Just some notes from EclipseCon 2004, to get my head cleared for EclipseCon 2005:
The keynote by Erich Gamma and John Weigand seemed to hit all the big themes of the conference. The only exception was EMF and GEF, which I personally found to be quite interesting. Here were their big themes:
1. Concrete -> Abstract (Innovations in the JDT donated back to the base Eclipse platform.) This was great because it makes those innovations more widely usable.
2. Swing/SWT live in harmony at least on Windows and Linux. In retrospect, I don’t know how big of an impact this really was, but psychologically it was big.
3. RCP. I think this was underestimated by the Eclipse Team. There was a huge demand at the conference for RCP information. The RCP BOF was packed and I had to write my name sideways to fit it on the signup sheet. I expect this to continue to be a big topic in EclipseCon 2005. It has definitely become a focal point in Eclipse 3.1. Thanks again to Ed Burnette for championing this.
4. OSGi. This was nice in that it used another open source project as the plug-in loading mechanism. It was a little strange at first, since during the demo, they showed a command line prompt of OSGi. In practice, it doesn’t seem to have made that much effect yet, but the transition seems to have been seamless. Note that most Eclipse projects still use a plugin.xml only.
5. JDT was made more open. This probably has helped more plug-ins become more available that build on top of the JDT.
6. UI/Platform Improvements: Jobs, Activities, NewLook. NewLook was probably the most controversial, but most folks seem to like it now. Jobs was good for improving the perceived performance of Eclipse, as well as helping out everyone who builds on it. There were other improvements of course.
Most of the really good stuff is in the EclipseCon 2004 archives.
One thing that isn’t there that I really thought was useful was a Guidelines and Best Practices BOF by members of the Eclipse Jumpstart Team, the same team that wrote The Java Developer’s Guide to Eclipse. I’ll have to get in touch with one of them to see if they still have those slides.
Another good presentation that isn’t posted is “Inside SWT” by Steve Northover, who I think is an entertaining presenter. He outlined the history of SWT, going all the way back to the Smalltalk widget wars, where ParcPlace (now Cincom) VisualWorks with its emulated widgets battled Digitalk Smalltalk/V with its native widgets. Also in this mix was IBM Smalltalk with its Common Widgets (which were native.) This is analogous to Sun with emulated Swing and Eclipse with native JFace/SWT today.
It was also interesting to hear the philosophy behind SWT. Some of it includes: “Embrace the OS”, “Less is more”, “Everything means something – no such thing as harmless code”. It was funny to hear “API is forever, @deprecated is a lie”, since there are so many things in Java that have been deprecated for a long time.
On a personal note, I rather liked being at Disneyland. My family went with me and they really enjoyed themselves at Disneyland, California Adventure, and the Disneyland downtown while I was at the conference. It was a far cry from the last conference I attended before this one, which was XP/Agile Universe 2003 at New Orleans. Aside from the beignets, I’d take Disneyland again over New Orleans.