Month: May 2006

JBoss Portal and Alfresco

I recently delved into JBoss Portal to put together a demo for a client. I started with JBoss Portal 2.2.1 without Alfresco just to get my feet wet. I was a bit underwhelmed. The documentation was spotty, which I expected. The admin UI was clunky at best and wholely non-functional in some instances (here’s a tip: stick to the XML descriptors and avoid the UI for now).

The bigger problem for my immediate need was that the out-of-the-box CMSPortlet instance couldn’t be easily customized through either XML or the admin interface to show anything but the default content stored in the embedded jackrabbit (JCR/JSR-170) repository. The problem was that the URL was configured as an initialization parameter instead of a portlet preference. To fix that I snagged the updated CMSPortlet from the 2.4.0 Alpha release and deployed it to my 2.2.1 instance which worked great.

My next source of frustration was the JBoss-Alfresco bundle. I didn’t know exactly what was going to be included in the bundled instance of JBoss Portal and Alfresco–in hindsight my expectations were set too high. What I was hoping for was that Alfresco would be configured as the replacement JCR repository for JBoss Portal and that there would be a set of useful portlets that exposed the Alfresco repository to portal users. At a bare minimum I would have expected an Alfresco search portlet and a trimmed down “spaces” portlet.

Instead, what’s included is a single “Alfresco Client” portlet that essentially wraps the entire Alfresco UI in a single portlet. The embedded jackrabbit repository still exists and can be used with the CMSPortlet, but Alfresco isn’t configured out-of-the-box to be used as the content repository for JBoss portal.

These annoyances can obviously be addressed with code. And because JBoss and Alfresco leverage open standards, that code will be easier to write and maintain. I was just hoping that the bundle would have been more tightly integrated. (In the immediate-term I was hoping for a more powerful demo with less sweat equity).

As a side note it makes me wonder: Does Alfresco already have these portlets (and other similar types of value-added code) in-house but not easily accessible (or accessible at all) by the community or do they not exist?

This really illustrates the need for services firms to help clients take open source components the “last mile” by adding glue-code, implementing useful add-ons (portlets, integrations, etc.), and beefing up documentation, all of which could and should be injected back into the community in some form or fashion.

Had to tweak the Xbox 360 network setup

I had my Xbox 360 on an 802.11g network. Unfortunately it was getting too much interference from my controllers and cordless phones to be able to consistently stream media from my Windows Media Center PC. Last weekend I added a new 802.11a access point (I double-checked that the Linksys router was listed as Xbox Live Compatible due to my earlier travails) and traded in the 802.11g wired-to-wireless bridge for the Xbox network adapter.

Right after I did it I was able to stream all evening without a single dropped frame. A couple of nights ago, though, it was a bit more spotty. I might have to fool with the router placement or something.

High-end document management getting squeezed?

Tony Byrne points out something I’ve seen happening at my clients recently as well: collaborative tools like Sharepoint and eRoom are being leveraged for “informal” document management while high-end tools such as Documentum are used for “formal” document management.

This sounds familiar. For most of the 1990’s me and my colleagues were hardcore Lotus Notes developers. We never saw any competition in Documentum. At that time we saw Documentum as a niche solution for high-volume, highly-regulated content, or imaging.

The current release of Sharepoint lacks “table stakes” functionality for all but the most basic of document management needs. The two critically lacking features are document-level security and any semblance of a basic workflow. But Microsoft looks to be addressing both of those features and more with its 2007 release.

As the price gap between Sharepoint, eRoom, open source solutions and high-end ECM platforms increases, and as things like web services make integration less of a headache, could we be seeing a regression in how the market views offerings like Documentum, i.e., only for the 10% – 20% of the specialized document management needs in an enterprise?

Vision of streaming media at home realized via XBox 360

Ever since my home machine started collecting digital media I’ve wanted a robust way to stream that media from my study to my living room. Over the years I’ve tried a few different approaches, but none were exactly what I wanted. They were either too unreliable or too limited in functionality to be worth the trouble.

Last Fall I started reading previews on the XBox 360. It promised to be just what I was looking for–ease of use, wireless capability, and access to all of my rich media types.

While I waited for Microsoft to meet demand for the consoles my wife and I got hooked on our Windows Media Center PC. After having lived with it for four or five months now I can say it has exceeded our expectations. The only problem? Our study was the only place to view recorded content. (Although I have to admit, our Dell ultrasharp widescreen flat panel doesn’t have me in a hurry to return to the living room).

A couple of weeks ago I came across an XBox 360 core system at Best Buy. I was tempted to snag it–I had never actually seen one in real life and I had waited so long for this last piece in the media streaming puzzle. But I opted to wait for the pro bundle–the hard drive alone made it a better deal.

Last weekend I was in Oklahoma. Thinking maybe in Small Town America the demand for a high-priced gaming console wasn’t as great as it is in The Big City, I had my stepfather swing by the electronics section at Wal-Mart during one of his routine runs. Sure enough. XBox 360 Pro bundles a-plenty.

Back in Dallas I had a bit of trouble getting the wireless in place. As it turns out, the little USB adapter made specifically for the XBox 360 only works with a limited number of routers and bridges. I thought 802.11a/b/g was 802.11a/b/g but I guess not.

After repeated trips to Best Buy, CompUSA, and Circuit City, and committing the “supported hardware” list on to memory, I finally settled on a config that seems to be working fine for now. I’ve got my original Belkin Pre-N router talking to a Linksys 802.11g gaming adapter.

I also snagged an XBox Universal Remote–it makes navigating the Media Center controls on the XBox much easier than using the wireless game controller. From a UI standpoint it is exactly the same as if I were sitting at the Media Center PC. This is a big plus, especially because that UI is so intuitive and visually appealing.

So now I’m streaming home movies, digital stills, music, and PVR’d television from my study to my living room. But saying that is the only thing I use the XBox 360 for is like saying one reads Playboy only for the articles. The XBox is, after all, primarily a gaming machine.

I’m no hardcore gamer, but it only took one session for me to become a Project Gotham Racing addict. The realism is unbelievable. I didn’t think I’d be into competing against others from around the world via XBox Live but it’s kind of a rush. And moving from computer opponents to humans is a sure way to keep the ego in check.

This little project wasn’t cheap and it may not be over. Depending on how much interference I get from the wireless controllers and normal use of my 802.11g network I may decide to put the XBox on its own 802.11a network. And, the whole thing has me thinking about upgrading the TV. But, at least for now, it works and I am thrilled.