I got my invite to participate in the GMail beta test last week from Blogger and I have been putting Google’s latest offering through its paces. Blogger has been inviting ‘active’ bloggers to participate in this beta test. I don’t know how Blogger defines ‘active’ bloggers but I’m glad I got the invite.

First things first – It’s true: You get 1 GB of space. I am not even close to making a dent in my allocation. The second thing that’s really gotten people all riled up is the idea of Google targeting ads to you as you read your email and the ads would be based on the contents of the email message. The privacy advocates think this is a serious violation, but I don’t really see it. I like my privacy but it’s not like people are Google are going to be reading my email (boy, would that be boring ) – It’s all done programmatically and that already happens to most if not all email that you send or receive. I use Mailblocks as my primary mail client and they scan all emails for spam. For my other email accounts, I use Outlook as my POP client and my ISP scans all inbound emails for spam and virus. I’ve also purchased Cloudmark’s Outlook add-in to further scan all inbound emails. And so by the time I get to my email, it’s been scanned, parsed, processed about 4-5 times. I’m sure this debate will continue and Google will probably change how this ad placement works.

Back to the mail client – Google’s GMail has a very nice, simple to use interface. But I was surprised to see how it works better in IE vs. Mozilla FireFox. There are some pretty cool and innovative features that I haven’t seen in other mail clients. The one that stands out is the ‘Conversation’ feature where GMail groups related messages together to create a threaded view. When you open a message in a conversation, all of your messages are stacked on top of each other. Another great feature is the ‘auto-complete’ that assists you with suggestions from your Contacts list when you are adding an address in the To: or CC: line. I also love the keyboard shortcut keys where you can just hit a key to perform an action. For example, you can just hit the letter ‘c’ to compose a new message or ‘r’ for reply in your browser.

The one thing that will take a little getting used to is the whole idea of labels and conversation vs. folders. GMail doesn’t allow you to create folders to separate email message – Instead, you use labels. Labels are like email folders in GMail, but you can apply multiple labels to the same email and so it’s like having the same message in 2 different folders. That’s pretty neat. Once you’ve read your email message(s) and applied the appropriate label(s) to them, you archive them which essentially moves them out of the inbox into another folder called ‘All Mail’. You can also create ‘Filters’ to automatically process email and either move, delete, apply label or directly archive it. I’m trying that out on mailing lists that I subscribe to – Based on the From: line, I am applying a certain label and archiving them. When I am ready, I can read the conversation and the mail messages.

Spam filtering is another option that is built into GMail. I am not sure what is being used under the cover but you train the filter by marking messages as Spam and then inbound Spam automatically gets moved into the Spam folder. I’ve been training it for a few days now and it’s hard to tell just yet how effective it is, but time will tell.

One of the neatest features is the search facility in the mail client. GMail allows you to search all your email for keywords, much like it’s search engine counterpart. This is a great feature and a must if you have a lot of email. I use Lookout inside Outlook to find items buried in my mail file today.

There are two major pieces of functionality missing that I am hoping are coming soon. The first item is the missing import facility for your Contacts. I have tons of contacts that I don’t want to type in by hand again but GMail doesn’t appear to have an import feature at this time. Another feature that would be a nice-to-have is the ability to connect to other mail accounts via. POP or IMAP.

In spite of the missing features I describe above, GMail is an awesome mail service and should completely change the free mail service landscape. How can Hotmail, Yahoo and other that offer 2 to 4 MB compete with a 1000 MB? I am still very happy with Mailblocks and my 100 MB space that I pay for and I am not sure I will jump to GMail. I will probably continue to use both services in the near future and will continue to watch how GMail shapes up.





Harmony Remote

April 28, 2004

Harmony Remote

First comes the news of a community and training alliance with DevelopMentor and now Dion appears to be on steroids posting tons of new content daily. ) This is awesome. I love TheServerSide and typically will visit it at least once daily to check for new content. These days I find myself visiting at least 4-5 times a day and I always find new content there. Great job Dion Almaer, Floyd Marinescu, Nitin Bharti and the other folks at TSS.


Servlet Filters: Part II

April 26, 2004

Earlier in the month, I blogged about Servlet Filters and how I see them as Aspects in the AOP world. Based on the blog entry, I’ve gotten tons of email from people that wanted to know more about Servlet Filters, how to use them and how to use the simple Authentication filter I used as an example. I also got quite a few emails from people that wanted to know what other filters I used and so I am including some resources that I find very helpful along with a few servlet filters that I use every day.

Servlet Filter Tutorials

Servlet Filter Apps

If you know of any other Servlet Filters that are useful, drop me an email or send me trackback.

3 Col Stretch

April 25, 2004

3 Col Stretch: “Three Column Stretch”

Keeping it tall – redmelon.net

Netscape 4, CSS layout, 3 columns with Header and Footer

Introduction to Aspect-Oriented Programming by Graham O’Regan — Aspect-oriented programming (AOP) offers the ability to overlay new functionality atop existing code not by rewriting and recompiling, but by adding “aspects” to the compiled code. Graham O’Regan has an introduction.

