Author Archives: ian

J2EE and .NET servers weigh in J2EE and .NET servers weigh in.

An overview of J2EE vs. .NET, with the conclusion that both have their place and that Web services may make the debate moot by providing a layer of abstraction above them.

Notable observations:

“Where distinctions are drawn,” said Fricke, “is in the area of cross-platform support vs. multiple language support.” J2EE lists a number of supported operating systems to its credit, while .NET is firmly a Windows thing. Meanwhile, Fricke counts Java as the language of J2EE; and C#, C++, Visual Basic and Cobol as languages supporting .NET.

Style, or culture, is also at play here. The J2EE culture, according to Fricke, is more like that of mainframes and Unix, where some assembly is required. The .NET culture is more integrated, like that of AS/400 and NT, he said.


“.NET came later and had the advantage of being later,” said Fricke. Its creators were able to look at what J2EE creators had done. The accompanying drawback is that .NET is new, and developers and architects need to learn more about how it works in the wild.

And, said Fricke, .NET’s relative ease of development (with plentiful and useful program wizards) fades as large-scale, high-complexity applications are pursued. Those are, almost by definition, heterogeneous, and not a Microsoft strong suit. Also, “you can’t ‘wizard’ your way to a complex supply-chain app,” quipped Fricke, who added that “those advantages dissipate at that level.”


Although app server distinctions may be overstated, the app server will continue to be an area of interest, especially as operating systems come to be seen more as commodity items. The advent of Linux has, in part, lent credence to this notion.

Fricke and others note that operating systems are no longer the primary application platform for modern apps. Behind the scenes, a general decline in OS influence may be occurring in the market.

At the annual IDC Directions confab held recently in Boston, Paul Mason, the Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm’s group vice president for infrastructure software, enforced this idea. He said that by 2007, revenue for integration servers, application servers, Web servers and clustering software would combine to surpass server OS revenue.

This trend drives some packaging schemes that might not have been anticipated in the past. At the same time, it has moved to ease integration tasks of developers. Solaris and Java originator Sun Microsystems has formed combo packs of its SunONE server and Solaris OS. It is not lost on some that those tacks could come off Microsoft’s course chart.

RealNetworks to acquire

Let’s hope they don’t screw it up.

I’ve been a Rhapsody subscriber for several months now, and I can honestly say that I’ll never buy another CD again (unless Real screws Rhapsody up, anyway).

For those who haven’t heard of Rhapsody, it’s a service that gives you streaming access to tens of thousands of albums from thousands of artists and a first-rate interface to browsing and searching music and discovering new artists and genres. Their catalog isn’t complete, but it’s the most complete of any online music service I’ve tried (they have deals with all five of the major labels). To top it all off, the service is only $9.95 per month, less than the cost of a single CD in exchange for on-demand access to a catalog of thousands.

With Rhapsody, you can literally browse and search through their entire catalog with ease, and with a few clicks, start playing any of their songs in seconds, CD-quality. It is a fantastic service. I’ll go so far as to say that this is the way the music industry is going, whether they like it or not (and the answer here is probably “not” – we’re going to have to drag them kicking and screaming to our piles of money the same way we’ve had to do before).

The only drawback to Rhapsody is that the client is a Windows application, so I can’t run in on my Linux box; however, these days, I have a Windows machine sitting next to me most of the time, so that isn’t a huge problem. If Real does move Rhapsody away from Windows Media and to their own audio technology, that could pave the way for a Linux client, though I’m not holding my breath (RealPlayer and RealOne Player are still “unsupported” on Linux, but I guess they’re available at least).

From the article: “Critics note that its streaming subscription services, which recently added the ability to burn CDs, limit subscribers’ ability to download and listen to music while offline.” Given all the momentum surrounding wireless technologies, this is bound to be a short-term problem; in a few years, my stereo, car, and portable music players will all be on the Internet wirelessly, and I’ll be able to pipe my music to them just as easily as I can pipe it to my computer today. “Offline access” will be intermittent, and it’s a problem we’re going to have to solve for all of our digital content, not just our digital music.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that in five years, when everything is on the Internet wirelessly, CDs will disappear from the face of the earth just like cassette tapes have done since CDs became popular. Who wants to collect hundreds of plastic discs and shuffle them around just to listen to their favorite music? It’s pretty ridiculous once you stop to think about it. Going back to the observation above, to deal with intermittent offline access, would we burn other digital content to CDs, our documents and email and other information, and carry them around with us? No. And once we see the light, we won’t want to do this with our music either.

Mark my words.

From Zen and the Art

From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (pages 26-27):

I found the cause of the seizures a few weeks later, waiting to happen again. It was a little twenty-five-cent pin in the internal oil-delivery system that had been sheared and was preventing oil from reaching the head at high speeds.

