Monday, December 7, 2009

This is the Droid I was looking for

I've got a blog, so I guess I should review things.

A week ago, Verizon  gave me enough incentive to get the new Motorola Droid.  For a very long time, I've wanted a device to carry around that had the full array of communication tools.  I hate talking on the phone (unless it's to my wife). I much prefer to communicate via email, and lately I've keeping in touch using Twitter and Facebook.  Google Voice has given me a great voice mail system.  As I'm in front of the computer a lot, it's usually not a problem, but it also makes the times I'm away worse.

Also, I love to read.  Pretty much anything and I'm a big user of Google Reader and Read It Later for work research and for several interests (tech stuff, history, martial arts, writing).

When the iPhone came out, I figured this would be it.  The tool I had been looking for.  But, between the cost, which I could not afford at that time, and the fact it was on AT&T, which I did not want to return to, I never got one.  Since then, I've been unhappy with some of Apple's handling of the iPhone, specifically locking it against true multitasking and the issues with the app store.

So I got really excited about the release of the Droid.  After that build it, you just know there was going to be some disappointment.

Well, first I have to say I love it.  I even love the name, Droid.  How geeky can you get?

Before I go much further, I'll let you know a few dislikes I have with it.
  1. No access to Google Wave.  I actually have been keeping notes on things like my likes and dislikes of the Droid on Wave, and it would be really nice to be able to access it from the handset.
  2. The plugin for the recharger/data port is right below the keyboard, and it is difficult to use while plugged in.
  3. Occasionally does not respond. I guess this is one of the downsides to multitasking.
  4. Battery life is horrible.  Properly another downside to multitasking.
  5. The biggest one right now is, if I want to use the alarm and be able to hear the phone if it rings, but don't want to hear notifications for chat, email, messaging, or Google Voice, I have to go turn each those off individually, and quit Twidriod.  It would be nice if there were one place to turn all of those off. Since I use the phone as my alarm clock, and my wife would wake up to every notification even if the phone were downstairs, I have to go through this every night and every morning, turn them back on.
Now specific things I really like:
  1. Once again, the name.
  2. The first app I downloaded was Google Sky.  My wife and daughter both decided they needed one after just seeing that app.  It is awesome.
  3. The notification system, even with the above problem.  It simply rocks.  If an email comes in, just pull down the notification bar and click on that notification.  Chat, messages, etc, all in one place.  I love this feature.
  4. The Computer interface just mounts on the desktop. Has worked just fine on both Windows and Linux, and I'm pretty sure it would work under other *nix's and OSX. To copy music or images over, just copy them. Put them in any folder structure and the music player just finds them.
    After losing my iMac to a power failure, I've had problems updating our iPods.  Just having a simple disk mount interface to the phone is a wonderful thing.
When I first began thinking I wanted a single communication device, two things I did not want were an Internet browser and a music player.  I didn't want to browse websites with a 4 inch screen.  Thought it would be terrible.  And I had an iPod. I did not want to risk running my battery dry listening to music, and not have a phone when I needed it.

Having said that, and also having said I love to read, I find the web browsing to be very decent. The screen is gorgeous.  Even my wife commented on that.  I broke my glasses a few weeks ago, so it's fun to watch me hold the droid at arms length sometimes, but I often don't.  Reading blogs, news stories, etc, is very nice.

And my iPod has started having problems.  It's over 4 years old, and probably has a couple more years left in it, but I wanted to try the Droid as a music/podcast player for a few days. First off, I have to have the Droid plugged in whenever I'm at my desk or I don't think the battery would last half the day under that drain.  It's not quite as good at playing music as the iPod, I've heard a few skips I've never heard on the iPod, but it is still very good at it.  More than good enough for what I need.

I think the Pandora app may be growing on me.  I resisted downloading it because I didn't want to stream music to my phone.  Leave that for the computer.  But I did it recently and found that it is awesome.  Pick an artist you like, and you get lots of great music.  I've tried Phil Colins, Huey Lewis and the News, and Steven Curtis Chapman and have been very pleased.  For a while at least, I'm trying to only run it at home where I have Wi-fi.

All in all, I'm incredibly happy.  Hopefully next month I can afford to upgrade my wife's phone to one.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Writing a novel with online tools

One thing I left off my last post on where to write was online tools.  Online tools as a category have several benefits and different ones bring different benefits.

I don't tend to write on one computer.  Often I will write during my lunch break, instead of leaving the building.  I can bring the document I'm working on a thumb drive, but most employers frown on using personal memory sticks on a work computer, for several reasons.

Google Docs is one place I've thought about.  It does have the benefit of allowing me to access it wherever I am, as long as I'm near a computer.  I can also share a read-only copy with my first readers, but they would have no way to comment in the same document.  That would be good or bad.

