The Big Picture From Rome
The final afternoon of the Business Leadership Forum focused on the big picture -- of both global political factors and technology. A panel included Karl-Heinz Grasser, Federal Minister of Finance for the Republic of Austria. He spoke about how governments can not only avoid being an obstacle to innovation and growth but also encourage competition thereby creating more jobs. The panel was bullish about how the information revolution -- ushered in by the microprocessor in the early 1970's and the Internet of the 1990's -- has led to an explosion of new products and new business models, However, there was a consensus that retaliation from poor economies and over-regulation by some countries could stymie the growth.
Mario Monti, President of Bocconi University and commissioner in the European Union for ten years, was quite optimistic about the EU -- a market of 480 million people -- and said that the EU itself is an innovation. He said that Europe is much more like the U.S. than it was. It is now a single market, has a single currency, and has been expanding market reach around the world. The shortcoming is that Europe, unlike America, does not yet have a constitution. This results in an economic disadvantage because the European community can not make a decision for the total. The European economy is not innovating quickly enough and in fact some countries are protecting the past at the expense of the future. Mario says it is time for "naming and shaming" the laggards through peer reviews. Then he got more specific -- "Germany, France, and Italy are behind on liberalization of service markets and have resisted initiatives to increase competition". These three countries will have a negative impact on the Euro which in turn will hurt the rest of Europe. Mr. Monti's presentation was sobering but hopeful. He said the EU has a lot of good features, that it can protect intellectual property but also move against monopolies such as Microsoft. The key to get innovation going in Europe is for the EU to innovate itself by completing it's constitution.
Irving Wladawsky-Berger kicked off the final segment of the forum, which focused on the future. IBM supports Linux because it is a great operating system for computers. Irving introduced Linus Torvalds the developer of Linux which he published as a student in 1991. Don Tapscott, a widely acclaimed author, who invented the term "paradigm shift", then moderated the final panel which included Linus, Nick Donofrio, executive vice president for innovation and technology at IBM, and Ann Mettler, executive director and co-founder of The Lisbon Council. It was a wide-ranging discussion. Linus is an incredibly humble guy. He said he has no vision, just looks 5 cm ahead before each step, and loves to solve technical problems. Linux is successful, he says, because both the development and the decision making are distributed -- a "built-in meritocracy". Don asked why volunteers worked on Linux for no economic return. Linus said, "if you were all engineers, you would not be asking that question". Open source software is viable in most all software areas, with the only exception being niche markets which are too small to get adequate collaboration. "Open source will take over most all infrastructure".
Ann said there is a huge gap between businesses which are moving ahead rapidly and societies which feel left behind. The key problem is that the economy is 70% services but the regulations and governance are still based on an industrial model. She believes that government should learn how to innovate from businesses. "Politicians are clueless about the discussion of the past day and a half". She says that businesses need to share their leanings with society. The labor market in Europe is flat because companies do not want to hire and that is because the laws are so onerous. "You can hire but you can't fire". Labor reform is needed desperately.
Nick says' It' s all about change". IBM is doing a balancing act by supporting both open things and proprietary things. The company is generating a lot of patents but also giving away a lot of patents to move the ball forward in key markets such as healthcare and education. "The world can move ahead faster if the OS is Linux -- it is good enough and a "blow for freedom". A California venture capitalist asked about business ethics and Nick was very aggressive in his response saying it was not optional for companies to be totally and completely ethical in every respect. (Having been at IBM for 38 years, I can say I never ever had a concern about ethics at the company). Nick summarized that anyone can innovate if they are willing to change. "If nothing changes, nothing changes". Sam wrapped up the conference by saying corporations need to be transparent. Their ultimate responsibility is to create value for the constituencies: stockholders, customers, employees. He walks the talk.
Intro to Roman Rendezvous Stories
Index to Roman Rendezvous stories
Web Design & Development>
Web development incorporates all areas of creating a Web site for the World Wide Web. This includes Web design (graphic design, XHTML, CSS, usability and semantics), programming, content management, marketing, testing and deployment. The term can also specifically be used to refer to the "back end", that is, programming and server administration.
ref: Wikipedia: Web Developmentread more:
This is ground zero for Linux and Open Source news. Stay up to date on business, hardware, wireless, trends, programming, jobs, software, product reviews and much, much more. Subscribe to the news feed with you favorite aggregator, or try dnews.read more:
This is the parent container for the rest of the Artima Buzz resources located elsewhere in this directory. By subscribing to the RSS feed you can stay up to date on the rest of them from one location. Or use my dnews interface if you prefer.read more:
Developing With Web Standards
This document explains how and why using Web standards will let you build Web sites in a way that saves time and money for the developer and provides a better experience for the visitor.read more:
Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility with Firefox
Holy CSS Zeldman!
