Monthly Archives: September 2011

Scala koans in Ann Arbor on October 5 (full day workshop)

SRT Solutions will be presenting the Scala Koans in a full-day workshop on Wednesday, October 5, from 9 am – 4:30 pm. The Scala Koans provide an interactive and fun way to learn the language.

Koans, as referenced in wikipedia, “may consist of a perplexing element or a concise but critical word or phrase (話頭 huàtóu) extracted from the story”. This is the case with the Scala koans as well. Students of the koans use a simple test-driven process to insert missing information from an exercise to make a test pass, before moving onto the next exercise. The cumulative knowledge from working on each koan builds to provide an in-depth understanding of a particular language feature that can later be applied in the context of solving a software problem.

The Scala Koans were conceived at CodeMash 2010 and have been growing ever since. The Scala Koans have previously been presented as half-day workshops at CodeMash, the Java Posse Roundup, and Strange Loop. Koans are available in many other languages, such as Ruby, Javascript, and Clojure.

Cost for the full day Scala Koans workshop is $100 (early bird, until 9/30) or $125 (10/1-10/4). Lunch and snacks will be provided.

The workshop will be held at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty, Lower Level, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. For more information or to register, go to Please call Lisa Zuber at SRT Solutions (734-929-3211) if you have any problems or questions with respect to registration.

Greetings from the Strange Loop Conference in St. Louis

Strange Loop is a conference held in St. Louis, MO, started by Alex Miller. Much like CodeMash, Strange Loop is a developer-organized conference, and is offered at a price (around $250 for 2 days) that attracts those who self-pay and those who work for small companies. I’ve found that the self-motivated individuals are engaged attendees! I decided last winter that I wanted to branch out to attend other regional conferences beyond CodeMash and Strange Loop was top on my list. I was thrilled when Alex asked me to present the Scala Koans at Strange Loop as a 3-hour workshop on Sunday.

The koans approach to learning computer languages offers small exercises, in a test-driven manner, so that people can learn a language by through small steps and self-discovery. Offering a koans workshop is an effective way to encourage people to work on the exercises, since they can ask questions and stay engaged. Particularly while the koans are being developed, any gaps in our “lessons” can be addressed by the instructors, on site. Strange Loop targets 30-40 attendees for workshops, so I asked Joel Neely and Daniel Hinojosa, both who have experience with the koans, to co-present at Strange Loop. This offered a 10:1 student to instructor ratio, which ensured that people were able to make good progress in the 3 hours. (Having 3 presenters also allowed one of us to slip out and order some pizzas for our hungry students, since our session ran 11:30-2:30 and hungry brains don’t focus well! And no, we didn’t plan to order pizza ahead of time!). Our session was well-attended and we got some great feedback. Hallway rumblings and tweets seem to indicate it was well-received. For those who are interested in learning more about the koans, I’m in the process of bringing up a website to provide resources, code, and other hints at It’s not live yet, so I’ll let you know when it’s up (expecting in the next week or so, depending on how much time I can find to get the content there). In the meantime, you can access the student exercises at our bitbucket site.

Back to Strange Loop. The workshop day was an optional day. The first full day of the conference was on Monday. I attended some interesting sessions, including:

I also attended a purely fun session, “Learn to play Go” by Rich Hickey, creator of Clojure. Finally, I may be able to figure out what to do with the Go board that’s been sitting in my basement for a very long time! I was able to play a game with another newbie and we were very evenly matched!

The Scala talks were interesting. I tend to focus on the simplicity of Scala, as a better language than Java for the JVM. These talks were focused on getting the most out of the functional aspects of Scala. As the industry sees momentum toward using functional for what it does best, this will be very relevant. Strange Loop, in general, has a fairly functional bent to it, and that’s quite fun!

I’ll fill in about day 2 of Strange Loop later. But there are more talks to attend!

Lotsa mobile this week in Ann Arbor

The Ann Arbor Computer Society holds its September meeting on Wednesday, September 7. Ann Marie Manzitti will be presenting, “2D Gaming on Android – An introduction to libgdx”. The meeting will be held at SRT Solutions, 206 S. Fifth Avenue, Suite 200 in downtown Ann Arbor (at the corner of Fifth Ave and Washington). It starts at 6 pm, and is free and open to the public.

If iPad development is more your thing, go to the Thursday September 8 meeting of the Ann Arbor CocoaHeads, where Chris Adamson will speak on CoreMIDI. CoreMIDI implements the MIDI signaling protocol for virtual and physical musical instruments, and integrates with Core Audio. See what happens when we connect a Rock Band 3 keyboard, a MIDI cable, and an iPad with the Camera Connection Kit. The meeting will be held at SRT Solutions (see address above). Free pizza (compliments of Arbor Moon Software) at 6:30, with the main meeting starting at 7.