Last weekend I went to the 10th Free and Open Source Developers European Meeting in Brussels. This year was the first time that FOSDEM had hosted a track on Mono, so I went along to find out what’s going on with Mono, tell the Mono folk what our plans are for C# and fill in some gaps.
I started Saturday on the monitoring track which included a terrible talk about an interesting tool that I hadn’t heard of: SystemTap — a scriptable system monitoring tool designed to allow diagnosis of problems at run time on production servers without the usual instrument, compile, analyse loop. stap looks really interesting and useful as a tool for augmenting or replacing our current simulator performance tools.
After the stap talk I headed over to the XMPP track for the rest of the day and saw some great talks on BOSH, onsocialweb, pubsub, strophe.js, collecta and node.js. Federated, open social networks seem to be a big thing at the moment (@blaine was talking about them at @scalecampuk ) and there was lots of interest in using XMPP to build them as it already has standards for identity, presence, friends and events. Given that jabber and XMPP is a decade old it makes you wonder why the standards weren’t used the first time round. A possible reason is that XMPP doesn’t have it’s rails/django yet and still looks pretty clunky to work with although Strophe.js may help. Another reason may be that XMPP hasn’t been the web up until now, although BOSH may be the bridge that’s needed there.
While everyone else was thinking about using XMPP to build Twitter and Facebook I started thinking about what an open, federated virtual world platform built on XMPP might look like. I wasn’t the only one. The realXtend folks turned up to show off their latest new from the ground up viewer which uses XMPP and jingle for voice and IM integration and were obviously thinking along the same lines. As realXtend seem to be moving away from SL tech now, expect an XMPP based back end from them soon…
I spent Sunday camped out in the Mono room which was interesting from a cultural point of view. Miguel de Icaza seems to have completed his transition from champion to enemy of freedom in the open source community’s eyes. Last time he was at FOSDEM he was accused of talking about “Coca Cola” when showing off the closed source Unity engine that uses Mono, so stayed strictly to open technologies in his talk this year. Luckily, due to Microsoft’s Community Promise and open sourcing of the DLR, IronPython and IronRuby, that includes a lot of the .NET platform and gave him lots to talk about. Most of the legitimate worries of patents around Mono have been resolved, but talking about C# and the CLI at FOSDEM still requires a poster asking people to leave their religion at the door, apparently.
In my Second Life talk, I gave a summary of the interesting things we did to get LSL on Mono working in 2008 and then outlined our plans for C# in the future including lots of question marks around how we’re currently planning to implement them. Lots of my questions were answered after the talk and it turns out that the Unity developers are wrestling with the same problems at the moment, so we should be able to work together over the next few months to make a lot of progress.
Overall FOSDEM was hugely informative and enjoyable and I have a big shopping list of exciting new technologies to play with over the next few months. Hopefully the Mono room will become a regular fixture and we’ll be able to head back next year.