Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Java Developer == Pizza Delivery Man?

A few months ago, I posted a link to an article deriding the current focus on Java in schools. Here's a quote from that article:

…Computer Science (CS) education is neglecting basic skills, in particular in the areas of programming and formal methods. We consider that the general adoption of Java as a first programming language is in part responsible for this decline. We examine briefly the set of programming skills that should be part of every software professional's repertoire.

An interesting read. What's more interesting (at least to me) is that I used to agree whole heartedly with it's sentiments. However, I've recently been writing a lot more code in Java than C++ and interestingly, I'm getting to like and appreciate it more - appreciate it's power, expressiveness and yes, performance.

Anyhow, today along came another article in a similar vein.

In an interview with Robert Dewar from New York University, James Maguire writes:

In essence, he said that today's Java-savvy college grad is tomorrow's pizza delivery man. Their skills are so easily outsourced that they're heading for near-term obsolescence.

Dewar stresses that he's not against Java itself. But the fact that Java is taught as the core language in so many colleges is resulting in a weak field of computer science grads, he says.

Later on, we are told:

“Furthermore, Java is mainly used in Web applications that are mostly fairly trivial,” Dewar says, with his characteristic candor. “If all we do is train students to be able to do simple Web programming in Java, they won't get jobs, since those are the jobs that can be easily outsourced. What we need are software engineers who understand how to build complex systems.”

Dewar obviously hasn't been out in industry very much recently. I know of quite a few very complex systems implemented in Java…

There's A New A/V Receiver In The House - Denon AVR-3808CI

A couple of posts ago, I talked about the need for a new A/V receiver. The basic problem is that I now have a fair few input devices and two of them have HDMI outputs, whereas my TV only has one HDMI input. It'd be nice to route the video and audio signals through the same place.

Problems solved:

  1. Mismatch of what's being shown to what's being heard. You know the problem - you hit 'TiVo' on the universal remote and you get the TiVo coming out of the speakers and the AppleTV on the display. The Logitech remote handles that nicely with it's 'help' button, but it's still a pain.
  2. If you don't use the remote you've got to switch both the TV and the receiver.
  3. My TV only has one HDMI input which means that the TiVo is plugged into that so that I can watch HD content (HDCP being required). This means that I can't watch HD content from the iTunes Movie store as it also requires HDCP - having the receiver route the video signal solves this problem.
  4. I wanted outside speakers and to have different things playing inside and outside. I.e. the kids can watch Dora on the TV while we're listening to music outside courtesy of the AppleTV.

So I picked up the Denon AVR-3808CI and all my problems are solved. I also got a few bonuses into the bargain:

  1. TiVo and AppleTV hooked up via HDMI. Xbox360, Wii and DVD player hooked up via component and sundry audio connections.
  2. Outside speakers can play audio sources independently of what's playing in the living room.
  3. Switching inputs is a breeze.
  4. The unit has an ethernet port and can stream internet radio. You can also manage it via a builtin webserver. I must say though, the design of the web content served leaves a lot to be desired.
  5. Nice GUI. As the unit is routing the video, it overlays it's own GUI on top, such as audio levels and it's setup/management interface.

The two spare HDMI inputs are also handy, as I suppose I'm going to have to get a Blu-ray player at some point…

Overall, pretty nice. It even met with spousal approval!

I did have one problem during setup though. The multi-zone support is nice and the idea was that I could be outside and listen to music from the AppleTV. Unfortunately it took me ages to get working.

The problem was that the Denon unit wouldn't let me send audio sourced from an HDMI input (which the AppleTV is connected to) out to the second zone. I have no idea why.

To solve the problem I simply connected the units using an optical cable and had the receiver use that as the audio source for the AppleTV rather than the HDMI audio source. At that point, it would route the audio outside.

Anyhow, highly recommended.

And after setting it all up, I realised that every piece of A/V gear except for the DVD player in the living room is now on the internet - the Denon receiver, TiVo, AppleTV, Xbox360 and the Wii.


On a related note, you might be thinking “Well, if the kids are watching the TiVo in the living room and you're sat outside supping on an adult beverage, how do you control the AppleTV, sucker? The interface for it is on the TV which is being used by the kids!”

Well, I have my iPhone. On that iPhone I have the 'Remote' application which lets me browse the content and control the operation of the AppleTV over WiFi. And I can do it whilst sat outside supping on said adult beverage!


Finally Got A Wii

I randomly happened to be in Best Buy this afternoon with Julian and we were wandering past the shelves of Wii games.

“Hey dad! There's a Diego! game here, can we get it?”

“Sorry little dude, that's a Wii game and we don't have one those consoles.”

Cue the little dude doing the “I'm sad, you suck” thing, when I look down and see about ten boxes of what look like consoles. Note that I've never seen a Wii console retail box before - noone ever has them…

I pick it up. I feels heavy.

I look at it. It does indeed appear to actually be one of those fabled console units.

“Little dude! You're in luck! Go grab a second controller, a second nunchuck and a component AV connector while you're at it!”.

“Dad, I lost you at 'controller'.”

“Just grab that Diego game, I'll get the rest.”

And we left the store fully loaded with Nintendo gear…

Diversion: This evening I set everything up and am now determined to get a new A/V receiver for the home. Our TV our has one HDMI input, but tons of component ones. I really want it to switch the video signal, so I'm investigating something that can take 2 HDMI inputs, 3 components inputs, a smattering of optical and regular audio and just switch it all for me.

Any suggestions?

Anyhow, this little game unit rocks! I recognize I'm over a year late, but playing tennis and baseball, etc… with a motion sensitive controller is awesome. I also had a lot of fun creating Miis for all the family..

Little dude is going to have so much fun.

When I let him have a turn, that is.


As this is my millennium post, I thought it might be a good idea to post something a little different…

Last weekend we headed out east in the car and spent a few days in Lake Chelan. Man, was it hot! It hit 103o on Monday, but no matter - the kids loved the change of pace (as did the parents).

View Larger Map

We spent most of our time by the lake and the kids spent most of their time digging and mostly moving sand and water from one spot to another…

It was a nice little spot. There was a Starbucks and a Safeways right across the street from the hotel, and the hotel was downtown, close to a park which happened to have a fair going on at the same time we were there.

Plus there were some other unusual sights…

In the eating department, I can highly recommend Local Myth Pizza - definitely some of the best pizza I've ever eaten.

On the way home, we stopped off at the Rocky Ridge Dam. The facility is impeccably maintained and has a great visitor center. Something I (and the kids) particularly liked was the great views of the fish ladder. Much fun was had spotting the little fishes…

As always, photos are up on flickr. We'll be going back…

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.