SD West 2005

by Reg. Charney

The numbers tell the story. Judging by the number of the tutorials, classes, attendees and vendors present this year, the Software Development conferences is recovering well from the dot-com implosion. Generally speaking, I got a positive feeling from all the activity I saw this year at the conference. Although still a shadow of its former self, it is a much more substantial shadow this year. And, I predict that it will grow even stronger next year.

One curious thing about the whole atmosphere at this year's conference is the mix of programming and non-programming subjects and products. There always has been a mix of programming tools and life-cycle management tools. However, this year, there is much more of a balance between the two.

To reflect the outsourcing of development, both to diverse locations within the US and overseas, collaborative tools seem to be a bigger component of the overall toolset being offered at the Expo.

Table 1. Comparison of Attendance Numbers

2-Day Tutorials1--
1-Day Tutorial1215
1/2-Day Tutorial1227

Table 1 shows the differences in the numbers of attendees in different areas from the depth of the bust to this most recent show.

For those of you fascinated by numbers, here are some more. Based on the room space allocated for various topics, I estimated the total attendance for some of the sessions I attended.

Mini-XP Immersion by Martin and Feahers70%
Winning UI Design by Hobart70%
Better Software by Myers100%
Programmers Dozen by Kenney90%
Code Smells by Kerievsky100%
Visual Studio 200570%

With regard to the last item, the presentation by Microsoft was not as well attended as I though it would be. It also was the source of some excitement. During the showing of the marketing video, someone in the audience stood up and asked the Microsoft rep to "get on with it" and show the technical stuff, not the marketing cruft. This request was met with scattered applause, at that. I will give the rep credit for stopping the video and continuing with the presentation, but that led to an interesting technical glitch. After the technical show, the aforesaid rep complemented the technical rep. It seemed that he was able to carry on with the demo even though the laptop had a faulty video-out port; they needed to use a TV camera on the screen to show what was happening. Afterwards, I came up with two questions. My first thought was "Why didn't they just dump the demo to a flash drive and use someone else's notebook?" The answer to this first question is the infamous Registry. Even though he easily could have copied the software and demo data, he could not copy only those portions of the Registry he needed. (Yet another good reason never to use the Registry.) The second question was: "Why didn't he just take the hard drive out of the detective laptop and put it into a working one?" For this question, I don't have a good answer unless he was using a truly unique laptop.

Another interesting thing happened at the awards presentation--a number of open-source products won their categories or were finalists. The winners were Subversion 2.0, Eclipse 3.0 and Hibernate 2.1. The finalists were POPFile 0.22.2 and Tomcat 5.0. The overall winner this year at SD West was InstallShield, one of whose products we reviewed in a past Programming Tools column (see Resources).

Finally, I had a pleasant lunch with Jerry Weinburg, one of the pioneers of modern computing. During the meal, we started to play an oxymoron word game. See if you can add some more: "Road works" means that the road does not work and you may need to stop. "Men At Work" often means that men are not working. "We drive on a parkway and park in a driveway." "Hardware versus software", on this one Jerry asks how hard is it to change hardware, such as a disk drive or a computer, and how easy is it to change software?

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