Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Opera Unite

I have used Opera on and off for the last few years and I have recently been using Google Chrome (except on my Blackberry, for which I will always use Opera). I've tried the latest version of Safari, Firefox, and even IE8. Today I learned that I have been missing something. What I have been missing was true innovation! Since the days of Netscape Navigator, no company has done more for browsers than Opera. Some companies have a great development community (Firefox) , some have market share (IE),  some are fast (Chrome), and some are pretty (Safari). They all have one thing in common. They all steal from Opera! Unfortunately, Opera does not get the recognition it deserves. It works correctly with more sites than Firefox and Chrome. It displays sites the way most developers intend (I have tested sites across all browsers and I never have to make changes to accommodate Opera users).

Opera recently released their latest product dubbed Opera Unite (see video below). They have been teasing for over a week that they were about to change the way we use the Web. They were not lying. In effect, what Opera has done is something that we have all been missing! They are making every computer into a Server. You will now be able to share files, music, photos, chat , and host Web sites all from your own computer! Oh, and it's all FREE!

Go check it out for yourself! http://unite.opera.com/  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eclipse Galileo Review

The Eclipse Foundation is about to release their newest version of their IDE, nick-named Galileo. I should say first that I am a fan of Eclipse and that it is my IDE of choice for Java development. I have recently tried NetBeans again for some JavaFX coding and I was unsatisfied with the experience (not because it did not handle the code well, but because I did not like the UI and the code completion is nowhere as good as Eclipse). I decided to give the latest pre-release version of Eclipse a shot to see if it was able to handle JavaFX scripting as well as NetBeans.

To start, I went to their site http://www.eclipse.org/ and right on the front page was a link to the download for their latest version. The download only took a few minutes, I unzipped it and clicked on the executable (I am forced to use Windows at work). As a side note, this is one of the things that I love about Eclipse. You can unzip the IDE to a thumb drive and create your workspace on that thumb drive and be able to use your customized IDE anywhere! Upon opening, the first thing I noticed was that it looks exactly the same as the last version.

The UI is pretty standard fare for Eclipse and this is something else that I enjoyed about it. The fact that I could seamlessly transition to a new version without having to relearn everything is great. I quickly threw together this test program to check to see if it would compile and run correctly (what good is an IDE if it can’t do this):

public class Test{

public static void main(String[] args){

System.out.println("Hello, Galileo");



This of course yielded the expected results of:

Hello, Galileo

So far, so good. The next step would be to try to install some add-ons. Since this is one of the aspects that makes Eclipse such a great product. The amazing number of add-ons and the sheer size of the Eclipse community make it a terrific platform, so I should have no problems right? Wrong!

I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to install some new add-ons. It wasn’t impossible, but it was a bit misleading. I decided to do this from the perspective of a new user, so the first thing I did was go to “Help” on the main taskbar. Unfortunately the help documentation was not updated for the newest version (although I suspect that this will be fixed in the full release version). It asks the user to click on options that are no longer available in Galileo. There used to be an option labeled Software Updates under the Help menu; it has been changed to 2 different menu options

1) Check for Updates

2) Install new software

I clicked on the Install new software and I was at a new menu.

I tried to click on the “Available Software Sites” option that is highlighted and to my surprise I received the following error message:

I restarted Eclipse and decided to go about it in a different way. I went back to
the Help – Install new Software option and this time I entered the direct Web address for the
JavaFX plug-in. I waited for the install to finish, restarted Eclipse and JavaFX was available.

Now I was ready to start building my first JavaFX Project (at least the first one in Galileo). Galileo does make getting a JavaFX project started easier than Ganymede. In fact, for some reason Ganymede would not even recognize that I had the JavaFX SDK installed. In fact, I haven’t changed anything on my system as far as JavaFX is concerned since I last tried to use Eclipse.

I wrote a simple FX script to produce a small window with a picture of Duke (the Java mascot). It worked great and I had no problems getting it done. In fact I was able to write the same program much faster than I was in NetBeans!

