Marc Hull, who talked about his project on Balancing simplicity and efficiency in web applications. Marc’s work focused on improving the development of stateful web applications, and in particular on object-relational mapping in Java, in an attempt to allow more straightforward persistence of objects to databases. This has always seemed to me to be an area lacking in usability and ease (see J2EE for plenty of examples), so anything that moves us closer is welcome.
Matthew Sackman, who talked about his project Glint: Breeding Mobile Ambients with Actors (which won the IBM Project Prize for the best final year Individual Project). Essentially, Matthew seems to be attacking the area of concurrent and distributed computing, in order to improve its robustness against deadlock (and other concurrency problems). He has chosen to do this by writing a compiler for the GLINT language, which is based on an Actor model and is especially particularly suitable for modelling concurrent systems.
Francis Russell, who talked about his project Delayed Evaluation and Runtime Code Generation as a means to Producing High Performance Numerical Software. Francis’s infrastructure shifts some code generation and execution to the runtime of a program (lazy evaluation). It does this by building up a DAG to represent expressions that are ‘should’ have been already evaluated. The expression it represents isn’t actually evaluated until it’s needed, which enables certain optimisations to be performed (which is useful, for example, in matrix arithmetic). The framework generates and executes the optimised code at runtime (and it also caches this generated code).
I had the chance to meet these folks briefly (Marc and Matthew had also been here previously, when they were part of the team from Imperial who won the Thinkpad Challenge). It was interesting to see some academic work for a change - whilst I’d never be able to make a career out of that, bringing academia and business together always seems to reap benefits.
I wish Marc, Matthew and Francis luck if they choose to develop their projects further.