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June 30, 2005

Technorati

I finally broke down and am starting to promote the blog through the channels. The first one (channel) is Technorati, which is really cool! I guess they scan blogs, sites, etc. for keywords and provide real-time tag searching of the web. That being said I'm going to mark this blog with the tag [technorati.com]. More tags to come.

Posted by Guy at 6:56 PM | Permalink

Google Maps API

Kick ass! Google has released their Maps API [google.com] for 3rd party developers. So now when you write something that hooks into their stuff (via XmlHttpRequest) and they make one of their almost daily changes to the backend javascript you won't be hosed. Something like this will really help with house-hunting applications and others of similar ilk.

Now google just needs to API-ifiy their geocoder (the software that changes an address to a latitude and longitude) so those house-hunting applications will be even easier to codify.

Posted by Guy at 6:44 AM | Permalink

June 27, 2005

JSF Woes: Asynchronous Events

I previously blogged on what I thought were some shortcomings of the whole JSF architecture. In that entry I made some suggestions that I thought would make JSF more appealing, one of those was an AJAX-like asynchronous event mechanism.

I use this map component that has been JSF-ified. You can pan, zoom, recenter, etc. it's really quite slick. The different controls are arranged in a toolbar where you select a specific tool to perform that function when you click on the map. For example, I can select the zoom-in tool, click on the map and the map display will zoom in. The problem is that when I click on the zoom tool an event is triggered, which means the whole page needs to be updated. Not a great experience. Because of this change in tool I make a whole round trip to the server that incurs a definite lag in productivity.

A better solution to this problem would be having the tool buttons make asynchronous calls to the server to see if a layout change or a change in components would occur. If a change would happen then just reload the components that changed, not the whole friggin' page.

Of course many have thought about this before now and have offered proprietary solutions to fill the gap. Most notably AjaxFaces [ajaxfaces.com] that offers the following solution:

The CyberXP.NET AjaxFaces offers an easy, general and complete integration solution for JavaServer Faces and Ajax. This solution makes any JavaServer Faces UI component Ajaxable: either trigger Ajax process or change user interface using the output from Ajax process.

Haven't tried them out, but it looks promising.

Posted by Guy at 7:45 AM | Permalink

June 24, 2005

Burn TiVo, Burn

I was so excited when tivo announced they were providing the TivoToGo service for their devices. For those of you who don't know, this is a service your personal tivo provides that allows you to download recorded programs to your computer. The vision is that these downloads will be transferrable to portable players or can be burned to DVD via a special burner application.

I, however, do not have such a burner application, but I wanted to burn a DVD of the latest House episode for a friend. True, I could have bought the burner application, but I'm a happy user of Nero [nero.com] and what would be the point of having multiple burning applications? So, what makes this special burner (Sonic MyDVD, BTW) so special? I don't know, maybe it's just endorsed by tivo.

So I tried alternatives. First I tried transcoding the .tivo file using the Moonlight demux/mux trick, but the resulting mpeg had some problems. So then I tried NeroVision Express (v3.1.?) and it worked! I just had to add the .tivo file as a video file, was prompted for my password (which is associated with my Media Access Key) and metaphorically pressed the burn button. That's it. NeroVision Express (NVE) took care of the transcoding and burning without any interaction from me. I love Nero!

If you're trying this at home be aware that I have tivo desktop 2.0 and the Moonlight codecs installed. I know you need the tivo desktop software for the codec for .tivo files, but I'm not sure if NVE was using them under the covers.

Posted by Guy at 8:10 AM | Permalink

June 21, 2005

Advertisements

If you were here a couple of months ago you would have seen some Google ads on the sidebar. Well, that didn't last too long. Apparently Google killed my AdSense account because of violation of the TOS. Unfortunately, it really was my fault. I was trying to figure out what everything meant, how it worked, etc so I tried clicking on the ads myself a couple of times. Whoops! Google is quite draconian in killing accounts for any violation and sometimes even when there isn't a violation.

Turns out that lots of people have been stiffed by Google before they were going to recieve their first payouts. On one message board some guy had said that he was up to $200USD and then Google disabled his account and refused to pay up!

Normally when dealing with a company like Google ("Do no evil") I would be reluctant to believe this persons story, however, I contacted Google via email and explained to them what happened and tried to appeal to the sane part of management and all I got back from them were snippets of the TOS. It felt totally automated to me. Because of these experiences I led more credence to this individuals story. And then I found others. Lot's of similar stories each time Google couldn't or more probably wouldn't acknowledge that these were honest people. In fact, someone is trying to get together a class action lawsuit against Google and their nefarious AdSense practices.

There is a shining beacon though. Yahoo Publishing Network (YPN) is set to launch a contextual ad affiliate service similar to Google's AdSense. More can be found in Waxy's archives [waxy.org]. For those who can't wait, there is BlogAds [blogads.com] and Advertising.com [advertising.com]. Not to mention a co-op advertising network [digitalpoint.com] run by Digital Point Solutions.

