Thesis Complete

Well, it has taken a year of my life, but my masters thesis is now complete and ready to be reviewed by my supervisor and external reviewers. In hindsight I am very happy I chose to do my masters rather than a PhD – my preference in life is to be more practical rather than theoretical. Right now I’m about to get back into full-time development of Centruflow leading in to CeBIT in March next year – we have some awesome technology in the pipeline!

My thesis is titled ‘Improving Centruflow Using Semantic Web Technologies’. It weighs in at 139 pages or a little under 34,000 words. I start it by quoting Blaise Pascal “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time”. The thesis covers a lot of software development detail but at the heart of it is a decent chunk of maths. This surprised even me, as I am by no means a mathematician.

You may notice my writing style has become severely ‘relaxed’ – too much ‘proper’ writing in my thesis has forced my brain to try to rebel – my sentences now instead flow into each other as a series of hyphens. 🙂

If anyone is interested in checking out the thesis feel free to ask – I’m more than happy to hand send it out. The only reason I don’t provide a link here is that I’d really like to know who is interested.

New Zealand at CeBIT 2008

Given that New Zealand traditionally makes a big splash at CeBIT (out-blinging the Aussies no less), I was not surprised to receive an email from people involved with the PR for next years CeBIT already. They have set up a blog that covers the build up to next years CeBIT event, and I presume the results afterwards also. It will no doubt be interesting to watch what is going on, and I’m obviously very interested for the simple reason that the company I am involved with, Centruflow Ltd, is one of the companies exhibiting.

Just as a note – Cebit 2008 runs from March 4 – 9th I believe.

Java (UI) Development

Java doesn’t have the best name out there when it comes to UI development, but I would really like to set that record straight. Java is a great language, and as part of my criteria for being a great language, has a really great user interface library known as Swing.

Swing really is excellent, once you get to know it. For people thinking Swing is complex, fear not – one guy who come to work with us for a short while picked up Swing in less than a week, and he had only a basic understanding of Java previously. I admit that even though I have developed in it for a long time, I still find myself Googling for things frequenty. This is because Swing has a lot of functionality, some of which you may only need occasionally.

With Swing, you make your buttons, panels, etc as you would normally, building layer upon layer until you get your user interface. You can override the painting of these components to make them look however you want, and there exists a number of good resources to help with this.

In my time with Java, I have written two decently complex applications, both of which made use of custom components. One was a project I developed for a lecturer whilst at university that would teach students programming by drawing pictures, and the other is of course Centruflow.

The most awesome thing about developing in Java and Swing – almost seamless portability between operating systems. So far, Centruflow has loaded on every operating system we have tried it on, and it works well.

For all the people who tell me Java is dead and/or overly fractured, I would suggest you pick up a good Java IDE and try to make an application in Java. The language is beautiful, and you can do some pretty cool stuff pretty easily.

Enterprise Data

I like to say to people that Centruflow helps to solve the problem of “too much data, not enough information”. It does this by basically being pointed at your sources of data, and (without manipulating your data at all) creating a live visualisation atop of it. This visualisation is based on the concept of nodes and edges (as opposed to the more common use of the term ‘graph’ to mean bar charts, etc). It allows for you to explore your data as information.

I like to differentiate data and information, with the key differentiator being that information is actionable. Of course, anyone can make data transform into information, it’s just a matter of time really. The other problem is that data changes, and so therefore so too does your information. Centruflow does nothing that you couldn’t do in Visio or whichever diagramming tool you like, if you were happy to manually maintain these images – Centruflow uses the live data from your database.

If you are having trouble with too much data and not enough information, you should get in touch with Centruflow to see how the software can help you and/or your business.

Why programming is fun

I’ve been completing my masters thesis recently, and one of the books I’ve been using as a distraction is the oft-mentioned “The Mythical Man-Month” by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. I’m only just getting into it now, but as a programmer one short quote really provided a good summary of why being a programmer is such good fun. It goes:

The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures.

If this isn’t why a programmer programs, what is (and please no one say “for money”)?