I will not be saying goodbye to NetBeans in favor of Eclipse once again. I can not wait for the final release of Galileo. The one Noticeable change for Galileo was a massive increase in overall speed. It loads faster and compiles quicker than previous versions of Eclipse and that is the real reason why you should switch to Galileo!

Friday, June 5, 2009

It's hard to say Goodbye

Recently, a fellow blogger named Steve Yegge has decided to pack it in. I have been reading Yegge's blogs (I say blogs because there are a few here and here are examples) for several years and I can honestly say that I have and will continue to learn alot from him.

Steve has done a great service to those of us who were smart enough to listen to what he had to say and investigate those ideas for ourselves. He helped us to realize that business requirements are in fact bullshit and some very helpful resume tips. You have introduced me to some wonderful reading material as well.

Perhaps the greatest work that Steve has ever done has come most recently when he started his "A Programmers View of the Universe" series. During this time, I believe that Steve has really found his voice. His heart wrenching story about his pet fish and how that relates to computer programming is nothing short of genius! It is hard for me to believe that he could give this up when he is clearly just starting to reach his writing prime.

Steve, Please don't leave us.

We'll Miss You Steve:(

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why I Love/Hate Twitter!

Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, knows that you can rely on reading several posts a day from me on Twitter (@molex). I love reading Tweets from developers like Jeff Atwood(@codinghorror) , writers like the great William Gibson (@GreatDismal), famous geeks like Felicia Day (@feliciaday) and great radio personalities like Peter Sagal (@petersagal). I enjoy letting strangers into my daily life and talking about even the most mundane details of my life. I love being able to help someone find the answer to an annoying computer problem or where they can find a copy of an obscure book or movie. I like being able to ask the community at large for help on similar things. Hell, The other evening, I had a conversation with William Gibson (@GreatDismal) about a mundane thing like wallets (and why I can not use a money clip). It was awesome and might I add a personal honor as he is not only one of my favorite writers of all time but a personal hero as well. The lack of a wall between yourself and anyone else using the service, means that there is nothing stopping you from being able to tell your favorite musician that you would like them to play in your city (I'm talking to you @jonathancoulton).

While all of this may seem great at fist glance, there is a price to pay. The hate portion of my relationship comes from the fact that Twitter allows for all types of marketing. Now that Twitter is getting more popular, there have been more spam and malware attacks. During the course of any given day, I will be followed by at least 5 different spam bots. See picture below:

All social web sites are pretty much the same when it comes to malware and spam (although Twitter is pretty good at removing these accounts pretty quick). The one thing that can not be controlled is the attack mode that seems to come from some of the marketing companies that are not spam and malware. I'm talking about viable companies that use the service to their advantage in a way that makes the service less fun for the rest of us. Suppose I mention a Ford truck in my tweet (even in a bad way, like "Ford sucks"), within 5 minutes, I will be followed by someone name JoeLovesFords (this is of course hypothetical). If you choose to follow that person, you will be inundated with tweets about Ford, how awesome they are and how you should buy one right away. You quickly realize that this is not a real person but a marketing bot.
This is a trend that is only going to continue. As I was reading in an article today (on CNET), marketing companies are really beginning to take hold of Twitter:

"Twitter dominates the news, but clearly we're only touching the surface of its potential as a marketing vehicle," Participatory Media Network co-founder and chairman Michael Della Penna said in a release. "This is a classic 'glass half full' scenario for Twitter because it's clear that Gen Y has an appetite for social networking, but still hasn't fully embraced micro-blogging. There is a tremendous opportunity now for marketers to develop strategies to get this important group active on Twitter too."

There seems to be a point in every social networks life where it becomes so popular, that no one uses it anymore (that sounds like something Yogi Berra would say). I am afraid that this will eventually happen to Twitter. When the service gets so overloaded with marketing, spam, and real users, it will become almost impossible for people to keep track of everything. It will also kill the greatest part of Twitter. That is the lack of separation between people. It will be next to impossible to talk to one of your hero's if they have to wade through 1,000 spam tweets first. How many people will continue to use the service then?

I would hate to see a service like this be reduced to nothing but a marketing campaign for large corporations, but I fear that it is inevitable!