eRubyCon 2008 Day 3

I wrote a write up for eRubyCon 2008 Day 1 and eRubyCon 2008 Day 2.

Jerry Nummi's buddy icontheedgecase's buddy iconBTW – thank you to Jerry Nummi for all of the great pictures of eRubyCon. I haven’t had time to browse and put them in this post but I’ll do that tonight or tomorrow.

*Update – I added pictures…*

I’m sitting in the back of day 3 reflecting on the previous two days. It’s amazing the group of people that Joe has put together here to speak on Ruby in the enterprise.

Joe O'BrienJoe O’Brien started up the day with his DSL talk. I’ve heard the talk before but it’s still a fantastic talk. His sub-title on the talk “Why I love Ruby”. I like to add “(and Emacs chest thumping)” but that’s me… 🙂

I’m not going to explain DSLs here because I wrote about them after hearing this talk the first time at

Honestly, part of what is so great about the talk is that Joe is just infectious in his passion and delivery. He, like a lot of great speakers, is a story teller. He told stories that ranged from past work in tech to past work prepping food displays for a cruise liner.

One of the stories that he told was about a large company that he did some consulting work for. They realized that the core issues at the company really came down to two people being able to communicate – a DBA and an Accountant. The issue was that they weren’t speaking the same language. One was speaking in rows, columns, triggers, sprocs and so on. The other was speaking in points, rates, forecasts and so on. The solution was to write an ORM that the accountant could understand that the DBA could work with. This came in the form of a DSL.

The food story was that the great sculptures on the table displays are actually food – not really edible but food non-the-less. It’s made from refined beef fat. There are many different forms, some softer and more moldable and some closer to marble than clay, and depending on what was needed, the master sculpture would pick a different form. Similarly, Joe picks a language that he can shape and mold to his needs. That’s what Ruby is for him.

Back to Emacs, one of the reasons that Joe loves Emacs is that you can shape the commands and key-bindings and the whole environment to shape your way of working rather than the other way around. I’m still not convinced. My biggest problem with Emacs is that the learning curve before you can be even mildly productive is giant. I understand that once you climb that mountain that the view is nice. I’m just not convinced that the incremental jump over my current tools will be enough to be worth it.

Interested in the talk? You can watch it from when Joe did it at the Mountain West Ruby conference.

Chris WanstrathChris Wanstrath followed Joe with a talk about GitHub. They have taken the Git source control and given it a centralized source server. The reality, as he explained it, with Git is that every person has a full blown copy of the repository. The interesting part is that people can go client to server or they can go peer to peer or any combination that you can possibly imagine. When they want to make a change, they actually fork the project.
Especially with the Git peer to peer checkins, it’s actually not a checkin. Nobody actually has write access to anyone else’s Git repository. When they are ready, they let the other devs know that they should pull and merge. They way that it works all the way up the list is that there are devs that make changes who let the project managers know that they should pull. That project manager is the “blessed version”.
The simplest explanation of GitHub is that it gives the individual programmer an offsite repository so that they don’t have to be online when the other members want to make a pull.  

Jim WeirichJim Weirich did the lunch time keynote called “What the Enterprise Can Learn From Your Mom”. In the spirit of the previous talk, he told us that all of his slides were up on GitHub already. He started out talking about Moores law. The first thing that he points out is that the number of transistors on the chip doesn’t mean that the chips will be faster – it might, and does in current times, mean that we get more cores. There’s a possibility of 100 core processors in the near future. Similar to our moms, we will have to learn how to do more and more things at one time. The fun part is that most people don’t know how to write multi-threaded applications… Jim went on to do a fantastic explanation of race conditions and threading at large. Somewhere in here I missed part of the talk trying to track down why the air-conditioning was not on. As I walked back in Jim was telling war stories about collecting real time data off of a jet engine in a multi-threading system. They designed a system that would only fail one in a million times – except that it was collecting data about a million times a day – oops. They had designed the system to fail once a day. Back to the drawing board…
Then Jim shifted gears. He started talking about “Blub Programmers” and languages other than Ruby. Jim is definitely the guy to do this. Jim is always playing with some bizarre language that would twist a normal brain like a pretzel.
First language that he talked about was Erlang. It’s a bizarre language. For example, you loop by writing tail recursion functions and most of the communication is done by sending process messages. The next language that he talked about was Closure Clojure (thanks Stuart Halloway for the correction). The interesting part about it, especially in light of the rest of his talk, is that it’s got different types of variables that are aware of multi-threading inherently.

