Friday Oct 17, 2008

NetBeans 6.5 Beta quick tip

Here's a quick tip that might help people using NetBeans 6.5 beta. When I tried to run an application from within the tool I got a stack trace with the message: "Absent code attribute in method that is not native or abstract". If I tried to run the application outside NetBeans using the generated jar file everything worked fine.

Googling the error message turned up a lot of results related to some stubs jar files in Maven which clearly was not related to my problem.

Further searching led me to a forum entry in German, the crux of which was that this was a bug in the compile-on-save functionality. To fix this you simply need to right-click the project you're trying to run and select properties. In the Compiling section under Build there is a check-box for "Compile on Save". Deselect this and voila! the application runs without problem.

Monday Aug 18, 2008

Something's gone wrong with the Olympics

Clearly, we have fallen through some wormhole in space and landed in an alternative reality. That can be the only explanation for Great Britain being third in the medals table ahead of Australia and Russia. I remember when I was a child we would be lucky to win one or maybe two gold medals at the olympics and here we are with twelve and we're not even finished yet!

I'm not a big sports fan, but I have found this olympics is more and more grabbing my attention. Not just for the fantastic results of the Brits, but for sights such as Usain Bolt 'jogging' to victory in his semi-final of the 100m.

It really is great to see that, despite the media claiming we're a country full of fat children, we have a large pool of world class sporting talent. Of course, the reality is that we've always had this, it's just that until about ten years ago you'd have found that British team members would have been training whilst holding down a full time job. Thanks to the national lottery we can now provide funding to talented athletes without calling on the government to do it.

Despite the great results I doubt we'll ever do better than we did in 1908. It's quite amusing to see how things have changed. The games were being held in the UK and we fielded about a third of all competitors (some events only had Brits participating). The events have also changed a bit; now we have BMX biking and the triathlon (oh, and synchronised swimming which really does stretch the meaning of sport). Back in 1908 we had figure skating, polo and, get this, tug of war.

I wonder what the ancient Greeks would have thought.

Friday Aug 01, 2008

A nineteen year wait

The other day a friend of ours stopped by for dinner. Since he was passing through (indirectly) on his way back to Australia he didn't want too much luggage and so decided to leave us a book he'd just read.

Back in 1989 I was lent a book by a different friend who said, "You must read this, it's great". That was a Friday and I sat down to read it in the evening. Stopping only for sleep and some food I read the book from cover to cover in one go, all 680-odd pages of it. What book was this? It was The Eight by Katherine Neville. A mystery revolving around the game of chess it soon became one of my favorite books of all time. The author has written a couple of books since them but none of them (in my opinion) lived up to her first book.

Imagine my surprise the other evening when I'm handed a book by my friend called The Fire, written by Katherine Neville and a sequel to The Eight. To make things even better it's a pre-publication copy and it won't be available generally until the middle of October.

My first thought was to sit down tonight and re-read The Eight from cover to cover and then start on The Fire. Nineteen years later things are a bit different and I suspect that my two year old son is not going to be too amenable to letting Daddy sit around and read a book all weekend. Still, it'll be great to see if the original is still the way I remember it (it's been a few years since I last read it) and how good the sequel is.

Thursday Jul 31, 2008

Today's the day

Well, I've done a lot of presentations over the last fifteen months on JavaFX, so it's really nice to see the SDK preview launched today. Clearly, we still have lots to do to make sure that all developers and content creators have all the tools they need, but this is a significant (and very important) first step.

Time to get cracking on some entertaining new demos, especially linking this to my multi-touch screen from JavaOne.

Monday Jul 14, 2008

Celebrate [good times, c'mon]

Today is the 14th of July, and here in France it's a day of national celebration (hence the title of this post). A celebration of the storming of the Bastille and the birth of the French nation as we know it today. The strange thing about this celebration is that when the Bastille was stormed to liberate all the prisoners held there the revolutionaries freed a grand total of four people. How typically French, especially when you find out they were all recaptured by the authorities later in the day. The real reason for storming the Bastille was to find ammunition for the weapons that had been obtained from the Hotels des Invalides (not really a hotel at all) the previous day. Sadly, no ammunition was found. [Note: all these historical facts were related to me by my partner, Elaine, so refer inaccuracies to her].