An exaustive list of CSS links, and other Web designer/developer resources.read more:
ALA: Print It Your Way
A new article at ALA, Print It Your Way: A List Apart, details some of the techniques of creating print style sheets. Derek Featherstone offers up some neat techniques and keeps things simple. I really like the fact that he pushes Mozilla Firefox and Chris Pederick?s Web Developer?s Toolbar - two of my favorite toys [...]read more:
Product Analyst & Web Developer
If you live in or near Cary, NC - and are as adept at system analysis and QA as you are at web programming, then here is an ad in TriangleJobs.com that you may way want to consider....read more:
Messing around with Amazon S3 access on Mac OS X
For whatever reason, Amazon’s S3 has captured my attention since the day it launched.
I want to use S3 for an online backup of my most important files. (I already do nightly local backups of everything, but that’s not enough. I’m paranoid.)
I’m finally close to reaching this goal, but it’s not been terribly easy.
Here’s a brief recount of my trials with S3 so far:
s3DAV. It didn’t work so well on OS X. The developer was really helpful, so we traded a few emails while he attempted to get it working on OS X from across the Atlantic. No luck.
JungleDisk (via Steven Frank). Much, much better. Of course I jumped in head-first and ran my backup script immediately, which attempted to copy 10GB of data to my S3 account. That took all night and then some; I finally had to cancel the operation. But somehow I managed to bork (technically speaking, of course) my S3 bucket so JungleDisk beach-balled every time I tried to connect.
S3 Browser. I found this while looking for a way to get into my account and delete the screwed-up bucket. Too bad there was no way to delete more than one file at a time — I would’ve had to press “Delete” 15,000 times. Not fun.
jSh3ll. Like most things of this nature, I had to turn to the command-line to get anything done. In a rare moment of competency, I downloaded and built jSh3ll (using Ant, no less) on my Power Mac and connected to my S3 account. I deleted the troublesome bucket from the command-line and now I’m back to square one (mostly).
I’m running a much smaller backup to S3 right now. Wish me luck.
(Oh, and have a good weekend! Michelle and I are headed to Green Lake for the holiday. How about you?)read more:
Designers: Use the scrollbar
Here’s a common design problem: You have a long list of data, far too long to fit on one screen.
Sound familiar? You might be tempted to paginate the results, using something like this or this to help users navigate through the list.
Why not use the scrollbar?
The scrollbar was invented as a way of helping users navigate a long list of data through a limited viewport. It’s still relevant and useful — though often overlooked — today.
I’m a big fan of the scrollbar. Implementing it requires no extra development work (it’s built in to the browser), and the popularity of scroll-wheel mice means scrolling is no longer a pain in the neck. Scrollbars also offer some usability benefits — browsing, comparing and place-finding is easier than with a paged list.
One challenge is extremely large lists. Some datasets are so large that loading them all on one page is just too slow. (We have this problem with some long email subscriber lists.)
But the rest of the time, scrollbars work — better than you’d think.
I’m officially pro-scollbar. Mark me down.read more:
A few details about the FeedBurner.com redesign
Late, late, late on a Tuesday night almost two weeks ago, we re-launched FeedBurner.com with much-needed updates to the design, content and overall direction.
Traci already commented on the strategic importance of the new site, while Rachelle provided a more personal account.
But as the designer and half-developer (Rachelle did the other half — actually, probably more than half — with great skill and speed), I’m going to share a couple of “behind the scenes” details that I find super neat. Hopefully you’ll feel the same way.
Powered By FeedBurner
Going in to this project, two requirements became clear:
Traci (our marketing director) needed the ability to make content updates without routing all changes through the design team.
Many types of content needed to be reused in slightly different settings and formats around the site.
To address these requirements, we came up with the idea of modular content — basically, little nuggets of content that can be randomized, subscribed, inserted and updated anywhere.
Of course, we had to generate all of this content somewhere…
Powered By MovableType
One of the complaints people have about MovableType — that it creates static files by default — is actually a huge advantage here. We’re able to publish flat, lightweight static files to a single server, then pull in these files in a variety of ways across our distributed server environment.
Elegant, dual-float layout
When I was first learning CSS, doing multi-column layouts was always the hardest part. Even two-column layouts seemed tricky, weighing the pros and cons of various approaches and never being totally satisfied with the end result.
Then I got floats. Like, really got them. It was Doug Bowman’s slides from this presentation that secured my understanding and I haven’t fretted about CSS layouts since.
On the new FeedBurner.com, everything but the home page uses a classic dual-float, two-column layout. I set a width on both columns in the CSS, then assigned
float:left on the left column and
float:right on the right. Finished with a
clear:both footer, it’s a solid layout that works regardless of which column is longest.
A new approach to navigation
While many sites feature massive navigation (practically a site map), we took a page from Flickr’s design books this time around and divided our navigation into two sections. A high-priority “primary” navigation and a lower-priority “secondary” navigation are based on prominence, not hierarchy, which helps focus the page and not overwhelm people with choices.
We also made heavy use of in-text hyperlinking across sections, to encourage exploration without forcing folks to grok and traverse our site architecture via the navigation.
