I was in Saint Malo for a conference all last week. The place is stunningly beautiful. It’s a corsair town which means (essentially) that it’s an old pirate fortress. The walls must be 4 metres thick. I also visited Mount Saint Michel and Rennes.
Mount Saint Michel is spectacular and sits way out in the English channel, or not, depending on the tide. The tide at that point rises and falls 9m every day and up to 14m on spring tides. Which means that the rock is a veritable island for half a day, every day. It would be an island if there was no (man made) road leading up to it.
I didn’t see much of Rennes except the train station and the university. But it was enough to bowl me over. The underground is impeccible. It is not possible to fall off a platform onto the tracks as every platform is protected with perspex and has automatic doors that line up with the doors of the train. The trains themselves are roomy with lots of windows and are driverless. Which I thought was cool, but given that I was attending a reliable software conference…
The conference was really good. I met loads of people who I won’t name, in case they don’t like being name checked on the interweb. One was a Microsoft researcher with extensive UNIX knowledge. We spoke about Longhorn and the failings of UNIX. One of the most interesting things he said was a simple answer to the Joel on Software How Microsoft lost the API war argument against Longhorn. I’ll paraphrase and slightly extend the argument here: basically MS have 200million customers, if 10% of those (20million) migrate to Longhorn within 6 months, thats a huge market. It’s probably bigger than the Linux desktop market and the same size as the Linux+Mac desktop market. Simply, companies will support the Longhorn APIs in order to be the first and to get into that market quickly.
I was also talking to an IBM researcher who gave me the low-down on some cool next-gen IBM technology that I think Ross Finch may be working on. Ross would never tell me what he was working on, but this next gen stuff is Java based and Lotus/Domino is written in it. I’m going to dig into this a little further in the next few days as the IBM guy gave me his card.
Next was an engine crazy kiwi from a small Cambridge company. He told me and a few others about the in’s and out’s of the inbred automobile industry, quite entertaining. Stuff like, the Ford Puma is a Fiesta and the Mondeo and Jaguar (yes Jag!) XJ8 (or somthing) are based on the same chassis.
On the night of the conference banquet our motley crew consisted of a liberal sprinkling of Fins, only one of whom worked for Nokia, a solid stock of Norwegians, a Wallaby, a German, several Frenchmen a few Yanks and myself. We had some pretty good conversations. I had previously been conversing with the Fins and the Norwegians on several topics such as European wars, religion and the American elections. All in all, it was good fun and no-one was too insulted