Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Visual explanations: US states GDP map

by Map on October 15th, 2008

I was searching for some stats on the world’s GDP and came across this amazing map: US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs. Wow. The only problem with this map is when staring at it in a fully mesmerized state of mind :-) I tend to attribute the size of country’s GDP to the size of the corresponding state, which is not correct, of course. Other than that, it’s a wonderful little example of information visualization.

Wall*E

by Ulf on October 6th, 2008

Many people seem to like the new Pixar flick, but I think it’s a far cry from the likes of Ratatouille and Toy Story. A little robot cleans up the over-littered earth after all humans have decamped for more hospitable grounds far away, and he falls in love with a visiting robotess who’s looking for life left on the planet. Sure, it’s cute, and it’s fun to see where mankind might be headed once people are too obese to walk on their own, but the plot never really engages the viewer, and seems an incoherent whole.

More info at imdb.com

Outstanding Talk by Kent Beck

by Ulf on September 9th, 2008

I‘d like to recommend Kent Beck‘s keynote from this year‘s RailsConf to everybody interested in software development. Kent talks about his involvement with patterns, developer testing and extreme programming, how each came about, and what he thinks about the outcomes. An MP3 file and the presentation slides are available here, and a video feed (which helps tie together the slides and the talk) is here. The talk also touches on a range of other topics, such as architecture, Ruby, IDEs, technology adoption, marketing of ideas, and much else, and is a joy to listen to. The following are the books that get mentioned (and are thus implicitly recommended by Mr Beck). Christopher Alexander in particular has long been on my reading list; maybe this will actually coax me into reading him.

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Review of JavaFX Script by James L. Weaver

by Ulf on September 4th, 2008

JavaFX Script („JavaFX“ henceforth) is a new way to develop client-side Java GUI applications, comprised of a more declarative code syntax, and some new ways to couple behavior to code. That being the case, it (and by extension, this book) has two audiences: developers proficient in Java who want to learn about JavaFX, and web developers interested in building rich client applications who may not know much (or any) Java.

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Watching Paris

by Ulf on August 20th, 2008

The film depicts a neighborhood of Paris and its inhabitants in their pursuit of happiness, or simply their daily life. The focal point is a severely ill man who watches the people from his balcony but can’t take part any more, and his sister who helps him cope. There are some similarities to Short Cuts, although more attention is given to love and companionship here (as befits the city), sometimes in all its undignified -but all too human- glory. Imperfect people try to make the best of life in a great city, or -as the main character summarizes it- “That’s Paris – everybody complains, nobody just enjoys living.”

More info at imdb.com

Ridicule of „The Mojave Experiment“ hits the mainstream business press

by Ulf on August 13th, 2008

A recent article in the Economist talks about various ads Apple has used over time to position itself, e.g. Ridley Scott’s famous 1984 video, and the current “Get a Mac” campaign that targets Microsoft Windows. Now that Microsoft has a marketing problem of its own (in the shape of the much-maligned Windows Vista), it has come up with “The Mojave Experiment“, which is supposed to show that Vista isn‘t as bad as people think it to be. The premise of the experiment is rather flawed, which has been widely discussed. Now the Economist -which is not generally concerned with operating systems- joins in: “You could be forgiven for wondering whether Apple had commissioned the advertisement. It was Microsoft at its worst.” Ouch. The article goes on to mention that Microsoft has also started to work with another ad agency…

The Pushing of NetBeans and the Dumbing-down of Java

by Ulf on August 11th, 2008

To me, one of the more useful pieces of the WS-* stack is WS-Security. Web services are out in the open and need proper security. Unfortunately, there isn‘t yet a standard on how to apply WS-Security to a SOAP service, so each SOAP stack does its own thing. The Metro stack -the reference implementation of JAX-WS and a slew of related APIs- is no exception. Recently I was trying to figure out how to apply WS-Security to a  JAX-WS service. Without using NetBeans or GlassFish, neither of which I use. Go ahead, try to find an example of how to do that. The closest I found is this article, which talks about the web service features of Java 6 SE, not JAX-WS per se.
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The ephemeral beauty of rocks

by Ulf on August 11th, 2008

Last week one of the famous rock arches of Arches National Park in Utah -called Wall Arch- collapsed from erosion under its own weight. These are before/after pictures of it:

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How not to win friends

by Ulf on July 29th, 2008

“If we have more NATO troops in Afghanistan, then that’s potentially fewer American troops over the long term, which means we’re spending fewer billions of dollars, which means we can invest those billions of dollars in making sure we’re providing tax cuts to middle class families who are struggling with higher gas prices that will have an impact on our economy.”

Way to go, Mr Obama. He said this (in a CNN interview) while still being in one of the countries he’s asking to contribute more, no less. As the WSJ notes, this is not the way to keep up a flowering romance. The rebuke was short and swift: “Under no circumstances will [ taxpayers ] pay with more money and more troops for Afghanistan for tax cuts in the U.S.”

I’m not sure if this Middle-Eastern/European trip achieved its aim of convincing voters in the USA that Mr Obama is not the foreign-policy lightweight he’s made out to be, but by this remark alone he undid all the good will he might have accrued over here. Maybe foreign politics isn’t so simple after all.

My life skills need upgrade

by Map on July 26th, 2008

Ulf blogged about Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin, and we have something going here, in San Francisco, too. I just learned that last Christmas a tiger escaped from SF Zoo and killed a visitor. Now, I live about ten blocks from the SF Zoo, and I can’t say that a thought of tigers roaming the neighborhood thrills me. San Francisco is located in an earthquake-ridden zone, and when I moved here I decided it would be a good idea to get some “Surviving SF” classes. I was taught how to assess whether a building is safe to enter a damaged building, or how to pull dead bodies from under debris. (The woman who taught “corpses excavation” course had an awesome sense of black humor. I still shudder when I remember her jokes.) Best of all, I was given a free helmet upon graduating, so I think I am pretty well prepared now. But tigers… I certainly need to learn some tiger fighting techniques and probably get some anti-tiger ammunition.