Archive for April, 2008


Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Amsterdam turned on its best summer weather for the European Common Lisp Meeting 2008. But enough scene setting. To give a quick rundown of the talks:

InspireData: How We Did It In Lisp Jeremy Jones

A very whizzy, very polished shrinkwrapped Windows and OSX application written in Common Lisp that actually sells well (> 80k seats sold). 12MB of lisp code in 284 source files. Key learnings: specification is hard so incremental refinement is necessary, and “Lisp supports this better than anything I know”. Key quote: “The world needs to use more lisp.”

FEMLISP Nicolas Neuss

A system for solving partial differential equations using finite element methods. 30K lines of lisp code. Key quality: the stability of the base language – “I learned Common Lisp and I’m still up-to-date!” FEMLISP currently has one user, and there seems to be some reluctance to increase that number…

Using Common Lisp For Large Internet Systems Stefan Richter is a 60 person company that builds large internet systems in 98% Java with the rest being C and C++. (See also  h.w.a.) While it is easy to make mistakes, it is well known how to build large internet systems (1 million users and above). The various bits and pieces are usually in Java, but almost everything could be done in CL today, and certainly tomorrow with a bit of effort. The talk seemed to diverge at this point. On the one hand we should be encouraging people to use lisp in web programming (use weblocks and blog about it; “write a book”). On the other hand we should be introducing call-cc into CL, because (despite seeming to contradict many of the best practices for building scalable internet systems) they are really cool for web apps…

PWGL Killian Sprotte

Killian had a great two-hour presentation on the impressive PWGL/Patchworks with OpenGL musical composition and analysis tool (or “Programming with Boxes”). Unfortunately he only had 45 minutes to present it. Certainly the talk with the highest “wow” factor, this is one to download and try out, not to read (or write) about.

ECL = (not only) Embeddable Comman Lisp Juan José Garcia Ripoll

A presentation of the past, present and future of ECL. A pretty convincing demonstration that ECL is not stripped down, but is a fully fledged Common Lisp (to mix my metaphors).

Selvaag House Designer Kristoffer Kvello

Using Knowledge Based Engineering and CL to automatically design buildings. Six full-time lisp programmers. Impressive application. I’ve always thought lisp uniquely suited to automated compliance applications – turns out I was right. Key observation: “Lisp: all good, no problems.”

HPC Platform Marc Battanyi

Subtitled “CL + FPGA = The Ultimate Processing Platform (or the Worst Case of NIH Syndrome)”, this presentation was another that suffered from being too long for its timeslot. All is forgiven, however, because Marc’s humour is bone dry.

? Ken Tilton

Ummm. This was Cells redux redux. I think. As a proponent (exponent?) of Screenshot Driven Development I can’t disagree with Kenny’s decision to concentrate on (as he put it) “stupid pet tricks”, but with no discernable structure, narrative or point, I really didn’t feel I learned anything…

All in all, the talks were great, the crowd interesting, the venue unique, and, while I won’t be at ELS in Bordeaux, I’m definitely intending to be at ILC ’09 at MIT (driven by Dan Weinreb – who was in Amsterdam – and Guy Steele – who wasn’t). I might even actually have done some lisping by then…