Monday, November 17, 2008

Codebits 2008

Last Wednesday I flew down to Lissabon to attend and talk at the SAPO Codebits conference. I had a really great time, meeting a lot of people I've only tweeted or mailed with before.

As always, Lissabon is a treat. People are helpful and very respectful. A colleague made a very spot on question today when I told him about the trip: "Would you like to go back there again soon", to which I would empathically answer Yes! :)

Many times, when you've spent a couple of days in a city you get kind of fed up on the experience, but Lissabon is not one of those towns.

It didn't hurt one bit that I left a cold and rainy Stockholm landing in a sunny and warm (17-20 degrees centigrade) Lissabon.

The Hotel (Galé 'Opera') and the venue were located in an area just alongside the 'Docas', an hours walk or so from the city centre but with a lot of rustique ambience all of its own.

I had so many things to attend to before leaving that I was only partially read up on the conference and my fellow speakers. It turned out that the conference was much larger that I had anticipated with a host of Portugals finest hackers.

In many ways the Codebits conferenc felt like Google I/O; A lot of multi-coloured couches, interesting lighting, free soda and coffee and the ability to turn to _anyone_ at random and strike up a conversation which revolved around important and interesting things, with the person in questions be able to understand you and bring his or her own into the discussion like nothing to it.

One of my personal surprises was that Mário Valente, who I knew only as a very smart person with a stupendously correct view of the current trends in web development, as well as a extremely decent Python and JavaScript hacker. It turned out he started Portugal's first ISP as well as a couple of other successful ventures - and is also in the middle of something bigger, more of which perhaps later..

We had been planning on doing some SSJS hacking during the conference but I got entangled in some late minutes changes to my book and Mário had both teaching and business issues to attend to, so it reamined a very good idea. Mário had some really good inpout on the current problems of Server-Side JavaScript efforts; 1) There's no 'killer' framework (yet) for SSJS, 2) If one were to create on, it would not be portable, due to the fact that the system APIs that RHino exposes are not the same that Spidermonkey (for example) does.

So we were thinking along the lines of arranging for a standard SSJS low-level API, based on the Java-APs exposed by Rhino (Mário's idea) so that SSJS implementors would have a stable platform to work from.

Also we're planning to do a thorough survey of the cloud or no-cloud SSJS frameworks available today to rank and get inspired by best-of-breed features.

My talk? It went OK. I managed to miss speaking to anyone in charge which meant I didn't get a headset, which meant I had to hulk under my 20.1 Inch portable Acer 9920, due to the fact that the only other mic was welded to the pulpet.

No worries though. Expect that I had the wrong settings for the TV-out in Kubuntu and had to turn my head for every slide to orient myself, having no other feedback on the screen. And I got a call in the middle, having forgot to turn off my phone, but other than that, sure things went OK.

I also had a great time speaking to Jan Lehnardt from CouchDB about REST, Dojo, Erlang and (of course) CouchDB.

On the speakers dinner I happened to sit across Mitch Altman who had a great number of things to say on all subjects possible, from electronics, dairy products and Brian Eno to art, music, war and interesting people in general. I tried to chip in with some good comments and since this is as good time as any, the books I spoke about was 'My war gone by, I miss you so' (horrible title, one of the best books I've read - not nearly as gory as you might think) by Anthony Loyd, A year of swollen appendices by Brian Eno and On a faraway beach by David Sheppard.

Another member of the table proved to have alarmingly good knowledge of the inner workings of russian botnet 'corporations', the current evolution of 'black' insurance and business agreements concerning buying and seelling botnet services, the 'double-NAT-with-homebrew-VM' solution of todays malware containers and the trend towrds the botnets becoming more of a symbiotic affair from the earlier parasitic standpoint, what with the automatic patching and maintenance that must be provided to ensure smooth runnings. A horror ride, to be sure, but not the less fascinating for that.

Actually, I spoke to so many, most of you had no cards, but please mail me if you want to stay in contact (my address is to the side on this page).

In all I met an enourmous amount of friendly and interesting people (Celso, João, Jack and everyone else) that it'll probably take me weeks to sort out the experience.

Thanks a lot to everybody involved!

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