Google Wave offers some promise.  It has many of the same features as Google Docs.  The one drawback is sharing with first readers. There is (currently) no way to restrict another participant in a wave to prevent them from updating the original blip, or preferable, marking their updates (i.e. margin comments).  I could get around this by writing in one wave, and then cloning that wave for the first readers to be able to edit.  The other drawback is there is currently no way to print (that I've seen) from Google Wave.  Since printing it in a specific format is the final outcome (publisher have guidelines for this), this can be a big drawback.  I can probably get around this by cutting and pasting the entire document into a OpenOffice document.

One drawback I have not mentioned for online tools is the chance of it being stolen.  Frankly I don't worry about it much.  It's just as likely someone would steal a printed copy someone left lying around.  If someone steals the idea and makes a better story (or actually finishes a story, which I have yet to do), good for them.  Ideas are not copyrightable.  Plagiarism is another story, and I don't think that often ends well for the plagiarist or their publisher.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Where to write

I'm starting a new writing project, and once again I'm stumbling on where to write.  In the past I used straight text files, TeX, HTML, Word, and Open Office to start a project.  They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

I dislike using word processors for the act of writing because I feel that a) they get in the way too much by being too helpful (auto spelling corrections, auto capitalising, grammar checking, etc) which really distract from the act getting words on the screen, and b) I don't like the large files, mostly binary, that they generate.  For formatting the final result for sending to a publisher, they can't be beat.  I know I've tried.  HTML has the spec for headers and pagination that would solve that problem, but no (free) browsers I know of implement those tags.  Also, moving it to something that I can put online becomes harder.

TeX is just too hard to use unless I am doing it all the time.  I keep have to relearn how to do even some basic stuff every time.   And to be completely truthful, I can't stand the fonts.  I keep reading that you can change them, but have never read anything that says how.

HTML I've kinda touched on.  I do get tired of writing the tags, but my main issue is it is impossible to format the final project with the correct headers (especially the first page) the way current browsers are implemented.  It's kinda nice though that the format is an afterthought.  For example, I can label something and if I leave the formatting alone, it'll be bold.  Or I can change the css file I set up to make it 1 pt larger or all caps, when I'm ready to print.
Straight text has no formatting by definition and sooner or later I'm going to want to make something bold or italics or indented or something I can't do with text.

So does anyone have suggestions?

A week with Ubuntu

So I've been on Ubuntu for  nearly a week.  Here are my thoughts and progress so far.

First I'm going to through out my dislikes.  Things that just have not gone right.
  • Tweetdeck will not run. I get an error that says that I have one of the few machines that Air does not like, and they are working with Adobe on it.  This could have more to do with the machine than Ubuntu, but I'm sure it would work under that commercial operating system.
  • It has locked up on us three times now.  Seems to be something with X. The computer keeps running, and at least once I was able to recover without rebooting.  May have something to do with having multiple people logged on at the same time.
  • Lost the sound a couple of times. Have not figured this one out.  Playing around with the sound settings has gotten it back.  This also may have something to do with multiple logins. At least once, I've gotten sound back by switching to another user and turning up the sound on that login.
  • Wireless network was not setup right out of the box.  It did not work at all under OpenSolaris, so it's not something I can't do without in the short term, but I would really like to  get working.

Successes or just things I've liked.
  • Installing VirtualBox was easy and straight forward and ran the Windows images I've created under OpenSolaris just fine.  This was probably my biggest worry as I did not want to have to redo this up just now.  I've got some work to do in those images starting next week.
  • Gnucash installed directly and reads the gnucash file from the old system.
  • Guest user allows my daughter to access Facebook, etc while I'm on without messing with whatever I'm working on.
  • Switching allows other family members to access there side, once again without disturbing whatever I'm working on.
  • My wife plugged the digital camera in, in her word's "something for photos turned on when I hooked up the camera. I don't know what I did exactly, but I got the pictures posted". That's what I'm looking for in a family computer.  Yes Mac OS X has a better experience there, but I don't currently have a Mac, now do I?
  • Went to set up the printer, only to find that Ubuntu had done it already, without even telling me or better yet asking me any questions about it.
  • Can finally use Chrome natively at home. Although it's not nearly as polished as the Windows version.

I installed Java and Netbeans, but have not had much of a chance to work with them.  That will change this week as I have to update an application for doing Knights Marshal reports.  MySql seems to have installed fine, but same issue.

I installed Netbeans from the download from Sun.  Java I installed from Ubuntu's Software Center.  I was a little unhappy is was a minor version behind, but not enough to do a manual install.

At this point, I need an operating system that I can use without having to work with it too much.  Like the printer issue.  It took me days to finally get enough information together to install it the first time on OpenSolaris and hours on FreeBSD.  I like the research and like geeking around with the system, but don't have the time right now.  I need something that is going to cause me less problems.  And, in case someone brings it up, I always have problems with Windows.  My work machine runs mostly fine because the IT staff there has it locked down.  I don't want to run like that here.  Yes a Mac would be great.  Let me know when you can send one over.  Otherwise, I will have to wait until I can afford one again.