Perhaps the best things to come out of this redesign process haven’t arrived yet. As a result of our extensive brainstorming and planning, we have tons of ideas and a general roadmap for web site improvements over the coming months.
And now, with the addition of Rachelle Bowden to our team, we have the
manpower womanpower to get it done.
Use the comment form. As always, I love to hear from you!read more:
Shifting the Burden - Whose Monkey Is It? By Donald E. Gray
A new installment in the developer.* Systems and Software series, exploring the connections between general systems thinking, cybernetics, and software development. Author Don Gray applies systems thinking principles--including "balancing loops," symptomatic and systemic solutions, and "shifting the burden"--to a recurring situation with one of his clients.Click here for the full article.
The Art in Computer Programming By Andrew Hunt and David Thomas, Pragmatic Programmers, LLC
In a way, we programmers are quite lucky. We get the opportunity to create entire worlds out of nothing but thin air. Our very own worlds, complete with our own laws of physics. We may get those laws wrong of course, but it's still fun.Click here for the full article.
The Global Development Interview Series: Scotland, with Craig Murphy By Donna L. Davis
It's going to take us awhile to get all the way around the world, but here we are at stop #3, with Scottish software developer Craig Murphy, who shares his experience of software development life in Scotland with interviewer Donna L. Davis.Click here for the full article.
Places to Intervene in a System By Donella H. Meadows
Here we continue the developer.* Systems and Software
series, in which we explore the topics of general systems thinking and cybernetics to discover how "systems" concepts can help software professionals in the day-to-day work of creating, deploying, and improving software.Click here for the full article.
Improving Developer Productivity With Domain-Specific Modeling Languages By Steven Kelly, PhD
What is DSM? How is it different from UML and MDA? Can DSM languages produce significant programming productivity gains? Can software development be truly model-driven?Click here for the full article.
Yahoo! Developer Network APIs changed policy
yahoo web services terms of service improvedread more:
eBay Unified Schema Developer Challenge 2006
Ebay developer Challengeread more:
JRudy now does Rails**
"** We are able to generate and run the cookbook demo from rolling with rails tutorial (http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/01/20/rails.html) with what we have and all appears to work. With this said, it is likely that there are several aspects of rails that are not working correctly. See docs/README.rails for known issues/instructions in release."JRuby
"WEBrick runs...Ruby on Rails runs on top of WEBrick (and generation scripts work)**"
Time for a free lunch
"I believe I've found a 'free lunch' in Ruby on rails. Oh, it's not always free. If I need to do two-phased commit or hardcore object relational mapping, this lunch may cost me more than I'm willing to pay. But often enough, it's for all practical purposes free.
* I can train a team of Rails developers faster than I can teach a new Java developer Spring plus Hibernate plus whatever web mvc you want plus all of the other frameworks and tools Java developers have to know.
* I can build my applications much faster than I could before.
* For many applications, the latency in the database is the overriding concern, so I don't even notice differences in performance.
* I can trivially expose web services, letting other applications, potentially written in other languages, quickly access my Rails services.
Now, I know that some will tell me that the lunch really isn't free. But you can tell that to my customers that pay a fraction of the price they'd pay for a Java application, and get something that's easier to maintain, just as fast, and on an earlier schedule. From that exec's perspective, the lunch is free."read more:
At War with Ourselves
I read this a while ago but it seems somewhat relevant recently.The Vietnam of Computer Science
"Although it may seem trite to say it, Object/Relational Mapping is the Vietnam of Computer Science. It represents a quagmire which starts well, gets more complicated as time passes, and before long entraps its users in a commitment that has no clear demarcation point, no clear win conditions, and no clear exit strategy."
"Developers simply give up on objects entirely, and return to a programming model that doesn't create the object/relational impedance mismatch. While distasteful, in certain scenarios an object-oriented approach creates more overhead than it saves, and the ROI simply isn't there to justify the cost of creating a rich domain model. ([Fowler] talks about this to some depth.)"
Fowler's piece I believe is, "GetterEradicator
" which links to "Tell, Don't Ask
", which makes an important point about Design by Contract, "According to Design by Contract, as long as your methods (queries and commands) can be freely intermixed, and there is no way to violate the class invariant by doing so, then you are ok. But while you are maintaining the class invariant, you may have also dramatically increased the coupling between the caller and the callee depending on how much state you have exposed."
"Developers simply give up on relational storage entirely, and use a storage model that fits the way their languages of choice look at the world."
"Developers simply accept that it's not such a hard problem to solve manually after all, and write straight relational-access code to return relations to the language, access the tuples, and populate objects as necessary."
"Developers simply accept that there is no way to efficiently and easily close the loop on the O/R mismatch, and use an O/R-M to solve 80% (or 50% or 95%, or whatever percentage seems appropriate)..."
