The Mood Hack
Sometime yesterday (ok, really the day before that now) Ken Arnold started in on his Hack. You see, at MacHack, the highlight event is on Friday night where people present the stuff they've been working on through the conference. If it's a proper hack—something cool, yet useless—you get wild applause from the crowd. If not, well, tirades such as "marketing!" and "useful!" are hurled around.
So Ken's hack was a Jini based mood ring. The goal was to have as many people as possible use the application and register their mood. The display would average out everyone's mood and give a group reading. And it was coming together nicely until today when the network issues here got in the way. And then there was an issue with firewalls. And then... And then it worked! Happy happy. Time to package things up and get them out and get ready to demo it for the crowd.
Except, well... The distribution method we picked (Daniel and I were helping Ken here and there with things) was Java Web Start. We packaged things up, put them on a server, and tried to run. And tried. And tried. And tried. After debugging several issues, we got things to work—sorta. But the app was crashy. It would freeze after just a few uses. Not good. We were is despair. We almost gave up. We then packaged it up as a double-clickable Mac OS X .app bundle. And it worked just fine. For some reason the same code worked better when packaged up in an application format than when it was distributed through the supposedly easy to use Java Web Start infrastructure. Who knows why... Maybe there was just too much caffeine in everyone's system. Maybe Java Web Start and Jini don't get along. Those are questions for another day. The hack must go on!
With the working application, we got on stage (at 3AM in the morning by the way) and demoed it. And then we had everyone download and run the application on their machines over the wireless network and join in the fun. Luckily, Ken's server stayed up and the demo survived the onslaught. Whoo!
As I write this, it's a bit after 4AM in Detroit and the hacks are still going on. It's just that kind of conference. Unmistakable. Incredible. So many conferences could learn a few things from this one. I'll be back. But first, I'm going to sleep.