Right now it's too early to know if this will be a long term success, but short time certainly has been.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moved to Ubutnu finally

I've mentioned before that I have never had a chance, or desire, to run Linux in any long term way.  I've played with both Ubuntu and Mandrake (before the owners of the comic got it's name changed), but I've mostly run FreeBSD at home and the last year and a half I've been running OpenSolaris.

Last night, after much frustration, I finally got Ubuntu installed next to the metal on my laptop.  I say next to the metal, because I have been running it in Virtual Box for about a year.  The frustrations have mostly been around backing up all my data, and then I found out I had downloaded and burned a cd with the i386 version of Ubuntu, which would not boot.  It took me a while, but I finally found the amd64 version.  After that, things went really well.

So far, I've gotten everyone a login, setup NFS to the FreeBSD box so I can copy files from the backup, and gotten access to my email, etc.  My first impressions are that it is much nicer looking and that it feels faster.  I say feels, because I don't think it actually is faster, but the interface has a snapper feel.  I worry that the UI is optimized to the detriment of the stability of the system. I.e., does it cache a lot of data in member instead of making sure it makes it to the disk.  In that case, what happens if the computer crashes (a worry I have because this Gateway laptop overheats a lot).

Tonight I'll install a Java development environment and really customize things the way I want them.  So far, I'm really pleased.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Moving data to prepare for opsys change

I have a lot of data to move off my laptop before I change operating systems from OpenSolaris to Ubuntu. I had finally figured out how to format an external (usb) drive to fat32.  My plan was to tar the data and copy it to the dos partition, then copy it back when I changed systems.  I immediately ran into the problem of the file size limit being 4g. 

So, I took about an old iMac that had died in the last power spike we had.  I took the hard drive from that and put it in my 10 year of Dell that had been running FreeBSD, and put FreeBSD back on it.  I moved the external drive over to it and formatted all but 60g to FreeBSD's file system.  Backing up the home directories off the laptop took just short of 24 hours.  This was because of a combination of some large files, including 3 nearly 20g virtual box images, a very old and slow network card on the Dell, and slow (by today's standards) usb on the Dell.

The data is finally backed up, so tonight I will change to Ubuntu.  Then I will setup automatic backups to the FreeBSD box, so if I decide Ubuntu was not the right direction, I won't have to go through this again. 

I may also begin looking around for a newer, old computer to replace the Dell.  I should be able to get something with faster usb and a faster network card for not a lot of money.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gluten Free at Bo Lings Chinese

I've enjoyed eating at Bo Lings for a while, and after this will very much continue to.  I contacted them to see  if they could publish a gluten free menu.  This is the great and very helpful response I got:

Thanks so much for your inquiry regarding gluten free options at Bo Lings!  Soy sauce does have traces of gluten in it, so depending on the severity of your allergy, you may or may not be able to tolerate some of our menu items with soy sauce in them.  Since you are able to have the Gong Bao Chicken, most of our other stir-fried dishes should be alright for you.  We do however, offer a wide variety of menu items that do not have soy sauce in them!  Any of our entrees that are made with "white sauce" will not have soy sauce in them, nor will they have any flour.  These are chicken stock-based sauces thickened with cornstarch.  A few of our "white sauce" entrees include Sauteed Chicken with Vegetables, Shrimp with Cashews, Jade Shrimp, and Sauteed Mixed Vegetables.  Also any of our Fried Rice dishes cooked without soy sauce, such as Fresh Vegetable Fried Rice, Young Chow Fried Rice, or Chicken Fried Rice cooked with white rice, will be gluten free.  Please just let your server know about your allergy, and he or she will work with the manager to make sure your meal is prepared properly!
I had been avoiding the white sauces because I didn't know what was in them.  The next time I'm there, I will be trying one of them.

So, whether you are Gluten intolerant or not, please go and have some great Chinese food and keep them in business (actually they are really good and I don't think are in any danger of going out of business, but you will enjoy their food, so go).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where'd all that data come from?

Backing up my laptop so I can move over to Ubuntu over the weekend was an epic failure.  If it were possible to roll below a 1, I would have (D&D reference for you non-gamers).

Between the iMac that died a month ago, which I have the backup data on an external drive, to the data I have on the laptop itself, it's huge.  I gave up on the idea of burning it all to cd's.

I have an external drive with about 200G.  60G is formatted to zfs.  About 40G is BIG-DOS (I thought it was fat32).  The rest is a leftover from when I had FreeBSD on it.  I tried to reformat the rest at fat32, but could find no way to do that under OpenSolaris; the existing dos partition was created either under Windows, which will no longer format a disk that size in fat32 or FreeBSD.  I tried to format it with a Windows laptop I had access to, and somehow made the original 40G partition (slice?) unusable. 

At that point, I pretty much got frustrated and decided to work on the backup sometime this week.  There really should be a good way to backup files and reload them under a different operating system.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ubuntu or bust

In a previous post I talked about how I was frustrated with my current operating system and ready to replace it.  I'm going to try to get that done this weekend, although I will be out of town Friday and Saturday, which leaves me Sunday afternoon.

