Enterprise Java Developer Wanted

A good friend of mine needs an Enterprise Java Developer, to be based in Dublin Ireland (sorry , no Teleworking). It’s a contract position and the project is high profile and sounds quite interesting. The main reason I’m passing on it as the exact location is the only place where I cannot get to easily from Drogheda! One man’s poison is another man’s meat (or something like that).

With that information (i.e. next to none at all) I’m going to ask you if you’re interested. Yes , I could put all the buzzwords (the usual Spring , Ajax, JSF, EJB , Hibernate), but to be honest I don’t know where the technology road will take this project.

One small catch. We need to weed out all the muppets that are out there. So, you need to have been blogging about Java for the last couple of months. If you’re interested , leave a comment and I’ll pass on your details.

Dear Bruce Eckel : Hybrid Java, Google Web Toolkit and Adobe Flex

Dear Bruce,

First up, thanks for the book. Yes I’m saying thank-you about 8 years too late. ‘Thinking in Java‘ is what got me going in the language and in my mind is one of the best Java books written (sorry Tim). Giving it away free only cemented your reputation as the Bono of the Java world. OK, Bono without the Guitar, the Stetson and with a couple of overloaded constructors thrown in, but a man of stature nonetheless.

Thinking in Java Front Cover

Secondly, I’ll forgive your flirtations with Python, on the basis that I’ve been having an affair myself with JRuby. I now understand the pain that you’ve been having at home, the endless repetitive arguments to get simple things done, and the temptation of a newer, younger, more flexible model.

So , I think you’re onto something here in your blogpost. I can feel the pain, the need to deliver Rich clients to users over the web. I think that Ruby / Google Web Toolkit / Struts 2 / Name your web toolkit has further to go than you may think , but eventually these ‘heroic efforts‘ (nice quote) will run out of steam. On the basis of your recommendation alone I’m willing to look at Adobe Flex, but I’m not sure if this is going to solve all the problems.

Now , a lot of us Java guys don’t like change (and as if you needed proof, just look at the comments on this O’Reilly blogpost on the Google API’s). All the same , we have a problem that gets worse every passing year. 6 Years ago we could have been sure that 90% of web sites were running Internet Explorer 4. Now we’ve got IE, Firefox, Safari (in all their different versions) as well as an explosion of mobile devices. The Windows Vista launch is only going to fragment things further with yet another platform to support.

No one web solution is going to display the same in all of these browsers. We’re not going to get a single solution from Microsoft / Sun / Adobe that everybody from developer to my Granny is going to install. So we’re going to have to take the ‘least bad’ route – something that looks great, but degrades gracefully to standard HTML on less capable devices. Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know (yet) if Flex does this.

Yes Hybridizing open source Java is the starting point for the solution. Unfortunately we’ve a long way to go yet, and Flex is perhaps only inspiration along the way.

Yours sincerely

Paul

Motorola, Logica and Irish Economy

RTE, The Idiot, Infactah, and Eirjobs are writing that Motorola all to cut it’s software jobs in Cork.

Motorola Logo

First of all, I’ve been in this sort of ‘waiting for the axe to fall‘ situation and it’s not nice. It’s not nice losing your job, and it’s not nice having to wait 6 months or so until the plant actually shuts down. It’s not nice wondering where the next mortgage payment is coming from.

In my case I was working for Dell in Dublin , when they decided to move their entire Public Sector Sales organisation to the UK (made commercial sense, couldn’t argue with the decision). The worst part was dragging yourself in to work to face your colleagues in an atmosphere of gloom – and this was when everyone was promised (and got) internal transfers.

The Irish Indo (Registration required) is reporting that this will send ‘shockwaves through the Irish software Industry‘. It’s big news , but we’ve been here before and we will be here again. Motorola axed most of it’s radio division in Swords in the late 90’s. Logica (also in the mobile Telecoms area) once employed close to 1000 in the IFSC in Dublin, but are now down to (barely) double digits.

