Sunday, November 13, 2005

Now Blogging on

For various reasons (including being able to have more control of my Blog), I'm now writing on my own website :

Monday, October 31, 2005

I have seen the future of web applications and it is ....

... Jotspot . It's not that it is very much a Web 2.0 company. It's more that it draws together a lot of previous ideas into one easy to use package.
  • It's easy to use - if you can use Microsoft Office , you can use JotSpot
  • It's easy to develop - 'Power Users' not developers can do it (the sort that come up with fancy Excel Spreadsheets).
  • It's web based, is available everywhere and uses a very fluid Ajax interface
  • It can be easily extended , so all the people currently playing around with PHP and websites can get up and running more quickly.
  • It's free, with a more powerful commercial version
Other 'out of the box' features include being able to import Excel Spreadsheets and have them available as online applications. It also comes with ready build applications such as CRM , Project Management Tools, Colloboration Tools etc

Jotspot is exactly the sort of 'Component based Architcture' that Java Developers have been aiming towards. It ties the portability of Java, the ease of development of Visual Basic and the promise of Lotus Notes. It also has a full set of easy to use XML API's , so a wave a client applications tied into a Jotspot server is not far off.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Software Patents and You

The Economist is running one of it's in depth Surveys on Software Patents and the Market for idea's. Some of the content is available online but here is the 10 second version:

  • The market for idea's is one of the key drivers of Economic Growth.
  • Large Companies are gathering Patents as a means of defense against other people enforcing patent claims on them.
  • Patents , if used unwisely, can be a bit like the tolls that used to be charged travellers - good for the local warlords but bad for everybody else.
  • Many large companies , including IBM and Novell are donating Patents to Open source as a means of helping the open software , and hence their own , interests.
  • As other countries (e.g. China and India) gather their own Patent portfolio, the attitude to Patents and Copyright, instead of one way traffic, will become more balanced - for example the US Cogress was ready to forcibly licence an anti-anthrax drug from a German Company post 9-11. Expect
A good forum for expressing your views on Patents is Digitial Rights Ireland.

Friday, October 28, 2005

If you're looking for a good Charity to support ...

... you could do worse than the township challenge, a project where two jumbos full of Irish Builders fly out to build houses in the South African townships (and you wondered where they went on holidays).

Disguised in the middle of all these builders is Oisin O'Murchu Software Trainer turned wheelbarrow pusher. How long will it be before he is found out? Click here for more information.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Struts and Ajax - new Java.Net Article

Some of you may already have read the Ajax article (after all , the link is probably what brought you here!).

If you haven't, check it out!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Metro , Herald AM and the Irish Jobs Market

Both Metro and the Herald AM free newspapers launched this week and now you can't leave a Dart station in Dublin without getting offered both. For the Record, I'm a Metro man myself , having used it (unsucessfully) to try and learn Flemish / Dutch while in Brussels.

The word has it that both were ready to launch, and held back several times while waiting (a) for the legal action to finish and (b) to see what it each other did.

It makes you wonder about the (good) flexibility of the Irish Jobs Market. Here , in an era of 'full' employment these guys can launch at the drop of a hat (less than 48hrs notice) and still have hundreds of people out on the street to do the distribution. Given that it's unlikely they had the distribution guys on a retainer , shows that the Irish Jobs Market is definately more Boston than Berlin .

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tech Camp - Lego Draw

Probably the first of many posts about Tech Camp

A very good meeting in Dublin , loads of ideas from the people present.

Interesting though that the first blog I do about it is a piece of software call L(ego) Draw - no more boring Powerpoint presentations for me - Lego figures all the way!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

SAP and Java

When SAP announced that they were migrating their solution to a full J2EE server stack, I was initially sceptical. While it makes good business sense (after all Enterprise Java server's are now effectively free), and complemented their decision to open source the SAP DB (now known as Max DB), there was still a niggling feeling at the back of my mind.

Why? Well over the years we've learnt a lot of lessons of how to build Scalable Java applications. Even then, some people can't seem to get it right (No names , but you know who you are). How would SAP people (who I have a lot of respect for as you don't get to the position SAP is within the industry without getting at least something right) react to this strange new Java world. Would they shed all past baggage and dive in with the enthusiasm of College Graduates? Or would they take a 'not invented here' attitude and hack together something in Java along the lines of what they were used to.

