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Jan 22 2005

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My Random 15

There's this fantastic blog meme running around which goes "shuffle your iPod and list the first fifteen songs". I've tracked it back this far before I ran out of energy. Regardless, I think it is everything a blog meme should be: self-centered, self-important, and mostly content-free. Its perfect. I'm in.

I'm in a castle in Denmark, its 1:31am, and here's my list:

  1. High Speed Train, R.E.M., Around the Sun
  2. Final Straw, R.E.M., Around the Sun
  3. Cruisin' for a Bruisin', The Reverend Horton Heat, Liquor in the Front - Poker in the Rear
  4. Cornet Chop Suey, Louis Armstrong, The Hot Fives Vol. 1
  5. That's Why I'm Here, James Taylor, That's Why I'm Here
  6. Around the Sun, R.E.M., Around the Sun
  7. Man on the Moon, R.E.M., Automatic for the People
  8. Angels of the Silences, Counting Crows, Across a Wire
  9. Hateful Hate, 10,000 Maniacs, Blind Man's Zoo
  10. Terrible Brain, Pressure Boys, The Complete Recordings
  11. Frank Sinatra, Cake, Fashion Nugget
  12. VooDoo Roller, Space, Spiders
  13. Until I Met You, Duke Ellington, First Time
  14. Drop Dead, Space, Spiders
  15. Fire, Jimi Hendrix, The Ultimate Experience

What does this list tell us? Well, start from the fact that the iPod had 3416 songs to choose from, and the fact that three of them are from the same R.E.M. album (not to mention the most recent album added to the library) and the "randomness" of shuffle is really called into question. There are also four boxed sets or "greatest hits" albums on the list, and another repeat with two songs from Space.

Maybe if I shake the iPod a little, it will random-up a bit....

Jan 21 2005

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Denmark Javagruppen

Thanks to Niels Nielson for inviting a bunch of us out to Denmark to present at the Javagruppen user's conference. As my first trip to Denmark, I have to say that I'm very fond of the country so far and wish I could stay longer. More importantly, the attendees at the conference are enthusiastic and quite friendly, which always makes for a nice weekend.

Mostly, I'm glad to be spending a weekend trapped with some of the finest minds in the Java space -- Patrick Linskey of the JDO movement, Rod Johnson of the Spring Framework team, Ted Neward of Effective Enterprise Java fame, my business partner Stuart Halloway, my coauthor Bruce Tate, Jules Gosnell from the Geronimo group, and Jurgen Holler (also of Spring). That's august company to be in, and its already been a great weekend of learning what's out there pushing the limits.

Nov 13 2004

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Eclipse and Mac OS X

I've been running Eclipse on my Mac (or, more specifically, my wife's Mac) for a couple of months now. Version 3.0.1 was usable even on her iBook. Everything went swimmingly until my PowerBook arrived. I installed Eclipse and got it working, but then updated the JDK to 1.4.2_05 and Eclipse thereafter failed to load.

The error logs were particularly cryptic: error loading bundle, such-and-such plugin manifest not found, etc. I tried going back to 3.0, then back to 3.0.1. I tried wiping the preferences, zapping the pram, and every other Mac trick I could think of. Then I decided to investigate the logs some more.

Buried deep within the stack trace was a SAX error. It said that string interning wasn't a viable option for the current parser. So I scratched my chin, furrowed my brow, and went and looked at my brand new JDK. Lo and behold, I had libraries in /lib/endorsed. Xerxes was there, as well as the sax interfaces. So I nuked them. Eclipse has worked fine since.

The question, though, is what will that do to the rest of my Mac? Is there anything in 10.3.5 that depends on those endorsed libraries? Are there Mac-specific changes to those libs prompting their inclusion in my JDK? Am I going to get bitten by a nasty, impossibly cryptic bug somewhere else now that I've eliminated the /endorsed folder? I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to find out.

Nov 13 2004

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QuickSilver

QuickSilver. So far, I'm thrilled. Like my business partner, QuickSilver has freed me from the tyranny of the Dock. Five keystrokes gets me anywhere on my system. I'm particularly enamored with the Terminal plugin : instantly open a Terminal window in any directory on my drive. That plus the Address Book/ Mail integration and I can send emails without ever seeing Mail.app. I'm hooked.

I suggest checking out the Flashlight interface, too. Less obtrusive.

Oct 19 2004

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I've Got It!

Techspectation: n., the feeling of anxiety, frustration and elation that exists between ordering a new laptop and receiving it.

Oct 18 2004

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Gadgetopia

I need a new word. Gadgetopia is close, but its more like technophoria, or compxiety. Its that nebulous place that we gadget freaks inhabit just after we get the "Your laptop just shipped" email and when the doorbell actually rings. Its the state of being that makes you seriously sit down and think about writing a screen scraper in Ruby to watch the FedEx tracking page to fire an RSS notification that the ship has left the dock in Freeport. Its a real state of mind, but the question is, do we have a word to make it really real yet?

Oct 15 2004

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Google Desktop - c'mon, guys!

