Jeremy Rayner on java and other stuff.

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megg: user defined project templates
Posted on 26 Mar 2004
Just added a new megg release that provides the ability to use your own project templates, this has been requested by a number of people, and hopefully is the hook that might get you using megg :-)

Rough guide to template writing

A project template is literally any directory that contains files you need for next project. The special bit comes when you go into one of your files and place the special parameters (velocity style) inside the source files and a controlling megg.xml in the root of the directory.

for example: put the text ${megg.foobar} in your source file, and add <arg name="foobar"/> to megg.xml in the root of the directory. megg will prompt user for this arg, then generate the project on this basis.

Just unpack megg.jar to look at the other templates for ideas...

The search strategy for templates is currently:

  • if you typed java -jar megg.jar foobar
  • megg will look in './foobar'
  • ...then '$MEGG_HOME/.megg/templates/java'
  • ...then '$user.home/.megg/templates/java'
  • ...then in the megg.jar file itself

Give megg a whirl today, and let me know your thoughts...

26 Mar 2004 |

megg: automatic downloading and unpacking
Posted on 26 Mar 2004
One issue when starting a new project, is getting hold of those pesky dependancies (jars/tld etc). I've updated megg to automatically grab them for you. megg will now take care of downloading a released file at any url, and unzipping or untaring the archive, and then copy the necessary into the right place for your project.

The best explanation is through an example.

java -jar megg-0.1.0.jar groovy

will create all necessary files for minimal groovy project and then unpack the three essential jar files needed in the lib dir from the auto downloaded groovy-1.0-beta-4.tar.gz

This is how this is declared, note use of ! to delimit url ! packedFile ! packedFile...
The dependancy declaration inside inherit the outer dependancy declarations
<dependancy from="!/groovy-1.0-beta-4/lib/"
    <dependancy from="groovy-1.0-beta-4.jar"/>
    <dependancy from="asm-1.4.1.jar"/>
    <dependancy from="asm-util-1.4.1.jar"/>

26 Mar 2004 |

Christopher Eccleston - new Doctor Who TV Series
Posted on 20 Mar 2004
dr who

I'm known as the Doctor [click for larger piccie]

It's official...

Christopher Eccleston has been cast as the Doctor in the new Doctor Who TV Series, due to air in 2005. Combined with the previously announced writer/producer Russell T. Davies, we can expect a much darker, deeper and dramatic Saturday evening hiding behind the sofa.

This is a very strong casting, one that may well upset people who like a multi-faceted Doctor. However if you want a tortured soul, and someone to drag the emotion from the pit of your stomach, Christopher Eccleston is probably able to deliver.

My only hope is the, as yet uncast, companion role, will go to Kelly Macdonald, mostly based on her work as Della Smith in State of Play

Shooting starts in Cardiff later this year, and the series will be on our screens in 2005. Meanwhile here are some clips of Christopher Eccleston...

The Doctor is coming back, and this time it's serious.

20 Mar 2004 |

Spaced - The Movie
Posted on 19 Mar 2004
...well nearly. If you're a fan of the channel 4 comedy series Spaced, you might be pleased to see the trailer [flash] for Shaun of the Dead due in your cinemas from 9th April.

It is just one of a number of cool looking movies coming from working title films this year. Others include ...

19 Mar 2004 |

megg updated
Posted on 18 Mar 2004
Just updated megg to version 0.0.9, adding support for jpublish project generation. JPublish is a web framework from Anthony Eden, and Anthony very kindly wrote this megg template himself, so if you want to give JPublish a whirl, you can't start better than this.

Also updated the webwork2, groovy and thinlet templates, to take into account the most recent release of each.

so download megg today! :-)

18 Mar 2004 |

LNE - my Robot strategist
Posted on 16 Mar 2004
... or how I applied the Strategy (315) pattern to Robocode.

