Sunday, October 29, 2006

Hypochondriacs of the world unite

Government intervention in a sphere of life is rarely desirable and the UK's National Health Service is an excellent example. (My take: completely separate commissioning/procurement of health services from provision. Argue about the role of the state in the former and accept the manifest obviousness of the need for private responsibility for the latter).

However, every so often, something good comes out of it. Browsing for information on something completely different, I discovered the NLH Question Answering Service.

It appears to be a beta but for the even mildly hypochondriac, there is a lifetime's worth of diseases to worry about. Excellent :-)

Firefox 2.0 backlash begins

Slashdot is reporting on problems with Firefox 2.0.

I like the new look of Firefox 2.0 but I can't say I've noticed any other noticeable improvements.

I have noticed new problems, however.

The one that is annoying me most is that, sometimes when I open a new tab the keyboard focus does not move to the address bar. Sounds trivial but is actually infuriating.

I still use Firefox as my default browser but IE7.0 is certainly going to give them a run for their money.


My first job at IBM was in the development organisation at the Hursley Lab. The claim back then was that if Hursley was a software company in its own right it would be the fifth or sixth biggest in the world. The story then went on that IBM Software Group was the second biggest overall (after our friends in Redmond).

I was surprised, therefore, when I read this IBM press release last week. Look at the last paragraph:

"Oracle is the world's largest enterprise software company"

Yes. That quote really did appear on an IBM Press Release. I did a double-take at the time and promptly forgot about it.

Well... John Simonds in SWG Analyst Relations has just pointed out something interesting... 

"IBM Software Group Surpasses Oracle in SW sales to become Number 2"

So... perhaps the press release was right after all. Oracle may, indeed, have overtaken us at some point.

Good to know it was only a temporary aberration :-)

New Twenty Pound Note

Woo! If BBC News 24 is to be believed, Adam Smith will replace Elgar on the Twenty Pound note from the middle of next year.

Nothing from Madsen and Co yet..... am sure they'll have something to say about it tomorrow :-)

I started reading Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" earlier this year. I found it pretty hard going and ground to a (temporary!) halt about half way through.

What I managed to read by that point, however, was astonishing... his insight into incentives and the nature of markets is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it.

What amazes me, however, is not how relevant he is but the extent to which people who should know better choose to ignore him.

[EDIT 2006-10-29 22:34 Report now on BBC online]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I think I may *finally* understand Comparative Advantage

As Tim Worstall points out, the principle of comparative advantage may well be the only non-obvious, non-trivial result in the social sciences.

The idea is easy to state: even if you are better than somebody else at everything, it may still be beneficial to trade with them. The reason why is explained here.

Café Hayek continues to be on the first blogs I turn to in my newsreader each day and Don Boudreaux has an enviable talent for rendering economic arguments in ways that one can readily understand.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Early Binding vs Late Binding

I was asked a good question by a reader of my recent developerWorks article today.

The question was about WebSphere Process Server's support for late binding. This is a powerful feature that allows multiple versions of a business process template to be "live" in a system at the same time.

This means that you can deploy a new version of a process (e.g. to change how you handle a special case or to reflect a new offering) without having to worry about whether this will mess up the currently executing processes; they'll continue to run according to the original definition.

The question I was asked was, in essence: "I've tried it and it doesn't work. What gives?"

If you find yourself in a similar position, the trick is to remember that sometimes you don't want late binding.  As soon as you realise this, the solution becomes clear.... if there are two alternatives, there must be a way to specify what you want!

For the sake of brevity, I will assume you are familiar with Process Server and will not explain my terms... the rule of thumb to use is: "if you wire two components together using an SCA wire, you'll get early binding. If you invoke a process using the BPC API, you'll get late binding". Easy :-)

Can you see what it is yet?!

Diamond Geezer has a fantastic quiz on his blog today.

Using the principle that tube maps distort reality, can you apply a bit of mental manipulation to determine which tube lines are represented by each of these diagrams?

The pictures are well worth a look even if you don't participate in the quiz :-)

Answers in the comments to his post.