Michael LetterleMichael Letterle followed Jim’s session with a session on IronRuby. To be far, I was supposed to follow Jim. However, I convinced to sw
itch me and Michael because I thought his talk was more core IronRuby than mine and would free me up to concentrate on Silverlight more than spending my time talking strictly about IronRuby. I was right and I liked the order. But I do deserve the comment that Michael started with where he called me an “ass” for making him get up right after Jim Weirick who is a phenomenal speaker.

Michael is one of the community contributor to the IronRuby project and has done a lot of work. He started with a lot of discussion about how the culture at Microsoft is shifting to be more and more open. With projects like CodePlex and Port25, there’s a lot of great new things.
Michael ran a lot of the test that were run at the Ruby Shootout in 2007 to see the differences and where things are now. While the functionality was largely complete, the perf was not great. It was a little worse than twice as slow as Jruby and MRI. As it’s still in beta and heavily under development, I’m not dismayed by that at the moment. If that’s still the case in a year, I will be.
Michael’s take on the talk was that since IronRuby is Iron, we should look at it with battleship grey windows applications. 🙂 He was adamant that there be an IronRuby talk that wasn’t about web technologies. He wrote a small windows app that hits a database and does normal IO type work similar to any and every enterprise application out there in the world. The next thing he did is fire up ir.cmd which is the IronRuby’s interpreted runtime. Then he attached to the running windows application and modified the application’s GUI and business logic to include tax information. Some of the cool things that he did was opening up base class library items and started adding Ruby things to them. For example, he added method_missing to the base Windows.Forms.Form class.

It’s awesome that there are guys like Michael out there in the world that are passionate Microsoft, Open Source, Ruby, .NET, Enterprise and Community. He’s a great ambassador from one world to the next carrying those passions with him everywhere he goes.

Josh Holmes– I followed Michael talking about Ruby in the Browser through Silverlight. I started out by talking about what evangelists do. After that I talked about User Experience and what that means to software. Then I started talking about some companies where the user experience, and their use of Silverlight, are making a great difference. I showed off the Olympics and the Hard Rock Cafe live and online. Then I pulled up some of the great work that Jimmy Schementi has been doing with a project that he calls Silverline. It’s pretty fantastic – it’s a number of different IronRuby samples running in Silverlight. The one that I missed showing and discussing was the idea of moving the controller in a Rails app out to the browser with IronRuby. Oh well. Next year.

I think that my talk was well received but welcome any comments. 

– Lance Carlson followed my session and closed out eRubyCon with a talk about an open source project that he’s writing called Anvil. It’s a framework for creating desktop applications that’s platform agnostic. The goal is to wrap all of the possible desktop frameworks from Shoes to RubyCocoa in one common framework. It’s a very interesting idea.

– Closing thoughts. Joe O’Brien did a fantastic job putting together this whole conference. The quality of the program, the speakers, the logistics, the whole package is fantastic every year. This is one of the highlights of the year for me every year. The other absolutely non-negotiable item on my calendar is CodeMash. The ton and the maturity of the conference coupled with the passion that not only the speakers show but the attendees as well is unparalleled

It’s an honor to me that Joe has invited me to come and associate with this group of elite and influential speakers/friends/attendees/geeks/passionate people that makes up the Ruby community. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone at the conference.

I was thrilled that Joe wanted to host the event at the Microsoft offices in Columbus. We’re not going to be able to do that next year because we’ll overflow the venue but this year is was the perfect size. We can fit about 120 in the bigger meeting room without having to sit on laps and we had right at 106 in there. It was full but not crazy.

Last year, Joe closed with question as to whether or not they were going to do it again. This year, Joe ended with a definitive – “We’ll be announcing dates soon for next year, keep an eye on or the mailing list”. Me… I’m very happy about that.

eRubyCon 2008 Day 2

Yesterday I wrote a write up of eRubyCon 2008 Day 1.