Otaku, Cedric’s weblog: JSR 175 war stories

J2EE Performance

April 24, 2004

J2EE Performance

ColorMatch Remix

April 24, 2004

ColorMatch Remix: “ColorMatch Remix

This colorpicker is based heavily upon the code from ColorMatch 5k. I’ve made it more compatible – it now works in Mozilla, and should also work in Opera, since I’m using a much better slider control. I’ve also added 3 more colors, bringing the total auto-generated colors to 9, and the ability to export your colors to a Photoshop color table.”

Servlets How-To Documents

April 24, 2004

Servlets How-To Documents

These How-To Documents are aimed at helping developers to quickly start understanding certain Java Servlet features, without having to consult the detailed documentation of products or technologies.

JSP 2.0: The New Deal, Part 3 by Hans Bergsten — In this third article on JSP 2.0, Hans Bergsten (author of JavaServer Pages, 3rd Edition) shows the improvements made in JSP 2.0 for writing JSP pages as XML documents.

The next Wisconsin Java User Group meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 19th, 2004.

NOTE: there is a different location for this meeting!
This meeting will be held at the Best Western Midway Hotel in Brookfield

The topic of this meeting is:
Jython in Action
By: John Carnell

Please click here for all the details.

*** Special JUG Offer #1: Barnes&Noble.com has set up a special bookstore for Sun affiliated Java User Group members, offering you an additional 5% off your bookstore purchases. Just visit http://btob.bn.com/index.asp?sourceID=0040285524&btob=Y and use this whenever you shop Barnes & Noble online.

*** Special JUG Offer #2: TeamSoft is offering all Java User Group members a 5% discount on any public training class that is taught by TeamSoft and is booked through TeamSoft! Please check out our training at www.teamsoftinc.com/teamsoft/public/training.jsp. (offer subject to change without notice)


This is a private blog where I keep track of articles, blog, tutorials to read, things to download and just anything interesting that I may find useful later. I plan on using this blog in conjunction to my Wiki, that’s currently powered by the awesome JSPWiki.

My hope is to use the ‘BlogThis!’ button on my Google toolbar along with the awesome email-to-blog functionality offered by Blogger to add new posts via. email. We’ll see if this experiment will work. I guess only time will tell.

Addison-Wesley Professional just released a few new books that sounded interesting to me. I am hoping to pick up copies of these books in the next few weeks to see if they are any good. The books that I though looked interesting are:

For Agile Software DevelopmentUser Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development

By Mike Cohn.
Paperback: 268 pages
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Pub Co; (March 1, 2004)
ISBN: 0321205685

Thoroughly reviewed and eagerly anticipated by the agile community, User Stories Applied offers a requirements process that saves time, eliminates rework, and leads directly to better software. The best way to build software that meets users’ needs is to begin with “user stories”: simple, clear, brief descriptions of functionality that will be valuable to real users. In User Stories Applied, Mike Cohn provides you with a front-to-back blueprint for writing these user stories and weaving them into your development lifecycle.

You’ll learn what makes a great user story, and what makes a bad one. You’ll discover practical ways to gather user stories, even when you can’t speak with your users. Then, once you’ve compiled your user stories, Cohn shows how to organize them, prioritize them, and use them for planning, management, and testing.

  • User role modeling: understanding what users have in common, and where they differ
  • Gathering stories: user interviewing, questionnaires, observation, and workshops
  • Working with managers, trainers, salespeople and other “proxies”
  • Writing user stories for acceptance testing
  • Using stories to prioritize, set schedules, and estimate release costs
  • Includes end-of-chapter practice questions and exercises

User Stories Applied will be invaluable to every software developer, tester, analyst, and manager working with any agile method: XP, Scrum… or even your own home-grown approach.

Creating Innovative ProductsAgile Project Management : Creating Innovative Products

by Jim Highsmith
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Pub Co; (March 29, 2004)
ISBN: 0321219775

Now, one of the field’s leading experts brings together all the knowledge and resources you need to use APM in your next project. Jim Highsmith shows why APM should be in every manager’s toolkit, thoroughly addressing the questions project managers raise about Agile approaches. He systematically introduces the five-phase APM framework, then presents specific, proven tools for every project participant. Coverage includes:

  • Six principles of Agile Project Management
  • How to capitalize on emerging new product development technologies
  • Putting customers at the center of your project, where they belong
  • Creating adaptive teams that respond quickly to changes in your project’s “ecosystem”
  • Which projects will benefit from APM—and which won’t
  • APM’s five phases: Envision, Speculate, Explore, Adapt, Close
  • APM practices, including the Product Vision Box and Project Data Sheet
  • Leveraging your PMI skills in Agile environments
  • Scaling APM to larger projects and teams
  • For every project manager, team leader, and team member

Now that the Wisconsin Java Software Symposium (‘No Fluff, Just Stuff‘ Java Symposium) is over, I wanted to get together all the blog entries from the people that attended the symposium. In addition to my blog entries, I am also including entries from Vibhu, Brennan and Al.

If you’ve blogged about the Milwaukee Java Software Symposium, please send me an email or send me a traceback and I’ll add a link here.