[EDIT 2006-10-25 00:03: Diamond Geezer has pointed out in the comments to this post that including his image directly in my post is probably a little impolite. I've removed it but urge you to look at his post anyway... it's rather cool]

I've just about had it with the DLR

We have a new excuse today.....  having exhausted "train failure", "signal failure" and "points failure", the excuse for my aborted journey on the DLR this morning was "Train stuck in tunnel". Classic.

I wonder if my email to will receive a reply.


Dear Sir,

I have been a regular user of the DLR for several years now and have had nothing but good things to say about it. Its reliability, frequency of service, cleanliness and speed has been exemplary.

However, over the last couple of months, reliability has been appalling.  My journeys have been disrupted by points failures, signal failures, train failures and more. Today was a classic example: I understand one of the trains in front of mine got stuck in the tunnels at Bank. I had to detrain at Shadwell and use the East London Line instead.

Can you let me know what you are doing to remedy this precipitous drop in the quality of the service you offer please?

Thank you,

Richard Brown

[EDIT: 2006-10-25 22:41 - I received a reply from Serco within 24 hours. It didn't answer my points directly but  did acknowledge that there had been problems recently and that they're trying to improve things. Top marks for responsiveness]

Monday, October 23, 2006

Speaking of ideas...

The other day, Andrew was musing on the importance of patents to IBM and other technology companies.

It would appear that Amazon are about to learn more about such things...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I wish somebody had told me this before we bought the flat...

It would appear that the borough I live in (and have lived in for the last two and a half years) is the second worst place to live in the UK.

I'd love to know what criteria were used to come to this conclusion. Having one of the most breathtaking river walks in London, being home to Canary Wharf and imposing minimal journey times to central London makes this a remarkably pleasant place to live.

(Yes, yes.... I know.... not all of Tower Hamlets is as nice as the bit I live in.... but even so.... I know of some pretty unpleasant places elsewhere in the country...)

Looks like I was a day early...

It's unfortunate that this story appeared in the Evening Standard rather than a paper that supporters of the BBC would find harder to dismiss but, if its contents are true, it confirms everything I suggested only yesterday.

Flower pots

My parents were down this weekend. For such a short trip, we managed to pack a lot in

A walk along the Thames to do a spot of book buying with my father, dinner at Plateau (Andrew's customer service ranking system should know that we enjoyed it and the service was good... discreet, efficient and effortlessly professional when they corrected the only mistake they made) and a rather unplanned trip to the garden centre.

We managed to turn the previously barren patio into the early stages of a real garden: multiple silver plantpots, 450 litres of compost, jasmine, lavender, black grass, passion flower, skimmia, ivy and multiple tulip and daffodil bulbs. The extravagance even extended to my purchasing a cordless power "hammer-action" drill. Those who know me will confirm that purchasing power tools is not how I typically spend a weekend. I'll be putting up shelves next...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Downsides of SOA

Gerhard Poul makes some good points about SOA.

He mentions several things to be aware of (referential integrity, availability, governance, etc, etc).

His first two points are worth emphasising.

SOA allows powerful composite applications to be created: combining new logic with functionality provided by other systems is a compelling proposition.

But, as I've stressed to several clients, there are also challenges you need to address.

The first is availability: the availability window of a composite application is the intersection of the availabilities of the systems upon which it is critically dependent. Crucially, the intersection is not the union and it is not the average.  Take note.

The second challenge is related to Data.  Gerhard talks about referential integrity but you need to think about more than just this.

The simplest example of what you need to think about is: "how do you do a join across two web services?"

Example problem: you have one table in a database that contains all customers' account balances and another contains their addresses. How do you produce a list of all customers in London with a balance of $1000 or more?

Joining across two tables is easy in a relational database

Products like WebSphere Information Integrator let you join across different data sources (neat!)

But, if you naively "do SOA" by providing a "get customer addresses" service and a "get customer balance" service (and nothing else), you'll have a tough time solving the problem.

The consequence of this is nothing surprising: you need to expose reusable services at a suitable granularity, you need to use the right tool for the right jobs and, most importantly, you need to remember that SOA is not a magic wand that magically makes the last forty years of computer science irrelevant... all the benefits the marketing folks talk about are real but there is still a need for thoughtful architects and designers!

Viral Labyrinthitis

A relative has just come down with viral labyrinthitis.  Nightmare!

