So far ago… from ‘Frisco
Back from San Francisco where I was invited to the JavaOne 2008 event, I am still suffering a bit from the jet lag (8 hours is a thing). While being already a fun time for any Java developers (dozens of sessions about a wire range of topics, from detection chip to 3D on mobile phones, including Mars cartography, but also products of course — WorldWind, GlassFish, OpenSolaris… — APIs — OSGi, WebBeans, DarkStar, etc. —and other more general sessions), this was a much more important event to me, as I was expected to showcase Stellarium for Java with my co-developer, Frederic Simon. The result have been beyond all of our expectations. But, speaking of it, how does a “speaker” week look like at JavaOne?
12:30 AM (local time): After 10 long hours of flight, the place is about to land on a foggy San Francisco but the airport rejects landing: too much traffic, too low visibility. We are redirected toward Oakland, where we refill before arriving to our destination, finally. At the customs, I stand behind 3 young french guys who come to attend the event. There seem to be many of others. A jump at the hotel, and I struggle to keep my eyes open to quickly register at the Moscone Center, two blocks away. I show myself at the non-waiting “speakers” desk. A quick scan of the barcode I received in a mail and here I am, registered, with a pass for all sessions (Community One, the JavaOne sessions and the exhibitors pavilion) and a first walk to get all my material: a bag with several booklets and goodies, plus another bonus gift when entering the speakers room. Here I confirm the date of my session, as well as the ones for my technical rehearsals (video projector, microphones, etc.) and speaker coaching (help to rehearse the showcase). Once all this registering stuff done, I wander around the place, almost empty (the event starts tomorrow), trying to discover and get familiar with it (there is a great number of rooms, scattered in 2 buildings connected by a Howard Street and 3 levels). Some “fun” american vibes, numerous open access stations, merchandising, a well stuffed planning… well, some taste of what looks like paradise to a Java developer. In the evening, Fred, my co-developer on S4J, arrives and we meet in a japanese restaurant on 5th Street, for the first time IRL.
The first JavaOne day is tomorrow actually. Today is Community One, the free day dedicated to the OpenSource community around Java. At 12:30 AM, while others are enjoying their free meal, we start a Lightning Talk session, set up by Atlassian. Follow half a dozen of session time-boxed to 4'30" (spent more time and you’ll be interrupted) that focus on essential matters. We have been invited to demo S4J here, after Fred showed it at Java Posse in March. A few very good demos follow, each time with a lot of humor — some at the level of the better stand-up shows, like “You suck at Webapps”, by the author of Totally Gridbag — then comes our time. Fred, who is more fluent in english than me, does his best to play the scenario that we rehearsed and timed one hour before (5'18"). Everything goes fine, and we can hear “oh” and “ah” in the room. Good claps, good sign.
First day of JavaOne. The general opening session is really cool. This is also the day of our technical rehearsal. At 12:30 AM, while everybody is having lunch, we are asked to stand on the scene where we will speak tomorrow, check slides display, microphones and demos. A few people in the room look amazed, which seem the confirm the good feeling we had the day before. We then go to our “Speaker Coaching” to fix our presentation clumsiness. I spend some time on a booth (the first time I actually hear this word) about mobile technologies to know if and how S4J could benefit from GPS technologies (in order to show the sky from the place you are located) and accelerometers (to display the sky according to your movements, a bit like the Wii controllers if you see what I mean).
This is D day. The room is full, maybe thanks to word of mouth the days before. Even before we start, Fred tells me that a guy from NASA just spoke to him: he is interested by S4J. I start to chat an approximative english, but this seems to be ok. People stay the whole time of the session. They seemed to be interested by both the slides and the demos between them. At the end a lot of applause, a few questions, and some collaboration offerings: a guy from Sun comes, who is the spec lead of JOGL. He congrats us and introduces us to the people of WorldWind for Java (NASA), whose which we could collaborate.
The most stressing is behind us. Still some sessions to attend but, honestly, I am more concerned about other matters:
1) being photographed with Duke, the Java mascot:
2) Go to the booths of Google, DataDirect, JetBrains
3) Get my customized tee-shirt:
4) Buy some goodies:
and of course 5) look for blogs that may already have published feedback about our S4J session. We will not be disappointed about this latter one :
Frank Coyle on InformIT : I saw a REALLY cool demo — pick a place on earth and see the stars above you in the sky — day and night, with annotations on celestial objects.
on gtablue : a cool planetarium-like program written in Java.
Wouter van Reeven on AMIS : THE BEST AND COOLEST demo I have ever seen: The biggest hobby in my life is astronomy. It has been for a long time and I even have a degree in it. Seeing that the science wasn’t as much fun as the hobby, I pursued a career in ICT. My colleague Lucas told me there was going to be a presentation about porting a planetarium program called Stellarium from C++ to Java using Java OpenGL, or JOGL. Getting a real good overview of what problems you get when trying to port an application from C++ to Java, the demos simply kicked ass! If you have some time, check out Stellarium for Java. It runs fast and smoothly, at least on modern computers. At one point Jerome Beau and Frederic Simon showed a star map and then opened up the Location selector map. While having pressed down the left mouse button and dragging the mouse pointer all over the Earth, the star map in the background got redrawn almost instantaneously. Another pretty cool feature was the fading in and out of constellation lines, azimuth and equatorial grid, etc etc. These guys really have done a tremendously good job with this application. After the presentation I gave them my cards and asked them to contact me. They are in need of astronomers and/or Java coders so if you like, go and help them.
On the morning, we discover an alert mail saying that a “norovirus”, a “stomach flu” (une gastroenteritis) affected a hundred of people attending the event. The situation is not severe enough to cancel the last day, though, and we are just reminded of being cautious with hygiene. During a closing general session, a nice tribute to John Gage, a guy as brilliant as cool who helped to bring Java where it stands today.
Aside JavaOne but still near San Francisco, a conference on a new, partly-functional language : Scala. Based on Java 1.4, some say that it could replace it one day…
I’m taking the plane back to France at 3:30 PM local time, to arrive in Paris at 11:30 AM. Wow, still a 36 hours day to stay awake…