Monday 28 September 2009

Seaside at Amsterdam.rb

I'm just back from the monthly meeting of the Amsterdam Ruby User Group at De Bekeerde Suster in Amsterdam. The cheeseburger was delicious, though I was slightly offended when the guy who brought the food said, "Let me guess... you want ketchup?". It's not like I'd even said a word; how could he have decided I was north american? :)

We talked about their plans for the RubyEnRails conference coming up on October 30 and shared some of our experiences from ESUG conferences. There was quite a bit of discussion around how to encourage programmers to give lightning talks. I also took a few minutes to give an overview of Seaside. Everyone there was quite interested in Smalltalk and the level of awareness was already quite high. We had some interesting discussions of the language's history as well as its benefits and limitations. In the end that made up a good part of the evening.

Thanks for the warm welcome.

Monday 21 September 2009

In Bruges

I spent this weekend in Belgium. Arriving in Bruges after dark, I was greeted by the clip-clop of horse-drawn carts on cobbled streets (what an amazing sound!) and narrow lanes lined with medieval stone and brick buildings. The whole scene is gently lit by street lights that manage to avoid casting the gloomy sodium-light shadows found most places. Bruges by night is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities I have seen.
Incidentally, apparently I'm one of the few people left in the world who hasn't seen the movie In Bruges (oh it's recent... no wonder I didn't see it: I was in China), since it's all anybody talks about whenever Bruges comes up in conversation.
I had already decided to go for a run on Saturday when I looked at the online event listings and found there was an organized run happening and not much else that interested me. So, after a pleasant boat tour around the canals, I took my advice from last week one level further and saw the area around Bruges while running a 15km race.
For dinner, I found an excellent restaurant called De Vlaamsche Pot (The Flemish Pot), which serves local regional cuisine. The two-storey restaurant is cleverly laid out throughout a restored period house, complete with huge wooden beams in the ceilings. It is charmingly decorated and it successfully creates the atmosphere of somebody's dining room without any of the rooms feeling cramped at all. On top of that, the service was excellent in any language you can think of and the food was terrific. I filled up on delicious Flemish beef stew and didn't have room to even consider dessert.
The city's charm is tempered slightly during the day by the hoards of ambling tourists but not enough to put a damper on the weekend. It would be nice to do some day trips in the area some day: I'd love to see the fields of poppies and maybe check out Ypres and its Menin Gate, a painting of which struck me while in Canberra a number of years ago. It's always good to save something for the next visit.
Belgium brings my number of visited countries for the past three weeks to six and it looks like I'll hit at least seven before making it back to Canada... whew.

Friday 18 September 2009

Smalltalk on AppEngine

Torsten posted a link to the announcement of GwtSmalltalk, which compiles to JavaScript and runs on top Google Web Toolkit and, thus, AppEngine. This is interesting coming only weeks after Avi's announcement of Clamato... there's clearly some interest around combining Smalltalk and JavaScript at the moment.

You can try out a demo. Hint, to create new instances you need to use:

Kernel instanceOf:

Saturday 12 September 2009

On Walking

Whenever I find myself in a new city, I like to walk. I find a map; I pick a direction, a neighbourhood, or an arbitrary destination; I put on comfortable shoes, and I walk somewhat aimlessly, just taking in what I find. Often I'll do this for days in a row, each time in a new direction. The endpoint and the route are irrelevant because it's about the journey itself.

There seems to be no better way to get a true sense of a city. You're really missing out if you think that Paris is all about the Eiffel Tower, that Beijing is characterized by the Forbidden City, or that you'll get a full understanding of New York by riding the subway and visiting Times Square. Oh sure, make time for those landmarks if you want, but what's really interesting is a city's people, its architecture, back alleys, corner stores, sidewalks, graffiti, parks, and used bookshops.

In Beijing I walked for weeks—hours every day—trying to puzzle out hànzì characters and discovering hidden temples, noodle shops, and bicycle repair stands. Day after day, I remember being constantly astounded by the sheer quantity of life that is lived every day in that vast city, by the amount of observable change from week to week.

