gOS: Download FAIL!

by Jon Davis 6. December 2008 16:43

Download Now? I can't.. :(

I wanted to try out the Google Gadgets gOS at http://www.thinkgos.com/ because it looks interesting, but I can't even download it. The big fat Download button just redirects to itself or the HTTP request is canceled by the server--that is, the browse goes busy and then it stops, and nothing happens. I tried most of the mirrors, all of them were just too horribly slow, had an incomprehensible download web page UI, or ended up as 404s. The Torrent download just sat there at 0% for ten minutes despite stopping and retrying halfway into it, so I canceled that too. I tried all this last night but I just tried it again and got the same issues.

Here's a thought, why not let Google host gOS? Or would that just be too confusing since this is not a Google-created operating system?

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I'll Get A Zune When ...

by Jon Davis 30. November 2008 02:42

I'll get a Zune when Microsoft admits that the Zune was the backup plan for replacing Windows Mobile, and that they've been taking their time because they wanted to make the transition worthwhile and do app accessibility and multithreading right.

If that's not ever going to happen, I won't ever get a Zune. But who knows what Microsoft will pack into future versions of Zune... I might reconsider.

What I want, as a developer (albeit, a tinkerer, but point being not an end-user), is productivity application support, not just games development support. I'm very happy that XNA now supports Zune, but frankly I don't know who's interested in that except for Microsoft. Now if Microsoft can expand on this API set and make XNA for Zune support productivity applications development as a whiz-bang PDA platform, I'd go super-nuts with it.

More specifically, I guess what I'm looking for is a set of practical, nice-looking, and responsive UI controls, a rich networking stack, an integrated browser API (a la webkit but I guess using IE Mobile), appropriately categorized app accessibility, and the packaging and branding of a small, lightweight device, not a heavyweight song-playing brick. Also need multitouch if XNA 3 doesn't already have it, I haven't checked.

I want these things because I'm still in love with my yester-year's news iPhone, and XNA development just does not compare with iPhone development. iPhone isn't about games, it has never been about games, even though iPhone has an awful lot of games running on it.

And of course I'd be absolutely happy if it went the other way around, if everything on the Zune ended up on Windows Mobile as far as the developer is concerned (i.e. full support for XNA 3), as long as the Windows Mobile UX is still overhauled. I just always hated the Start menu on Windows Mobile, and I LOOOOVE Zune's UX although it's suited specifically for entertainment and not productivity.

Google Adding Web 2.0 Features

by Jon Davis 25. November 2008 16:18

A week or so ago, Google snuck in interesting new features to the search results. You can now comment on any hit, as well as manually give hits boost rankings or removing them.

Who'da thunk, that people could contribute to the accuracy of Google's search hits?! Honestly, how long did it take for this idea to come about, it's so simple and yet where has it been all this time?! :)



Amazon EBS Introduced: Now Suddenly I Care Again About Amazon EC2

by Jon Davis 21. August 2008 10:28

I shrugged off Amazon EC2 a couple years or so ago when they made it available, after spending a couple days trying to play with it and see how it ticks. My reason for shrugging it off? If a virtual machine crashes, everything gets destroyed, all custom apps all data, everything. Best you can do is build a virtual machine that has everything preinstalled on it and then uses something like Amazon S3 to load and back up the data store. The problem with that is that it requires plumbing and engineering, as well as 100% planned downtime (no crashes or other unexpected reboots allowed, lest you lose everything since the last backup).

Now Amazon introduces this:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html/ref=pe_2170_10160930?node=689343011

With this, suddenly I'm interested again because now file storage persists in an EC2 instance when used in conjunction with EBS. I knew this day would come -- if not from Amazon then from Aptana's Cloud or from Microsoft's Mesh.

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Word of the Day: Weasel

by Jon Davis 21. July 2008 13:37

I hate bugs that I can't fix because the cause is buried in a third party architecture (like WCF) and disappears faster than the symptoms occur. I call these things weasels, as in those little bastards that pop their heads out and make a nuisance and disappear under the ground before you have a chance to ask what the heck happened. (The other dictionary definition fits the bill, too: a sneaky, untrustworthy, or insincere person. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weasel)

I once saw an app show up on my taskbar for a split second and it knocked whatever I was working on out of focus .. I didn't know what the heck it was, there was no way to trace it .. so I created a Windows app called "Weasel Monitor" that basically monitored all processes and made a bunch of noise (showed up on a log) if a process's lifetime was only a tiny split second. This worked for me, and the term weasel stuck.

