don’t just mean just introducing the concepts and seeing what happens but really have the concepts nested deeply in the way we develop software at Vertica. I’m proud to announce that we’ve had a great deal of success in doing in no small way due to my very talented colleagues and Daniel in particular.

The next logical step in this work is to introduce continuous integration, the act of building the software and running all the structured test upon check in to the source repository. Naturally I was keen to attend a couple of sessions on this very topic.

Unfortunately Chris Read from ThoughtWorks gave a very run of the mill CI talk covering the concepts and the benefits but never really digging down deep in any of the aspects. Not that the talk was bad but he simply tried to do too much in the span of a very short time which meant that he never really got around to talking about anything concrete. He did touch briefly on various client projects he’d been involved with which gave some interesting insight into the problems we might face and he mentioned a concept of creating CI pipelines which jived well with my idea of how it should work. I’d have liked to hear a lot more about actual practices, do’s and don’ts, which would have made the talk immensely more engaging.

I followed up with what seemed to be a nice topic but turned out to be one of the pitfalls of JAOO. Not the presentation itself I’d judge it to be quite useful … for Java developers. Basically it involved taking the build process a step further than Ant by introducing a scripting language on top of Ant. Powerful stuff but sadly it didn’t apply to myself.

So I talked about the pitfalls at JAOO. Basically it’s important to be mindful of the fact that you can come across talks which are heavily based on some technology. So for a .NET dev it’s probably bad to walk in on some specific Java topic and vice versa.

Cloud Computing and Insight into Google

Google App Engine Cloud computing is getting a lot of attention at the moment and frankly I fail to see why so I wanted to see if I could gain some insight into the world of cloud computing. I actually ended up getting an interesting insight into Google as Gregor Hohpe discussed various in-house technologies they employ at Google to scale to the massive size required to run services on the level which Google does.

I was fascinated with BigTable, Google’s distributed cache, which can support tuples larger than a terabyte. The Google File System was an interesting piece of kit as well as the scales to sizes of lots and lots of petabytes. While Gregor told us about the Google File System he mentioned an internal joke which goes along the lines of, “What do you call 100 terabytes of free disk space?”, “Critically low disk space”. I’m a geek so I find stuff like that funny you know :)

He did demo Google’s cloud computing service, App Engine, which basically enables us to write Python code, deploy it to BigTable, and run it from there basically allowing developers to scale apps to the same size as Google itself.

PowerShell Blows My Mind

image A while back I listened to a Hanselminutes in which Scott talks about PowerShell the ultimate scripting environment from Microsoft. Since then I’ve wanted to learn more and I jumped at the chance to see Jeffrey Snover creator of PowerShell present it himself.

Basically his presentation blew my mind. From start to finish it was all PowerShell script flowing over the screen and I struggled to keep up with everything going on.

My interest in PowerShell comes from the fact that we’re on the brink of introducing CI in our dev process as I mentioned and I figure that PowerShell will come in handy in that it’ll help us automating some of the more tricky stuff. Also it’s my firm belief that PowerShell is a technology most .NET devs will start using over the coming years as it’s simply the way to get things done or even test out small ideas without cranky up the entire VS IDE.

Form the talk my impression is that we are in fact dealing with a very powerful scripting environment, not that I actually doubted that to begin with but it’s nice to get the point hammered home from time to time. The other aspect I came away with is that there’s a lot to learn: What we’ve got is a new syntax to deal with and even more importantly a completely new mindset. PowerShell is modeled over UNIX commands where everything can be piped together to produce interesting results. A way of thinking we’re not really used to in Windows land although I feel we can benefit tremendously from.

Continue to JAOO 2008 Day 2…

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