Friday, November 20, 2009

Smalltalks 2009 --- Friday summary

Soooo... I just got back from the social event. At 3am :). I'll try a quick summary. First, I should point out that I have been taking pictures, but I have not had a chance to put them online yet. Those should be done no later than early next week. Let's see...

On Thursday there was a cool quote I didn't write about. It was by Alex Warth, and he said that anything called a "design pattern" wasn't very good to begin with on the grounds that "pattern" implies that not a lot of thought is spent before choosing a solution. This resonates well with Tim Mackinnon's (and others) comments about how some people claim to have implemented every pattern in the Design Patterns book --- the problem being that those are not necessarily checkboxes that can grade the quality of your application.

Today I saw cool presentations by Stéphane Ducasse (Traits), and by Simon Denier (Glamour). Then, there was Dan Ingalls' keynote. Well, what to say about it, really. His talk was entitled "40 years of fun with computers". He commented on things he had a lot of fun with and, thus, were dear to him. And really, what it underscores is that what we tend to value the most is our fun. I think it's fitting that, the second he walked on the stage, he was greeted by an ovation. His final remark was (IIRC) "this [referring to having fun, including the conference being fun] is what we made Smalltalk for". Wonderful, really wonderful.

In the afternoon I saw a presentation about an application that automatized roulettes at casinos, all written in Smalltalk (including the simulated roulette machines/games), by Andrés Otaduy and another guy whose name I don't quite remember (I'm sorry!). I also saw Gonzalo Zabala and two others (again, I am so sorry I am forgetting names right now!) demonstrate physical etoys, where you can e.g.: control a bluetooth toy car with a wii's remote, all controlled from Squeak.

After the break, I saw Carlos Ferro's presentation about the Smalltalks 2009 Coding Contest. It was quite interesting as I am quite familiar with the process. In fact, I was credited twice in the presentation (once for writing the Smalltalks 2008 Coding Contest, providing the source code for it and helping out a bit when necessary, and again for SUnit Based Validation). I was also reminded of how much work running a coding contest really is. I got the itch to organize next year's, but... maybe reason will prevail :). Also, I should point out that Valeria Murgia won the contest this year, followed by Félix Madrid in second place and Diego Geffner in third. Congratulations!

After Carlos' presentation came Félix Madrid's presentation on Expecco, which is a graphical tool that allows people other than developers to write tests in terms meaningful to them. In fact, he used Expecco to work on the coding contest. His tests interacted with the web server, and since the interactions were recorded graphically, he could dig through a whole game and see how each command had resulted in different actions over several turns of the game. Then, I saw Adrián Somá's talk on graphical environments for programming. That was really impressive. Essentially, he took some ideas of Morphic Wrappers (like writing on the air), coupled them with a Morphic-like environment, and even reimplemented some of the programming tools to match this environment. Suffice to say that windows are gone. In fact, you have retargetable tools. You can point to the object you want to inspect and have the inspector start inspecting the object you selected (which is great because you no longer have the problem of telling whether two inspectors are open on the same identical object). Expression arguments and receivers are also retargetable by pointing at objects. So is the class browser. Really, really neat.

After the last break, I saw Maximiliano Tabacman's talk on genetic algorithms. He used them for the application he works with, XTrade (yes, genetic algorithms used in a financial application). Finally, I saw Leandro Caniglia's presentation on homological algebra, where Smalltalk was used to deal with incredibly complex mathematical objects derived from tensor products. To give you an idea, the typical sets are tensor products of >5 sets, and several of these are added together in expressions of >5 terms as well, and then you have to see if some operations (which produce even more tensor products) commute or not. In a nutshell, you have to use a computer because, if not, the resulting amount of paperwork is so insane you can make no progress in your original research.

Then, we went to the social dinner which consisted of... asado! :) It was a very nice place, and the photos I took show people had a lot of fun.

Now, I better go to sleep because the conference will continue tomorrow. But first, here are some Thursday photos taken by Alejandro Weil. Enjoy!

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