Wednesday Jul 22, 2009

Nebeans 6.7 and Kenai Integration

I have been following Project Kenai for some time now. Although it a long while since I have written code in anger (or for a living unless you count the occasional hacking and scripting) my constituency with my customer consists largely of developers, technologists and solutions architects and I want to keep abreast of emerging technologies that may interest or affect them. Kenai provides an interesting set of services to support open communities and open development. Hopefully in the future they will extend this functionality to offer private communities to major enterprises. While I am a huge support of Open Source and Open Development I remain unconvinced that all enterprises are ready for open source development or that it is right for them. Given that these development teams share many requirements with open source development projects having large loosely coupled development teams distributed around the planet that need to collaborate closely around a development project.

Anyway I digress from the main purpose of this post.

At JavaOne they demonstrated a then late beta version of Netbeans 6.7 that has since become the production version. One of the new features of this release was integration between NetBeans and Project Kenai. Allowing developers to be able to open their open source projects within the IDE and develop code, track and fix bugs, collaborate and even in the future deploy applications to the cloud. Once again a great example of "the network is the computer".

Again I think that this kind of working methodology applied to distributed (but closed) enterprise development teams could be a very powerful tool. Also consider the current threat from H1N1. Even if your entire development team is co-located in the same office if there is a pandemic and people are stopped from coming into the office with this development model then development can continue without interruption with the team distributed. Worth consideration at least.

Monday Jul 20, 2009

At JavaOne I attended an interesting session around a new service called Zembly. It is a developer service build on the Sun Cloud and as a beta is available free to developers. They described Zembly as:

  • A browser based, social IDE
  • REST service mashup platform
  • Massively scalable app hosting cloud

Or put another way Development as a Service and Platform as a Service. The development tools themselves are delivered entirely within the browser (I think using AJAX and HTML but they did talk about using JavaFX in the future) and provide click and include access to a large number of REST based web services that are available today on the next. The tools support a number of scripting languages (PHP, Python, JavaScript and Ruby). From the demonstration it looked pretty easy to quickly mash up some quite compelling web applications and then deploy them to the cloud. This means as a developer you can experiment with new web services (development and deployment) without the need to make any investment over and above the laptop and browser that you have today to access the net. At the moment (at least while the service is in beta) it is free to use.

By deploying to the cloud you can start your deployment as small as you want and scale as quickly or as slowly as you want. If your service does not take off you can just turn it off and try another one. This seems to me like the perfect way to stimulate the next wave of web based innovation.

Thursday Jul 09, 2009

Google Notebook


Google have decided to discontinue development for google notebook. I first started to realise something was wrong when I upgraded to firefox 3.5 and the plugin for google notebook was disabled (incompatible with this version of firefox). I waited a few days for the update to appear before going to the google notepad page to manually load the update where I found the following and a link to this. To be fair they are continuing to provide the web facing services to all existing users (no new users) but development seems to have stopped on the plugin which was the ONLY way that I ever accessed the service!

Imagine my disappointment. I have always found this an invaluable tool. When researching a particular topic you can grab URLs, add notes to it and arrange them in books around the topics that you are researching. Also since I work across multiple machines at multiple locations (Mecbook Air on the road, Mac Mini at home and Solaris Sun Ray at work) I can install the firefox plugin on all machines and access the same information without the need for remembering to do fiddly syncronisations - after all "the network is the computer".

Anyway unable to face the current and immediate future without the browser plugin access to notebook I decided to take matters into my own hands and fix the problem. Using a method well documented elsewhere on the web I managed to make a version of the plugin that claimed to be compatible with firefox 3.5 in the hope that it would work and so far it has, with no issues. The solution requires some command line skills but should be NO issue for even the most basic UNIX/linux user and easy enough for any windows or mac user that has ever used the command line. The instructions below are for using a bash shell on MAC OS X but will work fine on any UNIX based system (Solaris, Linux or MAC OS X). If you are using windows you will need to find the equivalent windows commands or UPGRADE your OS to Solaris, MAC OS X or Linux.

Take the google-notebook.xpi file and copy it to a clean empty directory then at command line type.

seanh$ unzip google-notebook.xpi

This extracts the various files that make up the plugin. The file that you need to edit is initially read only so you need to make it read/write.

seanh$ chmod u+w install.rdf

Now use your favorite text editor to edit the file install.rdf.

seanh$ vi install.rdf

Locate the following line:-


and edit it to read.