I suspected the latter , and fully expected to end up cleaning up some mess of a CRM or ERM system. However, I am pleasently surprised with SAP's Java Website. On a pure Java level, it approaches the efforts from Oracle , IBM and BEA. If SAP are making this amount of effort to promote Java best practice, then there may be hope after all.

Final question: If this goes the way SAP is planning, at what point does it's installed base get counted as part of the Market share of J2EE servers. What percentage of the market would it have? A healthy and very profitable 10%? Certainly the strategy (and the Market share) is very close to Oracle , which also bundles it's (10g) App server with it's main product (a Database rather than a CRM or ERP Solution).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Security : How to break your own web application

Almost as bad as thinking 'nobody can break my web application' is a bury your head in the sand and think 'if I don't try and break it , then it must be working , right?'

The Open Web Application Security Project is a cold dose of reality - it documents what the bad guys already know, and what you should know to actively try and break your own website.

I haven't tried running any of these against any of the well know Irish Websites, (for obvious reasons), but it would be interesting to see how many would pass these tests ... they even provide WebGoat , a piece of software to teach you on how to find (and fix) Security flaws (thanks John for the correction!).

Monday, September 19, 2005

Liffey Descent and a pleasant afternoon swim

Recently completed the Liffey Descent , a 30km Kayak / Canoe race from Maynooth Ireland to Dublin.

As an aside from the usual IT posts , there are some photos of us coming through the Sluice (where the river narrows to a 4m wide channel), and through a Wier (man made waterfall /dam) at Wren's nest (near Dublins ring road, the M50), complete with Divers to pull you out when you fall in.

I wish that we had heroic tales to report , but we don't. We almost made it without swimming , but if you look closely at this photo you'll see that we're milliseconds away from falling in. Thanks to all the rescue guys who helped us out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Estate Agents and the Klu Klux Klan

Freakonomics is a book recently published where the 'Indiana Jones' of the Economic world take a sideways look at things we take for granted.

One of the chapters is titled 'Estate Agents and the Klu Klux Klan' , where the authors show the power of information - in the first instance how Estate Agents use their market knowledge to get higher prices for their own house (by a couple of thousand dollars on average). In the 2nd instance it shows how information was used to stop the Klan revival in it's tracks (by giving out information on the funny handshakes in a childrens cartoon).

So what has all this to with IT consultancy? The moral of the story is that when hiring somebody with more knowledge than you (be it a plumber or a Sys admin) be very very careful. More than ever , get references from the candidates and follow them up. If you ask me nicely, I'll tell you a 'how not to do it story' which can't be published here for legal reasons ....

As an aside , to do with information and the power of the internet , take a look at the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina information map. People are using a combination of google maps and blogs to give a real picture of the situation on the ground. While the picture may be surprisingly 'normal' (after all the people posting still have internet connections), it shows that the internet is still producing cultural aftershocks 10 years after it's introduction.

It's hard to ignore people, even half a world away, when they're posting information about how the floodwaters are rising by the minute.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

So you want to be a consultant?

Time has flown - I recently sat down and counted the number of years I've been consulting and it surprised even me. What's even more surprising is the fact that it's still enjoyable , and just as important , still so much to learn.

I'm not just talking about learning the technologies - it's also the business and client facing sides as well. Which all leads in nicely to today's link - an article (So you want to be a consultant ..?) written by somebody that has been in the business even longer than I have. Very good advice , and like the best advice , a lot of it is common sense.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Using Drools in Your Enterprise Java Application

Finally , the article you've all been waiting for ...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Finally Joined the Irish Internet Association Today

Or at least put in the application form for 'professional membership'.

Whether they'll let me join after attending their meetings as an 'associate' on and off since 1998 is another matter!

Like the name suggests The Irish Internet Association is a grouping of companies and professionals who work with the Internet in Ireland. These range from Customer facing companies (e.g. Dell , Aer Lingus , An Post) , through to the companies that provide the technologies (Vision , Accenture etc).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Categorize this blog as part of Irish Blogs

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Easier Builds ...

