September 04, 2008
Django 1.0

Congratulations to everyone involved in getting Django 1.0 out of the door. Great job.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
April 22, 2008
Sport Without Beer?

The good news; the new Guardian Sport and Football sites were launched successfully, and seem to be working fine. The bad news; 24 hour licensing notwithstanding, we couldn't find anywhere to serve us a beer at two in the morning. Grrr.

Update: More on the new sites here; Our new look.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
April 21, 2008
Guardian Easter Eggs

Nice post from Sean on not so obvious features at the Guardian. I particularly like the Charlie Brooker feed.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thanks to Jemima Kiss for the special key that we've been using for site launching:


Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
April 09, 2008
Google App Engine Roundup

Loads of stuff in the blogsphere about the Google App Engine, unsurprisingly, some of it even worth reading.

So, it's looking good, though I'm still concerned about lock-in. It's not just the Datastore API which locks you in - that's probably fairly east to emulate - but also the Authentication and Authorization API, which looks much trickier.

Update: As Ade says, you certainly don't have to lock yourself in to GAE's Users API.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
April 08, 2008
Google App Engine

The Python blogsphere has been exploding with the news of the Google App Engine today. And fascinating it is too - free hosting for Python web apps, Django included. With the might of Google behind it, this will push Python big style. Take that, Rails hype!

I'm a bit uneasy about the datastore, though. Not only does this gut any existing Django app, it also any means that any app that you write that persists data (read - non-toy) will be bound to the GAE API. What's wrong with a real database?

Naturally, I've signed up already. ;-)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
February 04, 2008
Spot the Difference

The Guardian

The Oriental Morning Post

FWIF, The Guardian had it first. ;-)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
January 01, 2008
Bitter at all?

Thanks to Jay for pointing out this rant, via reddit.

Now, I'm sorry they guy can't get a job, but if this is his attitude, I can't say I'm surprised. He's burned his bridges with ThoughtWorks, for a start. ;-)

Disclaimer - I work for ThoughtWorks. But I can say that with perfect honestly that his impression of TW doesn't mesh with mine. Thing is, he seems to think that what TW sells is platform expertise. It's not. We primarily sell smart people. (Oh, and me, too.) A smart person will pick up a new platform quickly. If that's not possible with Rails, that that's Rail's problem - not that I believe that to be the case. Yes, you do need a cadre of people with platform experience for a project to succeed, but not the whole team. (Perhaps he'd have better luck job hunting if he didn't restrict himself exclusively to Rails?)

He says that TW leaves bad code bases behind. Again, in my limited experience, that's not true at all. TWers seem to care deeply about what they do. Anyone else out there who doesn't work for TW who has any experiences they'd care to hare?

Also, his dismissal of TDD and agile practices such as pair programming suggests to me that he's not really tried them. We at TW have a lot of experience in these areas, and it all works just fine for us. If he claims to have improved productivity by dropping them, then he's clearly not comparing like-for-like. Done properly, I fervently believe that these practices improve productivity in the long term (if not in the short term).

I do wish we used more Django and less Rails, though. ;-)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
February 08, 2007
QCon London

I don't think I'll be able to make QCon, London this year - my current employer doesn't really see the point of conferences. Which is a shame, 'cos it could have been designed for us. There are an uncanny number of speakers relevant to us: Jeff Sutherland ('cos we Scrum), Gavin King ('cos we use Hibernate), Rod Johnson ('cos we use Spring), and Alex Russell ('cos we use Dojo), plus movers and shakers like Martin Fowler, Werner Vogels, Kylie, and Dave Thomas. I might be lying about one of those, though.

Never mind - there's always PyCamp!

And who knows - I might win a ticket. ;-)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)
October 04, 2006
Emacs and me

There's a discussion going on at the moment concerning refactoring dynamic languages. For whatever reason, its protagonists don't seem to be aware of Phil Dawes' excellent Bicycle Repair Man.

I'd love to give Bicycle Repair Man a go; it looks fab when Phil demos it. but there's one hurdle to get over first - Emacs. And it's a big one.

I've given Emacs a go a couple of times (most recently Aquamacs), and it seems to make sense to me. It's not totally horrid like that nasty vi thing that just beeps at me all the bloody time. No, it's just that the learning curve is steep, and I have real work to do, work that I can accomplish far more easily at the moment using jEdit.