Erubycon – Charles Nutter started up with JRuby. I’m always impressed by people that are able to make their weekend project their full time job. I was further impressed that Charles was up with the rest of the speakers until closer to 4am than any of us should really admit, drinking really good scotch and solving the world’s problems.

Charles talked about the JVM and Java as both a problem and a great asset. There are a lot of people that look at the J in JRuby and automatically associate it with all of the things that they don’t like about Java. Charles answer is to separate the JVM from the Java language. He did a really good job of talking about the things that the JVM brings over the standard Ruby runtimes such as world class garbage collection, memory compaction, thread handling and the like. He did a number of really compelling demos around threading in particular. One of the things that he said here is that JRuby and IronRuby are really the only Ruby implementations that are able to do native threads because they are the only ones that are built on production quality VMs that handle that native threading for them.

0816080915One of the great quotes was “We write a lot of Java. So you don’t have to…” – Charles Nutter

After setting the stage, he pulled up a long list of features and said – “There’s way too much for me to cover in the time left – what do you want to see?”. that was fun. The first suggestion that he showed was 2D graphics that flashed a bunch of little balls around the screen. It was even responsive to voice commands. The second suggestion was to show Rails running on JRuby. He showed that they are running Rails on Ruby 1.8.6 (java). Next he brought up image_voodoo to do more 2D libraries. Lastly, he showed “java_inline” which allows you to inline Java code similar to the Ruby_inline which allows you to inline C right in your Ruby code.

  – Evan Light came up next. Unfortunately I was putting out a few small fires. Fortunately Michael Lettere wrote up a small write up so that I could include it here.

Evan Light hates EJBs.
EJB encourages difficult to test idioms, private fields, private static final fields.
Nice demo code “public class DeepThought” <— How do you test that?
You COULD shoot the guy who wrote it, but don’t do that.
Very good use of humor, engaged the audience.

Stuart Halloway, Neal Ford – The lunch keynote was Neal Ford. Neil Ford is an amazing speaker. What’s cool about him is that every time I see him speaker, I wonder how he could get any better. And then he does. Today’s talk was about complexity. One of the core concepts that he talked about is the idea of Language Lockdown. It’s when language writers put in features to protect people from themselves and cut down on the stupid things that you can do. The idea is that if you do that the lower end (read cheaper) developers will still be productive. “What they are trying to do is strap a rocket to the ass of a turtle. What they are actually doing is putting chains on the rabbits than can go fast.”
The problem with that take though is two fold. First, it is not a linear line between the top developers and the lower end developers. What that means is that on the curve, a highly productive programmer will get done in one day what it will take an average developer more than a week to do and the weak developer a month or more. To point out the second issue, Neal quoted one of my other favorite speaker – “Bad developers will move heaven and earth to do the wrong thing” – Glenn Vanderburgh
One of the huge questions that he put out there is “How much of your enterprise software simple services accidental complexity?”. It’s a great question.
As he was wrapping up, he left us with the thought that “Courage is contagious. Cowardice is infectious”.

Stuart Halloway– Following Neal was Stuart Halloway again. He was talking this time about how one can fail with 100% test coverage. It’s an interesting topic because for so many people, 100% test coverage is the holy grail that they shoot for. The first thing that he pointed out is that you might cover all the lines, but not all the branches so it depends on how you measure things to get to 100% coverage. The second thing that he points out is that you can cover all the code, but not all the corner cases. The example that he used is testing if a value is above or below $25.00 but forgetting $25.00 even. Oops. Then you can start writing way too much code and too much complexity into your tests. Now you need to test your tests and you’ve taken too much time writing them. Then he talked about the “ugly mirror” where the test is really a mirror of the code where you’re covering the line but using the code that you are trying to test while testing – oh dear I have a headache. This is where he says that you are allowed to write literals in your tests.
Neal Ford piped in – “It’s ok for your test to be moist, not drenched”.
The next topic was slow tests and how dangerous they are. The short version of the issue is that if the unit tests don’t run in under 1 second, developers are not going to run them. Functional tests should run in under 2 minutes. If they don’t, then factor them so that they run on different schedules, parallelize them on different machines to get the normal check-in process back under the 2 minute mark if possible.
The last type of fail that he talked about is shallow tests. The quote that he referenced is “No automated test suite can ever replace exploratory testing.” – Jay Fields. The goal is that once the unit and functional testing passes, that people will put themselves in the clients seat and go spelunking and try out a bunch of stuff.

