Monday, February 27, 2006

Sametime 7.5 rocks!

The IBM Lotus website has just been updated with more information about Sametime 7.5, the forthcoming major update to the Sametime chat client. I've been using IBM Community Tools internally for a while now, and many of the features are going to make it into Sametime 7.5. I can't wait for the new version. There are plenty of screenshots to whet your appetite.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

No longer #1 on Google

For at least a few days recently, this weblog was the top hit for my name on Google. Today, it is suddenly down to fifth or sixth, and all of the hits above it are unrelated to this Andy Piper. I have no idea how this has happened - but then, I also have no idea how I made the number 1 slot in the first place. Oh well. Ego-surfing back on pause for a while.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Google's latest - Google Page Creator

Google Page Creator is an online tool that lets you create static web content. Google will then host it for you at [yourGoogleId] You get 100Mb of hosting space.

Interesting to see where Google is going with this. Do you want them hosting your content? And how much does this differ from Blogger and other blog hosting sites?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Flickr eyecandy

So you've been bitten by the Flickr bug. You update your photostream regularly. Wouldn't it be great if your screensaver could show you your pictures, your favourites, those of your contacts, or others based on tags or groups? I've found two good Flickr screensavers:

I'd love one for Linux...

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The end of SWT? Mustang kicks back

One of the big annoyances I always had with Java was how bad rich client / desktop applications looked. They can be ugly, and even with Swing, the look and feel often never quite matched the native desktop... this was particularly true on Linux, and I was also disappointed with the lack of antialiased (smoothed) fonts for Swing GUIs on Windows until recently. has some screenshots of the new GTK look and feel that is due to come along in Mustang (aka Java 1.6), and it does seem that it is likely to be a much better match for my Linux GNOME desktop.

Of course, this isn't enough to sway me away from SWT, which always looks completely native, and as a programming framework it gets richer by the day. developerWorks has an article comparing AWT, Swing and SWT, and a tutorial on how to migrate your applications from Swing to SWT.

Dynamically update Web service interfaces using WebSphere Message Broker

An article that has been in the works for quite some time has been published on IBM developerWorks. It describes how to use a message flow to automatically download a WSDL file from a remote source, extract the schema definition, compile it as a message set, and redeploy the message dictionary to a running Message Broker.

It is really great to see so much material on Message Broker (and the rest of the WebSphere family) being published recently. Do take a look at developerWorks, there is some fantastic material there.

This is my debut as a developerWorks contributor, although I should thank Ben Thompson for doing most of the work of making our idea into something publishable. Many thanks to the developerWorks editorial team, too. Look out for more from me on developerWorks in the near future.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Canon announces the 30D - is it "new" enough?

According to PhotographyBLOG, Canon has just announced the EOS 30D, after months of speculation about what the successor to the 20D would look like.

My only concern is, is it a new product for the sake of having one? The principal improvement appears to be the larger LCD (I'm a fan of larger LCDs on cameras in general, so this is not a bad thing provided that the battery life remains reasonable). Apart from that there are the Picture Styles that are now available in the 5D, and a selectable 3fps/5fps frame rate. The EOS 20D has been hugely popular and successful, but I would have thought that such a small incremental update is not likely to tempt people to upgrade from the existing model. Maybe it will help to win some people over from a Nikon system (I doubt it) or be appealing to those moving from compacts (I have to admit that if I didn't have the 350D and I had a bit of extra cash, I'd be buying a 30D).

No reference on the Canon website yet, but I'm sure that will come.

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Gluing myself together

I don't know if anyone else has come across Suprglu yet (why is it that after Flickr, everyone has to drop the 'e'?).

The premise behind Suprglu is that many people have a Flickr account, various RSS and ATOM feeds flowing from sites like (it supports a whole range of default sources, plus any feed you want to add), and at least one blog, maybe more. By registering with Suprglu, you can build a composite site which aggregates all of those sources into a single page. So, if you visit my Suprglu site, you'll find my latest photos from Flickr interspersed with posts from my external blog. Like Blogger, Suprglu is themable.

The only big problem is that it seems to lag behind by 24-48 hours.

WAS CE - a good looking update

I just installed version of WebSphere Application Server Community Edition, which is based on Apache Geronimo v 1.0

The admin console for this release has had a significant revamp, with some nice icons added to the GUI. It has some very useful functionality (I like the log viewer in particular).

Unfortunately (and foolishly) I ignored the warning not to install over the top of an existing installation, and pressed Next after the installer had told me to choose an alternative install path or uninstall first. As a result, I lost my existing server configuration. Fortunately, it was trivial to redeploy the sample JMS application I've been playing with:

C:\WebSphere\CE\bin> deploy --user [user] --password [pword] deploy ..\samples\jmssimple\sender.war

Sadly, I haven't had a chance to try out the Eclipse plugin yet... but this looks like a nice step forward.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Back from a week in Devon

There's an organisation in the UK (I think they have branches in a few other countries, too) called The Landmark Trust, which restores old properties and makes them available for hire by private individuals and parties. Last week, we stayed in one of their largest properties, Wortham Manor in west Devon.

