Wednesday Sep 18, 2013

Tech Publishing Tips at JavaOne 2013

You've got tech knowledge aplenty to share. Maybe you blog. Or speak at conferences. Or conduct trainings. Or offer consulting services.

But have you thought of writing a technical book?

The fame, the fortune, the glory! (Okay, we may be stretching here....but anything is possible!) 

If you've seriously considered taking a step towards publishing a tech book or you're merely curious about what it would take, join me at JavaOne for the BOF panel session: So You Want to Be a Published Technical Author?, where I ask three publishers and two authors about the ins-and-outs of breaking into technical publishing.

The conference catalog currently lists two speakers (JavaOne system limit), but here's the full lineup:

  • "The Publishers"
    • Meghan Blanchette, O'Reilly Media
    • Joel Murach, Murach Books
    • Erol Staveley, Packt Publishing
  • "The Authors"

Bring your questions on anything and everything you'd like to know about getting published! It's sure to be an informative hour.

BOF3692 (in the conference's content catalog)
Monday, September 23
8:30pm - 9:15pm
Hilton Continental Ballroom 5

*My other session at JavaOne: Java Trends in Africa

Tuesday Sep 10, 2013

JUG Africa at JavaOne 2013

What am I looking forward to at JavaOne this year?

Moderating the panel session "Java Trends in Africa"!

BOF3649 (in the conference's content catalog)
Tuesday, September 24
7:30pm - 8:15pm
Hilton Continental Ballroom 5

The developer community in Africa is diverse and vibrant, and growing fast with more than 30 Java User Groups spread across the continent. Some are listed on the JUG Africa page, the umbrella group created by Max Bonbhel to connect the various local developer communities and to promote collaboration and shared learning.

On the panel, I'll be speaking with Max (CongoJUG) and Lamine Ba (SeneJUG) about what role Java is playing in the growing technology scene in Africa and how it's transforming the continent; what is being done to attract and grow a new generation of developers; what are the current challenges and opportunities facing developers; and more.

This is the first conversation of its kind at JavaOne (that I know of) and it's sure to be an engaging one! If you're attending JavaOne, schedule this one in your calendar.

One last note: Arun Gupta, Java evangelist extraordinaire, recently completed a Java EE 7 tour in Africa. His trip report is a recommended read for a glimpse at the breadth of the developer community in Africa and as a precursor to some of what will be addressed on this panel.

See you at JavaOne!

*My other session at JavaOne: So You Want to Be a Published Technical Author?

Wednesday Sep 04, 2013

Java in Africa Series: Mark Clarke, Jozi JUG

Mark Clarke, Jozi JUG“If you think programming in the coding zone is the highest spiritual state any human bean can obtain, then you will feel right at home.”
-Jozi JUG

Mark Clarke is a founding member of Jozi JUG, the largest and most active Java User Group in South Africa. In this first interview in a series about Java developers and communities in Africa, Clarke addresses the developer culture in South Africa and the opportunities available through free software such as Java.

Your bio in brief is…?

My name is Mark Clarke. I live and work in Johannesburg South as a solutions architect at Jumping Bean; an open source/free software solutions integration company. Jumping Bean offers development, support and training services around Java and free software applications and frameworks. I love technology and I am passionate about creating a vibrant software industry in Africa. I am a leading member of severaluser groups such as the Jozi JUG, Jozi LUG and HTML5 Developer Group as well as the hardware hacking group House4Hack Jozi.

How long have you been a Java developer?

I have been a Java developer since 2003.

What inspired you to become a developer?

I became interested in programming when I discovered a ZX81 in my father’s study while playing hide-and-seek. My father was an electrical engineer and had been given the device at work; but he put it in the cupboard and had forgotten about it. Around that time, I had also heard of Clive Sinclair, the British innovator who was all the rage in the media then. So I was filled with excitement about computers and the possibility they offered, though I never thought I would actually lay my hands one, living so far south in Africa.

What was your first programming language?

I initially did Basic on the ZX81 and then Commodore 64. At university, I study finance instead of science since I was told that there is no money in science. I was advised to take up a career in commerce. After completing my studies and a short-lived detour into professional accountancy I soon started programming again--this time with C. It was a major challenge though wrapping my mind around the need for a compiler when Basic had been built into the ZX81 and Commodore 64.

Do you use NetBeans?

Yes, I use NetBeans as my primary IDE. Its stability and polyglot support means I can do Java, HTML5 and PHP programming all from one tool.