The question why comes back again and again… Why did they butcher it so? These were not people running away from technology… These were the technologists themselves. They sat down to do a job and they performed it like chimpanzees. Nothing personal in it. There was no obvious reason for it…

… They were like spectators. You had the feeling they had just wandered in there themselves and somebody had handed them a wrench. There was no identification with the job. No saying, “I am a mechanic.” At 5 P.M. or whenever their eight hours were in, you knew they would cut it off and not have another thought about their work. They were already trying not to have any thoughts about their work on the job… they had something to do with it, but their own selves were outside of it, detached, removed. They were involved in it but not in such a way as to care.

Not only did these mechanics not find that sheared pin, but it was clearly a mechanic who had sheared it in the first place, by assembling the side cover plate improperly. I remember the previous owner had said a mechanic had told him the plate was hard to get on. This was why. The shop manual had warned about this, but like the others he was probably in too much of a hurry or he didn’t care…

Lots of this in the software business today, and it shows by how bad most software is.

Third time’s the charm…

All right. I’m back to Radio again after trying Blosxom for a few weeks. To recap:

On April 3, I decided to see if blogging could be a useful tool in my growing “personal knowledge management” toolbelt, so I downloaded a copy of Radio Userland and posted:

I’m giving this a try for a couple of reasons. One reason is that a great deal of attention has been given to “enterprise-class” knowledge management systems, but what about knowledge management on an individual level?

Everything I do during the day generates “knowledge” – that I emailed so-and-so about such-and-such, that I read an article about something, that I had a thought about how that article might impact something else I was doing.

However, the fact remains that it’s easier to find some obscure fact such as, say, who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1968 (incidentally, it was Cliff Robertson – Google helped me find that just now in less than 10 seconds) than it is to find that document I wrote last month or that email I received last week, let alone that thought I had last year.

The first step is to collect these useful scraps of information, and blogging seems like a reasonably good way to do it. We’ll see how well it works for me.

All that being said, the biggest question here is: Will I use this or won’t I? Will others read it? We shall see.

A few weeks later, on April 21, I switched to Blosxom at the suggestion of a co-worker and posted:

Thus far, the experiment has been a success, for the most part. After just a few weeks, I’m finding the news aggregator indispensable. I don’t think I’ve visited a news site once this past week; the news comes to me now. Going forward, I don’t think I’ll be able to live without something like this.

Also, Radio was great in that it helped me get up and running quickly; I never would have gotten started doing this if it weren’t for that. I just don’t have the time I used to to spend lots of time tinkering just to get to the point where I decide a new technology is useful. Besides, technology is supposed to save time, not consume it.

However, one thing that got in the way of success was Radio’s free-form entry interface. I’m sorry, but a web browser text entry form just doesn’t cut it as an editor. I found myself posting quite a lot from the news aggregator, but rarely adding my own thoughts simply because doing so was inconvenient. That kind of defeated the purpose of doing this, given that one of my stated goals was to find a way to collect my own thoughts over time, not just other peoples’.

Also, as it invariably does, the ease-of-use that made it possible to get up and running quickly got in the way as I got more comfortable with the idea of maintaining a weblog and wanted to go above and beyond the out-of-the-box experience. I’m a Unix guy, and I appreciate the ability to “peel back the onion” when I want and how I want. “Ease-of-use” and “powerful, flexible, and customizable” don’t have to be mutually exclusive, though they often are. Or, perhaps it’s a mindset problem (more about this when I have some time). Radio does seem quite hackable, but I just don’t “get it” (and other things) the way I get the Unix command line, as much as I try to get away from these stone age tools. Perhaps it just has to be a gradual process.

So, why did I switch back to Radio?

Predictably, as I invariably do, I got frustrated with the very power, flexibility, and customizability that drove me to switch to the “powerful, flexible, and customizable” solution in the first place. The key phrase in “I appreciate the ability to ‘peel back the onion’ when I want and how I want” is when I want and how I want. Blosxom gave me power, flexibility, and customizability, but not much else – for instance, I ended up doing basic content management tasks by hand (“OK, what should I name this post to make sure I don’t clobber some other post”). (I have to say, though, that the hacker in me is still in awe at the sheer beauty of an app with a plug-in architecture that is only a few hundreds line of code in total. Wow.)

Furthermore, my main complaint with Radio – the free-form entry interface – was easily alleviated by using the WYSIWYG HTML editor. The first go-round, I violated my own “use the right tool for the job” rule that I’m constantly preaching to the people who work for me and was trying to remotely access my Windows 2000 workstation running Radio from Mozilla on my Linux laptop, which meant I couldn’t use the WYSIWYG HTML editor, as it is an IE feature. The simple solution, of course, was to put Linux on my workstation and Windows on my laptop. Problem solved, though I suspect some wag will eventually ask me how I can dare do such a thing and work for “the Linux platform company” at the same time. More on this later, when I have some time…