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Open Solaris
Open Solaris January 25, 2005 11:19 PM
Open Solaris is a major contribution to an open world, and so is the new CDDL Licence under which it is licenced.

This release - contrary to what some who have painted themselves into a silly corner of portraying Sun as a force for evil are left to mutter - is a huge help to the Linux community. By opening up Solaris - an excellent Operating System - it has to be clear as light that there is absolutely no way that Open Source operating systems are going to be stopped. The anti Open Source FUD has nothing more to hold onto. Linux may have legal troubles? No problem, there is Solaris, BSD, Apple's Darwin, the GNU Hurd, and many other compatible projects to take the relay. Each of these are working with very similar philosophies and interfaces that they are close enough to being interchangeable.

This is the power of the whole Unix philosophy. Every part of the Unix OS is interchangeable, and has many competing implementations, so that if any one of them is to fail there are many more waiting to take the relay. This is true from the windowing system, to the file system, down to the kernel itself, and even down to the licence under which these are distributed.

Investors betting against unix are pouring their money down a drain. Open Solaris and the CDDL licence are just one more testament to the strength of that philosophy.

A Very Long Engagement
A Very Long Engagement A Very Long Engagement January 25, 2005 10:39 PM
I saw Un long dimanche de fiançailles a few months ago, when it came out in France and have been meaning to mention it on my blog for some time. It is perhaps one of the best films I have seen recently, even despite its lengths and flaws. It succeeds in depicting the ruthless reality of the first world war trenches which we so often forget about, and which does so much to explain the further horrors that followed, but protects the audience from the worst with the magical force field of a transcendant love story.

All people I discussed this with really loved it too. By the same directory as Delicatessen and Amelie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet has achieved another magical masterpiece, in his unique style.

15 boxes of muesli
15 boxes of muesli 15 boxes of muesli January 10, 2005 4:57 PM
Yesterday my parents, my brother and family friend DanDan came back from Sicily where they stayed for the Christmas holidays to see our cousins from Palermo.

There was not much food left in the house when they came back so I invited my mother to go shopping. I would pay for everything, and it would give me the opportunity to emphasise quality product over price. It is simply amazing how much better quality food can taste. Did I say better? Some food just does not have any taste. The emphasis in its production process seems to have been on the end product having a certain color and a certain size and on optimising the time it takes for the fruit, meat or product to reach the consumer. The consumer consumes and the producer produces and the whole concept of sprititual quality gets swamped by the emphasis on efficiency quality.

So I have been learning recently to trust a little more organically grown food as it takes a larger view of the production process. It is the beginning it seems of a philosophy of food that is being developed there, or rather it is the beginning of my discovery of it.

So lets get to the muesli in this. The rows of Carrefour are filled with rows and rows of cereals. Most of them are sugarified and absolutely horribly tasting. The marketing departments of those cereal companies have the upper hand over any other part of the company. Cartoon caracters are plastered everywhere, and echo the advertising campaigns aimed at children and shown during their TV programs. But there is one cereal box that I have grown to love every morning: Its these Jordans Luxury Muesli. With 50% fruit and no added sugar it is such a delight to eat, that alone could make my day. I found that mixing them with a sheep yoghurt is a little trip to paradise.

So this time in Carefour I just bought all their boxes. That was sixteen of them. Enough to last me for the next four months were I to be alone - but I fear the taste may be infectious. I placed 16 boxes in the caddy - all the boxes in the shelves - and then felt guilty at the thought that someone with the same liking as me might come to this same spot and find the shelves completely empty. So I put one back, and felt a little better.

12 March Update: The last box of Muesly was eaten this week. My parents helped a lot, I must add.

Two priorities for 2005: Africa and Climate Change
Two priorities for 2005: Africa and Climate Change Two priorities for 2005: Africa and Climate Change January 4, 2005 12:29 AM
As explained by Prime Minister Tony Blair in an article for the Economist.
2005 2005 December 31, 2004 11:51 PM
Happy new year from Fontainebleau, France.
Groovy JavaPolis
Groovy JavaPolis Groovy JavaPolis December 17, 2004 1:28 PM
It is Friday evening and I am on my way back from JavaPolis, a really nice Java conference that took place in Antwerp, Belgium, for the amazingly reasonable price of €200. As I now work for Sun, I got in free, thanks to the very friendly Belgian division who had their booth set up there, and who gave me a ticket allowing me to go to all the talks. I also got free internet access, a free car ride by Ludovic Dubost, stayed at a cheap youth hostel in a fun game of seeing how cheap I could make this trip. All in all, including the TGV journey on which I am now writing this, the couple of books I bought, I think I spent under €400. And that was well worth it :-)

There were many very interesting talks and I met a lot of great people, many of whom I had read about previously, chatted with or whose books I had read. I should have blogged this day by day, but I have been so busy that I have had hardly time to rest. This has been non stop java for 3x24 hours.


