Monday, April 25, 2005

Ruby on Rails
I read an interesting article a few weeks ago comparing Ruby on Rails to the popular J2EE stack of Hibernate/Spring/JSTL. This is not really a meaningful comparison, but Ruby on Rails is a very interesting technology. It waves the mythical carrot of zero (or close to zero) configuration in front of the faces of developers and managers. It is one of the most aggressive attacks on that problem that I've ever seen.

Of course one of the most surprising things about RoR vs. J2EE is that no J2EE vendor has ever come up with something like RoR and sold it. The most obvious vendor for something like this is Oracle. They have certainly had their share of proprietary extensions to Java and SQL. At the end of the day, Oracle has always wanted people to write SQL. Sure they have Toplink, but it was never intended to allow true decoupling of one's domain model from its data store.

So now that Java has begun to embrace declarative and aspect oriented programming, shouldn't it be able to do something like RoR only better? One would think so. Of course high browed Java programmers (myself included!) wrinkle their noses at some of the shortcuts that RoR takes. Java is also chained to a legacy of interacting with legacy systems. For a long time it was Java's ability to interop that was a major selling point, but we're really past that now. Java 5.0 was definitely about giving developers the ability to do things quicker so they can compete with other technologies. J2EE 5.0 should be an even bigger step in that direction. This is all following what open source had already been providing. So now open source needs to go a step further and provide 'Java on Rails'.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I read this article a few weeks ago about why Americans suck at making cars but are good at making software. The conclusions were a little surprising: Americans are all about just getting something done as fast as possible, not about quality and craftsmenship. As somebody whose job it is to create software, this made me really think. Is the author right?

The answer is no. Americans are great at innovating, and that's not because we just want to get things done and don't care how we do it. It's because we have more freedom than most nations. We have a history of people challenging established ideas. You have to be careful when making such sweeping generalizaions about a country as large and diverse as America. There are certainly parts of our society that are less tolerant of new ideas and challenging the establishment. There is a name for ideologies that are less tolerant: conservative. Indeed the Red States don't tend to produce as much innovation as the Blue States. Of course it can be a little bit of a chicken-and-egg thing. More innovation usually means more economic success and that leads to more urbanization, which of course leads to more tolerance.

So maybe that's why Americans are more innovative and have great success at things like movies and software. That doesn't explain why Americans suck at making cars. I don't think its that Americans are incapable of making great cars, it's just that other countries (Japan, Germany) work a lot harder at it. They work harder at it because they have to. If you aren't innovative as a compettitor, then you have to make sure that you pay more attention to detail and quality on the things that you both make. If you can't come up with new products/features to compete, then you must be better at making the common things or you have no way of competing. It's really just a function of specialization in the marketplace. Does anyone think Hondas would be nearly as great if they were only sold in Japan?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Baseball, baseball, baseball

Ahh spring is really here when baseball season starts. Of course you couldn't tell it here in San Jose, where it's cold and rainy. I'm not letting that curb my enthusiasm for the start of the baseball season. I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan, though I'm also a fan of the Florida Marlins. Of course I root for the home teams here, too. I love going to Giants games.
Of course the big news in baseball is steroids. I think the whole thing is ridiculous. I don't care if a guy uses steroids, just like I don't care if they take vitamin supplements or if they've had Tommy John surgery. These are all modern "miracles" that let people get more from their body than ever before. There's a big downside to steroids though, but if somebody wants to take that kind of health risk, then that's their business. Trying to ban steroids is trying to stop progress. It won't work and is a waste of time anyways.
What's even worse than fans complaining about steroids is Congress getting involved. What an amazing waste of time. I suppose they think they have the right to do this, because they've granted MLB protection as a monopoly. That in itself is an outrage. They shouldn't be involved at all with baseball. It's a gross misuse of power. Let MLB have whatever steroids policy they want. If fans don't like it, then let them not go to games, not watch games on tv, not buy merchandise, etc. MLB will adjust their policy accordingly. There is no need for the government to step in. Of course there will pundits crying "but what about the kids!" That's what parents are for. Let them take responsibility for what their kids do.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Notable Deaths

Despite supporting Terry Schiavo's right to die, I took no pleasure in her passing away. I am glad the ordeal is reaching closure for her family. I think the continued outrage by Republicans is absolutely shameless. It always makes me wonder: do the Republicans really believe in crap like this or is it just pandering to the religious right? I'm not sure which is worse. If they really believe in it, then they really do have more in common with Mussolini than with Hayek. If they don't (which is more likely I think), then their duplicity is truly appalling.

As for The Pope ... well it's just sad. Basically the whole world watched his health steadily decline and the got to sit vigil as he passed away. I'm not Catholic, and disagreed with The Pope on almost everything, but it is heartbreaking to see somebody wither away, especially a person as beloved as The Pope.