Posted by Guy at 12:59 PM | Permalink

June 20, 2005

JSF Woes

Everyone loves JavaServer Faces [sun.com], right? Well I don't. I like it, but I definitely don't love it. The whole premise of JSF is to break out web applications into a model-view-controller (MVC) framework where you can employ a UI expert for the view and logic developers for the controller/model. From the specification's website:

JavaServer Faces technology simplifies building user interfaces for JavaServer applications. Developers of various skill levels can quickly build web applications by: assembling reusable UI components in a page; connecting these components to an application data source; and wiring client-generated events to server-side event handlers.

In reality you have UI people developing Java classes that provide markup. Sure, the components espousing the markup are reusable, but one of the great promises is the easy interchange of rendering kits for JSF applications for switching between, for example, a website and a mobile version of that site. Well, I don't call UI developers deploying Java classes for different interfaces a leap forward, but more of a step back. I feel better for ranting now, sorry.

That all being said, JSF can be great in its future iterations, but the specification needs to evolve and bring in new(er) concepts.

  • Templating System
  • AJAX-like Asynchronous Events

And those are just the ones off the top of my head. Sometime in the future I'll expand on these topics, but now I must go.

Posted by Guy at 5:06 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2005

Times Past

I was just thinking about what it was like in college. You work and work non-stop while learning all this cool stuff. You want just a little time to yourself to explore the things you're learning and maybe make something for yourself (I went to engineering school). But, you never have the time because either you're just beginning a new project, studying for a test (or even worse, a final) or you're just trying to recover from the previous session of classes. All through this you keep on promising yourself that when you get the time you're going to do it... All you have to do is make it through the current quarter (semester, whatever) and then you'll have some time to rest and create for yourself.

Then you graduate and life happens. I used to say, "I'm not going to let it hapen to me!" and I really believed that. But, things happen like trying to find a place to live, girlfriend, wife or just keeping that significant other happy. Of course, I would have the time if I worked a standard 40 hour work week and could leave my work for work hours, but that doesn't happen. I think todays "new" crop of scientists and engineers are so worried about the same financial state of the early 2000s happening again that we want to make sure our companies can't live without us. Couple that with an excellent work ethic and you end up with someone like me. Believe me, I'm not trying to brag or anything, that's just the way it is.

Posted by Guy at 2:23 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2005

Rumors on Mac OS X86

The rumors surrounding Mac OS X for Intel are abounding again. This time it has to do with Apples long and short term visions of the Apple hardware platform. Obviously Apple charges a premium for their hardware and they maintain a tight control over the platform for (I'm guessing here) stability reasons. So, it stands to reason that Apple will only want their OS running on official Apple hardware whether it be PPC, x86 or Cell (hey, I can dream can't I?) based.

A couple of news sites [macnn.com] are reporting that Apple will employ Intel's Lagrande implementation of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to ensure only Apple platforms can be used. According to Intel [intel.com] the TPM provides an Endorsement Key that is unique among platforms and can be used to distinguish between Apple and non-Apple hardware.

This is all well and good until you take a look at things like Bochs [sourceforge.net] which emulate an entire system's hardware platform. It wouldn't be too hard to implement a software module that could provide the functions that the TPM implements. Of course, there would probably be legal ramifications thanks to the evil, evil DMCA. Time will tell.

Posted by Guy at 7:04 PM | Permalink

June 15, 2005

DivX 6.0 Goodnes/Crap

DivX 6.0 [divx.com] was released earlier today (or at least it hit the news earlier today) to much fanfare. New features include:

  • XSUB™ subtitles let you author movies with multiple language subtitle sets
  • Interactive video menus offer unprecedented convenience and control so you can quickly navigate between various scenes or bonus features, and select from audio track and subtitle options
  • Chapter points provide flexibility, allowing you to jump straight to the scene you want to watch from anywhere within the video
  • Alternate audio tracks enable audio tracks in multiple language versions or separate audio tracks for specific speaker configurations
  • XTAG™ video tags contain descriptive information like title, author and the video specifications used in the file’s creation to streamline organization
  • The .divx file extension clearly identifies content in the DivX format so you’ll never again be left wondering whether that .avi file will really play in your DivX® Certified device

Okay, so now we have another container file format that acts like a DVD (menus, subtitles, etc.). What does this gain us that other containers, such as Matroska [matroska.org] doesn't? To be honest, the answer is meta-tagging. That's it. But wait! If you check out the Tom's Hardware Guide article [tomshardware.com] then some comments from some VP (Kurt Scherf) should jump out.

... they've got their own DRM to protect the content.

So now we've gone from a technically advanced codec to something that is DRM-ified. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not a big fan of DRM solutions, there's just too much that could go wrong with legally purchased content. It's like the saying about tough gun legislation, "Tougher gun laws just make it harder for the honest people to get guns." I'm not necessarily a proponent of gun ownership (currently I'm neutral on the subject), but it illustrates my point. Further down the article continues in more DRM propganda.

To accomplish this, Scherf explained, DivX 6 has to prove itself as an efficient and portable format for file sharing, but also more robust in digital rights management, so that "file sharing" and "DivX" mentioned in the same sentence doesn't automatically create negative connotations--as it has in the past.