There are loads of tasks that I can achieve really easily using jEdit that I wouldn't even know where to start looking for in Emacs - line sorting, search and replace across a filtered set of files throughout a directory sub-tree, opening files in archives or FTP repositories, HTMlifying, XML re-indenting. I know Emacs can do all this stuff, but I really don't know where to look for it all, and I need to get stuff done.

There are a couple of other jEdit features that I really like and would miss, too. The File System Browser (which I keep docked and open at all times) is a fabulous tool. I like a mouse driven interface for navigating around the file system, and jEdit's is a very powerful one. Also, the combination of the search bar and the hypersearch panel (which I leave on by default and dock at the bottom respectively) is really powerful too. Are there Emacs analogs of these tools?

Oh yes, and I like buffer tabs too.

And before Andy comes in and starts accusing me of being a weak-minded GUI lover, I'm not. I'm getting on fine with bash on the Mac. I'm starting to use awk and sed to do stuff on the command line that are totally impossible via a GUI. (Oh, and thanks for the help on that, Andy.)

So, should I stick with what I know? After all, it's not like I'm using Notepad here - jEdit's very good. Or should I take the pain and try to switch to Emacs? I'd be able to use Bicycle Repair Man!

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)
November 25, 2005

There goes our crowd for London 2.0.

Update: Just to be clear - London 2.0 isn't off by any means. It's just that I'm concerned that many of our potential attendees will go the the Backstage meetup.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
November 23, 2005
London 2.0rc1

This is getting out of hand. December the 12th now appears to be a combined Python/Django/TurboGears/Ruby/Rails/Java/Spring/Hibernate/the million other things you need to build a Java web app these days/Perl/Catalyst/Maypole/Groovy/Grails Christmas party, and Jez is trying to get the Geek Girls on board too. Though that may be just wishful thinking on his part. ;-)

So, we really need another name. Jez suggested London 2.0, which is just so zeitgeist. Me, I'm more London 0.9, but I'll go with it...

Let's just hope the Perl guys don't have a punch up.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
November 22, 2005
London Web Framework Night

Speaking of the London Web Framework Night - I never did write that up, did I?

OK, so, first up, Catalyst. What can I say? Catalyst may or may not be a great web framework, but since I didn't understand a word of the presentation, I'm not in any position to judge. It seemed mainly to consist of a list of CPAN modules that are either part of Catalyst, or can be plugged into it. No code, no working system, no screenshots, no inkling of what's in it for me. Nothing. Awkward, opaque, and unfriendly to all but insiders - much like I imagine Perl to be. (It must be said, the Perl mongers are aware of the problem - see this post, and this one. Message for Simon Wistow re your "Show Leon's Catalyst based web debugger. I'm willing to bet that it would be largely impossible in either of the other two" comment - I give you Ajaxy Exception Catching.)

Next up came Simon's Django presentation. I may have put The Fear into Simon about presenting to so many people, but perhaps I did him a favour - despite his admitted inexperience as a presenter, it was a cracking show. Compelling, funny, enthusiastic, and giving a very good idea as to what Django does, and how it does it. Using it will be pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to putting together a CMS style site. Whether it's the right platform for database driven sites like the kind of thing that I do for my day job is another matter. There's a clear front end/back end division with Django, with editors using its spectacular "magic" admin interface, and users mainly viewing content - though you do get community features like commenting pretty much for free. Perfect for a lot of sites, but would it suit enterprise database apps like banks and insurance houses need - and I write?

Simon demonstrated both the front and back ends of Django using - one of the sites for which Django was developed in the first place. Though the God of Demos made an apprearance at one point giving Simon an SQL exception, he also had a number of "oooh"s, and outright applause at least twice.

Last up was Matt Biddulph giving us a flavour of Rails. Struggling manfully through a stinking cold, Matt gave us the phiosophy of Rails in a very punchy manner. It looks very much a case of "do it our way", but that's often the right approach. Not enough code on show to tempt me away from a Python platform, though. ;-)

Without a doubt, the highlight here was Matt's demo of BBC Programme Catalogue. I have no words for how cool this project is. None.

I missed out on the booze up afterwards - I was feeling a bit fragile after several heavy sessions on the trot - so I'm sorry if I missed any of you. It was a good night nevertheless - a big thank you to Dean Wilson for organising it all.