"Developers simply accept that this is a problem that should be solved by the language, not by a library or framework...bring relational concepts (which, at heart, are set-based) into mainstream programming languages, making it easier to bridge the gap between "sets" and "objects". Work in this space has thus far been limited, constrained mostly to research projects and/or "fringe" languages, but several interesting efforts are gaining visibility within the community, such as functional/object hybrid languages like Scala or F#, as well as direct integration into traditional O-O languages, such as the LINQ project from Microsoft for C# and Visual Basic. One such effort that failed, unfortunately, was the SQL/J strategy; even there, the approach was limited, not seeking to incorporate sets into Java, but simply allow for embedded SQL calls to be preprocessed and translated into JDBC code by a translator."
"Developers simply accept that this problem is solvable, but only with a change of perspective. Instead of relying on language or library designers to solve this problem, developers take a different view of "objects" that is more relational in nature, building domain frameworks that are more directly built around relational constructs."read more:
Bricklin Releases wikiCalc
VisiCalc developer Dan Bricklin is at it again, this time mashing up wiki technology with online spreadsheets in a new product called wikiCalc. In this UpFront podcast, eWEEK Editorial Director Eric Lundquist talks with the PC spreadsheet pioneer about his latest creation.
Gadgetopia Interviews Big Medium Developer Josh Clark
Josh sits down with tech blogger Deane Barker to discuss the past and future of Big Medium, the challenges of running a small code shop, and the connection between modern art and web development.read more:
New book: Java Deployement (Mauro Marinilli)
[2001-09-19] This book takes a very practical approach to the topic of deploying Java applications. First, it presents the major deployment concerns a Java developer faces and addresses the most common deployment scenarios. Next, the book addresses deployment issues the developer faces while coding a project. Finally, the book presents the JNLP technology and shows how to use JNLP in application deployment.read more:
Early-access Java Web Start 1.0.1
[2001-04-21] The early-access version of Java Web Start 1.0.1 is now available to developers. Check the Developer's section for more information.read more:
• Greg Payne spotted a sign on the highway in Norwalk, Connecticut: “Superman Returns Toys.” He asked himself, “Why, was he dissatisfied with them?”
• Amazon.co.uk’s review of the Steve Coogan movie Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story included this, to the surprise of Paul Hassett: “Nor is the versatile filmmaker a stranger to the post-modern romp, like 24 Hour Party People. In that peon to Manchester’s music scene, Steve Coogan was Factory honcho Tony Wilson.”
• “I always knew that moving up in a corporation was hard work,” Reg Brehaut e-mailed, “but now it has been documented: an editorial in Computerworld (Vol 22, No. 12) refers to their current Salary Survey results, in which ‘Every wrung of the corporate ladder is represented.’”
• Susan Gable found a comment in the Mashpee Enterprise, a newspaper based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, that may arouse an image you’d prefer to avoid at the breakfast table: “Coyotes will gladly go for food left in unsecured garbage cans and household pets.”
• Our old friend the misplaced modifier has turned up again, this time in the Netscape News Anchor Commentary last Monday about that building that collapsed in Manhattan: “There was one person inside the building at the time of the explosion, a doctor of Emergency Medicine. After spending about 90 minutes trapped in the rubble, firefighters pulled the doctor to safety.” You’ve got to admire those firefighters; even being buried doesn’t stop ‘em.
• And finally, a couple of headlines that might be errors or could be quiet jokes by bored sub-editors. Michael Keating found this one on the normally extremely sober firstname.lastname@example.org site: “Bruno the bear: released to the Italian Alps, meets grizzly end in Germany.” And a headline from last Monday’s Guardian: “Rare flower found on site is a plant, says developer.” [A word of explanation is perhaps needed here: a California developer claims a rare protected plant called the Sebastopol meadowfoam found on a site he is about to develop was transplanted there by opponents in order to stop him. The dispute has become known as Foamgate.]read more:
Aware IM 2.0 Makes Creation of Web Database Applications Easier than Ever
Awaresoft Pty Ltd today announced the release of Aware IM 2.0 - a new, more powerful version of its popular easy-to-use web database management software. Aware IM™ 2.0 allows solution-focussed developers and experienced computer users to create comprehensive Web database applications without programming. (PRWEB Jul 17, 2006) Trackback URI: http://www.prweb.com/dingpr.php/Q291cC1TdW1tLVBpZ2ctU3F1YS1JbnNlLVplcm8=read more:
SPAMfighter Choose ScimoreDB Database
Scimore UAB, a developer of distributed/parallel high-performance RDBMS, today has announced partnership with SPAMfighter, Europe's leading anti spam developer. (PRWEB Jun 30, 2006)read more:
USM Systems, Ltd. Intellectual Property to be Manufactured, Marketed by Pinnacle Technology Group
USM Systems, Ltd., developer of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solutions, announces that Pinnacle Technology Group, Inc. will manufacture and market products using USM Systems? Event Driven intellectual property. [PRWEB Oct 31, 2005]read more:
Lumtron Announces Release of New AccuraImage 2006? Document Management and Control Solution
New document management and control solution features bulletproof security to comply with HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and Gramm-Leach-Bliley legislation. All new .NET programming and customizable workflow process, document retention and OCR search modules make AccuraImage one of the most robust document management system available. [PRWEB Nov 10, 2005]read more:
Meck Technology, Inc. Announces New Customer Service Programs for Property Managers
Meck Technology, Inc., the leader in Condo-Coop Property Management Systems, announced today that it has expanded its leading customer service programs to include custom programming services. [PRWEB Nov 10, 2005]read more:
SQL Down Under Wagga Wagga
Looking for a great SQL Code Camp to attend? Check this out ?
