Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A cheer for a new chair? / Auf der Suche nach DEM Drehstuhl

Working mostly from home showed me that my current home office chair is not suitable for the 12 hour shift. Now I am on the hunt for a new chair that is comfy, durable, ergonomic and (yes!) affordable. While on the search I found some interesting models that look like torture devices or dentist chairs (see Ergohuman or Open Art). Based on reviews it seems that they can be comfortable in a long workday, but it depends on many factors.

Can you recommend any good office chair (which is available in Europe)?

Auf der Suche nach DEM Drehstuhl
Beginnt man die Suche nach einem neuen Buerostuhl, der auch nach zig Stunden immer noch bequem ist, stellt man fest, dass das Angebot riesig ist. Viel zu gross. Einige der Drehstuehle sehen eher aus wie der beruehmt-beruechtigte Zahnarztstuhl (Ergohuman oder Open Art). Wer moechte taeglich an den naechsten Zahnarztbesuch erinnert werden?

Koennt ihr einen guten Buerostuhl empfehlen? Idealerweise ist er in Deutschland (ohne Wartezeiten) verfuegbar.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gas prices and pureXML / Benzinpreis

Do you remember the times when it was common to manually update the gas prices? Gas station attendants had to climb a ladder to replace digits. Sometimes there was a goof-up or, with increasing gas prices, ran out of some digits. The good thing was that changes to the gas price were not that frequent as they are today. To the gas station every change was a (more or less) cumbersome act.

Today we have electronic displays. Changes to the gas price happen with the press of a button or even without. Gas stations are far more flexible about when and how frequent to adjust prices. They can react faster to the market and are not even bound to always have the 9/10th of a cent. Sometimes you'll find a 1/10th or 2/10th cheaper station few meters away.

Why do I tell you about gas prices? Well, the reason is that yesterday during a walk (!!!) I passed such a display while thinking about a DB2 defect I was working on. Then it dawned on me that it is a nice comparison to pureXML. Working with just relational storage, you have to change the database schema when you want to react to market changes. Sometimes you goof-up, sometimes you run out of easy modeling options (see above). However, with the introduction of XML storage in the database, you get the needed flexibility. It is far simpler and way faster to react to market changes. You can introduce new "fields", i.e., store additional properties without changing the database schema, often without even changing the application. Once you have mastered the first step (using XML to store the "old stuff"), try to use pureXML in even advanced ways. The result could be that you are able to leave the "everything ends on 9/10th" behind you and start beating the competition...


Benzinpreise
Frueher mussten die Preise noch manuell angepasst werden, indem man auf die Leiter stieg und die Ziffern austauschte. Heute werden die Preise per Knopfdruck angepasst, leider aendern sich durch die Vereinfachung auch haeufiger die Preise fuer den Verbraucher. Einige Tankstellen gehen noch einen Schritt weiter und zeigen nicht nur die "alten" Preise mit den neuen elektronischen Anzeigen an. Sie aendern auch die Nachkommastellen von "9/10" auf "8/10", um billiger als die Konkurrenz um die Ecke zu sein.

XML kann aehnlich genutzt werden. Zunaechst ist es durch die erhoehte Flexibilitaet einfacher, ohne Aenderung des Datenbankschemas neue Eigenschaften in einer Tabelle zu speichern. Man kann schneller und guenstiger auf Anforderungen reagieren. Dies ist aber nur der erste Schritt. Hat man diesen gemeistert, kann man schauen, wie man die Vorteile von pureXML noch staerker nutzt. Das Resultat ist dann vergleichbar mit den Benzinpreisen und dem Abloesen vom starren "9/10"-Preis.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

pureXML Puzzle

Right now I am preparing slides for a new presentation that I am going to present at the IDUG NA Conference in Denver. Usually I try to make it entertaining by including some questions and puzzles. Here is a new, but simple one for you.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tax Season is coming / Steuererklärung für 2008

