May 12th, 2011

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The Typesafe Stack

Oh, this is neat. Scala has just announced its 2.9 release; along with that, they mentioned the Typesafe Stack, which pulls together the pieces you need in order to build serious enterprise-grade code from the get-go. This is a new company that looks very impressive, involving many of the power-players of the Scala world -- in particular, both Martin Odersky (the founder and leader of the Scala project) and Jonas Bonér (the creator of Akka), along with a lot of the key people who have contributed to both. The company blog kicked off today with a lot of the rationale behind it.

From the sound of things, it's a nicely pre-packaged distribution that pulls together Scala and Akka, along with the Eclipse-based development environment and key build tools. This matters, because the Scala/Akka combination may be the best current system for building seriously scalable systems. Akka takes the concept of Actors -- originally popularized in Erlang, and implemented a bit roughly in the Scala core -- and fleshes it out nicely, combining it with Software Transactional Memory for when you need fine-grained concurrency. Actors aren't the solution for every scaling problem, but for many typical Internet apps, where the issue is having millions of interacting objects that need to communicate scalably and safely, it's typically ideal. So by packaging all of this, along with the development environment, they provide a good way for developers to *start* with good habits, building systems that scale naturally as part of their designs.

(Indeed, it's pretty neat seeing Akka recognized explicitly as a first-class element of the Scala ecosystem. I've been following this project since Bonér started talking it up -- I likely would have contributed to it if I hadn't wound up elbow-deep in Memento and lacking the time. His assertion has always been that Erlang has the right idea, and that combining that core architecture with a modern language like Scala would produce the best current system for building scalable systems. I suspect he's correct.)

The software is all open source; the company is clearly intending to make its money by consulting. That's a tried and true approach for open source, and I'm entirely happy to see it. And they are very explicit that one of their goals is to make it clear that the Scala ecosystem is here to stay. One of the common complaints over the past couple of years has been that enterprises aren't willing to commit to a language that is entirely volunteer-driven. So they're finally stepping beyond that, with the key members of the community putting their careers where their mouths are, and starting to make a living doing Scala full-time, both in evolving the platform and consulting for projects using that platform. The timing and strategy are both great, and should do well to push Scala fully up to parity as one of the key technologies of the modern Web.

I think it's getting to be time to get Uruk (my Linux box) up and running again. Not that I have left myself much free time for pure for-fun programming right now, but I'm just itching to play with this stuff...
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Info for this weekend

It was just pointed out to me that I've been a bit vague about the key details for the clothing giveaway, so a little more information:

Things will be running from roughly 10am-5pm, this Saturday and Sunday. It's at the home of Susan Stewart in Wilmington, which is up near the intersection of 128 and 93. (A couple of miles from my house, if you know where that is.) For directions, send a note either to me or directly to Susan: susan - at - crossert - dot - com. (For privacy reasons, Susan prefers not to post the address quite this wide-open.)

I'll be there most of the time, to say hi and chat with folks. The actual clothing / changing area is ladies-only, so I'll be at the front door, acting as greeter.

All ladies are welcome, and I hope to see many of you there. Besides the vast array of clothing (ranging from mundane everyday to work-dressy to ball gowns), there are a lot of shoes, a fair amount of day-to-day jewelry and accessories, and a good deal of perfume. So please come and take stuff that you can use: the best way to honor Jane in this respect is to see that her stuff is given good homes...
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Secret Diary

Okay, anybody who wants their mental image of Rose Tyler pure and unsullied should just stop here.

I really need to pay a little more attention to the TV schedule, because I am now regretting that Jane missed an entire season of a series we were both quite fond of: Secret Diary of a Call Girl. This is what Billie Piper went on to after Doctor Who, and it's a consistent delight. Not terribly deep, but quite a bit better than the concept would sound, it is the story of Belle, who is, in her own words, a high-priced London whore. This isn't a morality tale of any sort: Belle is fond of her work, excels at it, and makes quite a good living at it. Which isn't to say that her life is straightforward.

Frankly, by declining to spend a lot of time soul-searching, the story winds up as an almost-always incisive, and usually quite funny, look at human nature and its foibles. Belle sees people at both their most sincere and their most ridiculous. The writing is sharp, and Piper's comic timing (frequently stomping all over the fourth wall, since this is told in the form of her books) is pitch-perfect. Frankly, fond though I was of her as Rose, she is *much* better as Belle -- not just beautiful, but consistently sharp and intelligent. Rose was a girl, pretty dependent on the Doctor most of the time; Belle is a woman making her own choices, with little patience for those who judge her.

At the end of Season 2, Belle goes more or less public with her book -- I had assumed that the series was now getting so self-referential that it was surely over. But I just discovered that it's nothing of the sort: Season 3 picks right up as she discovers that no expose is ever as anonymous as you'd like it to be, and life starts to get a lot more complicated.

The series is on Showtime, so most folks don't get it. But if you have a Showtime subscription anyway (and especially if you can get it on-demand), it's well worth the time to watch, made up of concise, well-focused episodes that actually have something to say in amongst the nudity. I do wish I'd realized that Season 3 was out, when Jane was in her last months -- it was a favorite of ours to watch together...
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Book Buying Alert

My thanks to ladysprite, who sent me the tragic news yesterday: McIntyre and Moore, the best used bookstore in the Boston area, is closing its doors.

For those who don't know the place, Mc and Moore has been my favorite for many years. Like all good used bookstores, they have some specialities; relevant to us, they excel at Medieval and Renaissance. The majority of my general primary sources come from there, as well as a fair chunk of the analytical works. They were originally in Harvard Square; then Davis Square; currently, they're in a basement in Porter Square. (Not a good location, which is presumably part of why they haven't been able to make ends meet.)

Anyway, they are in serious clearance mode, and the books are on deep discount: 40% off now, gradually rising to 70% before they shut down early next month. I stopped by this evening, and dropped a bit over $400 on a pretty large stack of books, mostly primary sources. (A fair number in Latin, giving me more incentive to dust off the Rosetta course and get back to it.)

Of course, about half of that was spent on one two-volume splurge: the Scriptores Historiae Augustae, a 4th century book of Roman history. This copy -- rich in footnotes (also in Latin, of course) -- was printed in 1671, and is still bound in the original vellum, so while I feel *slightly* silly buying this thick book of fine-print Latin, I can't really say that I feel like I wasted my $200. Frankly, it's a set worthy of James and Devon Gray, but I can actually afford it.

Anyway, I've had my shot, so I'll now spread word to the rest of the bibliophiles: last chance. While I think they're planning to continue online, it's just not the same as being able to browse through all these wonderful books on so many different subjects. So find some time to get down to Porter Square, and buy some toys while you can. Spread the word...