Martin @ Blog

software development and life.


Back from holiday…

Ok, this was probably the longest period I did not update this site. The main reason for this is because I had a busy time. I am still working on my house. I painted most of the walls and doors, finished the floors and now have to finish some small projects like buying furniture. Apart from that, I did a lot of sport (I’m going to write on this more in a future post). On the professional side, I did some interesting projects and some less interesting ones. I also studied for my Sun Certified Java Programmer certificate, which I hopefully will get in the very near future.
More recently, I had two very nice holidays: one to the south of France were we did a lot of bicycling (approx. 400km) and another one to Malmedy in Belgium. The latter one was with a group of friends and very nice with kanoing and mountainbiking.

On a technical level, this site is moved to another host which is (hopefully) a lot faster and more reliable. It is easier for me to do updates and less work to keep it running, so that’s good. There were some problems with DNS, but I think these are resolved now. My gallery ( isn’t updated for a while, but I’m planning to move that one also to this host. The netwerk connection to the gallery is much faster now at least, so that’s also good.

Concluding: this site is going to be alive again!

Ethical problems with Wifi experiment

The Dutch computer magazine Computer Idee! (intended for novice computer users) is critized for an article in which they investigated the behaviour of people on public wireless networks. The editors of the magazine installed a freely accessible public Wifi network at Shiphol Airport and monitored the usage of it. Obviously, there were people using this network and sending private data over it without any encryption. Now the editors of the magazine are critizied for not obeying the ethical laws common to the hacker community. Interestingly, this comment is made by Roel Schouwenberg, a researcher for Kaspersky.
I don’t think I agree with Schouwenberg. Computer Idee! exposed a real problem and in my opinion this is not a ethical problem. Users of public wireless networks should be aware that their data is exposed and can be used by anyone. Obviously, it is a bit questionabel that Computer Idee! stored the private data on their systems, but I think it is strange that researchers from Kaspersky are complaining about this. I think they should be complaining about the behaviour of users, who should use encryption technologies when sending private data over a public wireless network. Never trust systems and networks you don’t control.
But maybe Schouwenberg is complaining because the ignorance of users is essentially their business. If computer users were more security aware, the amount of virusses and other malware would be less, because the won’t be as succesfull as they currently are…. Making the public more aware and reducing the security risks by changing the habits of users is not in the interest of Kaspersky.

Problems with Parallels

Last week, I installed Ubuntu 8.04 in a Parallels Virtual Machine on my MacBook. Today, I decided it would be nice if the Parallels tools were working, so I tried to install them. This didn’t work.
After some searching using Google, I discovered this is a known problem, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution for it yet. On a forum there is a topic on this issue in which some complaining about this, because VMWare Fusion seems to work perfectly well with the latest Ubuntu release. There is also no comments from the Parallels developers on this issue, which is a bad thing in my opinion, because it is a serious issue. Like most Parallels users, I mainly use it to test stuff on Linux and Windows, which requires a perfect working of both platforms to make this as effortless as possible. Hopefully, this issue will be resolved quickly, because this kind of stuff makes users switch from Parallels to VMWare.

Dutch Flex User Group

Yesterday, at the J-Spring 2008 event at Bussum in the Netherlands, the Flex User Group was officially launched. This group, called FLUGR, aims to support developers using Adobe Flex and AIR and promote the technology and inspire developers.

Coincidentally, today I had a one-day training in Adobe Flex. This training introduced a group of developers of Finalist to the Flex technology and especially focussed on integrating Flex with a JEE application using LifeCycle ES (or BlazeDS for that matter). The training, given by Mark van Hedel of the company Prisma-IT was pretty intense, but at the same time very educational. I didn’t have any experience with Flex or Flash, but have the feeling that now I know a little about the technology, and will definitely invest some more time to experiment with Flex.
Rich Internet Applications are a rather hot topic in the IT-industry nowadays, and I suspect it will be relevant for a developer to have at least some understanding of the technologies involved. However, I’m not sure what the best technology is for these kind of webapplications. Flex has the benefit of a large number of users that can run applications right away, because the Flash-player is installed on a large number of systems. On the other hand, you are stuck to (at this moment) one supplier (Adobe) and the Flash-player is not open source, which means that support on more exotic platforms, such as Linux and mobile phones is dependent on the mood of Adobe. Alternatives are Silverlight, which has the problems of Flash, but lacks the wide spread availability of the player, JavaFX, which is not really available yet and finally the HTML/JavaScript combinatilon. In my opinion, the battle will go between HTML/JavaScript and Flex, but maybe I’m very wrong at this.

Adobe is trying very hard to convince Java developers to use Flex, by being present at conferences (J-Spring was a good example of this) and by providing the source of the Flex compiler and BlazeDS. A usergroup like Flugr can be good to increase awareness of Flex. But I think the site of Flugr is a really bad example of how Flex should be used. The site is completely made in Flex, but I really don’t understand why they choose for this technology. The site could be exactly identical when developed in plain HTML with a bit of JavaScript. Using Flex for this site doesn’t really add any value to it, but does restrict a large number of users to view this site (because a Flash-player is required) and the usual drawbacks of Flash apply to this site. I thought Flash-only sites was a thing of the past, because they are not indexed by Google, lack the usual accessibility features provided by modern browsers, and the mouse wheel doesn’t work (at least on a Mac using Firefox 3 beta). The decision to create this site this way does more harm than good to the image of Flex.