Now change the file back to read only.

seanh$ chmod u-w install.rdf

Then delete the original google-notebook.xpi file and create a new one.

seanh$ rm google-notebook.xpi

seanh$ zip -r google-notebook.xpi ./??\*

Now go to firefox addons and uninstall google notepad, restart firefox and install the xpi file that you have created and bingo you are back in business.

I should add at this point that this is NOT supported by google and certainly NOT supported by me. I have tried it and it works on my environment let me know if it works on yours (via the comments). I guess that at some time in the future it will break but I am hopeful that I can get al least as far as version 4 of firefox and beyond before it breaks. Then it will be a case of looking at the code itself (assuming that google have made or make the source available).

Wednesday Jun 03, 2009

JavaOne - Day 2

Sony Ericsson had the opening keynote today. I have known Christopher David virtually since first joining Sun in 1995 and have a huge respect for him personally and professionally. Having said that it just pained me more to see this keynote. I still have NO idea what the message was that they were trying to get across. Discussing with other delegates I found out that I was not alone. In fact I could not find anyone willing to speculate on what they thought they might have been trying to say.

They evening keynote was from the Consumer and Embedded software engineering team at Sun responsible for all the sub desktop Java Platforms (Java ME, JavaCard, WTK, etc). This is always a MUST for any fans of geek gadgets. This year was no exception. The main focus was JavaFX Mobile and how this can deliver common applications, user experience and look and field across "all the screens of your life". JavaFX demos were shown running on laptops, various mobile phones and TVs. I have to say as a user of multiple connected gadgets to story was very appealing. Let's how it will reach us as consumers sometime soon. JavaOne has a long history of showing demos that are based on simulating people to think of the just about possible rather than what is reality today which then takes a period of time from 6 months to 4 years to fall into the hands of the average consumer.

One of the most interesting sessions that I attended today was by Ericsson Labs who have taken the MLPK20 code based on project wonderland and extended it to provide a Java Mobile client running on a mobile phone as well as a few other extensions. The mobile client was a 2D plan view of the 3D world and did rather have me asking - WHY? The only sensible answer I could find was - because we wanted to see if we could. Performance was acceptable but more interesting were some of the extensions that they had added for virtual and physical world integration such as the whiteboard integration. Project Wonderland is built on the Project Darkstar server which has been designed originally for enabling networked multi player games. For anyone not familiar with project wonderland it is development kit for building virtual worlds and for MLPK20 think Second Life comes to the enterprise. Personally I find this whole are of applying Web 2.0 consumer technology to the enterprise a fascinating emerging area offering almost unlimited scope for creative thinking.

One other thing struck me today. For a conference that is titled JavaOne there seemed to me more than 50% of the technical sessions discussing interesting but NOT Java technologies such as various scripting languages and cloud computing. Cloud is everywhere at this JavaOne. Different clouds, tools for clouds, deploying on clouds, designing for clouds, testing on clouds, etc.

Tuesday Jun 02, 2009

JavaOne - Day One

I am not going to cover the content from todays key note. You can find the playback here. What was far more interesting for me was the general them and emotions surrounding the key note. As I mentioned in my JavaOne prologue I did not come here expecting a whole slew of future announcements from Sun and certainly the key note did not present any surprises from that perspective. The only exception being the announcement of the Java store. Sun has often been criticised but the business community and analysts for developing great technology in Java but failing to build a business model around it to monetize the technology. As if to prove the point the one thing still missing from the beta version of the Java store is the billing system!

Much of the general session was devoted to looking back over the history of JavaOne and great news James Gosling was back on stage with his catapult launching T-shirts into the audience. Something missing from last years event. Finally Scott McNealy came on stage to close out the session. He finally announced that he wanted to address "the big pink elephant in the room" and proceeded to introduce Larry Ellison. It was at this point that I finally realised that this would be the last JavaOne hosted by Sun Microsystems Inc. I was also at Sun world 1995 where Java was launched (often mistakenly called the first JavaOne - indeed this was repeated today multiple times by Scott, Jonathan and James). This means that I was at the first and last JavaOne! Scott struggled to get his last few sentences out before he left the stage with the emotion of knowing it was his last JavaOne. For those of us who have been a long time at Sun it was quite an emotional event.

So what did Larry have to say. Well it mainly boiled down to 3 things. Firstly he stated that AJAX was dead and the future was JavaFX. He also said that he wanted to see JavaFX on Android. Finally he said that he saw no reason to reduce the investment and commitment made by both companies today following the take over. He also pointed out that today with the exception of the database ALL of Oracles software is dependent on Java so it would be business suicide to not work to ensure that Java continues to excel.

