Monthly Archives: May 2007

Attacked by Ravens – update

I’ve just been assured by Mike Lee (the UK & Ireland Chief Technologist for the Commercial business unit) that what attacked Chester and I was probably Rooks or Crows. ….. 1 Trackback

Wayne Horkan – Fellow of the British Computer Society

Had a call this morning from Brenda at the British Computer Society (BCS) that I have been accepted as a Fellow of the BCS. ….. 1 Trackback

Attacked by Ravens

Yes – today I was attacked by Ravens, or rather, Chester, the family Labrador, was.

I’d taken Chester to the local green (Seven Acre Green in Castle Bromwich), and having let him off his leash, was enjoying watching him chase the sticks I was occasionally throwing for him.

As we passed under a low hanging cherry blossom tree, he took a great deal of interest in the corpse of a Raven at the base of the tree. After shooing him off from picking the body up, we continued around the green.

I noticed that a pair of Ravens had started flying towards him and, in turn, straight down, legs outstretched, as though they meant to strike him. The larger of the pair appeared to actually hit him, but he had no mark upon him when I quickly checked he was all right.

I’ve never seen a bird, even one as formidable as a Raven, go after such a large target. Chester is only eleven months old – but he’s already quite big, and is almost fully “fleshed” out.

I wondered what the Ravens story was, and if they were “protecting” the corpse at the bottom of the tree. Either because it was a family member or even perhaps “lunch”.

The pair of them working together made me think of my two favourite Ravens from mythology, Thought and Memory, Odin’s Ravens from the Norse myths.

I’m not sure what being “dive bombed” by Ravens portends… but I’ll just have to wait and see.

Updating PRINCE2

Recently I was talking with Andy Murray about the evolution and update of PRINCE2 – he’s been appointed the Lead Author for the “PRINCE2™ Refresh Project” by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the owners of the PRINCE2 copyright and standard, and The Stationery Office (TSO), the publishers.

PRINCE2, by the way, is a project management methodology, and stands for “PRojects IN Controlled Environments (version 2)” – it covers the management, control and organisation of a project.

I, and Sun, have worked with Andy, both on individual engagements and regarding the use of PRINCE2 at Sun in the UK, for a number of years, and he’s easily the best person to perform this role – I wish him the best of luck.

Andy’s first task as Lead Author is to produce a Consultation Report summarising all the feedback received from a review that’s just taken place.

I was asked to contribute, and this is the data that Andy has been collecting:

  • 3 things you like about PRINCE2
  • 3 things you dislike
  • What do you consider the essential elements (i.e. without them it would not be PRINCE2) ?
  • What changes would you like to see in the next version ?

My responses were:

  • Things I like about PRINCE2:
    1. Ubiquity – loads of people are practitioners, and so communication and understanding between practitioners is faster then would be if a common understanding & dictionary of terms would need to be created
    2. product focus versus task focus (although I’ve seen this be dependent on the PM involved)
  • Things I dislike about PRINCE2
    1. too much documentation
    2. not enough “natural English” or is that “plain speaking, common English”
    3. used as a raison d’etre / justification – either to manipulate a situation or because the person in question is process bound
    4. previously lack of examples and documentation on integrating other methods into a PRINCE2 framework. Specifically RUP, RAD, DSDM, and now XP / Scrum, but I suppose SSADM might still apply. When we come to running software projects our PRINCE2 accredited PM’s would often get upset when trying to integrate XP like methods into there PRINCE2 frameworks they were trying to implement.
  • Essential elements:
    1. A PM
    2. A sponsor / sponsoring board
    3. Discret timeboxes of deliverables
    4. Milestones
    5. Product Focus versus Task Focus
    6. A PID
  • What changes would you like to see in the next version ?
    1. Simplification – where possible
    2. Better integration with other Project Management techniques – especially those from a re-iterative background (RUP, RAD, SCRUM, DSDM, XP, etc.)
  • The report should be out in the near future (it’s due to be published in June or July), and once approved, Andy will be busy working on a Scoping Document defining the proposed changes to the method.

    Andy’s started a weblog at to keep everyone up to date with progress and to gather further input.

    If you’re interested in PRINCE2, are an individual practitioner, or are using in your organisation, and either want to influence it’s evolution, or even just learn more, I’d recommend getting in touch with Andy at his site.

    Right – best be off – Donna and I go to Karate with our boys every Sunday, and I need to get our kit ready.

    Relevant Links and where you can learn more:

    Stabilising Look and Feel

    Since my first post I’ve been working on getting the look and feel that I want, and although I haven’t quite finished here’s an update.

    I started with the Sun Pacifico Theme, which at the time I liked a lot. However the more I looked at my blog, the more I wanted something that was, if not unique, at least “mine” – and not just in terms of the content.

    Look and feel / web design was the most obvious area to change, but, to an extent I had held back a little, because I knew that it would likely mean delving into a host of technologies – only some of which I was up to date & familiar with.

    Wanting something that was very minimal, similar to the Blogger Template Style “Minima” by Douglas Bowman (here) of Stopdesign (here), and as used by my friend Alan Mather on his blog (here).

    I feel that the content needs to stand for itself without too many distractions calling the eye’s attention. I find that very busy websites, with lots of “eye candy“, lose detail amongst the noise. I know lots of people are enjoying using technologies like Snap (here), but I wish they would include some mechanism for the user to turn it off – as it can easily get confusing for with so many link page pop-ups appearing.

    As to the banner, I had previously been impressed with Damien Hirst’s Pharmaceuticals (2005), an example of which is here, an installation he had done as part of his show at the Tate Modern, New York.

