Sun Tech Days, Bangkok, January 24-25 2006
I've just got back from a Sun Tech Days event in Bangkok. It lasted two days (January 24-25), and was held at the very plush Dusit Thani hotel. On the right is a picture of the foyer, complete with waterfall. The opulence of the surroundings was matched by the event organization, which included lots of excellent food and drink, a variety of live music, and plentiful free gifts (t-shirts anyone).
The event was followed by separate NetBeans and Solaris meetings, which unfortunately I didn't have time to attend. However, one of the nice things about Tech Days, is that most of the slides for the talks can be found online.
There were a lot of attendees; Andrew Lim, Managing Director for Sun Microsystems in Thailand, put the numbers at around 2000, making it one of the largest developer meetings ever held in Thailand. The crowd seemed to be mostly young male Thai developers; I met 12 of my former students.
James Gosling was the keynote speaker, arriving on the back of a motorbike! One of my biggest regrets is not getting a better picture of that momentous occasion :).
His keynote included a nice phrase for Java developers: "Learn Once, Work Anywhere", and he shot a few t-shirts into the auditorium. Almost the same picture can be found at Gosling's blog. The guy on the left is Andrew Lim.
I was privileged to meet two important Java people. The first was Duke, the other James Gosling, who very kindly found time in his busy schedule to accept a copy of my book, and listen to my thoughts on programming for kids. I mentioned Squeak, Lego Mindstorms NXT, Byron Becker's Java Robots book, and RoboCode. The smile stayed fixed on his face throughout, until the waiter nudged him :)
Two more photos of our meeting: here and here, kindly sent to me by Dr. Thanachart Numnonda of Sun Microsystems, Thailand.
On day 1, there was a 10th birthday celebration for Java. This seemed a tad strange since I believe Java was born in May 1995, which makes this it's 10.666667 birthday :) Tech day presenters (the Evangelists) must have been eating cake for the last 8 months! Perhaps that explains why there was so much left when I got to it :)
Actually, you could argue that Java was born in December 1990, so maybe this is its 15.083333 birthday! How very confusing.
As I mentioned before, most of the slides can be found online. They're overflowing with good stuff, in fact too much material for the time allocated to the presenters. Many talks ran long, and some of the Evangelists spoke so quickly that I wonder if the Thai delegates could follow it all. Certainly, some of my ex-students said they had problems. However, the evangelists' overall presentation technique was excellent; far better than what I typically encounter at academic conferences.
The main aim of the talks was to promote Java technology (of course), and I was persuaded to varying degrees.
EJB 3.0 really seems to be a giant step in the right direction, helped by JCP and the success of tools like Hibernate. I'm going to give EJBs another go. The easiest approach seems to be via GlassFish.
Web 2.0 got a lot of mentions, as did AJAX as its client-side enabling technology. The main emphasis of the talk I went to was that allowing more users to access, manipulate, and share data would increase its 'value'. Phrases were bandied around such as collective intelligence and the wisdom of the masses. I wasn't convinced by these arguments at all. You only have to look at Web 1.0 to see how a relatively small group can disrupt and spoil the experience for the rest of us, with viruses, trojans, phishing, and spam. It seems inevitable that the same group will be just as disruptive in Web 2.0. Exactly how this crowd can be controlled/managed is a very large open question.
Hasn't AJAX functionality been around for years, but without the catchy acronym? The evangelists always paired it with Java Server Faces (JSF), wrapping up AJAX functionality as a component. I don't know much about JSF, but the examples persuaded me to have a look, via GlassFish
NetBeans 5.0, and Java Studio Creator and Developer, were actively promoted. I'm afraid I'm a person who still uses vi on Linux, and prefers a text editor (EditPlus) to heavyweight IDEs. However, I'm not an enterprise developer, where Java Studio Creator and Developer clearly offer advantages. The new GUI builder, Matisse, in NetBeans 5.0 looks fun.
Part of my reluctance about IDEs is that they're not suitable when Java is first being taught. They let students avoid learning how Java code really works, and the IDE's complex interface, and extensive configurability, is a distraction from the students' acquiring basic programming language skills.
Dr. Andrew Davison
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