Wandering in central Berlin one day, I stumbled across a brick line in the road, marking the former path of the Berlin Wall. I traced this line from Brandenburg Gate, through quiet residential areas, alongside concrete walls covered with vibrant murals, past memorials, and down renovated green spaces. As I picked my way east towards Warschauer Straße across the river, I felt a real sense of the history and the difference, still visible, between west and east.

In Kolkata (Calcutta), on possibly the only occasion when "the children" (we were 26) were allowed to roam the bustling downtown streets freely by ourselves, we stumbled across a serene old church with a graveyard full of interesting 250-year-old tombstones. There we hid from the beggars and hawkers and attempted to decipher the epitaphs engraved in old-fashioned English script.

The last two days, I wandered Frankfurt. Yesterday I took in the riverside, with its grassy banks, apparently covered with runners once the work day ends. I wandered downtown, enjoying the modern low-rise office buildings and German-style half-timbered houses, the quiet cobbled squares and the wide-open bustling shopping street. Frankfurt is perhaps not the most noteworthy of cities but it has a comfortable scale and pleasant feeling of balance.

Today, wanting to go farther afield, I caught an S-Bahn out of town, thinking I'd look for the Cincom office, which I knew to be in that direction. Only 20 minutes out of downtown, I got off the train in South Kronberg and discovered apple orchards, corn fields, vistas of church towers and rolling hills, and people riding horses right past the business park! In a field beside the passing cyclists and trail-walkers, a middle-aged man practiced paragliding. Wandering south through Niederhöchstadt, I then lucked upon an Apple Festival and made lunch out of apple wine and bratwurst before catching a return train.

Each city has a rhythm and you won't find it sitting in your car, your hotel room, or the ticket queue for the tourist sight of the day. So get out and walk.

Monday 7 September 2009

ESUG 2009 wrapup

Well, as I recover from another busy but very fruitful ESUG, it's interesting to look at what made it such an enjoyable conference. There is a real sense of community there that makes it a pleasure to attend every year.

There were some interesting presentations but, for me anyway, the true value was in the networking and personal conversations. I made some interesting new contacts, renewed some old ones, and rounded up some consulting work that will keep me in Europe for a little bit longer. The organizers made some last minute changes this year to help encourage these sorts of meetings and I hope we will see more of this sort of thing next year.

My overall impression is that these are interesting times for the world of Smalltalk. There seems to be a sense of common purpose and renewed life at the moment and it's satisfying to think that Seaside has played at least a small role in making that happen. I'm not sure what lies ahead, but I think opportunities will arise that we need to take advantage of. I'm also not yet sure exactly what part I want to play but I'm starting to think seriously about it.

My tutorial with Lukas was well received. As usual, we didn't quite manage to get through all of our material, but it went pretty smoothly and I think the thirty-or-so participants all picked up some new tricks to use in their Seaside projects.

The Seaside sprint was very successful, even though we didn't quite meet our target of finishing a 3.0 beta release. Keep an eye out for an announcement when we do get it done.

I'll close with links to a few people's photos:
Hope to see you all next year in Barcelona!

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Seaside 3.0 and Documentation

For those who aren't at ESUG this year and missed Lukas' tweet, we announced yesterday that the Seaside 2.9 alpha series will become Seaside 3.0 when we go to beta.

We feel the name is well earned: a cleaner architecture, increased flexibility, better documentation, improved portability, and jQuery support make Seaside 3.0 an even more solid base for developing powerful web applications. They also lead the way for more incremental changes in the future and should make life easier for anybody who wants to develop tools or other frameworks on top of Seaside.

We will be running a Seaside Sprint here in Brest from Friday afternoon through Saturday and the goal is to get the remaining issues resolved for a first beta release. Please join us if you have the opportunity.

Also announced at ESUG, was the release of the online book Dynamic Web Development with Seaside. It's a great resource: make sure to check it out and contribute comments and content.