Some of the online articles suggest antiviral medication might have a role to play in improving the symptoms and lowering the risk of long-term hearing loss.

Anybody know if this is true and what antivirals the doctor should be asked about?

About Time

There is a cosy consensus in the UK that our state broadcaster (funded by a regressive tax on all television owners) is utterly, unimpeachibly, unbiased.

This is, of course, nonsense but it's often hard to prove.

The guys at Biased BBC do a good job of highlighting the "stealth edits" of BBC News online articles, the degree to which interviewers on "Today" give interviewees a hard time and much more.

However, a potentially even more interesting new service has just started up: "News Sniffer" does a couple of things but one of the most important is spotting all the times that the BBC edit an article on their website without changing the "last updated" timestamp.

From a quick glance, most of the edits are minor corrections and clarifications but the service will come into its own when a contentious issue is in the news.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

IBM Bloggers

I've only just noticed this useful feed: it aggregates the blogs of all the IBMers who have identified themselves as bloggers.  I suspect the traffic will be overwhelming but it could be useful for a browse

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Jumping cursor

Ever since I took possession of my ThinkPad T60p, it has suffered from an infuriating fault.  When I am typing, occasionally, and without warning, the cursor will jump to somewhere else in the document.  Sometimes it will even jump somewhere else and highlight a chunk of text at the same time.  This means I can be typing quickly and inadvertently delete a sentence from three paragraphs earlier in the document.

It drives me insane.

I figured out the problem today. My trackpoint (the red nipple) was configured to support "Press-to-Select".

I must have been brushing past it as I typed and making it think I had clicked the mouse. So, the insert cursor was jumping to wherever the mouse was positioned - and highlighting a section if it sensed that I was pressing for a longer period of time as I brushed over it.

The solution was simple

Control Panel -> Mouse -> Ultra-Nav Tab -> TrackPoint Settings -> Deselect "Enable Press-to-Select"


Tim Worstall should Edit the Today Programme

As must as I hate it, I find it impossible to turn the Today programme off.

Yesterday, I almost vowed never to listen to it again after a sanctimonious, economically illiterate speaker on "Thought for the day" urged listeners to help the poor of the world by refusing to buy the goods they produced. Great idea, Einstein. I think the words I yelled at the radio were something like: "This man is talking B*LL*CKS".

Anyhow, I'm glad I didn't start my boycott as they had an interesting piece this morning. Apparently, they will be allowing a group of listeners to edit the show on New Year's Day 2007.

Now I don't think I've yet done enough to establish my credibility as a balanced, knowledgeable, economically-literate observer of world events. But I know of a man who has.... Tim... if you're not preparing your application as we speak, you should be.


Sun's Jonathan Schwartz is proving to be just as big a publicity machine as his predecessor.

His latest ruse is "Project Blackbox" - a datacenter in a container. (Containerisation's all the rage... I blogged about the double-decker container boats that roam the Thames only yesterday)

In essense, it's a data centre in a box: it contains the CPUs, memory, disks, cooling, etc, etc. You drop it somewhere, connect it to a network, plug it in, plumb it into a water system and off you go.

I understand the idea was triggered, in part, by a customer of Sun telling them it had taken the best part of three years to build out a data centre (compared to You Tube who had been founded, gone live, ramped up to millions of users and been acquired in less time).

However, I can't help thinking that we're comparing apples with oranges here.

Compared to working with an existing estate of software and systems is completely different to building an entirely new infrastructure: in the latter case, you get to write your apps from scratch and don't have to worry about legacy applications or integration. In short, you don't have to worry about the things that are truly difficult.

In reality, installing the hardware is never the hard part. It's all the other "tiny" things you have to do before you can consider your deployment complete: getting the operating system configured and patched to the level that the software you're using requires takes time. Installing the middleware adds a bit of extra time (can you think of an enterprise-scale application that doesn't require some sort of middleware services?) Then you have to configure the middleware... make sure any clustering is set-up, database connectivity sorted, failover tested. Oh... you might want to install some databases (I hope the data you need isn't kept in some other data centre, owned by some other application) 

And that's before you've even written your application or installed it.

