Some ECLM 2009 Impressions

There's now an official "after-show website" with slides.

I'd first like to thank Arthur & Edi for a very well arranged meeting.

I attended all talks except for one (RacerPro) because I had to get a shot of coffee and some fresh air. This was due to my physical state at that time and isn't meant as a slight against the talk. AFAIK, the ECLM 2009 didn't have an official theme but if there was one recurrent theme it had to be multi-processing / distributed computing in Common Lisp. I'd say in at least four of the seven speeches it was an important of not the main theme of the talk while in another talk it was at least of some relevance.

Here are my impressions from memory since I don't have my notes near me. I will skip the lightning talks for this post. Perhaps someone else will review them.

Dan Weinreb
A Highly-Available Large-Scale Transaction Processing System in Common Lisp
A good talk to start off the ECLM with. Basically a talk about the systems they've built at ITA Software, which CL implementations they use and why, what other languages besides CL are used there and in what systems (and why) and their software building practices (code reviews, don't leave home without them!). Also lots of information on how they're working with the different open source CL implementations they use on fixing bugs and adding features.

Paul Tarvydas
Compiling Diagrams and Graphic Markups for Fun and Profit - a short tour of Visual VDDP and Visual Frameworks
One of the two talks that really stressed the importance of the Electrical Engineering (EE) / Erlang approach to building distributable software components and this talk, like the other talk (David McClain's), also showed a visual interface for making these components and tying them together.

Dimitri Simos
The story of Piano, an aircraft analysis system written in Lisp
A story how Lisp enabled one man to build a software system that's used by a lot (all?) of the big aircraft manufacturers around the world. It was fun to hear how he got his first big customer (Airbus). A very nice talk with a good dose of history, technicalities and advice.

David McClain
GDSP, Butterfly, and Okeanos - a system for visual distributed computing
The second talk about the EE / Erlang approach to building software and a little more explicit about running software on multiple processors or computers. David McClain's website also has some screenshots of their interface. Visually a stunning talk but I'm easily impressed. I have no idea how well it works in practice, but just going by the talk Common Lisp is used at the cutting edge of technology both for its high performance as well as for its features (multi-paradigm, macros, REPL, etc.). One thing that the Free Software hippy in me regrets is that SpectroDynamics's products are not freely downloadable from the internet. It makes perfect business sense ofcourse (to not put it online for free) and I totally respect their decision (I would do the same!) but somehow it feels like a net loss for Common Lisp. Anyway, I need to digest this for a while since I'm probably wrong about it being a net loss for CL. It would definitely be a net loss for SpectroDynamics to just put their products online for free :-)

Kuroda Hisao
A Common Lisp-based Machine Learning Platform
A nice talk about how CL is used in Japan. Something we, or at least I, do not hear much about. Lots of technical information and examples. Also a nice overview of areas for improvement for CL and SBCL in particular. Things which will no doubt be resolved in the near future.

Martin Simmons
Implementing Symmetric Multiprocessing in LispWorks
A straighforward, but good, talk about the work that has been done on adding SMP to LispWorks. Of the commercial implementations LispWorks was the most well represented, not only by several of their employees but also by the amount of people that gave the talks that used it. Of the open source implementations it were SBCL and Clozure CL with SBCL having a clear lead IMHO.

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Okra SBCL & CCL executables for Windows released

I've saved executable images of SBCL and CCL on Windows and they're available as "okra-20090910.zip" from the Okra project page. This should make it easier for people on Windows to start playing with Okra since it comes with all the necessary libraries. Just double-click okra-sbcl.exe or okra-ccl.exe and you should be looking at a Common Lisp REPL with Okra installed. If you enter:
    (load "examples/flock")
You should end up with a running demo in the first case and a blank window in the second. You do need to have DirectX installed though, unless you initialise the Okra window for OpenGL. Also this is a first release so there's some warts. The physics-and-input demo doesn't work (and isn't included) since I initialised Okra with CEGUI and that clashes. If you load these executables from your IDE or Slime instead of your regular implementation you should make sure the libraries can be found!

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Paying for threading support for SBCL on Windows

I asked this on #lisp but apparently is was the wrong time of the day since there were only a couple of trolls awake. So, I'm aware threading is not support for SBCL on Windows at the moment but what I don't know is whether anyone is working or has been working on it recently. The best I could find on Google was a GSoC 2008 project by Elliot Slaughter. Now, I could try digging through the SBCL mailinglist archives on SourceForge, but Jesus Christ, I hate using that site since it is so unusable. Anyway, I'm pretty certain no work has been done on it recently. My point is: I'm willing to shell out some money for someone to work on it. Now it's not much, max 250 euros, but if there's more people than just me it might sum up to an interesting amount at some point. Why not use any of the other available implementations that already support threads then like CLISP, Clozure CL and ECL? There's a couple of reasons most of which can be argued against (like performance) but I'd basically like to see SBCL become a serious contender on Windows since it is my favourite CL implementation.

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Okra and clois-lane released

Since I was finally able to figure out why CEGUI wouldn't work on Linux SBCL (thanks to pkhuong on #lisp) and since the Flock demo is more or less finished1 I tagged the latest checkins of Okra and clois-lane and pushed them to Github. Here's a video of the Flock demo which can also be downloaded as a Windows executable from the Okra project page. [1] all the examples' code needs a good review and cleanup

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Well, fuck me! I already had a blog... This'll do then.