I don't know anyone who associates DivX with file sharing. I think that it's quite possible there are some uninformed managers and VPs, or, more probabilistic, is that these individuals are influenced by some large software corporations FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) machine. Names are being witheld. <wink, wink>

Posted by Guy at 7:16 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2005

Nothing New

Nothing to see here. Move along please.

Ah Officer Barbrady, you'll live on in our hearts forever.

You know what really irks me? Customers that make crazy demands of you. I found out on Friday morning that I have to be on a plane to the west coast Monday morning. I guess I shouldn't really complain because I've had a job where they could tell me on a Monday that I needed to be in DC (from upstate NY) the next day for a meeting.

Oh well, no rest for the wicked.

Posted by Guy at 7:57 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2005

New Website

If you come here then you'll have likely noticed the change in layout. I think it's a lot better than the standard MovableType format. I haven't changed over the archives or any other supporting pages yet, I'm still tweaking the main page. BTW, the main page was inspired by the Apache Harmony Blog [mackmo.com].

I was thinking of setting up a main site also, but I'm not sure how I want it to look. I obviously don't want a corporate type homepage, but I definitely don't want a cheesy "This is my personal homepage" type site either. I took a look at the Nullsoft Installer Homepage [sourceforge.net] and I think I like the layout, fonts, color coordinations, etc.

The first step I've done when creating past pages is to decide what you content is like. You have to decide if you're going to use it as a side business, offer things like tutorials or other services, provide topics of interest, do you have something you're trying to promote, etc. Based on what it is you're trying to offer, i.e. your content the shape of the page should evolve.

Posted by Guy at 7:48 AM | Permalink

June 6, 2005

Cheap Laptops: Part 2

After their old ThinkPad (circa 1998) finally dies my parents decided to buy something new to replace it. Obviously it had to be a laptop, but battery life wasn't that much of an issue and neither was intense game playing. This machine was to be used for word processing, light gaming (casino-like games) and internet surfing. I pointed them at my older article on cheap laptops [lunaflare.net] and they thought that the prices sounded about right, but they needed a larger screen.

I pointed them at the model with the larger screen [walmart.com] telling them that it had the same features as the other ones, including a reasonable price, but it had a 15" screen. Of course this model also has a faster processor and double the RAM, but I was going to drop more RAM in it anyways, so that wasn't a real factor. I found some additional reviews of these systems and thought I should link to them here [larwe.com] and here [lostsonsvault.org].

We'll see how many calls I get about this. ;)

Posted by Guy at 11:07 PM | Permalink

Apple on x86: It's Official

According to Steve Jobs, it's official, MacOS X will run on the x86 architecture [slashdot.org]. The fact that it runs on x86 is no surprise since the core of the operating system is based on a Unix variantand don't forget the rumors over the years that Apple had a lab running MacOS on x86 hardware. Finally, the "open source" version of MacOS X, Darwin has almost always (?) run on x86 hardware.

One of the major problems with this announcement is that MacOS X for Intel won't be available for consumers until next year. However, I can hear the torrent trackers salivating right now...

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft counters.

Posted by Guy at 1:36 PM | Permalink

Apple on x86

So, are the rumors true? I don't know yet. A shift from the PowerPC processor to something like a Pentium 4 would be a boon to Apple in the long run, but probably not the immediate future. I asked someone at work if they thought Apple was going to switch processors again (let's not forget the switch from 680x0 to PowerPC) and he replied "They can't do that, the Mac is sacred". And to a certain degree I think most MacHeads do believe this. They fool themselves into believing that the MacOS is so more stable than a commodity (x86) PC because of the processor difference. That and Intel is so closely related to Microsoft that when you think of one, you almost immediately think of the other. Are we going to start correlating Apple and Intel the same way?

Getting back to my argument, the MacOS isn't so stable because of the processor, but because every hardware platform is known before they even need to write things like drivers. How does this help? Well, when you know what the hardware is going to be you can test out every little thing that may go wrong, you can plan for any possible hardware failures in any combination, etc. The developers don't have a whole lot of unknowns to deal with. Whereas any x86 platform can have something like 30 different manufacturers of a motherboard, each with their own quirks, enhancements and interpretation of specifications. This means that an Apple developer needs to test a driver on maybe 10 different platforms, but an x86 developer needs to test a driver on 20 platforms minimum, more if they want to support the other 20% of the community.

Either way, some big names [washingtonpost.com] are throwing their weight behind the rumor [nytimes.com]. I guess we'll find out later today or this week what exactly is going on. Stay tuned.

Posted by Guy at 7:35 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2005

Cable Savings

We've recently observed that we don't use any of the features of our digital cable from Comcast and subsequently decided to downgrade our service. This drops our bill from $62.xx to $50.xx, a savings of $60.00 per year.

Now for the interesting part. When I contacted Comcast to downgrade from Digital to "Full Basic" they offerred to give me a discount of $5 to $7 per month (I can't remember which). Bottom line, if I wanted to keep my current cable service and pay less then all I had to do was indicate I wanted to downgrade and my cable company would basically make a counter-offer.

Posted by Guy at 8:15 PM | Permalink