We just had the end-of-summer meeting for this year’s JSSP, and this is my personal summary of the event. We expect to post more information in the next few days, including videos of the talks and photos.
From my point of view, the single most useful project is unquestionably ocamlviz. Ocamlviz is a realtime profiling tool for OCaml, and I was really impressed with the system’s polish. The design is carefully thought out; it seems to be quite well implemented; the front-end has a surprisingly usable UI; there’s a nice looking website for it, and good documentation to boot. It’s really a fantastic effort, and I expect we’ll be taking it for a spin on some of our own OCaml projects.
I was also very pleased with the work that was done on the Moby scheme compiler for smartphones. Here, the primary target is kids learning to program rather than sophisticated developers. Shriram’s talk included a description of the very cool bootstrap program, which teaches middle-school kids how to build their own video games in a scheme environment, while sneakily teaching them to understand both algebra and functional programming on the side. Apparently there are plans to use Moby in class assignments at Brown this upcoming semester. I’m looking forward to the point where I can try this stuff out with my own kids.
Those two were my personal favorites, but there was lots to like in the other projects as well. I don’t know a ton about 3D rendering so I’m not really much of a judge, but the results from the LambdaCube project looked great. The goal is to get to the point where one could build a real 3D game in Haskell, which seems a laudable goal. It’s not quite there yet, but it looks like the work over the summer gave them a chance to make some real progress. I was also impressed with the commitment of the guys working on it. This is not going to be a project that peters out as soon as the summer is over.
The work on a self-adjusting computational geometry library was also really cool. I don’t yet have a link for the source code, but the algorithmic results were impressive. One nice bit is that they were able to come up with some incremental algorithms that were asymptotically better than previously known approaches. The last project was Archimedes, which is a system for 2-D plotting and visualization in OCaml. While progress was made over the summer, it sadly is not quite at the stage where there is a usable library there. But work on that will continue, and I have real hope that we’ll end up with a good library in the end.
We ended the day with a fun talk from Chris Okasaki, reminiscing about the story behind his deservedly famous book Purely Functional Data Structures. I think my favorite anecodote from the talk is about how the book suddenly jumped in popularity when it was Slashdotted. Apparently, the review of the book on Slashdot permanently raised the size of Okasaki’s royalty checks, to his wife’s continuing astonishment.
There was a dinner that I sadly was not able to attend, but I hear was much fun. All told, it was a great experience. I’m looking forward to next year!