One of the 'should be easy but takes up loads of time' items is actually building your code , especially getting the first build working. Until now , the tool of choice has been Ant which means that as soon as one person on a team can get things up and running, everybody else can copy it and do the same (as opposed to having to set up each machine one by one).

Been getting more into Maven which is what the people from Ant did next. It can do everything Ant does , but is more project focussed and on getting results. For example , instead of making you worry about the technical details of the build (which it does very well) , Maven lets you think 'I want to build the project' and tries to do (trival!) things like download the necessary libraries for you ...

The integration with Eclipse promises to be very good , even more natural than is currently possible with Ant. More details here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Don't get put off by the title

How Business Can Learn from Open Source

There's a lot more going on in this article than the title suggests. Rather than sticking to a 'Open Source is Good everything else is bad' mantra , Paul Graham suggests exactly why it is good , or rather what Business can learn from the forces driving Open source. Among the 'very obvious when you hear them' items are ...

  • Offices can actually be very unproductive work environments.
  • People work far harder at things they are interested in.
  • Commercial Organisations are not competing with the average programmer / blogger on the web , they are competing with the best of them (and that there a so many that it doesn't matter that 99% is rubbish , as the 1% is so good)

Friday, August 05, 2005


Eclipse is great , but the latest version (3.1) seems to be putting on a bit of weight in middle age. Maybe it's due to the plugins , but I find that it's necessary to increase the Java Memory Heap size to get it run more smoothly.

For info , the command to do this is: eclipse.exe -vmargs -Xmx256M

Thursday, August 04, 2005

O'Reilly Drools Article

Finally , the article that you've all been waiting for ...

Monday, August 01, 2005

Writing for O'Reilly

Over the last couple of months, been working on a series of Articles for O'Reilly (online) . The articles are on J2EE / Drools (more later) , but it's been an interesting process - about 4 weeks total effort (if you count it as a day job, in reality it was spread over many evenings and weekends).

The staff at O'Reilly have been very helpful - even if I went about the process backwards (whereas normally you pitch a couple of paragraphs as a summary , then get go-ahead to do the full article). The hardest / most tedious part was formatting the article in simple html , given that it was initally written using Word / OpenOffice.

The Article will be publish on OnJava in the next couple of days , source code for the article can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What's on Oreilly's Radar ...

What the folks at O'Reilly are thinking ....

OReilly Radar

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Ajax design patterns

Yep , yet more Ajax stuff , this time on Design patterns for ajax applications

Friday, July 08, 2005

Aspects - clean up your code

There's a good article on Devx about Aspects and when to use them in conjunction with Object Orientated design.

I have found them very useful in Java applications for
- Logging
- Security
- Performance Metrics
- Design Enforcements
- Data Persistence

All areas where (a) there needs to be small bits of code , scattered throughout the application and (b) written by a small core team , but respected by the wider group of developers working on the application.

Aspects allow you to separate these concerns into a separate layer , but apply them to the the finished Java Classes to run in standard JVM. Aspects can be turned off or on as required.

Some people see them as akin to Filtering of calls to servlets - you can intercept the call (be it HTTPRequest or a request to a method) and modify it as appropriate.

Needless to say , this is a very powerful technique , but can cause chaos if use incorrectly!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Make your site search engine friendly

I've got several sites online at the moment ranging from and the red-piranha enterprise search tool , not forgetting this blog.

A common theme with all of these is the ability to get search engines (like google) to index them. After all ,what is the point of maintaining websites if the content goes unread. How do you notify the search engine of your brand new content? Google site maps are one way - an xml document that you submit with all the relevant details. Included is a tool to generate the sitemaps , written in Python. Still playing with it , but it appears that (a) the format is easy to generate and / or (b) the script will run in Jython (java+python).

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

More on Ajax

Sun also has an article on building Ajax from scratch here but IMHO you're better off using a framework every time ...

Monday, June 13, 2005

Best of GUI , Best of Web

Normally you have to make the choice between having a web-type interface (easy to deploy , but very clunky) , or a richer GUI interface (more interactive , but much harder to roll out , and almost certainly won't work over the internet).

