Saturday, July 28, 2007

Doing good is an innovative program where teachers in underfunded schools can get support for educational projects. This is something that can really help kids in need in the US. Check out the site and if you are an Amex card holder, consider voting for them in the American Express Members Project final round: it only takes a couple of minutes and they stand to win $5 million to help out school kids.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Favorite "Blog"

Time is our most scarce resource. Due to this fact, I have a hit or miss record with keeping up with blogs. One of my favorite "blogs" that I try not to miss is the Expat Life journal kept by Alan Paul, an American expat in China. I am not sure if you require a subscription to read this or not, but I'm linking to the latest discussion of his Chinese language instructor's decision to become a Buddhist monk. It's worth reading (if you can) as a matter of pure interest:

I will try to follow up with some thoughts on Buddhism, ethics and theism when I have some more time. I recently finished reading two books by the Dalai Lama (which obviously reflect the Tibetan take on Buddhism) so this topic has been on my mind a lot recently, but have been thinking more broadly about Buddhist teachings for several years. I do not consider myself a Buddhist, but I do think this is an important "religion" to understand and I'll try to explain some of the implications that may be of interest to Western readers. I put religion in quotes as most Western religions are theistic: I consider Buddhism a very interesting and important school of philosophy and ethics, from which there is a much to learn.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Of interest to engineers

The subject of responsibility and professional ethics is a hot topic in business. It is also a key and sometimes under-appreciated aspect of engineering. A great case study in engineering ethics can be found in Joe Morgenstern's 1995 New Yorker article "The Fifty-Nine Story Crisis." Yes, engineers have responsibilities to make things right.

On the topic of engineering, I am continually impressed with the engineering ingenuity involved with mechanical watches. I wish every software developer thought like a watch designer: efficiency, size, and reliability are permanent constraints on feature development. For some wonderful examples of modern engineering, see two (commercial) overviews of recent work done by Jaeger LeCoultre: the ingenious gyrotourbillon and the revolutionary master compressor LAB.

Mathematics for the Non-Mathematician

Just a brief recommendation. I had an opportunity over the weekend to re-read parts of the extraordinary book Mathematics for the Non-Mathematician. The history of science gets quite a bit of coverage, less so the history of mathematics as an independent subject. This book simultaneously makes a strong case for an interest in mathematics as a subject, its inter-relationship with civilization and is just damned interesting to read. This is actually in my top-twenty recommended books for everyone.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

SOA platforms

Post updated with correct URL! A high level "white paper" on technology trending toward SOA platforms I wrote a while back, published on

Ibrahim Ferrer

Great review on NPR of Ibrahim Ferrer's posthumous album Mi SueƱo. Though there is some background on Ferrer in Wikipedia, it's quite weak. I recommend just buying this album and his work more generally: both are available on iTunes.

One iTunes nitpick: what is the deal with categorizing this music as "tropical"? This is some of the most seductive balladry available, combining elements of afro-caribbean, jazz, cuban, and just sweet melodies. I can't think of a better or more classy backdrop to a evening out -- or at home.

JEE done right?

Sun has been trying to figure out what to do keep pace with innovation in the Java space and especially in JEE. The current proposal adds profiles, which I generally like, since it moves JEE forward in one respect: JEE services a la carte and lighter weight application server technologies. My friend Rod Johnson thinks this is a really great thing and I expect to see Spring take full advantage of this trend.

On other fronts, Peter Kriens asks why Sun isn't leveraging OSGI to its full potential. Well, depends what you really mean there: most of his examples are for app server internals, which can use OSGI regardless of how oblivious the JEE specs are to OSGI standards. But still, with the Java module system being proposed, it does look like we may be in for a dose of infrastructure bifurcation. At a minimum, I'd like to see a coherent and comprehensible strategy in this area for Java.

And I am concerned that there is not a coherent plan for SCA integration into J2EE. In fact, I think the statement on using SCA in JEE is a travesty. What does the current proposal for JEE really mean? How will JEE application expose their interrelationships with other services? And will JEE applications be able to bundle SOA components like BPEL processes used for embedded workflows?

My view is that there are still some very fundamental things to be worked out. We can -- in fact we must -- do better.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

iPhone reaction

I've had the chance to play with the iPhone off and on for the last few days. Some quick thoughts:

First of all, I wildly underestimated the iPhone. It is unique and nothing else comes close. The ease of use and elegance is difficult to overstate.

Second, I am hoping that all iPods adopt this style: embedded macosx, wifi support and the large screen should be standard features. And thank the powers that be for flash memory: my iPod video hard drive lasted just long enough to go out of warranty.

Third, the Internet integration is just brilliant. I read the Wall Street Journal quite a bit on my Treo while traveling, and the experience on the iPhone is actually better than it is on my laptop computer. I feel like I'm reading the paper when I rotate the iPhone sideways and use the mobile content feed.

Fourth, the adaptive keyboard is also brilliant. It is not, however, a replacement for a real keyboard and from my limited experience, works better with the finger tips than the thumbs.

Fifth, the YouTube integration is horrible. Search is awful. At least let users comment back on videos. Not a big disappointment, but surprising.

Lastly, there is a lot missing. Top two items on my list: as far as I can tell, you can't do a bluetooth synch with a Mac laptop; no GPS. Means there will be plenty of room to grow features (and maintain margins) over the next year.

Slightly imperfect, this device puts the market to shame. I am disgusted every time I turn on my Treo now.