I visited J-Fall 2008 today, another successful Java conference organized by the NLJUG. J-Fall/J-Spring are the biggest Java events in the Netherlands, it's always fun to visit, see what the latest developments are, what people are doing and how crazy the conference booths are. Although actually the booths were pretty quiet this time, which is a big plus, because it's a lot easier to talk without all kinds of loud bells and other noise going on.
There was a lot of attention for JavaFX (Sun) and Flex/Flash (Adobe). It's kind of funny to watch Adobe (also mac dudes paint tool vendor) really trying to show Flex as being more "Enterprise worthy", while Sun (also building operating systems for nuclear submarines) pushing JavaFX as a cool tool to draw animating pictures and circles. I do want to give special credit to Sun though for some really cool demos that actually worked this time! Chuk Munn-Lee, a Sun JavaFX engineer, did a few sessions with some nice humor and a really fast demo during the second keynote. Knowing how hard it is to keep typing straight while presenting on a big screen, and that Chuk was banging away on some nightly unstable builds of both Netbeans and JavaFX, that was pretty impressive.
There also was a session about IBM Jazz. I think that's great as Jazz is a big step forward in ALM tooling, especially for Java projects. IBM is once again leading on features and vision, pushing competitors harder to innovate as well. After a couple of years of relatively few innovations in the tooling space, I think the upcoming period will be a lot more interesting.
On the other hand, I missed some topics as well. Nothing on the coming soon release of Java EE 6, or information about the new Glassfish v3 "prelude" version that was released last week. No sessions on what Spring is up to with their new "DM" server and new commercial offerings strategy, which scared a lot of users in the past few months. Although all the sessions I have seen were on the okay to excellent scale, some talks in my opinion did go out on a limb without a lot of actual real-life experience with the topic. I think it is fine to talk about new tools without much experience (what else can you expect?). However, I think it's very important to recognize that sometimes new technology is interesting and useful, but not (yet) something that can be recommended to the masses. I keep being impressed by the quality of the questions from the audience at NLJUG events though, and with some tough questions, presenters did not get off the hook easily.
When walking on the pavillion I did have some nice conversations with people about what they were actually doing with new methods and technologies. A nice example was the Adobe showcase booth, where ISVs showed their real life products based on Flex. I talked a bit with a vendor that supplies software for payed parking lots. Payed parking lots are a serious frustration for me lately, because really often, it just doesn't work, so I immediately got interested. It's nice to hear about actually using agile concepts and Flex in relatively tough projects like parking lot automation, and how they dealt with some of the problems they faced. For me, a separate spot for showcases are a keeper for next NLJUG events. See you at the next J-Spring!