Since this celebration involves parades and large amounts of fireworks it got me thinking about major celebrations in other countries I've been to. Here are three I came up with.

  • Independence Day in the U.S.; It always amuses me when an American asks me if we celebrate this in the UK.
  • Diwalhi in India and Nepal. A religious festival rather than one of independence. This one is great fun, although the approach to the firework safety code is most definitely typically Indian (I remember seeing a chap looking for a particular firework in a bag filled with all sorts of pyrotechnics; since it was dark the obvious choice of light source was a cigarette lighter!)
  • Guy Fawkes Day in the UK: Since we can't really celebrate independence we needed to come up with something else as an excuse for lots of fireworks. Easy, let's celebrate burning someone at the stake for trying to blow up the houses of Parliament. Trust the Brits to be rather more eccentric

Technology gone too far

During my vacation we rented a car so we could drive around the Lot and Dordogne regions of France and then make the journey to Nice. The helpful people at Sixt upgraded us so we had a brand new saloon from a well known German manufacturer. I'm a big fan of German automotive engineering, my last three cars having been a Volkswagen Corrado VR6 and two Audi S3s. However, there were several 'features' of this particular vehicle that really got on my nerves due to the efforts of the designers to provide as many drivers aids as possible.

The first was just starting the car. Rather than the conventional ignition key I had a device that was inserted into the dashboard and then the engine was started and stopped by means of a button. Fine, no problem with this, since I understand that one of the main ideas behind this is to reduce the possibility of shearing your kneecap off on the ignition key in the event of a big front end collision. What I really didn't like was the fact that the engine refused to start unless I had the clutch depressed. In twenty five years of driving I'm pretty sure I've only ever tried to start the car in gear on maybe two or three occasions. I'd rather the car check the gearbox was in neutral than forcing me to put the clutch in whenever I want to start the car. Very irritating.

Not nearly as irritating, though as the 'auto start' function. At the first toll road I pulled up to the barrier, put the handbrake on and put the car in neutral. At this point the engine stopped. WTF? It seems that to 'aid fuel economy' and to 'reduce emissions' the car will just kill the engine when you stop and do what I did. The engine will restart when you press the clutch again, or after about a minute of sitting there doing nothing. Talk about irritating. The good news was that there was a button on the dashboard that would turn this 'feature' off. The bad news was you had to press the button every time you started the car; it didn't remember that I wanted to be in control of the car, not the car.

Which leads us to the next thing that irked me. When driving along part of the display would tell you when the car thought you were in the wrong gear. If I wanted the car to choose which gear I should be in I'd have got an automatic! Geez, what's wrong with letting the driver drive the car?

I remember Jeremy Clarkson doing a very funny bit on Top Gear where he test drove a very powerful German saloon car (of the same make as this). He tested the 0-100kph time which worked out at about five minutes by the time he'd selected the correct suspension settings, gearbox change speed and so on. This car was similar, just trying to get cool air to come out of the vents at a reasonable rate took forever going through menu options.

The last thing was that all of the controls seemed to be fly-by-wire which extended to the indicators and windscreen wipers. What this meant is that the stalk for the indicators would always be in the central position. Moving the stalk would turn the indicators on but not leave the stalk in the position that meant you knew where the indicators were indicating. I know it's a small thing, but it just didn't work for me. The 'automatic' mode for the wipers was useless since it never seemed to wipe the screen when I wanted it to and in this mode I spent more time activating the wipers manually than I would have done using intermittent mode (something I was never actually able to figure out how to make happen).

Another case of design gone too far without enough thought...

Tuesday Jul 01, 2008

The start of another year

It may seem a bit weird, but today is actually new years day. Well, it is in financial terms for us here at Sun since we just wrapped up financial year 08 (FY08) and today is the start of FY09.

So my new financial years resolution is to restart my blog, post more regularly and make my posts a bit more technical. All noble ideals; let's see how far I get. Especially since I leave on vacation tomorrow and will be in the US for a week after that meaning I won't be in the UK again until almost August.