From the title you can tell what I'm planning on installing, but let's go through my reasons.

I've not been a GNU/Linux fan in the past.  My first *nix work experience was with Solaris in the late '90's.  My first home *nix experience was with FreeBSD, which I've run for almost 10 years until the computer it was running on died a couple of months ago.  So why did I decide on Ubuntu instead of a BSD system like PC-BSD? Let's look at my requirements and wants.

Primary, must haves:
  • Compile and Run Java applications
  • Ability to run Windows on a virtual machine, especially to compile and run Java applications that require Windows and possibly C# down the road.
  • Features for the family, which for now shares this computer (video, music, facebook, email, etc).
Secondly, really want:
  • Being able to logon as another user without having to log out myself.
  • Wireless networking.
  • Ability to run Gnucash without a virtual machine.
  • Different formats of music and video to work more or less out of the box (mp3, asx, etc).
  • Ability to update iPods.
There are some other features I'd like, such as being able to run Conky and TweetDeck. I also prefer Gnome to KDE (personal preference, don't get snippy with me).

I'm running Ubuntu in Virtual Box and it seems to give me much of what I need and want to do.  I looked at PC-BSD, and was a little turned off by the fact it runs KDE.  Also, I've used FreeBSD as a development platform before.  Yes, it will run Java, but it is difficult (or at least time consuming) to setup.  Virtual Box is relatively new for FreeBSD, but Sun has a Linux version.  Also, I've never been able to run a vmware image on FreeBSD, and I may have to do that at some point for a project coming up.  Finally, I really like the look of the newest version of Ubuntu.  They have done a really good job on the look and feel.

So, Sunday, during the game, I will start backing up all the data on my computer.  If that goes well, I hope to install Ubuntu.  Next week, it's back to making this machine earn a living.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Frustrations with OpenSolaris

I'm honestly frustrated with OpenSolaris right now.  I love the operating system.  I've been running it on my laptop since I bought it a year and a half ago.  Windows ran on it for less than a day, and then I wiped it and loaded OpenSolaris on it.

It was a choice between OpenSolaris, FreeBSD, and Ubuntu.  I had been reading a lot about OpenSolaris, and it sounded interesting.  I decided on OpenSolaris because I was, and still am, doing Java programming.  It's what I bought the laptop for.

I've been frustrated since I loaded it that the wireless network card doesn't work, the built in camera doesn't work, and the audio drive is really terrible (if I change the volume, I lose the left channel).  I just recently got mp3's to work, and still have to use mplayer for other media.  I've never been able to run the latest version of Gnucash on it (I run it in vbox on a Ubuntu image).  Now, I've not been able to update the os for a couple of months now because of a kernal panic (or some such) when booting.  I was waiting on the latest update, because it was apparently fixed, at least on other systems.  I posted a message on the help forum, but I need to put the kernel into debug mode during booting to find out why it's forcing a reboot during the boot cycle.

Ok, may be I need to move on.  If the contract I'm working on does not have anything for me this weekend, I may spend the weekend moving to either Ubuntu or PC-BSD.  Or may be I'll split the drive and dual-boot between the too.

The main thing that is stopping me is Windows.  That's very frustrating for me.  I run Windows under VirtualBox and use it because I'm currently working on a project, in Java, that has to be run under Windows (it uses a native engine for it's core function).  I worry that the vbox images will not work under Ubuntu or BSD.  I suppose I can recreate everything, but that could take the entire weekend by itself.

If I don't have the time, I hope the next version of OpenSolaris fixes this issue, but I still would like to get the wireless networking and other issues working.  Especially since the whole family is now using it.

I won't walk away from OpenSolaris completely.  It is still my intention on building a computer from the components and it will be geared towards OpenSolaris.  Primarily because of ZFS, but also on how well it runs VirtualBox.  I want something I can run multiple operating systems on, for different functions.  But for now, I don't think it's perfect for the computer I'm currently using.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Where is your heart?

I've wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager.  I remember my mom asking me if it was alright if my cousin read a story I was working on, because she was much younger and my mom was afraid the story my have "adult" themes in it.  It didn't, so my cousin was my very first reader.

In my early twenty's, on a midnight shift in the Air Force, I decided I needed to make my name standout, for the binder of a book.  I played with different spellings of Ricky, Rich, and Rick, but I no longer felt like a Ricky, which I had been growing up.  Some people were calling me Rich; some Rick.  I decided I liked Rick, so I played with different spellings like Ric and Rik.  It didn't hurt that the horse clan books were some of my favorite at the time.  So I started spelling my name Rik, primarily because I thought it would look good on a book cover.

I've heard that real authors keep something to write on close by, because they never know when a story might hit them.  I just noticed that I do the same, but not for stories, but for coding problems.  I had to run down stairs a moment ago to write down the pseudo-code for a design I have to turn in on Monday, because I had finally worked part of it out.

