Puakma: Under the hood

I'm Brendon Upson, jack-of-all-trades, master of one or two. I'm talking about life running a small ISV tackling business issues and leaping technology hurdles in a single bound.

webWise Network Consultants is based in Sydney, Australia and develops the groundbreaking Tornado Server technology.

OpenSource Tornado?

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-05-27

We've been mulling over the idea of making Tornado OpenSource for a looong time now. Once we sort out a few finer points in exactly how the model will work for us, we will release the code.

 Stay tuned :-)

Cable guy!

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-05-18

From time to time funny little projects turn up that you take on for amusement value if nothing else. One of our neighbouring businesses needed some help running a few cables the other night so we lent our expertise. Actually, it started with a knock on the door one morning and the neighbour asking "Do you guys know anything about the internet?". That eventually turned into a small job to run a few cables.

And what fun it was. Not. The neighbours office was a mess of years of spaghetti cabling, they had a couple of points not working that we had to trace back to the switch and repair. Up the wall, through the roof, into the kitchen, down the wall and through a mess of cables into a patch panel. A job from scratch would have been soooooo much easier.

We won in the end, lost a little blood (damn spikey carpet smooth-edge!), and saw to a number of additional "oh and if you could just...." tasks that doubled the size of the original job.

I am planning over the next few weeks to run some cat5 at home connecting the home office (where the router is) with the lounge room (where I want to set up a media-ish PC).

Thanks Bruce for your help in doing the cabling work :-) 

The movies are here ;-)

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-05-10

Finally, the movies are up on the site. I plan to release a whole bunch covering all sorts of aspects of Web Booster, Tornado, Vortex and ESSO. The format seems to work really well and all you have to do is sit there (assuming you have the right codecs etc to make it work), no software installs no painful attempts to work things out or understand anything. Just sit and absorb. The voice narration adds a nice dimension, if you can put up with my antipodean twang that is!

So far we have the install, first look around the admin app and the way super cool upgrade process. Plenty more to come. Let me know what you think.


Tune in and veg out :-)


Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-05-08

Coming to a computer near you soon is a set of screen capture videos with voice narration on the joys of Tornado, Booster and Vortex. I have done some tests here and it looks to be a great way to go (if you can put up with my Aussie twang). Very easy to get a feel for the products and how they work. Much easier when you;re watching the screen and hearing about what's happening.

I have been testing the demos on my Apple Powerbook using ScreenRecord and the only issue I have so far is the sound. It seems the powerbook needs a powered line in so my headset doesn't work :-( As soon as I get some new hardware (most likely a Griffin iMic) I'll start making movies.

I have played with a few different file formats and so far it looks like .AVI is the way to go. I'm new to this so if anyone has any advice on the best streaming format, please let me know.

Stay tuned! 

Ajax and the spellchecker

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-05-02

A customer asked us a few months ago if we had a web spell checking solution. We did some searching around and found few based on PHP, Tomcat and ASP but none that were particularly nice, easy to integrate into their existing applications, or that worked particularly well. So we wrote our own. It was a bit of a team effort: I wrote the serverside spellchecking engine (based on the opensource jazzy API) while Daniel hooked up the front end ajax bits - the front end by far being the most difficult!

Why is a web based spellchecker so hard?
Simply because spellchecking is an interactive process. The server guesses which words are misspelt and offer options for each. The user then asynchronously changes (or not) the suggestions. At the end of the user's asynchronous interaction with the checker we write back all the changes to the textarea. Not easy. Of course the easy way is to bang an ajax request to the server every step of the way, but then performance sucks and we hog the server and bandwidth to do a simple spell check. Not good. To get around the performance issues we send one ajax request which returns with the number of misspelling and the suggestions in one data block. All the user interaction then occurs only on the client side, followed by a final ajax request to switch the text back into the textarea.

This will be some ongoing work in progress since the current version has some limitations. The major one being the difficulty checking text with embedded html tags. I'll let you work out why that's tough!

If anyone wants a copy to drop into their Intranet, send me an email and I'll forward the latest code.

I was initially (some months ago) skeptical of the ajax hype. In practise I have found ajax techniques invaluable for initiating or checking processes that would typically result in a browser timeout. For example in a recent project we upload an excel spreadsheet to the server and process the sheet building a project based on the data it contains. Normally this would take around ten minutes for the server to finish the job (yes, it's a BIG spreadsheet!) causing the browser to timeout or resend the request (bad, REAL bad). There's a nifty trick we use with Tornado which allows the browser to be told to go somewhere, whilst the action continues to run. Perfect!

Spelling and RSS

Filed under: by Brendon Upson on 2006-05-01

Where does the time go?

We're in the process of RSS enabling other parts of the site, such as discussion forum and product updates (changelog). You may have noticed the RSS icons on each of the products on puakma.net. This makes keeping up with the latest super easy!

In the last week we've been adding the spellchecker to some internal apps (in the name of "eating your own dog food") and as expected we discovered a few minor anomolies that were quickly sorted. See the screenshot below. I'll talk about the technology inside this in the next few days. Ajax spellcheck is one difficult app!