In short, what Sun are doing is a nice idea and it almost certainly has value but let's be clear that there are lots of reasons why data centres take a long time to build out and getting a bunch of boxes installed is only one of them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gendal World

Welcome to Gendal World if you've just arrived via

I am an SOA and BPM consultant working for IBM Software Services for WebSphere. This means I help my clients, typically users of IBM WebSphere software, to architect and implement solutions to their integration problems.

I'm currently working in a pre-sales mode, which explains the lack of technical postings of late - I'm not engaging directly on projects at present. I'd love to blog about how we sell our services and how we scope engagements but I suspect you'd find it a bit dull :-)

When I'm not working, I have an avid interest in politics and, especially, the intersection of politics and economics.

I hope you stick around to read future articles I'm preparing on why all business journalists are provably second-rate (spoiler: if there were any good ones, they'd have already fixed the appalling quality of business journalism in the UK), why I think I may be a libertarian (without the guns bit) and, if you're really lucky, I may devise a new design pattern for modern life.

Today, my blog is two clicks away from the front page of

That's not something that happens every day.

Of course, Andy Piper is only one click away.

He will be unbearable when I meet him for a drink in an hour.

TV Star

Can my day get any more exciting?

At the DLR platform at Limehouse this morning, I changed my routine and stood at the end opposite to where I normally stand.

This meant that the District Line was a better way to complete my journey from Bank this morning - as fighting the crowds to the other end of the platform for the Waterloo and City line was unappealing.

This meant I had to walk from Blackfriars along the South Bank to my office.

As I walked along, I noticed one of those boats full of yellow containers that sail up and down the river. One of the containers was missing so I looked over to see what the bottom of the gap looked like... I wanted to know how they were secured to the boat. Imagine my surprise when I realised there was another container underneath.... the boats contain (at least) twice as many containers as I had previously thought.

If this change of routine and voyage of discovery was not enough for one day, I was accosted by a researcher for ITV1's "This Morning" show and asked if I would participate in a segment they were filming.

I had to take a chocolate, eat it, describe the flavour and then react when told what the flavour really was.

I will not spoil their show by giving the answer here... I'll just repeat what I told them: "that was really quite unpleasant".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wow. She's lucky to be alive

Given that you can get every bone in your face broken for asking someone to move their car, this woman is either brave or stupid.

"Put out your cigarette!"

Brave, stupid and very admirable.

Why has the DLR started to suck?

I first observed that DLR was beginning to take on the characteristics of a typically awful LUL line a few months ago.

Since then, more points failures (two days in a row), signal failures (trains crawling between stations under manual control) and other niggles have become the norm rather than the exception.

Not good enough, Serco.

SORE Point

It has just been pointed out to me that I mis-spelled "illiterate" in this post.

The irony is not lost on me.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Repealing the Law of Gravity

I don't care whether Richard Dawkins coined it or not, I don't like the word "meme" and so I have no intention of propagating its usage.

However, a question that is currently doing the rounds is: "Which law would you like to break?"

The title of this post hints at the usual, unimaginative, answer to such a question.

I much preferred the answer that Gavin Ayling reported someone had given:

“I would love to break the law of unintended consequences but there would probably be a down side I hadn’t counted on…”


Reuters Reporter Embedded in "Sadville"

The Register seems to have something of a downer on Second Life.

Several of my colleagues are convinced of the potential of Second Life and other "metaverses" and are running with it as hard as they possibly can.

I admire their enthusiasm and passion and am following their progress with interest and admiration.

However, I don't think it's inconsistent also to state that I can't help feeling that I'm missing something. I'm not ashamed to say that I just don't get it.

However, this Slashdot article reminded me why I'm probably wrong. When government starts to realise there's money being made (and decide that they want their cold, dead hands on it), it suggests there really is something interesting going on...

So, even though I'm not convinced this is an area that's "for me", I'm glad to see that people I know and respect are in there and making it their own.

London Free Sheet Wars

The London freesheets are a never-ending source of interest for me. The quality of the new evening papers is mixed but, as I commented here, I quite like thelondonpaper.

I've been trying to deduce the compensation models for the distributors of the various papers and outlined some theories here.

Further evidence of the absolute desperate nature of the competition was provided today.

