WWDC 2006

by Ed on August 13, 2006

I had the pleasure of attending WWDC this year. For those who don’t know, WWDC is Apple’s yearly World Wide Developer Conference. Of course, I imagine you probably have heard of it since Steve usually announces something new and cool there. This was my second time there as a spectator and not as a presenter. I have to say I really miss presenting at WWDC, despite all the craziness that surrounds it. Usually you are under the gun to get out stuff for the seed at the same time all your slides are due. A pic of me presenting can be found in one of my other posts here (testing Flickr blogging). I shed a tear just thinking about it.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control (I’ll call it a ‘management delay’), I couldn’t go to the show until Wednesday. But see, all the really juicy sounding stuff happened on Tuesday (and of course Monday with the keynote and all). But at least since I’ve paid I’ll get the DVDs for all the things I missed.

I got two days out of it. I didn’t go on Friday — the only one that seemed interesting to me was “Cocoa Tips, Tricks, and Debugging Techniques”, and it wasn’t enough to get me up there. On the other hand, I didn’t realize there was an all-hands meeting on Friday at Yahoo! so I could have probably gone and gotten just as much work done 😛

The show this year had a lot of good stuff. I don’t think the keynote was as exciting as previous years, but in looking at and running Leopard, I really like what they’re doing with the OS. There are a lot of small touches in this edition that make the experience better.

In terms of technology, I really liked the fact that they’re deprecating a lot of things with their 64-bit effort. To the effect that they are just not even there… things like QuickDraw. It’s about time. While I applaud the action, I’m sure there are many developers out there who might not be as happy about it all since they’re going to have to rewrite parts of their apps. I do appreciate that as a 3rd party you can’t always focus on Apple’s priorities, but Apple’s been saying these things are technologies you should stop using for some time. I’m behind Apple on this one. Trying to take something like QuickDraw, a deprecated drawing layer with all types of low-level blitters, to 64-bit was just simply not good use of anyone’s time.

I saw a session on the new iChat features: the ability to get presence information, icons, etc and also the ability to listen for events via AppleScript. Very nice. The more impressive thing of course was the ability to push images/video/OpenGL through to iChat and share it with the person on the other end. Very nice, and it looked pretty darned simple to do. One non-technical thing I was struck with is that the iChat team is completely different than when I was there. I didn’t know any of them except the manager, who wasn’t the manager of that team when I left. To me that was kind of amusing. But they are definitely doing good stuff in Leopard.

Dashcode, the new Dashboard Widget IDE, is awesome. I’ve been wanting an IDE for Yahoo! Widgets since we were still Konfabulator. I was hoping that at Yahoo! we’d get more resources and finally be able to do this. I even remember talking about it early on. Sadly, noone seemed to think it was important. And now here we have Dashcode, which basically does everything I wanted ours to do, and perhaps a bit more (in particular, the JavaScript debugger rocks). The best part is that it seems to have nothing to do with XCode. As we all know, I hate XCode with a passion that knows no bounds. Maybe 3.0 will change my mind, but at this point, it’ll have to print real money for me to start liking it.

There was an interesting demonstration in the Dashboard session where they showed the difference between running all Widgets in one process instead of all separate ones. It was much slower to start up and load all the Widget info in one process (which is why they do multiple). This just of course reminds me of a seriously missing ability in Mac OS: the ability to run any window on a thread. Windows is built around this notion. On that platform it would be simple to run each Widget on a preemptive thread and still share more stuff being in one address space. On Mac, this is extremely painful and really messes up your architecture. To the point, it’s not worth even bothering. So I really wish they’d add this ability.

The session on advanced WebKit usage was really interesting to me, as it showed me how their embedding works and how their plugins work. The auto-bridging between JavaScript and Objective-C was very nice. Not a new thing to most people in that room, but I hadn’t really payed attention until then. Good stuff.

At the party on Thursday, I experienced something I never had at a WWDC party. Normally, the musical guest plays their music, but we never even stroll over to see them. This year, I saw some guy playing music through his powerbook, a small keyboard, and what looked like an effects board. But the music was pretty kick-ass. Then my friend looks at him and says “I think that’s BT”. But for some reason, he didn’t look like BT. So we asked the security guard and sure enough, it was BT. OMG that was the best two hours of music at any Apple WWDC we’ve ever heard. We stood behind where he was playing and just grooved out. When he finished he got off the stage and shook my friend Curt’s hand and said “F***in’ rave at Apple!”


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