Sunday, December 24, 2006

MI6 Mashup

I saw Casino Royale last night and was very impressed; impressed in many ways (especially the Treasury Rep. - anyone who has worked (with)in the British Civil Service knows how close to reality this sometimes seems). But that's not what stuck me.

I was amazed at my reaction to the sequence when Bond has broken into M's apartment to salvage some information from a SIM card he has salvaged. When he plugs it in and some technical wizardry provides him with the location of the last SMS message sent (a suitably exotic Bahamas), the app providing the information had to me the feel of a nice looking mashup combining yahoo maps and some backdoor-access telco data. I even wondered if I could go home and do the same for myself. It reminded me of the (again just ahead of reality) "I know this it's UNIX" bit in Jurassic Park.

The future (as they say) is now. Or maybe a few months away. I wonder if they're really mashing things up down there next to the Thames...

Dim-neb-leh Annoying...

I did a windows cleanup last night in an effort to nudge my XP laptop into regaining some of the zip it has, of late, been lacking. When I then came to do a checkin to Subversion of some minor code changes I was confronted my error messages about missing .svn/tmp directories. Windows had helpfully removed evey one! I just had to go back through every directory, manually replacing them and then running svn cleanup. Dim-neb-leh annoying...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Netbeans VWP and My JPA1.0 Domain Model in Tomcat 5.5.17

I've been meaning to get this going for a while now and finally got round to it tonight. I have a domain model written using JPA1.0 annotations, Toplink for the implementation and MySQL for the RDBMS. I have it all masked off nicely behind a Session Facade and packaged into a simple jar. i want to call this from my Netbeans Visual Web Pack apps. Here's how I did it:
  1. Create the project making sure that the deployment target is the bundled Tomcat and not AppServer 9 (if you don't then you'll have to set up connection pools etc.)
  2. Add the domain model jar (which includes the persistence.xml file in the META-INF directory) to the new VWP project's libraries
  3. Also add the MySQL JDBC Driver and Toplink Essentials jars to the libraries
  4. Right click on the Application Bean in the Outline View and Add > Property and enter a name for your Session Facade variable and the name of the class
  5. Do this again for the field which you want to store your retreived info from the database (i.e. "username / String")
  6. In the constructor for the Application Bean initialise the Session Facade and then the storage field by calling the newly created facade to get the info you require from the database
  7. On Page1 Design View, drag a Static Text component onto the designer
  8. Switch to the Java view and in the prerender method set the text for the new component to be that which you just looked up and stored
  9. Hit deploy
  10. Et voila!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Blog Tagged

[Think] I've been nominated![/Think]

[Do]Walk up to the stage. Time slows down. Sounds recede into the distance.[/Do]

[Think] I must be the exact opposite of the blogger type. Upon getting my first real link from a respectable source (Andy) via a game of blog tag and the click flow it may bring, I have no idea what to write (let alone who to tag). A voice is whipering "keep it simple. don't try to be clever. Definately don't get all puffed up about it". I'm not cut out for this kind of (web 2.0) world... Just read out the card...[/Think]

So the nominations for "Best Drunken Conversation Starter in a Starring Role (in my life) are...
  1. My personal myth states that I decided I didn't want to be a vet when no a hot day's work experience a sheeps cancerous testicle the size of a large mango was cut open in front of me and a pea green soup like substance cascaded out, followed closely by a barrelling smell of decay. But...
  2. I have no sense of smell (guess that puts number one into perspective). However, when something is really bad I can taste it (so yes, to answer the standard follow up question,I can taste)
  3. I love Italian Horror Movies from the 60s and 70s. Most of all I love the zombie pics (think zombie flesh eaters, virgin amongst the living dead, the beyond, the house by the cemetary, dawn of the dead etc.) and the stalk and slash grindhouse stuff (like profondo rosso, suspiria and five dolls for an august moon) but the greatest film ever made by the greatest director that ever lived is the birds.
[Think]That's all I can think of. All that are worth reading anyway. Now the hard bit, who to tag? Think of the blogs you read dammit!...[/Think]

