Wednesday, November 30, 2005

One of the Cool Kids Now

After (literally) years of anticipation, it has finally happened: I'm one of the cool kids. I have a Mac. Yes, I bought a PowerBook a couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of the new book project I'm starting. Here is a picture of my new baby:

Neal's PowerBook

I almost did this about 4 months ago, until Apple announced the Intel partnership. That froze my decision, thinking that I could hold out until the Intel PowerBooks arrived. But, because of this project (which I will talk about more in a future post), I needed it sooner rather than later.

My finger was literally hovering over the green "Buy" button on the Apple web site, but my spidey sense told me not to click yet. The very next morning, I went to the site and was greeted with the "New Powerbooks" banner headline. Because I waited the extra day, I got the video card upgrade for free, a higher resolution display, and generally cheaper machine for the same configuration. I saved enough to pay for the extra 1 GB of memory from Crucial.

I've spent the last couple of weeks getting used to the Mac, and it's a joy. Unfortunately, I now travel with 2 laptops (the ThoughtWorks issued Dell Latitude 610, which I need for work, particularly .NET development) and the PowerBook for everything else. But, it's a small price to pay to hold my head up high when I'm hanging out with the other No Fluff, Just Stuff speakers (mostly Mac guys because they can). When I write Java, I'm living the dream: using IntelliJ on a PowerBook. At least for the short term, my hedonic adaptation is sated.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

In Praise of JBoss at Work

I just finished Scott Davis and Tom Mars new book, JBoss at Work. He and his co-author do a brilliant job of taking a dauntingly large topic, an application server, and writing an engaging book about it. I particularly like their approach, which is very pragmatic: they take a web application that consists of static pages and gradually add more dynamic behavior, one step at a time. I think this is a particularly effective way of introducing a topic (I did the same thing with web frameworks in Art of Java Web Development because it addresses the whys as well as the hows).

My only complaint is one that Scott also laments: lack of testing code. But, I understand that the book would be much larger if they had incorporated testing. In that regard, they did the right thing: the book is about JBoss, not about testing in the J2EE space (a topic worthy of a large number of books all by itself). Kudos to Scott and Tom for a great book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Art in San Francisco

I've blogged a lot about Borland International, to the point where even I'm sick of it! I've written about them so much because I had such a close relationship with the company in years past. But, as I've written, time has passed them by. Last week, I spoke at what is sure to be my last Borland Developer's Conference in San Francisco. I was there with a good friend (who was also attending the conference). I spoke at several sessions, but when not at the conference, we took advantage of what the city had to offer.

Monday we planned for the rest of the week. Then, on Tuesday, we went to a concert at The Fillmore (mostly just to see the venue). We saw Missy Higgins and Liz Phair, both of which were entertaining. Wednesday, we went to a matinee of the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Wednesday night, opera at San Francisco opera (Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera). On Thursday, we went to SF Museum of Modern Art (one of my favorite museums), then went to dinner with friends and went to a heavy metal concert at Slim's (Fu Manchu).

During the week, I also gave 4 talks and a 4 hour pre-conference tutorial, and I got some work done as well. Mostly what we didn't do was attend any of the other sessions! All in all, a great conference week.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

No Fluff, Just Stuff Does .NET

About 18 months ago, I participated in an event that changed my life, although I didn't quite grasp the significance at the time: I spoke at my first No Fluff, Just Stuff conference in Austin, TX. My publisher, Manning, put me in touch with Jay Zimmerman, and we played phone tag for a few weeks. When I finally talked to him about speaking at that first show, he kept going on and on about "this show is more advanced than other conferences" and "I'm really dedicated to keep the quality sky high". Basically, the stuff I've heard over and over again from other conference organizers. I was no spring chicken at conference speaking. I had already presented more than 100 conference sessions all over the world. So, I thought "Yada, yada, more of the 'we're better than everyone else' blather."

But a funny thing happened in Austin: he was right! Suddenly, my ace game was barely adequate. I distinctly remember telling co-workers when I returned that I felt like a kid eating at the adult's table. Jay had (and has) managed to create an extraordinary gathering in every city he visits. I have perspective on this because I've been to lots of conferences. Maybe it's the weekend seclusion, or the longer than average sessions, or the high level of discourse in the session which spills into the hallways, the meals, and to everyone you meet. It's all those things, with one more keystone ingredient: the speakers. I am honored and humbled to be considered a part of this extraordinary group of individuals: the most brilliant minds in the industry, genuinely personable, gregarious, funny, and centered. Jay has created a work of genius, gathering this group to talk about technology 27 weekends a year.

Until now, unless you were a technology switch hitter, you had to be in the Java (or, increasingly, Ruby) crowd to even know that No Fluff, Just Stuff existed. Now, Jay is expanding this phenomenon to the .NET world. December 2nd begins a new era for .NET developers: you get your very own No Fluff, Just Stuff. Ted Neward is running this show, and it is his considerable burden to re-create the pure magic of No Fluff, Just Stuff in the .NET space. If anyone can pull it off, he can. A new group of speakers, a new set of cities, and a new chance to create a community revolving around the most unlikely of campfires: a computer platform. There are a few of us participating in both worlds (myself, Ted, Glenn Vanderburg, Stuart Halloway, and a few others). It will be our job to set the tone for the new speakers to create the same but different ambiance for a new crowd.

Every so often, an event happens that you simply cannot miss, and, for .NET developers, this is the Beatles in Shea Stadium, Elvis on Ed Sullivan, and Johnny Carson's last Tonight Show. The premiere. One weekend only. Denver, December 2-4, 2005. The first of many, many No Fluff, Just Stuff.NET shows. You have to see it to believe it.