Vienna

Last Friday, on our way back from Munich, my colleague Auke asked me if I could accompany him today to Vienna, to give the same presentation as we have been giving in Munich and The Hague. After 8 years in the office this is the first chance I’ve had to visit Vienna, a small office with approximately 120 people, in a great location, next to the Schonbrunn Palace.

We were scheduled to give the presentation twice – once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. Once we were finished we had an hour or so to spare, so we headed into the city centre to take a look around. Despite the weather forecast, which had been for heavy rain, we were treated to glorious blue skies, and the same heatwave that we have been enduring in The Netherlands.

We walked along the Ring to the opera house, stopping to pose on a traffic island (and in my case, getting surprised by a tram that snuck up behind me) and then on to St Stefansdom, before taking the S-Bahn back to the airport. All in all a long day, leaving home at 6am, and returning at 11pm, after an hour’s delay. Next stop Berlin?

Munich

Just back from a two day visit to Munich with a couple of colleagues. The purpose of the trip was twofold – to inform other departments about my new project, and also to close the last project I worked on.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the unusually good Dutch weather behind, and replace it with rain. The barbecue that a Munich colleague had offered was unfortunately a no-go, and instead we visited a very nice Italian restaurant near our hotel. Despite the weather, I was determined not to get behind with my training, and managed a 4km lunchtime run around the Wiesen (where the Oktoberfest is held) with Klaas, the aforementioned BBQ offering colleague.

Choral Festival 2009

A long day today, as I traveled to Arnhem for the annual choral festival organized by the RSCM in North West Europe. There was a good turnout, with about 60 singers from choirs in The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, led by Gordon Appleton of the RSCM, who flew over for the event.

As ever, it was nice to meet up with all my ECS friends, especially as those of us who took the RSCM Voice for Life exams last week had the chance to congratulate each other in person!

The choral festival is always fun, but hard work, and this year was no exception. A particular challenge were Moore’s Preces and Responses, which took quite some studying. The day culminated with a service of Choral Evensong, during which those of us who took the Voice for Life exams last week were presented with our medals.

Thanks go to Karine, Graham, Martin and Alan for not only organizing the exams, putting up with our nerves, accompanying and examining us, but also for managing to return the results within a day, and have the medals (well, all but one) and the certificates signed by the director of the RSCM and ready within a week!

Music List:

  • Introit: The Lord will come and not be slow Christopher Tye
  • Preces and responses: Philip Moore
  • Psalm 27
  • Canticles: Wood in E flat (no 1)
  • Anthem: Kindle a light to lighten the darkness Richard Lloyd
  • Extroit: A Clare Benediction John Rutter

BHV Herhaling

After a week of writing presentations and reviewing code, I had a nice break today, with my annual refresher course for the BHV. For those not in the know, this stands for bedrijfshulpverlening, and involves basic first aid and firefighting, with the idea that volunteers within the office could provide on the spot help, before the emergency services arrive.

I travelled to RICAS in Zoetemeer for the course – a nice 13 km bike ride through the fields, and had perfect weather for it. The course itself was pepped up by the presence of two volunteers from Lotus, an organization which provides fake victims for training courses. During the morning we had to deal with a heart attack and a knife wound to the arm, courtesy of the volunteers, who played their parts admirably.

In the afternoon we played firefighter, using carbon dioxide and foam fire extinguishers, and then had the opportunity to split into small groups to put together our own scenario for another group of BHVers to test their skills. My group was given the task of rescuing someone from a building with a small fire, complete of course with handling the panicking victims!

All in all an instructive day, which also gave a good opportunity to meet some colleagues from other departments.

(photo from RICAS)

Het Geldersch Landschap

Living in Zuid Holland doesn’t do much to dispel the traditional image of The Netherlands – flat polder lands, crossed with drainage ditches, wildmills and bulb fields. Vising Gelderland, however, has been a great opportunity to remind myself of the country’s other faces. After a day behind the laptop in the training room, I hired a bicycle from the hotel reception and set off for a 2 1/2 hour ride through the woods.

Whilst in England we would hesitate to call this landscape hilly, there is no denying that the land does undulate somewhat (the highest elavation of the Veluwe is apparently 100m), giving the opportunity to experience the rush of wind when freewheeling downhill. The area is littered with well marked cycle paths, but apart from a small section through town on the main roadways, I saw virtually no-one.