Me? I'm looking at TurboGears. ;-) I like the concept of tying together best-of-breed components. Getting it running on my Mac was trivial, and the 20 minute Wiki is a superb demo. As soon as I locate some of that copious free time of mine, I'll try throwing together a simple site or two to see how it hangs together.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
London Python/Django/Ruby/Rails/Java Christmas party

Not content with a Python/Django/Ruby/Rails meetup, Sam, Jez and I have teamed up to throw a Python/Django/Ruby/Rails/Java Christmas party this year. (For "party", read "bunch of nerdy blokes, many with beards, standing around drinking beer and chatting about computers".) It's at The Old Bank of England, Fleet Street on the evening of December the 12th.

Do leave a comment if you fancy coming - we have a room booked, and but we can change it to a bigger one if we need to. I anticipate a lot of interest, what with combining the Java crowd with the dynamic language people, and possible extra interest due to last week's London Web Frameworks Night.

Anyone want to demo TurboGears? ;-)

Update: Thanks to Dave and Dave, it's now a Python/Django/TurboGears/Ruby/Rails/Java/Perl/Catalyst/Maypole Christmas party. That has to be every web nerd in London, right?

Son of Update - This Time it's Personal: See London 2.0rc1.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)
November 01, 2005
Busy Month

It's going to be a busy month for nerdy stuff.

Firstly, there's Jez's London Java meetup on Thursday. Always a good night.

Then, next Monday, we have the London Python/Django/Ruby/Rails meetup. It's looking like we might get a good turnout for that - including my Technical Director! Gulp - I'd better be on my best behavior.

Then again, naaah.

On the 17th, there's the London Web Frameworks Night. Looks fascinating - demos of many of the happening web app frameworks back to back. Given the noise and drunkeness I don't tend to take much detail in during the Python/Django/Ruby/Rails meetups, so it'll be interesting to see more formal demos. Let's hope I'm quick enough to book a seat...

And lastly, there's the Einstein vs. Newton debate at the Royal Society on the 23rd. A different kind of nerdy, but nerdy nevertheless. Not to be missed.

Update: If you want to go to the London Web Frameworks Night, sign up now.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
January 28, 2005
Putting it all together

Tell me what to do, please.

I've most often come across this issue building Java web applications. There are just so many pieces to stitch together, and to find places to put; your your build script, your business objects, your tests, your JSPs (or whatever), all your 3rd party JARs, your persistence stuff, your MVC stuff, your IoC stuff, about a gazillion configuration files to make all this lot work together, it just goes on and on. It takes a while, and if you get it wrong, well, everything still works, mostly, but you'll have maintenance nightmares for life.

In fact, it got so out of control that Matt Raible came up with the wonderful AppFuse. Appfuse is great - it builds a project structure for you, using your choice of frameworks, so you can hit the ground running. I only hope that Matt learns to slow down a little!

Perhaps that's what Python needs - not Rails, but AppFuse.

Update: Matt's site seems to be down at the moment. But do try later - AppFuse really is worth a look

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)
September 27, 2004
Which Distro?

Excellent! My next project will involve building a new site which will include some 'announcment and discussion forums', or, well, blogs. I wonder why I'm in the frame for this one? ;-)

I'm thinking WordPress for the blog engine. Seems to be all the go at the moment.

Even more excellent, if a little scary, is that all this is to run on a Linux box. I've not used Linux in anger, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm very much a command line man, so I'm sure I'll get on fine once I've got some momentum up. But getting started...

Which distro should I use? I quite fancy Debian, but I'm not sure that I'm hary chested enough for it. Would I better off with SuSE, or is that a bit desktop oriented? Is Ubuntu ready for prime-time? Or is there another distro altogether that I should be using?

Update 28th September: Ubuntu is looking promising, but I'm going with Debian. CDs burning as I write.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
Click here

The craft of writing link text, via Off On A Tangent.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 16, 2004
Cross platform fontage

What do you put in your CSS font-familys? I know what fonts are available on Windows, and I know about the lowest common denominator generic-families - sans-serif and the like, but what I'd really like to know is what more attractive fonts might be found on other systems. The Web Style Guide, Typeography, Cross-platform issues is a good start, but it doesn't cover Linux.

It's occured to me that we really need to be able to do a bit of cross platform testing here. I've volenteered to take on the burden of using a top-end PowerBook, but the management has yet to get back to me on that one...

