Simon’s Backup Weblog

An Ant With A Big Stick…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 30, 2005

…means you’ve found your way to the joy of Ant Kendo

More mini-Flash gaming to eat your day

Home Again (Jiggity Jig)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 30, 2005

Well, the September of Three US Trips is over, and I’m home for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to and for coping with my panic when I got to the car that was to take me to SFO and realised I’d left my passport and travel documents at and ‘s house (and to the Black Tie driver who took me back to collect the documents). Thanks also to and for putting me up for the night in their comfortable guest bed, and for conversations about code, music and many other things… (I also got to hang out with and – it’s good to get to go to places where I know so many people).

I also got to catch a couple of episodes of new season TV. “House” is looking good, with a bigger role for Cuddy, but I’m worried about “Boston Legal”, which seems to have had an almost complete secondary cast refresh. I’d grown to like most of the old cast, so it’ll be a bit of a slog connecting with a whole new bunch of fictional lawyers…

Virgin Atlantic had their usual efficient service (and usual full 747). It was interesting to note that SFO seems to be piloting the US-VISIT exit checks, and pretty much everyone on our flight was getting passports scanned and the usual biometrics recorded at the kiosks that have appeared at all the gates in the international departures hall over the last few weeks. The machines spit out a 2D bar code on a receipt – it’ll be interesting to decode one and see what information they’re storing – especially as there doesn’t appear to be any reason for giving you the receipt. I was told to throw it away when I got to the UK. I wonder if they’re planning on scanning these as part of the boarding process in the future…

Next time: if I’m in San Francisco on Thursday and need to be in Santa Clara on Monday, remind me not to go via London. Sure, I got to see films on the plane I’d missed in the cinema (and Drew Barrymore is the new Meg Ryan), but the back-and-forth jet lag thing just builds up…

Pedal to the (bare) metal

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 28, 2005

Interesting JVM news from today’s keynote at BEA World.

BEA are working on a JVM for processors with hardware virtualisation that will work directly with a hypervisor like Xen, removing the need for a full-blown OS under your app servers. It’s some time away, but could be extremely interesting. Tying garbage collection into process migration will be very interesting and make moving VMs between compute resources a lot quicker…

If I was an OS vendor I’d be starting to look at what value the OS adds to the application platform, and getting a little worried.

(In pure speculation, I wonder if this approach could also see the return of Oracle’s “Raw Iron”)

Squeeing space geek fanboy

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 27, 2005

Burt Rutan’s Autograph
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

I aksked Burt Rutan to sign my Tablet PC for me…

…and he did.


There’s something really geeky about digital autographs…

When Can We See The Black Sky: Burt Rutan at BEA World

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 27, 2005

The special keynote speaker at BEA World today was Burt Rutan. Rutan was introduced on video by Richard Branson (as Virgin Mobile uses BEA’s platform, as well as Branson’s Virgin Galactic buying SpaceShipTwo from Rutan…).

The following are my notes from Rutan’s presentation.

[introductory video]
A man who came to fly airplanes – and ended up designing over 40 aircraft.

The success of SpaceShipOne – the key was high drag, high trim supersonically.

[Burt Rutan]
When Can We See The Black Sky?

A good question to ask back in 1973. The answer was “We’re working on it, it’ll be about thirty years”. But 30 years later, if you ask the question now the answer is “We’re working on it, it’ll be about thirty years”. Still. They’re not really working on it. And 30 years is not the answer you want when you’re 60…

NASA = NaySay

NASA learnt about SpaceShipOne at the same time as everyone else…

There is a breakthrough ahead – the development of a high-volume private space flight industry. 20 to 30% of the audience here should get into space. Sub-orbital ships to get over 100,000 people into space in the first 12 years of operation. You’ll get to see why astronauts say this is life changing.

We need new things. It’s part of what defines us, our dreams and making them happen. Research needs to lead to breakthroughs. You need to have confidence in nonsense. That’s where breakthroughs come from. The inspiration to take risks starts young, from 3 to 14.

We need to have progress to inspire our children. This is our responsibility. We need to get the dream back. There were three periods of great innovation.

Aviation’s renaissance. By 1908 there had been less than 12 pilots. By 1912 there had been hundreds of aircraft types and thousands of pilots. Air shows inspired kids. These were the people who inspired Rutan – they were all kids who were inspired then.

The period when Rutan grew up – the start of the jet age, the start of the missile age, the Disney Tomorrowland specials, the Von Braun plan. There was a huge jump in performance. And this is why he felt he could do big things.

Military and civil are flying the same speed now (more or less) as in the 1960s – 43 years of no real progress. The Blackbird and Concorde are aberrations.

The US space renaissance. 1961 to 1973. All the parts were there, but the Russians did it first, so there was a need to restore national pride. JFK was as mad as hell.

To go to the moon was really hard. It was a wild ride to do that. Enormous courage and huge risks. Apollo 8 was the first manned launch for Saturn 5.

There was a collapse after after 1973. A risk averse program was in place.

American manned launch systems – were abandoned when a more expensive one became available – not matured for affordability.

There’s a 40 year cycle for the development of higher speed travel over the last century – but the most recent cycle is missing. The Airbus 380 and the Boeing 787 are the same speed as the DC8 – from 1958.

Innovation doesn’t occur in government development or use. There’s an enormous growth in activity in the private sector.

There were 5 manned space flights in 1962. In 2004 there were 5 – 3 of them were SpaceShipOne!

Governments are risk averse. Few concepts have been tried. the Russians one, the US two – airplanes have been through thousands of concepts to see what is best.

Manned space flight for the last 44 years has been extremely primitive.

