Running Oracle on Amazon’s cloud

Amazon has announced a partnership with Oracle, to run Oracle’s database and middleware products on Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2). Specifically, the products are Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Enterprise Manager; and for the OS, Oracle Enterprise Linux. A key feature is that both Amazon and Oracle offer full support for these products and configurations. Amazon’s web services are growing up.

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Adobe AIR runs on Linux

An email from Adobe alerts me to the release of AIR 1.1 for Linux beta, which I installed on my laptop which runs Ubuntu.

Installation is not quite so smooth as on Windows; you have to set execute permissions on the download before running it. It took only a moment though, and I soon had twhirl up and running, which is the only AIR application I use with any regularity.

The release notes say that all features are available except DRM. If you want transparency support, you must have a compositing manager like Beryl, Compiz or Compiz-fusion installed. You can also download a Linux SDK.

I realise that most of the world only cares about Mac and Windows clients, but I like today’s Linux desktop and kudos to Adobe for supporting it with AIR.

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slotMusic: you say hello, I say goodbye

A new format called slotMusic delivers music as DRM-free MP3 files on a microSD card, with a USB adaptor so you can plug it into any PC.

Hmm, not as convenient as downloads because you have to mess around with fiddly little cards.

If I want to buy music files on a physical medium I already can; on an established format called CD, that has DRM-free files without lossy compression.

So what is the advantage of these?

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The new power in computing: design-centric development

I’ve been mulling over the insights from Microsoft’s Remix 08 conference in Brighton, and in particular Bill Buxton’s contention that it was a focus on design that saved Apple, and that a focus on design is the only thing that can save Microsoft.

It is all very well to nod heads and agree that design is a critical matter; but we are generally not good at integrating design into the software development process. One of the problems is that most development methodologies that I have seen do not address this matter well. In fact, one of the problems is that we do not know how to talk about design or even what it is. When Martin Fowler wrote Is Design Dead he meant something different from what Buxton is talking about. Design is fuzzy and hard to measure.

The best I can come up with at the moment is that design is about user interaction. If software is about input –> processing –> output, then design is about how you do the input and get the output. Design is not about appearance; but it includes appearance. Design is not engineering; but design problems can sometimes be solved by engineering and vice versa. Design is not functionality; but doing the right thing at the right time is within the scope of design.

One of Buxton’s themes is the importance of transitions. How you get there is as important as what you get. This could mean visual effects, or what you have to press or click or move to get from one place to another. Think of the way Vista users get annoyed by having to go via a Network and Sharing Center to get to what they want, the Network Connections dialog; that is a design failure. Or all that discussion around Vista’s shutdown options provoked by Joel Spolsky’s somewhat unfair article. Design issues, of which there are many other examples

Design is ascendant for several reasons. One is that increased computing performance has given designers more freedom, though that also means there are more ways to get it wrong. Another aspect is that falling prices have made adequately powerful personal computers (or for that matter MP3 players) a commodity, and design is now key to differentiation. Third, the Web has focused minds on the minutiae of design, as sites compete for user attention. Macromedia’s (now Adobe’s) work with Flash has been a big influence, especially after the company joined the dots back in 2002, and started to promote Flash as a means of improving the user experience in applications.

If I reflect for a moment on the last 30 years or so of software development, it is easy to pick out ideas that have really made a difference. Object orientation. The graphical user interface. Test-driven development, and another big insight of the Agile movement, participation between all stake holders.

I suggest we should add design-centric development to that list, even though at this stage we are not sure how to do it. There’s been a lot of discussion about designer/developer workflow, and a few tools and ideas from Adobe and Microsoft that help to enable it, but this is only scratching the surface. Further, with their focus on graphics and graphical effects, they make it hard to distinguish between design and decoration.

So how do we do design-centric development? Learn from Apple and Google is one answer. Have developers and designers in the same room, or appoint more designers to the board, could be another. I think this topic is one that deserves, and will get, lots of attention in the next few years.

Windows 7 screenshots hit the web

Windows 7 screenshots are showing up, for example on and Much to see? Well, ribbon UI in WordPad and Paint; a much-enhanced Calculator with Standard, Scientific, Programmer, Statistics and Date Calculation modes; and an IDE, sorry ISE (Integrated Script Environment) for PowerShell.

Presuming these are genuine, they don’t tell us a lot about Windows 7 except that, as widely predicted, it looks more like a refined version of Vista than something boldly different. Given that Server 2008 turned out nicely, I’d say that’s no bad thing.

For the official word on Windows 7, see the Engineering Blog.

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Microsoft’s design crisis: Interview from Remix Brighton

The Reg has posted my interview with Bill Buxton, in which he talks about the challenge of getting Microsoft to put design at the core of its products. It has a great quote where Ballmer apparently told the company conference “Change or we die”. Can Microsoft change? That’s the big question; and one commenter has already given his opinion. I have more to say on this issue; but for now do read the interview; I find it a fascinating topic.

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A few notes on ASP.NET MVC

Here at Remix in Brighton Scott Guthrie is presenting on ASP.NET MVC (Model View Controller). This is an alternative to web forms, the classic ASP.NET programming model.

What is ASP.NET MVC better for? Here are the things that Guthrie highlights:

  • Clean code separation presentation/logic
  • Clean URLS, SEO and REST friendly. For example, URLS like:
  • Better for unit testing. Ability to test model, view, controller separately. Guthrie demos some tests; all the main .NET test frameworks are supported inlcuding Nunit as well as Team System.
  • Closer to the HTTP/HTML model. For example, you don’t handle a button click event on the server as web forms allow; rather, you handle a form submission.

ASP.NET Preview 5 is available now; beta soon; full release by the end of the year (That timing strikes me as tight).

I think this will prove popular among ASP.NET developers.

Bill Buxton at Remix Brighton

Bill Buxton has made a considerable impression here at Remix. His theme is the critical importance of design, and he has a broad understanding of what design is that goes beyond what some developers may imagine: “here’s my app, now make it look good” would be the caricature. I Twittered his session – you can read it online here. He talks a lot about Apple and about how Jobs rescued it by creating a culture of industrial design; the unspoken question here is whether anyone can do the same thing for Microsoft.

Now in the ADO.NET Data Services session (Astoria).

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Silverlight: 1.5 million installations per day, says Microsoft

Scott Guthrie, Corporate VP Developer Division at Microsoft, spoke at Remix in Brighton about Silverlight deployment. He says there are around 1.5 million installations per day, and that version 1.0 will auto-update to version 2.0 when it is released, which he says is “shortly”.

Wide deployment is critical for Silverlight, though a limitation of version 2.0 (the one with the .NET runtime included) is that it does not work on PowerPC Macs.

Guthrie also mentioned Internet Explorer 8, which he says will ship “towards the end of the year”.