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.

Struts 2 is the new Mini

No matter what car you drive , the chances are it was influenced by the Mini. Introduced in the UK in the 1960’s a whole generation of families was crammed into a car that popularized the notion of front wheel drive. While small , it was practical and drove so well it even starred in films such as The Italian Job. Recently, a more modern version was released with none of the parts but all of the spirit of the Original.

Mini

We’ll come back to the Mini, but if you build websites using Java, then at some point you have used Struts. The original Struts is proof that a framework / project / product doesn’t have to be the best to be the most widely accepted. It just has to be in the right place at the right time, and ‘do what is says on the tin’ – in this case a fairly useful implementation of the ‘Model-View-Controller’ design pattern.

So what’s the link? Seeing the original Mini from the outside may bring a smile to your face, but on the inside it’s cramped and unfortable. You may have happy memories of websites you built using the original Struts, but lately your thoughts have been straying to more modern frameworks, perhaps with Ajax and integration with Spring built in.

This is where Struts 2 comes in. Like the Mini, it has (almost) none of the parts , but all of the Spirit of the original. It’s based on Webwork which sounds scary, but most Struts Drivers will be able to climb in , find the Struts.xml file and get the engine running within minutes. Struts 2 is easier to drive (JavaBeans instead of Action Forms), more powerful (it can use Ajax and JSF) and comes with more optional extras (e.g. it’s integration with other frameworks like Webwork and Spring).

Best of all the Struts team have a clear migration path between the old and new Struts. You can use both side by side in your garage application, and change over the parts piece by piece. Spare parts for the original Struts will still be available for quite some time, both from the original team and the large dealer developer network that has built up around the framework.

What do you think? When Are you going to give Struts 2 a try?

Everything you wanted to know about Business rules

If you’ve reading this blog for a while , you’ll know that I’m into Business Rules. You know, the logic (formal and informal) that are unique to each company / organisation and govern how an insurance claim gets settled , the price you pay for an airline seat, or how your order from Amazon get’s shipped. Rule Engines are a way of getting this knowledge out of people’s heads and into a computer.

Artimis Alliance

Rules are a very simple idea (you just state what you know to be true), but rule engines are not. Ironically, the problem most people have is ‘this is to simple to work’. If you want to get find out more more, the ‘Down to Earth Business Rules blog’ from Artemis Alliance is a good place to start.
They also have a Squidoo Lens (a set of links to other resources) that is worth looking at.

You know nothing about Project Management

I’ve written and presented quite a bit about Agile Project management, but I’ve to recognize that these guys are experts. This PDF is a 90 Page guide to Scrum and XP Project Management, written in a way that both Business and Technical people can understand.

Crisp OO Consultants Logo [Link to crisp OO and Java consultants]
It’s clear , it’s honest , and more importantly , it’s not trying to sell you anything (Rational consultants, you know who you are). Ok, they’re not trying to sell you anything , not unless you’re in the market for a bit of OO consultancy in Sweden.

Two posts about Oracle in One Day?

Two posts about Oracle in One Day? Must be going mad.

Sql Developer Logo

I’m using Oracle Sql Developer (formerly Raptor). It’s a nice little tool to view information on an Oracle Database (and much better than Sql Plus, which was a throwback to the 1970’s). Maybe it doesn’t have all the power of Toad or Sql Navigator, but that doesn’t matter , it’s free , can run anywhere (it’s Java based) and does most of what you need.

The reason for the post? Opened it up today, and found that it has an auto-update feature (a la Eclipse). It now has support for Oracle Reports , Oracle Data mining as well as a nifty Sql formatter. It will be interesting how Quest software responds to this!

The main reason for using Sql Developer as a Java person is that allows you to test your connections; simple copy and paste your JDBC Url from your Java application, and hit the ‘test’ button. No longer do you have to pull your hair out as to why your lovely ajax web application no longer works , only to find somebody has changed the DB username and password!