Archive for May, 2007

triumph and disaster – imposters both

Hugh always writes good thought provoking posts, but his post today on triumph and disaster was excellent. It helped that he linked to Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If…‘. This poem has been a favourite of mine since my english teacher made us study the poem when I was about 14. I think english teachers have a lot to answer for.

The thought of triumph and disaster has always been a powerful one for me also. My Dad used to say that you a few clouds every now and then made you appreciate the sun all the more. He had his fair share of ‘clouds’ growing up. He came through to create a solid business that more than provided for his family. The early days were a lot of hard, physical work. Think trees and axes. In fact even the latter days were hard, physical work. I don’t think you ever get away from that in farming.

Re-reading If today, I was struck by the line ‘make a heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss’. It sounds like a recipe for a lot of software start-ups these days (or are they up-starts?) A lot of hard work with possibly a pay off somewhere down the line. We hear about those who ‘make it’ and sometimes about those who fade away. I think both stories are worth while. No one like the pain of ‘failure’ but the joy of success is fleeting. We learn, move on and start again.

Hmm… This is getting a tad philosophical. I had better get back to the ‘distance run’.

Link: gapingvoid: “cartoons drawn on the back of business cards”: triumph and disaster

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Logging on to SAP

You know it’s Friday when you are trying to log on to one of the many SAP systems at your disposal and instead of being taken to the start transaction you get the friendly hourglass.

Ok, fine, I will take my toys and go and play with one of the other components in the landscape. So I use the “Stop Transaction” feature and get this great dialog box.

Please log in

Ha! I believe that is what I was trying to do. Oh well. It is Friday.

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Vote early – vote often

WOOOOHOOOOO! I made it to the next stage of Munich Idol SAPTechEd Community Sessions. So go and vote. The voting application is not FireFox friendly so make sure you use the excellent IETab plugin or use Internet Explorer.

There are some great sessions planned. This is the list of the sessions that got my vote:

  • Continuous Availability of Nestlé’s Enterprise Portal – A Case Study.
  • Exploring PHP and SAP development
  • Implementing Dynamic iView Properties
  • Lessons learned from SOA integration with Typo3 WebCMS
  • PHP in the SAP Ecosystem.
  • Processing workflow tasks on a Blackberry handheld using Java Web Dynpro
  • SOA Testing Techniques for NetWeaver Application Server
  • Test-Driven Development with ABAP OO
  • Unit Tests for Enterpise Portal Applications
  • Zero-administration user management: a perfect configuration?

Maybe you can see my bias peeking through: PHP, Testing, TDD, Portal, Blackberry.

I really am not concerned who you vote for (a vote for my PHP sessions would be nice) but please make sure you vote. The community sessions are your chance to shape the conversation.

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The Blue Monster sheds it’s fur and shows it’s teeth

When Hugh posted this cartoon

I eat penguin

I had a bit of a chuckle.

But when I saw the news about Microsoft suing because free software violates 235 patents I nearly fell off my chair.

No doubt a lot of blog ink will be used up on this issue, but I don’t think it is a conversation or a case that Microsoft will win. It will annoy a lot of people who are involved in the open source industry and seems to already have if you follow the links below.

When Hugh and Steve started the conversation for Microsoft to change the world, I didn’t think it would take this turn. OK Hugh and Steve don’t run the Microsoft legal department but this is going to change the software world and make a whole buncha laywers rich. Don’t we have better things to do with our time.

If Microsoft was a TV show, I think they just “jumped the shark“.

Blue Monster

Today I think there will be a lot of people that want Microsoft to “go home”.

Thought for the day. What does “live” spell backwards?

I eat Penguin

Microsoft must really be hurting, Microsoft about to enter into patent war, Blogs, All about Microsoft, Ask The VC, O’Reilly ONLamp Blog, Microsoft Watch, The Technology Liberation …, Patent Law Blog, Neomeme, Scobleizer, Channel 9, IPcentral Weblog, Texas Startup Blog, FurdLog and Slashdot

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It was 20 years ago today

Well not quite today, but this year marks 20 years since leaving school. This week I got the invitation for a reunion on the other side of the planet in two weeks time.

Getting to Australia at any time is a long, long flight and I usually try and make a couple of weeks of it if possible, so this time I am going to pass. I usually laugh at people that say a 13 hour flight is a long flight. It is, but try two of those back to back, with an hour or two at the beginning, middle and end. It’s like being a sardine for a day.

The invite had a section on what was happening in 1987…

Do you remember when –
We won the PSA swimming for the first time (whilst we managed to loose the Head of the River, and the first XVIII failed to register a win all season).

I remember all those silly chants we learnt and I remember that young year 9 swimmer who won everything he entered. Other schools taunted us: “How much did he cost?” How rude of them. I am sure his swimming performance made no difference in his school selection interview. 😉 (Side note an “Aussie Rules” team has 18 players, hence the first XVIII. As I recall, all the good players from the previous year went to the West Coast Eagles.)

