My Experience at WalterCon 2006

News posted on Thu, 2006-11-02 04:55


Since I live in South Florida I had to take the opportunity to attend WalterCon 2006 since it was only three hours away in Orlando. My involvement in Haiku has not been tremendous at this point, but it and BeOS have always had a special place in my heart. I hoped attending the conference would bring back some of my passion for developing on Haiku. I'm glad to report this was the case.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I drove up to Orlando Friday morning and since Michael Phipps was flying in early Friday afternoon I picked him up at the airport around 3 PM. We had some appetizers at a Thai restaurant and got to know each other a little better. We then drove to the hotel and checked in.

I must say I was really pleased with the hotel. The rooms were all suites with a living room, kitchen, bedroom with two double beds and of course a bathroom. Though most of us did not make much use of the kitchen, it was nice to have just in case something needed to be put in the refrigerator or warmed in the microwave. Every room had ethernet internet access, and we had wireless downstairs in the conference room and lobby. Unfortunately something about the DNS servers being used by the hotel caused problems on BeOS for name resolution, but my Windows XP (boo boo, hiss hiss) laptop worked fine. Other guys with Linux did not have a problem either. I'm sure the new Haiku netstack won't have this problem once it is fully operational.

Michael and I were the first people to arrive, so we got settled in our rooms and then Michael got his "Tupperware" BeOS box set up so he could test out Haiku Inc's new projector. Everything worked fine (except the internet as mentioned) and it was cool to see BeOS projected on the wall in a 5 foot square area. In what I considered a fascinating metaphor for BeOS and Haiku being small and efficient, Michael packed everything he needed for the weekend in three small pieces. The projector was in its own box, an LCD monitor box was recycled for the "Tupperware" computer, and then there was a very small carry on bag containing ALL the WalterCon t-shirts and Michael's own clothing for the weekend. Since I tend to over pack I was pretty impressed.

By about 7 PM five more attendees had arrived and congregated in Michael's room, 518. In order of arrival it was Mike Summers, Jonathan Thompson and his friend Ron, Alexander G. M. Smith, and Eric Carte. At this point we took Eric's infamous Hummer H3 and Ron's infamous yellow Neon to a nearby Mexican place called Chevy's for dinner. We all pigged out and then headed back to the hotel, where we all went our separate ways.

I spent some time by the pool and in the hot tub, then went back to my room, surfed the web a bit, then hit the sack. The beds were really comfortable so I slept well.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I got up around 8 AM, took a shower then headed downstairs to the buffet breakfast. I was really impressed with the selection of food, especially the "make your own waffle" station, where you literally take some waffle batter and pour it into a hot waffle iron to make yourself a fresh waffle in about two minutes. Add some eggs, bacon, a biscuit, fruit, yogurt and orange juice and you have one heck of a breakfast. Yes I ate all that and needless to say my hunger was satisfied.

By now the rest of the attendees had arrived, including Bill Lawson (and his girlfriend), Gabe Yoder (DarkWyrm's brother), Rene Gollent (the author of Vision), and our special guest for the day, Jem Matzen from The Jem Report (whose story on WalterCon 2006 can be seen here.)

After breakfast we all congregated in the conference room, Michael got the equipment set up, and the conference officially kicked off around 9:30 AM when Michael gave his welcome speech. He gave us an overview of the latest updates on Haiku as well as plans for the future, and then we had the infamous t-shirt toss.

We then had some more discussion and took a break. After the break we watched DarkWyrm's "Haiku Rocks" video, which was cool and well done.

Soon after we headed to lunch at the same Thai restaurant that Michael and I ate at Friday. Since there were more people my car was enlisted to join the pool of WalterCon transport vehicles. In fact since I knew the way I took the lead driving the few miles to the restaurant. My dish was delicious and I think everyone else enjoyed their meals as well, even Michael with his "Fireman Hot" dish (though I had to wonder with all the sweating he was doing.)

After lunch we surprised Axel Dörfler by calling him up to make his presentation on writing Haiku drivers, which was scheduled for Sunday. Still he quickly stepped up to the plate and made a nice remote presentation with Michael helping him on this side by changing slides. This was a pretty technical presentation (which is fine by me) and I am now interested in writing a small driver or two so I can get more experience in this area. Axel's presentation will definitely give me a good head start.

