Monthly Archives: May 2007

JavaFX Script in Ann Arbor next week!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 6:30 pm (note new time and location)

I'm really excited!  The AAJUG meeting topic was announced today (for the meeting next week), and it's JavaFX Script, being presented by Raghavan "Rags" Srinivas, CTO of Technology Evangelism at Sun Microsystems.  Announced at JavaOne, JavaFX is a HOT topic in Java GUI building.  It's being discussed as a challenge to Flash.  Personally, I don't see that, but anything that helps build momentum in Java on the desktop (and simplify Swing development) is good, IMO.

The meeting announcement is at the Ann Arbor Java User Group website at  Please RSVP so that there's enough pasta bar!

If you're a regular AAJUG attendee, Please note, we are meeting in a different room (changed again MONDAY)!


JavaFX Script

Ann Arbor Java User Group

MTU/IBM offer summer workshop for High School Women

Deadline to apply is May 30!

IBM Sponsored Summer Program in Computing for High School Women at Michigan Technological University

Do you know any high school women who are interested in computing?

IBM is supporting a weeklong workshop for high school girls at Michigan Tech in Houghton, Michigan, June 24-30.  If you know of any young women who are interested in learning more about the field of computing, and who might like to attend this workshop, the deadline is TOMORROW, May 30. Details at
For more information, contact Linda Ott ( or call (906-487-2209).

I can and will personally vouch for MTU's summer programs for women, since I attended one (eek!) over 25 years ago now.  Ugh, I wish I hadn't done that math. Anyhow, it's a great program, so if you know of any women who might benefit from attending, please contact them right away.  My recollection is that you pay for your travel to get there, but everything else is covered by a scholarship.  This is a great way for young women to learn about the field of computer science, to meet and interact with other young women who might be interested as well, and also to tour the campus to decide if Michigan Tech is right for them.  I loved it there, and the program is excellent.

Youth Programs for Women in Computing

My week in podcasts

Podcasts I've enjoyed this week

Over the last week or so, I've listened to several podcasts that I think are worth sharing (the dog thinks that they're worth listening to as well, since most of the listening happens while he's on a walk with me).

Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders:

Marissa Mayer, from Google (5/17/2006).  Marissa is a 30'ish googler, there from pretty much the beginning.  She leads the UI effort on many of the web based products that google provides (search, news).  Her talk provides some insight into the Google world, as well as what has made them strong.

Jackie Spieir and Deborah Stephens.  Jackie is a former state senator, who has concentrated her efforts on work in the public sector.  Deborah has worked in the corporate world, has written several books (including one with Jackie) and took time off to work as Jackie's chief of staff as she was running for the state senate.

Two of the points from Jackie and Deborah's talk that really reasonated with me are:

  1. collaboration is key, and that's a strength that women tend to bring to the table in corporate America. 
  2. Don't  "network"; build relationships. 

Networking is sort of banking on the idea that you are going to get something in return from someone else.  It's "using" someone (even if it's with their consent).  Relationship-building is stronger.  It's working WITH someone.  Knowing what each of you is good at.  You don't know if you are going to get something "in return".  You know that you get their friendship, their support, and ultimately you may do something with that person, or you may not.

The relationship building is really what I've seen taking off in my mind in the last year or so.  It's what draws me to the (smaller) open spaces events.  The people I've met at most of those events have interested me, on a level that doesn't really stop at "networking".  I'm interested in what they do, and I'm happy to be a sounding board for them (and they, for me).  We've built friendships.  I wouldn't feel intimidated about calling people in this circle and asking for a suggestion.  In some cases, we've built private online groups; in other cases, we've used email.  Most of these people have my phone number (and my Skype ID) and I'm happy for them to use it.  We WANTED continue the conversations because they were so darned fun and enlightening that we didn't want them to stop. 

Why is MySpace so successful?  What it is about online communities that is compelling?  It's the relationship.

In any case, those are some of the things that I enjoyed about Deborah and Jackie's talk. They are 2 really great speakers, with a lot of courage, and a great history.  It's definitely worth listening.

We’re hiring


Bill just posted about our 3 open positions.  We seem to be building up steam these days and we really need some good resources.

I like Bill's post about what we're looking for.  To go even further, we want people who are PASSIONATE about software development.  We're looking for the curious, the interested, the "I can't sleep right now because I have this cool thing on my mind" type of people.  Yes, we sleep and so should you, but you know what I mean.

