I spent the last few days in Mainz, Germany (a very nice city, with an astonishing ancient cathedral), at the 2008 edition of the EKON conference, that is EKON number 12. This was in the same location of a PHP event, running in parallel.
On Monday I gave a full day tutorial on Unicode in Delphi. Too bad there were very few people. I think the topics is worth an in-depth look... and it takes several hours to delve in the changes to the string representation, UnicodeString, the new AnsiString type constructor, the UTF8 support, looking at Unicode Code Points, UTF formats, graphemes, new compiler warnings, new undocumented compiler settings, the RTL support for working with string made of several new classes, from TStringBuilder to TTextWriter, and all of the code porting techniques.
In the evening there was a speaker event, but after some time I decided to get to the (far away) hotel served by a phantom shuttle bus (for a reason or another I was never able to get the shuttle over 3 days). I figured out I had some flue, so went to bed early.
On Tuesday the actual conference started. David I made an initial keynote covering the “status” of Embarcadero Technologies and CodeGear, providing a broad overview and mentioning some of the new tools, like Delphi Prism. In the later technology keynote David I and a couple of “techies” showed Delphi 2009 Unicode support and DataSnap 2009 in actual demos, Interbase 2009 encryption features, an IntraWeb demo, a similar Delphi for PHP demo, and finally a very short demo of Delphi Prism, showing a simple application running on a Suse virtual machine with Mono installed.
While these keynotes were interesting, there was little new to me. On the other hand I was really looking forward to hear Barry Kelly (one of the Delphi compiler developers) introduce new language features in a first session and provide in-depth implementation information (particularly of anonymous methods and the way the capture variables and parameters in the current context). These were not easy sessions for some, but I have to say I liked them a lot, and found out many things I was not aware of.
I also gave a REST framework talk, with a fair number of people, but not all of them were Web developers... so I'm not sure how effective the talk was. I still hope someone at CodeGear builds on the idea, but I'm not sure at all. I might try to open up this to others, will blog about it in the future. In the evening, despite not feeling much better, I stayed for the “Casino evening”, played a (short) round of poker, than had an astonishing round at the roulette. I started betting on a given number and that number come out twice in a row (and I had left many chips on it!). While I kept betting on it and surrounding numbers, it was the turn of surrounding numbers, with some good wins. I won also on other numbers, with direct bets. In the end I had to bet very heavily to finish the chips, and it wasn't easy as I kept winning back some. But it was not for real money and the person running the game had to leave...
On Wednesday, I attended few talks, gave mine on generics and anonymous methods (with a good crowd of interested people, I hope explaining them using many examples helped), walked out of the convention center to reach (in a minute or so) the downtown shopping area, buy a couple of presents for my kids, made a short visit of the ancient cathedral, chat a little more with a few fellow speakers, try to make sense of a hacked Linux server, and go to the airport to catch a flight.
Ketchup Considered Harmful
Every time I have to leave something in the Frankfurt airport. Last time it was a food thermometer with a sharp point, this time a bottle of ketchup (a nice present from the conference organizers), so liquid to look like a dangerous weapon. It might as well be, in the hands of the wrong guy. Follow speakers, place yours in checked-in bags (I had none), or drink before leaving. At least last year in the Netherlands we drank my bottle of wine (another non-airline-friendly present) before leaving the conference.
Overall EKON 12
It was a nice conference, with some very interesting talks and many above-average ones. Most of them where from German speakers, so I didn't attend those and I had to leave one day early for family reasons. However it was a conference with a reduced attendance. There are lots of new features in the recent versions of Delphi, but most people seems slow to catch up... or prefer using other events and online opportunities for learning about them. Maybe they'll be eager to buy new books. But I think conference make a lot of sense, also because they offer a great opportunity for mingling with fellow developers and some experts, and discuss features and trends at length and more openly then with other means. We'll see hope the coming online CodeRage conference does in terms of attendance. But what about a Delphi event in the US, would you (particularly those of you who live there) consider attending one?