What is SQL Down Under Code Camp?
SQL Down Under Code Camp is a SQL Server community driven event which allows people with interests across the SQL Server and Data Access platform to come together in one location and see speakers (including many expert presenters) present on a wide range of developer topics. It is being run in conjunction with Charles Sturt University and PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server). We are still finalising the sessions for this year. The call for speakers will close 31st July 2006.
Check it our here
UMPC and Tablet PC Application Contest
UMPC and Tablet PC Application Contest
Develop and Win a UMPC
Handango is looking for fresh Tablet PC and Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC) software content. Are you up for the development challenge? By converting your existing Pocket PC or smartphone applications or creating an entirely new title for Tablet PC and UMPC, you?ll be eligible to win one of three Ultra-Mobile PCs! Personal productivity, travel, fitness, medical, multimedia, and entertainment titles are all great fits for Handango's catalog. The contest runs from now until August 31. Start coding!read more:
How to get started:
1. To begin development, please visit the Ultra-Mobile PC Development Quick Start Guide.
2. If you have questions, please visit the MSDN Mobile PC and Tablet PC Developer Center or e-mail email@example.com.
3. For ways to optimize your UMPC applications for touch and ink, check out Microsoft Sudoku.
4. Test your application in the UMPC Display Emulator.
5. After completing your application and verifying that it?s compatible with Tablet PCs and Ultra-Mobile PCs, e-mail the Handango Tablet PC team to submit your titles.
The deadline for all entries is August 31, 2006.
Winners for top personal, media and entertainment, and multimedia and communications applications will be announced in September.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or need additional details. We look forward to seeing your applications.
Device Security Manager Powertoy for Windows Mobile 5.0 Released!
Device Security Manager Powertoy for Windows Mobile 5.0 Released!
This test tool helps developers of Windows Mobile applications test various security policies for Windows Mobile devices.
Overview: It is designed as a desktop application that ships with a preset list of ?security configurations?. A security configuration can be thought of as a template, which contains a collection of individual policies and settings. For example, a security configuration could define policies such as whether unsigned applications are allowed to execute, whether RAPI is disabled etc. Using this tool, the developer can provision a Windows Mobile device with different configurations, and then test the application?s behavior under these configurations. This tool can be used either on an emulator or an unlocked Windows Mobile device.
Check it out hereread more:
CoDe Magazine to debut ?CoDe on the Road? Feature in Sept/Oct issue!
CoDe (Component Developer) Magazine, The leading independent publication for .NET Developers announced that they will feature a page in each issue dedicated to .NET related events where CoDe Magazine is present. Whether it is INETA events, Code Camps, User Group meetings, or developer-centric conferences or meetings, CoDe Magazine is in the thick of it! Have your event, speaker, or group featured in CoDe Magazine with ?CoDe on the Road.? Simply send in a picture of a featured speaker, your group or event along with a name, title and brief caption and it may appear in CoDe helping you spread the word about your group or event to the Microsoft developer community! ?CoDe on the Road? will also have an online element to display more photos. Tom Buckley of CoDe Magazine encourages that submissions be kept simple and to not forget to have a little fun with them. You may submit pictures to email@example.com for review and publication. Picture files must be a minimum of 1.5 MB for print.
WMDVUG July 19th Meeting - Registration Open
The event registration URL for the July 19th meeting of the Windows Mobile Developer Virtual User Group is now open! You can register via this link at the Microsoft Events site. Please be sure to register right away!
See you online! read more:
Book: 'Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About'
It's said that you can't judge a book by its cover, but that's no excuse for buying Knuth's 'Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About' without even looking inside, as I did. Based on that impulse-buying experience, I fear I may be the kind of fool the famous have to thank for the fact that they can pretty much just crap in a box and be guaranteed to sell it.
It's not often you buy a book from the CS shelves and end up wondering 'Am I any better than a teenage girl who buys Britney Spears perfume?'
I can't even claim I wasn't forewarned. Years ago I bought, read, and passed on to a friend a copy of Knuth's earlier '3:16'. So I was fully aware of the perp's prior. But hope triumphed over experience and I assumed that this time he'd be talking about esoteric CS or mathematical topics. Like 'Selected Papers', only less famous.
