A fork in the twitter?

There is some current hullabaloo over twitter’s most recent hires.

I agree with the commenters on that post. Shutting down productivity tools with two weeks’ notice is an big, big problem.

Worse for me is the implication that Twitter are content for this to happen and content to hire people who do this (the commenters have also picked up on this).

The only salvageable situation would seem to either keep the services running or as Justin Mason suggests, open sourcing them.

I think this is the Twitter exit warning for me.

Java makes me passionate


I really like Java, it’s a fundamentally great language. Verbose at times, but great.

However, web application development in Java is painful. Additionally, the compilation and deployment of Java webapps completely suck. I mean, they’re terrible.

I dread to think how many frameworks exist in Java to ease web app development – each one claiming it’s the best and will solve all your woes, yet none come anywhere close to the ease of development in Rails, Django, or any of the PHP frameworks.

I remember being introduced to JSF at ApacheCon Europe 2006. I came back declaring that we would never use JSF for our internally-developed applications. When there was masses of hype, and everyone was claiming JSF was amazing, I got a few questions in the office.

Two years on and there’s finally some acceptance that JSF 1.0 was horrible for developing web applications, with some defensively claiming that JSF 2.0 will solve all the problems. Right, because that always works.

See the recent discussion:

Anyway this means I try and keep a close eye on things like JRuby and Grails but we’ve been pretty reluctant to use them at work because we tend to have large monolithic applications which require maintenance by different people over time which means code homogenisation is good.

To this end, our last couple of projects have been in Struts2+Spring+JPA+Hibernate. This is a nice combination, with a number of well-understood components working well together, especially since we’ve used the Zero Configuration plugin which allows us to drop tens of lines of XML in favour of a few lines of annotations. The Zero Configuration stuff is as buggy as hell and there’s no concrete date for Struts 2.1.2 where it should be fixed, but that’s by-the-by. For me, the fact that we haven’t had to be editing XML almost makes it worth it 😉 Also, Struts2 is highly testable which fits in nicely with our existing testing process.

But when you have a framework you’re (mostly) happy with for development, it highlights the other pain points you may have. For us, this was definitely the deploy/test cycle. We were already using TDD in the compile cycle so there’s a level of confidence about the backend code – tests always run after a successful compile, but when you’re amending the web interface either for small cosmetic changes or for larger changes of data representation there’s a long recompile, redploy, retest cycle that drives me insane. Obviously there are ways around it if you’re using something like Eclipse and have a web application in the structure it needs but we tend to have a number of files which are built at compile-time by Ant. Also, I don’t like being tied to an IDE for tooling purposes – I’m very happy with my current editor thank you very much. The only real missed opportunity was AppFuse – we remembered about it too late; any other Struts2 projects will probably start with it though.

All of this is why I was pleased to see Play! . It’s a just-in-time compilation framework where the controllers and model are pure Java and the view is Groovy; excellent!

This means that we can reduce the time taken to learn (we only need to learn one component – the view – plus config) whilst leaving all the business logic in a state maintainable by anyone in the team. It serves up locally through Apache Mina whilst also being deployable to a more conventional container like Tomcat or JBoss. Changes to both business logic and template are instant, and you can still test it to your heart’s content !

Unfortunately the latest stable version (1.0-stable3 at writing) doesn’t contain critical features like, um, if..else in the template language. Everything seems to be in the nightly, but having been burned with the Zero Configuration Struts plugin (which had the notice “This is experimental. Feedback is appreciated!”) I wouldn’t like to commit any real effort to writing an application in it. As soon as they have that core stuff nailed down though – I’m there.

A tour of Parliament

A few weeks ago I went on a tour of Parliament (which lest you should think it boring, is also the Palace of Westminster!). In order to do so you need to contact your MP.

I saw the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the monarch’s Robing Room, and much more! For example, Westminster Hall (which was built almost a thousand years ago) was the place where William Wallace was executed, Thomas More was condemned to death, where coronation banquets were held and where the exhumed Oliver Cromwell was declared guilty of treason.

Unfortunately you’re only allowed to take photos of Westminster Hall, so I can’t marvel you with the photos of pomp and gold but I can assure you that it’s worth the trip and the 75 minute guided tour (which focuses massively on how the English Civil War threw out the monarchy). The House of Commons is much, much smaller than you’d think and the eternally hanging microphones are extremely strange constantly sliding in and out of focus.

Westminster Hall

What I can say is that if the business of government moved out of the Houses of Parliament tomorrow, they could instantly become a museum. The throne in the House of Lords takes up a whole wall and is made of SOLID GOLD! You should definitely go.

Keeping up with the lizards

It used to be the case that I pored over Mozilla (and later Firefox) release notes. But I stopped sometime in 2004, around the point when I accepted that XUL development was too hard to be doing in my spare time and yes, Firefox was clearly better than IE at just about everything.

This means that I now miss all the cool announcements






Mai blog! It is back!

So, I finally finished the move from one host to another. It should not have taken as long as it did but after a frustrating night with the nginx config I spent a few days unwinding and catching up with the BBC’s new light entertainment series for Saturday nights, Merlin by watching it on iPlayer. My god I love iPlayer. It’s amazing. Even though I already have a PVR which the wife and I use heavily, iPlayer has still changed how we think about and watch TV. Awesome.


In the process of moving server I also moved from my blog being served from Apache+mod_php to Nginx+fastcgi (in particular I followed these instructions: Perfect Setup: Ubuntu Hardy+Nginx+MySQL5+PHP5+Wordress). I learnt a few things, although I’m sure most lessons will become apparent over the coming weeks. 😉

Firstly, nginx is amazing. In-place binary upgrades; simpler (to me) config files; faster; smaller; less memory overheard. If memory is no object to you, then you’re probably safe staying with Apache2, otherwise I’d recommend the switch.

fastcgi is less good, taking more memory than I’d like, although it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison because of course Apache2 masks the PHP usage. This may also be throwing off the nginx vs. Apache2 comparisons between my servers but only by a small amount I hope.

Another reason I’ve taken to nginx is that the documentation seems to have made a leap that Apache2’s never seems to have managed. That is to say, it is a user-friendly wiki with sections for both user-contributed recipes as well as a complete config reference. Apache’s documentation has always been a source of pain to me, and it’s almost always guaranteed that the answer you’re looking for is on someone’s blog or in a mailing list somewhere rather than closer to the main docs and having some vague authority of being halfway accurate.

Of course, this may just be because Apache2 is now a venerable beast (or at least the docs that also apply to Apache are), but it makes a big difference.

Anyway, I look forward to a world of excitement with my new nginx setup. I have yet to set up proper logging (like filtering 404s and logrotate for specific site logs) and I have a mass of images and videos still to bring over from my old site, plus wordpress maintenance like theme-munging and plugin installation, and at some point it might be nice to actually have a home page…