Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Eclipse, EMF/GEF/GMF

The support for modelling and model-visualization in Eclipse is very impressive, but a little difficult to get to grips with quickly.  I had already started working with the free IBM red-book on EMF and GEF when I discovered that there is now a project called Graphical Modeling Framework which appears to subsume EMF and GEF. 



Moreover, I'm trying to use the Callisto build of Eclipse (which attempts to combine harmonized plugin and project versions), and the Omondo UML plugin no longer seems to work correctly when used to create EMF models graphically.  I cannot seem to add an attribute to a model class in Omondo - the menu command simply doesn't exist.  To be fair to Omondo, I think they recognize there are some issues and a forum comment has been posted to the effect that a new version will be released soon for Callisto.



What's so interesting to me is that the Eclipse/Java community appears to be ahead of Microsoft in the area of Domain Specific Languages (DSL) and model-driven development.  Microsoft makes a lot of noise about 'Software Factories' and building support for creating and using DSLs in Visual Studio, but this has only recently become available and you must purchase the Team System edition to get it.   Team System requires an enormous investment, not just money but also commitment to Microsoft's view of how your team should work and collaborate.  Eclipse is free, completely open, and cross-platform.  I'm going to be looking in more detail at the libraries and tools for doing model-driven development, and building graphical editors.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Airkix!

Rebecca (my daughter) and I finally got to use our Airkix vouchers last weekend! Chris bought me a voucher for my birthday, and Becca liked the idea so much that we got her a voucher for her birthday, so we all went to the Xscape Centre at Milton Keynes on Saturday to use them!

The Airkix website gives you a pretty good idea of what it's all about, but you really have to experience it; the sensation is predictable enough but I hadn't expected it to be so tricky to maintain a precise position. You need to find a stable body-shape, and then to make all adjustments slowly. And as you have only two 1-minute flights, you have to learn all this quite quickly.

Becca is very athletic and supple, so she found the right shape almost immediately. It took me (a much older, creakier body!) a while longer, but I got there. And we have a DVD of our session to prove it! Must try to get some of that on to this site.

The tunnel equipment is awesome - I have no idea how powerful the fans are, but air is drawn from a very wide base area up through a funnell-walled section into the chamber (which isn't very big), which increases the velocity of the airstream. I didn't watch the instruments but I believe the windspeed is in excess of 100mph. There's a fine degree of control available too: they reduce the windspeed for smaller, lighter flyers, or when someone accidentally ends up too high.

This was huge fun! I've always wanted to experience free-fall, but I'm a still a bit scared of parachuting. This is the only other way...

Airkix!

Rebecca (my daughter) and I finally got to use our Airkix vouchers last weekend! Chris bought me a voucher for my birthday, and Becca liked the idea so much that we got her a voucher for her birthday, so we all went to the Xscape Centre at Milton Keynes on Saturday to use them!

The Airkix website gives you a pretty good idea of what it's all about, but you really have to experience it; the sensation is predictable enough but I hadn't expected it to be so tricky to maintain a precise position. You need to find a stable body-shape, and then to make all adjustments slowly. And as you have only two 1-minute flights, you have to learn all this quite quickly.

Becca is very athletic and supple, so she found the right shape almost immediately. It took me (a much older, creakier body!) a while longer, but I got there. And we have a DVD of our session to prove it! Must try to get some of that on to this site.

The tunnel equipment is awesome - I have no idea how powerful the fans are, but air is drawn from a very wide base area up through a funnell-walled section into the chamber (which isn't very big), which increases the velocity of the airstream. I didn't watch the instruments but I believe the windspeed is in excess of 100mph. There's a fine degree of control available too: they reduce the windspeed for smaller, lighter flyers, or when someone accidentally ends up too high.

This was huge fun! I've always wanted to experience free-fall, but I'm a still a bit scared of parachuting. This is the only other way...

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Back again, at last

Two weeks ago, following some interruptions of service, my hosting provider simply went out of business.  This was a bit of a shock, as RazorLogix (RL) had looked like an almost perfect shared host - great service (until the outages), and a very good shared-host plan which included SSH access (non-root), Java, Python (including mod_python), RubyOnRails, Subversion support and more.



