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DevSum 2012 - Day 1 Summary


This is a short summary of the first day of the DevSum 2012 conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Martin Laforest: Harnessing the Quantum World – When tiny things do big things

Martin started off with a some Canada-oriented information and described how his city Waterloo has moved its focus from farming to tech in a very short time. He spoke about the Waterloo technical institutions and Canada’s pride in the field of Quantum Physics research. He talked about the cycle of innovation and how it leads us from curiosity (in the case of fire, fear even) to control, then on to technology with great social impacts.

One example was steam, which we investigated, understood, learned to control and led us to new innovations like the steam engine, which in turn led on to trains, boats and enabled us to travel much greater distances than before.

Martin then talked about quantum physic facts, and how everything is a particle, everything is a wave and how electrons can be at two places at the same time (an effect called superposition) and how you ruin the quantum effect, as soon as you inspect the system. etc. Pretty basic things that most of us with an interest in this field already knows, but very well presented.

The quantum effects can be used to make our computers more powerful, unlike the development of speed that has dominated the field for the last 50 years (where a computer has become much faster, but still performs calculations in the same way as it did way back when).

Another benefit of this new technology, is that quantum physics, quantum mechanics and quantum information will make it possible to achieve 100% secure decryption, since eavesdroppers will ruin the information exchange. In fact, this technology already exists, but only over a limited distance.

Overall a very interesting session, especially if you are interested in the field of quantum physics. It implies a new, powerful era of the computer, but also introduce new, more complex problems that arise when things go small and quantum effects start to show themselves.

Ayende Rahien: RavenDB - Amazin feats.

Ayende’s talk was focusing on RavenDB features, where he demoed the power that comes with taming the no-schema nature of document databases. This is why RavenDB can offer features like storing complex data types, fast Map/Reduce operations, ad hoc queries, sharding etc.

This was an interesting session, but at the same time little more than a sales pitch, which I’m not sure belongs to a conference.

Andreas Håkansson - Developing web applications using Nancy

Andreas talked about his darling project - Nancy - and demonstrated everything from small to large applications. Controllers, routes, implicit casting, helper methods, convention, pipelines, configuration, bootstrapping - it’s all in there.

Nancy seems great and it looks like the team has something big going on. My only concern is how such a framework with so many external integration will manage to always be up to date. My guess is it won’t.

Fil Maj - Going Cross-Platform with HTML5 and PhoneGap

Fil started with some historical breakthroughs, like the alphabet, maps, the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone etc. He then talked a bit about the microfilm-based knowledge bank MEMEX (invented in 1945), and how HyperCard used the same ideas when it was invented in 1987, more than 40 years later.

Fil then moved on to discussing vendor lock-in and the switching cost that comes with it. If we focus on delivering stuff based on the product of a certain vendor, we will have to pay the price when it comes to making our things work with other products.

Three examples were:

  • Adobe Flash (no comment needed)
  • The Windows API, where an internal MS memo in 1997 implied that switching cost was part of the company’s strategy.
  • The iPhone SDK, where developers until 2008 were forbidden to discuss the SDK.

Fil wants embraces openness. This brings us to PhoneGap, which had many initial problems with Apple, but which is now a widely approved way of developing native, cross-platform apps with HTML5. It’s not by any means a silver bullet (many core features, like debugging and 3D work really bad), but it’s a cool technology if you want to build apps that can easily be ported to all major mobile platforms.

Fil demonstrated build.phonegap.com, which is hosting for PhoneGap apps. It looks awesome and I will try to play around with it in my next mobile project.

Rob Ashton - Modern technologies for web-based-gaming

This was a cool session about HTML5-based games. Rob went into detail describing the canvas and the possibilities (and challenges) it provides. He also demoed not using the canvas, but rather manipulating DOM elements instead. When doing so, he used css3 transitions instead of moving the elements around in code, since moving elements around will give you really slow animations.

Rob also demoed WebGL, hardware acceleration etc. The talk was too hysterical at times, but I had fun and learned a bunch about HTML5 game development…but doubt that I will find myself playing around with WebGL any evening soon.

Robert Folkesson - ReST-based services with WCF ASP.NET Web API

Always well-performing Robert Folkesson of Active Solution had a very interesting session about REST-based services with ASP.NET Web API.

He begun talking about RESTs architectural constraints (client/server, stateless, cacheable, layered, uniform interface) and how to enable high scalability. He also went through some of the REST interface guding principles (resource id:s, HATEOAS

  • Hypermedia as the engine of application state etc.)

Some large sites (e.g. Twitter) don’t comply to the REST specifications, while others (e.g. Netflix) do. Many APIs fail to provide hypermedia to the client. To see how mature your REST service is, use the Richardson Maturity Model.

Robert had a good Web API demo with OData operations, media types and formatters. I really enjoyed the session and suggest you have a look if you can find the video.

Torkel Ödegaard - Build Real-Time Apps with Backbone.js and SignalR

I have tried to read up on Backbone several times, but found the documentation lacking when compared with Knockout. I was therefore very happy to get an amazing onboarding by Torkel.

Torkel talked about the 5 main abstractions in Backbone (Model, Collection, View, Events and Router), demoed several features and then used Backbone with SignalR to provide a UI with real-time updates as stuff happen on the server.

An extremely impressive session!

Emil Cardell - Front-End CQRS

The last session of the day touched on an interesting area: CQRS (Command Query Responsibility Segregation). Emil discussed some benefits (scalability, reliability) and problems (eventual consistency) with applying CQRS.

The demos were good, despite some unfortunate technical problems that for a long time caused no data to show up on the screen. For instance, Emil modified a CRUD app to use CQRS, demoed continuation with headers, JIT etc.