One interesting aside was that throughout the whole of Scott's presentation he used the works merge, merger and merged - no mention of the word takeover. Larry was magnanimous enough not to correct him.

The most entertaining and interesting session that I attended today was a session entitled AJAX vs JavaFX delivered by two guys from Mozilla. It was from the perspective of a developer of RIAs. Apart from the fact that it seriously over ran (the AV guy eventually announce over the top of them that the session was over) it was very good. They looked at which was best from a number of perspectives and also debated the relative importance of being best in each category. Categories included performance, usability, tools and libraries, audio and video integration, image manipulation and deployment.

The most popular topic by far for the sessions is all around cloud computing. Apart from that it is RIAs and scripting.

Monday Jun 01, 2009


The two main topics of the key note were Cloud Computing and the new release of Open Solaris 2009.6 (the binary distribution)

The cloud computing session include little over and above what was presented at Community One East back in March. The general availability of the storage cloud is imminent and the general availability of the compute cloud is expected soon. No precise dates were given.

One interesting fact that was slipped into the Open Solaris announcement was that the 2009.6 release will double up as the preview release for the next major release of Enterprise Solaris (ie. the replacement for Solaris 10). To understand why this is interesting you need to understand the release processor for Enterprise Solaris. At the point where a major release of Enterprise Solaris is made a snap shot of the development source tree is made and maintained separately from the development source tree. New features and bug fixes are added to the development source tree and (where possible) back ported to Enterprise Solaris as update releases or patches. The key wprds in this sentence are "where possible". The longer the time elapsed from the source code fork the greater the divergence of the two source trees and the harder it becomes to back port new features. Eventually you reach the point where back porting certain new features becomes commercially non viable or technically impossible. This all happened with Solaris 10. The development code base (Nevada), which became the Open Solaris code base and the two have been diverging to the point were an increasing number of new Solaris features are only available in Open Solaris and not in Solaris 10 (such as CrossBow, xVM and some features of ZFS). A new major release of Enterprise Solaris would bring them back in line. It would also be a milestone as the first release of Enterprise Solaris based on Open Source. So todays announcement means that a new major release is in the pipeline. No announcements were made on when it would happen but my guess is in a window 6-12 months from now.

Looking at the features of the new Open Solaris release they went back over some of the pre-existing features that have been enhanced like dTrace, ZFS and Time Slider. In looking at ZFS they covered hybrid storage pools and how they have been leveraged in the Open Storage 7000 family of products. The major new feature is Project Crossbow providing a major step forward in network virtualisatiion and network QoS management. The final thing that was of personal interest was the launch of Source Juicer for Open Solaris. This is a system for community members to contribute packages to the new IPS package repository. Back in 1998 I tried to push this idea at Sun and received a major battering from the Solaris marketing team. It is good to see that common sense has now prevailed.

Sunday May 31, 2009

Javaone and Communityone 2009

Well somehow I managed to convince my boss for the second year running to approve the funds for attending Javaone and Communityone so I am writing this from the VS019 to SFO. I will try to post daily from the show my thought s and insights. I am not entirely sure what to expect this year and how the event will be impacted by the Oracle announcement. Certainly Oracle are conspicuous by their absence from any of the key notes and the list of sponsors. For the past number of years Oracle have been a sponsor of the event and had one of the keynotes. I suspect that this has more to do with the not wanting to anything to derail the SEC filing and other regulatory filings than any real conspiracy. For the same reason I think anyone arriving at the event expecting to get any new or amazing announcements other than what has been said already will leave the event disappointed but rest assured if there is anything I pick up I will relay it.

Looking at the agenda for Communityone I think that one of the major themes will be cloud computing both from Sun and others. There also seems to be plenty of buzz again this year at Communityone and Javaone for scripting of various flavours.

One final thought is that despite years of experience of Javaone I still managed to board the plane without having installed brand new padded insoles in my shoes. Last year I went through two sets in a week. I guess I will be straight to the drug store tomorrow morning.

Saturday May 30, 2009

Maker Faire

Despite the fact that I am about to embark on 5 days of intensive geek time I seem to have spent the one day of I have off this week at yet another geek event. This time for geeky hobbies.

I had arranged to meet an old friend and his family who live in the valley for the day. Although see him reasonably frequently because he travels to europe on business I rarely get to see his family. He suggested that we meet at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. Although he sent me a link to the web site I did not get a chance to read it before I departed so I had no idea really what to expect. On the train ride done to Hillsdale across the aisle from me sat a father and his young son (nearly 6!) and it became clear that they were heading for the same event. The father proceeded to read to his son the agenda for the day and some of the attractions and it started to become clear that I was on route to yet another type of geekfest.