Some anecdoes about the upside of both these major layoffs :

  • A large part of the Motorola management Team ended up working in Navan for Case (the big red tractors). While tractors may not be as sexy as phones (leave a comment if you disagree), they were a key part in getting a new Startup into the area.
  • Most of the Logica people found jobs , after a difficult interim period (this was the dot com crash after all). There now exists a ‘Logica Mafia’ that useful to tap into if want to connect to anybody in the Telecoms – Software development world.

The other interesting thing was the number of people who found jobs outside of the ‘traditional software industries. One team of ten people, had only 2 that were in software development 5 years later. The rest used their redundancy cheque to train as teachers, start their own business , travel to Australia and New Zealand …

Not a nice place to be lads. But it will get better.

Java and those pesky Google APIs

Recently one or two people disagreed with what I had to say about the impact that the Google, Amazon (and other) API’s will have on Java. Considering the ratio of positive to negative comments (about 3 for and 30 violently against), I obviously need to express myself in a clearer way. The link to the original post is at the end of this article, read on before you consider flaming me.

Amazon Web Services Logo

So , deep breath , here goes.

Compare the the way you develop now , with the way you built software 10 years ago. Do you remember having to manage your own memory? Or the pain of trying to deploy your software on different machines without a JVM? Or the hassle of trying to write distributed software using Corba? Or using a text editor instead of the fine IDE’s (Eclipse, Netbeans or JDeveloper – take your choice) that we have today? Would you consider building your software without a tool like Ant or Maven?

(Shudder). Things have moved on ,and I am very glad they have. Likewise, the way we develop 10 years into the future will be very different. I don’t know what the future will look like, but here’s a simple guess.

The biggest trend today is the move from software running on your computer , to software being delivered over the web. I’m not talking about the buzzwords being thrown about regarding ‘Service Orientated Architecture’ or ‘Enterprise Service Bus’. I’m talking about simple API’s that are available for use over the web today. Like the API’s and products from Google – including their Documents and Spreadsheets, and their Authentication service.

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler’ – Albert Einstein

‘You Ain’t Gonna Need it’ – Anon, XP Mantra

As a good Agile Developer you’d probably agree with these quotes. But what if the most simple way of doing things was not to develop in Java at all? Most people don’t build their own operating system – they use Linux, Windows or OS X instead. Most people don’t write their own Java Server – they use Tomcat, JBoss or your server of choice. The pattern is the same. A small, dedicated core of developers builds the product, and the rest of us say ‘thank you very much’ and use it to get things done.

This range of ‘off the shelf’ solutions is increasing all the time , even before the online services arrived on the scene. As a Java developer , you’ve said ‘thank you’ , downloaded the latest version and integrated it into your solution. The time you save means you deliver other cool features instead. Java is very good at this ‘download and integrate’ process – not only is it a key benefit of Object Orientated Software, but Java has the widest range of solutions available (if you don’t believe me , just check out Sourceforge).

Java can also let us build our solutions (either partly or fully) around the online API’s. Java has great networking and XML handling ability already. In time this will become as normal as the idea of using a JVM. Great – we use these API’s pretty much like we do libraries today, and we can continue developing pretty much as before, right?

Wrong.

Remember, what is the most simple way of doing things? What if the most simple way of doing things was not to use Java but to use a more simple language (like Ruby or PHP) instead? Until now there were a couple of advantages that Java had over these ‘simple’ (and that’s a compliment) languages. When using online API’s these advantages disappear, or worse, become a liability.