    But instead of tablets and pills, I thought it would be effective to use small web site logos & icons instead (mainly the favicon). After getting a version working on that premise I very quickly realised that there would be a variety of copyright issues involved, as well as issues in loading a banner comprised of 300 (5 rows by 60 columns) of 16×16 pixelated images. Just too many calls to the web server, meaning page load time was very slow.

    So this is pretty much the finalised look and feel for the time being. I’m much more pleased with the banner now – and having utilised CSS Sprites, reduced the calls to two images – both of which I cache using JavaScript at the start of the page too.

    Now that I’m happy with the overall look and feel – I’m going to focus on Site Navigation, followed by a code cleanup, and then, maybe, back to the Design aesthetic.

    There might even be time for the odd post or two.

    Happy Mondays on Channel 4’s Transmission

    The Mondays have just played a blinding version of Kinky Afro on Channel 4’s Transmission music show.

    It’s great to see the lads doing some gigs together again. I’m looking forward to getting to see them live – they’re playing at JB’s Dudley on Friday the 1st of June – so hopefully I’ll see them there.

    Obligatory links and more info…

    Channel 4’s Transmission site:

    Stuff on the Happy Mondays.

    Home site:

    MySpace page:


    JB’s Dudley site:

    Why I work for Sun Microsystems – I

    I aspired to join Sun Microsystems – in part because of Scott (you know, McNealy). ….. 1 Trackback

    Good luck and all the best to all of those involved in the search for Madeleine McCann. Here’s hoping that Madeleine is found safe and well very soon.


    Tim Bray in the UK

    Yesterday (Thursday the 3rd of May) we were lucky enough to have Tim Bray – Sun’s Director for Web Technologies – in the London City office.

    Tim’s been over to the UK to make some customer visits, mainly amongst the Finance Sector in the City, where the rapid development of applications to reduce time to market for systems is a principal topic. Lucky for us he had a free afternoon to present, at very short notice, to a number of the Sun UK Customer Engineering team (UK Field Operations).

    Tim’s famous for a whole host of web related innovations and notable contributions to the Internet Age, not least being a co-inventor of XML (along with Jon Bosak, the “Father of XML”, Sun “Contrarian Minds” entry here).

    You can find Tim’s blog here, his Sun Bio. here, some more from Sun here, and his Wikipedia entry over here.

    Tim gave a great talk on his views on Web 2.0, the state of of Dynamic Languages, Atom (Tim’s Chairman of the IETF working group – link to the Atom Standard Wikipedia entry here) and about REST.

    REST stands for Representational State Transfer – basically the fashion for lightweight and extremely scalable web services based around XML & HTTP. It’s use is actually endemic across the Internet, and it’s an application architectural model which I fully support and champion, especially as I’ve used it in implementation a number of times (does this make me a “RESTafarian” ?).

    As I’m such a technology fan-boy I was extremely pleased to find Tim was very approachable and friendly (don’t get me onto the time I met Andy Bechtolsheim, and got so starstruck I couldn’t speak).

    Tim’s got some really valid things to say especially regarding time to market and the rapid development of applications – I’d recommend having a look at his site, and getting in touch with him if you’d like to know more.


    Apologies for the title – I couldn’t resist.

    Weblog language translator – beta

    I’ve just implemented a weblog language translator, based on Google Translator.

    It’s very rough and ready, deserving of the title “beta”, and very simple, but it appears to do quite a nice job of translating into the majority of the World’s most used languages.

    I had just been reading The Aquarium (over here), and I was very impressed with it’s multi-lingual support.  I don’t know how the guys are doing this, but I’m presuming that they are actually translating the text manually (i.e. with human editors), after searching on the topic of blog translation.

    The languages that I’ve included are: Mandarin (Simplified Chinese), Chinese (Traditional Chinese), English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, German, Korean, French and Italian. 

    I wanted to do the fifteen or so most used languages – however the sources I found disagreed slightly on actual numbers and rankings.  The sources I used to understand the breakdown of percentage of languages spoken by the World population were:

    1) Dr. Dennis O’Neil’s website (here) at the Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marcos, California.

    2) The “Languages of the World” article (here) at The National Virtual Translation Center.

    3) The “List of languages by number of native speakers” article (here) at Wikipedia. 

    Unfortunately it suffers from two major issues. Firstly it’s limited to the languages supported by the Google Translator service, which unfortunatly does not cover a number of the World’s most used languages (notably Hindi and Bengali).  Secondly the Google Translation service modifies the page links so that the “Language” links I’ve implemented are translated twice, which fails in the service at runtime. 

    Other issues include: maximum text amount that can be translated is limited (or appears to be, so that part of the page doesn’t get translated), the banner I’ve implemented goes awry in some of the translations, the sidebar isn’t getting translated (might be due to the text length limit issue, as the sidebar is written after the content), and, as I don’t speak the majority of these languages, I’m presuming the translation that it does is no means as good as an actual, professional, human translator. 

    I’m going to tweak the code and look at how (and if) I can use the service to perhaps translate individual components, plus I’m going to see if the Google API can provide a more succint and elegant dynamic solution.  I had tried to implement in both Google Translator and Yahoo Babelfish, but the Babelfish service was erroring out, thus the use of Google – I might try it again later though.

    I have a other requirements for this functionality too: ideally it should produce pages which can be indexed by the major search engines and it should translate feeds – both RSS and Atom. 

    Have a look and see what you think – any opinion would be good, especially from those who aren’t native English speakers.