One good thing that I recently discovered is Ecto a piece of blogging software for the Mac. Since I now use a MacBook Pro for my laptop (like almost everyone else at Sun) this seemed ideal. One of the nice features is the simplicity of creating blog entries offline and uploading them when you're back online. I'm probably still in the dark ages for blogging but it seems good to me.

Here's a couple of things I'm working on at the moment that I'll try to blog about in the future:

Project DAVE (DTrace Advanced Visualisation Environment) . I wrote about this ages ago and really want to get this out onto but there's a few things I need to do first. I recently rewrote the way that this application interfaces with DTrace using the new-ish Java API. Really easy to do and now we don't have a nasty write interposer that requires fiddling with LD_LIBRARY_PATH to start the app. I've also been looking at how to integrate support for Ruby, JavaScript and Python using providers that people have recently created. Another really cool thing would be to integrate it with NetBeans to allow access to source code for methods/functions. There's also the issue of making sure that I follow the licensing terms of the open source graphing library I've used. Clearly something for my leisure time.

Sun SPOTS. These have been around for a while, but there's still serious fun to be had with these. I've been working on a simple wheeled robot platform with a range of sensors and I have a few other ideas bubbling at the moment.

Multi-touch screen. I built this for a session at JavaOne back in May, which I felt went pretty well. I've done some work on this recently to improve the response times and sensitivity which is all working pretty well. Once I've got the calibration part working correctly I'll go back to integrating JavaFX with it to hopefully do some really cool things. I have one idea combining this with Sun SPOTs that I think could make a very interesting demo.

There's clearly plenty to write about. I just have to figure out how to carve out enough time to do the writing as well as the development (oh, and still maintaining a manic travel schedule and dealing with a two year old toddler who's rapidly becoming quite the skilled engineer - at least in terms of dismantling things).

Thursday Apr 03, 2008

First world country, third world airport

I'm sure few poeple can have missed the recent events that marked the rather less than successful opening of Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Things just really don't seem to get better, do they?

I returned from South Africa last week and flew in to Terminal 3, arriving at just after seven in the morning. This is an especially busy time at that terminal with several loang haul flights all arriving very close together. Forget problems with luggage, just getting past passport control was a complete nightmare. When we came down to the immigration hall the queue for European passports was even longer than non-EEC and it was total chaos (as usual). The reason? Only two desks open and checking EEC passports. The wisdom of whoever plans staffing here defies comprehension.

This week I'm in Russia for the TechDays and had my first experience of Terminal 5 on Tuesday morning. Thankfully this was a painless experience and I and my luggage made it to St Petersburg only half an hour later than scheduled. It did feel weird though; I've been travelling from Heathrow for over twenty years so a new and unfamiliar terminal was quite something.

Let's wait and see if the return journey tomorrow is as smooth and the luggage arrives at the same time...

Monday Feb 25, 2008

Home again, home again

My bag was returned on Saturday evening; only forty eight hours after I got back home. Considering it took BA over a week to get my bag to me last year I guess I should consider myself fortunate.

Roll on Terminal five, opening next month. Let's see if that solves all these problems...

Saturday Feb 23, 2008

Tracing continues...

I've not been writing in my blog recently, simply due to the number of other things I have to do. However, the events of the last couple of days make me feel it's time to put fingers to keyboard once.

Last week was really busy. I flew to Istanbul on Monday for our developer day on Tuesday. We had to leave promptly on Tuesday afternoon to catch a flight to Bucharest for the developer day on Wednesday. In the evening it was back to the airport to fly to Athens ready to present again on Thursday. All this with one of the worst colds I've had in a long time. I'm surprised anyone could understand what I was saying. I cut my trip short by a day due to everyone being sick at home as well and booked myself on the 7.25 BA flight back to Heathrow. Will I never learn? There was an Olympic flight ten minutes earlier; I really, really should have taken that.

On arriving at the airport I discovered that the flight was delayed by two hours. This actually translated into over two and a half hours and we finally took off at 10pm local time. The pilot issued the obligatory, glib apology whilst setting us up for potentially further bad news. Since we were leaving so late there was a chance we wouldn't get to Heathrow before the night flight curfew started, in which case we'd get diverted to Gatwick.

