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EclipseCon Apache, BIRT, Asterisk/VoIP and ECF

2006, conference, eclipse, eclipsecon, voip

This place is certainly busy. I've not managed to sit down and comment on what's been happening because I've been rushing from one presentation to another (as well as helping someone debug an RCP build along the way...) The keynote, by Greg Stein (Apache), proved to be an interesting historical view of Apache's grown from a handful of developers and a couple of projects (Apache, JServ) into the thriving community with tens of projects today. He observed a progression of licenses (from closed source (Microsoft), through restricted soruce (Sun Source), copyleft (GPL, EPL) and non-copyleft (Apache) from most restrictive to least restrictive, and (in the absence of patents) software has a natural tendency to migrate from closed source to non-copyleft. Interestingly, he views the Apache license as more free than either the EPL or GPL since the code can be used in other closed-source systems without problems.

I also managed to get a quick look into BIRT, which is the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools project. This seems to have been built to Eclipse's strengths; every aspect seems to be contributed via some kind of extension that can be plugged at a later stage. For example, the data is abstracted away through a DataSource, which could be a database over JDBC, a flat file like CSV, an XML file, or some other proprietary mechanism. The charts are also pluggable, and they can use SVG and (through Batik) render reports into both HTML and PDF over a web page. The server is an internal Tomcat engine, and it uses the internal web browser to present the pages. I think this is going to be big in the business world, and probably one of the first places where Eclipse will break out of the conceptual IDE straitjacket that is still misunderstood by some businesses. Importantly, the charting capabilities can be run in their own standalone Java app (probably using SWT) and can even be integrated into other views in Eclipse RCP, though it's not clear whether such integration is done via a web browser or an SWT widget.

Lastly, I went to see a demo of Asterisk and VoIP, presented by Richard Hamnett. I've used voice chats with both Google Talk and iChat in the past (both of which are managed systems that don't require any configuration) but it's good to see a server-side Asterisk server in action. I even managed to download a VoIP client during the presentation, and with four properties, configure the client to use the Eclipse VoIP server to join in the conference. Now that's cool. There's big plans for this in the future too; the goal of the Eclipse foundation seems to be moving towards VoIP as a communication mechanism. As such, Scott Lewis et al (who work on the Eclipse Communication Framework) will be working towards having a SIP implemented system in Eclipse, and to tie it in with the ECF for real-time collaboration. There's also the possibilitiy that the ECF can be leveraged to do collaborative editing; like SubEthaEdit, but in Eclipse. Now how cool would that be?