On Friday April 4 I visited Australian National University in Canberra to give my Mozilla talk. My host there was Steve Blackburn, who does PL/VM research, so I caught up on the gossip in that field and we talked about GC issues in Web browsers and the potential for implementing a browser in managed code. I also visited IBM OzLabs where Andrew Tridgell, Paul Mackerras and other semi-famous Linux/Samba hackers hang out. I showed them Chronicle and they were more interested in that than Web stuff :-).
I visited Monash University in Melbourne on Monday and Wednesday. I spent Monday talking to Kim Marriott and his group of staff and students, who do research on automatic document layout. Their work is very interesting since it gives some insight into what might be possible in an ideal world where CSS was "done right", or at least if we spent energy on making documents look great instead of wrangling the other issues that bedevil us. I want to get a reading list from him of research papers that people involved in CSS specification and implementation could read to get some ideas. In some of those discussions we were also joined by Michael Day, who leads the development of the Prince Web-to-PDF tool. We had lots of fun comparing notes on our CSS layout implementations.
One of Kim's grad students is Cameron McCormack, who maintains the Batik SVG viewer on the side. He was really interesting to talk to --- we had a good discussion about SVG, CSS, HTML and other matters of mutual interest.
A couple of other grad students in the group --- Tim Dwyer and Michael Wybrow --- are doing amazing work on interactive graph layout. Basically they take standard force-directed layout and add constraints like "these 3 nodes must be horizontally aligned". They can also add interactivity so that the user can change the topology of the graph but the automatic layout cannot, it can only optimize within the selected topology. They can also do local layout and navigation of huge graphs. Not really Web related, but brilliant technology :-). I asked them what it would take to do that as a Web app and basically the problem there is JS performance limitations running numeric optimizers and solvers for big nonlinear constraint programs.
The actual Monash talk went OK although it was mostly people I had already talked to in groups or one-on-one.
On April 8 I visited the University of Melbourne. More than 50 people turned up for the talk. The best part of that visit was talking to Nick Nethercote, who works at a local research institute (NICTA) but is one of the core Valgrind people on the side. He was really interested in Chronicle of course and we talked quite a bit about Valgrind and related issues. We complained to each other about Apple not releasing their Valgrind port :-).
I tried to spread a general message that open source in general, and Mozilla in particular, is far more interesting, important, fun and rewarding than the enterprise IT options most students are faced with in this part of the world --- something that faculty can pass on to their brighter students. We'll see how effective that is. There was quite a lot of interest in Chronicle, which has stiffened my resolve to do another release with more convenient packaging and some UI improvements.