  • Scalability and Robustness. Enterprise Java is massively scalable (it’s one of the reasons for it’s complexity). But can even you outscale Google?
  • Security. Enterprises haven’t (yet) learned to trust the security of online applications. This trust will be hard earned over time. But already you can make the argument that you data is safer with Google / Amazon / other service provider than on your average virus-ridden home PC.
  • Language Ties. To use the Java libraries you needed a JVM somewhere in your solution. Once you had a JVM , you might as well write your own solution in Java. But when the product you are extending is hosted elsewhere, you are free to code in the (most simple) language of your choice.
  • Always on. As long as you have a connection to the web, your programs can use the API’s. Scripting languages like Ruby and Python can claim to be even more portable. Not only can they run natively in most environments, they can also be deployed via a JVM if that is your choice (under the guise of JRuby and Jython)
  • Features. Need a feature that you don’t have in your scripting language? Just borrow it from Java by running in the JVM. How can Java win a ‘features arms race’ against that?

So do we face a form of developer apartheid, where a ‘hard core’ of Java Experts develop web API’s that the rest of us use via scripts? Let me know what you think. Like the original blogpost said, it may not be the end of Java, but perhaps the end of Java as we know it.

Irish Blogger lynched on O'Reilly site for comparing Google Spreadsheets with Java

There are times when Web2, blogging , feedback from readers and the wisdom of crowds is great. And there are times that it’s extremely painful.

OnJava Logo
Like this Blogpost I wrote over on the O’Reilly site. Do Google Spreadsheets mean the end of Java?

I expected some people to disagree with me , but at least disagree for good reasons. The key point, that Web 2, it’s applications (of which Google spreadsheets is only ) and their API’s will fundamentally change the way we solve business problems using IT has been lost in the knee-jerk reaction.
Copy of the blog post here.

Bar room brawl forecast for the Irish Blog Awards …

Seems that both Michele and Tom will be at the Irish Blog Awards (but not the Barcamp in Waterford this Saturday). Tom’s not happy with his hosting. Make that Tom is very unhappy with the hosting. Will it all end in a barroom brawl in the basement of the Alexendar hotel?
My own opinion is that all hosting contracts, like politics, end in tears. I’ve sympathy with Tom , having recently been in a similar situation. In my case , I have nobody to blame but myself:

  • I should have backed up my files if they were that important to me.
  • You get what you pay for. In my case , I was on shared hosting for next to nothing. I was unhappy , but not surprised when it fell over.

Overall , I can understand , but I’m slightly disappointed with Tom. He’s the closest thing we have to an ‘A-List blogger’. With that power comes responsibility – I wouldn’t diss a companies hard-won reputation (even though they may deserve it) without thinking over ‘what could I have done better’)
Note, I don’t host with Blackknight and have no connection to them.

Google Spreadsheets Mean the end of Java

Or to be more accurate ‘Google Spreadsheets mean the end of Java as we know it’.
Google Spreadsheets Logo
Think about this. Who pays your wages Mr Java-Developer-who-has-just-had-a-couple-of-years-at-the-top-of-the-pile? Clients, or if you’re in a larger organisation , the business folks (i.e.’internal’ clients). Do you think any of them care about Java? Do any of them know what Java is? All they want is to get things done, quickly , and with as few mistakes as possible.

These business people would be happy to run their organisations on Spreadsheets. Do you remember the cartoon where Dilbert convinced the pointy haired boss that he could fly the plane using Excel? There’s more than a element of truth to this. I know of at least one US Fortune 100 company that (until recently) conducted most of it’s operations on little more than Microsoft Office and duct-tape. It worked, not very well, but it worked.

Until now , the next line would be ‘Excel (or any other type of Spreadsheet) is not secure / scalable / sharable / not web friendly’. That was until Google launched their Docs and Speadsheets. It’s an online version of Office with some spreadsheet functionality. Play with it a bit and you’ll see that there’s plenty missing. But this being Google , I’m willing to put good money on

  • (a) new features rolled out (think steamroller) and
  • (b) These Spreadsheets being massivly scalable / secure / sharable.

This being Google, there is also an API (developer page here). It’s got massive holes in it (e.g. you can’t yet use it to create a new spreadsheet). But when Microsoft bring out their version of online spreadsheets (and they will) not only will they clone the Google API (to get market share), they’ll need to go one further and introduce new features / remove the usage restrictions in order to compete.