I downloaded the Google Desktop application yesterday, and had extremely high hopes for it. It promises to be Spotlight for Everybody; instant search of everything on your hard drive, with background idle-time indexing, and including indexing through Outlook mail. Who wouldn't want that?!?! So I downloaded the beta.

Let me start with mad props to the team for making it responsive and non-intrusive. The indexing doesn't get in the way of other work, and the search is fast fast fast.

Now for the bad parts. The lesser bad part is that, right now, you have one choice for display of results. Namely, Google-style HTML at ten hits per page. No option for even increasing that number to something useful like, say, 100, or dumping to XML for alternate formatting. I'll give them a pass on this, because its beta, and UI stuff always seems to come last.

What's much more harmful is that fact that you have to install the thing with Administrative privileges. Well, ok, I have to install a LOT of things with Admin privileges. Its bad, but not a showstopper. Worse still, it has to RUN with Administrative privileges. That's just lame, folks. The application WILL NOT RUN unless you launch it from an Administrator account. Which means, for those of us good citizens who actually spend their lives writing code in a non-privileged account, not only can I not launch the app as me, but when I launch it as Admin, it FAILS TO INDEX MY EMAIL. See, it uses the launching credentials to determine which mailbox to index, and my Admin account has never even opened Outlook, so it is missing the thousands and thousands of messages that I would really love to search quickly (since Outlook search sucks so bad).

I have (had) a lot of faith in the team at Google. They've done some incredible work and seem to be fast, bright and with it. But this is just lame. Its only beta, though. You can fix it, guys!

Oct 11 2004

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Falling in Love with the Mac

I've fallen in love all over again, but my wife doesn't seem to mind. This weekend, my Dell Inspiron running Win2k3 petered out on me and I had to fly to Redmond to speak at the No Fluff conference (a Java conference! In Redmond! No, nobody stormed the building....) Desperately seeking a solution (I had only three days) I ended up using my wife's iBook. Now, I'm looking around my house trying to find stuff to sell so I can afford to run out and get myself a Powerbook. I stayed up in the hotel room until midnight watching Jobs' keynote address from WWDC'04. I've got the bug.

Oct 07 2004

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SOA at NFJS

Last weekend I gave a pair of talks about Service Oriented Architectures at the Great Lakes Software Symposium. Creating the talks was difficult; in the end, I created an abstract overview followed by an in-depth look at Axis and the WS-I specs. I was anxious to see the feedback from the students, which ranged all over the map.

One student suggested I just change the name of both talks to "SOAP with Java and Axis". Another thought the topic was too advanced, while yet another found it boring and basic. Most thought it was the right mix of material. But almost all asked the same question at the end:

"Is this really useful? Why do I want to know this stuff?"

I was stunned. Almost too stunned to formulate an answer. First, I mumbled something about Gartner studies showing that 60-70% of IT shops were investing in web services and/or SOAs in 2005 and 2006. Then I stopped myself. Nobody here cared about Gartner studies. They didn't want to know why their bosses should care; they wanted to know why THEY should care. I think I answered it ok, but I'm putting it down here because I can do it more succinctly:

We should care because Java isn't alone in the universe. We should care because the definition of the Enterprise Application has changed radically. We should care because our heavy-weight J2EE frameworks and application servers aren't useful when one of the components is a remote .NET object, and another is a Ruby script, and another is PHP. We should care because the transparent services we've been working so hard to get through those frameworks need to extend now to other frameworks.

SOA is largely about crafting a standardized syntax for communicating intent across platforms and runtimes. Web Services are about localized, standardized endpoints on a specific protocol that meet the needs of the SOA. What amazed me is not that people were new to the technologies behind them, but that they were insulated from the climate of cross-platform interop that seems to be welling out of the cracks of the Earth right now. Which makes me wonder if all the talking-brains-in-jars (a category I'm conceding that I inhabit) are missing something important, namely that regardless of what we or the Gartner group thinks, this imperative isn't reaching the trenches.

Oct 05 2004

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A Great Show

I got back from Chicago on Sunday night after speaking at the Great Lakes Software Symposium (the No Fluff, Just Stuff swanky tour name). I had a great time talking to the other instructors, but the real key to the weekend was the attendees. You could not have recruited a more enthusiastic, plugged-in and eager group of people to stand in front of and yammer away for hours.

Of the entire weekend, the thing that surprised me the most was the discussion we had at the Server Side Java "Birds of a Feather" session. With maybe 50 attendents, only five raised their hands when we asked who was using a "big three" J2EE platform (and four of those were on the same team). Everybody else was either using a lighter container (Spring and Pico came up quite a bit) or one of the newer open source entries: JOnAS and Geronimo. This gives me great hope for the future not only of the J2EE spec, but for the future of the big three as well. With real competition, and a growing number of developers realizing that for a good number of projects, WebSphere and WebLogic and JBoss are just overkill, we may start to see some things creep into future EJB releases that lead to lighter footprints, simpler deployment and pluggable integration with popular frameworks like Hibernate or JDO.

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