Joe O'Brien, Chris Nelson, Jim Weirich – The next talk was a very unique idea called “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Modeling Systems”. They wrote a play! The guys from EdgeCase, Joe O’Brien, Jim Weirich and Chris Nelson, acted out a normal project for them. They started out on twitter talking about the new project that they just landed. Then they actually started with the early on meetings that they have. Joe played the cowboy dev lead who insists that it’s a “simple rails app” and decides to do a data first model. Chris played clueless nub and Jim played the seasoned architect that was concerned about requirements analysis, separation of layers and behavior driven models. Joe, ready to start slamming code out, starts pairing with Chris. The first thing that they tackle is a simple calendar event. Then they have to schedule r
eoccuring events. Joe, the cowboy, just decides to replicate the events in order to do the reoccurence. The next requirement is rescheduling the reoccuring meetings…. Oops. They have neatly coded themselves into a corner and start hacking out a solution. At that point, Chris decided to take a walk and went to see what Jim thought of it all. Jim started writing out CRC cards and started thinking about higher level ideas, bringing in light-weight design patterns around temporal expressions from Martin Fowler and so on. Jim, the architect, is blithely ignoring “implementation details” such as where to store the data and performance. When performance sucked – they went back to the drawing board. Jim and Joe had to eventually come together. Of course the answer was to write a DSL… 🙂
Great talk. The good news is that Neal Ford is following them so there won’t be a let down as we end the day…

– The last talk of the day was Neal Ford talking about Design Patterns in Ruby. One of the things that he pointed out fairly early on is that the Design Patterns book, even according to one of the authors ( Vlissides), should have been called “Making C++ Suck Less”. Even the Smalltalk that’s in the book was really C++ written in Smalltalk syntax. He covered a number of different patterns including the Iterator and the Interpretor pattern. There were a number of circumstances where he pointed out that the issues addressed by the pattern were addressed by the Ruby language. For example, the interpretor pattern’s intent is really addressed by DLSs which are dead easy to implement in Ruby. The only problem with this session is that it’s at the end of the day and my brain is a little mush at this point.

eRubyCon 2008 Day 1

image I’m sitting here at the second Enterprise Ruby Conference (eRubyCon). There’s a couple of fun and interesting things that have happened this year.

One of them that’s exciting for me is that the whole event is being hosted at the Microsoft facilities in Columbus, OH. Joe O’Brien was looking for a facility so I offered up the office since we can get that for free. There are some minor facility issues, such as the internet access is fairly limited due to the Microsoft security policies. We got that mostly sorted by renting a number of cell card based routers from iBox2Go. It’s not a perfect solution because we’re at about double the recommended number of users per router. That’s caused network to be a touch spotty but it’s better than non-existent.

Another thing that’s a ton of fun is that we’ve doubled the number of attendees. The conference room here at the Microsoft office is FULL. Tomorrow I’ll show some pictures from the conference room. It’s really cool to see.

0815081326The whole event is going very well. Joe has been plagued with speakers having travel issues and the like. For example, Stu Halloway was supposed to do a lunch time keynote but was thrown off as his plane had mechanical issues. The great news is that this is an Agile conference and everyone is used to requirements changing mid-project and Joe was able to shuffle the speakers.

 – First up was Randall Thomas from the Engine Yard. He was talking about ETL (Extract, Transform, Load). He did a masterful job of making that important topic interesting and fun. It’s a fundamental topic but even Randall equated it to Bob Ross painting trees and it was tough to keep people awake talking about the best possible way to make one string into two and two into one…

– Next was Tom Mornini. I wish I had been able to stick around for this talk. He talked heavily about Vertebra, Scalability and Accountability.

