February 3, 2004

EclipseCon on the ground

Author: Joe Barr

ANAHEIM, CA -- The first EclipseCon is off to a good start. Yesterday was tutorials day. Today was the first day of the conference itself. Attendance figures are still not official, but 600 plus or minus a few is a good guess. It's also well above the number hoped for by the show planners. John Wiegand (IBM) and Eric Gamma started the proceedings this morning with the first keynote: a "state of the union" address on the Eclipse platform. It was SRO for the keynote. At least 50 attendees lined the back wall of the ballroom or sat on the steps between the two levels of the room to hear the speakers.

The purpose of the keynote, according to Gamma, was to provide an appetizer for the conference and for the upcoming release 3.0 of the Eclipse platform.

Wiegand and Gamma then shared the stage, each speaking about 10 minutes at a time, for the rest of the hour. They began by giving a brief overview of Eclipse's roots. Those include platforms such as Smalltalk, Hoops, VA/Java, Sniff, VA/MicroEdition, and others.

Eclipse went open source in 2001 and today has more than 50 member companies. The goal of Eclipse today -- since IBM has made it a completely separate and independent organization -- remains the same as it has always been, Wiegand said: to make a fun and profitable framework for developing software that can be used by anyone.

In talking about the success of Eclipse as open source, Gamma and Wiegand described a community that develops Eclipse plug-ins, then turns around and uses those plug-ins to develop still more plug-ins. Borrowing the old Unix saw about "everything is a file," Gamma declared that in Eclipse, everything is a plug-in.

At this point, the Windows laptop being used to drive the presentation decided it was time for a nap and declared that it was going into hibernation. This gave both presenters a chance to work independently of the slides. It turned out to be valuable experience later in the keynote.

They briefly talked about the hundreds of plug-ins available today, both proprietary and open source. Sourceforge plays host to many of the open source plug-in projects. A new Web site, a plug-in portal, has also just appeared: http://www.eclipseplugincentral.com.

The rest of the talk was about new features coming in Eclipse 3.0. It's now at Milestone 6, and the final version is slated for delivery in June of this year. Among its most radical changes are the "pushing down" of the JDT and CDT IDEs, providing binary/API level interoperability with Swing/SWT, and a new runtime.

Previously, the components of the IDEs were not available to users writing their own IDE. Pushing them down to the API level allows everyone to make use of their functionality.

During the live demo of 3.0, the application balked and lived up to the M6 rep of being not all that stable yet. Gamma and Wiegand worked through each instance with humor and grace.

I spent two minutes with Wiegand after the talk because I wanted clarification about the community using and developing plug-ins as opposed to the "community" doing development on the Eclipse platform itself. Wiegand says that today, almost all commits to the the platform code come from IBM developers. He hopes, however, that under the new management, the Eclipse platform development team will become more a part of the Eclipse community.

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