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Highlights from BarCampMelbourne2008

Notable presentations included:

  • An introduction to the APhpLix (pronounced “app-licks”) development framework, which is based on PHP and Javascript. The presenter, flame, was able to develop a web application in around 45 seconds (no kidding!) using an existing data source. My only concern was the lack of accessibility (WCAG) compliance shown by the finished app.
  • Jason Harrop presented on the new docx format which is native for Microsoft Word and showed how the format strongly resembles XML. He also demonstrated a tool which allows real time collaboration on docx documents written in the open source Alfresco CMS. The tool provides an inexpensive alternative to sharepoint, and is aimed at those organisations using Office 2007 who do not want to go to a fully fledged Sharepoint environment. The tool is written as a VMWare appliance, running on JeOS, and is available from SourceForge.
  • Jason King presented advice on why donating your technical skills to not for profit organisations can be so rewarding, and gave us tips on how to set appropriate boundaries. For instance, he advised that if you are going to undertake voluntary activities, try to ensure that you take on discrete units of work rather than providing ongoing support. It is also wise to provide a strategy for the organisation as a roadmap, as this is often an area that is very lacking. He also demonstrated that the technical solution provided to a NFP has to suit the technical literacy level of the organisation – often the people who volunteer with NFPs have little or no IT training.
  • Ben Cornwell showed us all how PHP Under Control can be used to ‘build’ PHP packages, similar to compiled languages. This helps to prevent SVN/CVS commits breaking a package, and provides a good change management model. PHP Under Control uses a number of tools such as CodeSniffer, PHPUnit and Cruise Control, then integrates them. This type of control is useful for enterprise deployments of PHP.
  • Sriram presented on the use of technology for community development in third world countries such as India and Guatemala, and showed how very basic technology can be very empowering for agrarian workers, for instance helping to get the best price for crops, or get access to accurate weather information for optimal distribution of fertiliser. By assisting this cohort to increase productivity, ICT is directly increasing economic development. Key drawbacks here are the ability to translate common FOSS tools into native languages (such as Urdu, Hindi etc). Social networking such as Facebook and MySpace is also having a positive impact by allowing different agrarian communities to share information.
  • Mark Ryall presented on the Scala programming language, which is a multi-paradigm language. This means that it can do both object-oriented operations as well as functional decomposition. The language provides a number of structures such as objects, vals, vars and tuples and resembles the Ruby language. It is a general purpose language and can compile to DLLs or bytecode.
  • Joshua May (notjosh on #phpmelb) presented on the Internet vs Mobile phones and gave an overview of the difficulties encountered presenting the same content on not just different platforms, but an array of different devices and handsets where there are few standards. He gave a rundown of WURFL, which provides a list of the capabilities each device has, and allows for conditional processing to cater for different devices. There is also an integration toolkit for PHP and WURFL available.