How long has Jozi JUG been around? How many members are in the group?

Jozi JUG started in 2010. There are currently approximately 300 members of the group.

What are the hot topics among developers in your community?

The hot topics relate to open source and free software frameworks and projects. Support for different languages on the JVM is also an area of keen interest.

What are the challenges facing developers in your region?

South Africa has different challenges than the rest of Africa. Our economy is relatively well developed compared to the rest of the continent, and we have good access to the internet--though it is overpriced.

Our challenge is two-fold: First, getting enough young people into software development is a problem. The South African education system is failing to produce enough math and science students. Those that do get qualified can also easily find work overseas. The second challenge is that this shortage of skills means that the developers around are relatively well paid and in general don't feel driven to innovate or create new software like our counterparts in East Africa. So our entrepreneurial or start-up culture is quite weak.

But there is an ongoing, concerted effort to create a creative, innovative tech culture in South Africa. This has been spurred on by fact that the economy is not growing so much anymore and even those “comfortable developers” are starting to feel the need to be a bit more creative.

What role do you think Java technology can play in shaping Africa?

As free software Java has the potential to help Africa become a creator and exporter of technology rather than a mere user or importer of technology from the developed world. Building system on a technology stacks that require repatriation of license fees will mean Africa is always dependent on the developed world for the core building blocks to any solution. We would always have to wait for innovation to happen in the developed world before we could move forward with any solution. With Java we can build our own solutions and innovate ourselves without waiting for the rest of the world.

Android is a great example. Android’s open source nature means that manufacturers are able to offer cheap, yet feature-rich smart phones at affordable prices, which in turn provides a market for mobile application developers.

Are there any interesting initiatives taking place in your community of developers?

In Johannesburg, there are some projects to create a tech hub and a culture of innovation amongst South Africans. What is great is that the user community is playing a strong role in creating this culture and it’s not just up to the big corporations.

What are you looking forward to as a developer in Africa?

Android has given Java a shot in the arm in Africa. In general, PC penetration in Africa is low, but the penetration of cell phones is very high. In South Africa for example, the mobile phone penetration rate is over 100%. This provides a mass market for developers to target their applications at; something which is not available for desktop applications. Currently, most of the phones are feature or grey screen phones but Android allows for the production of a range of phones available, at different price points but with advanced features such as GPS and accelerometers. In addition the open nature of the platform and its eco-system means that it has appeal for Africans who are weary of being tied to a specific vendor.

When one compares these issues to the other competing products and eco system such as the iPhone, which is aimed at the high end of the market with exclusivity as one of its main selling points for image conscious consumers, it is obvious why Android would be a hit.

We really would like to get an annual conference up and running where there can be three days of pure tech and general geekery. South Africa is a long haul destination and travelling to Europe or the US for a conference is out of reach of most people in South Africa. Our plan is to make South Africans realize that we have the local skills and talents and should not look over seas for innovation when we have our own challenges to overcome.

*Attending JavaOne 2013? For more on the topic of Java and Developers in Africa, check out BOF3649 - Java Trends in Africa.

Monday Sep 02, 2013

Best Tips for Attending JavaOne

NetBeans Podcast cohost Geertjan and I recently recorded an episode around JavaOne; we asked two guests: Toni Epple and John Yeary, about their tips for how attendees can get the most out of the conference.

About Toni and John: Between them, they have a combined 20 years of JavaOne experience from which they shared a number of useful conference tips that you can hear on the recording. After the interview, it occurred to me that the tips could definitely benefit a wider audience beyond the podcast.

Here's a mashup of things to do to have a productive and fun experience at JavaOne:

  • Pre-register for sessions. The popular sessions and labs tend to fill up fast. 
  • Stick to a theme. There's so much content at JavaOne it's easy to get overwhelmed. If you have a certain tech focus--Java EE, for example--keep the majority if not all of your sessions in that area.
  • Get to your sessions early.
  • Linger after a session. According to John, there's a good reason for this: the attendees who stay behind tend to have the most interest in a topic and are the ones with whom you can exchange ideas and develop strong professional and personal ties. Another reason to stay behind is to....
  • Talk to the speakers. They're developers just like you and friendly. And they really love to talk about their topic. (They wouldn't be at JavaOne otherwise!) Approach speakers after their talks and ask questions. It's a good way to learn more and build connections.
  • Identify your peers. How? Easy. The developers you keep seeing at similar sessions over and over again. Those who stay after a session is over chatting with each and/or approaching the speakers.
  • Schedule down time to hang out and have fun. Yes, JavaOne is about great technical content, but it's also a social destination! Drop by the booth and chat with the crew there. Attend the Java User Group events and parties and meet other developers.