Could've gone with mole but that word is severely over-used in software to mean different things. (Spelunking, anybody?)

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Social Load Testing?

by Jon Davis 8. July 2008 22:58

Five Runs (silly how many Ruby/Rails-oriented companies are named with two words and one with a number) developed a social load testing solution that appears to help you load test your site and trace bottlenecks in code, but instead of pounding on your own site using local automation, it allows live visitors -- fellow developers who need load tests done for their sites -- to pound on your site.

http://www.fiveruns.com/products/tuneup

Interesting concept. We even have social networking for load testing.. LOL..

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Computers and Internet | Software Development | Web Development

SD Cards' Capacities Are Exploding

by Jon Davis 8. July 2008 21:16

Two years ago I really went out and splurged and got myself a halfway decent 6MP digital SLR camera, lenses, a travel case, and the largest capacity SD (Secure Digital) RAM card I could get at Best Buy. Altogether, I spent somewhere on or around $1,000. The SD card was 2GB. It was about $100 at the time, as far as I can remember. But meanwhile I've found myself using it from time to time like a tiny fingertip-held floppy disk.

One year ago, solid state drives started to take off, and 32GB capacities were about the biggest you could get. Anything more than that costed about $1,000.

Now, 32GB SD cards are available at Amazon.com for less than $300. It's this tiny little thing, and yet it has room enough to dual-boot the full installations of Vista and Linux with complete suite of developer tools. So then the questions become, do BIOS's support booting from these things? And, shouldn't these be the new solid state standard?

Might be a speed issue. "15MB" means that it transfers data at only 15MB/s, so perhaps therein lies the problem. 52x CD-ROM drives transfer at around 64 megabits per second (or 8 megabytes per second) so this transfer rate is only about double the speed of a standard high-speed CD-ROM drive. Whereas, a SanDisk SSD5000 Solid State Drive (64GB) has a transfer rate of 121MB/s, which is about eight times as fast as this little SD card.

Even so, the geek in me wonders how far one can go with shrinking UMPCs with technologies like this.

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WorldWide Telescope: Technology's Solution To Get Around Smog (To View The Night Sky)

by Jon Davis 28. June 2008 22:41

*sob* I just spent about three hours writing up a detailed blog post about WorldWide Telescope, which is a software invention from Microsoft Research that makes terebytes of photos of the night sky available for free to the Windows-using public, and had the whole thing done except to add one last media element, when one of my hard drives flaked out and the computer locked up for a couple minutes and suddenly rebooted to the BIOS screen.

I'll refrain from trying to reproduce the whole blog post, or at least for now (I'm bummed out), but I wanted to share the URL:

http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/

.. and a few images. The software displays the entire spherical panorama of the night sky, at first looking just like the night sky looks just like when you look up with a naked eye on a clear night. But you can scroll and zoom in on any particular heavenly body.

The zoom-in details from the telescope sources are astounding and spectacular:

I also liked the user interface implementation, and the integration of web-based resources:

  

Besides the images, the key points I wanted to make about this that excites me are .. 

  1. This is free software that is not only commercial quality but is complete enough, I believe, that it would be a dream tool for a serious astronomer reviewing preexisting data
  2. This software can compete with the most immserive experiences at science museums and/or planetariums.
  3. The Guided Tours are awesome, and very similar to getting a tour at a planetarium (but in some ways much more detailed), and the people who host some of them are notewothy contributors ranging from PBS/Nova to major planetariums/museums to Astronomy Magazine to adorable six-year-old Benjamin. 
  4. Sci-fi entertainment software (i.e. EVE Online), meet your match on immersion and detail!!
  5. Google, Force.com, Amazon Web Services, SETI @ Home, et al, meet your match on Internet landmark software demonstrations of how mainframe databases, Internet networking, and personal computers can work together to make insanely useful supercomputing grid applications available on a PC.
  6. Commercial educational astronomy software vendors, start looking for new career paths!! Looks like this free software is so complete, rich, and detailed, that, well, no one will need your software anymore. (Tragic.)