But mainly Knuth wanted to waste 200 pages of once-lovely trees, $20 of my money, and several hours of my precious reading time on, well, nothing really. Nothing stood out as I read it, and nothing much has stuck with me. I remember him describing the religious symbolism in some of the calligraphy in '3:16', which for me finally explained why there were so many weak works in that book: the effort of shoehorning in symbolism can compromise anyone's work. (Interestingly, Knuth describes how he made a 'correction' to one artist's work because he didn't get it; I remember that as one of the uglier examples, but uncorrected it actually works.) I also remember him commenting that the ratings for '3:16' on a certain well-known patent-abusing bookseller's web site were all either 1 (the lowest) or 5 (the highest).
The website ratings for '3:16' go to the heart of the matter. The problem with books like this, or, to be more accurate, the authors of books like this, is that they're only really good at preaching to the choir. You might expect that the rigorous Knuth of the 'Art of Computer Programming' complexity analyses might avoid this trap, but he doesn't. If you don't already find mysticism interesting, you won't after reading this book. Really, this book is interesting only in the same way that Buckminster Fuller's 'Critical Path' is interesting, only it's rather less funny because Knuth's crackpot side is so much more commonplace than Fuller's: the friend I gave my copy of '3:16' has (to an outsider) the same beliefs as Knuth, but I'm pretty sure I've never known anyone quite like Fuller.
If you're a stoner or a drunken student, you might like this book. Then again, if you are either of those things, you probably get enough of this kind of blather every time you sit down with your friends. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. It's not even as forehead-slappingly 'let them eat cake' wrong-headed as C.S. Lewis' 'Mere Christianity' (a book I usually think of as in many ways the opposite of Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World') because, as far as I could make out, Knuth and his friends don't really say anything.
Funnily enough, I've read Star Wars fiction that gave me more to think about.
I promised myself a while back that I'd stop writing reviews of books and films that weren't directly related to computing, but since I've just saved you $20, I have a couple of suggestions of what you might spend it on. If you want (often religious) craziness tranformed into art, try 'A Scanner Darkly'
. For once this adaptation really does Dick justice, even to the extent of poking gentle fun at him (or taking on his style so completely that the invented bits were totally convincing). If you're more of a book person, you could read the original book, or you might prefer T.E. Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom', about Lawrence's time fighting in the desert in WWI. It took me two months to read, but it was worth every page. And it coincidentally contains some of the most interesting writing on religion I've read in years.
Plus shit gets blown up every couple of chapters, and you can't buy quality like that.read more:
The other day, while ostensibly talking about VMware Player, I started to rant about QuickTime Player. I've just gone back and edited that post to condense the lengthy aside back down to the salient point, which was that a demonstration version of an application should either let you use all the functionality or at least let you explore
all the functionality.
But I'm still offended by Apple's QuickTime Player, so I thought I'd let the rant live on.
QuickTime Player, if you don't know, is part of Mac OS (which we pay about $120/year for) but is full of grayed-out menu items saying, in effect, 'you're not really welcome to use this OS you think you've already paid for, but give us more money, you hateful plebs, and maybe then we'll consider letting you use the rest'. Being able to see what you're missing out on only rubs in the fact that Apple are ripping you off, charging $120 for an OS full of barely-useful or non-functional shite but denying you stuff like a simple movie-playing application.
People laugh at Microsoft's plans to have all those different editions of Vista? We Mac users have had that for years. We've had the iLife edition, the QuickTime Pro edition, and the .Mac edition, and we can even mix and match them.
Of 10.4's 'Top  Features' according to Apple, I don't or can't use:
- Spotlight (too slow, too inexhaustive, too unfocused)
- Dashboard (utterly devoid of any obvious function)
- Safari RSS (even if I hadn't bought NetNewsWire, a link to the free download of NetNewsWire Lite would have been more useful and a lot less effort)
- iChat AV (I have no camera, and Adium supports the protocols people I know use)
- Automator (unlikely to replace cron(8) and Ruby)
- QuickTime 7 (crippled unless I pay $29/year to use it)
- .Mac Sync (useless unless I pay $99/year to use it)
- VoiceOver (I'm not blind)
- Parental Controls (I'm not a parent, and I don't believe in censorship)
- Mail (slow search, awkward editing; it was better in 10.3)
So why did I buy 10.4? It's not like Steve came round my house with a gun! I bought 10.4 because that was the only way I was going to get Java 5 on Mac OS. A free download on Linux, Solaris, or MS Windows, but it's been $120/year in Mac land so far. (Java 6 may be the first time a Java release isn't tied to an OS release. We can only hope.)
Two things in 10.4 are genuinely useful to me on a regular basis: the dictionary and thesaurus. Okay, so that's actually one thing, Dictionary.app. But it's really nice. A few more denizens of /usr/bin became a little less out of date with 10.4, too, but I could have built them from source if I'd really needed them, and I already had, where I had really needed them.
