Sunday, March 26, 2006

Shutdown, lights off

I know this probably seems sudden - but I'm not going to be blogging here any more.

As of now, my blog is moving to - come and find me at the new The lost outpost.

Don't forget to update your RSS reader - my new feed is here.

There will be more about the change over at the new blog in the near future.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Flickr Code

My Flickr Code – F6 l c+(d) f g sc m++ s(e)
Find Your Flickr Code

Renewing car tax online

UK-based readers who haven't had to renew their car tax lately may be interested to know that when you get the renewal notice from the DVLA, it now includes information on how to go about doing so on the Internet - avoiding the queues in the Post Office. In fact it also avoids the need to dig out your insurance and MOT documents.

You simply go over to and enter your reference number. The system checks your insurance and MOT are up-to-date automatically, and you can then pay online.

How well this will work in practice remains to be seen - I suspect it will depend on how long it takes for the new tax disc to arrive in my letter box, since I need a new one by the end of the month. However, this is the first time I've actually been impressed by a so-called "e-Government" / Directgov service, at least in terms of the ease of use. Fingers crossed the disc arrives and doesn't ruin my impression of the service.

Another nice surprise was that under the new VED rules that came out in the Budget on Tuesday, the cost for my car has actually gone down by £5 per year. Not that that would ever be enough for me to vote for Mr "squeeze 'em 'til the pips squeak" Brown, but it was a small bonus.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fedora Core 5 and nVidia drivers

As of now, to get nVidia drivers working on FC5, you have to jump through hoops. This has partly to do with the FC5 kernel and partly to do with the driver....

[Via Eudyptula minor]

Well, that puts off my upgrade to FC5 for a while.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Information roadmap for WebSphere Message Broker

I've just come across an excellent resource for WMB - the developerWorks Information Roadmap. I don't know how I've never seen this before. It's an excellent resource, bringing together product manuals, Supportpacs, developerWorks articles, tuning and performance information... well worth a visit if you are a broker practitioner. Slightly disappointed that my article on Dynamically updating Web Service interfaces is not listed, I'll have to get in touch with the dW editors.

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The seive-like qualities of Firefox 1.5

I'm sitting here on a train. No network connection.

I pop open the Windows Task Manager and sort by memory usage.

firefox.exe sits at the top of the list, using 433,312K of memory with a VM size of 445,100K. In the time it took me to type that, Mem Usage grew to 433,372K. CPU is at anywhere up to 10%.

To be fair, I have 33 tabs open (including James Governor's interesting thoughts on Open Source messaging, which I've not got around to responding to).

I've been round this loop before, and people have told me, no, Firefox is fine, must be your extensions. Fair point, I have 34 of them. So a few weeks ago, I disabled about half of them. Hasn't helped. Guess I'll just have to disable the other half, and try again.

Mem Usage now 439,088K and rising. Leaky, leaky, leaky.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Movie time

We had a small and belated family celebration of my advanced age on Sunday. Among the gifts was the DVD of Sin City.

It's a stunningly shot film. Time and time again I found myself wondering just how they'd managed to get the different effects to work. I know a little of Frank Miller's work, and this seemed very true to the style.

Very, very grim to watch, and horribly violent. At first I found that OK, because it was done in a comic book style... but it did become a bit much. I'm not a huge fan of violent imagery, and although the visual style and music were both compelling, I'm not sure how often I could rewatch this.

I also thought the story and format of the film was a bit reminiscent of one of my all-time least favourite films (now there's a controversial statement), Pulp Fiction. Surprise surprise, Tarantino was a "guest director" on Sin City. The way the story split, parts ran out of chronological order, and came back together, reminded me of Tarantino. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Apparently there's an extended version available on DVD, that splits the stories out separately rather than having them intertwined.

Sounds like Sin City 2 and Sin City 3 (and probably more) are on the way. I know one person in our family won't be watching it, as she positively hated this first installment. I'm going to have to think about whether I can cope with the next one...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Review of ESB suites

Network Computing have published their full comparative review of ESB software from a number of different vendors. You may remember that one of the product reviews they ran earlier in the series was for WebSphere Message Broker, which I responded to in a blog post.