Anyhow, I know we've talked to some of our blog readers at user group meetings, but when we've contacted people directly they've said, "Yeah, I was thinking about talking to you guys", but hadn't actually done it.  So, do it.  Even if we don't have something that you're interested in now, our local software economy seems to be revving up, so maybe we will have something soon.  Yes, most of the jobs right now are .NET, but we may have some "alternate technology" stuff coming up soon.

Netflix and Disruptive Television

Thoughts, continued

If you stumbled upon Bruce Eckels blog on Disruptive Television, you may have seen an exchange between the two of us (before he wrote the blog) about Netflix.  We're both subscribers and we had been sharing our experiences with some other people, and had also started talking about the Watch Now feature (which hadn't been enabled on Bruce's account at the time of his blog entry). In any case, since then we have had some additional exchanges about Netflix and Watch Now, some of which are captured in comments on his blog.

In any case, I'm still enamored with Netflix.  My husband and I have been using Watch Now. It's keeping us away from the local video store (where we are HUGE suckers for late fes; I swear that we are significantly responsible for any profit that the store makes).  I feel SORT OF bad that our Netflix addiction may put a local video store out of business, but they're not competitive and I can't see how they CAN be.  On the other hand, I don't really think that they are in danger of going out of business. Most of my neighbors don't subscribe with Netflix and I'm sure that THEIR late fees are helping the local economy.

So, anyhow, this blog post is really about how Netflix and Watch Now have disrupted MY behavior in watching movies and television, and how Joost may contribute in the future.  I don't have a Joost account (but I would love an invitation if anyone has one to offer).  We seriously don't watch much TV, and so cable has SO little attraction for us. Our TV is not on most of the summer or at all when the kids are awake (except for a Friday night movie that they are allowed to watch, and Michigan football, of course).  So, how has Netflix, and how MIGHT Joost affect that?

Netflix has certainly contributed to us watching MORE television than we would have otherwise.   I'm often too lazy to drive out to the video store (or home alone with kids sleeping, so no opportunity to do so). But having 3 at a time Netflix has given me the opportunity to always have something on hand (I'll confess to having had a movie sit here for 1+ months unwatched, because we've been too busy, and I'm mostly FINE with that). OTOH, some of the things that we have found to be MOST enjoyable on Netflix have been TV shows that have already gone to DVD.  Like 24.  The fast-paced show is SO much better on DVD.  Next episode, next episode, next episode … until we're done with a DVD and then anxiously awaiting the next DVD so that we can move on (even timing it to go out BY Thursday so that there's a chance to get a replacement for the weekend), ignoring the fact that "normal" network viewing has a week between each individual episode.  Oh yeah, and NO commercials.  Yes, I happy pay Netflix membership fees to avoid commercials and waiting for a subsequent episode.  If I were patient enough for the series to come out on DVD, I would definitely shun the "current season" on regular TV.  But sigh, the network has me, in my impatience.

"Watch Now" has changed our viewing as well. We are mostly through the series Coupling, and I have identified a few other movies and series that I might like to watch.  Note that we're on the low end of television viewing, about 2-6 hrs per week even with Netflix.  We don't watch local news.  It's simply too annoying to "wait" for a story when you can get it all at a glance on the internet.  Important stories DO bubble up, so I don't really worry about missing anything. 

What would Joost do? What about the video iPod?

Well, I have no idea how Joost might impact us. I don't see any channels YET that are of interest to me (maybe the National Geographic Channel).  If Noggin were on there, would we let the kids watch?  Not sure.  Doesn't seem likely.  Would we watch network tv there?   Probably not.  For $1.99 I can already download recent (current season) episodes of many shows for the video ipod.  I recently watched a few while on a plane.  I'm pretty sure that my fellow passengers were wondering what I was doing, as I was gasping in flight at something that was going on, on a show.  I've been told there's a way to convert DVD's to mp4 for display on the video ipod.  I would LOVE that, since it would allow me to watch movies in flight (or while working out) rather than just downloaded TV shows. 

Free video podcasts for the ipod have made a nice addition to my viewing as well.  I like the Ted Talks videos for watching while working out. 