I took today off and had lunch with some friends in Central London. We noticed a "thelondonpaper" distributor setting up stall towards the end of our meal and we watched what he did.

Once his stall was set up, he walked down the road and placed a copy of the paper on every parked motorbike. He then placed a copy on top of the street furniture (bollards, post boxes, you name it: if it was stationary, he deposited a paper on it).

He then came over to the bar we were sat outside of (that it is warm enough to sit outside in the middle of October is worthy of another post. Let's just say that if this is the effect of global warming, I'm going to start burning more oil... :-p  )

Back to the story... he came over to the tables and gave everybody a copy of the paper.

So far, so entrepreneurial, perhaps.

It was only when I started to read the paper on the tube that I discovered his pièce de resistance. He had carefully placed a second copy of the paper inside the first!

The pressures on these guys to shift more copies must be utterly intense.

Wilkinson Sword Titanium vs Gillette Mach 3

I received a free Wilkinson Sword Titanium razor through the post last week. I don't know why - I suspect I may have followed a link to "free razor!!" on one of those "save money" emails that goes round.

I thought I'd give it a try.

What a disappointment!

It feels a little different to my normal Gillette but that's not a problem... change doesn't have to be bad.

But where it fails - and this is unforgiveable - is that it just doesn't shave particularly close.

FOUR blades and my upper lip is just as rough afterwards as it was before. Were it not for the stubble in the lather, I would have thought the blades were missing.

Bizarrely, it shaved the sides of my face better than a Mach 3. Perhaps the answer is to use two different razors..!

I think the main problem is a lack of audible feedback when using the Wilkinson Sword - you can't tell which parts of the face require extra attention.



This is a spoof. Surely?

Just read through the comments on the various articles.  I'm lost for words.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Changes are afoot

I've finally got round to upgrading my blogger template to their new beta format.

It appears to have reset my RSS feed so apologies to those who subscribe to this blog... you may have a lot of duplicates now (although I do hope not).


Technorati tags: , ,

The Society of Real Economists

Russ Roberts is almost apopleptic at the sight of 650 "economists" signing a letter that only an economic illerate could have signed.

He proposes founding a new society that any economist can join provided they hold the following three beliefs:

1. Demand slopes downward - people do less of something when it gets more expensive
2. Prices respond to market forces
3. Motives and intentions do not matter. Results and actions do.

Russ's third point is the most important. I find the most effective way to make the muddle-headed realise their closely-cherished political/economic beliefs are wrong is to make them realise there is a BIG difference between "intent" and "outcome".

The oddest lunch I've experienced for some time

We went to a local pub for Sunday lunch this afternoon.  We'd been before and found it reasonable.

This time, however, the alarm bells began to ring when we were met with hastily-printed signs warning us that "Due to unforseen circumstances, the kitchen will be open from noon - 4pm today".

The curious form of words should have sent us running (is the kitchen usually open for fewer hours? Is it normally closed and the unforseen circumstance was that the locks failed?)

Regardless, we found a table and placed our order. We were told they were busy and that it might take 35 minutes or so to be served. No problem.... it gave us time for a drink and a chat.

After 50 minutes, the food still hadn't arrived and I was about to chase it. At that moment, a harrassed-looking waitress appeared and asked which of us was "having the chicken". The answer ("none of us") sent her scuttling back.

Five minutes later, she reappeared with a single dish (there were five of us at the table) and informed us that the order three of us had placed "had run out".  My response ("WHAT?!!!") temporarily threw her until she formed a response (something about a "busy" kitchen...) and placated us with a promise of quick delivery of our second choice meal.

Ten minutes later, another single dish arrived.

At this point, I asked her if she could help us out: we had been served the wrong meal, been told fifty minutes late that they didn't actually have what we ordered and then failed to deliver the meals at anything approximating "the same time" as each other. Perhaps they would like to offer us a drink?

"Sorry. We can't do that. But we can offer you a free dessert".  The prospect of receiving my pension before dessert momentarily passed before my eyes and I decided to ask again if they could help us on the beverage front instead.

She went away to ask the manager before deciding that yes - they could offer us a drink each as compensation for the issues they were plainly experiencing in the kitchen.

Our meals arrived shortly afterwards and the situation appeared to be improving.... until we tried to leave.

