Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A retrospective on seminars

This week I led two seminars for the Data Warehousing course at the Università degli Studi di Milano (see older posts). I found the experience really interesting, because once again, and after so much time, it saw me behind the desk instead sitting of in front of it.

The seminars were about a real (and successful) project which saw me deeply involved for quite an amount of time; the first one dealt with the business aspects, while the second one was more practical and dwelt into the nuts and bolts of the integration of different data sources.

The attendees found the first one far more interesting, 35% of them asserting they had a very high return and received a benefit greater than time invested; another 35% said they received a benefit equal to time invested. The remaining attendees were kind enough to explain me they found it difficult to follow topics which tipically belong to a real world environment armed only with an academic education; the fact that I had to squeeze the work of two years in a couple of hours couldn't but worsen their situation.

The second seminar was only evaluated slightly over the break even, which I really expected as normal given the subject, which is very important but (at least from my point of view) far less appealing. Anyway, to quote Esther Derby and Diana Larsen, "We're happy if most [attendees] feel the meeting was at least a break-even investment ", so I'm quite happy, even if "There's always room for improvement".

I want to thank Professor Silvana Castano for giving me this opportunity and all the attendees, who contributed with their discussions to add value to the meeting - which is, after all, at least in my humble opinion, what seminars are for. Break a leg for your final test, everyone!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Free Java EE Programming (with Passion!) Online Course

A couple of weeks ago I've completed my third free online course offered by the great Sang Shin; this time the course was about Java EE Programming, and I found it very useful - as always. You can read all the comments on the course here; the certificates are also available from the very same page.

What's next? we'll see, but I wish to thank Mr. Shin once again for all he's doing for us.

As always, Passion!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Severance Pay part IV

Will the avada kedavra curse work on Java code? The reparo spell seems to have no effect...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cernusco Rugby 7's Tournament 2008

The 2008 edition of the renowned tournament will take place in Cernusco over the May 31st - June 1st weekend. Do you think you could possibily miss an event featuring both rugby and the Best Drinking Team Trophy? All infos on the official page.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Severance Pay part III

It's becoming just like "Another brick in the wall"... I didn't update after this post, but - long story short - we somehow delivered the required functionalities, more or less within reasonable estimates.

Now the customer has more needs. Same old story, same old act. But now we have an integration test and a little coverage... life should be easier.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to lead a presentation

I have recently re-read (for the umpteenth time) this very interesting post about how to lead a presentation, and I think Gianugo really hits the mark. The only bit I'd like to emphasize more is the topic.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NetBeans and WDSC

As a follow up to the previous post: we've decided to simplify the process sticking to my old and beloved NetBeans (nothing against WDSC but I don't know it - yet). So we created a a project with a simple wrapper class that only calls the rpgle operation, then I saved it and imported it in NetBeans.

Aaaahhh, now we're going somewhere!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Web Services Interoperability?

After some discussions I've finally managed to persuade the iSeries administrator to expose some of his applications as services instead of giving other teams accounts to access the databases. We chose a test program, discussed a little, agreed on data and operations, and moved to our favourite IDEs (WDSC in his case, NetBeans in mine).

Time required to build a web service in WDSC starting from an RPGLE program: about 30 minutes, due to the fact that we never tried it before.

Time required to build a client in NetBeans importing the WSDL published on the integrated Websphere: about 5 minutes.

Time required to actually integrate the client and the server: we are still trying to figure that out... the client reports a connection error (but it managed to retrieve the WSDL and generate all the necessary stuff without any problem), the server reports a not better specified moduleData null error (but we managed to locally test the service all right), we report a serious headache.

As always, the devil lies in the details. But where exactly is too often unknown.

Naturally, exporting the WAR file and installing it on a Tomcat instance results in a long and incomprehensible stack trace (did you really think it could be so easy?).

So we tried another approach: we installed an Apache Tomcat instance on the WDSC and selected it as the target runtime for a new application. Magically it all worked fine (after we manually edited the WSDL which reported a wonderful localhost in the wsdlsoap:address attribute), even when we installed the same war file on another server with another Tomcat instance.

The next activity will consist in deploying the application on the Tomcat that resides in the DMZ... All we have to find out is what to open on the firewall. But, for now, let's call it a day.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Seminars update

It is confirmed that I will be leading two seminars for the Università degli Studi di Milano as an add-on for the data warehousing course. Dates and arguments follow.
  • May 26 - Designing a Data Warehouse for an intercompany information system
  • May 27 - Data Integration: a case study
For more informations you can check the official page of the course.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Welcome Declan

The Irish Rugby Football Union has confirmed Declan Kidney as the new head coach of the national team. However, in the next weekd Kidney will concentrate on Munster, which is preparing for the Heineken cup final which will be held in Cardiff on May 24.

Declan Kidney will not take part in the preparation of the squad for the summer clashes against Barbarians, New Zealand and Australia, even if he will partecipate in matters relating to the forming of the Ireland team management.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sustainable pace

I read a discussion about Sustainable Pace, one of XP's practices, in which the contributors try to relate the subject with a fixed number of hours per week. Literature (based on extensive studies) shows that there is no linear relationship between productivity and hours worked, and I quite agree with that; moreover, there's a law (you will forgive me, but I don't have the reference at hand) that states that if you have a certain amount of time to do a job this will expand to fill the whole time slot available. Sistematically working overtime does not increase productivity in the long run (not even in the medium run); one of the (many) reasons is that software production has nothing to do with traditional industrial processes. My personal opinion on that is that more hours do not guarantee an extra productivity; nonetheless under exceptional circumstances (which is to say not every week) extra hours can be invaluable.

Here in Italy the "normal" working week is based on forty hours over five days. A contributor enthusiastically sustains that one extra hour a day guarantees "more than one month of extra development time during a year!"... or does it? I strongly disagree.

It's not unwillingness to work, or (better) unwillingness to get the job done; it's about commitments and balance between work and private life. In an agile enviromnemt you only plan for the next (very) few weeks, so the estimates are much more accurate and, as the project goes on, you have a pretty good knowledge of your productivity: that allows you to commit to a fair amount of work without steadily subtracting time to your private life. An extra hour in the office is an hour in which I can't play with my children, talk to my wife, read a good book, oble a new biscum or burble the tramling (Cockburn readers might get the reference) or whatever. That can lead to a burnout, thus resulting in a great loss of productivity. I already spend more time with my colleagues than with my family, and I think there's really no need to make things worse.

Besides... how many people on their death bed say "I regret I have not spent enough time working extra hours..."?