Soon after Axel's presentation was complete Michael started reviewing his file which showed some of the ideas collected from the Glass Elevator list for new features in Haiku R2 and above. Some of these were pretty esoteric but many would be very useful and could help set Haiku apart from other desktop operating systems.

Michael also talked about how he doesn't like ports very much (which I agree with.) To quote him directly: "Ports are evil (though sometimes necessary.)" Though it may seem pointless to re-invent the wheel again and again, I think a native Haiku application will fit in the system better, use more native features, and would doubtless be easier to use given the UI of many open source applications which might be ported.

Around this time we got a surprise visit from an actual BeOS user, Jerry Ringewald. To make matters more interesting he is the brother of Erich Ringewald, former CTO of Be Inc. Apparently he lives on the East Coast of Florida and decided to come visit and while he was here get some technical help on BeOS. I didn't talk to him personally, but I believe Michael Phipps and a few others did. I'll let them comment further on Jerry.

After the talk about Haiku's future feature-set, Jem left and then the rest of us headed for dinner at Chili's. Our big party was split up into tables of four and seven (with me at the table of seven), so I can't say what was discussed at the table of four, but at my table I talked with Gabe, Rene, Bill and his girlfriend. Also in a rather low probability incident Bill, Gabe and myself all ordered the same hamburger, one right after the other. It was a good burger though and we all cleaned our plates. Great minds think alike.

After that Rene, Bill, his girlfriend and myself headed to "Marble Slab Creamery" for a late night ice cream snack. This is an interesting ice cream chain in Florida where you choose an ice cream base and then add in various candy and cookie choices which are mixed in with the ice cream on a very cold marble slab. I had "Birthday Cake" flavored ice cream with Snickers candy, which was tasty but one heck of a jaw workout chewing the semi-frozen Snickers pieces.

After that we headed back to the hotel, went to our rooms and called it a night.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Today I got up bright and early at 7:30 AM, which actually ended up being 6:30 because of the removal of Daylight Savings Time here in the US. That extra hour of sleep would have been nice, but oh well, I was able to enjoy a long conversation at breakfast with Eric, Jonathan and Ron.

After breakfast I checked out, loaded my luggage in the car and then got to the conference room by about 9 AM. There was some general discussion and then Jonathan Thompson gave a talk about the C++ "Fragile Base Class" problem and his suggestion for how to fix it in Haiku R2. It was an interesting idea though I personally was not completely sold on the approach he was describing. Of course Jonathan has been programming in C++ for about 13 years whereas my C++ experience is minimal at best. But I was "born and raised" on object-oriented programming so I'm pretty well versed on that technology and its use in any language. I felt his approach was stepping back into a more C-style pseudo-OO approach that in my mind is not in the C++ style, especially what has been espoused by Bjarne Stroustrup in the last five years or so. But regardless it was an interesting idea and I think this problem definitely needs to be considered and possibly addressed in Haiku R2 to avoid future problems with API backwards compatibility.

We had a break and then Rene gave a very cool presentation about the media kit and adding media support to Haiku/BeOS applications. This was particularly interesting to me because I want to create a Haiku Media Center type application to scratch one of my own itches. So far this has been a "secret project" of mine which I have not told anyone about, but I talked about it some in the conference and got a lot of good feedback. There is definitely a need for a good, easy to use media center application, and Haiku/BeOS is the ideal platform for such a thing. For now I don't want to say too much about it because it is in the very preliminary stages, but the basic idea is an application which makes it very easy to manage and track the video files on your computer, with eventual PVR functionality and integration with other media applications such as SoundPlay, etc. I am also very eager to have excellent infrared remote control support in a separate but related application which will tie in with the media center application. So the idea of having a Haiku/BeOS media center computer in your entertainment center may soon be reality.

After Rene's talk we called an end to the formal WalterCon 2006 and headed off for our final group food outing, this time at Uno's Pizzeria. It was another good lunch and after dropping off my other passengers at the hotel I drove Rene to the airport and then went back to the hotel. Here I hung out with Michael, Alex and Mike S. for an hour or so before going with all of them to the local Outlet Mall. We walked around, had ice cream, I bought some fancy designer blue jeans on the cheap and then we left. Mike S. stayed behind to catch his bus back home, and after I dropped Michael and Alex at the hotel I start my drive back home.

And that was my experience at WalterCon 2006 (in excruciating detail, haha.)

Ryan Leavengood