Friday, October 9, 2009

JavaBlend in Ljubljana and Belgrade

About 6 months ago Aleš Justin (JBoss/Redhat) asked me if I could come to Ljubljana for the JavaBlend conference. I told Aleš to talk to OSGi marketing and after some mail exchanges we agreed that if they paid the trip I would come. After this was agreed, I was informed it also included a presentation in Belgrade. Well, from a time perspective this wasn't too much of a difference so I agreed, under the condition I could fly back Friday from Belgrade and then forgot about it.

Normally a conference trip means flying in the night before, giving your presentation, talking to a few people and then trying to get back home as quickly as possible. However, this trip turned out to be quite different; it felt more like a 3 day adventure than work.

The Ljubljana JavaBlend day was very interesting with just very good speakers. Everything helped, the weather was good, the location was excellent (a very nice castle overlooking Ljubljana), and an intriguing number of very young fashion models.

Even my presentation went well. I was fortunate that the speaker before me, Juha Lindfors (OpenRemote), spoke about an open source project doing home automation. Exactly the area that got OSGi started! Though they had taken Tomcat as their platform, I obviously worked on him to move to OSGi. I could honestly say OSGi was made for exactly their purpose.

I learned about Yugoslavia in school and I followed the news about Tito's dead in 1980, the breakup, and the balkan wars. However, the whole geographic situation was a tad fuzzy to me. The first time in former Yugoslavia, the republic Slovenia definitely charmed me, especially because Aleš had taken me on a small sight-seeing tour. However, what I did not know was that Belgrade was more than 500 KM away from Ljubljana. We would do the trip with a bus. I had visions of a small executive bus with leather fauteuils and a lovely stewardess serving us coffee and snacks. Not too bad I thought.

The next day we would leave at 2pm so that would at least gave me some time to get some work done in the morning, which I decided to do in the bar, enjoying some latte. However, this plan was disrupted by Dalibor Topic (Sun) but he made more than up for that by providing a more than worthwhile discussion about JSR 294, the meaning of life, OSGi, and Sun. It is always nice to talk to Dalibor, whom I seem to meet on more conferences than pure chance would predict.

At 2pm we gathered in the lobby and we took a taxi to the Parsek (the conference sponsor), where the bus would leave. There my visions of spacious leather seats were rather rudely shattered. Even Michael O'Leary would've blushed about the available leg space. However, the lack of space turned out not to really matter that much because the trip went amazingly fast. In the bus I was sitting next to Manik Surtani (Redhat) and we had a long and intense discussion about lots of very interesting subjects. Manik was interested in OSGyifing his Infinispan (a data grid) project so I might have made another OSGi convert. Hey, I am the evangelist!

Though Tomaž Cerar had forgotten to bring the promised bottle of whiskey, the hosts kept us well entertained through the evening driving through Croatia. We were told scary stories about the Serbians specifically and Balkan politics in general, creating a nice suspense. The eerie mood was amplified by farmers burning their land all along the highway, supervised by a slowly rising large blood-red moon. The crossing of the Kroation-Serbian border was therefore almost a disappointment when it only took 10 minutes by civilized officers instead of the 2.5 hours and brutal interrogations we were promised. Though the very modern (well in 1971) 5-star (Serbian stars that is) hotel turned a bit scary when they insisted to take my passport and then pushed it through a hole in the wall. Fortunately, I got it back half an hour later, though it took some angry looks.

The next morning we had to travel through the middle of Belgrade to the conference hotel. I still remembered the scary stories of the night before, describing Serbian drivers and Belgrade traffic. Especially the queues over bridges were told to be notorious. Now, it was kind of important to me that we started in time because the plan was that I would be the first speaker, then hop in a taxi, and hopefully catch my flight back from Tesla Airport. After all the horror stories leaving at 7.30 sounded, well, not unimportant. However, the relaxed nature that seems to be part of of all ex-Yugoslavians made us leave well after 8. Traffic was not too bad but I am pretty sure we blatantly violated the rules of the bridges of Königsberg by crossing the same bridge multiple times. And I am sure it was the same Samsung building I saw after about 20 minutes. Thinking about my taxi ride, it was also a bit disconcerting that we seemed to move farther and farther away from the airport. We did arrive before nine, well just. Any hopes to also start at nine were shattered by two introductory speakers that took their time, and more. Then, half way through my presentation, I was told to stop because the taxi was waiting. I felt that I needed at least another 10 minutes to finish and take some questions, only to discover the taxi had disappeared when I came down! Some nerve wrecking 15 minutes later, and several organizers talking in their phones (still relaxed!), an also very relaxed taxi driver showed up. And actually they were right, the drive to the airport was a non-event, though I swear I have seen cars on those roads that I had last seen when I was 5.

Thanks Aleš for inviting me and all the others that made this a really trip wonderful!

Peter Kriens


  1. You have to understand how balkans define "early", "on time" and "late". If, for example, you have a conference at 8:00, and arrive at 7:55, you are by definition, early. If you arrive at 8:05 you are late only if the conference already began. On time means that conference started the moment you stepped inside the room. So your whole nerve wrecking experience was because of this difference in definition of time.

    You can also avoid these situations if you don't like them. Next time don't tell your organizers that you want to be there "on time", tell them that you need extra X minutes before the start, because you need extra time to check out the room, hardware, presentation or whatever. And they will comply. It may sound silly, but that's how we work. Trust me

    The ex-Yugoslavian.

  2. Hey Peter,

    It was great meeting you. We definitely should continue the discussion around OSGi and home automation.

    In the meantime, you can find me at juha at openremote dot org

  3. Good to hear you've make it to the airport on time. I'm looking forward to catch up with you at the next conference - we really seem to run into each other every couple of months.

  4. Hey,

    I am happy to learn you got to catch your flight; sorry though some hickups in the Belgrade's organization of the JavaBlend conference. If was a first JB conference in Serbia for us and all-in-all I think we managed quite fine.

    Hope you had a good time anyways and I am sorry you missed the Friday dinner, I think everybody enjoyed it very much.

    Next time, I'll remember Tomaž to bring the whiskey. :-)

    Have a nice day,