So although I've always wanted to be a writing, it's possible at this time, I am were I am supposed to be.  Hopefully like Dave Duncan (a wonderful writer) I can retire to my dream of writing.  But for now, I am what I am.  A programmer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Keeping it separate

I've decided to move all programming posts off to their own blog (Just Thinking: Code).  This allows me to post code, or thoughts on programming languages and issues without messing it up with thoughts on gluten insensitivity, theology, martial arts, or just random thoughts.  Geeky thoughts that don't specifically deal with a programming solution will still be posted here.

In a similar vein, if I feel the un-suppressible need to post about politics, I will post it to Just Thinking: Politics.

Writing on Twitter

My last post on Twitter stated that I hadn't found my voice yet. Since then I've used it for quick updates on Fighter Practice or Aikido for those interesting in what I'm doing there; some quick thoughts that others might find helpful; and some thoughts I've found funny. If I thought it was anything that needed more explanation, I would come here to post it.

I had thought I would throw out the occasional political statement there, as I've taken a stand that it's inappropriate to make divisive political statements on Facebook, as FB seems more geared towards friends getting together for bs sessions. Most people would not throw out something just to generate an argument in such a setting.

So I threw something out on twitter that generated a lot of feedback from friends. And I realized that I was not comfortable with that. Not because of those friends, who are great and I love them dearly, but because of the crowd watching.

It's a shame that our society has gotten to a point that taken a political stand can destroy friendships, and possibly generate enough hatred as to put one in physical danger.

Mr Card

Moved to Just Thinking: Politics

Friday, September 25, 2009

Griffon framework is great for quick utilities

Update, moved to Just Thinking: Code

I've been very successful this week in throwing together a quick application to read a Excel file and update a Web Service. Typically I would have done this in Groovy as a command line app. But I really wanted to put some of the information in a text field and have buttons to initiate different functions. Griffon allowed me to very quickly build a swing app.

I've not used Griffon for anything in the past. I have put together a couple of apps with Grails, but it's really not the same (close, but not the same). I've been waiting for Gorm to be ported to Griffon to use it for anything, but this project did not need any database access.

BTW, I used Poi for reading the Excel file and GroovyWS for accessing the Web Services. GroovyWS needs more work (especially in error handling), but it was sufficient for what I need to do. I covered another problem with GroovyWS here, and I dearly wish that one was fixed in the library itself.

Griffon is a Groovy-based framework for developing standalone Java applications similar to Grails.

Grails is a Groovy-based framework for creating Web Applications.

Groovy is a great programming language.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

To remember

From a conversation on the grails list, but I keep forgetting about this ability in groovy, so I'll paste it here so I remember it and research it.

Date.metaClass.getAge = { new Date().year - delegate.year }
println new Date(79, 11, 17).age

Friday, September 11, 2009

iTunes 9 lost smart playlist on my iPod, who are they?

I updated to iTunes 9 last night.

When I got to work this morning, I found that the smart playlist I have all the podcasts and other audio/video files I want to listen to during the day, in the order I want to listen to them, was empty. They were in the playlist in iTunes when I sync and disconnected this morning, but for some reason, the list was empty on my iPod.

All of the files seem to be there, I just have to go find them on the iPod and play them individually.

With Apple fighting with Palm about who can sync to iTunes, and then breaking something that I've used for years, I can't help but feel that Apple is becoming more and more like Microsoft. Argggh.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

OS Update

Found out why OpenSolaris 117 and greater will not run on my laptop. There has been a bug reported where certain motherboards cause the same problem. I will have to wait until they get around to fixing that bug to upgrade to that version of OpenSolaris.

Because of this, and because I've picked up a contract that requires me to work in Windows, I have to come up with another plan. Windows becomes a problem because I'm running Vista under VBox on OpenSolaris. For various reasons I won't go into now, I will not run Vista next to the metal. But since I only have 2G of onboard memory in the laptop, if I give a VBox session more than 1/2G OpenSolaris begins swapping like crazy. With 1/2G, Vista really can't do more than one or two things at the same time. Fine for what I was using Vista for, but Java development requires a bit more.

My plan, which will probably start after a couple of the checks from that contract come in, is to start purchasing parts each month to build a new computer, i.e. purchase a case next month, a motherboard the next, and so on.

It looks like I can put together a pretty fast system, with about 8G of memory which is important, for about $700, but paid for over a 6 to 7 month period. Running OpenSolaris next to the metal, I can put Win7 in a virtual box and give it 2G, and even run Linux with 1/2G and keep them both running most of the time.