We made good enough time to get to Heathrow before the curfew (one which doesn't actually seem to have any effect, since I live near Heathrow and have heard aircraft departing and arriving at all times of night). Off the plane and as usual we were as far from the main building as possible. No real queue for passport control and I thought I'd actually be back home before midnight. Ha! How wrong I was. When I came down to the baggage hall I was met by a scene of complete pandemonium. Literally hundreds of people all waiting for their baggage, only two carousels in use and the display that tells you which carousel to get your bags from out of order. I'd heard that the luggage handling system in terminal four had failed a couple of days previously, but thought that coming through terminal one I would have been unaffected.

I sidled over to the baggage inquiries desk and, since there wasn't a long queue, asked what was happening. I got a pretty short reply that an announcement had been made and that staff were trying to get baggage out as quickly as possible. I found a seat and waited. And waited. And Waited. Forty five minutes later there had been two announcements. One to apologise for the delay and one to announce (to cheers from some parts of the crowd) that the bags from Morroco would be on belt two. It was now half past midnight and I'd had enough. I joined the now lengthy queue for baggage inquiries. When I finally got to the front of the queue I registered a missing bag claim and headed for the exit. Of course, the fun wasn't over. Try getting a taxi at one in the morning from Heathrow. Not one to be seen, especially since the road outside terminal one was closed for construction work. I had to walk all the way over to terminal two and wait another 20 minutes before finally getting a taxi home.

I'm willing to accept that problems happen, but BA's customer service is decidedly less than impressive. At one point while I was queuing for the baggage inquiries desk the BA supervisor came out to talk to passengers, presumably to make them feel like something was actually being done. What made me laugh was that he had two armed policemen standing behind him, since he clearly didn't feel safe with so many irate passengers around. Even if there are problems what people want is information. Why not make regular announcements so at least people would know how things were progressing?

That was Thursday night. It's now Saturday afternoon. No sign of my bag. No information via the website, and as usual the phone line is so busy I can't even get in the queue.

Needless to say, this is doing nothing to improve my view of BA.

Thursday Dec 13, 2007

Wrapping up another year

It's day two of the JavaPolis conference and I've now finished with speaking for the year (hurrah!) JavaPolis as ever is a lot of fun, and I have to say that I was very impressed with the demonstration Stephan did this morning for version two of the Parleys web site. I've found the one way system in Antwerp more manageable this year, primarily because I'm staying at a different hotel. Give how hard it is to find a taxi in Antwerp I'm very glad that I brought the car, although the traffic coming through the Kennedy tunnel into town on Tuesday when we arrived was just horrible.

As I wrap up this year I'm also going to give Frankfurt (where we had the TechDays last week) my prestigious 'worst airport of the year' award. Leaving on Wednesday evening I just could not believe how inefficient the whole process of getting through the airport was. Frankfurt is an extremely busy airport so why do they only have four security lines open, one of which is reserved for business class and for the remaining three two are sharing the same metal detector? Given that there were a possible eight lines that could be used this seemed very poor. After a thirty minute wait I managed to get through securtity and then had to face the most officious and unfriendly passport inspector I suspect I have ever had to deal with. I'm leaving the country, not trying to get in, so why give me such a hard time? Just when I thought it was all over I get to the gate (where the plane is starting to board) and have to go through another x-ray/meta detector security check. I asked the woman standing next to the machine why this was. I was rewarded by a blank stare and decided this was not an argument that was even worth starting. Finally onto the plane and on my way home? No such luck. Despite my flight being scheduled to depart from Frankfurt it appeared that the plane was parked in Munich, or at least that was the way it felt given the length of the bus ride to get from the gate to the plane!

I'm spending ten days in Nice after Christmas and will not be taking a laptop or accessing the internet. I'm sooo ready for this.

Friday Nov 09, 2007

In the land of the rising Sun

I'm just getting ready to leave Tokyo having been here for the Tech Day events. A very hectic couple of days presenting on Sun SPOTs, features of Java SE 6 and 7, Using the concurrency libraries and performance programming. All good fun and judging by the questions I got the audience enjoyed it (it's always a challenge working through a translator and remembering to talk slowly enough; sometimes enthusiasm gets the better of me).

