And now for something completely different

I spent this week at OSCON having a great time. While I love JavaOne it's really not that fun for me. I'm usually involved in several sessions, a few demos, and getting a release ready. I don't get to actually attend JavaOne. I usually can't attend sessions and actually learn something new. It's an exciting experience, but not fun or relaxing.

At OSCON, however, I'm in a completely different environment. Java is just one of many languages here (and definitely in the minority, Perl seems to rule the roost). Being a smaller conference (and open source) the focus is less on big announcements and more on interesting technical things. I'm here to do a book signing and teach a single session on JavaFX. That means I get to spend the rest of my time meeting people and actually attending sessions. I've decided to take the opportunity to learn about something I know absolutely nothing about: hardware.

My first tutorial was called Making Things Blink: An Introduction to Arduino

Arduino is a small open source embedded hardware platform. It has a small microcontroller on a simple circuit board with tons of pins for power, analog and digital I/O, and a large community behind it. You program it using a variant of the Processing language. Even better, all of the examples use actual Processing for the desktop components of their apps. Since Processing is built on Java I knew that I'd be learning something I could later hook into my own Java or JavaFX apps. Very exciting stuff.

In our class we bought starter kits, which were 85$ USD (about 3 cents in euros) and included the Arduino itself, a breadboard, several components (LEDs, pressure sensors, potentiometers, etc.) and a nice O'Reilly book called Making Things Talk. We went through a couple of simple projects: getting the toolset installed, making some lights blink and detecting a switch. Then for our last project we built our own Etch-a-Sketch using two POTs (knob resistors) and an Etch-a-Sketch simulator running on our computers.

All in all it was a great open source introduction to simple hardware hacking. And now that I have the kit and software I'm going to start building some fun JavaFX apps as well.

Wednesday evening was my last day at OSCON, though the conference continued on until Friday afternoon. My session on JavaFX was reasonably attended considering this is a very non-Java centric conference. More importantly I met several people who are excited about JavaFX and the resurgence of Java on the desktop. Overall a fun and exhausting week. Now back to the SDK....

Talk to me about it on Twitter

Posted July 25th, 2008