Then I can reformat the laptop to FreeBSD or Linux (I'll try FreeBSD, but if I can't get the wifi to work, try Ubuntu). Using X, I can log into the big machine from the laptop or our (really old) iMac when I need the power. Then the kids can use any for their homework or web-surfing and we are not tying up one of the systems.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Using Ubiquity for Retweets

In the category of an easier way of doing something easy, if you use Ubiquity, you probably know you can use it to tweet. I've found the if you want to retweet something, from the website before they update it to add retweets, you can select the original tweet, including the original authors name. Then trigger ubiquity and enter "Twitter RT @this".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writing Unit-Tests for Java in Groovy: Great for Web Services

Update, moved to Just Thinking: Code

Written over at Closed Loop: Writing Unit-Tests for Java in Groovy: Not so brilliant after all?

I've been using Groovy to Unit test Web Services for several months now. Groovy WS allows me to quickly put together a Unit Test for a Web Service, saved in a text file so when I need to document my tests, I have it handy. Also, if I have to change something, I can test that change quickly.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My review of GF coffee cake

Here are my thoughts on the coffee cake my wife made. The recipe is here Gluten Free Coffee cake I from Betty Crocker GF mix.

When we first tried the cake mix, I had thought that the texture was very much like coffee cake. Sure enough, the mix does well by this.

A couple of things that I think may be worked out. It was a bit crumbly more or less right out of the oven. This may fix itself as it is allowed to sit. We saved some for later, so we'll know then.

It was a bit too sweet. I think it's because there was a little too much streusel on top (the recipe reflects this adjustment). Also, I think next time we are going to try brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. Toasted pecans would be a great addition to the streusel, but both kids hate nuts.

The kids had two pieces each and asked for more. Since the main goal of this was to try to find Gluten-free replacement foods for the kids, I would say this is a success.

The taste was quite delicious. No bad aftertaste, as some GF foods can have. As I said before, the texture was very good for a coffee cake.

Eating it with some protein or dairy will keep this low GI (and some coffee, just because) and you have a great weekend morning breakfast.

My wife, who does not have to be gluten-free, is wonderful for the work she did on this and all the experiments we are doing to go gluten-free.

Gluten Free Coffee cake I from Betty Crocker GF mix

This is the recipe my wife used.

For Streusel:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup gluten free baking mix ( I used pancake mix)
2 T. butter (cold)
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon ( more to taste)

For cake:

Betty Crocker gluten free cake mix
2/3 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter - softened
1 teaspoon vanilla - gluten free
3 eggs

Combine streusel ingredients with fork or hands to crumbly consistency, put aside.
Combine cake ingredients.
Grease a cake pan, ( I line mine with parchment paper)
Pour half cake mixture into pan, sprinkle half of the streusel mixture on top of the cake mix.
Pour the rest of the cake mix on top of the streusel layer and top with remaining streusel.

Bake in 350 oven 45 minutes (checking at 40) or more until toothpick comes out clean. Cool a bit and serve.

Friday, July 17, 2009

OS problem update

I installed the 118 build of OpenSolaris last night and it still would not boot. I resent my request for help to the OpenSolaris Discussion list instead of the Help list. I got 2 suggestions to try this weekend. Hopefully, I will not have to change operating systems, at least until Oracle kills OpenSolaris.

Full Circle

Back in the early 90's, I really started paying attention to the industry that I made my career in. Windows 3.0 and OS/2 were both out and based on a opinion piece I read in PC Mag (no, not by Dvorak) I got my boss to buy a copy of OS/2 to work on. At the time, I had moved from being a operator on a Wang mainframe, to an administrator on a Novell network and a programmer and assisting the Wang staff.

Compuserve was the medium of choice for online discussions, especially technical ones (although I met two of my favorite sci-fi authors on Compuserve and I extremely regret not staying in touch with both of them).

The more I read about that Northwestern software company, both online and in PC Mag and such, the more horrified I became. One technique that I really thought was terribly egregious was to release an updated version of their software that has no effect but to break other software. When Windows went from 3.1 to 3.1.1, they said it was to refresh the drivers. However, OS/2 for Windows stopped working. How many times did they change their word processor document format so that import/export in other word processors were broken?

I was never a Apple fan during this time, just because their software did not work the same way I did. To this day, I open several software applications at once and switch through them as I need them. I did not find that easy to do on a Mac pre OSX.

So I used OS/2 until it just did not make any sense any more. In the late 90's, I bought a Dell and was suddenly running Windows at home outside a virtual environment for the first time. (I went from TRS-DOS to DOS to DR-DOS to OS/2). That survived for just under a year. A friend introduced me to FreeBSD, which I ran for several years. A few years later, I convinced my boss (different boss) to let me use a Mac at work because I wanted to try out the new Mac OSX because it was based on FreeBSD. A year later, using a bonus, I purchased 2 new Macs for home. Currently I'm running one of those Macs and OpenSolaris on a Gateway Laptop.

Although I'm still not a Apple fan, I really do like their hardware and OSX. I own an iPod, and if the iPhone was on Verizon, would probably own one of those (if Verizon gets a gPhone first, I may never have an iPhone).

