Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Too Much Functionality Could Kill You

Over time almost all the software products get extra features. With each new version they grow with at least 5% of the new lines of code, I assume. New modules appear in the light of the day, everything is getting bigger and bigger (sometimes even slower and slower, and then it is optimized with the next release over and over again).
It is a usual practice, and it is inevitable even in the majority of cases, I predict, because customers generally look to get most for their money.

Bang for the Buck

I may say: 'Oh, what a wonderful world of the software applications with the never ending story where more features mean more work to do/upgrade!' :)
Comparing the other worlds e.g. cars or mobile phones we see many similarities.

Who uses more than five features of their phones? ;)

I'm not going to criticize it, or even I may argue that it can be fully acceptable in case the new options are simply manageable, 'turn on/off', e.g. Firefox has add-ons.

Thus, the main question is:
Should the core functionality of the systems be simply manageable as well?

The answer is as always the same: 'It depends ...'

OK, ok, ok. But, why am I bothering about that now? :)

Yesterday I read an interesting post '8 CMS features customers want but never use' and I found this list a little bit surprising. The 8 CMS features (see below) are really common in the RFP (Request for Proposal) which I regularly encounter at my work and I have always been sure that those features are MUST BE not NICE TO HAVE for the CMS customers. I will now have to look at them from the different perspective.

  1. Workflow
  2. Color coding changes
  3. Microsoft Office integration
  4. Future preview
  5. Back-end analytics
  6. Advanced search
  7. A/B testing
  8. Frontpage editing

The above mentioned list was created at a meeting of the European CMS Expert Group, which meets regularly to share experiences and sets the agenda for the industry, thus, the list is supported statistically.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Short Book Review: Getting Started with Oracle BPM Suite 11g R1

Having prepared my 'mind organizing platform', I have shifted to the first practical challenge with a template of the mind map called: 'Reading journals'.

The book that I have had in my restless mind for a long time was Getting Started With Oracle BPM Suite 11g R1: A Hands-On Tutorial. I came it across accidentally while I was searching for the pre-installed Oracle BPM virtual box.
Moreover, I could also recommend this Oracle URL as a valuable starting point to the world of Oracle BPM. After completing the whole hands-on tutorial in that book on pre-installed virtual box, I can state now that you would deservedly feel as a marine that has just returned home from a lonely yet simple journey.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I have 'packed' the whole book with XMind. And I must agree that it has fully confirmed my expectations. Below you can see the snapshot of the result (the snatch of my mind map from this reading).

As a short summary I will give some points about the following:

  • The beginning of this book (especially the first three chapters) are full of sentences that sound like: 'Oracle solutions are the best so … '. Sorry, I don't like such sentences. Based on the content of the book, it is I think dedicated to IT specialists rather than to sales representatives, so, such sentences are worthless.

  • It provides a short introduction to the major concepts of BPM
  • Consistent hands-on tutorial is examined throughout the whole book
  • There are many 'print screens' so you will not miss your way along that simple tutorial
  • Don't worry in case you are not sure about the result of the tutorial because the same example has already been completed on the Oracle BPM virtual box
  • It covers not only the BPM implementation along SOA platform but BAM and Business Rules usage as well

Least but not last, if you are still not sure where to BPEL and/or BPMN put in your SOA stack, you can get more information about that here.

Disclaimer: I did not get paid to review this book, and I do not stand to gain anything if you buy the book. I have no relationship with the publisher or the author.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mastering your minds with minds management tools, e.g. XMind

I have recently noticed that the market of the personal mind managers software has been blooming as never before and a word 'mind' combined with extra words makes the following powerful coinages: 'mind organizer', 'mind manager', 'mind-notes', 'mind maps', etc.

