2 Mar 2006 robilad   » (Master)

Walk like a Belgian

Sunday at FOSDEM started with me sleeping in, and Wolfgang Bär politely banging on the door to make sure I don't miss the five slices of bread and a slice of cheese at CHAB. More accurately, since Roman Kennke, who was staying there as well, was scheduled to talk at 9 AM, we scrambled to have breakfast, check out, ride with Michael Koch to ULB and pop in just in time for Roman to start his presentation. It worked.

Roman showed how far GNU Classpath's SWING implementation has gone from early last year, when we had demos somewhat running, to today, when BeanShell, JUnit and other applications work fine. A lot of people have hacked on Swing in GNU Classpath, and put in hours of work to fill in the stubs with working implementations, and it shows. I am looking forward to running at least the NetBeans RCP on Kaffe OpenVM this year, given the amazing amount of progress by Roman, Lillian, Anthony, and many others.

Another area of huge activity in the past year was CORBA support. Dr. Audrius Meskauskas picked up the ball when it became clear that we can't use OMG's org.omg code due to their non-free license, which prohibts modification. As it turned out that all the other free software CORBA implementations written in the Java programming language had the issue that they depended on or included the non-free code from OMG, GNU Classpath had to write its own implementation, written from scratch, and free from non-free dependencies. Audrius created a largely complete, compatible CORBA implementation in GNU Classpath in a couple of months almost single-handedly, and has plans to add better tool support and some interesting ideas to improve the performance using dynamically generated proxies.

Then it was time for the battle of GNU Classpath interpreters for the 'state-of-the-art' crown: Robert Laugher's JamVM vs. Christian Thallinger's Cacao. First Robert explained some of the tricks used to make JamVM really fast, and then Christian showed the results of using vmgen to generate an interpreter that's about as fast as JamVM automatically. I'd be very interested in seing the vmgen-generated interpreter merged into Kaffe, as an additional interpreter, in particular for the platforms where we don't have a working jit yet. The code looks nicely mergeable, we'd just have to figure out how to best deal with the different internal representation used in Cacao.

Finally, the day was wrapped up with a discussion to see what everyone is working on. During the dicussion, a fim crew dropped in to film it, and asked the participants where they were from, etc. They seemed a bit surprised that a free software developer meeting in Belgium would draw participants from all over Europe, and the US. It must feel weird to see that free software development is a social activity, if one does not expect it.

I had to leave a little early, to catch the last trains back to Saarbrücken, so I missed out on the last pub stop and related discussions. All in all, FOSDEM was great, like every year. Thanks to Pascal and the rest of the FOSDEM team for having us.

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