Just recently Apple has put out a new version of iTunes that has, as far as I can tell, the single purpose of breaking the Palm Pre's ability to sync with it. Yes, Apple controls iTunes and it is very much in their rights to do so, but why do it? Not so much break the syncing, but why put out a version just to do that. It should be so beneath a mature, honorable company. Reminds me so much of that other company.

Will this, by itself, keep me from buying Apple products. No. But it does make me start to worry about where they are going and what kind of company will they be. It very much reminds me of where I started.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Changing OS's

Have not reformatted the laptop yet to change OS's. We have a test coming up at work that we need to hit the website from machines outside the firewall. I don't want to take a chance of the laptop not being working fully when that test happens.

Also, it's a lot of work to move to a new operating system. Now I know why most people really balk at that when I suggest they try a new OS, like BSD or Linux. When something works and it takes a lot of work to go to something that might be better, making the change is daunting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thinking of moving back to FreeBSD

I've been running OpenSolaris on my laptop for the last year. I've really liked several features a lot, but several problems have cropped up,and the latest one may make me look into going back to FreeBSD.

I upgraded from version 111b to 117 recently and when I rebooted, the boot failed. It appears to failing at the during the zfs initialization. Luckily the way OpenSolaris updates, the previous version is there to boot to (just select it from Grub during the boot). I've tried the update several times and get the same result every time.

It's not the failed upgrade that bothers me so much, although if the next one failed too, it would be a show stopper for me. It's the inability to get help. I think I've posted 3 messages to the help list for OpenSolaris for different problems over the last year. One time I got, "we don't support that and probably never will", and the other 2 (including this latest) were never responded to. If I can't find the answer online, and can't get an answer from the lists, it makes me nervous in running the operating system.

Yes, I know it's a free and I'm not paying for support, so I can't complain about it. However, if I can fix some specific problems, I can't use the operating system. I'm not even suggesting someone else not use it; quite the contrary, I often suggest it to people. And if I ever get another desktop with enough RAM, my plan is to run OpenSolaris against the metal and run a couple of Virtual Boxes all the time to do different work (programming in one, email and writing in one, gaming, etc).

Some things that are giving me headaches that hopefully FreeBSD will fix.
  • Cannot run some programs, like Gnucash and TweetDeck, native. I have to setup a VirtualBox running Linux.
  • Programs not updated to latest, i.e. pidgin.
  • My wireless card is not, and probably never will be supported.
  • Power management on AMD64 not supported.

Some things that I will miss, and are keeping me from just moving anyway.
  • VirtualBox under OpenSolaris works really well.
  • ZFS. By far the best way to format a disk. Snapshots are especially useful. I've seen posts that ZFS is now supported under FreeBSD, just not on the main drive. Hopefully I can setup a home directory with it.
  • Java just works, and is relatively easy to setup (have you ever done that on BSD?)
  • The update process. Using ZFS to setup a new mountpoint to install to, so that the previous version is not overwritten and can be booted to is brilliant. Really makes upgrading a no stress operation.
This weekend I will try to get everything backed up in a way that I can move it to any operating system. If I have time, I may reformat the drive and give half to FreeBSD and leave half to do OpenSolaris again so I can go back and forth.

CSV Export in Bugzilla

Bugzilla was incorrectly exporting CSV files so that Excel could not understand them. It was adding extra characters to the file.

The problem was because of the file format of bugzilla\template\en\default\list\list.csv.tmpl, which on Windows is Dos. Open the file in an editor that can change file format, such as Vim, change the file format to Unix and save the file.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Start work

I finished a podcast about one of my favorite authors (Jim Butcher) and you get a glimpse into his life and one again I am struck that no only do I find the prospect of a career as a writer appealing, the life of a successful author is very appealing. Yes, I realize you can say that the life of anyone successful would be "appealing". I really mean something different by that.

So how I've approached a career as a writer so far has not been successful. Basically hoping I feel better enough, have the time, and the stories come to me is not working. I can no longer blame depression from Gluten Intolerance on it.

Time to really get to work. And time to do it like the professionals do. Have to figure how what that is.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Complex elements in Groovy WS

Update, moved to Just Thinking: Code

I've been trying to use GroovyWS to test Web Services we are creating. Because of the way we coded the Web Services, I could not use the examples that are online, even the ones that are labeled "Complex objects".

If I used :
object.value = "value"
I would get an exception about not being able to convert the value to a javax.xml.bind.JAXBElement

I finally got to a point that I really needed to use some type of scripting language to access the Web Services, or create an entire application in Java to do it. I decided to take a good look at why I could use Groovy. Here is an example as to how I got it to work. It may not be very Groovy, so any suggestions as to how to make it more Groovy are appreciated. I hope this helps someone.


def getProxy(wsdl, classLoader) {
new WSClient(wsdl, classLoader)

def element(tagName, value) {
new javax.xml.bind.JAXBElement(new javax.xml.namespace.QName(tagName), value.class, value)

proxy = getProxy('http://localhost/ServicePort?WSDL', this.class.classLoader)

def sampleData = proxy.create("com.sample.application.Sample") = element("Name", "Item One")
sampleData.type = element("Type", "Misc");

result =

println result.

