Russel Winder's Website

Meeting people after 20+ years

Background and Introduction

Some time ago I got Markdown posts working in Pyblosxom and promised myself I would blog more. Clearly I did not; so much for New Year Resolutions. However, a number of things have happened over the last two or three months that mean maybe I can get back in the habit of doing regular posts.

I presented sessions at:

  • JAXLondon 2014: a half-day workshop on dataflow computing on the JVM; and a 45 minute presentation (with live coding!) on Spock, the Groovy-based test framework.

  • UBS Tech Conf: an internal conference for UBS staff with a mix of sessions from internal and external people. I was an external presenter doing a 45 minute session on message-passing-based computing (dataflow CSP (communicating sequential processes), actors, data parallelism).

At the second of these someone introduced themselves and said "you don't know me but I read your blog". My response was "but I haven't written anything for 10+ months". He smiled. The moral of this incident is that I must blog more about Python, Groovy, parallelism, GPars, D, Go, C++, patents, etc.

This has prompted me to write about two other incidents.

JAXLondon 2014

At JAXLondon 2014, one of the keynote speakers was Chris Richardson. He spoke about creating Cloud Foundry, selling it to SpringSource (now part of Pivotal), and the whole micro-services architecture that made it all work. Last time I met Chris was in the early 1990s when he was a Common Lisp programmer working for Harlequin on parallel garbage collection, part of a joint project on parallelism and parallel programming languages with UCL and others.

We managed to speak for a short while early on in the conference, before his session, and then we "hung out" for a while at the end of the conference, even managing to go for a beer. As well as chatting about social things, lives for the past 20 years, his move from UK to USA, etc., we also managed to chat over some technical stuff and various interesting tensions between dynamically-typed programming languages and statically-typed programming languages, and the rise of proper "in language" parallelism. Nothing specific to write about here, but lots of things that slightly change the way you think about these things.

Hopefully it isn't another 20 years before we meet again.

UBS Tech Conf

UBS have shown real interest in the technical development of their staff by putting on an internal technical conference. They got Skills Matter to do the organizing. The remit was two-fold: help foster internal communication about successful technical innovations with parts of the organization; and bring in some new ideas from renowned "thought leaders". Skills Matter asked Russ Miles (who had in the past worked at UBS) to front the two-day event, and I was asked to present on emerging idioms, techniques, patterns, and architectures in programming languages. This is of course a pet topic of mine so it was easy to say yes.

The first day of the conferences was splendid, as was the second. The format worked very well in supporting the remit, especially getting fluid communication within UBS. It turns out my session was the last formal session, so I though I needed to introduce a few extra bits and slides to my session so as to complete some of the running gags that happened unplanned and unrehearsed.

The real point of this part of the post though is that someone came up to me in the break just before my session and said "hello, do you remember me?". I think I must have looked quizzical, as he said "I'm Tony Chau I am CTO here, I was a researcher at UCL with Paul Otto". Crickey I thought, that was 26+ years ago! We chatted for a while, mostly social stuff, but also a little bit of technical stuff about his role at UBS and what they were doing with parallelism. I had to rush off to prepare AV. Tony took time out to be at my session. Moreover he came along with a few of us to the local hostelry for a quick post-conference drink. It was fascinating finding out the sort of thing UBS was doing with parallelism, and especially GPGPU. I already believed getting better support for GPGPU into Java, Groovy, D, Go and Python was needed, speaking with Paul gave me data that it is actually essential. CUDA and OpenCL as they are now really do not "cut it" for the things computers are being used for – think data science.

Hopefully it isn't another 26 years before we meet again.

Summing up

Meeting Chris and Tony after 20+ and 26+ years respectively has been a wonderfully refreshing experience. In both cases, although we reminisced a little, it wasn't in a "looking backwards" way, it was always about what we had learned along the way and "looking forward" what is to come. Also we were able to mix social chit chat and technical discussion in a way that I found warming.

Hopefully it isn't another 11 months before I blog again.

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