Olov Lassus

Taking the leap

06 Jun 2012

I’m taking the leap. I’m starting my own software company.

I’ve been working with IP-TV set top boxes for the last 6 years; first with Kreatel Communications, then aquired by Motorola, then split into Motorola Mobility and now recently acquired by Google. I came to Kreatel as a software engineer and since two years back I’ve had the luxury of leading our Technology Group, meaning our research and prototyping work. It’s been great, and it still is.

In my previous life before all this I did computer and console games, starting with the 3d shooter SubStation for Atari STE two decades ago and followed by PC, PSX and XBOX development full time a few years around the millenium.

I then attended the Linköping University (one decade ago, in 2002), and got my M.Sc. four years after. I learned tons there. It brought me to Lisp, gave me a deeper understanding of hardware all the way down and allowed me to experiment with CPU & computer design/implementation in FPGA’s. And I finally really learned the maths behind the 3d-games I used to write.

My finishing stretch of the University also came to define my spare time programming to come. I got into JavaScript by accident while researching how to create richer programming environments that turns the live-knob to eleven (where Smalltalk, Lisp Machines and modern edit-and-continue are well below ten), see Describing Live programming (again). I’d love to revisit that topic some day.

My more recent spare-time programming led me to creating Restrict mode for JavaScript and the JSShaper source transformation framework, a year and a half ago. The big difference here compared to my previous spare time projects and ideas (that mostly remained ideas) was that this time, I decided to just do something, release the code as permissive open source, and see what happens. Testing the do good and good will come to you thesis, if you will. Somehow that must have worked because I got invited to speak at DevLin, Front-Trends and Webshaped all in the last three months. I met a lot of interesting people there and I got to speak about things I’m deeply passionate about. In my book that’s as good as it gets.

I should mention Dart too. It resonates with me a lot, obviously when it comes to certain aspects of language semantics and easier to reason about programming, but more importantly in the direction I believe that they intend to push their development environment. There is a lot of Live Programming like thinking there. Gilad Bracha’s recent example of creating a test that fails with a noSuchMethod, then gradually filling out the implementation without ever stopping the program - while the context is right in front of the programmer, is similar to one I gave in my thesis. So yeah - it resonates with me, a lot.

With the same idea of just doing something to see what happens, I got involved with Dart early on. I thought of creating a JSShaper for Dart but got distracted partly by an increased community interest in my JS projects. So far my most useful contribution to Dart is a syntax highlighter. Speaking about Dart. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with a few members of the team, including Peter Ahé, Mads Ager, Kasper Lund and Lars Bak. It’s well known that they are VM experts but I quickly realized, especially so during discussions with Peter, that their ideas about what programming should be expands well beyond VM’s and language semantics. I hope to be able to play with a Live Programming like Dart environment one day. Three more things about Dart. (1) Any community should have a Bob Nystrom. He’s the money. My wife quotes him now and then (“I feel all giggly inside” - regarding the syntax highlighter running live at Github), which is kind of weird. (2) The haters got at least one thing right: Dart isn’t a silver bullet for everything web, because it doesn’t have a great JS interop story yet and perhaps never will. (3) If you think that Dart is mostly trying to solve a performance issue, think again.

By the way - I can talk/rant for hours about programming environments and what programming today is vs what it used to be decades ago already, and where we could go should we just prioritize it. Invite me and I’ll come talk about it. Or programming from an “easier to reason” about perspective. Or restrict mode and JSShaper. Or making superfast sprite routines for the Atari STE by generating op codes from pixel data. I like conferences!

And now, I’m starting my own software company. I’m lucky enough to have Motorola wanting me to stay part time, allowing me to keep doing the things I love there while at the same time taking a leap to grab a specific opportunity with my own company.

What I’ll do? A software product, not related to anything above. It’s for companies within a niche market, where it should simplify things and increase productivity a lot. So in that way similar to restrict mode and Live Programming, but not programming. It’ll be a web app and written in JavaScript using restrict mode. I don’t know where it’ll take me but I’m putting my bets on do good and good will come to you once again.

I’m taking the leap, and I can’t wait to get started.

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