Day #2 Observations

The opening day of WWDC is a crazy overload of body and soul. Day number two brings sanity and the cool realization that there is a lot to be learned.

While the keynote has a lot of high level gee-whiz stuff, day number two typically brings one down to earth with an inspection of the APIs behind those amazing demos in the keynote. The 30K foot view of Steve Jobs is replaced by the tactical details, conceived of and implemented by young engineers.

True wizardry is on display.

Regrettably, the wizardry on stage and in the audience is made up primarily of men. I didnit do any systematic counts, but I estimate that that women made up about one in a hundred of the attendees. The ratio appears to be better only by a little bit with the Apple staff.

This is nothing new, of course. Researchers and writers have been lamenting the dearth of women in the field of software development. The problem, however, is that despite all the talk, it seems to me that the problem is getting worse, not better. At least in the Apple community.

No one knows how to fix this.

The second day also brings the revelation that Apple engineers live in another universe and access Web sites that are the aggregate watering holes of the Apple culture. If you want your horizons expanded, and you want to understand the pulse of the engineering community behind Apple, WWDC is a great place to become immersed in that. Itis one of the things that attracts me to the event. My notes are full of URLs that now bear investigation.

I attended a session called Mac OS X Scientific Computing. It was pretty good in that some resourceful and smart people who utilize the Mac for all kinds of scientific work were on stage and showcased. However, what was also clear was that Apple continues to wait for others to press their products into useful scientific service -- as opposed to, for example, IBM, which hires scientists to advance the state of the art in many scientific fields in concert with its customers.

As an aside, I saw a cute T-shirt in that session worn by someone from that said, "Because your operating system should not be a volatile substance."


Of note was a comment from a speaker in that session who said something to the effect: "Once you get students excited about science, you also have to give them a path [to a career]." That was insightful, and I wish more people understood that and followed through. Especially our schools and government as partners.

For years and years, decades in fact, the space program has inspired young people to become aerospace engineers, but jobs remain scarce. Just as in astrophysics and physics, a lot of smart young people, men and women, who dream of building spacecraft end up becoming, all too often, commercial software engineers -- where there is more money and opportunity.

Iim not allowed to go into details about sessions, but I will say that my overall sense of Leopard is that a lot of serious work has been done to bring Mac OS X out of adolescence and into adulthood. Both the UNIX underpinnings, the new and exciting APIs, and the 64-bit capabilities of the CPUs and graphics cards are going to propel Macs into a new era.

Little things that should have been attended to for a long time appear to have been fixed. Thatis especially important for enterprise customers who tend to dig into the UNIX internals, mess around with exotic things like LDAP, Kerberos, smart cards, NFS, X11, compilers, and so on. I canit say categorically that any one irritant has been fixed; but I get the feeling, subjectively, that this release was designed to attend to all those minor but nagging issues.

I am beginning to wonder if WWDC can get much larger. 5,000 attendees strains the limits of the Moscone West facility. Lines for sessions have been, this year, nearly as long as keynote waiting lines of the past. It probably became just too much of a logistics nightmare to bus 5,000 people to the Apple campus for the very popular beer bash. So thereis a big hole on Wednesday night this year. Also, feeding the better part of 5,000 people each day at lunch is more akin to operations on a Navy aircraft carrier than a cozy technical conference. Iill find out on Wednesday how good the food really is, but others have told me not to get my hopes up.

I had a delightful lunch (at a near by restaurant) with the principals of MacPractice. Iim particularly interested in medical practice software because Iive done some consulting on that in the past, and Iim incredibly pleased to see a company bringing a fabulous set of Cocoa apps to market with a keen sense of taste, wisdom and passion for the Mac. Iill be writing more about that meeting soon.

Finally, "Stump The Experts" on Tuesday night was simply awesome. If you attend WWDC next year and miss "Stump" itis a phenomenal blunder. A sin, actually. Mark Harlan and Fred Huxham have been doing this for 15 years now, bless them, and who knows how much longer this zany pair will choose to carry on the tradition. Itill be the best 90 minutes youive ever spent in your life if youire an WWDC attendee.