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Luke Gorrie

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ECLM 2009 [Sep. 17th, 2009|12:14 am]
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I had an excellent time at ECLM. It's always my favourite conference - diverse hackers, two dinners to one day of talks, great atmosphere. I'd like to have seen more faces - Christophe Rhodes, Tim Daly, Tony Martinez, Marc Battyani to name a few - but you can't have everybody. Thanks a million Edi & Arthur for making this happen, and see you in Amsterdam for ECLM 2010 :-)

My favourite was Dimitri Simon's delightful talk about Piano. He's spent his career writing a program that's great for aeroplane engineers like himself, he developed it using a program that he loves (MCL), and it's maintained with help from the many nice people in the room (Clozure, Edi, Lispworks). He's a one-man company and his licenses start at £50,000. What's not to smile about?

Paul Tarvydas and David McClain each gave forceful talks with a "this is how real engineering is done" flavour, but I wasn't entirely convinced. Do you really need a Lisp-based clone of Erlang with homebrew cryptography to admin routers and farm out calculations? Or a visual digital circuit design environment to mail-merge commercial brochures? They seemed like brilliant and accomplished people with too much opportunity to over-engineer their programs.

Dan Weinreb's talk was an enjoyable taste of Lisp programming in the large. The impression I got was that things are going quite well and their system is coming together nicely. One later reflection though: whereas Lisp was a famous win for their fare search engine, it seemed like more of a mixed bag for their Oracle-Lisp-Java reservation system. I feel for them being unable to separately compile their source files, for example. I look forward to future reports.

I made a four-minute lightning presentation about Openfirmware. I had three things to say: if you want to experiment with low-level programming on a well-engineered self-contained platform, it's easy with Openfirmware on OLPC. If you want to port your Lisp system (or other program) onto a platform that's free of the C/POSIX/Unix legacy, Openfirmware is easy for that too - the only primitive you need is to call Forth's APPLY and then all the drivers are yours. And if you have an operating system of your own (like Movitz) and you want some cheap device drivers, you can write an IEEE 1275 Openfirmware FCODE interpreter and reuse a whole stack of portable ones from Openfirmware. (And if you don't care about any of those things, well, four minutes isn't a very long time.)

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