Tuesday Evening I booked a hotel in the West End of Paris in order to be able to get up at 5:30am to be ready to catch Ludovic Dubost, creator of XWiki (a wiki with Groovy scripting built in) who was driving to Antwerp with the intention of getting there in time for Tim Bray's keynote.


Everything went smoothly. We had a great three hours of non stop Java conversation on our way to Antwerp whilst watching the sun rise on the motorway to Belgium. We arrived in the Metropolis center at 10:20 just in time for Tim Bray's talk on dynamic languages where he recapitulated his recent blog on the subject. He was jet lagged and I was car lagged, but I still managed to meet up with him after his talk to discuss BlogEd a little and to get to know him better. I gave him a little demo of the latest CVS version, and it was agreed that the priority would be for it to work correctly with the release 1.0 of Roller. I also expressed my great interest in being able to implement the Atom API next so as to be able to test out the details of the spec with some real code. Otherwise it was good to get to meet Tim in person. He wore a very distinctive hat.

The topic of Dynamic languages was taken up that afternoon by a James Strachan and Dion Almaer, the creators of Groovy, who gave a very helpful introduction to their language. The name was well chosen, and the pair gave a very lively and appealing demonstration of its features. I had heard about it before, but am on the whole reluctant to learn new languages if I am not going to be using them a lot. My experience with Perl is that if you don't use that language more than once a week, the efficiency gains you may gain in the typing of the code, is completely negated by the losses made in having to relearn the libraries and syntax between each use. This introduction brought the point home clearly that learning Groovy would only entail a very small shift away from Java. Scripting in Groovy one can use all one's java api knowledge with a language that is close enough to Java as to make it easy to switch. So I look forward to a Groovy release that solves the compiler and bytecode generation problems Cedric Beust at dinner mentioned he had come across when he last used it 6 months ago.

Gregor Hohpe of ThoughtWorks gave a very interesting talk on "Event Driven Architecture" which clearly summarised what Matt Welch had done with his SEDA web server and was very reminiscent of work done on tuple langauges such as April or the better known Linda. Another case perhaps for dynamic languages that compile to Java bytecode? Gregor Hohpe thought maybe so, but pragmatic as he is, felt that such a language would have to allow him his refactoring and unit testing tools he is so used to. Specialised dynamic languages can help make an architecture evident, but the advantages have to be weighed carefully with the cost in reliability, usability and programmer knowledgeability.

Wednesday evening well over a dozen of us went to a very friendly restaurant in the center of Antwerp where we continued our conversations until late into the night. I was sitting next to our Groovy authors, had a great conversation on search engines with Cedric Beust from Google, and later came across Rod Johnson one of whose books I had very much enjoyed when I was a little more seriously into J2EE a year and a half ago.

It was getting very late when we left the restaurant, and I still had not booked a hotel. Luckily I had a nice conversation with a friendly taxi driver on the way to the restaurant, who had pointed me to the Internationaal Zeemanshuis, a youth hostel that still had a spare 2 bed room for €54 a night.


My car-lag of the previous day had gone, but had been replaced by something that might best be described as a beer-lag. But on the whole I felt much better.

John Bostrom gave the keynote that morning on the up and coming exciting features of Java for mobile phones. This really does look very very exciting. This will give mobile operators a standard way of updating nearly all aspects of the OS, allowing midleware java vendors to create specialised services, allow the programmer to get access to the camera, bluetooth and a lot more devices... I am looking forward to my Java enabled phone.

I remember liking the quick overview of the future of Hibernate that morning. It gave me the first view of the use of Java 5 tags. But most relevant to my needs was the talk by Vicent Massol on Maven. In the short talk he gave he helped me put together all the pieces of the Maven puzzle. It looks so easy to use I am really tempted to add it soon to BlogEd. But before I do that I had better add some more unit tests. Vincent's book "Junit in Action", and his recommended "JUnit recipes" should help me on that track.

It was also helpful to get a quick overview of some of the new features in Netbeans 4.0 that had just come out. Doing this from a nice comfy seats of the huge auditoriums in which these sessions are held, is just so much easier and faster than having to do it alone with help of some documentation and pointers. The two most interesting points for me were the java mobile phone support and the application profiling tools. The fact that one cannot mount more than one src root will probably be the major deciding factor in making me wait for 4.1.