The Next Web

Today started The Next Web, a conference about Internet-related startups. There are presentations of new companies and presentations from people who created succesful companies, like Digg.
A live videostream is available on the site of the event. It is interesting to see the new ideas people come up with. I particulary liked Zilok and find the nearest drill hammer which people offer. A really good idea I think, because it is obvious but has not been done yet. They seem to use Google Maps (or something very similar to it) for locating the stuff that is offered. You have to meet to deliver the stuff you offer for rent, but that is, I think, the power of this concept. However, before it really works, more items should be offered, because most of it is now offered in Belgium, which is a bit far for most people in The Netherlands.

Like all current events, there is a lot of coverage on weblogs and so on. Slandr has an overview of Twitter entries on the event. Erwin Blom has live coverage of the event on his weblog using Cover It Live (which is a nice tool…).

Irrelevant quoting at Groklaw

Last week, PJ from Groklaw wrote an article on the voting process for the OOXML format as a ISO-standard. For an unknown reason, she thought is was necessary to refer to a post on my weblog on a speech held by Raul Pesch of Microsoft in March 2005. On that post, also a reaction of Pesch was posted, and specifically this comment was the think PJ was referring to:

Microsoft Nederland’s Pesch gave a speech in 2005 at the University of Technology in Eindhoven, and there’s a blog entry on it by a student there, Martin Sturm. The funny part, to me, is that Pesch responded to the blog article in a comment, and he obviously used Microsoft software to copy and paste his comment in, because it’s almost unreadable in spots, due to Microsoft’s habit of extending standards.

It completely puzzled my why this comment was relevant to the post, because I think it is kind of pathetic to use these things to make your point. She pointed out that there are broken characters in the post, which she assumes is caused by copy/pasting the text from Word (or something). First, assumptions are the mother of al fuckups, but more importantly, it’s very likely that the problems in the post are caused by something else – for example, an incorrect character set used by my blog (I don’t know if that’s the case, but it is possible) or by an upgrade of WordPress which caused the problems.
Anyway, I think it not relevant to the whole issue the Groklaw article is about.

A startup in a weekend

Two guys decided this weekend to create a startup in a weekend. They created a new webservice, called Tweetburner which can be used for creating sort url’s to webpages for use on Twitter. This is not a very innovative idea, but they added a tracking system which makes it possible to create rankings of the most popular links.
The way they created this new service is the most intersting, since they used weblogs (another one) and”>Twitter intensively. This resulted in a large number of new users and new ideas they probably didn’t get when they developed it without publishing about it. I think this is a great way of creating a new service. A similar example is the creation of, on which the creator also blogged a lot before the service was released to the public. This resulted in a rather large group of people knowning of this new service even before there was a ready-to-use product.
Via Erwin Blom.

Mailserver at HetNet network

I have a temporarily internet connection via Het Net (in a few weeks I get a fiber connection at 100mbit). Since I manage some domains and don’t want to spend money on external mail servers (I’m Dutch…), I wanted to run my own SMTP server for receiving mail (sending mail can be done using the mailhost of the provider).
However, since a few years, most Dutch providers block incoming traffic at port 25 and only allows it to access the smtp servers of the provider. So this is a problem when you want to run your own mailserver for your domain.

When you’re at a KPN provider (HetNet or Planet) it is possible to use a mailrelay server. In order to make this work, you should set a primary and secondary mail server in your DNS record. Your own mail server should have the highest priority. As secondary mailserver you should set with a lower priority.


IN MX 10
IN MX 20

For me at least, this solution works.

Pulse for Eclipse

Since a few days I’m using Pulse. This is a service which providers the possibility to use a shared profile for Eclipse. You can either use this service anonymously or as a registered user. In the latter case, you create an account and can select a generic profile for Eclipse, targeted at a specific audience. For example PHP developer or J2EE developer.
Then you can start your profile after which the required software (Eclipse and the plugins required for your profile) are downloaded. You can customize your profile, which also includes the Eclipse preferences such as the size of your font in the editor etc., but also other plugins which aren’t yet part of Pulse.
The most interesting part is when you use another computer. There you can just login to Pulse, click ‘start your profile’ and presto: on this computer the same Eclipse as you normally use is downloaded and configurered according to your preferences! It is even possible to share profiles within for example development teams, in order to let everybody use the same development environment.

IE8 beta is now available

It is possible to download the first beta of Internet Explorer 8. I tried it in Parallels on my Mac, and it seems to work. Obviously, people on the Internet are complaining that sites are broken in IE8. Fortunately, the websites I maintain seems to work flawlessly in the new browser (but that was to be expected, since I try to keep them standards compliant). The website of my employer seems a bit broken in IE8.

I also tried the latest Firefox 3 beta for Mac OS X. FF3 seems a lot faster than 2, so that is nice. It is also more standard compliant, since it passes the Acid3 test, it scores 59 points, which is the highest score of all browsers I tested with this it (only Safari 3, FF and FF3 beta so far). FF3 has also some nice usability improvements. For example, I like the link to the originating site of active bookmarks which wasn’t there in FF2.
By the way, IE 8 only scores a miserable 17 points in the Acid3 test, making it the worst performer on my system in this test. Even FF2 had a higher score. I also noted that it offered me to choose ‘express settings’ on the first startup, which suggested Google as the search provider… has even Microsoft loses trust in its own search engine?