Monday, July 31, 2006

House price crash? I hope so

When we bought our first flat in 1998, it cost us £99,950. At the time I thought it was a huge amount of money and I thought house prices couldn't rise any more. How wrong I was. Two years later we sold it for £175,000 and bought our current house for £220,000. Again I thought house prices couldn't rise any further and again I was way off the mark. In both cases I wasn't particularly concerned with house prices, since I never thought of buying a house as an investment but rather somewhere to live. Buying was (and still is) cheaper than renting for us since we were lucky enough to buy at a good time. Now our house is worth over £300,000 and by all accounts still rising, although the price rises have certainly slowed down. If we were starting over and looking to buy a place now we couldn't afford to, certainly not where we bought our first flat. I do wonder who can afford to buy somewhere now. But rising prices don't help us either. If we ever did want to move house, chances are anywhere we bought would be over the magic £250,000 mark, meaning our fees would be about £10,000. I can think of lots of things I could do with £10,000 and handing it over to the government doesn't seem the most appealing option. The guys at House Price Crash have been predicting a crash for some time, but they are still waiting for it to happen. The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Windows Live Local vs Google Maps part 2

So I tried to switch to Live Local but my first problem with it is a bit of a showstopper. The map doesn't show tube or train stations, so for getting round London it's completely useless. Back to Google Maps... Windows Live Local 1 - Google Maps 1

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Windows Live Local vs Google Maps

It all started with a trip to the wilds of Lincolnshire. We'd been there before but I didn't know the way too well, so thinking Google has the answer to everything I thought I'd use Google Maps to give us directions. Turns out the directions it gave us weren't too hot, causing much screaming and shouting between me and my other half who was trying to decipher the instructions. Admittedly where we were didn't help, all the roads and countryside looked the same. In the end we had to call the people we were visiting and ask for their help. Somehow they worked out where we were and guided us in. So for my next little trip I thought I'd give Windows Live Local a try. I was dropping my brother off at Heathrow airport so searched for directions for that. It's been a while since I've used the MS mapping stuff and it has certainly improved, in fact I think it may well have moved ahead of Google Maps. Google may have been first with the whole draggable map thing but they don't seem to have done a great deal since. But back to Heathrow, Windows Live gave sensible driving instructions and printing was completely customisable. Google Maps on the other hand suggested a completely insane route, via the M4. For the reverse trip it suggested a completely different insane route via the M25 and M3. Looks like Google thinks motorways are super fast which in the case of London certainly isn't the case. Final score, Windows Live Local 1 - Google Maps 0

Cunts are still running the world

Jarvis Cocker is back with a new ditty that won't be getting much airplay I guess. Not a great song but I can't help agreeing with the sentiment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An unobjective review of Metastorm BPM 7

First the disclaimer, I used to work for Metastorm, I use Metastorm e-Work/BPM most days for my job and I'm a techy so may not be interested in the same things as a business user of the software. Finally I haven't got my hands on the software yet, so can't comment on stability etc. And because of all that, this review will be completely unobjective and uninformed. First up, and possibly the least important new change, the name. To my mind, e-Work was a good name, if only because my boss's company ranks highly on the search term 'Metastorm e-Work'. BPM on the other hand doesn't set the software apart from every other BPM product out there. It's like Microsoft calling their word processor software 'Word', what they did? OK, perhaps I'm wrong... Having had a quick look at the webinar, there are quite a few new features. Metastorm seem to be making a lot of fuss about the SharePoint integration, I'm not hugely interested in this but if you're a SharePoint shop already it looks pretty sweet and much improved over the previous ActiveX implementation, perhaps not in features but certainly in acceptability in the corporate world. The Designer gets a makeover, going down the Visual Studio route with dockable windows, which should be pretty useful in terms of screen real estate. There are new icons, but they look pretty ugly to my eyes. There are a few new features (including the ability to specify roles in a library which made me laugh since this used to be possible until it was pulled out of the product for some reason). You can now find which procedures use which libraries in the database, which is most welcome. Internationalization has improved but is not complete. It also hasn't been added to the Outlook client which is a shame and perhaps signifies the Outlook client may be coming towards the end of its life. There is a new Integration Manager, although I'm unclear what this is for, integrating with the bought out CommerceQuest stuff I guess. Overall I'm pleased to see there has been a reasonable amount of time spent on the core product, rather than features required to be buzzword compliant (anybody using that rules engine integration?). My personal bugbear with the product is the e-Work scripting language that just isn't powerful enough as a scripting language. Unfortunately the integration with other scripting languages still needs improving and it looks like these two issues haven't been addressed at all.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I never quite understood the point of Microsoft Management Console. It is a framework for building administration tools that allows end users to create their own admin environments by adding together as many 'snap-ins' as they like. But the cost of this is that any snap-ins have to fit into the MMC framework, which is fairly inflexible and forces an Explorer style interface on every snap-in. And who actually uses the customisation facilities provided? I certainly don't and have never seen a machine where the admin tools have been customised. So I was intrigued to see that the main admin tools in SQL Server 2005 are no longer MMC-based, they are just standard Windows applications (written in .NET methinks). So although Microsoft continue developing MMC (version 3 is coming out soon with support for .NET based snap-ins) it seems to me that the end may be nigh for MMC. As an aside, I helped develop an MMC snap-in for some software I worked on. Although they are generally pretty tricky to develop, Colin Wilson has written a great Delphi component set to help with the job if you really must develop one.

Friday, July 07, 2006

How to choose colours for a website

With my grade E in GCSE Art, my art skills have never been up to much. So my website colour choices have always been pretty ugly. I was therefore very pleased to find Colour Blender, which makes the choices for you.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ajax.NET Professional

As always I'm late to the party, but I've finally got into some AJAX development. Since the project I'm working on is an ASP.NET 1.1 website, Atlas is no use to me, so I was pleased to find the free Ajax.NET toolkit. It makes development of AJAX based websites really simple. Add a line to web.config, add an attribute to a server-side method and then call it from client-side Javascript, it's that easy. The lovely thing about it is the way it copes with classes as well, my server-side method can return a class that can then be used in my client-side code. It may not actually be using magic but it sure feels like it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

England suffer completely predictable World cup exit

It came as no great surprise to see England getting knocked out of the World Cup yesterday. As ever, the first time they had to play a decent team, they failed to progress. But what made this worse than previous efforts was that we appeared to have a squad capable of making a real challenge. Unfortunately our manager was clueless and decided to only bring 3 strikers (OK 4 if you count Walcott who Sven was clearly never going to select), 2 of whom were not fully fit. That meant when Owen was injured we were forced to play a formation that clearly didn't work. If we'd been able to play a more attacking formation, we might have got a goal that we could have protected when we went down to ten men. But with two strikers, Rooney would probably not have been so frustrated in the first place and might have been on the pitch for the whole match.