ERC Journal from Richard Gaskin

sims sims at
Thu Nov 18 01:27:42 EST 2004

[full web page with incriminating photos (some 
which prove there is sunshine in Malta)
will follow in a couple of days. Here's the daily 
text from Richard Gaskin. I'm running
off to track down the power supply that Frederic Rinaldi left plugged in at his
hotel later - Ciao]

ERC Journal, Day 0:  Arrival

Wow.  As soon as the plane breaks through the 
clouds in its descent to the Malta airport, the 
reason for Jim's affection for Malta is 
immediately clear to me.  It is the 
quintessential Mediterranean island, sun-bleached 
stone and ancient cathedrals and all.

Jim greeted me at the airport and kindly offered 
an espresso while we waited for David Cragg's 
plane.  In a wonderful experience to be repeated 
many times over the next 24 hours, I finally got 
to meet one of the most famous members of the Rev 

It's almost always the case that the Revvers I 
finally meet in person bear little resemblance to 
how I imagine them from their posts to the list. 
David is no exception:  for a guy who slugs it 
out so well with the dark dragons of FTP error 
code implementations as he does in libURL, I'd 
almost expect him to swagger more than a cowboy. 
But David is from Edinburgh, so he's merely 
well-mannered. :)

Back at the hotel we met up with Frédéric 
Rinaldi, and the three of us took a cap to a 
restaurant with a good reputation just around the 
other side of St. George's Bay.  The waiter was 
very personable, and we were glad we gambled on 
the Maltese Merlot -- even ordered a second 
bottle before the meal was done.

ERC Journal Day 1:  Reception

Sunday,  14 November

The introductions were a wonderful surprise:  we 
have people here from more than a dozen countries 
across three continents.  But perhaps most 
surprising were the number of attendees -- maybe 
as many as five or six -- who were willing to 
come here with no previous Revolution experience: 
they had heard about it, and so wanted to learn 
more they made the effort to be here. Some of 
these people have some very interesting technical 
challenges they're hoping to solve, with a lot of 
interest in Rev's database connectivity. 
Fortunately Rev seems up to the task for all of 

Kevin Miller's keynote was a great way to kick 
off the Conference.  He outlined accomplishments 
of the last year, with the release of versions 
2.2 and 2.5, and hinted at some future goodies 
coming down the road. While all of us were 
forbidden from sharing some of the specifics of 
his future plans for Run Rev, I can say this: 
For all those who had to listen to my whingeing 
about Bugzilla #624 during the Monterrey Rev 
Summit this last summer, it seems Kevin is taking 
an interested in better support for making 
drawing apps -- and a whole lot more.

After the keynote we enjoyed cocktails and 
talked, and I don't know if I can express just 
how delightful it was to finally meet folks like 
Graham Samual, Monte Brille, Klaus Major, and all 
the rest in person.  Such wonderful discussion on 
everything from life in Malta to current projects 
and of course our favorite Bugzilla entries. ;) 
It was too bad many of us had jet lag -- the 
shuttle to return to the hotel came far too 
early, though at least for myself I can say the 
rest was needed.

ERC Journal Day 2:

Malte Brill started the day with a good overview 
of Rev basics for all the newcomers here, from 
buttons to players and the message path.

Once the basics were covered he showed us the 
more exotic stuff: his new multimedia library, 
which rocks. You may have seen it in revOnline, 
and on the preview page for the ERC.   There's 
more to the library than I can cover here, but in 
brief it provides handy handlers for managing the 
movement of objects, but via script and 
constrained responses to mouse drags.  Really 
nice stuff, and the demo stack for the library, 
like all of Malte's work, is very graphically 
pleasing.  He covered the elliptical movement 
algorithms today, and we're all looking forward 
to his session tomorrow on path-based movement.

After a brief coffee break (one thing I like 
about Europe is that no one asks if you want 
decaf) Klaus Major began his session on 
algorithms. His was a very interesting approach, 
introducing algorithm design with the admonition 
that too often people solve problems by thinking 
about them in unnecessarily complex terms.  The 
goal for his session was to craft a simple 
implementation of the classic Memory Game.

We've all played Memory, the game of matching 
tile images, but certainly for myself my 
familiarity with it as a user has me taking it 
for granted to the point that I'm rather cloudy 
in imagine how I would sort out building it. 
Thankfully Klaus is here to show the way.

The first of his session took place away from the 
computer, discussing the steps we might use if we 
were to build such a game in the physical world. 
Once we had sorted out the basic steps needed to 
build the game, Klaus went to the computer and 
created an implementation of Memory from scratch, 
with scalable functions that work well with, as 
he says, "any number of tiles from two to twenty 
thousand."  Klaus' style uses friendly and clear 
names for handlers that make it easy to determine 
the handler's scope:  the handler that responds 
to mouse clicks is named "hasBeenClicked", and it 
calls a routine to do check the result named 

What could well have been sloppy, verbose code in 
my hands was delivered by Klaus in just a few 
lines, well-crafted because they take strong 
advantage of Revs' ability to let you focus on 
the human-logic side of things more than 
lower-level bit-counting.

After a brief break, Klaus dropped into a cabaret 
act:  a monologue from "the engine", a sometimes 
petulant 14-year-old who notes wryly, "Scott 
Raney is my father, but my mother is unknown." 
When Mssr. N. Gene receives a message, he needs 
to find the proper recipient, checking in first 
with the irate Italian Mr. FronteScripte, and 
working his was back to two Dutchmen both named 
Grouppe but one with a tatoo'd checkmark for "bad 
behavior", at last completing the journey with an 
old German general named Heinrich Backscrippt who 
can't understand the message because of a mildly 
risque language translation issue.

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