Saturday Afternoon

I was a bit taken aback by Simon’s response to my previous post, I suppose since it never occurred to me that he’d actually be reading this. Anyway, to expand a bit more on the “positive focus” thing — in large part that is me writing advice to myself. Repetition helps me internalize important things like “ignore the trolls”.

Anyway, after the morning sessions we ate the usual lunch of extremely cheap sandwiches. I saw Rob Savoye there — Rob lives 30 miles or so from me, and we used to work together at Cygnus, but I only see him every couple of years or so, and always at a conference. He was a bit upset about something bad I wrote about Gnash (sorry!). Also he had somehow gotten his hands on OLPC demo hardware… nice. (BTW I heard that his blog about his Katrina relief work is really good, but I didn’t have a URL… if you have it, please post.)

Later we made our way through the crush to the Classspath developer room. I spend most FOSDEMs locked in here; Classpath is my project and aside from interest I also do it out of solidarity. As you can tell I’m a bit ambivalent about this on occasion; FOSDEM is a rich environment and there is no way to see more than a fraction of it — I always feel like I’m missing out. Also I usually miss the “donation return” meeting and I’m sure, just completely sure, that I should’ve won a nokia 770 this year 😉

It turned out that the Fedora booth was next door to the Classpath room. I was pleased to see Tom (spot) Callaway there. Tom is a great guy. Also there was Max Spevack, who I met for two seconds. The Fedora guys did a great job organizing, they had a great-looking booth with nice artwork.

Mark led with a bit of an intro, and then the various VMs each had a presentation on their current status. Andrew Haley talked about gcj status, Dalibor about Kaffe (their big accomplishment for 2006 being “zero releases :-), Twisti about Cacao updates (many new ports there, also they hooked the binutils disassembler into hotspot to see what kind of code it generates), Rob on JamVM, and Ian Rogers talked about JikesRVM.

I think this was the first time a JikesRVM person came to FOSDEM. Ian entertained us with stories from academia — the counter-world to the one I usually live in — and also pointed out a funny idea of stuffing fields into holes in existing objects (I once looked at sorting fields by size to reduce object size, but this turns out not to save much). Maybe I’ll implement his idea in libgcj. Anyway, JikesRVM is cool technology and Ian had a lot of interesting things to say about why writing a VM in Java is a good idea. My notes say he also mentioned “parakeet”, which is an implementation of the parrot virtual machine on JikesRVM.

After this Mark did a more general status talk about what has happened in Classpath this year. The sheer volume of code is somewhat frightening.

That night we went to a vegetarian restaurant. Usually at FOSDEM we just end up at BXL, drinking beer and, in my case, eating a salad. This year I complained a bit and Petri did some research and with some help set things up. I felt a little bit guilty — I think I was the only vegetarian in the whole group — but it was wonderful. So, thanks to everyone who made this possible.

Some of the most important stuff at FOSDEM takes places at these dinners, or later in the bars. It is how we get to know enough about each to later interpret the tone of the email we exchange over the coming year. This year, Sun sent a whole platoon of JDK engineers on a charm offensive to win us over, which I think worked very well. It worked on me anyhow.

More on the various Sun guys in the next installment; on Sunday (resisting the lame joke) they took over the room…


  • Hey, I have subscribed to Planet Classpath for ages …

  • > This year I complained a bit and Petri did some research and with some help set things up.

    David Delabassee ( from Sun Belgium should get most of the credits. He actually called all the restaurants to make reservations and to discuss the various dinner menus they could offer for such a large group. Thanks David!

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