As we were finishing our drinks, we heard a disturbance to our left and realised that the staff were locking us into the room we were in! Our next exit was down some steps, via an outside terrace and through the room next door. A family with a pushchair tried to leave and were told to exit via the kitchen.

What an utterly bizarre experience.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ballmer talks

It would be better for me if my competitors' leaders were incompetent. When they're not, they should at least be as articulate and clear as Microsoft's Steve Ballmer.

He was spot on in his comments about social networking sites (e.g. ones based on attracting university students will find that 25% of their customers graduate every year... ouch!)

What I found most interesting, however, were his comments on Web 2.0 valuations. His inability to justify some of the valuations should be a warning to us all: I really hope we're not about to enter bubble territory again.


I wonder what the results would be if they tried this in Westminster?!

It serves me right

I had drinks with a friend I hadn't seen for ages in town last night. For reasons I don't completely understand, we ended up in the roof garden of the Hilton on Trafalgar Square.

Fantastic views, good (albeit expensive) drinks and now I have a cold :-(

I've never accepted the link between "going out in the cold" and "catching a cold". It's like saying you can catch TB from conspicuous extravagance but coincidence makes for a good anecdote and admitting that I probably just caught it from all the people around me who also have colds isn't as interesting an explanation.

It still sucks, though. I was supposed to go out in Clapham this evening. Instead, I'm inhaling Olbas Oil.

Chirality Update

Polly informs me, via email, that our theory of tube chirality is in crisis.

It would appear that the Jubilee line, even though it contains no loops or branches, does not have two versions of the route maps in the carriages.

Henry... does this mean we need to rethink or does your analysis cater for this observation?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hotel Restaurant

It was my birthday on Friday (I'm almost officially old).

I spent the first hour of it (midnight - 1am) at a client site for reasons that I'll blog about when sufficient time has passed.... suffice it to say that the last few days have been remarkably intense.

I arrived back in London in time for my birthday meal: we went to Curve, which is part of the West India Quay Marriott hotel.

It majors in seafood and I wasn't disappointed by the range. Expensive but excellent.

Save the babies or the oldies?

Russ Roberts makes a passionate argument for how healthcare is too important to be left outside the marketplace

The Government Promises you Runways... aaahhh!

It appears a group against airport expansion has decided to pursue the "humour" angle.

Apart from the fact that I disagree with most (not all) of their aims, it's quite a funny ad :-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cool Video

I don't make a habit of talking about popular culture on here but I couldn't resist linking to a cool music video. The song has been around for a while but I've only recently bothered to watch the video properly.

I'm talking about David Guetta v. The Egg - Love Don't Let me Go (or, rather, the sequence between 1:45 and 2:23)

I'm sure Parkour is very passé these days but I thought it was pretty cool.

The video is also helped by the fact that parts of it look like they were shot at Elephant and Castle's Heygate Estate (darn... I can't find a good photo of it online... which is a shame... it'll be demolished soon. Jon... get some photos, quick!)

(Yes... before anyone says... I don't think it really was shot at E&C but still.... )

What a cool map

Henry, a friend who works for A Competitor aCtivE iN The consUlting aREna, pointed me at these cool travel-time maps.

The idea is that the map centres on a specific point and is then colour coded to show how long it would take to get from anywhere else on the map to that point.

In other words, it allows you to judge travel times by the reality of public transport and the roads rather than by a coarse judgement of direct distance. Neat!




I knew that Airbus was a political endeavour and that it may not be structured in the most efficient way but even I find this hard to believe:

They cabin of the A380 is shuttled between Hamburg and Toulouse during production as different parts of it are fitted at different sites.

I'm amazed it's only two years late.

You'll regret that!

I've often wondered how City A.M., thelondonpaper and London Lite distributors are measured. Are they paid to hand out papers for three hours? Are they paid to distribute a certain number of papers? Are they paid for time spent standing, with a bonus for handing out a certain percentage?

I obtained an insight to this question today when the new City A.M. guy at my local station took a handful of papers and appeared to place them directly, but surreptitiously, into a bin that a litter-sweeper was pushing past. This appeared to be with the consent of the litter-sweeper.

