April 4, 2007

ILC impressions.

I just got off the plane a little over two hours ago - unfortunately time constraints prevented me from sitting down and blogging before then (they also prevented me from attending the last 1 1/2 days of the conference - there were some talks I was really looking forward to). I wasn't going to blog right at this moment, but Zach's post must be creating some expectations.

Hands down, in terms of the quality of presentation Charlotte Herzeel's talk on the HALO temporal-logic-selected-pointcuts AOP tool was my favorite. I should have read the paper first though, as much of the stuff went over my head initially. A surprising development of Charlotte's talk turned out to be the revelation that JonL White is really into AOP, or in any case knows how to ask a lot of thoughtful questions about it. For some reason this is not something I imagined that old-school Lispers were interested in.

Christian Queinnec made the most persuasive argument in favor of computer-assisted teaching I have ever seen. A surprising result (surprises seemed to be a theme of the conference for me...) is that it turns out that teaching Scheme to undergraduates helps more women succeed in computer science. As this issue is right now in a pretty catastrophic state (based on hard enrollment numbers, an outside observer could only conclude that women are being actively excluded from CS education), why not accomplish two wonderful things at once and teach more Scheme?

Hannes and Andreas's talk on Dylan macros for destructuring and manipulating binary data was good (too much code-reading for my tastes, though). The system they built (Network Night Vision) looks pretty damn awesome (if you are interested in what you can do with Dylan and DWIM user interfaces, it is also very much worth looking at). Speaking of user interfaces, Peter Herth's talk on LTk had some really neat demos.

One of the themes on Monday was computer vision (whether this was intentional, I don't know). Chris Connolly gave a talk about SRI's FREEDIUS system, which is used for geospatial (ie - surveillance) CV, and in the afternoon Cyrus Harmon talked about the image processing system he developed to categorize Drosophila melanogaster (it's a kind of fly) imaginal discs (undeveloped limbs/protruding squishy things) where different genes in different discs at different stages were colored and photographed, producing a whole bunch of images that needed to be accurately categorized. Cyrus developed the ch-image image processing library to help in this regard. In both FREEDIUS and Cyrus's PhD system, all of the low-level image manipulation and feature detection code is written entirely in Lisp (well, Chris said that in FREEDIUS Gaussian smoothing is done in either C or Lisp and that they're probably going to drop the C function and do it from Lisp because the performance difference isn't that large). So there you go - if you didn't want to believe Didier Verna's benchmarks, now you have proof that there is absolutely no reason not to do all of your performance-intensive array processing tasks in Lisp.

One more surprise at the conference was Michael Sperber's talk on the R6RS standardization effort. I wasn't aware about any of the new things R6RS will (hopefully) introduce before Michael's talk, but combined with Olin Shiver's unveiling of the Scheme loop macro at Danfest, I think that there is a good possibility that I might get converted back into the Scheme fold in the not too distant future.

No comments: