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Working from home, OSCON, AJAX, Groovy and global warming

Posted by davidvc on July 24, 2006 at 8:51 PM PDT

I work from home most of the time. No sitting in a car in hours of
traffic. Fresh organic food from my own refrigerator. A nice office
with natural light, colorful walls, lots of space. And I forget how
great this all is until I head off to the
airport (this time to OSCON
in Portland). Ugly carpets and fluorescent lights in the
airport. Of course, the flight is delayed. I don't
get into my hotel until 2am. The room smells of smoke, is tiny, and
completely sterile, the AC barely works and I lie awake most of the
night sweating in my sheets. “Interesting” breakfast at
the hotel restaurants, more fluorescent lights in the tutorials all
day, more interesting food for lunch, impossible network connection.

I can't imagine how road warriors do it. They must build some kind
of mental, emotional and spiritual wall inside so it doesn't affect them. I am trying very hard to stay away from the TV so I don't turn into a pale, untanned mass of protoplasm.

But it does make me think that the open source movement is
allowing more and more of us to choose a different lifestyle, where
we can stay at home, be with our families and pets, eat better; all
this and making the environment and the traffic just a little bit
better. Yes, it's true, I sometimes miss the face-to-face
interactions, but the open source movement has also engendered a
number of creative ways of staying in touch, from Wikis to blogs to
podcasts and webcasts. And I actually get to “meet” more
people through my open source work than I ever would have done
working just within my own company.

Much as I dislike the travel and hotel experience, I have been getting a lot out of the conference itself already. Today and tomorrow are tutorials.I'm trying to learn as much as I can about JavaScript,
AJAX, Rails and other web technologies. I have been a database and server
weenie for so much of my career, but my interest on embedding the
database in the browser has thrown me head-first into web
technologies. It's a different world, one which is both full of
creativity and full of hacks. There are times when I shake my head at
the contortions web developers have to go through to build compelling
and cool applications, while at the same time dealing with
non-trivial issues like security, scalability and maintainability.

It makes me value all the tools that simplify, simplify, simplify
the poor developer's life. In the AJAX world, it seems like the
component libraries are key. Things like dojo
and prototype and jMaki
and Ruby
on Rails
also seems to be a lifesaver. I would love to see
something like Ruby running in the browser, but right now it's just
JavaScript and yes, Java, (although there are large camps who still
won't touch Java in the browser with a ten-foot pole).

If the rumors are true and Java is going to be open-sourced, then
maybe some folks will spend some time to fix some of the issues
with Java in the browser
, and folks will start looking at it
again for the browser, if only as a virtual machine to run dynamic languages like
Ruby and Groovy.

I have
just started dipping my toes into these languages, but what
encourages me about Groovy is it appears to have many of the benefits of Ruby,
but at the same time it takes advantage of the compatibility,
security and large base of APIs that is available in Java. That and
the fact that Groovy can run in the browser (on top of the Java VM),
whereas, at least today, that's not possible with Ruby.

By the way, here is an interesting blog
by Jon Tirsen comparing Groovy and Ruby
. And of course, here's
bileblog about Groovy
. Where did this guy come from? He reminds
me of the old SNL skit “Point/Counterpoint” between Dan
Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (“Jane, you ignorant slut”).

Did I mention it's hot here? Of course, it's hot everywhere. Somebody let me know when the ice caps melt.