JSConf 2010 Day 1

I missed ScurvyConf entirely, much to my dismay. I got on the plane on time, but then they said they needed to swap out a computer. And then they swapped it out again. And then they gave up, hauled everyone off the plane, had us trudge across the airport and then loaded us up on another plane. I finally arrived at the hotel close to midnight, which is a drag given that I got up at 6:30am.

I started out on Track B. By the way, the notes below are mostly not going to be my opinions, but generally just what the speakers are saying. Sorry if this is a bit raw and unedited…

Chris Williams: How did I do JSConf?

Chris reported spending 200 hours to get JSConf going last year and 120 this year. He pointed out that conference tickets don’t sell out until they sell out… people need to feel like they’re going to be missing out on something and then they’ll sign up. JSConf 2009 was nearly canceled because of lack of interest and then they said “tickets have sold out” and instantly had a waiting list.

There was some additional discussion abiout how JavaScript needs a good website for the language. John Resig pointed out that MDC really has a lot of great information that is not Firefox-specific and is all available under a CC license. There was general agreement that MDC is a great resource, and Chris also mentioned it would be cool if there was a tool that cross-referenced between the JavaScript libraries (eg. $() in jQuery translates to dojo.query, etc…)

Chris is a fun speaker, and he gave us a great view of what goes into planning a conference.

Brian Mitchell: JavaScript’s Twin (Lua)

From a language perspective, Lua and JavaScript are so similar that there’s a temptation to just use JavaScript. But, there are times when Lua is a better choice.

LuaJIT, on some tests, is way faster than v8. It also has very good memory usage characteristics.

“Tables” in Lua are used for both array types and hash types. They’re very well optimized so that they perform like arrays when you use them like arrays. Warning: indexes start at 1.

Local variables need to be declared. Trailing semicolons are optional. Lua uses “end” rather than braces.

Lua has coroutines which makes asynchronous programming look a lot more synchronous.

Dion Almaer and Matt McNulty: web fragmentation on mobile

There’s a proliferation of internet-connected devices that all have SDKs, so it’s hard for developers to figure out how they’re going to support platforms. But, we’ve been there before. Back in the early 80s, you had to decide which computer you’d develop for, and that was it. Then came Windows, but there were still other platforms around… after that came the web, which enabled lots of new companies to grow up building software that could work on any number of devices.

Dion showed Quake II running in a browser using nothing other than HTML5 features. A lot of this is because of the huge speed increases in JavaScript.

There are a bunch of solutions for packaging up web applications for use on different devices. Titanium, Prism, Fluid, Palm’s webOS SDK, etc. all provide ways to provide native-like experiences using nothing other than web technology. jqTouch lets you use normal jQuery-style development for touch-based platforms.

When developing for mobile, these days you have a decision to make about your UI: do you want it to look native to the platform, or do you want to make an immersive experience that is tailored to your app. If you create a UI that is just there to serve your app, that could run nearly unchanged from platform to platform.

Palm’s mojo gives you a nice component model for HTML-based apps. Web apps have a low level model in some ways, compared to GUI components that you get in native platforms.

Matt McNulty announced that Ares is going 1.0 on Monday. Ares is Palm’s browser-based developer environment for webOS. 1.0 adds component APIs you can drag and drop, undo/redo, and a bunch of other features. Matt demoed Ares, and it’s really slick. Ares lets you preview the app in the browser (without the device services, obviously). It also lets you install to the device to see the actual app running.

Ares doesn’t work in IE, and no one really cares. Shockingly few people care about an offline version.

Matt also showed off mojo running in the browser. He had the native Palm mail app running in a normal browser window, which is cool indeed. Webkit browsers are no problem, but they’ve done some monkeypatching to make bits work on Firefox.

Francisco Tomalsky: Socratic documentation tool

We need to rethink how we do docs. Docs in source code are annoying because you have to scroll through them when using the code, you can’t localize them, you need specialized tools that may not yet exist for your language, it’s hard to include rich media (even when videos might make sense), and it increases the already large workload for committers.

Socratic uses the information in TextMate bundles to build up a DOM of your source. Once you do that, you have a query language that’s not unlike jQuery for querying that DOM and pulling out all of the matches.

The other piece is a wiki based on git (rather than docs in your comments). The wiki git repo tracks the branches of your code, so someone can get the docs for a specific version of your project. Socratic also has support for GitHub issues.

The project is not done (actually looks like it’s just getting started, based on the quick demo he gave) and Francisco is inviting people to help. He thinks that a great doc tool in CommonJS JavaScript will get a bunch of people using CommonJS servers.

Francisco then followed up with a demo of the latest Cappuccino release. He mentioned that it is now completely CommonJS-based. You no longer need Ruby at all to work with Cappuccino’s tooling. Also new is a CPTableView that was contributed by an outside contributor. He demoed using IB to create a table view and used nib2cib to convert for Cappuccino’s use.