And the winners are... [Do]Open envelope[/Do]
  • Stefanie Hollmichel at So Many Books
  • if:book (because it deserves traffic)
  • and finally David Cameron (more to see if he responds or not. [Think]I'll need to post a comment as I doubt he reads this avidly[/Think])

Friday, December 08, 2006

JavaUK Roadshow Linlithgow - Report

[I'd like to say I blogged this while I actually sat in the sessions; but that would be a lie. Good old pen and paper were the name of the day. I'd also like to point out that I used to work for Sun UK in the Java Software Team and as such am not the most impartial of witnesses]

I attended the first (and hopefully not the last) JavaUK Road Show in Sun's Facility at Linlithgow, Scotland. The event was far better attended than I would have expected with nearly 40 delegates from both further education and industry. Spanning the whole day, the three major sessions covered "JavaCAPS, SOA and Web Services", "Moving Forward with Open Source" and "Free, Open and Innovative Tools for the Next Generation Web". Tying all these together was the concept of "the age of participation" - Sun's take on Web 2.0. I'll only cover the first session.

JavaCAPS, SOA and Web Services
This first session was tackled by Steve Elliot and provided an introduction to Sun's new Composite Application Platform Suite (aka CAPS) - in a nutshell their platform for SOA. While he (as will I) got onto product eventually it was very interesting to see how he framed Sun's take on the new flowering of internet technology buzzwords and concepts (generally lumped into "SOA" and "Web 2.0") in all their myriad forms and interpretations and used this to lead up to the pitch.

Just like in the boom of 6 years ago, it seems that Sun is again making a simple play to be the platform for this new web/network revolution. (Hands up who remembers "we're the dot in .com"? or the later "we make the net work"?) As a consequence, Steve started with an SOA "reality check" and explained what Jim Waldo (Sun employee and creator of Jini) has called the "Highlander Principle" - i.e. "there can be only one". A more apt title would be the "Highlander Fallacy" as his point is that this is a misconception. SOA, he explained, could be implemented using a variety of technologies, from Web Services (the current flavour of the month) to CORBA, RMI, Jini, DCOM, Raw Sockets etc. etc. The point being that there is a clear difference between architecture (the "A" in SOA) and implementation. He made it clear that Sun will continue to play in them all, and it is important not to get too pedantic about how it is done.

However, to narrow the field, he staked the Sun colours to the mast and said that their end was the enterprise end (where, for example, things like transactions are important). There was little attempt to define in detail or discuss the nature of the "S" - Service.

He then moved onto the alphabet soup that is "Web 2.0" and introduced a take which was all his own but very much in the Sun tradition of iconoclasm - "Dictionary Abuse" aka "All your words are belong to us". He went on to discuss the positioning of this on the Gartner Hype Curve before distilling it down to the concept of "The Age of Participation" summarised by a nice diagram of the world in "1.0" with a cloud with a large arrow coming down to the stick men (content access) below and a tiny one going back the way (content generation), complemented by the "2.0" could which has a even larger down arrow, but now also far larger up arrow.

Aside: Why the jump from SOA to Web 2.0? To be honest it made sense at the time but is a little stilted in the retelling. I think the best way to explain it is that Steve was trying to make things (and therefore by association Sun) cool and relate to the audience. Anyway, I digress...

The general 2.0 landscape laid out, Steve went on to link things up and discuss Sun's take on a (web) service, or more accurately how they can provide a platform for your service. The service was represented as a red blob (he stated he was keeping it simple). He introduced the analogy of the Victorians being the first real users of the SOA - they wanted tea, they wrang a bell and waited for the result. They didn't care how the tea got made orhow it got to them. It was all about the interface contract and end result. The same went for the blob. It's supposed to be opaque.

After this uncontroversial and functional depiction of a service, he then moved on to the meta or non functional features of the same. "How do I combine it with other services?" he asked. "What About Security and Identity?" and "What About QoS and SLAs?" he went on. He pointed out that not all services, or interactions with them will need to worry about these problems to the same extent, but did highlight that Governance (versioning) of services was key. He returned to this later.

