A New Direction

September 2, 2015 | Leave a Comment

Hello Internet!

It’s been a while. It seems like once I start working with a client, I tend to stop blogging. This is partly out of respect for a client’s privacy and confidentiality, and partially out of making the most of their billable time. This is of course just another way of saying I’ve been negligent, and have not written a post in quite some time…

In my defense, I spent the better part of the last two years working for a client who, for various reasons I can’t go in to, wanted input from me, but was uninterested in acting on the input I provided to them. Needless to say, this was rather frustrating, and left me feeling like if I did write a post, it was likely to be less than charitable. Having finished up with this client at the end of June, I now need to resume blogging.

I’ve decided on a change of direction for Adept Technologies. To date, I’ve focused on development, agile coaching and security, all relatively low-level services. With some good advice from friends and former co-workers, I’ve decided to refocus on a broader suite of CTO-like services, particularly to start-up firms requiring custom software: “hardware-up” type services for customers who need staff to perform many roles in order to be efficient. I’ve been working lately with a Milwaukee start-up named Wellntel ( in just such a capacity, and it’s worked out well for both them and me.

I’ve been the sole person identifying what it is they want and need, and have done everything from identifying requirements and architecting the solution to setting up servers in the Google Compute Engine, creating the PostgreSQL schema and deploying the database, setting up the application servers, writing and testing the code, and even setting up the CI, build and deployment pipelines. Typically these activities take many specialists, but Wellntel has been able to use my services to do all these things, and more.

Along the way, I’ve been making extensive use of Spring (core, JPA, Security, and MVC), Hibernate, PostgreSQL, and JQuery, all with JavaConfig rather than XML. While there are lots of resources out on the ‘net covering the parts of this architecture, and in using XML to do so, resources that put it all together seem few and far between. I will likely be posting some bits and pieces of what I’ve done in future posts.

For now, I’m looking to add additional clients in need of the same types of services.



Just a quick note to wish people a happy April Fools Day. Hopefully you didn’t get pranked too badly.

I was amusing myself reading the Wikipedia article on April Fools, and I didn’t realize that BWM was such a consistent generator of April Fools pranks!  It’s worth a read if you haven’t seen it.

For those in the know, Friday is Cheese Weasel Day, for those who celebrate it. I’ve done so for the last few years, it’s a holiday that suits my sense of whimsy. Since I’ll be out of the office that day, I brought Irish Cheddar (NUM!), Wensleydale, Danish Havarti and Stilton with Apricots to the office today. All seemed to go over well.

Finally, I’ve got a friend with an artistic bent working on a new logo for the business, I’ll be posting that here for folks to see once it’s done. I hope it’s soon, I’m excited about it.



So I’ve been absent for a while. Daniel and I are working on a book on agile adoption anti-patterns, and frankly it’s taken a good deal of my time, and sapped much of the desire I had to write in my spare time. We’re currently trying to find a publisher before we continue on with the process, so there’s a bit of a breather.

While I’ve got some “spare time” I decided it was high time I got more familiar with the Google Web Toolkit, or GWT.  I worked quite extensively with AJAX applications back at Lontra, and have some familiarity with a number of them, but was only extensively versed with SmartClient, a commercial AJAX toolkit.   GWT has the nice advantage of being free.

Since I’ve been coaching teams in agile adoption at my current client, and they have a problem getting dedicated space for their teams, I thought a good thing to build would be a virtual “card wall,” where you can drag stories from “not started” to “in progress” and eventually to “done.”  ThoughtWorks has a product somewhat similar to this called Mingle, which I’ve not really looked at very much, since I don’t want it to taint my ideas just yet.

Being familiar with the Java technology stack, I opted to use Spring 2, and for a change of pace I’m using iBATIS rather than Hibernate for this go-round.  For persistence, I’m using PostgreSQL.  It’s still a work-in-progress at this point, but making it’s way along.  I’ll share screenshots as it progresses, if there’s interest.

So that’s why I’ve been absent for so long.  I’ve been monitoring all the usual sources of input (i.e. groups and whatnot) but haven’t really felt the need to say much.  I joined the CISSP Yahoo Group, and man, what a bunch of chatterers those lot are.  I’m seriously thinking of un-subbing that one.

