03 April 2009

Apache ActiveMQ at SpringOne EU

Later this month I'll be in Amsterdam again, this time to speak at SpringOne EU about Apache ActiveMQ. It will be great to be back in Amsterdam, especially because the annual Queen's Day celebration takes place the week of the conference, which is always a fun time.

My first SpringOne conference was back in December in Florida and it was very good. Unfortunately I had a lot of travel booked back-to-back at the time so I wasn't able to be there for the entire conference. This time I will be able to spend the entire week at the conference which will be great because there are many sessions I'd like to see. Here are just a few:

There are many other talks I'd like to see, just too many to list. Take a look at the SpringOne EU schedule for the full list.

Working For SpringSource

I keep hearing from folks who aren't aware that I made a move recently. So for those who don't already know it, I'm working for SpringSource now. So far the experience has been terrific because I'm surrounded by nothing but very smart people, some of whom I already knew and respected. SpringSource is most notable for one of the most widely adopted Java frameworks in existence today, the Spring Framework.

I began using the Spring Framework back in 2003 and I can't see developing any new applications without using it. Although I don't have the privilege of working on the Spring Framework, I do get to heckle Juergen and team from the sidelines. My role hasn't changed much from the past in that I continue to do consulting and engineering. I spend my time working on Apache ActiveMQ, Apache Camel, SpringSource AMS and SpringSource tc Server. I still enjoy working with customers but I'm getting to spend a lot more time doing engineering work which is a nice change.

If you want to hear me blather on more, just follow me on Twitter.

Need Integration? Camel Integrates With 70+ Protocols

Apache Camel already provides easy integration with over 70 different protocols! And the list is still growing! Take a look at the Camel components and the Camel Extras project to see the protocols that exist today.

02 April 2009

Why Hiring Consultants is Good For Business

Anyone whose seen the goofball comedy The Office knows who Dwight is and how his co-workers enjoy winding him up and watching him go. Well it turns out that the Dwights of the world (aka the oddball) or someone who thinks different or even just someone from the outside is actually good for business.

This doesn't surprise me at all because as a consultant sometimes it is odd to walk into a business and discover that the reality inside doesn't quite match the reality outside. Inviting opinions from someone who doesn't know the business and isn't afraid to ask crazy questions helps everyone to see the familiar from a different point of view. And this is partially what I enjoy about being a consultant. By not having been a part of the team, you enter the group with a fresh perspective that will hopefully spawn many ideas. So assembling a team of miscreants and hooligans is not always a bad thing ;-).

01 April 2009

Syncing Multiple Calendars With Google Calendar

Calendars are important in my family. My wife and I are both busy professionals, I travel for work a fair amount and we have the events from our two kids as well. Given that we both use MacBook Pros at home this would be very easy. But for her professional life, my wife uses a Palm Treo phone and that's her master calendar. She (begrudgingly) syncs her Treo with her Windows PC at work. I use an iPhone which syncs easily with my MacBook.

So I hunted around a bit and found something called GooSync that can sync the Treo calendar with Google Calendar. This works great for her and all I had to do was sign up for a free account.

Syncing my iCal calendar from my MacBook was also easy using BusySync. This works great, but in the future it would really be nice if I could set up a CalDav server like the iCal Server from Apple.

At SpringSource we recently switched from using Zimbra to Microsoft Exchange (blech) which made me pull out Entourage again (essentially Outlook/Lookout for the Mac - happy, happy, joy, joy). When this change occurred I started maintaining my Exchange calendar via Entourage which gave me yet another calendar to maintain. Fortunately Entourage has a feature that will automatically sync an Exchange calendar with iCal automatically. Unfortunately this is a client-side solution so Entourage must be running for the sync to take place. Luckily, EasySync just syncs another calendar from iCal to Google Calendar and my iPhone just does the same automatically.

The whole point of all this syncing to Google Calendar is so that we can each share one another's calendars via Google Calendar. Each syncing solution syncs in a bi-directional manner from Google Calendar making all of this possible. We've been using this for nearly a year and so far we haven't had any hiccups with any of these solutions and everything has worked great.