I had a couple of hours free so I was able to visit the centre of all things geeky, Akihabara. This is a bit like Tottenham Court Road in London, but several order of magnitudes more intense. All manner of cameras, phones, MP3 players and audio visual goods can be purchased here. Although the prices aren't very cheap (even for someone converting to pounds), it's good to get a look at what's at the forefront of the next wave of consumer goods. A couple of things that caught my eye were a TV recorder from Panasonic with one terabyte of disk space. Enough for a huge number of films and TV programs. It's only logical since disk drive capacities are growing.

The other thing was something I spotted in the six story Sony showroom. This was a thing called a Rolly. Check out the video below.

Or the full length advert

When I first saw it in the shop, I had no idea what it was for (much like when you watch most of the commercial). All the description was in Japanese and the thing wasn't switched on. There was an advert playing on a screen, but without sound. At one point there were a couple, sleeping in bed with the Rolly between them. Visions of Woody Allen sprang to mind...

As I was looking, one of the sales staff came over to do a demonstration where everything became, er, clear. I even got to play with it. I guess the Aibo didn't have a wide enough appeal so this is a kind of combination robot and music player. Novelty value: yes, wide sales appeal: unlikely.

Monday Nov 05, 2007

Fleeing decidely

I'm in China at the moment currently sitting in a team meeting to discuss all the evengelist activities that we do. It's certainly proving to be a lively discussion!

I arrived on Friday just in time to do two presentations at the Beijing TechDays; one on real-time Java and one on profiling in NetBeans which didn't go so well. The demos did not perform as well as I'd hoped but that was not down to NetBeans but my laptop. Sadly my Acer 3400 (the bright red Ferrari model) expired the day before I left resulting in a rapidly redeployed install on a different machine, hence the problems.

I've been to China several times over the last few years and you can see a real difference in the country, at least Beijing which is where I am. The number of people who speak English is really impressive. Of course, some of the translations in print remain somewhat humorous. I found a smoke hood in the wardrobe to aid my escape in the event of fire (how may hotels bother with that?). I took the time to read the instructions, the last one was "Choose way and flee for your life decidedly".

We're off for Peking Duck this evening at the famous Da Dong restaurant. I'm particularly happy to be going here as Heston Blumenthal fetured this restaurant in his search for the perfect Peking Duck recipe.

I'm leaving early tomorrow morning to fly to Tokyo ready for the TechDays later this week.

Thursday Oct 18, 2007

Digital X-Ray photography

I went to the dentist this morning and needed an X-ray of part of my jaw. Nothing terribly exciting about that except that this time it was rather different. When I've had X-rays like this before the dentist stuffs a piece of cardboard in your mouth (containing the film), zaps you with the X-rays and then the film has to go away to be developed. The age of digital photography has now been extended to this area as well. Now the dentist puts a flat sensor in your mouth which is connected to a PC. After zapping you with X-rays the image is displayed straightaway on the screen of the PC. Cool! If you don't like the shot, just take it again (of course using X-ray radiation may mean you don't want to do it too often).

I wonder how easy it would be to connect one of these sensors to a Sun SPOT? Of course running the X-ray source off the SPOT might be a bit difficult.

I really must start carrying around a USB pen drive with me so I can get a copy of images like this.

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

What happens in Vegas... week is the Sun CEC conference.

I'm rather looking forward to this event as I'll be presenting on the use of DTrace and Java with my good friend Jon Haslam. Of course, the fact that it's in Las Vegas doesn't hurt although, since I was in Las Vegas only a couple of months ago, it's not as big a deal (if you'll excuse the pun) as it might have been.

I'm currently working on some updates to project DAVE which really needs to be revived and put to some proper use plus looking at some of the new features that maybe available in Java SE 7. This will allow you to define your own probes directly in your Java code (like USDT for native code). Hopefully by Monday when we present we'll have some nice demos to show all this in action. After all there's several whole days between now and then.




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