Now, perhaps they were damaged or left over from yesterday but it did appear that he was offloading a pile of today's papers.

So, what can we conclude from this?

I conclude that the City A.M. distributors are incented to shift papers (why else would they push them at you, after all?). The way this is measured must be by counting the number of papers left over at the end of the shift.

So, assuming no spot checks, it would be rational to bin some of the papers.... less work to do!

The only downside would be if he shifted so many papers that they sent him more the next day. Before he knew it, he'd have an increasing stack every day until the pile of papers was twenty feet high and swayed dangerously in the wind.

To continue his deception, he'd have to spend increasing amounts of time disposing of them.  The bin man would suffice for a while, but he might get upset when asked to dispose of half a ton of newspapers.  The distributor would then have to start hiding papers behind plantpots or under front-door mats.  If he were clever, he would take a pile to the platform, jump on a train when it arrived, dump a pile on the floor and hop off again before the doors closed but the train staff might get wise to him.

It would turn into a nightmare. He would lose sleep. He'd spend more time covering up his deception than handing out the papers. His relationship would suffer. It would just be awful.

Therefore, my advice to him (and others who might be tempted to bin the papers they're supposed to be distributing) is don't do it. It just isn't worth it!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


IBM announced a whole heap of new stuff in the SOA space today.

Some new stuff that might interest my readers are:

  • New version of WebSphere Business Modeler
  • New version of WebSphere Business Monitor
  • New product: WebSphere Registry and Repository

There are lots of articles out there and our SOA-blogger-in-chief, Sandy Carter, will have more on her blog over the coming days.

I'm particularly interested in the new Modeler product. It's often the small things that make all the difference. For example, quite apart from some of the major additions and changes, a technical change to how WSDL documents are imported into Modeler will make a big difference to BPM projects.

Free gas!

If somebody had told me, I'd have shot over to the pipline, bought a party pack and filled up a few balloons.... it's not often people pay you to take natural gas off their hands...

Of course, those who think that high oil prices are a sign of excessive greed on the part of the "oil companies" must presumably conclude that they have just engaged in a collective bout of philanthropy. I wonder what the cause is?

(Yes, yes.... I stole that argument... probably from one of the Cafe Hayek folk)


It appears that Wapping is the fourth "best place" to live in the UK - and the only place in London in the top ten. Having just bought a flat in E1W, this is reassuring news.

Of course, if you read further, you'll see phrases such as "hot spot". That is code for "dangerously over-priced" so I'm not feeling too smug...


(Oh... and for those who read the entire article.... No... I did not spend £1.29m)

Let he who is without sin...

Although I use Firefox in preference to Internet Explorer, I do so for features such as tabbed browsing.

Vague claims that it is "more secure" have never washed with me: how do you prove it?  I can prove that one piece of software is faster than another or easier to install or costs less but proving something is more secure (as opposed merely to having had fewer security problems discovered in it) is an entirely different question.

So those who spend their days trumpeting Firefox (or Apple's Operating System for that matter) as somehow superior than a competing product because they are "more secure" attract my disapproval (and you don't want to be the target of my disapproval!)

I therefore felt a sense of schadenfreude when I read this article. It appears that Firefox's Java Script engine is a "complete mess" and quite likely riddled with security holes.  Who'd have guessed it?!

(For the record, however, I should say that I do not approve of those who don't give vendors sufficient time to fix problems before publishing.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'll see your five and raise you

Andy Piper has been at IBM for five years.


I marked the end of my sixth last month.

It's been an interesting and enjoyable ride.... testing software at Hursley, performing competitive Proofs of Concept in a worldwide Technical Sales team, WebSphere consultancy around Europe and now Technical Sales for Services sales.

Andy's idea of taking a few days off for reflection is probably a good one; my six years have gone by extraordinarily quickly. Which I suspect is a good sign (time only drags when you're bored :-)  )

Remember what the *bilities give you

Larry Osterman had a good post the other day about the *bilities. He was pointing out to the developers that read his blog that you need to worry about serviceability, accessibility and all the other good stuff.

A corollary of this is that you need to understand what each of these *bilities means and what it does and doesn't give you.

A capability of enterprise systems is transactionality. We often loosely describe it as the thing that allows us to make sure that "either everything happens or nothing does".

