C4 notes: Pizza and pie shakes

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The C4 indie Mac developer conference in Chicago is decidedly different. Different in that it’s the brainchild not of some conference and expo company, but of one guy — developer Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch. Different in that it’s in Chicago. Different in that it’s steadfastly a small event, happening over a weekend and with a relatively small capacity that makes it awfully hard to get into.

For those of us who are usually running ragged during major tech events in order to cover breaking news, it’s delightfully different in that there’s no news going on here. (Well, unless you count the attempts to declare AppleScript dead.) Instead, the few brave media folks who dared to join the developers at C4 get to take the time to talk to them, break bread (okay, deep-dish pizza) with them, drink beer with them. It’s a great respite after the madness of Macworld Expo and Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference.

Among the highlights at this year’s conference, which wrapped up Sunday, were:

  • Briefs, a tool for letting designers rapidly put together tappable prototypes of iPhone apps with basically no code. I can’t wait to get this in the hands of our own designers.

  • Titanium, a framework for building apps using JavaScript and HTML. This was the most controversial talk of the conference, with many attendees grousing about the speaker’s focus on technologies that are not the core competency of Mac and iPhone programmers. But Rentzsch delights in seeding C4 with speakers who offer a different perspective and get the attendees to think in a different way, and the Titanium presentation certainly did that, though Rentzsch chastised attendees for the tone of the Twitter comments being made by attendees during the presentation.

  • The Cocotron, an attempt to port to Windows many of the core Cocoa frameworks that Mac and iPhone developers use to create their apps, thereby making it easier for Mac developers to make their apps run on both platforms.

  • MacRuby, a project which is attempting to make a modified version of the Ruby scripting language into a tool Mac programmers can use to build first-class apps as an alternative to the Objective C language that currently rules the roost.

  • Cocoa Boutique, a free project that lets developers embed online purchases right into their apps.

There were also provocative five-minute presentations on various topics, including the far-out (yet scarily realistic) investigation of what happens when cameras are so common and storage so cheap that we all just record our entire lives and index it for later access when we need to call up what someone actually said or did at any given moment. It would be easy to write off the talk as outlandish, but given the way technology is advancing, I think it’s not unrealistic at all.

Other speakers at C4 were the irascible John C. Welch, who writes for Macworld and various other publications, along with his own blog and podcast. Welch was the living embodiment of the angry IT guy who calls a software developer to complain about bugs, and while I thought his talk was really funny, if I were a software developer I’d be a little bit scared of him, too.

And finally, one of the speakers at C4 used a pie shake as a metaphor. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of a pie shake before. Have you? Apparently you put a pie in a blender, pour it into a glass and add a straw, and blammo—pie shake. Seriously, why I have I not spent more time pondering this concept?

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