Do you have your own tips from past JavaOne conferences? Share them in the "Comments".

Get more JavaOne tips from other NetBeans Community Speakers.

Wednesday Aug 28, 2013

On Games and Learning Languages - jMonkeyEngine and Quorum

What do I know about 3D games? The last video/computer/online game I played was.... Maybe Lexulous on Facebook? Hmm. Don't look to me for know-how on this subject.

Languages? Forget it. After seven years of living in the Czech Republic, this Summer I officially waved a white flag on learning the local language--resigned to my lot as yet another expat done in by Czech's maddening declension system. So far, I'm zero and five (0-5) with languages--human AND computer. (I'll save you the tales of my adventures in programming.)

My track record on both subjects aside, I recently published two interviews on NetBeans Zone:

Quorum is the second of the two interviews that I mentioned in my "update" post. Andreas Stefik, the mind behind Quorum (a new research-backed programming language), is a member of the NetBeans Dream Team and a passionate advocate for accessibility in programming. The idea for Quorum came out of his work designing SodBeans, an intuitive programming environment for blind developers based on the NetBeans IDE. (That project later won a Duke's Award in 2011.) I'm a fan of the work that the SodBeans-Quorum team produces, and when I learned a new version of Quorum was available I asked Andreas if he'd be available for a "short" Q&A. When it comes to Quorum and SodBeans, Andreas doesn't do "soundbites". He responded promptly and in full detail to my questions. The interview has done quite well on NetBeans Zone (over 9000 views and counting...), which hints at a sizable interest in the matter of how to make programming languages easier to learn.

The name Ruth Kusterer may ring a bell if you're a long-time NetBeans user. Ruth was a NetBeans team member (doc writer and book author, web mistress, and all-around solid gal!) during the latter part of the Sun Microsystem years. She moved on in 2010, but still keeps in touch. Heck, I saw her this morning on the way to work. (We share a business park.) Back in 2007, she developed a casual interest in 3D gaming after learning about jMonkeyEngine at a JavaOne conference. In the years since then, she has evolved from hobbyist to a jMonkeyEngine expert--producing and managing documentation for the jMonkeyEngine community. She sent us a note in July about her new book jMonkeyEngine 3.0 Beginner's Guide. Smelling content and tie-in (the jMonkeyEngine SDK is based on the NetBeans Platform), I asked for an interview.

So, for advice and insight on developing 3D games and programming languages I happily direct you to Ruth and Andreas.

Wednesday Jul 17, 2013

A Mid-Summer NetBeans Update

For a moment it seemed as though history was about to repeat itself, wasn't it?

With this fifth post, I'm happy to report that it ain't so!

To mark getting back on track, here are five recent highlights--since the "pause"--to share:

  1. The NetBeans team started a gorgeous and sunny week in Prague this Monday by announcing NetBeans 7.4 Beta. Judging from responses on the NetBeans Twitter feed, there's plenty in this beta build that has users excited. A complete rundown can be found here.

  2. My NetBeans podcast cohost Geertjan and I recorded a [new] themed episode (#65) recently. We focused on plugins--Jelastic and JRebel, specifically. On most of our podcast recordings we cover a variety of topics, so it was a nice change to produce a one-topic podcast. We plan to do more of these in the future.

  3. The JavaOne 2013 notices went out in late June, and my two submitted BOF panel sessions (So You Want to Be a Published Technical Author? and Java Trends in Africa) were accepted! It'll be my first go at moderating/running a session solo at a conference. It's going to be an exciting experience.
    • (As always, a full line-up of NetBeans sessions and activities at the conference this year will be posted soon to

  4. Content-wise, I have two new community interviews lined up for the blog, and a few others on the way.

  5. Thank you, World War Z, for my new interest in Zombie fiction. #summerguiltypleasurereading.

Thursday Apr 25, 2013

JayDay 2013: Bigger and More Java

Let's list the many ways to introduce Anton Epple: NetBeans Platform consultant, trainer, developer and author; a blogger; a NetBeans Dreamteam member and recent Java Champion. It's an already impressive profile, yet there's more. Over the years, he has also steadily carved out a niche for himself as a conference organizer.

He got his start hosting annual NetBeans Day events in Munich for local enthusiasts and fans of the IDE. Each year, the gathering grew in size along with interest in a wider range of topics. Eventually, JayDay was born.