Seriously though it was a great day out with a huge and diverse range of different displays all based on the common theme of people making things and have passion about what they made. The scale model radio control battleships that fire ball bearings at each other and try to damage and ultimately try to sink each other was very entertaining and popular. The electronics and construction hall and the robot hall particularly appealed to me and the make and launch your own solid fuel rocket was a huge hit with the kids. The display of bonsi trees and demonstration fascinated my friends wife. The sections on sewing and embroidery were of little interest to any of our party but were still busy and the range of weird and wonderful vehicles dotted around the site and traveling around the site provided continual amusement and interest. We particularly liked the psychedelic trike towing a trailer draped with tie dyed cheese cloth which we nick named the Hippy Davidson. The one that amused me the most and disturbed me slightly were the group there who designed, build and rode around in motorised Cup Cakes. Picture below.

For anyone who lives in the area particularly those with children I think it makes a great day out and indeed I spent all day wishing that my kids were there to share it with me.

Sunday Feb 08, 2009

Apple Macbook Air

For over 12 years now I have run either Solaris or Linux on my laptop but increasingly found being system administrator for my laptop was less and less rewarding and more of a chore. I have been looking at Macs for sometime as a possible alternative and then last year I saw the Macbook Air. I blame Simon Phipps for this since it was him who forced me to divert on my to a meeting in Canary Wharf to go to the Apple Store at Oxford Circus to pick up a DVI to VGA converter that he had forgotten to bring for a presentation we were doing. Centre stage in the store was the newly launched Macbook Air in the flesh and I could not resist taking a look at it. It was beautiful and I was smitten. Once back home I ordered one and then suffered the agony of waiting 6 weeks for it to arrive. So why take so long to blog about it. Well I wanted to use it for a while and make sure I was well out of the honeymoon period and had discovered all of it's faults so that could provide a more sensible analysis of it's strengths and weaknesses. Also at it's launch there was much talk of it's shortfalls and I wanted to see if these were really the terrible handicaps that many reviews were making out.

So nearly 1 year on how is my Macbook Air. It still remains my favorite piece if IT technology ever. It is just beautiful both to look at and to use. Is it perfect? NO it has just one minor flaw. Due to it's stunning looking thin design there is nowhere to attach a desk lock and for such a desirable piece of highly portable kit this is an issue. So what about the lack of DVD drive. Well I had one of those in all my previous laptops and rarely used it, in fact I was thinking of getting the optional extra from Toshiba that was an extra battery that slotted into the space left by removing the DVD drive in order to extend battery life. I actually bought the USB DVD drive with the Macbook and I have NEVER used it. So what about the lack of USB ports. NOT a problem I rarely attach anything to the 1 USB port I have. Most things connect with Bluetooth or WiFi, I no longer carry a bag full of USB sync cables and everything else I sync with my desktop machine at home. OK so surely the lack of a removeable battery is an issue. NO while I had additional batteries for previous laptops I was always forgetting to carry them or charge them and so rarely got any benefit from them and even if I did remember to charge them and carry them it extended my battery life to 4-5 hours which is what I get from my Air. OK so what about replacing it when it won't hold charge any more well I have 2 choices. Firstly I could send it back to Apple for them to replace it. Secondly I could read one of the dozens of blogs that explain how to buy a battery on ebay and do it yourself.

So we have done what is bad about the Air but what makes it so special. Well it is light. thin and stunningly good looking. Battery life is great (even on the HDD model that I have - my wife would not approve the budget for the SSD version). It is instant on/off when you open and close the lid. So much so that I have found that I no long use my PDA but go straight for the laptop. The famous Mac OS X GUI is just a joy to use and so productive. Finally the thing runs for weeks without the need for a reboot. My Windows laptop could not run for a full day without crashing or locking up and requiring a reboot. OK so Mac OS is not as solid as Solaris but it beats Windows and Linux in terms of stability as well as usability. I have been so pleased with the Mac OS usability that following a spyware infection on my desktop PC at home which took 5 days to clean off I decided to buy a Mac Mini to replace it. The built in webcam also makes it great for Skype Video which I use extensively to keep in touch with the kids when I travel. Their favorite game now is getting a guided video tour of Daddy's hotel using the free lobby wifi. Finally when I want to geek about I open a shell tool and there is a UNIX prompt offering me man, awk, perl, gcc and CLI access and with X11 server I can access all my applications on my Solaris server or SunRay server.