Fremantle hosted the America’s Cup.

We lost the cup back to Dennis Conner.

You could play bogball and not worry that someone was going to sue you for physical injury.

There was an ‘R’ and an ‘S’ block.

I remember certain staff doing their block!

Carlton were the VFL Premiers and Hawthorn’s John Plattern won the Brownlow Medal

The West Coast Eagles played their first game at Subi Oval (beating Richmond by 14 points )

Notice the AFL skew here – good to see the Eagles win the premiership last year.

The Midnite Youth Theatre Company formed, followed by a associated UK tour at about the same time as the release of the movie ‘Wall St’.

Hmm, I never made that connection between the two but I do remember playing a small part in the MYTC. Of course that makes it the 20 year reunion for the founding of the MYTC aswell. The Midnite tour was a blast and Tony Howes who is still taking kids on tours of the UK 20 years later should get an award for his services to drama.

Mr Hodgson looked younger than most of the kids he was teaching (and still does!)

Australia wont the Cricket World Cup by beating England in Calcutta.

Some things never change!

Robby Naish was still the Overall World Champion windsurfer.

Bob Hawke’s government was re-elected for a third term.

Was that the famous “No child will be in poverty by 1990” election?

If you wanted to do something contraband, you went ‘down the banks’.

Ahh yes, sweet memories! Not that I was ever down there, I didn’t smoke.

All this was too much for the stock market, let alone Headmaster Tony Hill and his deputy Peter Tooke, both of whom left CCGS at the end of 1987, along with our Sportsmaster, Mr Akos Kovacs, who retired from his PE role.

It was a bit of a watershed year. Kosh was a legend and taught generations of boys with his firm Hungarian style.

All this sort of stuff can tend to make you a bit reflective and could tip one into a mid-life crisis if you let it! It certainly drags some of the memories back and makes you think about the next 20 years. This is a good thing. I certainly have lot to be thankful for and while there are good memories back there and it would be great to catch up with all the guys 20 years on, I am focusing on the next 20. There is far too much going on at the moment to be pining for the good-old-days. The future is bright…

Oh and if there are any people from way back when dropping though London, feel free to get in touch.

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Munich here we come (maybe)

Well given that it ended up being very last minute, I did manage to get my proposal for a community speaker slot in before the deadline.

So this is where is all hangs in the balance. The honourable selection panel is sitting now and choosing which of the 220 proposals will make it to the next round.

I put in two proposals:

1. PHP and SAP at a high level – the answer to the question of “why would you use PHP with SAP?”

2. PHP and SAP at a more intermediate level – where I will look at some examples of integration between the two.

I have it on good information that Gregor Wolf will be doing a very interesting session on Typo3 integration. That will be worth the price of admission alone.

Realising that 220 into 45 doesn’t go and I still have to make it through the community voting process, I thought I would start my campaign early. (Note to self – must post something on SDN)

And here is my plea: Dear reader if you are a member of SDN then could you kindly visit SDN between 14 – 25 of May and vote for the session of your choice. If that happens to be a PHP session being run by Nigel James in Munich then that would be wonderful too! If you are not a member of SDN, then here is the link to register. Thanks.

Hear endeth the plea.

Link: SAP TechEd ’07 Call for Proposals

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Computers Humane? Pull the other one!

A little while ago I was all for throwing my mouse away. I will have some more to say about that in the future but that led Thomas to post about ENSO and how the command line is making a comeback.

I was game, so I have installed ENSO and been giving it a run for its money. (Well it was a trial version so no money has been changed hands yet.)

I am not yet convinced. It has potential, but it has not made the jump into my ‘must-have’ utility kit bag.

I kindly disagreed with a colleague on SDN not so long ago who suggested that the CLI could be a way to increase developers productivity. Now, while I agree there could be many ways to increase SAP developers productivity, I didn’t think that the command line was one of them. The main reason I didn’t agree with Puru was because of the context switch involved. Here I am coding in SE80 or SE38 or SE24 and all of a sudden I have to switch to some other console and type a command in which I have to remember from memory and get exactly right. I am sorry but that argument doesn’t work for me.

Thomas, of course, reminded me that SAP has a command line built in. It is one of the best parts of working in SAP. You can go up to that transaction code box and enter your code and whammo – it’s like a Second Life teleport – you are in your new transaction. Prefix your transaction with /o and you get a new session. Prefix it with /n and you reuse the current session. If you leave out a prefix then it tries to run the command in the context of the current transaction. You can use dot notation to transverse the accelerator keys so ‘.mwd’ will take you to Utilities(M)->Worklist->Display from the SAP Workbench (SE80). (note the M is from the German word for utilities – Hilfsmittel) This can be very useful to get to a menu path very quickly. You can get your cursor into the transaction code box with a CTRL+/. All in all, a very powerful little box. In fact when the new ‘Apollo’ gui was first unveiled on SDN, one of the comments was: ‘Please don’t take away the transaction code box’. Quite. Don’t.

