30 Apr 2012 crhodes   » (Master)

ELS 2012 Liveblogging! Well, I'm constrained to one diary entry a day, so maybe it's a bit of a stretch to claim that I've joined the socially network world, but baby steps...

First impression: Zadar is really quite pretty. Shiny white stone, clean, old buildings, seafront. My first impression is probably coloured by the fact that when I left from London, the weather was 4°C and pouring with rain – and I emerged from the plane into 25°C heat and a blue sky. I confess, I even had a little nap near the Sea Organ while waiting for the evening meeting and welcome reception; at that reception, let us just say that a good amount of Maraschino and another good amount of the local beer was consumed, both in good company. Also, it's asparagus season; yum.

This morning, after a generous welcome from Marco Antoniotti, this year's programme chair, Juanjo García Ripoll gave a very interesting overview of ECL and its history, and made some good points about its design philosophy. The key argument is probably that designing ECL for embeddability adds options, rather than being a limitation; he made a plausible case for those things which are currently lost compared with more traditional implementations – particularly, image saving – are reimplementable, at least up to a point. Juanjo also listed a number of good improvements in ECL since the last time: Unicode support, multithreading, improved CLOS and MOP support, and plenty of other things.

After a good long coffee break, we had the first paper sessions: first, a presentation of Climb (no website yet, apparently), an image processing toolkit developed by Laurent Senta with Didier Verna; some interesting stuff in there, even if the dreaded Demo Effect came along. A particularly neat-looking demo of a (prototype) visual environment for chaining processing tasks; performance is a bit more of a hot topic (read: not yet implemented), both in terms of parallelizing individual operations and (I think) in terms of compiling networks of processing tasks to minimize redundant computation. After that, Giovanni Anzani gave an autocad-based talk on calculating and visualizing optimal (for some value of "optimal"; sufficient for architecture, anyway) points of intersection of incommensurate measurements. Again, a pretty nifty demo, this time within AutoCAD using AutoLisp; somewhat surprisingly, it seems that there is no matrix manipulation library support within AutoLisp. (I think I need to read the paper for this work, to understand exactly what the problem the method presented is aiming to solve).

One lesson in Southern European lunchtimes later (even longer than academic lunchtimes!) we were into the second session, starting with Alessio Stalla talking about ABCL and its interoperability with Java. I got a shout-out, because in amongst the various integrations of ABCL with its JVM host was a note that the sequences in ABCL support the extensible sequence protocol that I proposed in 2007; the example given was of using instances of Java java.util.List class instances as Lisp sequences, directly. The demo effect struck again; instead of launching slime, a button in the modified Java web framework made the compiler enter an infinite compiling loop. Bad luck. (Demoing things is a particular nightmare, I know; the trick as far as I have managed to formalize it is to leave as little as possible to chance: this includes even typing, unless you're very confident: use short file or variable names, define key bindings or keyboard macros, or write scripts to do things for you.) Nils Bertschinger talked about probabilistic programming in Clojure: implementing Metropolis-Hastings sampling of program paths with given probabilities, and consequently allowing conditioning on some program choice points and Bayesian inference on the hidden parameters. It looks interesting, but the killer feature of Clojure (immutable data structures, for cheap undo) might also be the cause of a performance problem. Still, looks interesting. The demo worked.

Pascal Costanza rounded out the day's schedule with his discussion on reflection in Lisp and elsewhere, talking about fexprs, 3-lisp and macros through to metaobject protocols. Unfortunately, as a regular attendee at Lisp events, I've seen much of it before; it's still interesting, but maybe I need to get out more. To dinner!

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