JSConf DownUnder Brings Brendan Eich to Sydney

Diana MacDonald
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JSConf DownUnder, an offshoot of the developer gathering JSConf, kicked off on November 15 at Sydney’s Town Hall, in the heart of the CBD.

First up was the man himself: creator of JavaScript and present CTO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich. The exciting launch to the day covered the current state of JavaScript and upcoming changes in ECMAScript Edition 6. Brendan believes JavaScript is the web’s virtual machine. Whether you’re writing in JavaScript or compiling to it, the language has a lot of potential.

Alex Dickson showed us how to emulate gaming console software with JavaScript. You can now play all your favorite NES games in the browser with your old controllers. Take away? When emulating game systems, start simple (try CHIP-8 for limited graphics and sound), research every hardware component involved, and be careful about legal issues …

Brian Leroux was supposed to talk about PhoneGap, but mostly talked about tips and tools for mobile development (check out the slides). In an entertaining and ironic way, his presentation demonstrated his point that perceived performance trumps aesthetics.

Yosun Chang walked us through building a game using the Unity 3D game engine to target multiple platforms using a JavaScript-based language. The recent advances in JavaScript supporting hardware accelerated 3D graphics make the language a reasonable target for 3D games, but Yosun showed that you can choose generate it from another platform instead of writing it yourself.

François Marier discussed Mozilla’s Persona project, which is in its beta release and has been developed to address the challenges in managing your identity online. It seeks to remove the need for multiple passwords by providing a single sign-on to web applications using your email address. Rather than logging in with Facebook or Twitter, you log in with Persona, which uses client-side cryptographic certification (read: JavaScript) to prevent the application ever seeing your personal data. In-browser verification ensures your passwords are kept out of organization’s databases, that your personal data is shared only as far as you intend, and that there is no need for collaboration amongst browser vendors or email providers.

Daniel Friedman introduced us to Ninja Blocks. Using the open-source hardware and software, largely Node.js, you can build apps that communicate with actuators and sensors in the devices in your home. JavaScript is now driving movement in the physical world as well as the Web.

Alex Sexton showed us a variety of methods being used in the wild to localize websites. He described his journey of progressing from using properties files to building the Jed API using Gettext, to learning that Jed was fundamentally flawed (“Thanks Norbert,” he says), to the ICU MessageFormat, and finally … that we have more to look forward to. I suggest you have a read and watch this space.

Isaac Schlueter discussed the current (broken) state of streams in Node.js and what to expect in Node.js 0.10. It seems that backwards compatibility is difficult in a young platform and thriving community, but there are ways to support it.

Mikeal Rogers suggests that, on the matter of web specifications, “no matter how bad you think things are, adding your opinion makes it worst.” Essentially, there’s too much white noise in the debate. You should only engage in discussion of web specs with an existing implementation—build first.

Overall, the conference was an intimate gathering of an incredibly talented branch of the web community. The one-day event demonstrated the diverse applications of the JavaScript in today’s tech world and the promise of more to come.

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