Wortham Manor Master bedroom Great Hall

(naturally, there are more photos over on Flickr)

February is a slightly cold, wet and windy time to be going on this kind of holiday, but we had a great time along with a group of 13 friends. The walking and the photography opportunities were good; the food was fantastic. It didn't rain all the time, either. A shame to have to come back. We're looking at alternative Landmark Trust venues for our next trip - highly recommended.

Anyway, that explains the slight interruption in normal blogging service. More soon, once I've got through the email backlog.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Googlewhacking WebSphere Message Broker

Googlewhacking is the game of trying to find a search query with only one result.

Looking through the referrals for the past few days, it turns out that right now, my blog is the single result for the search phrase "javacompute supportpac".

I guess posting this means that it won't stay that way for long.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Choosing a digital compact camera

My mother has wanted a digital camera for some time. She primarily wanted one for taking shots of her granddaughter. I think she became convinced that digital cameras are a) not as scary as all that and b) capable of perfectly decent print quality. In fact she's pretty good with trying technology - she has a PC, uses e-mail and the web... reasonably basic, but she's prepared to give new things a go.

On Saturday we went out to Lakeside shopping centre. One of the things my mother wanted to do whilst I was with her was to look at cameras. She'd saved some money to get one, although I had to point out that you have to account for memory cards in the initial outlay, so she didn't have quite as much as she thought she did to spend. I'd already determined the following criteria for helping us to decide on an appropriate model:

1. Ease of use. It had to be point-and-shoot, and make as many of the functions as easy to use as possible. Knowing the kinds of options available on cameras these days, I didn't think she'd ever use all of the functions anyway - so the basics had to be straightforward to use and understand.

2. Large screen. I was aiming for a 2.5 inch screen, since I knew larger would be better - my mother's eyesight is OK right now, but I still didn't want her squinting at a smaller screen. She's seen other cameras with big screens, too, and liked those. Of course, the larger the screen, the shorter the battery life and the more expensive the camera, so I knew this might lead to compromises.

3. Good quality images. I'm not fooled by the megapixel myth and know full well than more MP alone does not make a sharper image, but I was still thinking in terms of 5MP so that she could make some decent-sized prints if she took photos that she liked.

4. Not a Sony. The reason? Simply, the memory sticks. They cost more than SD / CF, for no appreciable reason. In terms of other brands, ideally a Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Olympus or some similar quality, well-known manufacturer.

My ideal for a digital compact would probably be a Canon Ixus 750, but that was substantially beyond our price range. We took a trip to Photo Optix[1], which is where I bought my Canon EOS 350D last year. The lady there was happy to discuss the requirements, and let us play with a Nikon Coolpix of some description (right price, but 1.8 inch screen, 4MP - so not ideal), and a Pentax Optio S55. I'd not considered a Pentax, and didn't know much about the Optio range. It did fulfil all of the criteria. Before we purchased I dashed out to another shop to flick through the camera magazines, and the model got a reasonable review - no major flaws, and good quality. Photo Optix also did a case, batteries plus charger, SD card and 3 year warranty for half price, just exceeding our budget but working out pretty well.

The only issue I had with the camera was that the PC software didn't seem particularly friendly to beginners - it ships with a copy of ACDSee for Pentax. I'll look around for something a bit more straightforward to use, ACDSee seemed to expose more options than strictly necessary. I'd be interested in anyone else's experiences with this software.

Anyway... choice made, and so far, so good. We'll have to see how she gets on with it.

[1] the Photo Optix website really needs some love, compared to retailers like Jessops or Warehouse Express. One thing I will say for them is that their staff have always been very attentive, helpful, and knowledgeable. Prices on memory cards are not very competitive, but in general I've been happy with their service so far.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Database shootout

Following on from my posting about DB2 Express-C, I was very interested to read an article comparing Cloudscape/Derby with MySQL. Cloudscape is a slightly different product to both DB2 Express and MySQL, since it can be embedded inside your application and doesn't need any specific administration tools. The database is hidden from the user. This can be a huge advantage, depending on your application requirements.

For example, in WebSphere Message Broker version 6, the Configuration Manager now uses Cloudscape instead of DB2 to store its information. This means that it is easily portable (it now runs on all of the WMB supported platforms), and you don't need to install and use DB2 if you don't want it.

Take a look at Cloudscape, also known as Apache Derby, if you are interested in a lightweight embeddable database. If you need something a bit bigger and don't mind some administration, DB2 Express-C is worth a look.

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I've been revisiting some of the images I took last summer. So far, one of the results has been a small series of pictures of butterflies. All of these were taken on one particular great day in Poland, using the kit lens that came with the 350D. I hope to get an opportunity to use the new lens on these kind of close-up shots in the future - guess I'll have to wait for better weather to come along!

White butterfly Brimstone butterfly Peacock butterfly
Delicate Balancing

So far, the first one shown has proved very popular and according to Flickr Scout is currently #19 in the Flickr Explore pages.

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