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That's more like it

Posted by bsandersen on June 29, 2005 at 11:14 PM PDT

Day three of JavaONE was a gas. Not because of the keynote, though. As I'm not connected with the mobile phone industry, I confess I spaced through the keynote and used the time to catch up on my mail and plan my day. Wireless access throughout the JavaONE grounds is a tremendous boon. Yes, it would drop me once in a while but for the most part I was able to stay connected and keep up with mail, web reading, and blogging.

My first session was Tommy: Java Technology in the DARPA Grand Challenge. If you're not familiar with the Grand Challenge, take a few moments to check it out. The idea is simple enough: The team that develops an autonomous ground vehicle that finishes the designated route most quickly within 10 hours will receive $2 million. Team Jefferson has built Tommy--an unmanned vehicle for this race. And, you guessed it, it's packed to the gills with Java.

The presentation was excellent and it finished with a video (complete with The Who's score from the rock opera Tommy). (Special note to Team Jefferson: put that video on the web! ) The questions-and-answers session was a bit uneven: the questions were pretty good, but the answers were not always revealing. I guess if I had $2M on the line, I'd be a bit coy, too.

The room cleared and the next set of talks was equally interesting. Jini, a technology that was highlighted in Scott McNealy's keynote yesterday, was given only a small handful of sessions and BOFs this year. If you've only got a few, make them count! Jini and JavaSpaces Technologies on Wall Street was a panel stocked with Wall-Street-big-money-this-is-serious-business-type industry heavyweights that calmly, quietly, and methodically described how software system architectures relying on the programming model Jini provides has saved their bacon. Interestingly, at least one fellow hailed from "a large Wall Street firm", hiding his company's identity. It seems Jini is a competitive advantage and, while the gentleman was free to talk about the tremendous successes they've achieved with the technology, it was important enough to them to hold a little back, too.

As I said, this is day three of the conference. I had been slinging my 17" PowerBook over my shoulder repeatedly for three plus days now (counting the trip from Boston). My back was shot. So, I decided to catch one of the buses back to the hotel where I could drop of the beast and lighten my load a bit. Joining me on the bus was a gentleman who recognized me from the Tommy talk. After asking me about my reactions to the vehicle and the DARPA challenge, he introduced himself as Commander Tom Logue, a computer science instructor at the US Naval Academy and former submariner. This is a cool guy. It also is a fine example of why JavaONE is a cool place to be: it isn't just the sessions that bring the value; it is the people you meet and the follow-up conversations afterwards that really count.

Once I got the commander to stop calling me "sir" (I told him it made me nervous!), we exchanged views on the implications of such an unmanned vehicle. I suggested the first use would probable be logistics. Carrying food and supplies to those in difficult places might better be done by unmanned vehicles than manned ones. Before I knew it the trip was over and that was too bad: I'm guessing Commander Logue is a fellow that could hold my attention for many hours.

There was some discussion in last night's community meeting about the quality of the sessions at this year's JavaONE. Rather than speculate whether they are better or worse than in years past, let me just point to an example of a session that is a standard setter: Simplier, Faster, Better: Concurrency Utilities in JDK Software Version 5.0 was a winner. It had it all: code, complicated code, really complicated code, serious discussions, gloves-are-off-take-no-prisoners-bare-knuckles technical content. If all the sessions were like this we would all go home exhausted and satiated. Marketing dweebs that run JavaONE! Pay attention: nerds want to be challenged! Don't be afraid to have sessions that will be challenging! If you don't believe me, check the numbers yourself. This session was held in an enormous room and that room was packed. This is what Java nerds want from JavaONE.

I'm nearly to the end of my day. I walked the show floor with Steve Harris collecting souvenirs and gathering materials for later study. It was then time to eat and have a couple of drinks with friends at the Thirsty Bear before wrapping up the day at the Jini and JavaSpaces BOF with Brian Murphy, John McClain, and Jim Hurley of Jini community fame. This event, like the other Jini event this morning, was packed with an enthusiastic crowd. Perhaps next year the organizers will provide a couple of more time slots for this (obviously) popular Java community sub-group.

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