I attended the 32nd International Conference on Software Engineering 2010 from 3rd - 8th May. The conference is a gathering of the world's top software engineers and provides an opportunity to meet and hear talks from many different people. I was able to do some sightseeing around Cape Town before attending the 3 day conference.
I left for Heathrow on Sunday afternoon and arrived early Monday morning in Cape Town. The flight was fine although there were no beans with the English breakfast and strangely there were seeds in the muffin. I watched The Taking of Pelham 123 before sleeping - it was a pretty good film.
I arrived at around 08:00 in the morning and was met at the airport by a taxi to take me to the hotel. I spent a short time at the hotel and then went sightseeing - first to Table Mountain.
I took the City Sightseeing red route tour bus up to the moutain, which stopped near my hotel.
Table Mountain is a flat topped mountain accessible by cableway. The cable car carries 65 passengers and the floor rotates 360 degrees to give everyone good views on the way up. The top of the mountain is above the clouds over Cape Town and they intermittently covered the city. When the clouds dissapated there was an amazing view of the city.
At the top of the mountain are plants and animals, a red postbox and a restaurant. I don't recommend the restaurant. I had chicken burger & chips for lunch - it was disgusting.
City Tour and Waterfront
The City Sightseeing red route tour bus visits the mountain, around the coast and stops at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The tour includes an audio guide via headphones which provided an interesting commentary about Cape Town. The tour cost about £20 for a 2 day hop on/off ticket which included the city tour & the peninsular tour and the busses are frequent.
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the waterfront which includes a shopping mall and craft market, before walking back to the hotel.
The weather on day 2 wasn't good but I continued sightseeing, taking the peninsular tour.
Imizamo Yethu township
The Imizamo Yethu township was built from the 1990s and houses around 30,000 people, mostly living in shacks with few toilets and water taps. Most of the residents speak Xhosa and originate from theTranskei in the Eastern Cape. We were taken on a tour of the township by one of the residents. The Niall Mellon Trust, an Irish charity, has been replacing some of the shacks with brick houses but, according to the tour guide, there is no fair way of allocating the houses.
The biggest problem in the township is access to clean water and toilets. Around 3000 people share one tap and 4 toilets. Most residents have access to electricty via pre-paid meters and many have televisions. There are convenience shops, phones shops, barber shops, 'pubs', access to free contraception and HIV/Aids testing & medicine and a church. The government is currently building proper roads in the township. There is no school in the township and parents have to spend money on taxis to send their children to school.
People from the township collect used tea bags, dry them and paint them as part of the Original T-Bag Design company.
The township tour lasted 45 minutes after which we were escorted back to the bus stop to catch the next bus which was already waiting.
I planned to visit Robben Island in the afternoon but due to bad weather the boat was canceled.
Day 3 was the start of the conference. At registration we were given an ICSE2010 branded backpack containing a USB stick with conference proceedings, keyring, and also some ACM highlighters.
The keynote was on the subject of Scenario Planning - a strategic planning method that some organizations use to make flexible long-term plans. It is in large part an adaptation and generalization of classic methods used by military intelligence.
Clem Sunter has written, with co-author Chantell Ilbury, two books on the subject: The Mind of a Fox: Scenario Planning in Action and Games Foxes Play: Planning for Extraordinary Times.
It is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong.Carveth Read, Logic - Deductive and Inductive, 1898
They contrast two different metaphors for people - foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes are quick-witted, adaptable animals while hedgehogs simplify life around one great idea, more or less disregarding everything else. They apply these metaphors to all areas of life, including business and politics and suggest that that a company/country/etc run by a bunch of hedgehogs is a bad thing and being foxy will lead to better things. The introduction on mindofafox.com is a basic overview of their strategy.
The embedded youtube video is a very similar talk from 2009. The keynote wasn't related to software engineering but none-the-less it was very interesting.
The first session I attended included two presentations Efficient and Precise Typestate Analysis by Determining Continuation-equivalent States by Eric Bodden and Online Inference and Enforcement of Temporal Properties by Mark Gabel & Zhendong Su. My area of research is currently related to dynamic & static analysis of programs containing watermarks so this was an interesting talk. Eric Bodden is involved with the Soot Java Optimization Framework which I use.
The second session contained talks related to bug finding in software: "Discriminative Model Approach Towards Accurate Duplicate Bug Report Retrieval" by Chengnian Sun et al. "Has the Bug Really Been Fixed?" by Zhongxian Gu et al. and "An Exploratory Study of Fault-Proneness in Evolving Aspect-Oriented Programs" by Fabiano C Ferrari et al..
The last session I attended of the day was the least interesting to me and really I should've attended a different session. It contained talks related to legal and licensing issues.
New Horizons Evening and Dinner - Sponsored by Microsoft Research
The Microsoft sponsored event was very good. Microsoft researchers demonstrated software that they've been working on while we ate a buffet dinner of traditional South African food. The food was really nice, except biltong - which I thought was horrible.
I particularily liked Microsoft's Code Canvas project which allows a developer to see a whole program on a zoomable two-dimensional surface.
Dinner was followed by singing and dancing by a South African group.
The second keynote entitled "Beyond Hacking - an SOS" was given by Fred Schneider. The keynote was about software security and was fairly interesting.
Quality Assurance 1: Static and Dynamic Analysis
The next session that I attended was, loosely related to my research, about static and dynamic analysis. There were a couple of interesting talks and it was interesting to find out that applying clone detection to software requirements specifications usually finds a high level of redundancy in the text, which then translates into code clones.
Ten Most Influentional Papers and Foundation of Software Engineering Papers
This session was a look back at past ICSEs and awarded some of the best papers in the past 10 years. The authors gave us a presentation on their original work and the influence it's had on the software engineering world.
New Ideas and Emerging Results
This session contained shorter presentations from more presenters than other sessions working on new & emerging research. These talks were very interesting and varied.
The third keynote was, again not related to computing, entitled "Planning for Climate Change" by Sir David King. The talk was interesting and it's content was relevant to everyone in terms of the problems of climate change. Sir David King was born in South Africa and was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and Head of the Government Office for Science from October 2000 to 31 December 2007.
New Ideas and Emerging Results
The last session I attended was another NIER session and included a presentation on Microsoft's Code Canvas, as well as other interesting talks.
With the conference over there was time to do some last minute sightseeing before leaving for the airport at 17:00. I hoped to go to Robben Island as the weather was good but the boat was canceled again due to big waves. I decided to visit the aquarium.
Cape Town's aquarium has a variety of small and large fish, penguins and frogs.
After the aquarium I went on a boat trip around the harbour area.
After the boat trip I had crocodile burger for lunch, which was very nice - it taste similar to a beef burger. I also tried ostrich and springbok, on previous days. And back at the hotel I had a coffee with a pretty picture on it.
I stayed at the Protea Fire & Ice! hotel which was excellent. This hotel is 3 star but more like 4 or 5 star. The staff were very friendly and the decor was extremely quirky. The rooms were a decent size and included an in-room shower and the matches, key card and cup mats had jokes on them. The view from the hotel room was of Table Mountain.
Each of the lifts where individually styled.
As were the public toilets.
South African Items
I bought back some South African items: T-Bag bookmark & keyring, butterfly wing picture, wood carvings, drink can guitar keyrings, metal can animals, bead & wire animals and a painted ostrich egg.