As a parting thought, anyone have any good suggestions for e-groups in Chicago, Milwaukee or Madison for Agile, J2EE, Enterprise Architecture or IT Security?



So I’ve been gone for a bit. It was kind of inevitable, as I was distracted by real-world events from blogging for a bit. I’m back now, so look out!



A moment of silence, please, in memory of Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author and visionary, reported dead today at 90. This weekend, good sir, I will raise a glass in your honor.

[via Engadget]



For quite a while, I’ve known that one of the most annoying aspects of traffic jams are the compression waves. With all the driving I’ve been doing lately, this has been on my mind. Compression waves in traffic occur when for some unknown reason, somebody has to break, then it cascades down the line, just like a slinky.

Well, according to an article on Slashdot, it turns out that this phenomenon is more than just an annoyance associated with traffic jams, it can cause them.

A team from Nagoya University in Japan had volunteers drive cars around a small circular track and monitored the way ‘shockwaves’ — caused when one driver brakes — are sent back to other cars, caused jams to occur.

This just reinforces that we really ought to get working on those smartcars, so the robots can save us from creating compression waves.



RIP, Backups

February 20, 2008 | 2 Comments

I recently installed a new 750 gigabyte hard drive into one of my systems. As I was realizing that I now had 3/4 of a terabyte of information on a single spindle, and chuckling with glee, I was also thinking about backups, and that they’re really no longer a fact of many people’s life at home. This is disconcerting for me, because I understand the risks involved, if that spindle goes away due to any of a number of reasons (power problems, mechanical failure, coffee in the chassis, etc) then all that data is gone.

There are two primary reasons that home users, and in fact even  a fair number of businesses, don’t back up their machines. Size of media and time involved.

Where is the typical home user going to find space to back up 750 GB? CD-ROM and even DVD devices are too small to serve as effective backup media, and too slow in addition. Backing up to other drives is really the only viable approach. Adding in an additional drive simply for backup seems excessive.
Microsoft has recently introduced their Windows Home Server, which would be another logical place for such a backup. Network attached storage devices from manufacturers like D-Link, Netgear, Western Digital and Buffalo have been around for a while, and would also be a good location. Your typical home user doesn’t realize either these tools are around, nor should they need to. Both of these solutions presume more home network infrastructure than the typical house has, and setting up a backup schedule requires users that understand they need to do it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t occur to most people until it’s too late.

The second reason is time: unless a backup is scheduled to run automatically, and at a time that the machine is both on, and unused (or lightly loaded) the backup interferes with use of the computer. This creates an incentive to disable, reschedule or cancel the backups, in turn decreasing the likelihood that they’re actually done.

Larger businesses tend to have network file servers that provide shared drives, which are backed up, and also to run  backup software on their employees computers. This however is also an imperfect solution, unless employees are unable to store files anywhere other than on the shared drives.  It also doesn’t address machines used by road warriors, or by employees working at home temporarily or telecommuting.

This is a problem without neat solutions, unfortunately. I’ve run for years without backups by using RAID to reduce my risk of device failures. This doesn’t help me with accidental deletion, though. The rapid growth of primary storage device capacity, which has not been matched by secondary storage capacity and speed have created a situation where backups are not really a fact of life for most people.



A new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dietram Scheufele finds that only 1/3 of Americans find nanotechnology morally acceptable, reports this article in Science Daily.

In a sample of 1,015 adult Americans, only 29.5 percent of respondents agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable.

What, pray tell, is moral or immoral, acceptable or unacceptable about nanotechnology? Have we become so mired in fanatical puritanism that we are no longer capable of thinking for ourselves?

The catch for Americans with strong religious convictions, Scheufele believes, is that nanotechnology, biotechnology and stem cell research are lumped together as means to enhance human qualities. In short, researchers are viewed as “playing God” when they create materials that do not occur in nature, especially where nanotechnology and biotechnology intertwine, says Scheufele.

To a certain extent, this reminds me of some of the things that happened in the Islamic world during the dark ages. While most of Western Europe was trying to remember how to read and write, the Islamic world had mathematics, algebra, medicine, and astronomy. Then something happened, some say it was a new strict interpretation of Sharia law, that caused their progress to stop, like it was frozen in amber. The West continued to learn and develop, while the Islamic world stagnated, and the majority of advancements in science no longer arose from that part of the world.

