Thursday Apr 29, 2004

X Dev Conference so far...

I'm in Boston this week for the X Developer's Conference. It's been a very interesting time - good to meet many people, some that I've talked to before on the phone or e-mail, others that I haven't.

I won't summarize the talks - Federico Mena-Quintero is doing that in his blog. The environment isn't quite what I expected, but is working well. The meetings are broadcast via audio & webcam feeds across the net - there's an IRC channel #xdevconf on the freenode network for feedback and side commentary - it's displayed on one of the four display walls at the front of the meeting room, so we can all see it. Of course, pretty much everyone here has laptops so we can all login directly to comment, check out websites people refer to during their presentations, take notes, hack on code, check e-mail, or do whatever. I've never before thought I had much use for a laptop, but I'm finding the one I borrowed to be invaluable. (Of course it's running Solaris 10 x86, with Sun's GNOME and Mozilla 1.4 releases, all running on top of the X.Org X11R6.7 server.)

There is very much a Linux orientation, though Solaris has been acknowledged. I have resisted the temptation to yell out "But Sun Ray already does that!" at various points, such as during Jim Gettys wishlist talk when he mentioned how fat clients are so expensive to manage and business really needs thin clients, or that it would be nice to have secure session mobility much like Sun Ray's smartcard hotdesking. Stuart did mention Sun Rays during his talk, and how the usage model is much different than the typical Linux fat client desktop, but shares some similarities with what the Linux Terminal Server Project is doing. I also noted some similarities between the model Keith Packard suggested for a frame buffer driver, especially exporting multiple devices for a multi-head frame buffer, with the frame buffer driver Solaris/SPARC has used for years, but I don't know enough about the model to comment. They are proposing it as a topic for the upcoming Ottawa Linux Kernel Developer's Summit so perhaps we can get them some info about the Solaris SPARC frame buffer driver models by then to see if it would help.

The security talk yesterday was interesting - the SE Linux X work sounds in many ways similar to the Trusted Solaris desktop, but it also appears to go beyond what TS does in some areas. (Unfortunately, I don't know enough about either TS or SE Linux to say much for sure.)

The big splash of the conference was definitely this afternoon when both Sun's Project Looking Glass and the Croquet project presented glimpses into the 3-D desktop future. Both were well received, and seemed to complement each other - LG covered more of the infrastructure to provide a 3-D desktop, while the Croquet presentation skipped the implementation details to show their ideas of navigating a 3-D world much like a game of EverQuest or Doom, but for collaborating with others and doing work. While no one was quite sure how to make 3-D more than eye candy, there seemed to be general agreement that providing the infrastructure was a good thing so that people could start experimenting with how to use it. One thing I saw during the Croquet demo seemed very interesting - a spreadsheet which you could turn at an angle and watch bars pop out of every cell representing the value in that cell, making it an instant 3-D graphical representation of the data.

The two questions asked over and over again of the LG team were "When can we get this?" and "Will it be open source?" Unfortunately, the team couldn't give complete answers to those questions since the details are still being worked out, but they did assure everyone they were trying hard to get good answers soon and to work closely with the open source community.

Blogging beyond the firewall...

Here goes...my first post to the blog outside the Sun firewall. I've been blogging a little bit inside the Sun firewall but haven't really gotten into it that much - it's hard to think of many things that I think many other people would find interesting (at least that I can talk about publically), but it seems from talking to others there may be a few more than I think. We'll see how this goes. After 5 years of posting to Usenet from a non-Sun address to avoid any issues with people claiming I'm misrepresenting Sun it's nice to see the pendulum swinging the other way, with management realizing that a dialogue with customers and the community can be a good thing and actually encouraging it, despite the risks of engineers saying things that marketing and legal may wish we hadn't. The timing is actually nicely coincidental with my attendance at the X Developer's Conference so at least I'll have some interesting thoughts to get started with before returning to the daily grind next week...
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Engineer working on Oracle Solaris and with the X.Org open source community.

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