Oh yes. I still run OpenSolaris on my laptop. On the Air I run xVM VirtualBox with images for OpenSolaris, Fedora, Ubuntu and OpenSuSE.

So in summary if you want a portable desktop with removeable battery, copious I/O and a DVD drive get a Macbook Pro that is the right machine for you. If you want something similar size and weight to a netbook but with the CPU and memory of a desktop, with long battery life and stunning good looks buy a Macbook Air. The Air should be every road warriors weapon of choice. The phrase that I keep hearing from every Mac convert is "Isn't it great, it just works".

Friday Feb 06, 2009

The Romance of International Business Travel

For anyone who still lives under the illusion that international business travel is somehow cool, fun or romantic then read on. For those that have already realised this then you may want to skip to the last paragraph for some amusement. Wind back to Sunday evening. I was due to travel to Bangkok and duly arrived at Heathrow airport T4 just after 7pm for a 9.30pm flight. The terminal itself is going through major reconstruction work and on top of that seemed to be packed to capacity, certainly everywhere I went to try and get something to eat there were long queues and no free tables. As I was later to find out the flight was also packed to capacity. Shortly before we started to board at 9pm the forecast snow arrived in force. Staring out of the terminal building at the blizzard outside my heart fell knowing that the chance of the plane leaving on time had just fallen to zero, the same as the outside temperature. Heathrow is not exactly geared up for snow. It is something that happens every few years (rather than multiple times per year) and so the costs of not dealing with the snow properly are far less than the investments needed to properly equip for the snow and with relentless pressure from passengers for cheap flights what are they supposed to do. Anyway we duly boarded at around 9pm and once fully loaded the pilot announced that there would be a short delay of approximately 30 minutes while we waited for the de-icing rig to arrive. Some 2 or 3 hours later the de-icing rig arrived and started work only to run our of fluid part way through the job and had to return to base. One or two hours later it returned to start again once more to disappear part way through the job. A short while after this the pilot announced that the snow ploughs were unable to keep the runways open and that Heathrow was now officially shut and so we would off loaded from the plane. The only problem was that T4, that we were currently connected to, was now shut and unmanned so we would need to be taken by bus to T5. Around 3pm we were taken to T5 but not the arrivals area but one of the outlying terminal buildings requiring us then to get the shuttle train to arrivals. At immigration was total chaos with everyone clamouring to find out what was going on with wave after wave of people being off loaded into the hall and only 3 BA staff behind a small desk. Finally one BA staff member took the initiative and stood on a chair and called for quite. She said that all flights would be postponed by 24 hours and that no bags would be unloaded. We were to return to the airport 3 hours before our scheduled time but on Monday night rather than Sunday night. By now the queue at passport control was already 4 times longer than when I had arrived in immigration and the hall was full of people fighting to get to the BA desk. I decided to cut my losses and run before this lot moved o the Taxi rank. Outside after a short wait I managed to get a Taxi home and arrived back around 5am.  Knowing that I had already missed a nights sleep and that I would be unlikely to get any sleep for a second night (sat for 11+ hours in economy) I devised a cunning plan. If I stayed awake for another few hours and then slept most of the day I would minimise my jet lag when I arrived in Bangkok. So I sent a few emails to re-arrange meetings and to get my revised travel plans confirmed, had a couple of G+Ts and checked ot see if the kids school was shut or not (it was) before diving into my bed. Around 2pm I was woken by a call from my travel admin to tell me that while BA had confirmed earlier in the day the message that I had received at the airport they were now saying that the flight would not be leaving Monday evening and they were offering me a place on a flight for Friday evening. Considering that my meetings were booked for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this was a little pointless so I decided to cut my losses and cancel the trip. As an regular traveller will tell you the worst parts of any trip are the airport (check in, security and hanging about), the flight (sitting for hours in economy discomfort with nothing to do) and the jet lag and the upside only happens once you get there. I had managed to experience the airport, 6+ hours sat in economy and given my self jet lag and travelled precisely nowhere!