Phase No1. The very first mind-mapping touch

Seven years ago I was a big fan of Tony Buzan ideas for a 'mind structure' called: 'mind-maps'. I read his all books then, moreover, it inspired me to go for more and I started 'speed-reading' courses on my own.
The result: each time I was learning or reading something bigger I always used to make mind-maps on a large sheet of paper with colourful pens. I used to like it very much, I can recall those drawings in my mind even now.
Now I'm asking myself; why have I stopped practising these two skills? The answers are:
1. The speed-reading
I have never reached satisfying results (1,000 words per minute with 50% comprehension or above). Additionally, I have noticed that it was adapted more to simple reading of the news rather than for intensive (learning) reading when the subject is difficult and requires many  'mind-breaks' for, e.g. exercises.
Moreover, I have read an article about this methodology weaknesses or even criticism and I have stopped using it at all.
2. The mind-maps
I haven't found a useful tool for organizing of mind maps. All the maps I have made are somewhere in the drawer, they are big and are not at one's elbow.

During those seven years I made a few attempts to return to mind-mapping. One of the returns closest to success was with a tool FreeMind. With that new tool I made approximately no more than five maps and I finally gave up. Don't ask me why it hasn't succeeded, I may only guess that probably it wasn't for me or maybe the user interface simple wasn't friendly enough.
Nevertheless, I had my favourite software for my minds management and quick noting all that time. That super tool doesn't have any particular name because it is a simple text editor. :)

Phase No2. Ever/Never note has come

A simple text editor for minds organizing has at least one tiny weakness, or speaking in general: it is a single, locally stored text file. Thus, to avoid that, I have installed Evernote, also known as NeverNote in Linux world (BTW, despite NeverNote has fewer functions than Evernote, in my opinion it is better to use a 'native' NeverNote for Linux than wine+Evernote).
The result: with this simple Evernote cloud service I have solved the problem of simple minds managing. The second problem was still opened because in my opinion NeverNote is to weak to manage a stream of minds that comes with every next page.

Phase No3. The return of mind-mapping
One week ago I found a very good UML video course accidentally, and what is more interesting, the author has made his smooth mind presentation with a mind map tool XMind. WOW! I have never thought it was possible to do such a smooth and professional presentation only with mind mapping. I have already known that it is good for mind organizing but not for presentation (BTW, I'm going to try that presentation option in the near future).
The second very nice XMind feature, apart from the fact that it is free of charge for its basic version, it has  predefined templates. One of them is: 'Reading journals', or, in other words, the template that I have been searching for ages :)

Phase No4. The final mind-mapping package

Having installed Ever/NeverNote with XMind I feel that I finally have all the most necessary tools for a comfortable 'minds management'. NeverNote, with the cloud storage, has become my mind managing platform that can handle embedded mind maps from external, yet powerful XMind application.

P.S. For more interesting (basic level) reading about mind mapping please visit this page.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and Workrave

One day, as usual, I was reading some post on the Internet. Oddly, I felt that my eyes started to be sore. This is certainly nothing serious to worry about, but I guess that it may be the impact of, e.g. very long autumn and winter reading nights. Nevertheless, I thought it was the high time I started thinking about something that would help my eyes to stay in a good condition.
Despite anything that is said about a good health condition, I think that eyes are one of the most important 'tools' of an IT specialist that are used in a very intensive mode. OK, other organs are also important too and they can have strain injury, or more precisely: 'Repetitive Strain Injury' but eyes must work harder than, e.g. hands ;)
Thus, I started to search for a particular application that would help me to organize my workspace automatically and would not be too much annoying. The googling result, or in other words '… and the Oscar goes to...', is Workrave.
Having completed a very quick installation with 'Umbutu Software Center', a new software was ready for use.

Some extra information.
Before you start using it, you could set the option for your specific needs. I have changed only 'Micro-break' and 'Rest break' options (see below):

I have turned off the 'Daily limit' because I don't want to have such a limitation yet ;)

The result?

Now, when I work on my laptop, after each ten minutes I see this picture which is a little bit annoying:

Seeing it, I close my tired eyes and I think about grass, green grass ;)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

LibreOffice Update to version 3.3.1

The new version of LibreOffice has arrived. The first micro release improves the stability of the software and eliminates several bugs and crashes. LibreOffice 3.3.1 also brings new colourful icons based on The Document Foundation branding guidelines, and includes updates to several language versions.
Instead of going to the quick download section you could type just these two or three lines (the last line is optional, if you skip it, 'Update Manager' will do the rest):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install libreoffice

After that Ubuntu will take care of the LibreOffice automatically each time a new version will arrive ;)