Ajax (Asynch-Javascript-XML) gives you the best of both worlds - a good example of it in action is Google Maps ( , where the scrolling and updates are dynamic through *any* web browser. Ajax is a type of application , rather than a framework like Struts of Cocoon.

Ajax type applications will be the way the web is going , and so far the field is wide open as to which framework is the best way of implementing them in Java / J2EE. Whichever wins out is likely to be 'the next struts' ie the defacto standard for Java web development.

2 promising open frameworks are Echo 2 and DWR

Latest Hot Skills Survey

Always take these things with a pinch of salt , but the latest 'hot skills' survey is available here.

It's US Based and some of the 'findings' make sense (e.g. Websphere and Oracle coming from a large installed base, Project management due to cull of recent years , and above all security). Some others are a bit strange (e.g. Perl is 'stone-cold' , yet I'm sure is in constant use behind the scenes). Others (like HTML skills) are also listed as stone cold - but anybody who has been trying to make a living as web designer knew this already.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dublin Java Meetup Meeting

Some of the guys are trying to get a regular meeting going for Dublin (Ireland) Java and J2EE people. If you're interested in coming along to the next meetup , or just finding out what happened , click here:

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Spring, Drools and Red-Piranha

The folks at Drools and have been talking about integratng the frameworks 'for the next release'. They're not their yet , but there is some sample code available at .

In the meantime , there is a useful article on drools at (Drools Article Link)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Drools Framework

There's a lot of framworks around organise the front end (Struts and Spring come to mind) and the back end (e.g. Hibernate and JDO). So far , there's nothing low level for the business / mid tier (they're frameworks like EJB and Spring , but they don't solve the problem of spaghetti if...then statements.

Been playing a bit recently with Drools a rule engine that can be used to model business logic. Hopefully I'll be able to post my notes soon to give a bit more information ....

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

8 Years of Bookmarks now Live

Posted 8 Years of bookmarks online , now in a better easier to read format , at

Friday, March 25, 2005

red-piranha Wiki

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Javadoc for Red-Piranha , Lucene and J2EE

OK, It mightn't be the most life changing event , but the Javadoc for Red Piranha is availabe at

Actually , it's pretty useful as it gives a good overview of the Red-Piranha search and knowledge management system without having to download the code.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Popdex link

Link to Technorati

So you want to make it on your own?

It seems like yesterday that I went independent , and now I turn around to find that it will be five years next month. Time flies eh? Even though I'm proud of lasting this long (especially in the Dublin market) and am probably enjoying it more than ever , there's always a lot to learn - both on the technology and business side of things.

Perhaps one of the best articles I've see about the process of going independent is at
He's dot-net focussed , but a lot of what he says still holds true for Java/J2EE people. He's especially good at describing the marketing side of things , where is where a believe a lot of IT people still fall down.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Java Oracle ERP and CRM solutions

80% of Java projects end up build the same thing over and over (Web-Java-Database).

There's frameworks out there (e.g. Struts , Spring and Hibernate) to reduce the effort , but Compiere goes one step further - it gives you a complete ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution in a box , which you can then customize for your end client.

Compiere is very good ,as befits a project that is consistently in the top 10 on sourceforge. So , if you have any interest in Java and Oracle , you should check it out at Worked with this product in my days with in Dundalk , Ireland , and good as it was then , the product has matured a lot more (included Database independence)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Best Oracle Guide

This one has served me well over the years , when you know you can do something with Oracle / PLSQL / Sql Plus , but can't remember the exact syntax ...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kayaking , Drogheda , Boyne , Ireland

Bit of a non technical post , but for those of you interested in kayaking , are in the Dublin / Drogheda / Dundalk areas of Ireland , can recommend the Silverbridge Kayak club based on the Boyne , just south of Navan.

Their website is at , and are particularly good with people beginning the sport. They also cater for more experienced Canoeists , like this weekend's trip to Wales which (sadly) I can't go on ... :-(

Monday, February 14, 2005

PHP , MySql and Mambo

Been (re)finding the joys of PHP , MySql and Mambo CMS lately , to update my consulting website

Normally , I'm a Java / Oracle / XML person myself , but due to a happy accident , the hosting company I use prefers PHP et al. While I'm not about to give up the J2EE , am definately convinced that for websites less that 10 pages , PHP / MySql is the way to go.