David Currie has an excellent post that points out that you need to be a little more subtle than that. He is giving another example of how there is no susch concept of "simultaneous". Not in physics and certainly not in computer science.

Upgrading Flights

I wouldn't be surprised if a large portion of those flying on BA's Concorde flights were frequent travellers upgrading from more mundane classes.  The loss of Concorde was surely a blow to them.

Virgin (who I find superior to BA in pretty much ever way) don't even have a First class for Business Class passengers to upgrade to (their "Upper Class" is a merged cabin)

No longer.  It appears that very frequent travellers on Virgin now have an option that surpasses even Concorde.

One man has just upgraded from Upper Class to Virgin Galactic.

BPEL evolves

Joe McKendrick discusses some recent exchanges around BPEL 1.1 and 2.0.  Some people appear to be complaining that rework may be required if one migrates from 1.1 to 2.0.

Seriously, what did you expect?

There are new features in BPEL 2.0 that weren't available in 1.1.  If you needed those features in the 1.1 timeframe, you had three choices:

  • Not do the thing that the 2.0 feature would have let you do
  • Roll your own
  • Use the vendor's proprietary implementation (if any)

None of the options are wonderful but that's what happens if a standard doesn't contain the thing you want.

The question is: which option is best (or least worst)?

My money is on going with your vendor's version.

Free Enterprise

I popped out of the office this afternoon for an eye test (the ability to take time out when business permits and make up the time later on is extraordinarily useful)

I forgot to bring my umbrella to work this morning and suffered when I left the optician and realised it was raining torrentially.

I ran from the store (on the Strand) to Charing Cross Station (it was too wet to consider walking back to the office). My plan was to take the tube to Waterloo and reconsider my position from there.

As I was running down the steps into the station, I heard what sounded like "Free Umbrellas!" I wasn't naïve enough to believe free umbrellas really were available but I was so wet that a few extra seconds outdoors wouldn't have made a difference. So I climed back upstairs.

As I emerged back into the biblical flood, I realised one of the touristy-shops that sells tat on Villiers Street had converted itself into an umbrella emporium, with its proprietor energetically yelling at anybody going past.  He was doing a roaring trade.

The ability to turn his business at the turn of the rain was a sight to behold. Bravo!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

If you're in the market for a coffee table...

... may I recommend Dorset Chunky Pine?

The table I ordered a while back was delivered on Saturday and is unique and was good value.

I specified a design slightly different to the standard ones they offered and Allan built it exactly as I asked.

It is now sitting in the living room and looking very impressive.

(Yes, Yes.... I know a photo would probably be a good addition to this post..... patience!)

Sloe Gin

It appears that the humble G&T is no longer enough. I'm seeing an increasing number of bars in London suggesting one tries Sloe Gin and Tonic.

It doesn't taste too bad and I figured Sloe Gin might make a useful addition to the spirits cupboard.

It was almost not to be. Do Waitrose in Canary Wharf sell it? No. Tesco Metro? No. Oddbins in Cabot Place? No. Where else could I try?

Luckily, the "tenth best place in London", Gerry's, in Soho, came to the rescue.  I felt ever-so-slightly embarrassed asking for this drink. I needn't have. My friend Ben, who I went there with, waited until I had paid for mine before asking if they stocked Mead. They did.


Tim Worstall points to this Telegraph Article.

About time, too.... Like I say to anyone who'll listen, reducing emissions, preventing mining and almost all the other "good things" that environmentalists promote invariably have costs. This doesn't mean we shouldn't aim to do these things but it does mean we have to consider the consequences of our actions on others - in this case those who would stay poor if a factory didn't get to open.

Gheorghe Lucian seems not to believe that others have the right to impose further time in poverty on him. Good for him.


It seems that the anti-Roaccutane lobby are continuing their march towards having it banned. It appears it may cause "depression" in mice. I'm not sure how one tells that a mouse is depressed. But, apparently, one can.

I must confess an interest here. I was prescribed Roaccutane in my early twenties and its effects were astonishing. I have friends who have also benefitted from it - some to an astonishing degree.

Were it to be made even harder to obtain than it is today (only dermatologists can prescribe it in the UK) then I would be most upset.