VA Smalltalk track at ESUG 2009

When visiting ESUG 2008 in Amsterdam I noticed a very minor representation of VASmalltalk presenters and users at this conference. As usual one could see lots of VisualWorks, Squeak, Gemstone and ObjectStudio users. The only visible appearance of VASmalltalk was the talk of John O’Keefe.

This year is was said, that lots of new Smalltalkers joined the conference and the persons got the impression, that there are mainly two dialects: Visualworks, Squeak.

Thursday was the day of failing demos. No luck for James Robertson when he wanted to present Cincoms new potential Web application framework WebVelocity. It does not work. Ok, that might happen – but considering the fact, that they are professionals it must not happen and is actually a marketing disaster and it is not really interesting, if the newest Firefox browser is the cause for these problems.

Ah yes, then we are at the Seaside story. I heard this word over and over again and the community seems to hope, that Smalltalk will get more publicity due to this tool. Actually all vendors are jumping onto the Seaside train – more or leass leaving out the persistency problems. In this context the Gemstone solution of Seaside within their database seems to be very attractive, expecially because smaller projects can be done with this GLASS project without additional runtime fees.

Another talk on Friday was about a company using VisualSmalltalk (yes !!!!) to build a special Smalltalk IDE. The presentation was not so good – but the content of integration Java into their Smalltalk solution was interesting and also how they survived by buying the source code of the virtual machine from the license holder.

Perhaps the most interesting talk was a report about MagLev from Gemstone. Those guys built a Ruby interpreter on top of their Smalltalk machine and they are much, much faster than the original Ruby machine and how nice were there comments about their visit to a Ruby conference holding a talk in front of 2500 persons. What a difference and how strange our business is.

I visited the Modelling-Tool presentation on Friday about a “rebirth” of the modelling tool included in ObjectStudio. For my own interests I wanted to know, what there ideas are and how far they are. It was interested to see, how Cincom pushes this idea of modelling tool within Smalltalk over the last months. These idea gained publicity in the late 90’s but somehow vanished over the last years and we know, that UML Designer was created at those days – but the usage was actually pretty small. The idea of these tools is to define more specifications of the software solution into the software system and on the horizont these additional (meta-) information should improve the percistency way of your data and contraints check within your system. I see the modelling tool at Object Studio in an early state, but it will be worthwhile to see the way they are going – especially when they managed ti integrate GLORP into their system. It all leads to decrease time needed for prototypes – and it makes it perhaps easier for non-Smalltalker to enter the Smalltalk world – as Georg Heeg mentioned his experience, that Cobol developers get a much easier start using these tools and automatically build source from a model.
The strange thing is, that VASmalltalk has already all that: UMLDesigner, interface specification in the Abt-Layer and support for building GUI dialog boxes for those typical business applications.

Therefore the idea was born to create a special VA track to increase the number of talks directed to this dialect and perhaps to make it visitors easier to visit only part of the conference.

I posted this idea at VASmalltalk product forum and got a comment from Joachim Tuchel about this. It would be nice if we could get more feedbacks from other users or interested persons about this idea.

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