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bravo i say!

in a recent decision, cingular has decided to tack on another $5/month to subscribers using older technology handsets on their network. some may think this is rash, and i'm sure people like my dad (who only turns on his cell phone to make calls, yet still gives out his number) will be upset. to cingular, it appears that's going to be okay. in business to succeed and provide best value to the mass of customers tough decisions have to be made. believe me, i learned this the hard way with my home builder. the cingular people have a right to be upset and should complain...but hopefully cingular will do the right thing -- offer them steeply reduced handset costs (dare i say even free cheap ones?) to replace the old ones. in the world of advancing technology, i think this is a good move technology-wise -- advancing their platform and broadening their scope of services to the masses...we'll see what kind of fallout will happen

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well i just wrapped up 12 consecutive days of conference attendance.  whew, i'm spent.  and i'm taking it out on my family...shame on me...yeah, the ones i haven't seen in 12 days.  sometimes that tension just gets wound up.  and no i don't mean taking it out on them physically, so hold off on calling the authorities...just, you know, stressed out and feeling behind...and they get the brunt of your bad attitude.  i'm working on it.

enough of the babble...that's not what you're here for -- you're still here right?

well, i have to say, i've witnessed several different types of conferences this past road trip and i've landed on what i think is the best kind.

first i attended some internal meetings...yeah, they were typical microsoft meetings with shiny slide decks and well-prepared messages...the ones you generally don't get a lot of depth out of because they are tailored to the least common denominator.  they're good, but not as depth as most like.

next was , my first experience at oscon and my first larger non-microsoft conference.  i posted my thoughts on the conference in general and how it differs from what i am used to, but i can say that the audience at oscon truly is different.  from robin hood unleashing the jair-hads on us, to the most infants i've seen at a technical conference (yes, i sat across from a guy who took a break to feed his kid in the stroller -- now *that* is dedication!), i saw it all.  without offending anyone (hopefully), the level of professionalism in the bigger arena is, well, different.  i can't say it is bad or better, just different.  there wasn't many CEO's walking around or other decision makers it looked like.  oscon is the geekiest of the geeks...man capri's and all.  it was fun though -- and much more energetic than other conferences.  my only wish is that microsoft had a booth there with some couches...i think some great conversations could have been had throughout the conference.  cost for conference plus tutorials: roughly $2500 (i can't remember).  my other wish is that i could have attended the executive briefing...it seemed odd that was sheltered given that some people that attended weren't executives either.  best speaker: anil dash.

within oscon was , a free conference within a conference.  attaching on to the 'open spaces' movement, a group of people (although it seemed like brandon was running the show) organized a room throughout oscon to hold impromptu sessions.  if you read earlier posts you may recall we hosted one as well.  we did not see many people from oscon (that is registered, paid attendees) attending oscamp sessions.  this could have to do with the lack of signage around it and i think maybe a better job (myself included) could have been done promoting that environment.  the passion at these conversations though were real.  remember jair?  i wish we would have hosted more and i wish google and others would have joined in as well (and apparently so did others). cost to attend: $0; number of people: varied; number of sessions: 30 (i think)

prior to oscon/oscamp was the portland code camp.  it was disappointing that it was cut to only one day as i signed up to present some sessions and because of travel would have only been able to do them the second day.  argh.  well, from what i monitored and talked to others afterwards, it was great...over 45 sessions to choose from, with no marketing, just code from real people, with real uses.  awesome. cost to attend: $0; number of people: 300; number of sessions: 45+

my last was the no fluff just stuff series.  i just wrote some reviews about them here, here and here.  I won't emit them again here.  this is a java-centric local conference.  there was no hiding that -- and that is there marketing as well.  it just seems so one-sided even for the non-microsoft community (er..um...open mouth insert foot -- that's what teched/pdc are tim).  but coming from a community who feeds off of claims of openness it seemed there could have been more meat.  i mean is java still that prevalent given the myriad of other open source options gaining signficant speed?  this was mediocre to me.  what amazed me is the number of people shelling out the dough.  not a single person at no fluff was recognized as being at the code camp not 2 months earlier.  cost to attend: $700; number of people: 100; number of sessions: 55

so i have to say, when you look at it from a developer perspective, code camps are the way to go.  free.  lots of people.  lots of choices.  did i mention free?  seriously, you may not get the sugar snacks in between sessions, the continentail breakfast, or the buffet lunch...but you do get real conversations, real passion, and choices to see a ton of information in a single place.  so i say to you: support the code camps!  attend them, promote them, and PRESENT at one!  think about it, do the math, look at the sessions...the code camps are significant and will only grow when people get involved.

my lowly 2 cents after 2 weeks of travel.

