Daily Archives: September 4, 2006

Usability improvements in WMB fixpack 2

I posted about the release of fixpack 2 for WebSphere Message Broker v6 about a month ago, but I’ve been meaning to comment on it further.

The user-visible changes in the toolkit are really nice. All of them are minor, but they contribute to usability.

broker_fp2_screenshot

The Message Set properties page now includes a little bit of additional text to describe what the parsers do – helpful if you are new to the product, or haven’t used a particular parser before.

broker_fp2_screenshot

When a new node is added to the canvas, the name is automatically highlighted so that it can be renamed to something more useful immediately – very helpful, and it cuts down on mouse clicks later.

broker_fp2_screenshot

Right-click in the Project Navigator pane in the Broker Development perspective, and you will now see a new Quick Start… menu option, which allows you to create resources more quickly – very useful for prototyping etc.. Select that option, and you’ll see this wizard…

broker_fp2_screenshot

The Quick Start wizard prompts for the name of your new Message Flow project, and then automatically fills in the name of a Message Set based on the name you provide. It will also optionally create a blank message flow for you, again using the project name as a base. Once you click Finish, both projects are created, project references are automatically added, and the blank message flow canvas is opened ready for you to get started.

These are all minor tweaks… but as a consultant, I know that IBM gets beaten up a lot over the usability of our products. I think these kinds of changes are evidence that we do listen to user feedback, and that we care about making life easier for users.

While I’m here, I’m going to sing the praises of the documentation team working on WebSphere Message Broker. If you’ve ever looked at the InfoCenter, you should have noticed that there are Feedback links at the bottom of every page. Got a comment, or a change that you think needs to be made? Click that link, fill in the form, and it will go directly to the documentation team in Hursley – in my experience, they have been very responsive to the changes and comments that I’ve submitted.

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A380 now taking passengers…

A380

According to this BBC News article, the Airbus A380 has started passenger testing. This picture was taken at the Farnborough Airshow earlier this year – see more on Flickr.

Software updates – jUploadr, GreatNews

Link to jUploadr 1.1 is here

jUploadr is a Java / SWT-based desktop client for uploading photos to Flickr and Zooomr. I have to recommend that if you use either of these sites, you give this a try. It is really great software.

(I was one of the beta testers… thanks to Steve Cohen for being so responsive to our comments during the testing phase)

Link to GreatNews and Windows Live Writer

My new favourite feedreader, GreatNews, now has a plugin which allows you to create new posts using Windows Live Writer based on the article you are currently reading. Good stuff.

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Fun with VMWare and the Blue Screen of Death

Yesterday, I had an unbelievable amount of “fun” with VMWare – just what was needed for a Sunday…

This week I’m starting a project which will see me working with a group of colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic. It’s all Message Broker-related, and I just happen to have a Windows XP VMWare image with WMB v6 installed. I’d recently installed VMWare 5.5.2 on my host system, and I wanted to make sure that I had all the right levels of the middleware installed in the image.

When I first started the VM, there were a number of warnings, including one about the processor speed not being detected correctly, and a cryptic one about my laptop’s BIOS not reporting the correct NUMA settings. I went ahead and booted the virtual machine, only to find that a minute or so after logging on, it would throw a blue screen and reboot itself.

I remembered that I’d recently changed a BIOS setting to do with Intel processor virtualisation, so I went back and changed that again. No luck. I tried updating the BIOS via Lenovo System Update. Again, no change.

The VMWare knowledge base was a mine of information, although sadly the two KB articles referred to in the original warning popup didn’t seem to clarify what the problem actually was… eventually, I updated the config.ini file for VMWare as follows:

host.cpukHz = 2160000
host.noTSC = TRUE
pstc.noTSC = TRUE
host.TSC.noForceSync = TRUE
processor0.use = TRUE
processor1.use = FALSE

If I understand the 30 or 40 Google and VMWare knowledge base hits I went through, these settings should fix the CPU speed to match the host machine; get the host and guest CPU clocks to be synchronised; and force the VM to only use the first core of the CPU.

Unfortunately, even after incrementally adding these settings, the VM would continue to reboot itself / blue screen. I kept trying to change the settings to prevent it from restarting on a Windows STOP error, but I never seemed to be able to apply the change before the next reboot. In the end, I booted the VM into safe mode and then changed that setting. Even when I did manage to read the stop error, I couldn’t find anything definitive which explained what was causing it, but I did find something about Windows XP SP2 and Data Execution Protection (DEP) causing problems with some drivers. After another reboot into safe mode, I disabled DEP for the guest, and that seems to have resolved the issue – no more repeated STOP errors.

I’d love to know what recent change caused this. It could have been one of several, because I’m still in the process of getting the T60p set up and things change rapidly! My best guess is that it may have been the upgrade from VMWare 5.5.1->5.5.2 , because I’m reasonably sure that the image was working fine before that (and even after resetting the multicore settings in the BIOS, the problem persisted). Now I’m going to try rolling back a few of those hard-coded settings in the config.ini file, because I don’t think I always want to restrict my virtual machines to a single core.

Well, at least it is working, and now I know the BIOS is up-to-date!

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