Sunday, November 30, 2008

A First Look at Android (video)

Here is a tech talk by the nefarious comic artist, Eric Burke (we're friends/colleagues/blog rivals).

Eric discusses his initial experimentation with Android. He's been working with Ed Burnette's e-book 'Hello Android', and has some good stuff over at his blog.

It is not news that the mobile platform is the Next Great Battlefield, but intro material on Android is news. With all of the massive players in this space, it is important for us to pick a horse and bet on it with a time investment and experimentation.

I won't tell you which one to learn, but Android is a reasonable choice. You can see why in the video...

Spice up your week with the Lambda Lounge

Looking for something more exotic than Java or C++ ?

Need an oasis of pure computing in an otherwise bleak and desolate week of software engineering?

If you are in St Louis, Alex Miller has something for you: the nascent Lambda Lounge, a monthly celebration of developments in the world of functional and dynamic languages.

As mentioned on the website, the basic idea is to explore new developments in programming languages and libraries. Note that the subjects are not necessarily bound to the JVM or the DLR from dot Net. I'm looking forward to the weird and wonderful stuff at this meeting. The first one is Thursday, December 4. Check the website for details.

On a sidenote, I quite like the logo. I'm not sure of the symbolism of the bits at the top. My interpretation is that they are eyeglasses. If true, I love this because it reminds me of the styles of the chess grandmasters of Europe in the late 19th century, and particularly the cafes in Paris where intellectuals would congregate to discuss philosophy and other subjects.

That said, this meeting will be much less pretentious than those gatherings of yore! No word if there will be sword-play based on heated language debates.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Car-pooling with eBay, Erlang, and Haskell

I bought a new stereo for my car, and I'm enjoying listening to tech podcasts on my commute and errands.

My favourite is still the beguiling Java Posse, but I have been extremely impressed with Software Engineering Radio. This is world-class stuff. Be sure to check out the episodes with eBay's Randy Shoup, Erlang guru Joe Armstrong, and Haskell maven Simon Peyton Jones.

Outstanding. I'm going to be donating to the cause via PayPal.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Groovy is to Grails, as X is to Y ?

Consider the following: Groovy is to Grails, as X is to Y.

I recently tweeted "... as C is to Unix". Though Mario quite rightly pointed out that much of Grails is written in Java, my thinking is that both Groovy and C enjoy greater popularity because of the success of their sibling application/system. i.e. It seems that Grails, as Unix once did, acted as a driving force beyond that of pure language development, which propels innovation and gives focus to an emergent style.

Dave Klein has his own tasty analogy about butter and pancakes.

And you? What are your values for X and Y ?

Ruby fans are invited to play the same game, with respect to Rails. Are there any values for X and Y which resonate for Ruby/Rails but not for Groovy/Grails (or vice-versa)? That one is very interesting.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kudos to ActiveMQ

At CtJ HQ, we try to spotlight any projects that have a pleasant "getting started" experience.

Today's winner is ActiveMQ, an open-source JMS implementation. After following the installation instructions, I went to a "Getting Started" web page that explains how to start the basic consumer and producer examples. The instructions are clear, and the code is a perfect "foothold": something to help me get a leg up. It is simple and yet has several options to show various JMS patterns.

My thanks to those involved!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Snatching Open Source Licensing from the Jaws of Legal Marginalization

A recent issue of DDJ has an fascinating article on the case of Jacobsen versus Katzer, pertaining to the legal strength of open-source licenses.

To quote author Michael Swaine: it's a big deal.

The nano-gist is:

  • Katzer threatened legal action on a supposed patent violation by Jacobsen.
  • Jacobsen looked at the facts (including that K had used parts of J's software), marshalled resources from the open-source community, and launched a pre-emptive lawsuit.
  • A U.S. district court judged in a manner that severely limited monetary damages awarded to J, based on a legal distinction between a condition and a covenant.
  • Later, an appeals court overturned the decision. i.e. The good guys win.
I didn't know about the case, so although the article is brief, it almost reads like the story-board for a thriller. I hope that, somehow, it is made into a documentary.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Overview of Hadoop

My friend Tom Wheeler has written an excellent article over at the OCI Java News Brief.