He then listed the key principles which Sun feel an SOA should embody:
  • Secure
  • Policy Driven
  • Orchestrated
  • Registered and Discoverable
  • Standards Based and Driven
  • Coarse Grained (services)
  • Self Described
  • (Mostly) Asynchronous
  • Conversational
  • Document Centric (as opposed to the old conception of them as XML-RPC focussed)
  • Reliable
Nothing too controversial there either and a nice lead into a teaser for the product meat - the middleware - which Sun are providing to support these key SOA principles: JavaCAPS. However before going into it Steve had one more topic to cover off (and another Sun favourite) the standards and specifications which wrap all these when doing SOA as an XML Web Service.

While we all know the list which I could reproduce here it is interesting to note the ones which were majored on. Namely the Liberty Alliance frameworks of ID-FF and ID-WSF, and most importantly the outcome of the Sun / Microsoft 10 year joint venture to provide greater .NET and Java interoperabilty. While you can find out more on the official sites, Steve was keen to stress that this was an engineering to engineering match up and something I tend to believe. (He showed some pics of Sun kit in the Redwood data centre.) It also seems to have been a meeting of equals (and a million miles from the recent announcements of the Novell / Microsoft love-fest) and was deifnately customer driven (they share a few blue chip customers in common who basically told them both to grow up). He then provided a quick overview of the output so far: Project Tango. This is provides greated interoperation between the Microsoft Windows Communications Foundation (WCF) messaging layer and Java EE Web Services. It was announced and demoed by Microsoft at JavaONE 2006 as WSIT ("Web Services Interoperability Technology"). So what does it provide specifically and how does it do it? Well, it adds richer protocol support, a richer security model and QoS support among other things but all without changing the JAX-WS (the latest incarnation of JAX-RPC) APIs. As a consequence you will be able to take advantage of these developments in your web services without having to change a single thing; it's all just extra configuration, not coding. Release is scheduled for 2007 on JavaSE 6 and JavaEE 5 with the Glassfish app server as the deployment platform. I didn't get a chance to ask if this would work on any other platforms.

Finally we moved onto a section entitled "The need for Business Process." Again the opening gambit was a classic Sun approach - via the standards. He explained that these days, to develop and expose a service is not enough. There is the need to compose and orchestrate a collection of these into something meaningful and useful. He mentioned WS-BPEL as being the current de-facto standard for describing long running and stateful business transactions which was "generally accepted by both the Java world and Microsoft." However, hand cranking BPEL is hard to do he said. It is an execution language only and not a modelling notation (i.e. that is visual). For this he said we needed BPMN whch layers on BPEL and will reach v.1.0 in 2007.

At this conclusion, finally a product appeared - Java CAPS Enterprise Designer. Its based on the Netbeans Platform (I think part of it has got into the free Enterprise Pack) and originated from the SeeBeyond acquisition. Its aimed at business analysts - all very drag and drop. To be honest, what we saw looked very nice and usable.

To tie this back to the main thread we concluded with a lightning tour of JBI. (aka JSR 208). Steve framed this by saying this was trying to do to SOA what Java EE did to the application server. This seemed sensible enough - all about how you provide a pluggable, core intergation system with seperate rules engines. He said that the orchestration engine will be BPEL, XSLT for the transformation engine and it'll first off interoperate with Web Services, MQ and FTP drops.

And that was it. To be honest I was pretty impressed. It was reassuring to see my alma mater pulling back from being everything to everyone and going back to what it knows best. There also seems to be a move to be "cool" again which is no bad thing. What with this, the open sourcing and the currently on tour Tech Days it seems they might just pull it off...