Message Broker scores C+, which in my opinion is surprising. I find it remarkable that the product scored relatively low on routing, transformation, and protocol support - especially when the earlier review was pretty positive in these areas. It was marked down on orchestration, which is not so surprising since WebSphere Process Server is the BPEL engine that provides that kind of support. As one of my colleagues has pointed out, the author of the review admits elsewhere that the question of whether an ESB should support BPEL is somewhat contentious, so it is remarkable that orchestration is the single largest weighted factor in the comparison.

It is a shame that there is no score for performance, as my gut feeling is that Message Broker would probably have scored 6 out of 5 on that measure :-)

The other interesting article published a short while ago is Network Computing's market analysis of the ESB.

Update: a colleague just pointed out that the comparison doesn't include MS Biztalk, which is slightly disappointing.

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Encroaching on freedom

I missed this news item from last week, but it seems that people in London are now under more surveillance than they were previously, via the Oyster card system.

Dead computer

We had a power cut on Saturday. We've had them before, but generally they have been momentary blips of less than a minute. This time the power went off, and it didn't seem to want to come back. I called the power company, and was told that yes, there was a fault, and that if it hadn't come back within 4 hours, to call again. As it happened, everything burst back into life within about 50 minutes.

Unfortunately I don't have an Uninterruptible Power Supply. On this occasion, when the power came on my workhorse P3 server came straight back into life and booted fine. My top-of-the-range Athlon 64 (Gigabyte K8VNXP motherboard) machine went bang, and smoke came out of the power supply.

Off I went to Maplin to buy a new PSU. I opted for a 650W unit with plenty of fans. Having fitted it, I thought all would be happier. However, now when I plug the machine in, it spontaneously starts (I don't need to touch the power button). The graphics card information is displayed on the screen, there's a beep, but the BIOS information is never displayed, and the machine starts again. This happens two or three times, then it seems to decide to take a rest, and may pop back into life again a few minutes later for another attempt or two.

I've tried reseating all the cards... I've tried removing the memory and reseating it (plugging it in without memory resulted in multiple panicky beeps, so I guess the motherboard knows that something is going on). I can't figure what is dead. It could be the board itself has suffered damage, or maybe the CPU, or the memory... or even the power switch on the case, I suppose.

I'm looking at going down the route of a new motherboard, but technology has moved on. I've got a range of PCI cards that I'm happy with, so I don't want a PCI-Express board. Socket 754 is no more, so it's a new CPU, and I would like an Athlon 64 X2. I also want something to support Linux. So I'm thinking about an Abit AV8 Third Eye board, which has been discontinued but is still widely available... and I'm counting on my existing RAM being OK. Not sure what else I can do. I'm annoyed, but it is at least partly my fault. I really must get a UPS.

Update: I've cracked it. It's the power switch. Fortunately this means that I don't have to order a new motherboard when the existing one works fine. It does mean that I have to figure out how to wire a new switch into my case, or buy a new one. Suggestions, anyone?

Friday, March 17, 2006

WMB updates of note

I've already commented on the fact that fixpack 2 for Message Broker File Extender is available... just in case you missed it, I'm mentioning it again :-)

Two interesting SupportPacs have recently been updated:
  • IA0X FTP Server Input Node: I've played with this previously, but not used it in a real situation. As soon as I get some time to have a look at this, I'm going to try out the new version (which now works with v6). Once I've done so, I'll share any interesting discoveries here.

  • IA98 TCP/IP Nodes: now these, I have used for real... they are mentioned in passing in an older blog entry. Although there is some effort involved in understanding the way that TCP/IP itself works, once you have got your head round the basics, I've found that these nodes work well. Great to see that John Reeve has updated them for version 6.

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More news in brief

Random interesting things from around the web that I've been looking at this week:

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