Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A sad day

I just heard that Robin Milner has died. I met him a couple of times and found him approachable, very articulate and friendly. A great loss. My sympathies to his family.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Meetings and work

Irresective of whatever title(s) I may have, I'm a software engineer. For well over 30 years I've been cutting code; whether it's games (my very first program was battleships on a paper-tape machine) or transaction systems, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I also love learning new programming languages (something that strangely enough doesn't translate to human languages, where I'm not so strong.) I don't think I'm happier than when I'm coding.

Now over the years I've spent a lot of time in various meetings, including standards efforts, project planning, customer engagements, architecture discussions etc. Some of them are also implicit, e.g., Stuart and I would talk a lot, often while coding, because we shared an office for over a decade. But most of them are explicit and you don't get a chance to code at the same time (paying customers tend to want your full attention, for instance!) I've been at a project planning meeting today in Brussels and although I could code on the evenings while in the hotel, it's not a lot of time to spend.

In general the majority of my days revolve around talking and writing documents. Most days I'll spend in meetings, either physically in a room with others or on a phone with them. Time for coding is limited during the day, so again it tends to happen late evenings, very early in the morning, weekends and on holiday. At times I believe I need to do it to keep myself grounded (and sane). And it doesn't have to be work coding that lets me energize my batteries (I think all engineers have their pet projects!)

When I was coding full-time it was easy for me to look back and see what I'd been doing with my time. These days it's not quite so easy as there is often no concrete evidence of what's been done on a daily basis. Of course that's a very short sighted view and when I look across the months/years and see the results those meetings generated it's very different. But for an engineer who has been coding for 75% of his life, it's hard at times when I'm sat in yet another meeting with a terminal, emacs and a programming language calling to me from a few inches away. Yes, meetings are important for what I have to do today, but my heart will always be elsewhere. Now back to some coding!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dr Professor or Professor Dr?

Since I officially left The University I've been a Research Fellow (I was in my late 20's when the photo was taken), along with Stuart. The role involves a range of things such as being on PhD thesis committees, helping with research, co-authoring papers etc. It's something from which I've received a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction, and I think it's an important counterpoint to my normal day job.

It's a position that I think is a privilege. So you can imagine how I felt today when they made me a Professor! Despite the number of years I spent at The University it's a position I never thought I'd achieve, particularly after I left to pursue a career path through the likes of Arjuna (x2), Bluestone, HP, JBoss and Red Hat. I definitely need to thank Santosh, who over the past 20+ years has been my boss, colleague and friend. He's also epitomised for me what it means to be a Professor, something which I think has positively impacted who I am to this day.

QCon London slides on line

I just got confirmation that the QCon slides are on line now, with mine available at this location.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Every Cloud has a silver lining

I've already stated that I think there's a lot Cloud can learn from the past and yet there is also more evolution of current approaches to come where Cloud is concerned. However, that doesn't mean that adding a little bit of Cloud pixie dust to everything immediately makes it better or more relevant.

I'm one of the reviewers for a special journal issue on Engineering Middleware for Service-Oriented Computing. Unfortunately several of the papers I've read seemed to be under the assumption that adding the words/terms 'Cloud' or 'SOA' to their works would make them relevant, when in fact it had almost the opposite effect. It didn't work with other technological waves such as Web Services or Java. If your work is relevant to a specific technology or a range of technologies then it should be obvious from the start and attempts to artificially push the reader into joining mental dots or making "intuitive leaps" reflect poorly on the author.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

QCon London 2010 update

I mentioned earlier that I was presenting at QCon London. Well I had a good time at QCon giving a presentation which was basically about lessons learnt while developing, using and selling transaction systems. Hopefully the slides will go up soon, but it seemed to go down well. According to the organizers, it has the second highest audience for the track, which given that people were sitting on the floor, didn't surprise me. Everyone seemed to enjoy the talk and I hope they got as much out of it as I got putting it together.

What I did realise as I was giving the session was that I really have enough material for 4 or 5 presentations. Therefore, I may do some deep dives into specific aspects of the current presentation. I may even realise these as blog entries as well.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

QCon London 2010

I'm going to QCon London again and speaking about one of my favourite subjects. If you're around then come by and say hello. Which reminds me ... I need to write the presentation!

Red Hat and Newcastle University

It's taken a while to get all of the pieces of the puzzle together, but we've now got a formal relationship with the University. As one of my friends would say: Onward!

Monday, March 01, 2010


We've been working on this for a while. I'm really pleased with the way it's starting to shape up.