So what about my luggage you ask? Well this is where the fun really starts. On tuesday I thought I had better contact the airport to try and retrieve my suitcase. A very helpful gentleman told me that y suitcase was defintely in the airport (somewhere) and that they BA would deliver it back to me but to be patient because their systems were a little overloaded. He duely gave me tracking number and a website to check for progress on the return of my bag. Several times on the tuesday I checked the website to be told they they were still attempting to locate exactly where my bag was. On wednesday I checked and it told me that my bag was awaiting return to Heathrow due to arrive on the Thirsday morning on the BA 10. For those not in the know the BA 10 is the flight from Sidney to London Heathrow via \*\*\*\*\*\*\*\* Bangkok \*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*\*. Clearly while I had been unable to make it to Bangkok my bag had sucessfully completed the journey on tuesday evening without me! On thursday afternoon a courier arrived at my house with my bag covered in baggage routing tags from Bangkok airport but otherwise unharmed. Clearly my bag has now decided that it has enough international travel experience to undertake these trips on it's own so I have applied for it's own passport and air miles account and will be teaching it about Sun technology and products so that it can take over completely from me and I will be able to relax at home without having to suffer the trauma of international travel.

Saturday May 10, 2008

JavaOne - Final Thoughts

I was at Sun World in 1995 when Java was first previewed and I have attend JavaOne for business meetings a number of times in the late 90's and early 2000's (I never know how to write this) when I was Systems Engineering Manager for Sun's OEM Software team in EMEA. I have seen the debates rage over whether Java was fit for purpose on the desktop and was Java ever going to make it into consumer and mobile devices. Indeed working for OEM software when I did my team was key in getting Java into mobile devices working with the likes of Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Sagem and Samsung as well as working closely with mobile GSM operators in Europe. So what are the conclusions has Java had it's day? Absolutely not. The eco system is stronger than ever. In each of the sectors that it is used - desktop, server, consumer devices, mobile devices, smartcards and now real time systems it is the benchmark by which other technologies and solutions measure themselves. Will Java gain world domination and wipe out all other technologies and solutions? Of course not. Apart from the fact that choice is a good thing. Diversity and choice means that there is competition, which keeps everyone on their toes. Choice results in a larger and more vibrant overall market place - a rising tide floats all boats. Finally choice services more of the long tail rather than forcing everyone to suffer the lowest common denominator. Make no mistake however Java is not on it's way out any time soon.

Now to climb down from my soap box for a while. One thing that hit me at JavaOne this year was the ratio of Apple laptops to PC laptops. It was at least 50% Apple with the Macbook Pro seeming to be the weapon of choice for the majority of developers. This helped me to feel much better about the money that I lashed out a few months ago on a Macbook Air (more about that in a later post). The next thing that hit me having been out of the mainstream of Java for a few years was the uptake of OSGi in the application server space. When I was last actively involved in this it was firmly targeted at the home automation market but it now seems to be a key requirement for application servers going forward and it's inclusion in Glassfish v3 and Spring 2.5 are just two examples of this. The other big thing was the integration of scripting with Java (both desktop and server side) and the wide variety of scripting languages and frameworks - more choice!  The final big thing was open source. It is clear that open source is here to stay and will continue to get more deeply embedded and widely adopted in commercial tools and solutions. Increasingly commercial software companies are realising that hiding the source code for your application buys you nothing and opening up you code to the community buys you increased adoption, increase innovation and improved code quality. The keynote presenter from CERN made the statement also  that it was tax payers money from the community that had paid for their code development so surely the community had a right to see the results! Government organisations take note. If you develop software we have a right to see it and use it free of charge because we have already paid for it (sorry I have crept back onto my soapbox.

As I mentioned before I have attended JavaOne before in a business capacity and never had the chance to attend any of the technical sessions. This time was different and it was a real pleasure to geek out for a week and see the show from a different angle. I would seriously recommend it to anyone involved in Java technology, Java development or any web based development.

For reasons that I can't explain my travel agent decided to book me into the Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf for this conference however this did mean that for this week I had the joy of using the cable car for my commute each day. A real treat that made my kids very jealous. Remember little boys never grow up. Their toys just get bigger and more expensive.

Friday May 09, 2008

JavaOne - Day 4

The final day began with James Gosling's keynote. As usual it was littered with demos in fact too many to mention in full. The JMars visualiser, rather like google maps for Mars, looked impressive and since it is all available as open source it is open for anyone to use. The livescribe had sponsored a developer competition and my favourite was the JSR Jumble which allowed you to write the number of a JSR and have it look up the name and description of the JSR. The translator was also pretty impressive. The guy from CERN showed a number of the Java applications that they use from simple internal IT packages to systems for modelling data from the particle accelerator and managing a global grid. Tommy Junior, the driver-less car, cause quite a stir when it drove into the conference room. There was the now obligatory real time java demo delivered by Greg Bollella which this time feature blue wonder, a complete RTJS controller in a a box. It was sorting falling coloured balls. Years ago I tried to build a demo system that would sort just black and white balls that were free falling so I know some of the real time constraints involved so this for me was very impressive. Sure the compute performance in one sensor was probably equal to the entire compute performance that I had at my disposal but even so. And by the way Greg's demo worked, mine never did.

