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EclipseCon 2013 Roundup

by Alex Blewitt on Mar 28, 2013 |

EclipseCon 2013 was the tenth North American Eclipse conference, and this year located in Boston, MA. As with the last few years, it has been co-located with OSGi DevCon and ALM Connect. The OSGi roots of Eclipse are well known, but the Application Lifecycle Management conference began in 2012 and looks at the wider picture of software development and practices and tools that support it.

The opening keynotes were given by RedMonk's Stephen O'Grady on developers are the new kingmakers and Jeffrey Hammond giving a second keynote on moving towards ALM 3.0. The premise here is that where originally technology choices were made by those who purchase software, now the choice of which software stack to use is implicitly made (or encouraged) by developers themselves. Thus open standards tend to win over proprietary ones, and explains why companies such as RedHat who work in the open but who raise revenue through support contracts are able to keep growing in difficult times. Not only that, but being able to create massive computer scheduling systems which can be turned on and off a the flick of a switch gives great power to those startups who cannot or do not find funding. With just a $10 bill, you can create a cloud network of 10 machines and 50Gb of shared storage for an hour's runtime.

Tuesday's keynotes on How GitHub Works by Zach Holman was more to do with contributing to open source software and doing what you love. (Zach has given a presentation at InfoQ previously which covers how GitHub works), and Wednesday's on Nashorn (JavaScript for the JVM) was delivered by Jim Laskey of Oracle. Unfortunately Tim Fox, who was scheduled to speak about Vert.X, was unable to make it – though Jim did reveal that Oracle are working interally on something called "node.jar", using the Nashorn JavaScript environment.

Other noteworthy items at EclipseCon included:

Xtend This year's EclipseCon co-incided with Xtend's 2.4 release (covered by InfoQ previously) but there were several sessions and tutorials targeted towards the text-based modelling and language frameworks. Although Xtend is an Eclipse-only development language, its syntax is just as compact as Scala's but uses Java's type system and so has no unnecessary complexity. On the other hand, it can do static type inference and functional programming, which makes it a more attractive programming language than raw Java, whilst at the same time translating down to Java code that compiles with existing Java compilers. As a result, Xtend is backwards compatible and incurs minimal penalties or fragility between releases.

M2M The M2M acronym stands for Machine to Machine, and recently the Eclipse foundation created the M2M working group, with industry participants interested in creating an independent ecosystem to allow interoperation between the internet of things. For the first time, the tutorials at Eclipse included hands-on development with Arduino and Rasberry Pi devices, and set up the Lua development environment (Koneki) along with an embedded Lua runtime (Mihini). These can communicate over MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport), a low-level machine-to-machine communication layer that has been proposed as an OASIS standard. Libraries for Java, C and Lua are available from the Paho project. Part of this was used by Justin Ribeiro's talk on monitoring a remote 3D printer through WebSockets and via an Arduino/Rasberry Pi interface.

Cloud and OSGi An increase in interest over the last few years in using the cloud as a distributed deployment model is one focus of the OSGi's Enterprise Expert Group. Several sessions focussed on the new additions to the OSGi specification (seen recently in the OSGi Early Access Draft), such as ServiceScopes, CDI and a RestInterface for remote management. There were additions to specifications such as Blueprint and HttpService as well as refinements for hooks that will enable OSGi subsystems.

Eclipse In Space The most oversubscribed talk was Tamar Cohen's discussion on NASA's use of Eclipse RCP on board the international space station. On board the ISS there are intelligent robots known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). These cool robots are shown in a NASA video, with a (heavily stylised) Eclipse RCP application being used as the planning and remote monitoring engine. As Tamar explained, the reason for the stylised UI is because 'drag and drop doesn't work in zero g' as well as consistency between applications. Although the Eclipse workbench is running on the ground at the moment, an upload to the ISS' Windows XP computers will happen later this year. The SPHEREs themselves were made a decade ago (about as old as the Eclipse Foundation itself) and have been on board the ISS since 2006. Recent upgrades have tacked on the side an Nexus S Android phone (since 2011, and "the only phone certified for use in space" according to NASA) as a powerful portable computer with gyroscopic and camera sensors. Since lithium-ion batteries are considered a fire risk on the ISS, the batteries are removed and replaced with AA batteries; everything that isn't connected to the wall is powered by AAs, with the result that "upmass" (launch payload content) always contains many AA batteries.

Finally, the Eclipse Foundation announced the winners of the Eclipse Community Awards, which recognize the top individuals, projects and technologies in the ecosystem. These are awarded yearly and this year the awards went to:

As well as the above awards, nominated and voted for by members of the Eclipse community, the Eclipse Foundation also awarded the Lifetime Contribution Award to Chris Aniszczyk for his contributions to the Eclipse ecosystem over the years. He is mentor to many new and incubating projects, has contributed and committed to many more, and was a driving force behind encouraging the migration of JGit to the Eclipse Foundation along with its migration to Git as a back end version control system (which now accounts for over 80% of the foundations' version control systems, and around 500 git repositories – also mirrored on https://eclipse.googlesource.com).

Later this year, EclipseCon will come to France for the first time in Toulouse in June, with a future EclipseCon Europe 2013 conference in Ludwigsburg in October.

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