Tax season is coming up and I wonder in how many countries taxes are processed using XML this year. For DB2 and the pureXML technology we have one reference customer, the NY State Department of Taxation and Finance, which moved to using XML for reasons of system simplification, flexibility and extensibility:
“Through the use of XML data, we have more flexibility in defining new services and can more easily keep up with changing tax policies.” (Jim Lieb, Director of Common Services, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance)
I personally know of two European tax agencies (DB2 customers as well) that are currently moving to pureXML-based tax processing. It's a strange feeling to know that the code that earned you money for the past years is now helping to drain my bank account. Life.
===
Die Steuererklärung ist demnächst fällig. Ziemlich dumm, wenn dann der eigene Code, der die letzten Jahre für Einkommen gesorgt hat, nun mithilft, das Konto zu plündern. So ist's im Leben - ein stetiges Geben und Nehmen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Zeppelin, Bay Area, Lake of Constance

You may wonder why I am following the adventures of Airship Ventures and their Zeppelin airship. At the time we preparing our move from the SF Bay Area to the Lake of Constance area, this particular Zeppelin was planned and built. I saw it both floating over Friedrichshafen where Zeppelins are a common fixture as well as over the Peninsula (SF Bay Area). It's the connection between my two worlds. Moreover, Zeppelins are quiet, help you to get a distance from the earthy problems and remind you about how to tackle your daily IT issues: Get some distance, try to get the bigger picture and let your ideas float...

Monday, January 12, 2009

IOD EMEA Conference Call for Speakers

The Call for Speakers for the IOD EMEA Conference (June, 2nd-5th, Berlin) is now open. If you are an IBM customer it's a good idea to think about presenting because the registration fees would be waived for you.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Anant Jhingran on Improving XML Applications

The CTO of IBM’s Information Management (IM) division, Anant Jhingran, recently wrote an article titled "Improve Your XML Applications" for DMReview.com. It's about why use native XML database technology. pureXML isn't specifically mentioned, but is meant.

Die Kraft der Kerzen / Candles in no wind

Als wir noch in Kalifornien wohnten, hoerten wir im Radio eine Reportage ueber ein Frau in Suedkalifornien. Sie hatte sich ein Haus aus (ueberwiegend) Strohballen gebaut. Im Sommer war es angenehm kuehl, im Winter angenehm warm. Wurde es trotz Mini-Heizung zu kalt, hat sie im Ofen Kekse gebacken.
Wir nutzen die nachweihnachtliche Zeit, um unseren Kerzenbestand zu reduzieren und damit die Temperatur im Haus anzuheben. 4 Kerzen lassen ueber eine Stunde hinweg die Temperatur im Bereich Kueche/Ess- und Wohnzimmer um 0.5 Grad steigen. Obwohl wir durch die Lueftungsanlange einen konstanten Luftstrom haben, flackern die Kerzen nicht. In Kalifornien flackerten die Kerzen bereits ohne das die Heizung eingeschaltet war (Dank undichter Waende und Fenster)...

We use our still big collection of candles to "heat" our living room (still post-christmas time). Burning 4 candles over 1 hour helped to increase the room temperature by 0.5 degrees. Not bad at all. What was interesting to watch was that they didn't flicker, even with the ventilation system on. In our California apartments candles were already flickering when the heating system wasn't turned on, caused by the lack of construction quality.

How to start a blog...?

"It was a cold and icy night in southern Germany..." are good words to describe what's going on outside (-10 degrees Celsius). Inside our passive house it is relatively warm (21 degrees). Yesterday has been a sunny day, bringing up the indoor temperatures and our mood. Right now I am in my small home office, taking a break from looking over DB2 pureXML code and working on product improvements. The vacation has been shorter than expected, but it was good to relax a little bit from traveling Europe to bring pureXML to IBM customers. It was the first real time out after moving from the US to Germany in March.

I hope that moving forward I have enough time to write about work and life. Enjoy.

For the German audience:
Wie soll mein ein Blog beginnen? Schreibt man ueber die amerikanische Tastatur und die Probleme mit den deutschen Umlauten? Ueber das Klima im Passivhaus bei den gerade vorherrschenden eisigen Temperaturen in Deutschland (ja, ich vermisse Kalifornien ein wenig)? Oder wie DB2 pureXML bei Kunden eingesetzt wird und was es an Neuerungen gibt? Ich werde versuchen, von alldem in der Zukunft zu schreiben, nicht aber mit dem ersten Eintrag.

Fuer die Zukunft ein hoffentlich gutes Lesen.

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