On the road to Morocco

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Content Copyright © 2014 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

I’m at ISTEP—Intel Software Conf 2014—and I’m glad to point out that Intel isn’t just a hardware company. A lot of its software is for specialist markets such as High Performance Computing—yes, Miranda, Fortran is still alive and well and important, and Intel sells a fine Fortran compiler—but some of its products, such as the XDK for building HTML5 apps, are very accessible, for  modern development generally.

So, what’s the news in overview? Well, Intel realises that, in the world of mobile apps, compiling for Android is important (hence the XDK; of course, HTML runs anywhere); that Intel has made its functionally-excellent tuning and other programming aids (especially important for parallel computing) easier to use; and that there may be a new way to interface with computers soon—something called perceptual computing. I’ll give a brief oveview now and follow up with more when I have time.

As well as XDK, which can build both browser-based HTML5 apps and standalone ‘hybrid apps’ (which can run without a browser and without a browser’s restrictions on what devices it can access, using Apache Cordova) there is now a cross platform tool for building native apps, including support for the Android platform, known as INDE—the Intel® Integrated Native Developer Experience beta. It’s well worth taking a look at, I think—it’s free, in beta, for the time being, which rather makes the Embarcadero alternative look expensive (although, the end apps are what matters, of course, not tool cost).

A lot of the serious programming stuff was about completing support for standards (I am glad that Intel takes this seriously) and deprecating old stuff. But I was taken by the idea of adding easily accessible ‘cookbooks’ to its documentation and by its making its vitally important optimisation reports easier to understand. Heinz Bast, technical consulting engineer, Intel software dev. products, is of the opinion that possibly as many as a half of the developers that need to achieve effective concurrency in their programs are still producing software mostly running on one processor of those available, for much of the time. The optimisation reports that I saw were certainly much easier to read, understand and use.

Perceptual computing is all about using gestures as well as voice etc. to control your computer. Intel has a neat 3D camera which is key to making this work and expects it to be available built-in to new devices at the end of this year. So, a great new opportunity for programmers, always assuming that people like perceptural computing. But a 3D camera and other perceptural programming devices aren’t always easy to program for, so there’s a new SDK. I suggest that developers try it out. My perception is that people are often conservative about new interfaces, but Intel has the right ideas (it can recognise one hand behind another, for example) and people seem to use Wii toys. I’m inherently wary of waving at my PC—especially if someone else might be waving at it too—but this might well take off. The only advantage of the Windows mouse and WIMP interface is familiarity—and that it does work. So, an opportunity for clever perceptual programming and who knows?

Just a brief summary, I’m afraid, but Morocco is out there, calling….