[to be continued]

Our very own Patrick Steele joins Compuware Speakers at Technical Seminar Series

May 17, 2007 at 5:30 pm

SRT Solutions' consultant Patrick Steele joins Brian Cassista and James Brown to speak at Compuware.  Compuware is holding an evening networking/technical seminar event on May 17 starting at 5:30 pm.  I would love to attend Patrick's talk, "Taking Advantage of Generics in .NET", but I think that I will be headed over to James' talk on Dependency Injection and Spring instead.  If neither of those suits your fancy, then the Brian's talk on Project Management and Continuous Integration also sounds great.  I just wish I could be in three places at one time!

5:30-6:30 is for networking and hors d'oeuvres, compliments of Compuware.  The 3 parallel sessions will start at about 6:30 and go for an hour, with an hour of questions and answers following.

The event is free, and you can sign up (by May 14) by emailing Mary Johnson or calling (313) 227-7729.  More information can be found at Compuware.

I think it's going to be a great event.  I'm really looking forward to it.

More event info

Carly Fiorina on Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast

I recently learned about Stanford's Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast (on the Java Posse podcast: thanks Tor Joe!), and downloaded a few episodes to my iPod.  I swear, dog walking has NOT been the same since I got the iPod.  Sometimes I extend my walk because I'm enjoying the talk so much that I don't want to head home (or back to work).  Today was one of those days, in spite of the fact that it was raining.

Anyhow, today's speaker was Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, and Stanford alum.  She studied medieval history and philosophy at Stanford as an undergrad.  She talked a bit about her windy, twisty career path, and it was quite interesting.  I have to say, I would have never guessed that she was a secretary as her first job out of college, before her MBA!

The entire talk is great.  The first 40 minutes or so consist of her speaking.  After that, there's a Q&A session with the audience (another 30 minutes).  If it takes too much out of your day to listen to the entire episode, definitely listen to the first 40 minutes.

The highlight for me was in her describing leadership.  She talked a lot about it being a personal choice.  Anyone can choose to be a leader, and make a difference. It's not always those who seem to be in the best position financially, or status-wise, that make leaders. Often times, those people don't choose that route, whereas someone that you would expect to be unempowered to make a difference stands up and chooses to do so.  She compared some Harvard grads in her age group who seemed unable to determine what it would take to make a difference to a soldier, recently back from Iraq, who had lost both legs and his eyesight.  It was the 20 year old soldier who was incented to make a difference, in the lives of other people who had been injured and not the Harvard grads who, seemingly, had "everything" going for them.

She described some key aspects of a leader:

  • Capability
  • Collaboration
  • Character

It takes all of these things.  It struck me that the times in my life when I have been most disappointed in situations where I met someone who I thought was a leader, were when the person violated one of the these principles, specifically the latter two. From a collaboration standpoint, either they don't know how to "ask questions and LISTEN to the answers" (as Carly put it) or they don't seek out people with differing viewpoints and learn from people with varying experience.  Or, they fail in the character category by not treating people well.

If you have a chance to listen to this podcast, definitely do so (and feel free to post comments; I would love to know what others thought). I'm looking forward to the other talks in the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series and I hope that I will be as thrilled with them as I was with this.   The dog will enjoy them too, I'm sure.  Anything that prolongs his walk makes him happy.

Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast
(also available on iTunes)

Stephan Diehl on PyPy and Stackless Python

Visitor from Germany to speak at the Ann Arbor ITZone, May 16 at 7 pm

Stephan Diehl will be visiting Ann Arbor and we were lucky enough to tap him to do a talk while he's in town.  He will be speaking at the Ann Arbor ITZone, for a special Michigan Python User Group meeting, on May 16 at 7 pm.  He will talk about both pypy and stackless python.

Please join us.  The meeting is open to the public, and free.

The Ann Arbor ITZone/SPARK Central is at 330 E. Liberty (lower level), Ann Arbor, MI.

An Implementation of Python in Python
Stackless Python
Simplifying thread-based programming in Python

The Productivity Continuum: Ruby for Big Companies

Meeting review/notes from May 2, 2007

On Wednesday, May 2, Joe O'Brien made the trip from Columbus to present a talk on Ruby for the Enterprise, for the Ann Arbor Computer Society.  We first made Joe's acquaintance in the time leading up to CodeMash 2007, when he saw that we were looking for Ruby speakers and he stepped up (and also promoted the heck out of it, so thanks much, Joe!).  Joe helped to found the Columbus Ruby Brigade, and he's recently written a book on domain specific languages (DSLs), which should be available soon.  The book isn't available for order yet (as far as I can tell), but the title is:

