Tuesday, July 22, 2008

OSCON 2008: Day 1

The first day at OSCON 2008 has come and gone... This year looks to be another good one. Here's what I saw on my first day.

The first session I went to was Python in 3 Hours. While I do most of my work in Ruby, I do try to keep an eye on Python. It seems like a pretty clean scripting language, and quite speedy when compared to Ruby.

The tutorial was good. The material is kinda dry (it's language syntax after all, which is pretty hard to spice up). Steve Holden's presentation was clear and well thought out. I walked away feeling like I could approach Python code now without too much fear. However, I still have some pretty mixed feelings about Python... There are a lot of little things that bother me... having to add a self parameter to instance methods, double under bar naming conventions and the whole significant white space thing. At any rate, I though the tutorial was informative.

The second tutorial I did was Making Things Blink: An Introduction to Arduino. This was a lot of fun. I haven't played with a microcontroller since college... but I've always loved working at the place where software meets hardware.

In the session, we worked through coding for Arduino as well as some basic circuits. The class culminated by building an Etch-a-Sketch. This is accomplished by hooking up two potentiometers to the Arduino, which reads the values and passes them to your computer via USB. We then used Processing to read and visualize the data on the screen. This meant that you could turns the knobs on the pots and draw on the screen pretty cool stuff.

Overall, one of the vibes I'm getting from the conference this year is big data. How do deal with really big databases and how to process tons of data in parallel. We'll see if this continues throughout the conference.

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