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
May 26, 2004
Color Palette Creator

Check out this useful Color Palette Creator, via Andy Clarke, who came up with the idea, via Simon Willison.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
October 07, 2003
Web applications and date entry

Simon Willison pointed out The coolest DHTML calendar widget, (demo here).

At work, we use a web application timesheet system (written in Notes, would you believe). You have to type the dates in yourself, which is irritating. There is absolutely no flexibility as to how you enter them, which is even more irritating. So, today is "07/10/2003". You cannot enter "07102003", and nor can you enter "7/10/2003", nor "07/10/03". You have to enter exactly "07/10/2003", or you'll get an irritating dialog box, detailing the acceptable date format, as soon as the date field looses focus. This drives me insane. We have got to use this widget, or something like it.

Mishoo has some other nice stuff on his site - the JS MenuBar (not free) and the Palm world time app are both worth a look.

Update: Our timesheet system is "functionally stable", i.e. no enhancements are being made, no matter how useful and trivial to implement. Sigh. I may have to get a petition up. I'm certainly not alone in being irritated by this.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)
November 04, 2002
WebFacing into Tomcat does go!

They said it should work, and it does. So, can anyone tell me why a WebFacing user needs WAS?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
October 23, 2002

aqTree2: explorer-style trees from unordered lists

What a cool little widget!

JavaScrip, yes, but everything still works with JavaScript off, so that's OK. Honest.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
October 07, 2002
Die, bastard spammers, die!

Include this link on your page.

Via Brett Morgan.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
September 18, 2002
Seven tricks that Web users don't know

Seven tricks that Web users don't know

An excelent set of tips for developing web sites for non-technical people. It's important for techies to bear this sort of thing in mind.

Via from the orient.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
August 29, 2002
The Color Schemer

The Color Schemer is a superb tool for creating harmonious colour schemes.

Via Mark McEahern.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
August 21, 2002
Using Tomcat in Production

Interesting discussion on Slashdot - Who is Using Tomcat or Jetty in Production?

No one recommending Websphere, I notice.

We are using Tomcat for our latest product, but we haven't rolled out to our largest clients yet...

If we end up with scalability issues, there are some alternative J2EE servers mentioned here which we can look at.

I've been looking at JBoss anyhow. Tomcat gives you Servlets and JSPs, but not EJBs. JBoss gives you the whole J2EE stack.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:38 AM | Permalink
August 09, 2002
5K winners

Cool 5k web-pages, winners of the 5k competition.

I particulary like Scale Model of the Solar System, Wolfenstein 5K, remote control tank battle, 5kOS and city blossom. The winner, frutiger toy, is cool too.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 23, 2002
HTML style guide's Submission Style Guide: Code is an excelent 1 page HTML style guide.

Via Babu.

See also Dive Into Accessibility. There is no excuse for an inacessable website. Not any more.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 01, 2002
Connection Pooling with Tomcat

Connection Pooling with Tomcat is just what I have been looking for - I've been trying to work this out for hours!

Dive into connection pooling with J2EE is a good follow-up read, but it doesn't have a simple step-by-step guide to getting started.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 28, 2002
Open source web application servers.

Open-source servers today discusses a number of interesting web app platforms.

I use Apache and Tomcat at work. Java is my company's platform of choice, and we are doing a lot of servlet stuff. Seems to work beautifully. Small footprint too - WebSphere is a monster.

JBoss and Enhydra I will look at further - I'm just reading up on J2EE now. (Java for the Web with Servlets, JSP, and EJB. Good. A big book, but that's 'cos it covers a lot.)

I have mentioned Zope before.

(Via Daily Python URL)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 27, 2002
Stargate Eclipse - iSeries Development Update

The dawn of Eclipse.

My boss and I attended the Stargate event at IBM yesterday. There we were shown the new version of the WebSphere Development Studio Client. This comes in a bewildering variety of versions, and consists of an equally bewildering array of subcomponents. All of the versions of WDSc, and all of the subcomponents were referred to by acronym, and all the acronyms began with W, and we were thoroughly confused.

But anyway, the long and the short of it is that if you are an iSeries shop, you get the lot.

The new version of WDSc is based in the Eclipse framework. As anyone who has used Eclipse will know, it is just beautiful.

