Whatever your feelings about Java, the opening of the JavaOne conference is really an outstandingly great event. I’m not sure if, in any given year, it’s the single biggest gathering of software developers, but it’s remarkably huge. I have some pictures to suggest the flavor of being there, and some specifics on the Neil Young segment.

As the audience pours in (it takes a while to get 10,000-plus people into a room), the lights are down, the music is up, and there’s entertainment on the main stage. This year, it was a break-dance troupe.

Break dancers opening up JavaOne 2008

I went way to the back of the room to try to capture the feeling of size and scale. Those huge video screens either side of the stage are using some sort of ultra-high-definition, the picture quality is mind-boggling.

The main stage at JavaOne 2008 from a long way away

Then there are a bunch of good-natured hijinks at the opening. Here’s James Gosling launching t-shirts into the crowd, assisted by John Gage and Chris Melissinos.

T-Shirt launching at the opening of JavaOne 2008

As for the opening session itself, it was OK. There weren’t a lot of dramatic new announcement this year (well, except for OpenSolaris 2008.05, but that’s not a Java thing). The core message, about the consumer-driven technology space, is easy to believe. Then there was the annual recitation of mind-boggling statistics about the number of Java developers, the number of Java downloads, and so on.

You know, those of us out there in the Ruby/Python/Erlang fringes might think we’re building the Next Big Thing, and we might be right too, but make no mistake about it: as of today, Java is the Big Leagues, the Show, where you find the most Big Money and Big Iron and Big Projects. You don’t have to love it, but you’d be moronic to ignore it.

There was a nice pitch for the Kindle by Amazon’s Ian Freed, it’s mostly-Java under the covers. And for that use case, Java seems like obviously the right choice.

I have no idea why Rikko Sakaguchi of Sony Ericsson got up on the stage to smile and show a mildly-interesting promotional video. In fact, I thought most of the video presentations were kind of lame.

The JavaFX demos were cool if crashy. I’m still skeptical about the whole Rich Internet Application notion, to the extent that it means “Like Flash”. But if you want to go there, I think you’d be nuts not to go all-open-source rather than get locked into one vendor platform or another; right now, JavaFX seems like the only option. And I did think it was audacious to show the JavaFX demo running on Android.

Neil · I should open up by making it clear that I’ve been a huge Neil Young fan for decades; have been to a lot of the shows, including the epochal Rust Never Sleeps tour at Maple Leaf Gardens.

First of all, it was remarkable how well Neil fit into the ambiance. The same good-but-faded jeans as everyone else on stage. The same “white guy from the middle of the continent somewhere” accent. The same often-lame self-deprecating humor. Scruffy hair and rocker’s shades, well so what.

Neil Young at the opening of JavaOne 2008

So, here’s the big deal: Neil has for decades hated CD-audio digital sound, preferring needle-on-vinyl. He thinks the 24/192 sampling rate on Blu-Ray makes a big difference, and music sounds good again. So he’s going to be releasing this huge Blu-Ray-only retrospective of more or less everything he’s ever produced. The reason he was on stage is that every Blu-Ray player has a Java VM inside it, and they’re doing some clever things with that for the retrospective. First, it’s got this pretty-engrossing user interface, very much in the Neil Young spirit, moving graphics of rusting autos and spinning vinyl and creaky file cabinets.

Also, he’s pretty sure there are more recordings and other archival material lurking here and there in the system, and they’ll be made available online to people who buy the retrospective, with the built-in code checking to see if there’s anything to download.

This big roll of paper contains (I think) the track listing for the retrospective.

Neil Young with a listing of his life’s work

Finally, he’s got Java in another one of his projects; an entry in the automotive X-Prize attempt to build ultra-high-mileage vehicles. His team’s entry is, of course, some bloated streamlined Detroit creation out of the Sixties. Obviously, it’s heavily instrumented and has good telemetry, all Java-based.

Wrapping Up · Unfortunately, I’ll be doing as much talking as listening at this event. But I’m glad to be here and sorry to have missed it for a couple of years. I may not write much Java anymore, but I’m still among programmers, lots of passionate programmers: my tribe, lots and lots of them, and that makes me happy.


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From: Duncan McGreggor (May 07 2008, at 10:05)

Man, you saved the best for last (although the Neil Young thing was very cool!):

"...I’m still among programmers, lots of passionate programmers: my tribe, lots and lots of them, and that makes me happy."

At a mere 1/10th of the JavaOne attendance, PyCon this year doubled from last year. And it was amazing. Over and over again, we heard folks expressing the same sentiment that you just did: this is our tribe, and damn, it feels great to be with our people :-)


From: Angsuman Chakraborty (May 07 2008, at 17:47)

Thanks for your time. I hope I didn't you guys too hard a time. That was not my intention.


From: Mark Volkmann (May 08 2008, at 07:33)

Why do you say that JavaFX is the only open source RIA framework? Adobe Flex is open source too. I'm still trying to decide which one I prefer.


From: Nicola Larosa (May 15 2008, at 12:37)

I second Duncan (e)motion. We just did PyCon Italy, 300 people up from 200 last year, and it's been *great*. :-)

Oh, I do ignore Java (the language), call me moronic all you want. Jeez.


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