The article has not only an overview but also many reference links and some outstanding examples of Hadoop in the wild. Examples include the New York Times Machine project and a record-setting cluster with 4000 nodes.

As neat as this all is, I'm more excited about the notion of people solving problems in a different way, via the Map-Reduce strategy. Tom gives a counter-intuitive example of a word count algorithm: in the small, it is awkward and slow; in the large, it scales seamlessly to colossal proportions.

Back in university, a favourite class was the Theory of Computation. I recall the strategy of proving a problem was NP-Hard: if one can express it in terms of another problem that is known to be NP-Hard, then one could argue that if one can solve the original problem in polynomial time, then one could solve the set of NP problems in polynomial time (I'll let commenters distinguish between NP-Hard and NP-Complete and other subtleties). As an understated aside, solving this problem would be 'good for one's resume'.

Solving a problem with Map-Reduce isn't the same thing, but there is an abstract, psychic thread that seems to tie them together: the notion of thinking about problems in a certain mindset. Very cool stuff. I hope to find time to explore that further.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lurker Exposed 2: Giving Twitter a shot

Despite my rant, I'm giving Twitter a shot, due to peer pressure and sketchy coercion from a man with ties to the intelligence community.

My thinking:

  • Don't knock it till you've tried it (though that generally doesn't stop me)
  • Who's kidding? When it comes to blog hits, I'll prostitute myself as much as the next person.
  • Since I am genuinely interested in others' status, it should be more efficient than being a lurker.
  • Dopamine rushes and other biochemical reactions aren't a bad thing
Fear not, non-tweeters (especially those for whom the rant may have resonated) !

I am only visiting the dark side, and will fight assimilation.

Lurker Exposed: Why I wasn't on Twitter

Many of my friends know that I am not a fan of Twitter, and yet I lurk on there. Here are some quick thoughts on the site.

First, I should point out that I think I 'get it': the sense of community, particularly if you work with people remotely. I also understand that if I don't like it, I can just stay away.... so we're in full Unsolicited Opinion Mode here (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek).

Twitter killed the blogging star

Gah! With blogs everything was going great: people wrote paragraphs, and others commented. Flame wars were so large that the flames danced into the night sky, harkening back to Usenet and other media of yore. Twitter strikes me as a threat (hopefully a short-lived one) to the Great Conversations, banzai stunts, and comics.

To paraphrase Stephen Wright, Twitter strikes me as HDADD : High-Definition Attention-Deficit Disorder. There's hardly any focus, but when it is there, it's "140 characters of amazing clarity" *eye roll*

The War Room

My current team works in an open "war room" where there is a healthy peer pressure regarding minimal browsing. Plus, I can't speak for you, but I seek simplicity when at work: no IM, no phone, and sometimes even no shoes. Sure, I have guilty pleasures but I don't need another.

Navel Lint

Does anyone really want my status? What if I'm wondering why navel lint is never the same colour as the garments one has been wearing? Strangely, I do enjoy others' navel-gazing.... until one random tweet puts me off, and then I'm back into rant mode.

Sharing Links

I no longer care about websites that have been sent to me in email. Same thing for twitter. I've noticed that the best sites are those that people mention here. Essentially, your collective memories serve as my spam filter because if you remember it well enough to talk about it, it's probably good.

Who knew that you've been working for me? Awesome. Now, let's go to a cafe, pub, or tech talk and have a real conversation.


Hoo-boy. Many smart people bemoan the lack of nuance in the mainstream media (especially in North America) but then try to chat about issues in 140 characters? Yikes. Even better is the lack of threaded conversations. As a lurker, I'm clicking all over the place to try and connect the dots on a pseudo-conversation.

Firing of Dopminergic Neurons... Wheels down on a dopamine rush

I have a feeling that when one is tweeted by another who is "higher on the geek pecking order" that it fires reward sensors in the brain that can be interpreted as insight, or a meaningful connection. It is neither! It's merely a biochemical reaction! Can't you people see what is happening? You may say twitter is a "convenient, asychronous chat-room where the whole is greater than the sum of its tweets". I say it is a delusion, a vacuous sham of humanity that takes us one step closer to the Borg.


OH: Twitter sucks.

That said, you may be interested in the next post, where I'll tell you why I can't resist, and why I'm giving it a shot.