This week I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Middleware 2011 Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. The first two days were for the various workshops with the final three days for the main conference. As I landed late that evening, I just checked into the hotel and met Anna for dinner. The hotel I stayed in was the VIP Inn Berna, which so happens to be just across the road from an old bull fighting arena. Overall I have no complains about the hotel, but it was slightly basic, and I wish Internet was included.
On the first day, there were a number of workshops to which I attended the PhD symposium in the morning and the M-MPAC workshop (to present a paper) in the afternoon. There were a number of interesting work published at this workshop, though one I wasn’t so sure about, as it was obvious they had not tested their concept on an actual device as they lead me to believe. It’s really this that I dislike in research where if someone claims something works on a mobile device I expect to have been tested on one, not assume it will work, as with mobile devices there are lots of different hardware and software constraints (some deliberate, some not) that can make the concept limiting or in some cases void.
When it came to presenting, I have to admit it was the most nervous presentation I’ve given, not sure exactly why as the paper had been accepted, but I was apprehensive about what the reaction/questions to the paper will be. At the end of the presentation, no quick questions were asked.
At the end of the workshop there was a panel section where all attendees sat in a circle to ask questions about the work presented. One question in particular that interested me was brought up by David Evans from Cambridge University for the general discussion of all which was the notion of trust, and how can you ensure that context data/information is actually true or honest? Particularly if your context is based on what people submit to a service, it can be misused by different businesses to gain some unfair advantage.
For the presentation slides go to: https://deansserver.co.uk/files/presentations/ContextEngine_presentation.pdf
The Main Conference
The main conference began really the night before it started (if that makes sense?) where there was an organised dinner and few drinks for everyone to meet and socialize. I just continued to the mingle with some of the PhD students, and meet some of the conference delegates.
Most of the focus of the conference was on large datacenters, interoperability, data, and network efficiency. Particular some of the more interesting I found were on a filesystem for Virtual machine image storage for cloud computing systems, a middleware for managing software and hardware modules, and scaling micro blogging services.
At the end of the first day there were poster presentations, where Anna presented her poster and answered questions while delegates walked around. I spoke with a student researching into a context aware middleware for ambient intelligence, as it looked broadly the same as our ContextEngine. The student said that nothing had really been implemented yet and he only has an architecture diagram, to which I suggested he reads our paper and maybe there is room for extension or collaboration. During the poster session there was also roasted chestnuts with some local drink which was made from wine and fruit juice, which was a nice touch to the poster sessions.
Other research at the poster sessions that interested me was a poster on a way of streaming video to mobile devices using telephone masks and ad-hoc networks as a way of lowering the amount of load on the phone masks. This method broadly works on a similar method to Skype, whereby some nodes end up being like super nodes which others connect to, forming a connection chain, instead of each node needing a direct connection to the source.
The social event was set at the Oceanario de Lisbon (Lisbon Aquarium). Currently there is an exhibit on different species of turtles, which was really interesting. We were given a tour guide who showed us different turtle species, what they eat etc. I managed to see a couple of them in the tanks, but most I think were out of sight sadly.
After a quick whip around the exhibit, we then went on to wine tasting which was great. I got to try local white, red, and some port. Until that night I never knew there were different styles of port, and I have to say I prefer tawny style port to vintage.
Sightseeing and Exploring
When it came to exploring the local surroundings, I spent two afternoons to try and at least see some of the city. First time round, Anna and I walked all the way from our hotels to the city center, taking photos of different sights on the way. We then progressed up the hill towards the Castelo Sao Jorge to see the castle.
The Castle was a fantastic place to visit and I would strongly recommend anyone visiting the area to put that on your list! The views from the castle are breathtaking, which are also 360 degrees. The castle itself was an interesting spectacle with history going back to the 12th century. There was in the castle an indoor view of the city, with the use of a hole in the ceiling and something else (perhaps a mirror?) projected a view of the city onto a large bowl like structure, which I found extraordinary.
On the last day of my stay in Lisbon, because Anna and I had checked out of our hotels we decided it would be best to not walk about with all our luggage so we hopped on a tour bus which took us from the city center round the coast line eastwards and round back seeing the shipping ports, some convents, the first train station in Portugal, the Expo building, some of the newer developments and the parliament building. Overall a good decision, before going to the airport to return home.
Overall I had a fantastic time at the Middleware conference, met some great people, and are very thankful to those that organised and made the conference happen. I do think Lisbon is a very interesting place with lots to see, and would recommend anyone thinking of visiting Portugal to at least take a trip into the city.