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i started out the day attending software tools that make life easier with jared richardson.  jared took an interesting approaching describing 'a tale of two shops' where in reality it was the same dev shop within 6 months and using two different methodologies...namely the shop got better when implementing source control management (scm) tracking, testing, etc.

he had a lot of ground to cover in the short time and really only got to detail in on scm.  he concentrated on talking about subversion mainly, but did poll the audience on what is being used.  there was subversion, cvs, perforce and only one microsoft guy using vss (i chimed in and said i used team system ;-)).  jared talked about something i believe in as well -- the best way to learn something is to sign up to teach it.  he talked about creating guides for the users as one of the best ways to learn about a new scm system that you'd implement.  he did this when he created his subversion cheat sheet.  he went in to a demo on subversion using the command line tools, etc.  i couldn't help but wonder how command-line interfaces are 'making life easier' as his talk suggested...but i guess that's just me -- the *nix users of the world likely prefer that way anyway.

there was a question about developer workspaces, the concept of being able to isolate the developer from the source repository and still have them check-in working code without affecting others.  jared suggested different developer repositories.  this feature the gentleman wanted is implemented as 'shelving' in team foundation server...one of my favorite features.  it removes the need for multiple repositories while at the same time providing some developer isolation for peer reviews, semi-complete code, etc. -- an awesome feature that all other scm systems should implement.  this was a decent session, but i had wished we'd get into the other tools...unfortunately time ran out.

the next session i went to was on soa and if it was the new corba by .  first i must say if you get a chance to see neal, do it.  he's intelligent, funny, and knows his you-know-what.  generally i felt he was the most level-headed of the group (ted neward was there and speaks a lot about java as well as .net praises...so go see him too--he's a bit more in-your-face than neal though) and spoke on the merits of the topic rather than zealot views (note: i still think he's a zealot in some areas).  neal pointed out that 'soa' has been around forever -- distributed computing isn't a new concept (i.e., COM/DCOM, etc.) but that soa seems to have gotten a new revival.  he attributes this to two things namely it seemed like: 1) vendor proprietariness (a term he's hoping catches on) and 2) the 'in-flight' syndrome.  the latter is something i totally believe as well.  what this means is that you have the 'the boss' that managed to read some 'in-flight' literature and soa just happened to be the topic...so thus, that's the new buzz word and new initiative at the company -- nothing progresses unless it is tied to an soa initiative!  sometimes this is so true!

neal did a great job describing what soa really means and how it should be approached in software design.  i was surprised at the type of questions from the audience.  even though distributed computing has been around for a while, it didn't appear a lot had been even approaching the topic in their designs.  the questions were, at best, elementary.  kudos to neal for answering them calmly.  there seemed to be a lot of concern about performance.  i subscribe to neal's comment as well that there is no guarantee that soa will improve performance...in fact, there may be situations where you are sacrificing performance for efficiencies.  i really enjoyed this session and it validated in a way for me that soa is much more than just a buzzword that should be attached to any initiative, but something that (as with any component of software design) should have much fore-thought.  neal was quick to point out (and re-iterate) that the #1 problem with soa will not be technology, but rather getting the business to agree on the isolation of business entities (i.e., what a 'customer' means to one department could differ to the other).

i had lunch with some guys that are microsoft developers and got their take on the event so far.  they thought neal was the best so far as well and had attended some of his sessions on day 2.  they made the same comment i did about the jsf technology...how they'd been using that since 2000 with asp.net.  another guy at the lunch table wasn't too impressed with the event so far and thought the sessions he went to lacked the 'no fluff' mantra.