It's a Patriarchal Web (2.0)

My wife and I have finally got round to double barreling our names (long story but hers goes away entirely if she drops it, and there is a precedent for this kind of thing in my ancestry). I thought I'd go the whole hog, do it properly and change my email and all the places I've used it to sign up for things (that's a lot of places)

So I went to Google where I "live" online. I'd never really thought about having to do this before - not a thing guys do in a patriarchal society (not to mention a little wierd). I knew there'd be little chance of just changing the address I had (why not?) so I thought I could create a new address and then simply set up an auto forward or something. But to create a new address I had to "invite someone". To do this I had to create a temporary email address (good time to stake a claim on my new name at yahoo I rationalised), send them an invite from my existing gmail, accept, and then create a new gmail (or googlemail as it seems to be these days) account with my new, double barrelled name. Done. Fine. Quite a hassle, but fine.

OK, so now I want to have things "just work". It's optimistic I know but I take a lot of services from google (docs, calendar, blog, desktop, notebook, ...) and I want to be able to continue using them, but with my new name (/ email). After all, I didn't change it just to make my life more complicated.

So how do I do that? The answer seems to be "you can't". Everything I do I now realise is tied up to that same great email address-in-the-sky. My original, old one. It's damned annoying and seriously making me consider migrating to something a damn sight less monolithic. (I've already moved googledesktop to netvibes and am very pleased with the result). I mean it's "2.0" for crying-out-frikkin'-loud. What do I have to do? Wait until 3.0? I'm betting that if the web was created and run by women things would be a lot simpler (and maybe a little cuter too).

{Addendum 28/12/2006}
I managed to get it all done. As far as I know, I have now changed (or frigged) my online identity where ever it may lie to reflect my new identity. The Gmail thing definately sits in the "frig" category. I had to invite myself to GMail again, create a new address, and then set this in my old account as the primary address while setting a global forward and archive on the new account. Now as far as the outside world is concerned I have a new email. When in reality I've just "skinned" the old one. Still get access to all the archived mail and contacts. Sweet.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Maven 1.x and Google Web Toolkit

I'm fiddling with Google's Web Toolkit with an eye to using it to produce a new front end to a web app I've written. I'm a big fan of Maven and wanted to get my head round setting up a GWT project which runs as a maven project (and thenceforth within my IDE of choice - Netbeans). There is a maven plugin (actually there is one for Maven 1 and another for Maven 2) for GWT but the docs are a little sparse. I had a fiddle and soon got things going but I had a few problems along the way. Here's what I had to do (assuming you already have Maven 1.0.x installed):
  1. Download and install the current version of GWT for your platform. Instructions and binaries are here. Put the install directory in your path.

  2. Obtain the GWT plugin. This example currently only works with the 1.0 version. You need to get it from here and then after unzipping it cd into the expanded folder and run the command: maven plugin:install-now

  3. Then you need to get the GWT jar files (and .dll's) into your Maven repository. You'll find them in your GWT install directory. I copied them to a new ./.maven/repository/ folder. I had to place gwt-dev-windows.jar, gwt-servlet.jar, gwt-user.jar, swt-win32-3235.dll and gwt-ll.dll in there to get this all to work fine. NOTE: You could get the jars automatically too but I was behind a firewall and too lazy to set up Maven to get through it.

  4. Now you can create your new GWT project. Create a directory (e.g. "./sample/") to house your project somewhere sensible, change directory into it and run the following command:applicationCreator com.mydemo.gwt.client.SimpleDemo.This will create you a source code directory ("./src/") containing a hello world-style GWT application and two scripts for compiling and running your app.

  5. Now we need to mavenise the directory structure. To do this change directory into ./src/ and create three new directories called java, webapp and test. Then move the auto generated com directory and it's contents into the new ./java/ folder. NOTE: We won't use the webapp directory this time, but it's where we would put things like the web.xml file if we had servlets as part of this application.

  6. Finally we need to create the required maven config files as follows which all live in the project root directory ("./sample/" in our case). NOTE: You'll need to edit the bits in red to suit your app and workstation:


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<name>GoogleWebToolkit and Maven Demo</name>
<!-- Unit test classes -->


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<project xmlns:j="jelly:core">
<preGoal name="war:war">
<attainGoal name="gwt:compile"/>

google.webtoolkit.home=C:\Program Files\GoogleWebToolkit\gwt-windows-1.2.22

That's it, you're ready to go. Just run the maven target "gwt" and you'll see your app in the google debugger.