Anybody who's interested in consultants in Dublin / Drogheda / Dundalk / Newry / Belfast (all parts of Southern / Northern Ireland) , feel free to stop by. Those people who are into Mambo will notice the highly modified framework , sometimes out of my ignorance of the available components....

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Red Piranah zip and tar.gz available for download from sourceforge


Red Piranha Version 3 is now available for Download as .zip and .tar.gz packages for sourceforge at

Features of this release are:

- learning ability , with feedback from user saved as RDF.
- network links and scoring (from XML-RDF) adjust lucene weighting
- speed and stability improvements
- parsing of favourites / bookmarks
- automatic reindexing of previously parsed documents
- load limiting (priority given to searches , documents parsed in background)
- plugins for easy extension of Red-Piranha (new data sources , new methods of searching)
- recovery from external failure (e.g. power loss) during search / indexing / parsing of documents
- optimization of document and index processing
- Java Bugfix: Nullpointers when searching against empty index.
- Look and feel enhancements (very like well known search engine)

Please let us know how you get on.


Paul Browne

Monday, February 07, 2005

Red Piranha Version 3 Code available on CVS

Been a lot of fun remembering how Sourceforge have configured their CVS servers to use SSH , but finally have got the code release of Red Piranha (version 3) available for you to download via

As a one liner , Red Piranha is a Open Source , Java Search Engine , based on Lucene that not only searches , but can 'learn' what you are looking for.

Red-Piranha is sponsered by , the Dublin Java company.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Getting Started with Spring

Red Piranha uses Spring , a J2EE lite framework, for both it's Presentation Layer (Spring MVC instead of an alternative like Struts) and for it's mid tier.

I describe it as J2EE lite , as while it gives you most of the advantages of an EJB Server , it is a lot easier to deploy. It is also more flexible , allowing you to run your code in J2SE , then move to J2EE (either a Web Server like Tomcat , or a full application Server like JBoss , Weblogic or Websphere) when you are ready.

The article on how to get started with Spring is at:

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

ServerSide Lucene Article

Came across this article on - very good background and explanation of Lucene.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Red Piranha Version 2 now live

Version number 2 of Red Piranha is now live at

This version is a lot faster , is a lot more stable and provides a good Lucene based search engine. It's a good foundation for all the RDF / Semantic and Feedback/Learning features we have lined up for version 3.

It also can be used in a number of ways - from a personal search engine (want google desktop search , but are running Linux or a Mac?) , to Intranet Search , or Integration with your development projects (it's written in Java/J2EE , but will successfully integrate with .Net , Perl , PHP and any number of Web / Command-Line / Other clients such as Eclipse and Flash.

Have fun and let us know how you get on .

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Red Piranha Mailing Lists

Been doing a lot of work on the Red-Piranha community site ahead of the version 2 release. I've forgotton most of what sourceforge can do for you , seeing as it's been a couple of years.

Anyway , got the mailing lists setup at

Monday, December 20, 2004

Refactoring Notes - 1st Draft

Just posted the initial draft of my notes on Refactoring - available at

Mainly stuff from Opdyke , but also my summary of the lecture notes at UCD in Dublin.

The original examples are C++ rather than Java based , but at this high level , the principles are the same.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Masters in Advanced Software Engineering

First week of masters course in software engineering.

This weeks training was on refactoring - Notes to follow , but broadly using fowlers book on refactoring ( Fairly industry standard stuff , but might give you pause for thought before diving in and copying/pasting left right and centre.

On a practical side , the course uses a lot of Java / J2EE , Eclipse and Tomcat, with quite a high level expected in these (e.g. the refactoring group assignment expected these to be built on a bare machine before the refactoring proper could begin - easy enough if you've done it before , but not really the object of the course!!)

The course itself is on UCD's Belfield campus , and is run for 3 weeks a year (part time) with exams in June.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Red Piranaha Available

First Version of Red Piranha (Open Source Search and Knowledge Management) now available on sourceforge -

Red-Piranha is sponsered by us ( )