after lunch they had an 'expert panel' which was essentially the speakers who were present for the day.  the panel was moderated by ...who again, a good 'must see' if he is ever in your neighborhood.  I tried to scurry as many notes as I could on what questions were asked and the responses in summary...here's my best interpretation of my own chicken scratches:

  • Q: Java has 'gone the way of the dodo bird', true or false. A: J2EE is dead like elvis and dead like cobol; Sun has a bad track record of software development; JSF has stench of committee on it
  • Q: what's the next platform. A: some comments around Flash evolving as a platform because it is everywhere
  • Q: What do you think of XUL? A: XUL is cool if you can control the platform.  XAML is also becoming an attractive platform and may be worthwhile looking at, but right now the momentum is more behind simple AJAX than richer platforms
  • Q: Rails, hype or not (this was my question) A: it's as much a hype of any other technology, but worth looking at -- anything new is worth learning.  NOTE: Ted polled the audience to see who is getting paid to write Ruby/Rails.  I think me and Jared were the only ones that raised our hands - and I'm stretching it ;-)
    • venkat talked about how and is bringing the best of both worlds and that it is good to learn things and take best practices learned into new innovation
      • side note here: so why then does microsoft get bashed when our community does that.  all i ever hear are things like 'yeah, you stole nunit from junit', etc. -- yeah, so what -- you should take best practice harvesting as a compliment!
  • Q: what is the next big thing? A: NetKernel (generalized architecture); dsl; dynamic languages, erlang

all in all, my experience with no fluff just stuff was 'okay' -- i did feel like it was detracting a bit from the mantra and could serve the community of software developers better if they broaden their technology beyond java...even bring in more open source.

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my day at no fluff just stuff continued with some ajax sessions.

i say in on justin gehtland's talk on javascript programming.  justin is from relevance, the same guys bringing streamlined out to the market this past week (and as he tells me a new build on monday).

justin said his favorite languages in order are: javascript, ruby, java, c#, and everything else.  yeah! c# made the list ;-).  he's a brave man with his first two being duck-type languages.  it was a good overall discussion on javascript, but nothing i didn't already know -- i think a lot of others got value out of it though as there was good interaction.

i'm sitting in on david geary's talk on ajaxian faces -- implementing ajax on the jsf platform.  it's funny to me knowing that asp.net has had these so beloved features of jsf in the framework for about 6 years now.  the talk really isn't that much on jsf, but more on using the prototype library as the framework for ajax requests and how to leverage with a rendered java server faces component.

i attended one other session for the day and had to call it quits for the afternoon, unfortunately not able to attend the birds of a feather sessions that evening.

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well, on to the next conference!  after oscon, i traveled back home, saw a movie with my wife, woke up and headed out to the no fluff just stuff conference in phoenix this weekend.  because of oscon, i missed the first day of no fluff...

so the no fluff day 2 started for me by going to see a session on testing with selenium by .  selenium is a web testing framework mainly designed for user testing (i.e., user acceptance, use cases, etc.) -- *not* for unit testing.  is a completely javascript application, which means it executes on the client and no interaction with server process.  it implements iframes, etc. to display a testing control panel and viewing your application, etc.

selenium was originated like some other things lately (rails, etc.) where it was extracted from an application use -- meaning it wasn't developed expressly for the purpose of being developed.  the name came from an interesting jab at mercury (selenium is an element known to help mercury poisoning).

i was very impressed with what i saw -- very cool stuff and well thought out testing.  the downsides are client-based only, but that is the purpose of the tool.  because it does things on the client, there is no auto log shipping to any shared file.  however, there is an option to provide a url to post all completed results which will help for that logging. 

i would definitely look at this platform for future projects.  there are some benefits that visual studio team test has, but selenium also is superior in other ways such as ajax testing.  i'd love to see some selenium test on as it is able to handle async postback testing, etc.  neal did a demo using google maps that was able to read the elements, etc. very easily.  there is also a firefox plugin to record a selenium test and save as the normal html test cases or as java, python, perl, c#, or ruby.  very cool.