Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 Rexx Symposium II

The second day, which was the first real symposium day - depending how you want to look at it - started with some challenges. Dave Ashley was not online, so we switched to Mark Hessling in Australia. Having ambushed Mark with webex (we originally wanted to use teamviewer, but were unsure about the options for sound - with me having some recent bad Skype experiences (before the outage) of call keeping ringing throughout the group call. Mark had no sound initially, and then it was very loud - and video looked initially dark and grim, but for his second presentation he had switched to his Mac and everything was fine. This first presentation was about the new functionality in Regina, the brilliant multiplatform Classic Rexx interpreter, and an advance peek into the THE editor in the GUI version.

Because the web conference was so new for all of us, we needed some time to fully adapt - switching off peoples mikes and seeing Kees Wiegel pop up with his video feed during various parts of the presentations.

After the break it was time for Rony who presented the 2010 edition of BSF4Rexx, the glue between Rexx and Java, followed by Jon Wolffers who saw his CSVStream class adopted into the newly released ooRexx 4.1.0. This led to some discussion about error handling and some late night development work by Jon - so it was a very fruitful presentation with changes being committed to the code base the same week.

Next was yours truly with my 'Building NetRexx Systems' presentation which was actually an expanded version of one not presented last year. This went sufficiently well but was hampered by the slides not refreshing very energetically over the webex. I could see this on the ipad which I used as webex monitor using a second userid and the webex ipad app. Probably my MacBook, already overtaxed by running Keynote, Lotus Notes and Sametime (work, you know) and hosting the webex conference, coupled with two high resolution screens, had to do with this. This cost us the live demo of the work done by Bill Finlason for the NetRexx plugin for Eclipse.

Rony did a presentation on using Rexx and ooRexx from NetRexx - its sibling as the title stated. This offered an interesting view on how the strong points of both environments can be combined. After this session we had a break and we continued, with a shrunken audience (especially locally) for the NetRexx architecture board. As web conferences go, compared to a face2face meeting, the medium hampered us somewhat in a free exchange of ideas, but left a strong impression that a conservative approach to the language proper is warranted, while work in Java integration is seen as desirable. I will do a separate writeup of this NLARB session, including the valuable email feedback I received afterwards.

The last symposium day was Tuesday, December 14, 2010. We started with Jaap Brugman, who presented on his work of coupling Rexx to cryptographic hardware for the Central Bank of the Netherlands, starting with a general introduction to cryptography and gradually delving into the intricacies of the C interface to the Rexx external functions that were used throughout his application.

Next was Robert John Wilson, who uses NetRexx to diagnose JDBC connections in his job as database specialist for IBM, His presentation was received very well, also because he demonstrated the tools that he uses live with real connections, and went through the sourcecode to illustrate the easy way in which this has been put together in NetRexx.

After the break Mark Hessling continued from Brisbane, with the earlier mentioned brilliant sound and video, and introduced two not yet released tools for Rexx, Rexx/CSV and Rexx/PDF. The former shows a different approach to CSV parsing that can be used from a Classic Rexx environment, and the latter nicely interfaces to a tool that produces Postscript and PDF.

Thomas Schneider from Vienna presented (from his study in Vienna) an overview of his product line, which has been put together using NetRexx exclusively, while his conversion products all convert to NetRexx.

Michiel van Hoorn was next, and delivered the last local (he lives in Almere) presentation of this 2010 Symposium, on his personal toolkit (aptly named 'Orde!' - which is the imperative for Order! in the Dutch language) which he employs for all his projects in his career as consultant and project manager.

The two last presentations, both from IBM'ers and both over the phone, were by David Ashley, who did a rundown of all changes and new functionality in ooRexx 4.1.0 as a repeat performance of his presentation in Winchester last year - and boy that ooRexx team has been busy the past year, and Harris Morgenstern, who added z/OS as a point of interest during this symposium again, with his very thorough presentation on System Rexx. This product is part of the z/OS simplification effort that is going on at IBM, and aims to make Rexx the perfect language to add system (console) commands to z/OS. I had to operate the slide pack during his talk, and what seemed to be an off-by-one error during the start of his talk, deteriorated with time. I had a copy of his slideset on my second screen, and it took some quick reading and adaption to show the slide corresponding with the words- I hope I did not do too bad a job.

Having the last presentations by one local person and for the rest remotely, enabled us to not lose half a day for travel - this might be an idea for subsequent symposia. So slightly past 18.00 hours local time we could conclude this 2010 - 21st - Rexx Language Symposium. It was interesting in the sense that it was a first for web access to the meeting, and this has led to a much larger attendance than the past few years. We also have learned a lot about how to conduct this, and this will certainly be usable for the next year. For the next time, we need sharper video, better sound systems (to feed a clip-on mike into the web conference) and a separate operator to remotely close mikes - and perhaps less quirky software, although it certainly was manageable.

So - I declare this symposium a moderate success and will proceed to prepare for the next one, probably in May 2011 on the other side of the atlantic ocean.

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