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I had a great time instructing the J2EE/JBoss for Java Developers course at the TechEngage Spring 2005 session at the North Carolina State University campus. TechEngage is a community-service organization which provides a full week of inexpensive ($145) training for displaced IS/IT workers (to attend the courses you must be un/underemployed). The organizers were most gracious and the attendees were extremely motivated (some of the most motivated folks I've seen).



As an instructor, I was allowed to attend some of the side sessions such as the Networking Skills and Communication Skills classes. Who knew that comparing a Linux distribution's install process to copulating with an elephant might not be appropriate? Just kidding. Actually I learned about some of my weird quirks that I engage in during a presentation. For instance, I tend to be very reverent and pious to the technologies I present -- actually I tend to just appear that way as I hold my hands together at my waist. There are other things I do. That being said, many of the things I do without realizing it are actually techniques taught in the course. Of course there are the unconventional things I do. It is rumored that I stand on furniture to make certain points.


In the networking skills class, I learned a lot about our local area that I was unaware of. Furthermore, I was able to understand some of the "networking skills" that I've only recently stumbled onto in more formal terms. Like most technical workers, I usually emphasize technical skills first. However, in recent years I've started working on developing "soft skills". Yet, I've focused more on "presentations" than on any thoughtful networking. Not that I haven't networked, but I've just not done so with any purpose. I'll still probably do a lot of purposeless networking (I just don't see the world in functional enough terms to be a real "networker") but I plan to apply more thought other types as well.


I think that this event and these types of events are very important and hope to see more of them in the future. Its entirely non-profit and the instructors volunteer their time. I'd also like to thank my employer, JBoss for donating the materials and allowing me the time to participate in this worthy event (no small thing since its normally a $3000/seat course). I'd also like to applaud all of the volunteers and organizers who made it happen.


Check this Novell add about Microsoft's EOL for Windows NT and Linux. :-) I've never been a big Windows fan.

Andrew Oliver

JBoss World day 1

Posted by Andrew Oliver Mar 6, 2005


I still didn't make it to all of the sessions I would have liked, and more of the value (for me) was talking to people.


Hibernate 3 - This was boring. I already knew what was presented. Everyone else was excited. Oddly Gavin seemed to state that there would not be a Hibernate 4, more like 3.1, 3.2, etc. He thinks they're about done with everything that can be done. I was reminded of this:


“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”


-- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899


Of course there is some question about the quote actually being real, but that doesn't really matter because its a good story. BTW I had to sit on the floor against the front wall. People even took the nose bleed seats that you couldn't see the slides from (podium in the way) and whoa there were too many people in that room.


To me the most interesting thing in Hibernate 3 is "filters". Add filters + AOP and JBoss's security framework and you have the killer security app (not covered in the session). Consider adding stuff like rules engines and you have pure unadulterated evil security! Meaning I could set up advice based on the logged in users (applied not with annotations but to all objects along a certain vertical aka matching certain pointcut expressions). It would dink a filter and I wouldn't get back anything I couldn't see (the trick is setting up an association in the DB with what is essentially an access control list...yeah thats kinda yucky but I can't think of anything else). Then add per-instance annotations that gives you further security constraints on what you can do with what you *can* see. What's cool is you could do this without most of the developers being completely oblivious to it being there.


I also went to the JCA presentation. JCA is now becoming clear to me. This is good because I will need to write a JCA adapter. I cannot say that any part of it was interesting to was tedious and boring. This is not the speakers fault. JCA is tedious and boring.


However, the best thing was making contact with the MySQL guy. We talked about my issues in JBoss Mail Server (and secondly JBossMQ) with simulated blob support in the MySQL driver. He showed me another technique which we can use for our new Blob "MailStore" stuff. (The theory -- that won't work completely due to DB driver support in most DBs -- is that we immediately redirect the stream from the DATA command to a blob in the DB so that we consume as little heap as possible as well as the opposite for POP/IMAP). As cool as that is, we can't really do it because most database drivers don't have real blob stream support (MySQL being no exception). However, after talking to the MySQL guy I see how I can work around this. Not the ideal solution but still accomplishing most of it. Still sucks that I have to do this for just about each database differently.


I also went to Mladen Turk's discussion on the new AJP 1.4 and recombination of mod_jk into mod_proxy. I'm glad this is finally going to be done well. Lots of features but you can watch it later on Syscon.


Next, I had a great chance to talk to the guys from Hewlett-Packard. We got to talking about benchmarks and other forms of deception. I told him some stuff I had discovered in the field about garbage collection and how certain other vendors like to cheat on benchmarks by disabling the garbage collector while running their benchmark on their appserver and how utterly pointless that is. He told me about some of their findings on different hardware platforms and about some of their high end x86/64 hardware (AMD/Intel). Also cool was just how those boxes are put together. I knew pretty much nothing about this stuff and what the performance differences were because I've dealt more with stuff like the PA-RISC, and SPARC. The folks doing Linux stuff generally aren't on as high end hardware -- this is changing -- but it was really good to get educated on this stuff. I look forward to working with these guys, they are smart people. Please send me a sample quad-opteron :-) -- I will test/benchmark JBoss Mail Server on it!


