Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Have Seen The FutureRuby, And It Is Amazing - Part 1

It was with tremendous excitement that my brother Damen and I had arrived in Toronto for FutureRuby. Not only were we getting to attend the reprise of what had been by all accounts the "Best. Conference. Ever.", but we were going to be speaking about Project Flying Robot.

There had been many interesting interactions with various security personnel on the journey, thanks to the many small homemade electronic devices that make up our tiny squadron. All of them were extremely friendly and professional as they carefully unpacked, swabbed, scanned, then repacked our cases full of joysticks, Arduinos, electric motors, batteries, and many wires. MANY wires.

By the hour that we arrived, we were too late to attend failCAMP (failed to make it?), but there would be many opportunities to interact with our fellow comrades in Ruby. @peteforde and @meghatron of Unspace had designed the conference with the kind of architectural integrity only a geek could conceive. It was not until the final sessions that the master plan became clear, but I will get to that.

As a result, the next morning we had no post-fail hangovers to slow us down with our last minute assembly and attempts at troubleshooting, combined with walking all over Toronto. Once the evening came, we were eager to connect with our fellows, and happy to climb the stairs to Unspace's cool digs. Pinball machine FTW! And Greg Borenstein's robotic drummer pounding the skins on Pete Forde's drum kit, controlled by Archaeopteryx. It was an excellent party, and they had to kick us out at midnight with the reminder of the talks in the early AM, not to mention the festivities yet to come.

Opening up the first day of the actual conference with the first talk was Nathaniel Talbott with a rabble-rousing speech on "How Capitalism Saves Ruby From Corporatism, or, Owning The Means of Production". This was an immediate shot across the bow of the status quo, and gave us all a clue that the 'collectivist' theme was not just a cool design style for the schwag, but also a serious theme for the conference content.

Next on was Ilya Grigorik with "Lean and Mean Tokyo Cabinet Recipes". If you do not know about it, Tokyo Cabinet is an open source key-value database, that also has server and full-text capabilities. Ilya gave a very hardcore presentation that went all the way into many of the cool things that can be done with TC right now. This was a departure against the traditional SQL way of doing things, and tied in with the revolutionary theme. You HAVE been getting up to speed on one or more non-SQL databases already, haven't you?

The next session was one I was particularly eager to hear. Austin Che spoke about "Programming Life". As in, "Hello World in a petri dish" kind of programming. I had missed the actual workshop, where some lucky people were successful as growing their own glowing bacteria. However, the excellent talk from Austin took us on a wild ride through the current state-of-the-art in biohacking. Let me put it another way: we already have the rough biotech equivalents of both Github, with the Open Bioinformatics Foundation, and Sparkfun with Auston's own Gingko Bioworks. Other sites like and are also there for anyone who wants to get started with this fascinating technology at home.

Following this was Anita Kuno with "Version Control: Blood Brain & Bones" reminding us that the human mechanism needs to be correctly maintained, and developed for correct performance. She had a bunch of specific eating techniques and foods to share, and almost immediately, it seemed that we were more conscious of what nutritional input we were routing into our individual biocomputers.

Next up was one of the best presentations of the entire conference. Foy Savas gave a talk named "polyglots Unite!" which spoke about multi-language programming, and using a takeoff on Rack named Crack to providing a kind of Rack-adapter for other web-backends other than Ruby. It is a neat concept, and I look forward to seeing where it goes. The presentation itself was absolutely fantastic. The timing, the clarity... in a word, he "killed". One of the best speakers of the conference.

Only something pretty different and amazing could follow up that, and Misha Glouberman's "Terrible Noises for Beautiful People" satisfied. It was a laptops closed participatory session that had our entire group singing, clapping, and sushing together. Not only that, but we actually played Conway's game of life using musical interaction with the entire group as the cellular automata. You can't do THAT at home! Absolutely brilliant.

Next were my brother Damen Evans and I with our "Flying Robot" presentation. Despite a few small technical glitches (hardware!) we pulled it off, and the crowd was enthusiastic. We had a great time, and congrats to the winners of the 2 Blimpduino kits @_krispy_ and @maplealmond. There is some cool video here, and lots of great photos like here, and here. Thank you to everyone who participated, we had a great time doing it!

Once we had demonstrated Ruby air superiority over the skies within the Metropolitan Hotel, it was all mobile all the time for the remains of the day. First, a 3-way talk from the guys at Phonegap, followed with a demo by Adam Blum from Rhomobile. I had seen Adam's basic pitch before at LARubyConf, one nice change was that they no longer seem to be trying to charge a per-user license. Per-user license, what's that?? I haven't seem one of those since last century, I think.

Finally, the sessions for the first day were complete. We all put on our finery, and took over Pravda, a Russian-mobster-styled vodka bar that pulled out all the stops, with many people staggering out of the vodka-freezer with smiles on their faces. My personal favorite moment was when we gave a spontaneous group loud "ahhh-clapping-shushing" in response to the wonderful announcement that Shopify was going to pay to keep the bar open longer. There was large quantities of amazing food as well. That @meghatron really knows how to throw a party!

After a pleasant stroll through the streets of Toronto, powered by Russian jet-fuel, we collapsed, to get a few comfortable, if short, hours of rest before FutureRuby Day 2.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. VADLO comes to mind, it is a life sciences powerpoints search engine There are good research cartoons also.