NetKernel News Volume 3 Issue 19

April 13th 2012

What's new this week?

Catch up on last week's news here

Repository Updates

The following update is available in the NKEE repository...

  • nkp 1.12.1
    • Removed potential synchronization queuing when a multiple requests are attempting to connect to a non-existent server.

The following updates are available in the NKSE repository (these were shipped for NKEE last week)...

  • database-relational 1.12.1
    • Fix to SQLTransactionOverlay to be declared threadsafe
  • json-core 1.6.1
    • Enhancement to JSONToXML to support adding a wrapping root element around JSON without a single root
  • layer0 1.79.1
    • Fix to grammar parsing to stop NullPointer when parsing optional choice groups that didn't match
    • Enhancement to allow expanded modules without trailing slash in modules.xml
  • layer1 1.35.1
    • Enhancement EXISTS verb support to golden thread
    • Enhancement number of golden threads reported in space explorer
  • nkse-control-panel 1.23.1
    • Fix to control panel templating to serialize as HTML
  • nkse-dev-tools 1.44.1
    • Fix to catch exceptions more elegantly.
  • xml-core 2.4.1
    • Fix to HTML serialization

Cambridge Visit

We'll be visiting Silicon Fen next week and will be in the Cambridge area. If you'd like to meet up I'll be giving a public talk on ROC and NetKernel to the local NK User Group followed, no doubt, by a swift sojourn to the pub. Come along, tell your friends, tweet this link...

ROC Talk

Here's the blurb - you know, I think I might actually be getting better at summarising what NK is...

ROC and NetKernel talk in Cambridge, UK

Resource Oriented Computing (ROC) is a new model for achieving more complex and more scalable software solutions. Imagine taking the essence of Unix and combining it with the logical addressing and resolution of the Web. Then imagine a scale invariant model that works at the finest granularity of a software system all the way out and between cloud servers. Then imagine that you are liberated from the rigid constraints of one programming language and its APIs to a polyglot world where languages are chosen to fit problems. Next imagine your composite logical solution scales linearly with physical platform and the system automatically discovers and caches in every dimension simultaneously...

First begun as a research project in HP-Labs in Bristol, ROC is an established and proven technology and is embodied in NetKernel the ROC platform. NetKernel, now in version 5, powers mission critical telecoms systems, some of the world's largest online sites, critical web infrastructure such as the persistent URL service and is used in sectors ranging from insurance, medical, defence, government and health-care.

In this talk you will get an introduction to ROC and NetKernel and will leave with a new and different perspective on the untapped potential of software.


The Trinity Center at the Cambridge Science Park



Wednesday 18th April 2012 - 6:30pm

Tom's Blog

Tom's been at it again. Some detailed code to enhance the space listing endpoint...

The Unwritten Laws of Engineering

We live in modern times and every generation likes to think it is unique and pushing new boundaries. Of course this is true, but as old Shakespeare knew, at a fundamental level, "There's nothing new under the sun".

This is something I've long held to, not least with our efforts to forge a new path in the field of information technology; I've spent as much time looking backwards as I have forwards. History, especially of science and engineering, provides a fantastic guide to the future - if you squint to overlook the details and take in the broad context.

Last week I was in high-handed pontification mode and expressed the opinion that computer science has reached the plateau of "sufficient knowledge" but that we are only just starting the age of Information Engineering.

To justify this assertion I've started looking backwards, through the history of engineering.

In a very short period of archaeological excavation I've tripped over some gems. But this is a work in progress - so I'm not going to shoot from the hip with glib observations just yet.

However to give you a sense of the treasure to be found here's a book that everyone who aspires to call themselves an Engineer should own...

The Unwritten Laws of Engineering by W.J. King. First published 1944.

Its cunning title says it all, since this is not a technical book at all. Its actually a book of guidelines for how an engineer goes about engineering.

Whilst it is an old book, nearly seventy years old, it is as modern and valid today as it was when it was written. Since, people are the same today as they were then, and most of the challenges in any engineering solution are social.

For example here's just a very small and pertinent section...

Promises, schedules, and estimates are necessary and important instruments in a well-ordered business.

Many engineers try to dodge making commitments. You must make promises based upon your best estimates for your part of the job, together with estimates obtained from contributing departments for theirs. No one should be allowed to avoid the issue by saying, “I can’t give a promise because it depends upon so many uncertain factors.” Of course it does. You must account for them, estimating best and worse cases, and then provide neither laughably padded nor unrealistically optimistic schedules. Both extremes are bad; good engineers will set schedules that they can meet by energetic effort at a pace commensurate with the significance of the job.

I guarantee that if everyone on a large scale project tried to follow the principles extolled in this book then the project would be delivered faster, be more likely to match the business expectations and those participating in it would have an enjoyable time - not least due to this important homily...

Do not take yourself or your work too seriously. A sense of humor, under reasonable control, is much more becoming than a chronically sour dead-pan, a perpetual air of tedious seriousness, or a pompous righteousness. It is much better for your blood pressure, and for the morale of the office, to laugh off an awkward situation now and then than to maintain a tense, tragic atmosphere whenever matters take an embarrassing turn. Of course, a serious matter should be taken seriously, but preserving an oppressively heavy and funereal atmosphere does more harm than good.

Incidentally, did you know that the word "engineer" predates the word "engine" by several centuries?* In fact Engineering has absolutely nothing to do with engines. It stems from the Latin ingeniātor, equivalent to ingeniā - which you'll know as "ingenious". In other words an engineer is an ingenious designer that devises new solutions to old problems.

It is a sad situation that in today's businesses the title "engineer" has been diluted by "grade inflation" and that the guy who comes out to fix your washing machine is now called an engineer. He is not! He is a technician.

Engineers are great and noble and they forge the future...

Speaking of which...

*Jeff Rogers correctly called me out on this. I guess I should have done a better job explaining myself - see my reply for what I really meant. Thanks Jeff.

Career Move

We're in some danger of becoming a ten-year overnight sensation. We are experiencing an increase in demand for services and ROC skills. We want to share the opportunity with you the ROC community since you are the natural self-selecting constituency from which to draw.

Get in touch with us (technicians, need not apply).

Have a great weekend.

PS Tony just made me ROTFL - he said, "usually the ones who spend their time looking backwards, are the grumpy old men".


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