So, I achieved my objectives. Tuesday night I made a list of all the people I needed to talk to – along with my existing lists of what I needed to talk to them about – and yesterday (the second day of the pluginfest) I tried to fill up every available moment with talking to people. On the whole, I think I did well – all but two companies are crossed off the list, and I certainly didn’t have any spare moments.
Top credit to Ken Ryall and Dan Podwall of Nokia for being really helpful. I’ve explained the technical problems I’m having, and Ken was kind enough to look into how they might be able to expose APIs (Application Programming Interfaces, i.e. means to communicate with Nokia software) to make my work easier. If they do, I’ll be able to stop messing around with many low-level areas of debugging, and work on producing higher-level and more sophisticated tools on top. Which is great.
I also spoke to many of the OS/tools vendors – WindRiver, QNX, ST, IBM, ST (sort of). They all produce embedded operating systems, like Symbian, but unlike Symbian they seem to care just as much about the tools they produce, as they do the OS itself. Some of the tools available from WindRiver, for example, are just light years ahead of what’s available for Symbian OS.
Having said that, nobody seems to be doing exactly what I’m doing, and talking to Christian Kurze from Motorola it sounds as though it might just be unfeasibly complicated on Linux – oddly, this makes me happy as I don’t have to worry about competition, even if I can’t make anything work myself. Either way, Linux for me is a distant prospect… I am Symbian OS focussed for now.
Symbian themselves deserve a lot of credit for hosting this event. They also liberally scattered their engineers around – Andrew Ferguson was kind enough to spend a long while answering a whole slew of stupid primitive Eclipse questions. I hope many of their engineers got a lot out of it themselves.
Also, it looks like we’ll be forming some sort of informal group for Eclipse-monkeys in Cambridge. I was about to suggest some sort of Wiki page and/or mailing list to Derek Morris of Code Red, but then he jumped in with the suggestion that we just meet up in the pub now and again instead. Which is clearly a much better idea. The Wrestlers on Newmarket Road seems to be the favourite, as apparently it’s an old Acorn haunt. If any other Eclipsifiers in Cambridge want to be involved, drop one of us a line.
Most impressive/surprising things of the pluginfest for me:
- Carbide 1.2 abandons their Managed Build System and moves back to the old Symbian build chain (abld). And yet, it’s now much quicker!
- Sony Ericsson have a CBR tools GUI written in Eclipse, of sorts. It’s very focussed around their own use-cases, but in effect it does EnvInfo, MakeEnv, GetEnv, GetRel etc.
- The QNX and WindRiver tools are terrific. WindRiver’s memory profiling stuff in particular blew me away. There are so many different graphs showing how things on their device can allocate memory.
- My own stuff. OK, it’s a memory leak diagnoser – big deal – but my demos didn’t go wrong once; it worked perfectly. Wow.
Also, whilst at the pluginfest, I may have removed two full configuration steps from my tools. That’s a really big deal for me when most Symbian OS tools seem to fail because they’re hard to configure. One is the installation of Microsoft’s dbghelp.dll, which I fervently hope won’t be necessary if and when Nokia introduce an API for what I need. The other is a way to avoid having to capture textual output form the Symbian OS device: I remembered that such information is now transmitted over an additional channel, BTrace, which I listen to already. If I just capture it there, I have no need for the additional console listeners. Hooray.
Finally – I sometimes take the mickey out of certain aspects of Symbian. (People who know me might say that as an understatement). But credit were it’s due – Symbian was generous to spend the money on organising this event, and it worked out well. (Thibaut Rouffineau was the main organiser – thanks!). I hope that next year somebody else will take up the mantle. Maybe by then, I will have five hundred employees and enough meeting rooms to hold such an event. Ahem.
PS you can see photos of the pluginfest here