Anthony Eden followed Tom with a session on Identity Management. It was interesting to hear his take on OpenID, InformationCard, SAML and how Ruby works with those. The good news for Ruby is that it does really well with and is leading the way with OpenID. The bad news is that the things that are done inside of an enterprise are a little less prevalent in the Ruby at the moment. It was a great tutorial on the state of

Giles Bowkett talked about Meta-Programming vs. Code Generation. He had a fun and deep tirade on something called Monkeypatching.

“A monkey patch (also spelled monkey-patch, MonkeyPatch) is a way to extend or modify the runtime code of dynamic languages (e.g. Smalltalk, Javascript, Objective-C, Ruby, Perl, and Python) without altering the original source code.” –

This is meta-programming at it’s finest. He then went on to talk about meta-monkey-patching or meta meta programming… Somewhere in there I got a headache. That’s about the time that he brought it back to Code Generation. My favorite quote, other than “Here’s a completely gratuitous picture of Jessica Albert” (which did come with a gratuitous picture of Jessica Albert…) ” “Should I hire a programmer or should I just write one?”. He gave an example of a past job at NY Times where he left after he wrote a “mini-giles”. That’s a code generator that did much of what he had been doing until he wrote the generator. The “mini-giles” meme has really taken off since then and has been worked into a ton of the talks and conversations…

Stuart Halloway followed Giles with a keynote called “Ending Legacy Code in Our Lifetime”. He had one of the better starts that I’ve ever heard – “Legacy Code is like Porn. I know it when I see it. It’s ubiquitous on the internet. And like all porn, it’s ultimately unsatisfying”. (At least he has it on good authority that porn is ultimately unsatisfying). One of the things that Stuart points out is that code can be broken down to Ceremony and Essence. The Essence is what you actually want to get done. The Ceremony is the stuff that you have to do in order to have the Essence work. For example, if you have gone from “New” on an object to writing factories – the reality is the factory is Ceremony. End of the day, all you really wanted is an object.

Another great quote from Stuart was “Ceremony leads to fear. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to pain. Pain leads to Ceremony.” The goal, according to Stuart, is to have as little ceremony as possible and have every line of code contribute to the Essence. And right now, Ruby is the closest answer as it’s got a fairly high Essence to Ceremony ratio.

His talk was chock full of great quotes – “What authority authorizes this in the Ruby world? – ME – and I’m Right”. It was full enough of great quotes that there’s a Stu Halloway Quote Tracker.

– Brian Sam-Bodden, always a great speaker, closed out the day with Refactoring with JRuby. He talked about the core of refactoring is having a great suite of tests. One of my favorite quotes from him was “Since I’m a Java consultant, I have a lot of work to do…”.

Overall, it was a great day. I really enjoyed catching up with a lot of the guys that I don’t get to see at the .NET community events. I’m hoping that most of these guys will be at CodeMash cause that will give me 2 times a year to hang out.

Miguel de Icaza on Mono and Moonlight

Very, very close (It was #1 Explore)         132 times Fav.!Moonlight is still continuing to progress. Moonlight is the open source implementation of Silverlight for Linux. It’s being run by Miguel de Icaza of Novell.

There are a couple of things that are interesting to me about this project.

First, as I talked about in Dancing in the Moonlight!, it’s unprecedented interop and openness on the part of Microsoft. Microsoft gave the project the specs and a ton of support. The Moonlight devs even have access to the Silverlight engineers as they are developing the open source compatible solution to help clarifying specs and ensuring compatibility. One of the things that’s tough from a legal perspective is all of the codecs and other video components. What’s going to happen is that there’s a “Media Pack” that users will download from Microsoft to play videos. This circumvents the legal issues and allows Moonlight users access to all the great VC1 video out there.

Second thing I find interesting is that they are finding interesting ways to innovate even in the constraints of being 100% compatible. For example, They built a Silverlight designer called Lunar Eclipse completely in Silverlight. That’s a really cool idea. They are looking at offline ideas around Moonlight and making their implementation a WPF light enabling them to revamp the GNOME’s desktop development paradigm. They’ve started with desklets, which are small Silverlight components that run in a desktop framwork. Again, really innovative idea.

Miguel did an interview with about the projects and how they are going at Miguel de Icaza on Mono