After seeing and enjoying again "The Incredibles" with french subtitles, Vincent Massol, Cedric Beust and Didier Girard and me went to a restaurant in the center of town where we all spoke English for over an hour and a half until we all realised that we all could speak French, at which time of course the conversation turned a little towards fashion. But not for very long.


The last day, Friday was the JavaPolis Buisness track, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find some very helpful talks here too. Marc Fleury first of all gave a little overview of what he calls Professional Open Source companies such as JBoss and MySQL. Most interesting though to me was the second technical part of the talk where he very clearly explained the power of Java 5 tagging combined with aspect oriented programming, and how it was used in JBoss to massively simplify the whole J2EE framework to something much more readable and maintainable. I really wonder what the limits to this are. Vincent Massol made the point that this could get out of hand without excellent tool support to back it up, and to reveal the weaving of the aspects implied by the tags. In any case this resonated very well with the talk by Rod Johnson on Thurday on how to do J2EE without EJBs.

The above only covers a small part of what I took out of the last three days. The most important is of course the part that cannot easily be conveyed by writing about it, which has to do with being present at the conference, the feedback one gets from talking to different people, both indirect in the pitch of the clapping and the more direct in the exchange of views that occur during the many conversations. Most of all the number of people present make certain fortuitous accidental knowledge easier to aquire than when one is working alone on a well determined track.

The train has just arrived in Paris after a 2 and a half hours, but I am pleased to see that my PowerBook batteries are still half full.

Brazil and China: a geopolitical perspective
Brazil and China: a geopolitical perspective Brazil and China: a geopolitical perspective December 9, 2004 9:49 AM
My brothers have just released their first documentary for their StoryProductions startup. One can also think of it as my father's first video blog. It is a high level overview, initially comissioned by PetroBras of the geopolitical relationship between Brasil and China. It makes for some very interesting viewing.

I have hosted the small version on my web site, as the Story Productions web site is not quite ready yet:

  • The site still needs to be turned into a web site, instead of a big gif
  • the site needs to be made dynamic, with Blogging spaces so that people can send in questions awaiting answers
  • it needs to be hosted on a server in a high bandwidth colocation facility, because serving videos is not cheap, on a machine with enough hard drive, because films take up a lot of space: a good quality version of this movie takes up 300MBs in mp4 format.

But this is a very promissing beginning.

rsnapshot: free backup scripts - OSX tips
rsnapshot: free backup scripts - OSX tips rsnapshot: free backup scripts - OSX tips November 24, 2004 12:35 PM
I recently bought a 468 GB d2 disk (sold as a 500 GB disk) from LaCie, to help me backup my PowerBook.

Looking for software to help me back up my system I found the very nice rsnapshot utility, that works well -- though not as well as it could on OSX, due to the unusual apple HFS+ filesystem. rsnapshot's positive points:

  • It is open software (software libre)
  • it does not waste space, as of course the freeware (but not open source or libre ) software that comes with the drive does: for every extra backup rsnapshot makes, it only needs to allocate space for the changed files. So to save my home directory the first time it required 45GB. The second time it only used up 1.5GB.
  • It works across machines: I can back up my web server running bsd located in the USA, my Power Book, and when I get round to it, my mother's Apple cube,...
  • It is scriptable, and runs nicely in the Darwin unix environment
Clearly the downside is that it is a little complicated to set up.

And sadly this is a little more true of the OSX version, mainly because the rsync program it relies on, does not yet work that well with the HFS+ file system. I got it to work on my PowerBook after a few too many trials. I tried using the latest version of rsync from the darwin ports. This version of rsync nearly has a working version of the link-dest flag. But it is not quite there, so one has to set the link_dest flag to 0 (off) in the config file. I also tried the gnu cp available from in the coreutils package from darwin ports, but that also did not quite work. So it has to use its internal copy function. In any case my fear is that because rsync does not work correctly this may not correctly copy files created with iMovie, which seem to put a lot of important information in the hfs resource fork. I don't have any such files, but people who do may want to test that out first.

That reminds me: a good way to find out which files have changed since the last backup is to go to the hourly.0 directory in the Terminal and run the following command:

find . -link 1 -type f

On my machine the whole backup process takes quite a lot of time, even the second time round. Something like an hour or so. This may be because I really have a lot of files on my system. So I won't be running it more than once a day, perhaps less than that. But at least it will be a big improvement over once every few months. :-)