NOTE: This borrows heavily from an introduction to the maven GWT plugin created by Rober Cooper. His article on O'Reilly can be found here and the google code project for the plugin is here.

The Itinerant Techie's Kitbag

In my job I get sent to many different places to do many different things. However, wherever I go, there are some basic tools and resources that I need to have access to . Tools which, when I first started, were all located on my laptop, or even worse my home PC. Over the last year, and mainly by stealing things I see other people using, I've built up a browser based kit bag which allows me to free myself from my thick client and become as flexible as possible. The goodies are:
  • Email - Simple really, but I used to use a thick (Thunderbird) client to my web mail. Recently web UI's (with the dawn of ubiquitous AJAX) have become very rich. Sign up for something like google mail or yahoo mail and learn the keyboard shortcuts. Oh, and keep your personal emails out of your work mailbox. Makes separation easier when you leave! If possible, add a widget to your shiny new web desktop (see below) so you can see what's in your inbox without having to have the page open. Oh and learn to use labels.
  • Calendar - Have one, and one only. Again, I used to use my Outlook calendar. Then Google came along with one which integrated perfectly with my GMail. Get it to send you reminders. Same as the webmail, if possible add the widget to your new web desktop (see below) to see your calendar in miniature.
  • Contacts - Again, put them in one place. Upload them all to your webmail service. GMail lets you upload CSV files which you can dump out of your thick mail client. Whenever a new contact comes along, make sure you add them.
  • RSS Feeds - Get yourself a web desktop such as Google IG or Netvibes. Make it your home page. Create yourself some tabs to keep things organised and subscribe to all your RSS feeds in one place.
  • To Do List - Using the web desktop mentioned above, find the To Do List Widget and add it to your front page.
  • Post It's / Short Notes - Like when you have to take notes during a phone conversation - phone numbers and the like. Yet again, find the web desktop widget and add it.
  • Bookmarks - Free your bookmarks from your browser! Move them all to something like Now you can get at them from everywhere. And you're sharing them too. If you're interested in a freinds bookmarks, add the RSS feed for their page to your web desktop.
  • Research Jottings - Start doing research on the web, using the web. Get a Google Notebook account and start sharing what you collect.
  • Writing Documents and Spreadsheets - Stop doing them locally with Excel and Word and then sending out various copies and trying to merge in all the changes when you get them back. Get a Google Docs and Spreadsheets account and collaborate!
  • Publish Information - If you have come across something you think others can make use of, publish it. Get yourself a blog for free and start letting others know what you know. Then incorporate their feedback.
  • Instant Messaging / Web Conferencing - Collaborate across great distances for free with Google Talk or Skype. Get a headset to speak rather than type, web cams to see who you're talking too and shared drawing boards with uSeeToo. Store your Skype contacts centrally with Skype v.3.0.
  • Podcasts - Subscribe to your favourite podcasts with iTunes. Charge up your iPod before you hit the road and keep up to date with all the news and tunes you need while away from your desk.
  • Pics - Finally, it's nice to share your pics. There are loads of cool and free photo sharing tools out there such as Flickr!, Google Photos, or PhotoBucket. Get your freinds to join too so they can see the private pics you don't want the world to see. Maybe even get involved in some groups and see what others are doing.
  • Disk Storage - This is something I don't yet use, and it's rumored that Google are working on a Google Disk. If you have any recommendations for a web disk, leave a comment and let me know.
Well, that's it. It's worth saying that you can make integration with all of these tools far easier by employing the browser plugins and extensions which many of these tools make available or have been provided by nice third parties. I use loads with Firefox 2.0 and have buttons for, right click to blog something, quick toolbar access to Notebook and a "new mail" notifier. This kind of breaks the model as you to have these installed on a machine, but they're nice to come home to after you've been using someone elses system for a while.

Oh and one more thing, if you can control what you install on your local systems and it's Firefox try Google Browser Synch. This means that all the Firefoxes you use can have the same remembered passwords, search history etc. Very clever.

If anyone has any other options, comments or things to add, please add a comment.