All entries for October 2004
October 22, 2004
OMR was used by 8085 students in the first three weeks of term, including part-time students for the first time. It handed most students' registrations without problem, but there were a small number of problems that affected students. Of these, virtually all were due to departments not making up their minds what modules should be available (and with what cats scores and assessment methods) until well into term. This appears to be a deeply ingrained political problem, which never mattered much when all module registrations were captured on paper and could be sorted out over the following months. But now that there's an IT system to do this, the system needs to know what modules are running!
There were a small but irritating number of problems on the staff view side, caused by relational integrity problems in the database. These were due to a bug in a JDO superclass that I discovered late in September – the bug had been there for a year, but this was the first September that the system had been live and the very obscure set of circumstances when it did the wrong thing had never come up before. This was a sufficently fundamental part of the system that I had written unit tests for it, which reinforces my view that unit tests are not very good for testing correctness, especially written by the same person who wrote the code they're testing – they only test the object the way the author thinks it's going to be used. What unit tests are good for is regression testing: making sure you don't break something that used to work a particular way – even if that is not actually correct.
October 08, 2004
Went to an event hosted by Libelis (who we buy JDO software from) on Wednesday. Among the announcements:
- They have changed their name to Xcalia, as it it works better in English and they are planning to expand into the US. As the CEO said, it's awfully hard to think of a name which hasn't already been registered as a .com. What he didn't say, but I'm sure didn't escape any French-speaker is that it sounds very close to escalier, staircase. Which I guess is also apt because European companies that try to break into US markets tend to find that their profitability goes steeply up or down, never stays flat.
- They have drastically improved their GUI tools, including adding some useful-looking performance tools, and launched them as a separate product, Navilis. The JDO product is still called LiDO.
- They are repositioning themselves slightly as an Enterprise Information Access company rather than a simple JDO vendor. I suspect this means the part of their business they want to develop most is the consultancy/integration side, which seems smart.
They had four customers give talks on how they've used LiDO, and three of the four were using it to access legacy systems. These talks were all in French, which was fine except for the Parisian whose accent lost me now and then.
Afterwards I got to talk to many Xcalia employees, including a developer turned pre-sales tech and the CTO, as well as some of the other guests including a global recruitment guy and venture capital fund manager who asked a lot of questions about what I thought of Java and .net. I was reassured that Xcalia is going to continue to be around regardless of what happens to JDO, but found out very little about what's going on with EJB 3.0. However, since the CTO is joining the EJB3 expert group hopefully we will have a channel to find out about this soon.