So, secure, scalable, sharble online spreadsheets are here to stay. So lets take a look at Mr. (or Ms.) Pointy haired boss thinking about their new project:

  1. Hmm, I think we need to be able to gather which health plans our employees are enrolled in.
  2. OK, I’ll throw together a spreadsheet to show people what I want
  3. Before I’ll give to our friendly Java developer and let him ‘do’ a website from it.
    Soon I’ll just share this on Google.
  4. Great , Loads of people are now using it, I’ll just the (Ruby / PHP / Insert other language here) guy to add one or two extra features.
  5. Most Excellent. Why don’t we spin this off as a Web 2 company and sell it to EBay??

There you have it, Massively scalable , Highly secure websites (see Google Authentication API), without needing to know anything about EJB, JMX , JBoss, JDBC or any of the hard won knowledge that us Enterprise Java Developers have built up over the last 7-8 years. I’m exaggerating, but not much.

What do you think? Is Enterprise Java dead, or is Web 2 just another boost and a slightly different way of doing things for us Java people?

Other Java Posts from Technology in Plain English

Some other notes:

This article was originally published on the O’Reilly books OnJava Website.

Grabbing people's brains and shoving them into a PC

It didn’t go down too well when an elderly relative asked me over Christmas ‘what exactly do you do?’. After fobbing him off with the usual ‘something in computers’, he was shocked to find out that I spend most of my time ‘Grabbing people’s brains and shoving them into a PC’.

This kind of blog-related-violence is normally associated with Twenty-Major (Warning , Parential Guidance required , unless you’re over 80), so before you call the police , let me explain.

Look at your hands. Unless they’re scarred and calloused (from the weekend’s DIY) the chances are that you work in the knowledge economy. You could work for a Bank , Insurance company, Legal company or be a medical professional but most of your work consists of one thing:  You push pieces of paper around that have some magical value.
Or you would push pieces of paper around if it hadn’t all been computerised in the last 10 years. Now you swap files and emails to get things done.  And you swear on a regular basis when the computer can’t find the information you’re looking for, or someone doesn’t understand the email you sent them. But the important bit, the information processing,  still remains in your brain.
Red Piranha Logo

Which brings us to Red-Piranha (site update in progress) and the shoving of people’s brains into a computer. While we can copy an MP3 music file (with Adam’s and Bono’s imagination in it) and send it around the world, but we can’t photocopy your brain. We don’t want all of it, just the part that gets the magical value-added work done. The bits about drinking beer and playing volleyball on the beach we’ll quite happily leave with you.

So this is what Enterprise Web 2.0 is all about : getting the computer to take a load off your brain so that you’ll have more time to spend on the beach drinking beer. Chapter 3 (draft) of our Enerprise Web book has just been put online, which shows you exactly how to do this.

Irish Consultants .ie

I don’t normally post as the result of a mass email, but this is one of the more useful ones.

Irish Consultants Logo

Ken of Calmar has just sent out information on Irish Consultants .ie - it does exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s not just for Information Technology Consultants (where yours truly lives), but the site also covers:

  • Advertising & Media
  • Archaeological
  • Design
  • Environmental
  • Financial
  • General Management
  • Health & Safety
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Legal
  • Marketing
  • Property Management
  • Public Relations
  • Research & Development
  • Risk Management
  • State & Semi State Agencies
  • Training & Development

Basic listing is free, although a ‘premium’ listing costs around 300 Euro. That sounds a very ‘Web 2′ business model , even if the site (thankfully) doesn’t use those words!

Next time you get worried about offshoring …

… have a read of this instead. Ireland is probably unique in having , within the last 10 years , benefited hugely from offshoring (why do you think all the US Companies are here?), then benefited again from being about to offshore work itself.

Thanks to Bill for the link.

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