I also talked with the Apple guys. They were really interested in our increasing powerbook population. I have to admit, most folks here are Windows. A few use Linux (my servers are Linux...but not on the client!); however, there is an increasing number of people who are right-thinking and use powerbooks. I told him that the biggest thing that gave me pause was that they still don't have JDK 5.0 and they don't give any real info out about when its coming. This is really annoying as a developer. However, for all the other reasons -- Powerbooks are what a good consultant should have. I was kind of disappointed that they are still distributing a rather old version of JBoss (3.2.2rc1) and encouraged them to move forward.


Later I talked to Bill Burke about installing Gentoo if you want to completely optimize for hardware (it compiles all packages specifically for your hardware). I told him that Gentoo was great, the packaging was easier and that if you want to install something it doesn't all end up depending on X because of the massive dependency tree. Gentoo gives you only what you ask for and has optional dependencies. I told him that the downside was that "Installing Gentoo feels like being raped by a large elephant, but once you get past that everything is really easy". However, its not something I tell customers because most don't have a big enough pool of hardcore Linux admins to pull this off, but you can create a pretty optimized Linux-box (minus the JDK itself -- that should be open sourced ;-) ) and actually secure!


All-in-all this was the first useful tech conference I'd been to in awhile. It was just about equally who I talked to outside the sessions that made it worthwhile. So yeah, I couldn't say anything particularly negative about it in the company blog. However, I travel so much and do so many tech conferences that I really didn't want to come....I did so because I'm an employee of the company and it was important to the company that I be there. However, I'm glad they made me come. I got a lot out of it! I actually will ASK to come next year.


So I'm still writing my entry about yesterday, but I wanted to link the other folks (not JBoss guys) blogging about JBossWorld. I'll of course only link things that aren't massively biased against us (not the BEA spy who came's blog), but it doesn't have to be completely glowing. If you're sophisticated, just use the trackback and link from here. If you're not then add it to the comments. These are a few I read:


Look forward to seeing everyone next year!

Andrew Oliver

JBossWorld day 0

Posted by Andrew Oliver Mar 3, 2005


Today (yesterday) was the keynote, WHICH STARTED WITH A VIDEO CLIP OF Marc doing the numa numa DANCE (explanation). Unfortunately, as an an employee, I had to give up my seat and then there was not enough standing room (and when you see the picture, you will see that this was a huge room but could not have possibly fit everyone) and so I missed everything after Marc's talk. I was bummed, being in services the customer panel was the most interesting part to me. Oh well, we should rent a bigger space next year. It is a huge hotel but we kinda took it over and so what would have been a mostly empty space in previous years is feeling cramped in some of the busier sessions.


Some day I will get to talk to Thomas Diesler about the "nokia" branch of JBoss Mail Server so that I can merge in his changes (I think I get it now, but I wanted to make sure), but I couldn't make it 10 steps without getting wrapped up in a conversation with a partner or customer. Good conversations, and I'm really interested in the Novell stuff, especially Linux side, security/single sign on stuff, and IKVM/Mono stuff -- but I managed to keep almost getting to sit down with Thomas until it was time for another session and too late.


The main sessions I went to were the JBossProfiler by Clebert Suconic and the one on Helios by Nicholas Whitehead and the ADP gang. I met Nicholas on a training gig for JBoss back when this was a mere shadow of its new self. Our admin tool guys were salivating in the back as they saw all the pretty graphs and ease of use features. I was like..."so when are you coming on tour with me to just go add this everywhere JBoss is?" The thing about it is that you can create your own custom views and really tie anything into it. They were monitoring....uh hum....IIS threads next to JK threads.


The JBoss Profiler is something I kinda can take a little blame for. Clebert contacted me asking how he could get his profiler stuff into Apache. He knew me from POI, a project I co-founded, back when we were still a little project on sourceforge. I told him he might want to bring it to JBoss instead and so now he's gainfully employed at JBoss. He's kicking butt too. He mentioned how I whine about his web interface (I'm known for criticism for some reason :-P ). Its come a really long way since then (and it wasn't that long ago that I looked at it last). So now I'll just complain about the documentation which is really just starting to be fair (so give it a try, then ask on the forums -- this will help get the documentation process underway). This session was also packed. The really unique thing about JBoss Profiler is that it has promise for use in production by being able to filter down to the low level and do disconnected profiling. It has some cool features and things that are in the works, like JUnit-based profiling, but its the potential for use in production that attracted me and that I think attracts most folks to it.


Both sessions were packed and while no one sits in the nose-bleed seat (except me), there were people standing all long the walls. I remember when we barely could fill a room 1/8th of this size for a whole training -- let alone concurrent sessions.


I didn't get to go to some of the sessions I wanted to because they were concurrent or I needed to TCB.


So the party....yes...the party. Okay... The fur bus was really something. I'd never ridden in a fur bus, let alone a pink fur bus. I did feel like I needed gold teeth a furry hat and a gold medallion to go along with the decor, but oh well. So Ciara cancelled on us, but we had a great 12 PIECE band band play anyhow. There were also...umm...the ladies of JBoss. Anyhow, it was a party. Bob Bickel, impressed with his dancing skill and I learned that I may be the only person in the company that cannot dance what-so-ever (okay I took a couple swing dance lessons but I don't think that would have fit exactly). Nathalie and Marc Fleury were all over the floor. Even Bill was out there. I danced a little with Julien Dubois, but I'll let the inevitable incriminating pictures along with the time....oh nevermind. Marc promised that next year will be more than twice as big and as fun. That I hope to see. Only next year I hope not to have to leave early due to this dang cold.