 

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openSUSE 11: Sorry, I Gave You A Fair Chance

by Jon Davis 24. June 2008 08:08

I was excited that openSUSE 11 had just been released. I was looking forward to the Next New LinuxTM to come out and convince me that the best non-Windows alternative besides a Mac was usable and exciting. 

For the first time in years, I deployed Linux (openSUSE 11) to physical hardware (not a VM), meaning a quad-core processor, 4GB RAM, a GeForce 8800 GT, and a WD Raptor drive, and gave it a completely fair shot.

The first installation attempt was actually in a VM at the office, and it failed--it got to 90% installed then froze up on an FTP download. A 2nd attempt with out networked repos had it still freeze up at some point, now the VM just boots to a blank black screen.

But now at home installing on physical hardware, it booted to my environment with a striping RAID array configured it warned me that it couldn't "partition the drive using this tool". Oh. Okay. I pushed forward anyway, spending upwards of 15 minutes selecting most of the software package options without selecting conflicting options, and then I went to go forward and install and, sure enough, it failed to partition the drives, and sent me straight to a non-GUI installer view where I pretty much had to just restart the computer, enter the BIOS, break off my two Raptors from RAID, and give it another shot.

An hour or so later, I was looking at my fresh new KDE 4 desktop and thinking, bleah. Okay. So there's not really anything to see here, nothing I haven't seen over the last many years. Sound is gone, I enabled the sound but my 48kHz native sound card could only playback jittery noise that had me laughing and moaning on every reboot. I tried the GNOME desktop as well. Yeehaw *yawn*.

Having two monitors, one monitor was not displaying. I went to nVidia's web site, installed the latest display drivers (executable, but still opening up a terminal and chmod +x 'ing, how retarded!), rebooted, still didn't see two monitors lit, tried to enable the 2nd monitor from the nVidia control panel, couldn't save the xorg.conf (or whatever) file for no obvious reason, rebooted, tried again, still couldn't write the xorg.conf (whatever) file, logged in as root, tried again, worked. *sigh* OK now both the Mac and Windows' UAC have spoiled me on this, why was I just not prompted to enter a password?

Without even considering using MonoDevelop, re-exploring Eclipse, testing Apache and PHP5, dinking around with Ruby, trying out OpenOffice, or tinkering with any of the games, I threw my hands up and said, "I've seen all this crap. It's all crap."

Linux has still not managed to catch up with Windows 95, and instead of fixing these usability issues they just keep slapping on new software and eye candy like Compiz-Fusion effects, and I've had it.

Fortunately I had a full backup of Windows Vista, which I was 95% certain I was going to restore within a day, and, sure enough, I did.

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Diggin DeskAway

by Jon Davis 24. May 2008 00:40

A while back, I posted a blog entry mentioning a couple project management web sites I had found that were inspired by Base Camp but seemed to have things done up right. I got a comment from the folks at DeskAway.com, suggesting that I check that service out. I found some really annoying issues up front, and I was very vocal about how turned off I was by the otherwise fantastic site because of those issues.

Those issues have been dealt with, though, and although the site is not bug-free nor flawless, it is now proving to be by far the best project management web site I have ever touched. I initiated a big project at work on the site and after I added a few co-workers and my boss to the project and dropped $10 for a month of "Personal" service (mainly so I could replace the plain and boring DeskAway.com logo), my boss came back and told me he was buying a $100 (year) subscription for our company instance because he liked the site so much.

The company is surprisingly responsive to flaws mentioned on the site. I often get e-mails from the CEO himself, the same fella who posted a comment here on my blog recommending that I check it out. I tend to wonder if he is really just a signature a whole staff is reusing, because the responsiveness to my issues -- even performance issues and my own complaints about down time -- have been responded to and addressed within days.

http://www.deskaway.com/ 

Give it a look, you'll be glad you did. 

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
 
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of jondavis.net have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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