So much interesting to read ...

... and less time to do it!

Since I started my full-time job I noticed that it is a lot harder to stay up to date with all the latest (online) developments. During the writing of my thesis I had a considerable amount of time which I could spend on reading blogs and news-items, and following mailing-lists. When you spend most of your day actually working you learn to prioritize which things you want to read :)

One of the things I did managed to read, albeit a bit late, is this thread on the PHP.internals list written by Wietse Venema. It is a follow-up on this thread in which a first proposal was made to integrate a perl-style taint-mode into the core of PHP. The results posted in the follow-up thread look promising. It is also interesting to see that he has gone from a black-and-white taint-mode, to a more leveled approach. Currently the proposal only contains a subset of the levels available in PHP-Sat, but I think that the most fundamental ones are definitely there.

Even though Wietse is developing a prototype I think he will have a hard time getting this taint-mode into the actual core of PHP. Within both threads the general opinion seems to be that the idea is nice, but the developers of PHP seem to think of many situations in which it could fail. I hope to see more results of this idea soon!

Going over some other interesting threads in the internals-list I found a reference to a tool called PHPLint. (Isn't is funny to see that there are all sorts of initiatives popping up that that try to make PHP more secure/stricter). I haven't have time to take a better look at this tool, but a first glance definitely showed potential. I'll try to examine this tool more thoroughly at the end of this week.

While there is less time to read on-line material, there is more time to read off-line stuff. Since I am using public transportation to get to work I have an extra hour a day to read actual books and publications. One of the books I have read in the past few weeks is a printed version of "Producing Open Source Software" (ProducingOss) written by Karl Fogel. My conclusion: absolutely worth reading!

ProducingOss contains all sorts of tips, hints and best practices. Even if you are not involved in an open source project it is still useful to read. Almost everything in the book can also be applied to closed-source projects. Furthermore, it contains many pointers to other interesting literature. One of these pointers lead me to The Cathedral and the Bazaar, my current read-while-traveling-to-and-from-work book.

I intend to use several things from ProducingOSS within PHP-Sat. I will just have to think about how I can fit the project in my current schedule, but it will definitely be fitted in.

Attending J-Fall 2007

This Thursday (October 10th) I was lucky enough to get a ticket (and approval) to go the J-Fall conference organized by the NL-jug. My conference day started when I met some colleagues at the train-station to travel to Bussum-zuid. Within this nice-looking town the J-Fall found its home in 't Spant, a professional conference-facility.

The keynote of the conference was given by the "Sun Java Technology Outreach Team", which is basically a group of four engineers that talk about what you can do with Java. The keynote started with a nice overview of the different technologies Sun is working on. After this, a demo of JavaFX was given. Chuck Munn-Lee showed how easy JavaFX makes it to create a circle that morphs into a rectangle when you click on it. I also liked the fact that his editor did not only support code-completion, but also 'Color-completion'. Unfortunately, the other demos were are a bit disappointing because of several technical problems.

The first 'real' talk I attended was called From Java to Ruby … and Back. The speaker provided lots of material on the slides which made them a little bit overwhelming. Fortunately, he assured us that the slides would also be distributed digitally. The contents of the presentation was an introduction to Ruby and a comparison with Java. One of the conclusions was that the speaker would happily code 80 percent of his applications in Ruby instead of Java. Quit a statement on a conference promoting the use of Java :)

The second talk I visited was about JUnit, or actually JUnit 4. I was a little bit disappointed by this presentation because all of the content was already discussed in an article printed in the last issue of the Java magazine. Furthermore, the pace of the presentation was terribly slow, which made it hard to focus. The only interesting bit of information I extracted was that JUnit4 allows you to define parameterized tests, something I might have missed in the article.

After a little bite, a longer walk and a stroll along the companies on display it was time for the second keynote. This keynote was very slick, had nice graphics and a strong story. Three different people talked about what Adobe offered, which activities are done by Adobe for the open source community, and what we can expect from Adobe in the future. They even tried to answer the question why Adobe was sponsoring the J-Fall. The answer was probably not very clear because I cannot reproduce it. The talk basically felt like one long commercial for the Adobe company.

Right after the second keynote I went to the talk of Peter Hendriks about Eclipse Mylyn. I very much enjoyed this presentation. The story was clear without telling to much detail and the demo was well-prepared. Peter even turned on the magnifying glass in Windows to zoom in to the interesting parts of the demo. These are the kind of details that show that this presentation was well-prepared.
On to the contents, the Eclipse Mylyn plug-in has all kind of nice features that can help you focus on your task. For example, the file-list can be filtered to show only those files that you have edited during the current task. Also, I especially liked the fact that you can define a test-target that only runs the tests associated with the current task. If you use Eclipse you should definitely take the time to check this plug-in out!

After getting another cup of coffee I set down in front of the biggest stage to listen to Java-specialist Heinz Kabutz. He explained The Secrets of Concurrency using ten (humorously named) laws. Each of the laws had an explanation of the name, a link to the actual problem and a solution. The talk was relatively straight-forward which made it easy to follow. A perfect talk for the late afternoon!

The last talk I visited was about the new JSR-286 specification for portals and portlets. Although the announcement implicated that the talk was only about the specification we hoped for a dynamic talk. Unfortunately, we got what was announce. An overview of the current version of the spec, a small list of shortcomings and a larger list of new features. Even though I was interested in the topic it was hard to stay focussed during the complete talk. Especially when the volume of the music in the bar next-door was turned up.

As a conclusion I can say that, despite some of the less entertaining talk, I really enjoyed the day. It was interesting to hear about a lot of different topics, and fun to see different companies present themselves. If I get the change I will definitely attend the upcoming J-Spring conference.