Nodeconf.eu 2014: Trip Report (Part 3)

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This is the third and final installment of my Nodeconf.eu report. There was also part 1 and part 2 you should probably read first for continuity.

Day three of Nodeconf.eu started with a ‘Mad Science Act’, with all the presenters trading the pre-requisite lab coat (to add ‘science’ and also a bit of ‘mad’ to their presentations).

First off, James Halliday (also known as substack). Demonstrating ultra hard core cred with a Linux laptop surrounded by a sea of Macs, substack repeated the cherished Node.js ethos of creating many small modules that can be combined and re-combined ad nauseum, forming your growing tool box. This approach does not need to end with modules – you can apply it to data, in form of data streams. Substack demoed running code where multiple streams can be combined by piping data at different routes of the server. You can read more and play with the demo at the dataplex GitHub repo.

nodeconfeu-23Feross Aboukhadijeh took us on a wild ride of using WebRTC to replicate the P2P BitTorrent communication between browsers, using the WebRTC data channels. The presentation was a lot of fun, with the audience participating by sharing obligatory pictures of cats from their browsers in real time. This feature is made available in the open source library called WebTorrent, together with a BitTorrent bridge (direct connection to BitTorrent is currently not possible due to the need for TCP connection (there needs to be a ‘hybrid’ client that Feross is currently working on).

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Travell Perkins, Fidelity Investments CTO had a talk that I could not immediately place in this block and that got me confused until I realized that it was originally supposed to be on Monday, as part of the ‘Node.js in the enterprise’ section (lab coat notwithstanding). I *think* his talk was about databases, possibly his SQLdown NPM module, but sadly I cannot locate my notes on the talk (too much coffee?).

nodeconfeu-25Dominic Tarr (dubbed ‘our resident Jesus’ which is not hard to understand – just look at the picture!) was another of the hard core speakers using a Linux laptop. The notes on his talk were in the same MIA file as for Travell, so only a picture here.

nodeconfeu-26 The last talk in this long-ish section was Mikola Lysenko on the challenges of developing multi-player online games using Web technologies alone. A key problem to solve is replication because multi-player games are distributed but they share state, and this state needs to be replicated in a way that does not ruin the real-time nature of the game. He demonstrated several options in modeling real time physical systems and their pros and cons (which, in case of ‘eventual consistency’ and error correction can yield some comical side effects as seen in the demo). You can read more on his work in his multi-part blog post.

nodeconfeu-27After a needed sugar and caffeine coma break, we switched to the hardware track. First speaker was Colin Vernon, a designer on a strange mission – to bring NPM-style componentization to the hardware world. I was a hobbyist in my youth, and no stranger to the soldering gun. I had a long pause in dealing with hardware other than in a very limited way of ‘adding cards to PC slots’, so this resurgence of interest in hardware definitely brings back memories. Colin introduced us to the amazing world of littlebits, where Internet of Things can be manually put together using small modules that can be combined with the cloud and mobile remote control apps in many interesting ways. This presentation reminded me of how Twitter looked like a bizarre and pointless toy until it turned into something much bugger and more powerful – this could be another example.

nodeconfeu-28Raquel Vélez brought us Node.js-driven Bat-bot that she configured with a pen, with some freedom as to where to go on the canvas and when to draw. The philosophical question was – at which point we can call the result ‘art’. The practical demonstration almost succeeded but the artist committed robocide by falling off the drawing table before finishing the painting (which made the price of the painting skyrocket as a result). These modest starts like this may seem of little value, but Raquel reminded us that Mars Rover is essentially just a much bigger and more complex bot.

nodeconfeu-29Afternoon workshops reduced our collective age to pre-school, with all the toys laying around – drones, Korg bits (you can assemble an analog synth by connecting the bits together) and other goodies to wake up a kid in you.

nodeconfeu-30All in all, it was a great conference, in a format that made TJ Fontaine call it ‘Node.js vacation’ but it was of course much more than that. A lot of time for informal discussions (and environment that encouraged it because, you know, we are on an island with nothing else to do :). Being able to talk to people that wrote Node.js modules we use daily was absolutely a treat, as well as meeting some internet contacts in person for the first time. I came back home with a bag full of memories and lots of ideas for new projects.

I will close with a view of the Waterford Castle ferry that we got to know well during our conference. See you all again next year!

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© Dejan Glozic, 2014

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