Did I mention the new bugs in 10.4? NSTextView has always been a bit buggy, but 10.4 introduced a bunch of bugs that get me all the time. They may be fixed now, but I wouldn't know, because they made me give up on the couple of applications I'd been using that relied on them. Safari's got worse for me. More spinning rainbow wheel, and, most recently, a lot of cases where the back button just disables itself and I lose my history for that window.
I've just realized that when Firefox gets check-as-you-type spelling correction, Dictionary and iTunes will be the only Apple applications I'm using.
Anyway, about the QuickTime tax. It's a tax, rather than a one-off fee, because each 'major revision' requires you to buy a new license. There are ways around paying the tax, because the crippling is done at a high level. If all you're bothered about is the fact that full-screen is disabled, then, as ars.technica mentioned today, it's easy to Get fullscreen in Quicktime without paying for Pro
. I knew that the full-screen functionality is available in the underlying libraries without the need for a license, but I didn't realize that the player application has the code to disable the feature in the wrong place. (The method called by the 'Full Screen' menu item causes a license check.)
If you want more of the functionality than just full-screen mode, you could try QuickTime Amateur
, which uses the QuickTime for Java library.
If you're interested in QuickTime for Java, you should check out the source to QuickTime Amateur. It's a much better introduction and guide than the O'Reilly QuickTime for Java: A Developer's Notebook
, which is just a collection of small demo programs.
There's probably a QTKit (the Objective-C veneer over the underlying ugly Pascal-crossed-with-C late 1970s monster that is the QuickTime API) equivalent to QuickTime Amateur, but I haven't heard about it.
If you're interested in playing stuff QuickTime can't manage, VLC
is worth a look. It's a little ugly and awkward to use, though. Not that QuickTime Player is going to win any prizes in those departments.read more:
Fedora on VMWare on Ubuntu
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I've felt bad for some time now that I'm behind the times when it comes to virtualization. It's obviously potentially very useful to any developer. And with Intel Macs and Apple currently advertising Parallels Workstation
to prospective switchers, virtualization is pretty mainstream by nerd standards.
And still I'd been waiting for it to become easy enough for me to try.
You might be wondering why I think I'd have difficulty installing or using a product that Apple recommends (even though it's a potential competitor's product), but my Macs are all still PowerPC, and my Ultra 20 is amd64 and, somewhat foolishly given the current state of the onion, I opted to install Ubuntu/amd64 on it. So Parallels' i386 .deb is useless to me. I'm also a little put off by the fact that when I tried to download the Parallels 2.1 Linux installation guide, Ubuntu's evince(1) couldn't display it. 'Error 3', I'm told, somewhat unhelpfully. (Getting ahead of myself, Fedora/i386 failed to install the .rpm with 'Missing dependency: libXft.so.1 is needed by package Parallels', and likewise failed to display the PDF installation guide.)
As for VMware
, I may have mentioned before my disappointment that VMware Player didn't work out of the box on Ubuntu 5.10, and I may also have mentioned my disappointment that things didn't seem
to have gotten any easier with Ubuntu 6.06. Specifically, if you choose 'VMware Player' in 'Add/Remove Applications' (easy enough so far), you're shown the following text:
Free virtual machine player from VMware The free VMware Player lets you run pre-built virtual machines on your desktop.You can run multiple operating systems side-by-side, easing the process of software development, testing, and evaluation.Virtual machines developed in VMware Workstation, ESX Server, or VMware Server can be run in VMware Player.To run the VMware Player, just run /usr/bin/vmplayer from within X.
Note: You will also need the VMware Player kernel modules to run vmplayer. These can be built from source from vmware-player-kernel-source, or you can install a pre-built vmware-player-kernel-modules package for your kernel.
I don't know about you, but I found that note pretty off-putting. Yeah, building kernel modules: that sounds like fun.
It turns out that if you pretend the note isn't there and just install anyway, you're automatically given suitable pre-built packages. So there's actually no hassle. VMware Player just appears on your 'System Tools' menu, and it works just fine.
I've no idea why they went out of their way to put people off in the package description.
Anyway, the next problem is that if you go to VMware's web site and want to download a RedHat image you'll find that RedHat want you to register for a trial. Luckily, thoughtpolice.co.uk
offer a selection of images for hassle-free distributions. I tried the Fedora Core 5 one, because I wanted to test the software.jessies.org
Performance is pretty good, though graphically the guest OS runs slightly more sluggishly than the host OS did before I installed the non-free NVIDIA drivers, which can make the guest quite uncomfortable to use other than on the command-line. Using Firefox to surf the web isn't obviously different from the host OS, but trying to start something from the 'Applications' menu can be quite tricky, with the selection highlighting lagging behind the mouse pointer. I certainly couldn't imagine doing anything more serious than a bit of testing.
The guest OS' clock is wrong, despite me telling Fedora to use NTP. I've no idea why.
A particularly annoying problem is that there's no obvious way to make clipboard transfers in or out of the virtual machine. That's really quite annoying even when just playing, and would be crippling if you were really trying to use both OSes.