I reached out to him recently with a few questions about JayDay 2013--an all-Java powwow now in its second year that attracts an international crowd of Java developers and top Java experts.

This is your second JayDay event and the agenda looks to be bigger. What extras do you have planned for attendees this year?

We got great feedback for our JayDay last year, so we felt confident to allow more attendees and more speakers this year. The most important thing is that we decided to add a second track to give attendees more choice. Another extra is the embedded part, where we will show experiments with devices and sensors--that might be extremely cool. We're also trying to make the conference unique in that we're "eating our own dog-food". For example, we created a Java game for the JayDay website, as well as JavaFX-based presentation software for some of the talks.

You've already confirmed a number of well-known Java experts: Bien, Eisele, Grunwald, Weaver, and so on. What topics are they going to tackle?

We're trying to get a good mixture of great local and international Speakers, and actually the list has gotten bigger although not all the speakers have officially been announced yet. Simon Ritter and Gerrit Grunwald will both be covering different aspects of Java and JavaFX on small devices such as the Beagleboard or the Raspberry PI. In the JavaFX track, Wolfgang Weigend will share the latest information about JavaFX on the iPad and Android. Jim Weaver will talk about the cool new lambda expressions in Java 8. Adam Bien will do some great Java EE7 live hacking, and Markus Eisele will show how to test what Adam created using Arquillian. And I'll show how to write games for any device in Java. So basically we're covering Java on any device from Pi to Cloud. But I intend to add some more speakers and talks.

What inspired you to start the first JayDay conference?

I loved the NetBeans Day worldtour events back in the era of NetBeans 5. So a few years ago I decided to revive that and I organized a couple of NetBeans Days and meetings in my area. It was great to bring enthusiasts together and to do something for the NetBeans Community. The biggest event was in 2011. That year the topics were already getting more general, so we decided to broaden the scope to general Java. This is how JayDay was born. The first JayDay took place last year (December 2012). It was a great event, but I thought it might be even better in the Summer, when we can go outside to a typical Munich beer garden for lunch and the after-event party. :-)

Can you share a few tips about what goes into starting-up a new conference?

I'm still in the process of learning myself, but these are some of the more practical things that I've learned:

  • Do enough breaks. The attendees need breaks to walk around, meet and discuss the content. An important part of a conference is to be able to hang around with your peers and chat with the experts. That was the one thing we didn't have enough of last year because there was just too much great content and too little time.
  • Don't be afraid to charge for the tickets--it's a good registration reminder. :-) For free events sometimes up to 40% of the registered attendees won't show up. That can be very disappointing for an enthusiastic conference organizer especially if he has to pay for the catering. Even a small fee makes a big difference.

The JayDay homepage banner is actually a game called "Duke's Revenge". (But Duke seems to have a "death wish" and refuses to budge! Am I doing something wrong...?) Can you tell us more about this?

If you click the banner, a little browser game will load and you can use the "a", "s", and "d" keys to help Duke to protect Munich against some evil aliens. :-) The cool thing about this is that the game is written entirely in Java, but it doesn't require Java to be installed on your machine. It actually runs in every modern browser, even on the iPad and Android.

We call it the "Chuck Norris experiment", because up to now only Chuck Norris was capable of running Java in the browser without a Plugin. The trick is in a project called bck2brwsr started by Jaroslav Tulach. At its core is a virtual machine written in JavaScript together with an implementation of the Java Core APIs. This way you can run Java ByteCode loaded from regular JAR files in the browser.

What makes bck2brwsr special is that it doesn't tie you to a certain API or a set of widgets, but makes it easy to create your own APIs. It took me just one day to learn how to extend the project and create the API for drawing on HTML5 Canvas that I'm using in "Duke's Revenge". I'm really exited about this project and we'll definitely cover that at JayDay. By the way, the game is Open Source.

What would you like most for attendees to take away from this conference?

Our goal is to give them a ton of information about the hottest topics in the Java universe, and we want them to leave inspired to create their own cool projects. I guess what all the speakers of this conference have in common is that they're not only experts but also enthusiasts. They love to create cool stuff and share it with the community. So if we're able to get that across and share it with the audience I'll be more than happy!

Thank you Toni for the interview and best of luck with JayDay 2013.

Register for JayDay 2013.


Call me "Tinu". I'm a Principal Program Manager for NetBeans IDE in Oracle's Developer Tools organization, and Country Lead for the Czech Republic chapter of Oracle Women's Leadership (OWL).


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