The shuttle is the most complex, costly thing built that will ever fly. The entire 42 year time of manned space flight has the same safety record as 1910…

Is it possible to have a space renaissance? Yes – we need a 1909 environment.

Our goal is fun, to enjoy this view…

SpaceShipOne. The White Knight has the same components as the SpaceShipOne. The only difference is really the rocket engine! The White Knight can be used a flight training aircraft. SpaceShipOne is a very simple glider.

Feathering is the key. It is immune to accidents caused by entry flight controls. SpaceShipOne – no one has to fly it for re-entry – no people, no computers – it’s in the aerodynamics.

The rocket engine – one room temperature valve to turn on the laughing gas. It’s hard to start – but there’s nothing toxic about it. The fuel is nothing but rubber.

A new capitalist’s “space race”? We’ve lost it so far – the milestones have been Dennis Tito and the 2008 moon flight. Two tickets 100M$ cost on Russian equipment.

It’s a JFK-like challenge – to show we’re better entrepreneurs than our old rivals! So that’s what I am doing – making it safe enough and affordable enough to get space lines off the ground. It will be developed with affordable operating costs.

Next steps – you won’t see SpaceShipTwo until its ready to fly. It will have big windows, and will give you at least 5 minutes of weightless – and yes, you could bring your cat!

The next stage after proving a profitable business – which will lead to orbital hotels, and moon excursions.

The big problem is safety. Your risk of dying in manned space flight is currently 1 in 62. The early airliners were 1 in 31,000 – and so the goal is at least that.

Trajectories – initially over the desert – very vertical for X-Prize. However it will be different for commercial – launch over ocean.

You’ll be able to buy a ticket and go faster than the fighter jocks! Which will led to a jump in performance for the military as well. There will be sub-orbital military aircraft very soon.

Just for millionaires? Just for fun?

The internet example.

We justified personal computers just for fun! Then came the internet. So it’s OK to have a major industry for a decade or two just for fun!

SpaceShipOne will be unveiled on Wednesday at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum next to the X1 and the Spirit of St Louis…

The prize was 40% of Paul Allen’s investment…

[Rutan narrates a video of the first flight to space]
Start early because the air is stiller. The pilot is at sea level pressure. He fires the rocket. Gets up to 3Gs… There’s a lot of acceleration to get more than Mach 3. It’s quiet in there – you can hear the M&Ms bouncing off the walls. There’s 5Gs of deceleration. SpaceShipTwo will pull 7Gs…

We applaud when it touches down – NASA applaud when they clear the tower! The bored guys in the control room? The FAA regulators!

[Standing Ovation]

(an experiment in pseudo-live blogging)

The Java Garbage Man Cometh On Time And When Expected.

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 27, 2005

An interesting announcement from today’s sessions at BEA World here in Santa Clara: the development of a deterministic version of the JRockit JVM – and the announcement of a real time edition of the Weblogic application server.

It’s especially interesting as it means that there’s finally a way of getting a real-time Java. Java works well in most circumstances, but its garbage collection is non-deterministic. You cannot control when, or for how long, the JVM runs its garbage collection routines. While this is one of Java’s strengths (there’s no need to write memory, stack and pointer management code), it’s also one of its biggest weaknesses, and disqualifies the language from many applications.

You can’t use Java for large-scale trading applications, as this means that there’s no way of ensuring repeatable transaction timings – as the JVM could quite happily take processing cycles at any time and for any length of time. By making garbage collection deterministic (and controllable), BEA can deliver transactions in fixed times – exactly what the financial sector is looking for in its trading applications. It’ll also make things easier for telcos and help them manage their switching fabric more effectively.

Now, will we get a deterministic version of the .NET CLR?

Rocks and water

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 27, 2005

Rocks and water
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

Water rushes through the Sierra granites – bubbling and gurgling as it darts around the silent, still stones. I pause and drink in the moment, and watch a fallen leaf glide through the torrent. And I realise: Autumn is here.

Rocks, leaves and moving water in the gardens of the Getty Center.

Los Angeles

September 2005

Thinking aloud…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 27, 2005

I’m pretty much decided (after conversations with folk at several tech companies) to set up a more tech focused blog, looking at companies and technologies I’ve been tracking for sometime. I’ve also decided to host it somewhere other than LJ – I want to use GoogleAdsense or similar to at least see if I can make a few pennies from my punditry.

I’ll make an announcement of what I do (and where) soon enough. But it feels good to have decided to have a place where I can publish the things that may not get a home under normal circumstances. That and hone some of my writing skills in producing punchier, news-style copy.

Currently I’m thinking of focusing on SOA and the current phase change in enterprise IT – and the effects it has on business. I don’t want it to be too technology focused, as I think there are significant business and IT pro impacts in everything that’s going on (and that’s not even considering the process and security implications).

Phishproof Outlook

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 27, 2005

Microsoft has just released Office 2003 SP2. One key new feature is the addition of anti-phishing tools to Outlook 2003.

SP2 contains a new Phishing Protection feature to be used with the Outlook Junk Email Filter. Phishing is the luring of sensitive information through e-mail, such as passwords and other personal information, by an attacker masquerading as someone trustworthy. Phishing attacks can result in a user divulging sensitive information, including financial information, that can result in a loss of privacy or money. Phishing e-mail is hard to identify, because attackers make their e-mail appear genuine and often mimic recognizable e-mail sent out routinely by legitimate organizations such as banks and credit card companies.


Geometry in the sky

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 27, 2005

Geometry in the sky
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

The Getty Center mixes avant garde modern architecture and classical art. A fine combination.

Hollow squares hang above the ground, blending white marble and a blue California sky.

Los Angeles

September 2005

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