Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Groupthink not so smart

An interesting blog summarizing the fact that group brainstorming is less productive that the individual. From the blog:

Time and again research has shown that people think of more new ideas on their own than they do in a group. The false belief that people are more creative in groups has been dubbed by psychologists the ‘illusion of group of productivity”... because when we’re in a group, other people are talking, the pressure isn’t always on us and so we’re less aware of all the times that we fail to think of a new idea.

Does this also apply to programming? Does the best software architecture, the most innovative product ideas, come from one or two project 'architects' or from collective ownership a la XP?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Windows bumps Unix as top server OS

From yesterday's CNet:

Computer makers sold $17.7 billion worth of Windows servers worldwide in 2005 compared with $17.5 billion in Unix servers, IDC analyst Matthew Eastwood said of the firm's latest Server Tracker market share report. "It's the first time Unix was not top overall since before the Tracker started in 1996."

That is a very intetesting development. Windows seems to have overcome its traditional reputation of unreliable, or at least it is considered reliable enough. In my experience mainframe and some of the high-end (e.g. Sun) UNIX servers by far dwarf Windows reliability. Linux servers in the corporate environments still seem to struggle; I had many frustrating days at one large Investment Bank with Linux because of unscalable NFS stacks (had to wait until the one-and-only-one NFS developer got back from his summer vacation) and the buggy ClearCase file system port from Solaris. I'm also curious about which version of Windows is the main server environment; win2k was by far the most stable I've dealt with, win XP was a big step backwards in terms of reliability.

I'll blog about the shrink-wrap software market's effect of good enough reliability soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Microsoft to destroy cell phone business

Here is an interesting development: Microsoft plan to offer a Skype-style free internet voice service for mobile phones from wi-fi enabled phones running Windows Mobile software. This is similiar to a recently unveiled Skype phone that look like a standard cell phone but work over wi-fi. If cities offer free wi-fi services this technology could send many telcos broke (bad for their stock price). Free wi-fi is just starting to be debated in the US, with Philadelphia pushing ahead and NY holding out (although it is currently free at Bryant Park).

Indian IPOs a big success

Here are some interesting stats. Last year 32 Inidian companies went IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. How are they doing? Of a total of 32 issues, only 6 are in the red. More importantly, the average loss is ~13%, while the average gain is ~83%.

Monday, February 20, 2006

JarJar Links saves Naboo - and Java dependency packaging - again

One of the problems I faced at a client site recently was due to the success of open source software. What was the problem? Some software is so popular that everybody use it, but they use and depend on a particular version of that software. For example, everybody these days is using Apache Commons, Hibernate, etc. When you have to connect to multiple systems and each system has a dependency on a different version of the same third-party lib you can run into all sorts of problems depending on which version is picked up by the classloader (you Windows people remeber DLL Hell?).

I began writing a tool to modify Java bytecode that would rewrite package names of dependent libraries so that you could create a unique dependency (e.g. if your software has a package name com.x and depends on Apache commons, then rewrite the package name org.apache.commons to com.x.org.apache.commons), but as often happens, I found a tool that already does this. JarJar Links (no, not that marketing tool from the Phantom Menance) has some Ant tasks that do a very good job of rewriting package names.

Long live the Java Dependency Empire!

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Space Elevator: Going Up!

As a sci-fi fan I'm glag to see that the Space Elevator is getting closer and closer to reality. Such a technology will have a profound impact on space exploration/exploitation - and could see a giant shift in the economy of any country that can master it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Markets close up after Bernanke speaks!

Maybe for once the markets will close up after a new Fed chairman makes his first speech before congress (prepared remarks). The markets are up after day 1; one more day of speeches to go...

A back-handed compliment for the old chairman?

"We're going to miss Chairman Greenspan. No one talks like him -- and no one wants you to," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., told the new chairman.


In the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of speculation about Oracle buying JBoss. Some of the earlier articles suggested the purchase would allow Oracle to move towards a subscription-based model, but that didn't make a lot of sense to me. Yesterday the Oracle CEO rationed that the move was more about leveraging the ease of getting "low end" open source into a company, then offering commercial "high-end" mix-and-match upgrade options at production deployment time. IBM are experimenting with a similiar strategy by releasing WebSphere Community Edition, which is based on Apache Geronimo.

In the case of Oracle I would suggest this might be the first step in actually getting rid of their J2EE Application Server oc4j. In its short history there have been 3 code bases for oc4j - started from scratch twice, then lastly a fork of the Orion appserver. Despite being part of the massive Oracle 9i/10i stack, oc4j just hasn't gained much market share. Using JBoss as part of the stack would give them a much better chance at expanding market share in the mature J2EE market. LGPL license issues could make things very interesting :)

But, looks like JBoss is too expensive for Oracle or BEA to swallow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Notepad really, really sucks

After many years use and being bitten by its limitations I finally replaced crappy Notepad with the groovy open source Notepad2. This tool handles CR/LF between DOS/UNIX systems, decent Unicode switching, syntax highlighting for popular programming languages, mouse wheel zooming, column/line indicators, unlimited undo and more! The only thing it seems to struggle with is scrolling through large text files (eg. 10MB or more).

To replace Notepad with Notepad2 simply copy notepad2.exe to %windir%/system32/notepad.exe and - magic!

Now, if only Miscrosoft would fix Explorer text file search. Then I could completely ditch TextPad :)

Friday, February 10, 2006

The wild cry of a dying computer

One institute has been doing research on ways to represent server usage as sounds, based on the idea support staff may respond better to music than a bunch of graphs on a screen. As soon as the servers get near capacity the music changes from, say, classical to heavy metal (though some younger admins may prefer metal to be the normal condition :)) Reminds me of many years ago when I used to administer a bunch of Solaris servers. Every time one of the servers would reboot it would play the theme song of a TV show. Mission Impossible was the theme I heard the most (faulty CPU in that server).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Are contagious jokes random?

The Huffington Post Contagious Festival is an interesting competition. Remember all of those joke emails/links that are lifted from obscurity to almost global popularity for a week or two via word of mouth (or word of email)? The Post are holding a competition to see if someone can create such a phonemenon, or can this only happen at random? Some of the epidemics I remember from the past are This Land Is Your Land, Troops, Tourist Guy (9/11 photo) and the original episode of South Park.

Ice Skiing in the eastern USA

It is that time of year when the ski itch needs scratching. A few bruises later I am reminded of the typical ski weekend in eastern USA - ice, ice and more ice - at Hunter Mountain, snowmaking capital of the world. Hopefully there will be some cheap deals to Colorado in the next few months.

True Developer Dedication

The Graphing Calculator is a story of true dedication to finishing a project - even months after they have stopped paying the developers!