Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

Archive for ‘December, 2004’

It’s my last day at work, and I’m lacking in inspiration, so I’m jumping on an old meme by way of feeling less useless today (it’s amazing what you can justify to yourself when apathy levels are high)

1. Open up the music player on your computer.

2. Set it to play your entire music collection.

3. Hit the “shuffle” command.

4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing. That’s right, no skipping that Carpenters tune that will totally destroy your hip credibility. It’s time for total musical honesty. Write it up in your blog or journal and link back to at least a couple of the other sites where you saw this.

5. If you get the same artist twice, you may skip the second (or third, or etc.) occurances. You don’t have to, but since randomness could mean you end up with a list of ten song with five artists, you can if you’d like.

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A quick post those people reading this site via JavaBlogs. You might like to know that you’ll no longer be receiving my “ links)”: links spliced in with my feed. If you still want to get them, you’ll need to subscribe to my “FeedBurner feed(magpiebrain – summary posts with links spliced in, RSS 2.0)”: All available feed-types are listed on my “feeds page(magpiebrain – available RSS feeds)”:, or are available via the normal “auto-discovery techniques(”:

Updated: Fixed some typos and the table formatting

Jumping belatedly onto one of the recent blogging bandwagons (by now looking quite unsafe, with peeling paint and all those credible bloggers long since having abandoned…well, wagon) I thought I’d have a look at the browsers people use to view the site in the wake of the release of Firefox 1.0.

Lets look at Analog’s results:

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[Update]: I’ve now updated the auto-discovery links to reflect the newly available feeds.

I’ve finally got my act together to offer a full post RSS 2.0 feed, thanks to the template provided by “Horst(The Aardvark Speaks: Alternative RSS 2.0 templates for Movable Type)”: I now have the following feeds available:

* A simple RSS 2.0 feed with no HTML, and only a summary of the post – available “here”:
* A version of the above feed, but using “FeedBurner”: to splice in my links – available “here”:
* A new RSS 2.0 feed with HTML, full posts and a comments link – available “here”:
* A “mobile friendly” feed (whatever that means), again thanks to FeedBurner – available “here”:

Give them a try – but please let me know if you have a problem with any of them. These are all listed on my “feeds(magpiebrain – RSS feeds)”: page, which I’ll endeavour to keep up to date. If you have a request for any other types of feed, then feel free to leave a comment.


With my sojourn at my current client due to come to an end at Christmas, I’ve started a period of documenting some of the things I’ve learnt. As I’ve “mentioned before(magpiebrain – There are some things you just don’t want to learn)”: , not everything I’ve learnt has been pleasant, but it’s all be informative. One of the most valuable experiences has been my first exposure to Weblogic. Previously I’d worked at smaller clients, and as such had only really used JBoss, so a chance to use what is considered by many to be the best of the “big” J2EE containers was welcome.

In general, I was fairly impressed with Weblogic. Yes it costs a huge amount of money. No, it isn’t perfect. But it does have some excellent features, especially impressive being it’s cluster management. So, for posterity’s sake (and for the sake of my own poor short term memory) I thought I’d introduce some Weblogic clustering concepts – domains, admin servers, node managers, managed instances and of course, clusters.
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As you may remember, I’ve been struggling with a tricky build at my current client. Whilst many of the problems have been around how we’ve used the tools available to us (well, Ant), I realised that Ant itself might just not be up to the job. Once a build becomes non-trivial, you inevitably want to start using it as a program, something Ant itself is not really good at.

“SCons”: is a build API form python. Being based on a proper programming API the promise of testable build processes, nice syntax (no more ghastly constructs just to do the build equivalent of an @if@) and above all a system more intuitive to the average programmer than Ant is.

When looking to adopt any open source tool it has to prove itself to fairly quickly – in the case of SCons I set it a few challenges and see how it stacked up.
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A friend of mine pointed out that under “RSS Bandit”:, links to my posts are broken. I took a look, and it seems as though it is using the @@ element from my RSS 2.0 feed as a link, rather than the more usual @@. My @@’s are fairly standard (in an MT sense), and look a little like this:


Thinking that RSS Bandit was misusing this value, I thought I’d do a little research.
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I’m currently working on a project with a relatively large (~2000 line) Ant build file, with several supplemental files. The first thing that’s struck me, is that something about the nature of Ant itself makes people treat it very differently from the code it’s building. Rules concerning consistency, testing, maintainability and even common sense seem to go out the window. Whilst it’s true that Ant doesn’t go out of its way to help us – there is little tool support and the XML syntax is fundamentally unsuited to a program (which is really what an Ant file is) – if developers engaged their brain a little more, they’d make life a little easier for everybody.

I’m going to revisit some of the problems with Ant at a later date, but today I’d like to focus on one particular annoyance – the use of the full stop in naming of targets and properties.
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It’s cold, and no doubt it’s going to get colder. Some of my colleagues are currently enjoying temperatures of -35°C, and will no doubt pick up the odd cold along the way. With this in mind I thought that I’d post my favourite cold remedy, courtesy of an old mailing list:


* 1 Lemsip max strength sachet or similar, lemon recommended
* 1 soluable vitamin C tablet, lemon flavour preferable, orange at a pinch. Go for 1000mg Vitamin C, or the 500m Vitamin C/Zing tablets if you can find them
* 1/2 Lemon
* Hot water
* Honey to taste
* Mug
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“FreeMind”: is a pretty good open source “mind mapping(Wikipedia – Mind mapping)”: tool, which we’ve been using to capture the efforts of various bits of brainstorming, as well as keep track of ever evolving processes. One of the processes we’ve detailed using FreeMind has been our build process – during which I was struck by just how good FreeMind could be at actually modelling an “ant”: build structure. High level tasks (such as @deploy@) can be easily broken down into smaller dependent tasks (@compile@, @copyToServer@ etc).
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