The was an excellent session today on Service Orientated Architecture and Java which gave a great approach to SOA that cut through all the hype from product and technology vendors and advicated a very sensible approach to SOA using the OASIS reference architecture and reference model.  Unfortunately the  Q&A was cut short when one of the presenters colapsed on the stage but I believe he was aright long term.

 There was also an excellent session on the 10 rules for scalable systems that was informative and entertaining at the same time and the presenter clearly had suffer the battle scars of building such systems and making some of the mistakes.

I also attended a session on the Maxine VM. A configurable and highly portable VM written almost entirely in Java. Currently a labs project and a long way from being a production VM it is experimenting with some fasinating ideas and the fact that the code will shortly be open sourced I am sure will lead to a whole host of interesting university research projects. A Java VM written in Java! I resisted the temptation to ask the presenter if he had also solved th eproblem of what came first - the chicken or the egg - largely because I feared that he would have given me a mathmatical proof of the solution to the problem that I stood no hope of following.

On a final note I recieved the following from the event organisers which I guess means that Java has finally been hit by a virus ;-)

"The JavaOne conference team has been notified by the San Francisco Department of Public Health about an identified outbreak of a virus in the San Francisco area. Testing is still underway to identify the specific virus in question, but they believe it to be the Norovirus, a common cause of the "stomach flu", which can cause temporary flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours. Part of the San Francisco area impacted includes the Moscone Center, the site of the JavaOne conference which is being held this week. We are working with the appropriate San Francisco Department of Public Health and Moscone representatives to mitigate the impact this will have on the conference and steps are being taken overnight to disinfect the facility. We have not received any indication that the show should end early, so will have the full schedule of events on Friday as planned. We hope to see you then."


Thursday May 08, 2008

JavaOne - Day 3

This afternoon's keynote from Motorola was very interesting and thought provoking. A very honest and unbiased look at the state of the mobile applications market as it is today and some predictions for the future. I am not sure that I agree with all of the conclusions (especially around the need for consolidation) but more of that in another post. One of the highlights of the day for me was a presentation from IBM entitled "The Desktop Java Technology Lovers Survival Guide". From the title I was not really sure what to expect but what was delivered was not at all what I expected. Not particularly technical it was a very entertaining look at the past and current state of large enterprise system software design and some predictions/warnings for the future. The speaker was very entertaining and the presentation filled with amusing anecdotes. Certainly a welcome break from the pages of code.

Another highlight for me was a session entitled "Designing Graphical Model-Driven Applications: Lego Mindstorm" as the presenter said in the introduction you are all here for at least one of there reasons.

  • You are interested in UML modeling for code design
  • You are interested in graphical tools for UI design
  • You are a big kid and want to play with robots

That will be a yes on all three then!

The 2 presenters did a great job of trying to design an build most of the software on the fly and in the true tradition of live demo based presentations they had taken on more than could be done in the alloted hour which coupled with a couple of mistakes mean they were in a sprint to finish on time, fell slightly short of their total goal for the session but did finally get something running to the great delight of the crowd - even if the robot did ddrive itself off the edge of the demo table at one point. All that said it was extremely informative, good entertainment and fun. The only shame it that it was not filmed (at least I don't think so). The 2 presenters did a great job of trying to design an build most of the software on the fly and in the true tradition of live demo based presentations they had taken on more than could be done in the alloted hour which coupled with a couple of mistakes mean they were in a sprint to finish on time, fell slightly short of their total goal for the session but did finally get something running to the great delight of the crowd - even if the robot did ddrive itself off the edge of the demo table at one point. All that said it was extremely informative, good entertainment and fun. The only shame it that it was not filmed (at least I don't think so).

Another impressive piece of coding was the session entitled "Extreme GUI Makeover: In the Real World" which really showed what can be done with Java in GUI design. This was a Java replacement GUI for a dusty cobol application and was very impressive. The presenter said that he would be posting the code on his website so you can go take a look at it.

Wednesday May 07, 2008

JavaOne - Day 2

The key note today from Oracle was a little disappointing consisting of a (very slick) demo and presentation of their current family of enterprise development and deployment tools. Not what you come to expect from JavaOne.