Eclipse is basically a framework for building IDEs, and other things. It ships with a plug in which makes it into a Java IDE, which as I said, is superb. Tools vendors other than IBM are also basing tools on Eclipse.

WDSc consists of a number of plug-ins to Eclipse to enable iSeries development. It has tools to navigate libraries and objects on the iSeries - think of a cross between PDM and Windows Explorer, but with filtering options more powerful than either. You can edit and compile RPG, DDS and so on, with any one of several powerful editors. SEU is ancient history now.

There are also some powerful tools for developing Java based web applications possibly involving iSeries components, though not necessarily. The tools for building JSPs, beans of various types (including EJBs) and so on are powerful. There are also tools to building wrappers around iSeries based RPG modules and turning them into beans and/or web services.

All great stuff, and for iSeries development it is going to be wonderful.

It is missing one crucial set of tools, though, as far as I am concerned. There are no tools for refactoring RPG. All these clever tools which IBM provide are meant to work on nice modular systems, where your presentation and business logic are nicely separated. Our legacy system isn't like this - it consists of large programs (5000 to 15000 lines) with the business and presentation logic thoroughly mixed. There are no separate callable modules implementing business functions, and that is what much of the new tooling requires.

Now, obviously there is no way to automate the modularise of a large program - it is inevitably a manual job, and a big one. But there are tools which can help - or there could be.

The Java development tools which ship with Eclipse include a number of powerful refactoring tools. For example, you can highlight a block of code and extract into a separate function (method). All inputs to and outputs from the selected code are automatically worked out, and turned into parameters (arguments). If large RPG systems are to be modernised, this is the sort of tool which we need.

I brought this up at the event. IBM have no plans to build this sort of thing into WDSc. Eclipse is totally modular and extensible, though, so anyone could do it. It was suggested that this might be an opportunity for my company! We are not a tools vendor, though, so it isn't going to happen. There were a number of tools vendors present, though, and a couple were interested enough in the idea to come and talk to me...

The latest version of WebFacing was also demoed - on which more later.

Update: Eclipse Forces Developers Across the Java Divide at the iSeries Network.

Update 02 July 2002: See Welcome to the Dawn of Eclipse by Phil Coulthard and George Farr, the guys who presented Stargate. Plenty of screenshots, and lots about the RPG tooling.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 25, 2002
Web usability is improving

Web usability is finally improving, according to But only by 4%. ;-)

Another 15 years, and all web sites will be 100% usable. Yeah, right.

What improvements there are can only have been spurred on by the likes of Mark Pilgrim.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 17, 2002
Guidelines for UK Government websites

These draft guidelines are pretty good - HTML for content, CSS for layout, no browser specific tricks, ensure accessibility. Cool!

Via The Web Standards Project, via diveintomark.)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 14, 2002
30 days to a more accessible weblog

diveintomark is running a series of articles, 30 days to a more accessible weblog.

I was a little worried that he was just going to keep up with the character sketches. Good they were, once you accept that making your site accessible is important, you don't need to keep on being told why. (I must say, SubAverage's parody was funny.)

Instead, Mark is going to give us some practical advice on how to make our sites more accessible. Good.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
/CSS/ - a guide for the unglued

The CSS Panic Guide is a good set of CSS related links, covering what, how and why.

(Via MetaFilter)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 13, 2002
Confusing web sites

Web design 'causes confusion'.

Basically, the categories used by the site ought to match the categories that the users perceives, but usually don't.

Of course, this is the case with for all UI design, not just web site design.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
Introduction to CSS Layout

Introduction to CSS Layout, at O'Reilly.

(Via Babu)

This site is all laid out with CSS. It all seems to work fine. I'll get around to CSSizing the rest of my site, too. Eventually.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 06, 2002
Cascading Style Sheets, Promise vs. Reality

To CSS, or not to CSS? Interesting article on Digital Web.

(Via diveintomark)

Since starting to use Moveable Type, I've had a good look at CSS. I bought the O'Reilly book, 'cos it's always the first thing that I do if I'm interested in a new technical area - see if O'Reilly have a book on the subject, and buy it if they do. I've not been disappointed yet.

I think that CSS is the way forward. So does Mark Pilgrim.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
May 15, 2002
Seriously useful web page

dive into mark pointed the Web Color Visualizer (sic). All this in just 3094 bytes!

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)