June 7, 2000

On The Road: Java One, Day Two
   by ZenShadow

I hate crowds. Five minutes, and already I feel like returning to the safe and secure confines of my cubicle, leaving behind the crowds and replacing them with something less... active.

I've arrived just in time to skip lunch again after fighting for a good half hour for my right to park in this wonderful city. The first detail of the day stands out like a sore thumb as I walk into the south hall entrance of the Moscone Center.

The SunRays have vanished.

In their stead are numerous Sparc workstations, all displaying the familiar face of CDE. I take this as a bad sign for the reliability of Sun's network appliance hardware; after all, if Sun can't even make them work...

Alright, I think to myself, maybe something -else- will go right today instead... I whip out my brand spanking new Handspring Visor Deluxe and head over to the synch station to update the software that I'd painstakingly copied from my Palm last night...

...only to find yet again that there isn't a compatible cradle in sight. Go figure. I try to use ScoutSynch over IR; no luck. Not supported by the Visor, apparently.

Now I can vaguely understand not supporting my old Pro, but not supporting the Visor is just a tad tasteless, IMHO.

With that disappointment out of the way, I move on to the next item on my list: the first session of my day, and another attempt at meeting up with one or more of my coworkers.

It's not looking hopeful. If I thought them geek enough, I'd just lift the Visor over my head and beam them a random note, but instead I watch the never ending stream of bodies pour from the conference room I'm about to enter.

There's an equally long line behind me, waiting to pile in. Amendment to yesterday's tip: make it 30 minutes when you can.

I find a comfy, out-of-the-way seat in the back and scan the inbound horde for signs of my co-workers... Nothing. Finally giving up, I watch an attractive young lady take the seat in front of me; perhaps all is not lost after all (yeah right. If I come out of here with a date, I'll eat my SBLF card. Besides, what do you say to someone like that? Somehow "Me Coder! You Coder Babe?" just doesn't sound workable).

The session is called "prototyping patterns, not software," and is an immediate dissappointment, at least to me. I had been hoping for a more philosophical discussion of software design, but instead we're just covering a bunch of pre-written patterns that are available on the web, and the speaker is flipping pages faster than I can take notes. I give up. Am I going to learn -anything- useful here? I'm tempted to leave like the many others that do when the second speaker comes up, but the magnetism of this young woman in front of me manages to hold me to my seat.

They should have called it "programming by rote learning." Patterns are important, don't get me wrong, but trying to use a one-size-fits-all approach to software results in inefficient software. Like OO, patterns are not the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything -- the number 42 has that unique honor, after all.

By the end of the software demo (hey, where did that come from?), I'm almost ready to leave. If it weren't for this girl...

Finally the session ends, and I quickly lose my unwitting companion to her boyfriend (ha! Told ya!) and begin wandering the place again. The food has come out again, and I manage to snake an instance of Dr. Pepper from the fifth drink bin I check.

Before the next session, I take a smoke break, and finally run into my boss (who, by the way, made me work last night. PFFT!). He's in search of one of the other buildings. After talking (and sharing a laugh over the missing SunRays), we part company again and I'm left alone to finish my smoke. I spend a few more minutes puffing away and then head to my next session.

Having found a comfy spot on the floor, I listen as the session (on high-performance systems with Java Beans) starts off slow but strong. Various scalability issues are raised, the whys of Java Beans are discussed, and so on.

All in all, the session is quite good, albeit slow. It has much more of the philosophical touch, and seems much more toned by real-life Real Programming experience. A very refreshing change.

Finally satisfied that there is some value in all this after all, I head out after the session for another smoke break and a decision -- there are two sessions listed in my Visor for the next time slot, labelled only as "technology" and "architecture". Thanks for the descriptive schedule, Sun.

I like words that start with the letter A. I'll go with that one, I suppose.

So I wander in again, send off a quick email to an on-line friend that is also attending and wander into not just one, but both of the sessions that were on my schedule; both look markedly uninteresting, so I stay at neither, choosing instead to sit down and relax in a low-traffic spot I'd noticed yesterday.

It's probably the only one in the entire building. The momentary spat of peace, interrupted only by the distant murmur of the conference and a nearby escalator, gives me a chance to relax and think a bit.

Reviewing my hard-won Visor-based schedule, I note that I have two fairly long sessions scheduled for tomorrow; better brinq a pillow. Long sessions are hell.

Bored, but not wanting to leave just yet, I put the Visor away and close my eyes for a few minutes, dreaming of what it would be like if the building were empty...

...and then the sessions let out, and my peace is shattered.

I spend the next hour or so wandering the halls, messing with terminals and talking on IRC -- basically, stalling until after rush hour. In the mean time, a band called the Venusians bopped out a good beat behind me. They were selling CDs. Of course, said CD is now in my MP3 collection.

And thus ends yet another day. Not very exciting is it? I keep hoping that tomorrow will bring something semi-exciting.

--ZS the Zombie

Published: June 8, 2000
Editor: stacy

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