Now, we have a majority of the arguably the most technologically advanced country on the planet saying they want to teach Intelligent Design in schools, and that nanotechnology is morally indefensible. How long before we have to have new concepts approved by the church before they can be investigated, I wonder?



The Age of Human Factors

February 13, 2008 | 2 Comments

Wired is over in Barcelona, covering the GSMA show. As you might expect, the news this week is all about cell phones, but Charlie Sorrel made some comments in his coverage that resonated:

Most apparent at the show, the biggest mobile conference in the western world, is that nobody is doing touch screens properly.

Sure, Apple didn’t invent touch screens, but it was arguably the first company to do it right. Sony Ericsson, no latecomers to the touch game, showed myriad new phones today, and of all of those we tried out, the UI was invariably clunky, counter-intuitive, or downright hard to navigate.

Flashy, animated icons are great, but not if they come at the expense of usability. It feels like everyone is scrambling to add touch capabilities because they feel they have to, ease-of-use be damned. The point of the iPhone is being missed: It’s a pleasure to use because of the fancy UI, designed from scratch to be intuitive, attractive and easy.

This struck a nerve with me. I recently spent a large chunk of time working with some folks who, to be brutally honest, didn’t know the difference between a flashy interface, and a beautiful and intuitive one. It’s very easy to mistake flashy for easy to use and intuitive, it seems. I’ve seen it done time and time again, and Charlie’s comments seem to reinforce that it’s even more common than I thought.

I’ve even been told of some products “It doesn’t have to work, it just has to look good.” This sort of extreme position, saying in effect “it’s okay if it’s garbage, so long as we can wrap it up pretty we can sell it” gives me heartburn. I take pride in my work, and I can’t really line up behind “it’s okay if it doesn’t work.”

I’ve begun to wonder if the proliferation of flashy is a question of capabilities: whether people recognize a attractive, clean, intuitive user interface such as the iPhone, and want desperately to emulate it. Unfortunately they don’t have the skill or training, and  do what they can, which results in flashy.

I know what I’m good at. There are a considerable number of skills I’ve honed in 20 years: mentoring, project management, software architecture, security, requirements, business analysis, development, testing, and a fair degree of psychology, frankly.

I know I’m not skilled in human factors, the study of making sure that our interactions with computers are as easy and intuitive as possible. I haven’t an artistic bone in my body it seems, as I’ve created some fugly interfaces in my time. I know the difference when I see it, I know when I’ve produced something ugly and hard to use, but not how to make it better. That’s why I need these skilled professionals to help me  fix it. It’s like not being able to reach an itch in the middle of your back.

Human factors is as much art as science, and I suspect it’s a pretty rare skill. I’ve only run into a handful of people truly who have it.  Sometimes it seems like Apple got all of them: maybe that’s where they all are.

Apple has a history of making a product that looks good and is intuitive: the Mac was the first commercially successful computer with a gui interface (way back in Windows 2 and GEM Desktop days, for those who remember those). Most PCs today are still beige boxes, while current Macs are attractive and functional. I still drool over the Mac Cube, frankly, and wonder why PCs are still stuck in the past.

And then we come to the iPhone and iPod. Wow. I think these devices really raise the ante for all of us. They’ve got beautiful, usable interfaces, which clearly others are trying to emulate. With Apple seemingly having hired all the people who are any good at human factors, I think we’ve got our work cut out for us.

It’s nice to see devices like these, they’re a joy to look at and use, but as someone who produces software for a living, they’re a little intimidating. I realize the magnitude of the challenge they present to us as software professionals. We have to do much better at designing interfaces like these. The public will come to expect it, and will flock to those who can provide it.



Since posting a quick hit on the publication of the new O’Reilly’s security book earlier this week, I thought it might be nice to have a “bookstore” on the site, with convenient links to good books.

So, now there’s a “bookstore”. Share and enjoy! I’ve set it up with a selection of the books I’ve got on my bookshelf that I’ve referred to it more than once, and some others that I have reason to suspect aren’t a waste of the paper they’re printed on.

keep looking »


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