Good solutions are good because you don't hardly notice them after the initial configuration and that initial configuration doesn't require a huge time investment.

EIP Patterns in OmniGraffle

If you use OmniGraffle and you haven't checked out Graffletopia yet, do it now! Graffletopia is full of stencils galore for OmniGraffle that have been created by folks in the community.

Sadly, our non-Mac friends are out of luck with the fine collection of apps from the OmniGroup as all the Omni apps are only available on MacOS X. But if you're a Mac user, like my buddy Jason says, 'Omni apps are like crack.' Totally true!

Here's an awesome EIP patterns stencil for those who work with the EIP patterns and need to create nice diagrams noting the patterns. I've used this for a while but, again, someone noticed me using it recently and asked where I got the icons for the patterns.

My latest cool find on Graffletopia is shown below, it's called Napkin UML:

Simple, straightforward UML that looks as if it was hand drawn.

Productivity Tools and Techniques

It seems that many times when I am sitting side-by-side working with others, they start asking me about the software on my computer that they see me using. At that point I have explain GTD and many things surrounding it. So here are some unique productivity tools and techniques, some that I've used for a while and one I just discovered:

  • Getting Things Done (GTD) is a book and a way of working. In the last few years many apps have sprung up surrounding the GTD style including OmniFocus, RememberTheMilk, Things, iGTD, GTDInbox/GTDGMail and many, many more. I have used and like RememberTheMilk and OmniFocus, though I must say that OmniFocus has won me over more because I used kGTD (though I haven't shelled out for the iPhone app yet). Check out this GTD software comparison for a huge list of GTD software for many platforms.

  • The Pomodoro Technique is interesting to me because I'm into GTD. This was introduced to me by my friend Alef and is rather practical. This technique helps you to actually execute if you use GTD. The Pomodoro Technique advises you to gather your tasks in the morning on a sheet of paper as a todo list and then work down the list in uncommitted blocks of 25 minute periods. Although David Allen says that the morning todo list idea is less than ideal, it works for some folks. I don't stick to it religiously, but when I use it I'm much more productive.

  • (Just a quick mention since I mentioned GTD, has anyone ready David Allen's new book, Making It All Work, the follow-up to GTD? Unfortunately I haven't had the time to read this one yet.)

  • Dejal Time Out is great for sticking to a regular schedule of taking breaks throughout the work day. It also works well for use with the Pomodoro Technique mentioned above. Believe it or not, this is a great tool for keeping you focused on tasks by making you take regular breaks. For years I've always thought about difficult problems by getting away from them completely and doing something like playing my guitar. Well this app regularly reminds me to clear my mind to make room for productive thinking.

  • SelfControl allows you to set up a blacklist of sites to block in an effort to make you stop visiting certain URLs. This app is funny but I'll bet it works, I haven't tried it yet. I typically will just close email apps and the browser (not always possible when developing web apps) to dampen the distraction that is the internet. Research shows that multi-tasking is bullshit. I like to call it multi-ignoring.

  • Timer for Mac OS X is something I used before I discovered Dejal Time Out. I still tend to go back and forth between this and Time Out. Just set the timer to count down for 25 minutes and go.

  • Time Tracker is a very simple app for tracking time on a task. This one works well but is less needed if I can stick to working in 25 minute blocks.

This post is really a quick braindump of stuff. There are many other items that I could add and maybe I will over time through more posts. But for now, this is what I had available in the cache tonight.

Do you know of any other tools and techniques that you find handy? Tell me about them.

Google CADIE - AI for Email and a Hilarious Home Page

Early this morning when I logged into GMail, I noticed that the GMail home page was displaying information about Google's Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity (CADIE). Immediately I remembered playing with Chatbot::Eliza many years ago in Perl. A very interesting idea with many possibilities.

Then I checked out the CADIE homepage only to be greeted by a cheesy, panda-laden website with goofy music playing in the background. At first I thought that I must have landed on the wrong page somehow. But after reading the page and seeing the link to the technical info about CADIE, I really laughed. Good to see folks with a healthy sense of humor about themselves. What a hoot!