When the end came, it meant backing up everything and moving to a new host. Having done this only a month or two previously (in order to move to RL!), I wasn't very pleased.  The first problem was, who to host with?  I looked around for something close to the RL offering.  There are other shared-host companies which offer mod_python, but usually these are a bit constraining and very few offer SSH access.



In the end, I decided to take a slightly bolder step and go for a  Linux virtual server.  I hadn't considered running my own server before because it had meant either running the hardware myself 24x7 (not really something I want to do), or purchasing access to a rack-mounted server (very expensive).  Now that virtualization has arrived in the hosting market, running your own server is very cheap and gives you complete flexibility.  The downside of course is that you have to do everything else: administer the server, install software and so on.



There appear to be two main approaches to the virtual server market: User Mode Linux (UML) or using a virtualization layer such as Xen.  The result, as far as the user is concerned, is broadly the same: you have a complete Linux OS environment, an allocation of main memory, and some disk space (a few GB).  Of all the providers I looked at, the two I concentrated on were Bytemark, which uses UML and Rimuhosting, which uses Xen.



I chose Rimuhosting.  So far, so good.  They are based in New Zealand but most of the hardware seems to be in US datacentres.  Requests for help have been answered promptly and they do seem to know what they're doing.  The standard VPS install has almost everything I need, right out of the box, including Java and Python. For most of the basic setup, there is a web-based control panel.



As for me, the experience has been a bit like going back in time, to the years I spent developing in C and C++ on Unix (12 years or more ago).  It's surprising just how much has stayed with me, even csh/bash stuff.  The biggest challenge has been understanding the components of the standard (RedHat Enterprise-based) distribution that Rimuhosting uses, e.g. Postfix and Dovecot for email.  Having SSH access (and SCP access, so you can use something like WinSCP) means complete freedom: now I can do some of the server-side stuff I always wanted to do!


Back again, at last

Two weeks ago, following some interruptions of service, my hosting provider simply went out of business.  This was a bit of a shock, as RazorLogix (RL) had looked like an almost perfect shared host - great service (until the outages), and a very good shared-host plan which included SSH access (non-root), Java, Python (including mod_python), RubyOnRails, Subversion support and more.



When the end came, it meant backing up everything and moving to a new host. Having done this only a month or two previously (in order to move to RL!), I wasn't very pleased.  The first problem was, who to host with?  I looked around for something close to the RL offering.  There are other shared-host companies which offer mod_python, but usually these are a bit constraining and very few offer SSH access.



In the end, I decided to take a slightly bolder step and go for a  Linux virtual server.  I hadn't considered running my own server before because it had meant either running the hardware myself 24x7 (not really something I want to do), or purchasing access to a rack-mounted server (very expensive).  Now that virtualization has arrived in the hosting market, running your own server is very cheap and gives you complete flexibility.  The downside of course is that you have to do everything else: administer the server, install software and so on.



There appear to be two main approaches to the virtual server market: User Mode Linux (UML) or using a virtualization layer such as Xen.  The result, as far as the user is concerned, is broadly the same: you have a complete Linux OS environment, an allocation of main memory, and some disk space (a few GB).  Of all the providers I looked at, the two I concentrated on were Bytemark, which uses UML and Rimuhosting, which uses Xen.



I chose Rimuhosting.  So far, so good.  They are based in New Zealand but most of the hardware seems to be in US datacentres.  Requests for help have been answered promptly and they do seem to know what they're doing.  The standard VPS install has almost everything I need, right out of the box, including Java and Python. For most of the basic setup, there is a web-based control panel.



As for me, the experience has been a bit like going back in time, to the years I spent developing in C and C++ on Unix (12 years or more ago).  It's surprising just how much has stayed with me, even csh/bash stuff.  The biggest challenge has been understanding the components of the standard (RedHat Enterprise-based) distribution that Rimuhosting uses, e.g. Postfix and Dovecot for email.  Having SSH access (and SCP access, so you can use something like WinSCP) means complete freedom: now I can do some of the server-side stuff I always wanted to do!