Notes from Seacoast Web Dev 23-April-2014: Byron Matto Famo.us and Charles Denault HHVM and Hack

The April meeting of the Seacoast Web Dev group took place on April 23rd at the AlphaLoft coworking space. Proprietor Josh Cyr had his usual welcoming speech: thanks to Flatbread Pizza for the pizza, the corporate and community supporters for the free beer, and to the speakers for volunteering. There were two excellent presentations last night:

Byron Matto showed off the Famo.us JavaScript library. Famo.us is coming out of the gaming space, with a lot of emphasis on animations via transitions and matrix math, and less heavy DOM structures like jQuery and the other libraries depend on. Elements tend to be rendered via absolute positioning on a flat canvas and animated through transitions that are hardware-accelerated, rather than being built in a a heavy DOM div-within-div-within-div container and wrapper structure, giving a lighter weight and better performance especially on CPU-constrained mobile devices. Famo.us does not yet have a clear roadmap and it is unclear exactly which platforms/runtimes it will be running on (discussion includes Backbone, OpenGL, and even XBox!) but Byron encouraged anyone interested to sign up for the beta (there’s a waiting list as they ramp up) to get in as soon as possible.

Charles Denault of SimpleCharters spoke on Hack, the Facebook fork of the PHP language, designed to work with static data typing and run on the Hip Hop Virtual Machine. Both HHVM and Hack are Open Sourced, licensed under the PHP and BSD license, respectively. Facebook started the Hack project as a way to improve performance and they report a 5x to 10x gain in speed using Hack on HHVM. Charles cautioned that while moving existing PHP on HHVM is fairly painless, if the choice is made to move your PHP code onto Hack, reversing that decision is more difficult, as the changes will occur in much of the code (a good source code control mechanism and branches ought to handle this, methinks). There was a lot of interest in the performance specs, and questions from the audience on HHVM compatibility with major frameworks, and performance benchmarks between PHP 5.6 and HHVM. (PHP 5.5+ have the newly-open-sourced Zend OpCode cache, see article here). Clearly, there is a lot of interest in the subjects of PHP and web site performance improvements!

Thanks to Charles and Byron for excellent presentations, to Josh and AlphaLoft for organizing and hosting the meeting.

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