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NetBeans Goes to South America!

Posted by timboudreau on October 30, 2007 at 3:14 AM PDT

We've begun the South American University Tour. This will be a break-neck schedule, whirlwind tour of universities in South America - covering 9 cities in Brazil, two in Argentina and one each in Uruguay and Chile.

I drove the NetBeans Mobile to its destination last week, arrived in Massachusetts on Thursday; unloaded it all day Friday, and flew to Brazil on Saturday. A steady diet of vast quantities of barbecue (the death-by-meat approach to dining), tiny cups of super-sweet coffee and Guaraná soda is keeping me vertical.

We began yesterday in São José do Rio Preto, with a crowd of 102 for five hours covering an intro to Java, Open Source and NetBeans. It's fun doing an intro-to-Java talk - a nice change from what I'm usually doing, and some of the students have some programming experience but not necessarily Java. So I get to go into the history of programming, languages, computer science, how programming languages have evolved, what Objects are, why there is equals() and hashCode(). Believe it or not, it's a fun topic.

Waiting at the airport I think I hit on a useful metaphor if you want to explain what multi-threading in programming is, to someone new to it: You get off an airplane. You are one thread of execution. The folks taking your bag off the plane and loading it on the conveyer belt are another thread of execution. Ideally they get done at the same time, and you walk up and your bag is there. Sometimes no; so the threading constructs in Java allow you to handle those cases.

I like teaching through metaphor - my grandfather had my wiring up circuits when I was four years old, and he used metaphor heavily: think of the electricity in the wire as water running through a pipe - current and voltage mapping to water pressure and how much water comes out - and a four year old can understand it (with a demonstration or two at the kitchen sink if needed). It's necessarily imprecise, but it gives people a handle to grab onto. So when I'm teaching or presenting, I really just try to channel my grandfather and ask myself how he would have explained things.

As I write this, we are getting ready to land in São Paulo, to connect and fly to Brasilia. The sheer expanse of São Paulo is astounding - I'm looking at tall buildings like twigs stretching out to the horizon. Alas in my high-speed moving and unpacking chaos, I forgot to pack my good camera - so I'll either borrow one, or go luddite and try to find a good used SLR.

We'll spend the afternoon doing the NetBeans road-show there, and then it's on to Fortaleza this evening. And I hope to learn a little Portuguese this time around - with a month in Brazil there is no excuse not to. My seven years of Spanish, 19 years neglected and buried under Russian and Czech ought to help a little if I can dredge it up!

Our schedule for the trip:

And for those not interested in Java, the morning five hours at each university cover OpenSolaris, and we have a kernel engineer presenting - so this is the real deal!


The view from the restaurant in Congonhas airport - doesn't really show the scale of the city, but can give an idea of what the buildings look like

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