Pragmatic DSLs In Ruby: Fluent Interfaces for your Code by Zak Tamsen, Jeremy Stell-Smith, Joe O’Brien, Neal Ford

I had originally thought that the talk was going to be on Ruby on Rails, but Rails was definitely only a small part of it.  Rails is an example of a DSL used for web programming.  Joe focused on integrating Ruby into the enterprise.  He talked about how you can integrate with Java, if your back end is already written in Java.  He said that he gets dirty looks from Ruby programmers for even suggesting a thing, but Joe strikes me as a pragmatic guy.  He wants to use powerful tools to solve problems, but he understands that it doesn't always make good business sense to go in and rip everything out and start over.

Joe talked a lot about Ruby as an "enterprise glue" language, for accomplishing specific tasks.

After hearing horror stories about deploying Ruby apps, I was glad to hear Joe talk about Capistrano, which he says simplifies all of that.  Another developer whose opinion I trust immensely, Barry Hawkins from Atlanta, concurs.

He described a few other tools, including RubyGems (akin to Python's cheeseshop, this is one-stop shopping for Ruby components). Watir is used for web application testing in Ruby.  It looks a lot like twill (written in Python), to me.

Joe is hosting the Enterprise Ruby Conference in Columbus July 16-18.  It looks like a great conference, with some really great speakers.  The cost is discounted to $199 for user groups (AACS members can contact the AACS for a discount code, and other user groups can get one from Joe).  He's heavily promoting this event to user groups, and I think that's a fantastic idea.

This was a great talk and I was really glad that I was able to attend, and that we were able to spirit Joe up to Ann Arbor to speak.  I don't know if I will get down to the Ruby Conference, but I'm sure it will be a great experience for those who can.



Web testing in Ruby
Deploying Ruby apps
Enterprise Ruby Conference
(blog entry description)

Eclipse for SWT Development

Review/notes from May 1 meeting

On Tuesday, May 1, Carlus Henry from the Grand Rapids Java User Group, presented "Eclipse for SWT Development" at the Ann Arbor Java User Group.  He declared himself an Eclipse Enthusiast.  He drew a distinction between an evangelist and an enthusiast and declared that evangelists get paid for their admiration and enthusiasm!

In any case, he was definitely enthusiastic about both SWT (Standard Widget Toolkit) and Eclipse.  Since I use Eclipse, but all of my GUI building has been in Swing, so I was really interested to hear more about SWT.

SWT is pretty famous for its ability to maintain the native look and feel, and performance, by harnessing the JNI (Java Native Interface).  I recently met Josh Marinacci, of the Swing team, and I've seen what really cool things can be developed with Swing, so I definitely think that Sun is not sitting on their hands in this regard.  Over at SwingLabs, there's some very cool stuff to look at, including the Nimbus Look and Feel. 

SWT is used for Eclipse plugins and RCP (Rich Client Platform, for which SWT is the widget toolkit).  Eclipse itself is written using RCP.  One disadvantage of SWT over Eclipse is in terms of Resource Management.  Native calls mean that managing resources become the programmer's responsibility, specifically.  The parent-child relationship (tree structure of widgets) does make this easy, but you have to know to manage it.

From Carlus' demo, I didn't feel that the layout was any less cumbersome in SWT than in Swing, just different, and so an additional learning curve is required on top of Swing layout management, if you already understand that.

I didn't leave the meeting hot to try SWT any time soon.  Honestly, with what I've seen Josh and SwingLabs doing, I'm really pleased with the new things that you can accomplish in Swing, and I'm looking forward to seeing the screencast from his "just 1 line of new code" at JavaOne this week.

It took me a while to get this review out, and in the meantime, IBM pulled its support for the Visual Editor in Eclipse (GUI builder for SWT applications).  I'm left wondering what that means, especially considering Matisse is such a full featured editor for Swing development (see *** Wall (of the Java Posse)'s article on using Matisse)

I really enjoy meeting Carlus.  He's an excellent speaker and I look forward to hearing him speak again sometime soon.  He's also heavily involved in the software community in Grand Rapids and he and I have promised to share resources to do what we can to promote software development, share JUG speakers, etc. in Michigan.  And I sure hope that Carlus sends an abstract for CodeMash 2008!



SWT Visual Editor: Dead?

Swing Labs

NetBeans 5.5

NetBeans Milestones downloads