The woods may have been empty of human life, however, with the continual accompanient of bird song it was never silent. I caught sight of a quite a number of birds, including blue tits, coal tits, magpies and some unidentified smaller and larger “brown jobbies” near the path. The undisputed highlight, though, was the sighting near the end of the ride of an adult wild boar with three young, chasing each other through the woods, and across the path ahead of me – a magical moment.

Speeding up Java Applications (1)

Yet again I’m out of the office on a training course, this time not in easily accessible Amsterdam, but in the middle of the woods, some 15 kilometres out of Apeldoorn, in the east of The Netherlands. The full day’s work and 3 hour journey were immediately forgotten, however, when I found that my accomodation for the next two nights would be not the anonymous hotel room I had expected, but a little cottage. Hard to remember, at this point, that I was here for work, not a holiday.

The course is “Speeding up Java applications”, given by Jeroen Borgers of Xebia, and focuses on both tooling and best practices for developing performant Java applications.

SpringSource dmServer Training

After following the CoreSpring training course a couple weeks ago, I’m back in the training room this week for a follow up training on the SpringSource dmServer. This training is being given by the same company, and indeed, even the same trainer. Nonetheless, there are a few practical differences – this time we’re based in in an old Herenhuis in the city centre of Amsterdam, a far cry from the tower blocks of Sloterdijk two weeks ago. Amongst the 8 course participants I am the exception to the all the rules – both the only girl, and the only non-native Dutch speaker. As a result, the trainer was able to give the presentations in Dutch – such an unusual occurrence for him that he occasionally forgot and lapsed back into English.

Like the previous course, this was a good mixture of theory and practice – beginning with introductions to OSGi and the dmServer, and then on the second day going into greater details in how to develop OSGi-enabled applications for the dmServer. Whilst the dmServer is still fairly young, and there are some important improvements & extensions planned for the upcoming releases, it looks like an interesting product to keep an eye on, especially given our own experiences at trying to deploy OSGi-enabled applications within the office without any additional tooling or application support.

CoreSpring (2)

Another interesting day on the course, covering the principles of Spring annotations, and then digging into the additional libraries supporting JDBC and transaction management. Depending on the approach we take at work in the future, this could become very interesting for us.

Generally one of the advantages of using Spring is that it tries to reduce the usage of boilerplate code (i.e. copy/paste) and enforce separation of concerns. I very much appreciate that the course materials so far have not only covered the details of Spring, but also discussions on application archicture. Whilst many of these principles seem like common sense, in my experience many developers do not follow them… I think this training would be beneficial to many developers, not only for gaining experience with the API, but in changing the way that they develop.

We have a group of 17 people on the course. Of these, 4 of us are female. Compared to the gender balance I normally experience in the Java development world, this is surprisingly high. There isn’t a single blonde amongst us…. coincidence? or are all those stereotypes true? 🙂

CoreSpring

For the rest of this week, I’m following the CoreSpring training course in Amsterdam on the Spring Framework.

My day didn’t get off to a particularly good start as the queue at the train station meant that I had to catch my train without first getting myself any breakfast, as I’d originally planned. Thanks to the office’s policy of travelling first class, though, I was at least able to find myself a seat on the crowded train and do some work on my laptop in relative peace. I arrived at Amsterdam Sloterdijk 45 minutes before the course was due to start, but thanks to getting myself disoriented and stuck on the wrong side of the train tracks, I made into the course room with 5 minutes to spare.

Ready then for the next panic…. found myself a laptop to use, and then the instructor mentioned that the laptops were only for those who had pre-ordered them. Had I pre-ordered one? Well, I have no idea, as the training was booked by our training department and no-one communicated anything to me about it. As luck would have it, no-one claimed the laptop, so perhaps it did have my name on it after all.

I’ve been using Spring for a couple of years now, and whilst I’m fairly familiar with the basic concepts and usage, I’m also aware of some gaps in my knowledge, especially concerning all the additional functionality that Spring can provide. Whilst I got off to an easy start this morning, which covered the basics, I still picked up some useful tips and tricks, both about Spring and the Spring IDE (an Eclipse plugin).

The course is split into 50% theory and 50% lab work, giving everyone a chance to practice the concepts for themselves. In addition to the core labs, there are some additional optional labs provided – perfect if like me you are a quick worker. Something I liked very much about the labs was that they were set up so that all the functionality is demonstrated using JUnit tests. A great way of introducing people to test driven development, without them necessarily realizing it.

3 more days to go on the course, and I’m looking forward to them!