There is a lot of emphasis at this JavaOne on rich user experience, combining scripting with Java in the JVM and developing social infrastructure.

I attended a very informative session from Google and hi5 on how to implement a social networking site based on the Open Social  Container using the Apache Shindig incubator implementation of the Open Social Container and the Open Social APIs. The guy from hi5 gave some interesting insights into the issues facing someone developing and deploying an infrastructure designed to support a viral uptake and some of the pitfalls to avoid.

I also attended a session on jMaki that was liberally littered with code examples and demos which helped to break up the usual death by bullet points (when will someone develop a presentation package that only supports diagrams and has no bullet function - I do not need to look at your speaker notes while you read them to me). Unfortunately the demos seemed to fall over on a regular basis which did not help to hold the attention. Still at least it gave it credibility as a proper developer event presentation rather than a product sales pitch.

I followed this with a session on Growing Open Source Communities based on the experiences of the OpenJDK community. A good guide for any company thinking of moving it's development into the Open Source realm especially in combination with the later session by Simon.

The session on creating compelling user interface experiences was queued half way around the Moscone Centre and since I have a pass that only allows me to be wait listed for a seat decided to cut my losses and head for Simon Phipps' presentation on the challenges facing the Open Source community in the future as more and more commercial organisations become more deeply involved in open source and more commercial software is based (at least in part) on open source components. As usual from Simon it was a thought provoking session littered with Simon's own personal photographs to re-enforce his points (count the number of bullets in this presentation). Simon recommended attending any presentation given by Eben Moglen someone with whom I (a ashamed to admit) I am not familiar but will be looking into.

To finish off the day I attended a session looking at how to include media (in particular video and audio) in Java and JavaFX applications. Once again the presentation was built almost entirely from code examples and demos which served perfectly to get across the presenters points. While I am not sure how well this will come across with just an audio recording and a copy of the slides it is an excellent introduction to the technology.

JavaOne - Day 1

The keynote started with the usual glitz and included a dance troop as the kick off. Rich Green went on to introduce a number of new technologies and a number of demos that suffer the traditional JavaOne demo demons! There was a demon of the Amazon Kindle which was unable to reach the network!

The new JRE 6 update 10 (formally know as the Consumer JRE) which has a number of interesting features. The first is the componentisation of the JRE download. This means that now the JRE has an initial download size of 2Mbytes rather than the traditional 15MBytes. Additional components (API sets) are download as required by applications or applets or are trickled down in the background. New quick start technology improves the start up time for a cold start JRE. Finally one of the features demoed was the ability to be able to take an applet running in a browser and be able to drag and drop it onto the desktop as a desktop application. This allows the applet to continue running after the browser is closed and even be launched on future occasions as a desktop application independently of the browser. The demo application itself kept locking during the keynote demo but at Bob Brewin's Technical General Session later in the day the same demo worked perfectly. This is enabled by the fact that the JRE plugin now runs in a separate process from the browser. JavaWeb start has allowed users to load (correctly packaged applets) to be loaded within a browser or as a stand alone application for a number of years but this was not seamless to the user. The new functionality is!

The new release of Glassfish (v3) has also been componentised (a theme of the day) so that the runtime at startup now is less than 100kbytes. Through project babelfish scripting languages have now become a 1st class citizen of the Glassfish environment. Glassfish v3 is also not completely OSGi compliant. Also included is the self registration of 3rd party extension APIs making to much easier for developers to include them and use them. 

Rich also announce Project Hydrazine and Project Insight.  Project Hydrazine promises to offer en end to end service deliver platform based on cloud/utility computing for service delivery all developed in open source. Project Insight will then allow the developer of these services to run a series of analytics to to look at usage of a service and discover business models and opportunities.

There was also during the day much demonstration of applications developed in JavaFX offering rich user experiences developed in hours and days rather than weeks and months.

The grand finally was Neil Young demoing what he is doing with BluRay DVD. This was extremely compelling. So far I have resisted the urge to acquire and form of next gen DVD. For once I wanted to see the standards battle play out before I backed any horse (I am also looking for some additional functionality which I can't seem to find today but more of that in another post). The Neil Young BluRay however may be the thing that drives me to purchase a device. It allows the user to browse through images, articles and videos while listening to the music as well as navigating the music and seamlessly accessing additional content from the net. What the video you will see what I mean. As Neil Young put it - "This demo is pre-recorded and not live so we KNOW that it WILL work".




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