Saturday, November 21, 2009

Smalltalks 2009 --- Saturday summary

Smalltalks 2009 ended earlier today. We started Saturday with Andrés Fortier's talk on his OpenGL work, which besides having a concise summary of key OpenGL concepts (the fact that it's a state machine, error handling, and the abstractions provided by the library) also had interesting notes about performance optimizations both from the image and OpenGL's points of view. Then it was Travis Griggs' turn to speak about the Cairo and Pango libraries, and the steps he's been taking towards offering richer graphics for Cincom Smalltalk.

After the break, we saw Juan Vuletich's work on Cuis (he showed applications designed to run on 100mhz set top boxes) and Morphic 3 (resolution independent graphics, proper subpixel rendering and antialiasing). Then, Dan Ingalls shared some of his interests and offered a Q&A session. It's noteworthy to see that Smalltalk was so influenced by Dan's insistence on responsiveness (or, as he puts it, it being "lively") and on having fun. I think it's really valuable to hear that from the original sources, and I am happy Dan shared that with the Argentine Smalltalk community at Smalltalks 2009. Finally, Hernán Wilkinson did the closing ceremony, with an invitation to Smalltalks 2010. I did the now traditional honors of producing yet another program for the prize drawings*. Congratulations to all of you that won (including, by chance, Dan Ingalls)!

It's been a wonderful conference this year, and I really like that our FAST foundation goals are becoming a reality. In particular, it is clear that the integration of the Argentine and international Smalltalk communities is well under way. More of the same in 2010, please!

* Perhaps the operation of the drawing program wasn't clear at the time. It's not always easy to convey what we mean when we do it impromptu, sleep deprived and thinking of lunch. I thought I'd explain how it worked here, in a more relaxed environment. When the lottery program came up, it read the list of registered people from disk and shuffled it. So, by the time the names showed up on the screen, they had already been randomized and thus it was just a matter of seeing who was in the room. If you didn't see your name, it's not that you were not in the list --- you were just unlucky to have come at the end of the randomized registrant sequence. But rest assured, I did make sure the drawings were fair and accurate. First, I used a 7.6 VisualWorks image with the lagged Fibonacci random number generator I implemented. This type of generator is described by Knuth as basically the best source of random number sequences known. Moreover, the particular implementation in VisualWorks passes Knuth's own chi square tests. I know because I wrote the tests myself. Finally, just in case, I ran several thousand test drawings earlier this week to make sure the winners had equal chances of winning. Unsurprisingly, the winners were well distributed.

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