It's pretty cool to be able to close the VMware Player window, stop the virtual machine, but then come back later (even after the host OS has rebooted) to exactly where I left off. I can reset the guest OS to its original state, too, by removing the '.vss' file. There's nothing in the interface for explicitly making machine state snapshots, though, or reverting to earlier states. Which seems a shame. Presumably the paid-for version has this.
I find it offensive that Apple's QuickTime Player that ships with Mac OS is full of grayed-out menu items saying, in effect, 'you're not really welcome to use this OS you think you've already paid for, but give us more money, you hateful plebs, and maybe then we'll consider letting you use the rest', but the good thing about that is that at least you can see what you're missing. In the case of VMware Player, which is effectively a demonstration version of commercial software, you'd think it would make sense for the demo version to let you explore
all the full version's functionality, even if you can't use it all.
So that's what I think of VMware Player. What about Fedora?
I hadn't used an RPM-based Linux since about 1998. I hated it. Debian, for all its faults ('would sir like stale Debian or broken Debian?'), restored some of my faith in free Unixes. RedHat was just one long nightmare of manual package dependency resolution. If it hadn't been for the desire to test our RPMs, I'd never have thought of trying it again, even though I've heard of yum
Also, for some reason, amongst the people I know, Fedora seems to attract the KDE users. That was another reason I'd assumed I wasn't missing anything. The default, though, seems to be GNOME, so those people must have deliberately inflicted KDE upon themselves.
Fedora's boot process looks a bit nicer than Ubuntu's. Ubuntu doesn't have a fancy graphical lilo/grub stage, and when it starts booting proper, it's in some ugly low-res mode with dark brown text on a black background. I'm sure the coprophiles in the audience love that, but for normal people it's not so great. Fedora has a plain Mac OS-like display while loading, but has a disclosure triangle that lets you see something like what Ubuntu shows by default. Neither, as far as I can tell, let you see the full unadulterated Linux boot noise. (But then you wouldn't guess how to see the full output on Mac OS. It makes you choose ahead of time by holding down command-v before the graphical boot starts.)
Fedora's default desktop is a lot less brown than Ubuntu's (again, scatologists may disagree as to whether this is really an improvement), and there's a better range of available background images. (One flaw is that it has the worst-ever icon for Firefox. I had to wait for a tooltip to convince myself it was a web browser. I don't know why the various distributions go out of their way to re-brand Firefox when Firefox's own logo looks fine at a variety of sizes, and is pretty well-known even in the general population. The number one problem I see non-Mac people have when trying to use my Mac? They can't find the web browser because there's no IE or Firefox icon on the desktop.)
From brief use, though, Fedora's an unconvincing proposition.
The first thing I noticed is that 'Package Updater', the equivalent of Ubuntu's 'Update Manager', is really slow. It's probably just that their servers are slower than Ubuntu's, but it makes a difference to the end user.
I also found that at the moment, for example, I'm unable to install the updates on offer because it's unable to resolve dependencies. I don't know how typical this is of Fedora, but Ubuntu has behaved perfectly in this area. (You'll also remember that I failed to install the Parallels .rpm because a dependency couldn't be resolved. So either I'm really unlucky, or Debian-based systems still have nothing to worry about.)
Fedora's 'Package Updater"s display of 'update details' is exceptionally weak, too. It just shows the version numbers of the current and new packages. Ubuntu shows the package description (in case you don't even know what the package is) and the relatively readable changelog.
Fedora's 'Package Manager', equivalent to Ubuntu's 'Add/Remove Applications', is similarly unappetizing. It may have a GUI, but it's about as easy to use as dselect(1). In fact, it's very much like dselect(1). Ubuntu has something similar (but still better) in 'Synaptic Package Manager', but for simple use you don't need to bother with all that. I hadn't really appreciated Ubuntu's 'Add/Remove Applications' before, but I do now. Not only is it much easier to use and much faster, it also has stuff I'd actually want to install.
Fedora disingenuously talks about their Java development packages as if Java development stopped in 2003
and 1.4.2 was still the latest version. Worse still, they warn against installing Sun's RPM because Fedora's unfinished Java conflicts with Sun's package and 'Sun Java might disappear from an installed system during package upgrade operations'. Great. For Java developers and users of Java applications, Debian-based distributions are currently the place to be in the Linux world.
The one other program I got to play with is system-install-packages(1), the RPM equivalent of GDebi. Like the other tools, it's weak in terms of what it tells you about the package. GDebi is streets ahead.
On the bright side, Fedora 5 has a newer kernel than Ubuntu 6.06, and I'm told that if you care about NFS, you'd much rather have Fedora 5's 2.6.17 than Ubuntu 6.06's 2.6.15. SELinux might also be a consideration. Most of the GNOME desktop stuff is the same between the two.
Personally, I saw no reason to use Fedora as anything but a guest OS, and several reasons not to want to give up Ubuntu.read more:
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