Article about robocode and strategy pattern (HTML - 36Kb)

download source code for this article (3Kb)

16 Mar 2004 |

Monday's meetup review
Posted on 16 Mar 2004
Managed to chat briefly with David Gilbert of JFreeChart fame last night at the meetup. JFreeChart is one of those open source components that stirred my interest in the scene almost four years ago. David is a really nice guy, and his hard work and dedication to JFreeChart shines through in a very easy to use charting package. I was intrigued to hear that around 70% of JFreeChart's users were incorporating the charting into web applications, but then it is such an essential part of any serious (open sourced based) developers toolkit, I suppose it's a good measure of java developments. Thanks to David for coming along, it's good to see someone out there making a living direct from open source. pretty jfreechart image

3 turtles Had an interesting chat with Simon, about how the general population approach computing, and he pointed out that the largest barrier was not understanding the intricate nature of how it all fits together, but that fear of breaking the system was paramount. It seems that too many people in the world, when faced with a computing environment, are scared of what they might do, and often take the Luddite defense. I guess you need to provide an environment that has no social fear of failure (i.e. let them wander all around the system, they are far more likely to accidentally learn something than accidentally break it). Simon also reminded me to have another look at StarLogo

As for the robots, I made the final, but I'm sorry to say my robot was trounced by Sam's amazing gravity-based targeting robot. That sucker was mean, hopefully Sam will do a quick overview on his blog. And I'll put my robot in a future entry.

Thanks to everyone who joined us last night, another excellent meetup.

16 Mar 2004 |

Beagle 2 lecture - how to get to Mars on a shoestring
Posted on 08 Mar 2004

Went to a very entertaining lecture tonight given by Colin Pillinger of the planetary and space sciences research institute, at the Royal Society, on the topic of the Beagle 2 mission to Mars.

The Beagle 2 mission, which included a mass spectrometer inside the lander, that was hitchhiking aboard the Mars Express spacecraft. As you are probably aware, no contact has been made with the Beagle 2 since it left the Mars Express around Christmas 2003.

The Beagle 2 had no means of communication between leaving Mars Express and the craft completing its landing sequence on the surface. This is due to the extra weight this would have added to the craft, which means the log of actual events now lies with image recognition on images taken as Beagle 2 left Mars Express, spy images from the various Martian survey satellites, combined with new Martian data provided from all the other instruments about the atmosphere and conditions.

Colin Pillinger and Jez (picture taken by Andi Chandler)

The main lessons from this mission seem to be

  • reduce the number of sequential events in any landing, as no matter how small the risk of failure in each event (bouncing, rolling, blowing incendiary devices etc), the combined probabilities of failure in a chain of events is really too great.
  • together with better placement of the communications antenna [word doc] (provided by Qinetiq) in the next mission. In Beagle 2 the antenna was built from the existing structure of the space lander, to make it of zero mass, and therefore almost the last thing to happen was the enablement of the communications, much better would be to bring the communication antenna outside of the box, thus enabling each link in the chain of events to be controlled from external decisions.

This lecture really was a flag waving event for the European Space Agency (ESA), but moreover for British Space Science. Colin managed to claw his way aboard the Mars Express, with a mission that most funding sources seemed to be reluctant to join until it was a sure thing. It seems that the greatest battle we face in Space Exploration today is not with the physics and logistics of getting out there and doing it, but with the marketing, politics, sponsorships and bean counting that seems to be prevalent in today's introspective societies.

I guess Colin's gift has been to realise there is a human story in a robotic mission to Mars. The human story, quite rightly, is with the scientists, from inception, through fund-raising, and into the weeks of the mission itself. I think Colin showed that the mission had more viewers than 'Only Fools and Horses', which is quite an achievement, and shows that future missions may be able to leverage this vast audience. The British Space programme isn't setup for individual donations, but surely advertisers and other businesses will see that no matter what the outcome of future missions, it will be worth investing in immediately as the sizeable audience will be guaranteed.

The next mission window seems to be a 2007 launch (EVD), aboard the ESA mission to Mars, part of the Aurora programme. But the funding would have to be given early, as work would have to be seriously underway by the end of this year. And as Beagle 2 has proved it is possible to get great science into a minuscule lander, the 2007 mission will possibly have two or more landers on board, and hopefully this time the ESA can give a little bit more priority to the landers.

Let's hope in three years we can hear the immortal words 'The Beagles have Landed' coming from the bowels of Jodrell Bank.

Beagle 2 (picture taken by Jez)

Thanks to Colin and the Royal Society for another interesting evening.

08 Mar 2004 |

London Java Breakfast Meetup - review
Posted on 01 Mar 2004
Just got back from the breakfast meetup, another fun packed feast of Java, we discussed such items as whether the Rational Unified Process (RUP) is truely meaningful in the real development environment, Sam pointed me in the direction of Simon's blog entry on RUP pigeonholing developers, I guess I'm just curious as to how Agile and RUP fit together?

Also discussed was Spring's implementation of IoC, and how it compares to it's competitors, looks worth a look.

Thanks to the Fox and Anchor for a really hot cup of tea, sorted.

01 Mar 2004 |


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