I have said all this to describe how useful the ‘command line’ can be. I generally have a love have relationship with command lines. I usually want to be in the mode that I am not. If I am creating a database I want a lovely gui. If I am trying to update a clients website I want to do something simple like ‘svn up’, which will take the latest code from the repository. I am not against the command line. In fact I am for it. What I dislike about the command line is the ability to remember all the little syntaxes and switches and the inane minutae.

This leads me back to ENSO. What I like about ENSO is it prompts you as you type, in the same way that google suggest does.

ENSO sits between you and every application you have and can work with (almost) all of them. To invoke ENSO you hold down the capslock key and start typing. This leads to some pretty contorted finger movements especially when hitting the tab key to complete a phrase.

So you start typing ‘CA’ and you get the following options: ENSO calculate function

This is very useful as you:

  1. Don’t have to remember the whole command
  2. Can get to where you want to go in about 3-4 key strokes

Some of the basic functions that ENSO performs are:

  1. The calculator trick + – / *
  2. Changing case
  3. Turning on/off caps lock (this key has been taken over remember)
  4. Cut, Copy, Paste

These are available with every ENSO product. I tried the launcher product which has additional commands like:

  1. go – switches to a window or tab
  2. maximize / minimize
  3. open
  4. learn as open

OK. So lets look at how useful some of these functions are. Did I use them and what did ENSO do to my system?

Let us start with the calculator trick. It is acually quite neat. You have 4+9 on your page, you highlight it, type CA with caps lock held down, release and all of a sudden you have 13. If you want a little sum then add = to the end of your sum and low and behold you have 4+9=13. All very fast. I know you can do 4+9=13 in your head. The beauty is that this is available everywhere. In your financial app, your photo editor or your text editor.

The other function I found most useful is the CAPS change function. When coding I like to have some keywords in CAPS. Mostly SQL keywords and not all editors I use support this. SAP has a keywords upper case setting in the pretty print config and PSPad has a change case function built in. Eclipse doesn’t though and I do like my select’s laid out so they are easy to read. So ENSO made it easy to convert:

Select userID, firstname, lastname from users order by lastname


SELECT userID, firstname, lastname FROM users ORDER BY lastname

and I am a happy coder.

The upper case function

One of the other key features was the learn as open. This enables you to teach ENSO a command to open some resource. I have shortcuts to particular SAP transactions that I use to make it faster to get to the transaction, system and client I am wanting to use. For example I have a shortcut to ‘SPRO’ on the config client, ‘BSP_WD_WORKBENCH’ on my CRM dev client and ‘SE80’ on my ECC dev client. (Sorry for the jargon – SAP techies will understand. If you didn’t don’t worry – just think of them as bookmarks to URLS)

I created commands in ENSO to open each of these systems and it works a treat. No reaching for the mouse. Just OPEN DEV and off you go.

This all sounds pretty good and yes it is. Let me describe the downsides.

Firstly all the ‘learn as’ commands are stored as favourites in Explorer, in the root folder. As you added more it does tend to get untidy.

Commands in favourites menu

Secondly, it did tend to reuse the same window for new commands. So if I had something important running in one browser window it clobbered it and loaded the result of the command there. Apparently there is a setting in Explorer to work around this.

Thirdly, it always used Explorer. This is probably because it is set as the default on this machine and I need it that way for SAP development. It would be nice to choose which browser to use in ENSO though.

Fourthly it died a couple of times when I used it in the SAP Standard SE80 editor – doing a simple calc command. ENSO curled over, restarted and collected information for a bug report. This was quite impressive in itself. I sent off the info and the ENSO guys responded quickly. I gave them details about how they could get a copy of the SAP Editor from SDN so they could reproduce this.

In summary – are computers humane? They are improving.

Does ENSO help? It is a good step in the right direction and I will be interested to see what else comes out of their lab. Particularly when you are able to use python to extend the base functionality. Perhaps Thomas will get his wish of being able to give Mary a pay rise from the command line.

Is the command line making a comeback? If if can be made usable then yes. If it remains a puzzle wrapped in a enigma then no. Let’s hope we can get the best of a gui and a command line all in one.

[Bonus link: Google command line]

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A Perl of an idea – free training

Dave Cross is going to be doing some intermediate/advanced perl training for free at the BBC on 2 June 2007.

I am more of a PHP guy but if perl lights your fire then sign up. (Be quick only 50 places)

Link: Teach In – Saturday 2nd June 2007

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