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Boys from Brazil

I constantly add movies to my Netflix Queue. Some months ago, someone
told me (I can’t remember who did) about Boys from Brazil, a strange title for a strange movie. I had the DVD with me when I went home to France. It’s a jewel of the 70s, with a crazy-eyed Gregory Peck playing Dr Joseph Mengele as he’s plotting to clone Hitler (the boys) to resuscitate the Third Reich. Laurence Olivier, an aging Nazi hunter battles him in rural Pennsylvania. Quite a treat.

As is having to spell ‘Pennsylvania’.

Joe Shaw Super Star

cover
It seems that our local Joe Shaw is now a teen idol in France. They even have a comic book about him (see scanned image). I heard there is an action figure of him hacking on Utopia while wearing two t-shirts.

Back to the Future

Being on vacation in the south of France left me with much time to
sit, relax and read in the sun. When that got too exciting, I would
jump in the pool or go for a walk in the forest. So I finally had time
to read some, including the very tolerable Codenotes
for .NET
which covers most .NET APIs including SWF, ASP.NET and
ADO.NET. Also, it talks much about what existed before .NET and
contrasts new technologies with their former incarnations (ADO, ASP,
VB6). Reading about ASP.NET and ADO.NET was fascinating especially through the looking glass of my J2EE and SilverStream background.

<RANT>

I have talked to a few people lately about the similarity I found
between technologies and key concepts in ASP.NET/ADO.NET and many of
the older web application servers implementations such as Net
Dynamics, Web Object or SilverStream. About 8 years ago now, a company
called NetDynamics,
which I worked with, had a rudimentary application server (engine in
C++, application development in Java) that implemented a server side
event model for serving dynamic HTML pages. The designer was quite
horrible and suffered many problems. Also then, we didn’t really know
how to build web applications.

SilverStream (then
and now), which I worked for
for many years, implemented a similar event model where their HTML
forms designer was very similar to their Java client-side application
designers except with server side event loops of sorts, server side
objects (pages, session, …) lifetime and things like this. That was
in ’98 or so and is similar in many ways to most of the concepts found
in ASP.NET and how Web.Forms applications are built (with Matrix and
newer incarnation of Visual Studio) in much the same ways Rich Clients
applications are built. It was somewhat clunky and you had to be pretty imaginative to implement some more complex pages but it was very flexible and eventually you could always find ways to do what you wanted to do.

As far as data access goes, SilverStream had the AgData APIs which
provided a data set object with delayed update and manipulations. We
were a few years away from caring about XML and transaction
support. It was very close to the DataWindow‘s
(patented) work done by Kim Sheffield (ex-SilverStream). Also AgData
handled cross tables manipulations and master/slave datasets which
ADO.NET doesn’t seem to support. The Web Service stuff seems so
similar between .NET and the Java world that I didn’t pay much
attention to it.

Servlets were it at first (with JDBC for data access, Java’s
equivalent to JDBC) and then JSPs came along to
counterstrike against Microsoft (HTML with embeded server code was
actually found in many products before – i.e. Coldfusion). EJBs came
along at that time and they prove to be very hard to implement (both
for the software vendor and the application developer). J2EE became a
set of APIs targetted at building complex applications for large
corporation but never really filling the gaping hole for building
simple dynamic HTML pages. Some people seem to think Java Server
Faces (or XFORMS) are it (with ADO and other technologies), but it seems too
little
too late. I didn’t see it for 6-7 years but J2EE got very
complex and is probably a daunting beast to tame when you first take
a look at it. I didn’t see that because for me (us) the changes were
incremental. For a newcomer, there are a lot of concepts and APIs to
master for most serious developments (Servlets, JSP, EJB, JMS, Struts,
JDBC, JDO, JSF, XML/SOAP, J2EE containers, various applicable
JSRs).

Now what happened is that the entire Java app server world decided
to standardize on J2EE and SilverStream followed. Moving to standards
for Enterprise Java brought a lot of good things however I feel like
many companies had to drop very interesting architectures (such as
SilverStream Pages technologies) in order to be able to follow the
standards and compete in a world where J2EE and app server
technologies were becoming a commodity. At first the
standard provided only very simple APIs such as servlets but it became
increasingly more difficult to provide any added value; I mean, where
do you go from there ? Do you need to be the fastest, more stable
server (ensue the classic, epic and futile Benchmark Wars which I was a part
of), is that your claim to fame ? Or do you have to be the most
standard
(which is very hard to measure, especially when you know
a little about Sun’s J2EE compliance tests).

For a while it seemed
that the only ones innovating were BEA and IBM as they were bullying
the standards bodies and JSRs into adopting the APIs that matched their early
implementations. As a J2EE software vendor, trying to create
applications that could be deployed on all the platform supported by
the two or three major J2EE app server vendors. Throw in Apache’s
Tomcat as a de-facto open source standard, add in some JBoss (and
Geronimo and ‘Red Hat’s’ Application Server) and you got a big java.mess.*

After taking a closer look at ASP.NET and ADO.NET, I
have to say that this J2EE guy likes it. It might not be the
panacea (nothing is) and possibly not the solution for building large
enterprise applications (sans well integrated Asynchronous
Messaging solution, cross database transactions, …) but it’s simple
and a very
nice implementation of technologies found long ago in early Java
application servers.

</RANT>

Red Sox fan

I know it’s hard to understand why, me being French and all, but I am
a big baseball fan. I was raised a Rugby fan in France, love
Volley-ball (played for years) but since I moved to New England became
a baseball fan, or I should say a huge Red Sox fan. I love the
built-in idiosyncrasies of the game, how it really makes no sense at
all and is based on so very little concrete elements. I love sitting
in the sun chatting with people around me on a week-end afternoon,
while sipping a cold one. I love the Fenway franks, I love the
Americana of it, I love the fans heckling players, I love the
celebrations, the intensity, the cries. I love the t-shirts (I saw one
saying ‘I do not much care for the Yankees’ instead of the usual
‘Yankees Suck !’), the paintings, the kids running around in full
gear.

On Saturday I went to the game with Jack
Messman
. Well, actually I went to the game with Aimee and Jack was
sitting a few rows down from us. Now, I have good seats mind you
(season ticket holder), by Pesky’s pole, a few rows from the field but
I think Jack should call up John Henry at the ‘new’ Red Sox ownership and get some Green Monster seats. If he can hook me up too, that’d be great.

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