Friday, May 8, 2009

No help from Celiac Community?

Well, I'm kinda bummed. I just read a scathing review of E Hasslebeck's new book and the posts basically say that if you have not been officially diagnosed Celiac or Gluten sensitive, that you better not go gluten-free until you do. Doesn't matter if you can't afford the test or do want to have the tests for whatever reason.

I wonder if I ever need any help from the official Celiac community, I'm going to told I'm not worthy.

I think I'll still pick up the book in a few weeks. It's a difficult lifestyle change and I can use all the help and knowledge I can get.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gluten-free at Starbucks

The Gluten-free cake arrived at my local Starbucks (look here) for an initial look at it. I happened to go to Starbucks this morning and was surprised to find it, so I decided to try one. I was unhappy at first, because they had one unwrapped in the case, along with the other gluten-filled pastries (cross-contamination). I asked if they had one still wrapped and they did. Here is my review of it.

Having had gluten-free baked goods already, I was ready for it to be dry, dense, overly sweet, and have a funny aftertaste. Pleasantly I was wrong.

I found it to be very moist, almost too much. It was a little dense and the combination had me worried that it would become mushy in the mouth. It never did, but it will take some getting used to to "trust it".

It was not too sweet. I found that part to be very pleasant. The orange flavor was not overpowering, although I would not have minded that. The almond flavor was also not very strong, which would have been a deal breaker for me. I love almonds, but I hate almond flavoring.

The taste was great and there was no strange aftertaste. That's the biggest problem I've had with gluten-free pastries so far. It sounds strange, but I really enjoyed it not being there.

The shape really makes you think of a muffin, but the texture is all wrong for that. It is more cake like, but a dense cake. Almost like the types of cakes that are soaked in some liquid (I've never had a rum cake, but this is the texture I would imagine one to be). For a cupcake, and especially for a muffin, it was very dense.

Importantly, I would like this even if I did not have an intolerance to gluten.

If you are meeting a friend for coffee or picking up something quick for breakfast, this is a great addition to what Celiacs can choose. Just don't let them give you the open one in the case. Those of you that don't have gluten problems will like it too. I would like to see more companies think about the gluten intolerant, so give it a try. If you like it, support it by buying one occasionally and may be we'll see more of it.

Undiagnosed Celiac

Since this blog is about what's on my mind and the gluten-free/Celiac thing is on my mind a lot, I probably should cover it here. One thing I want to get into is whether to try and get Diagnosed or not.

Always start from the beginning.

For the last several years, my wife and I have been trying to figure out why I've been having several health problems. We did not think they were all related, so I seen the doctor about some of them, but not mentioned other ones during those sessions. Some of them were starting to get worrisome, especially the inability to concentrate (fuzzy brain). We had blamed everything from lack of sleep to stress.

About 8 months ago, a friend of Patty's was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Patty felt that her friend's symptoms were very close to my own. At that time, we did not have the money to pay for a lot of tests and or the time and energy to attempt to convince my doctor I was not becoming a hypochondriac. So we decide instead to just go on a gluten-free diet and see if that change anything. We also began seriously researching gluten intolerance.

After reading several books and online articles, the most helpful being Gluten-Free Living for Dummies. I had about 80% of the symptoms listed in the Dummies book. Also, a lot of the misdiagnoses listed were things we had thought I might have, including IBS, leaky gut, migraines, depression. Over the last 6 years or so, I was even developing a blistering skin condition, which I had no idea was connected to anything, but was named and explained in the book as DH.

And I improved considerably. It's has not been 100%, but many many improvements. The DH is mostly gone, only occasional small outbreaks. The fuzzy brain problem comes back occasionally, but the depression seems to be all but gone. My dry skin problems seem to be clearing up.

Meanwhile, I seem to be becoming a lot more sensitive to gluten. A few months ago, I forgot to say something to one of my Pastors and he handed me a communion waiver. Since it bothers me that I cannot partake that part of communion, I accepted it and ate it. I was incredibly sick for about a week after. Occasionally I get sick again, but can usually trace it back to something that MIGHT have gluten in it. Eating at a restaurant is no longer fun, especially eating out with friends or team outings from work. The responses I get vary between, "are you sure you can't..." to "oh that's just terrible, I'm so sorry". Some places I can't eat anything at all.

I did not see the doctor at the beginning of these because of high deductibles on my health insurance and I did not have the time or energy for the multiple tests to convince my doctor and because I did not want to go through a cycle of "try this medicine/treatment, no that didn't work...". Especially when what I've found so far seems to be working.

Now I have insurance that does not have high upfront deductibles (it's a Health Saving program, which I think is great), but after the initial amount my company has put in, I do have a large out of pocket cost (then regular insurance kicks in). Do I go ahead and go seem my doctor and see about getting an actual Diagnoses? From what I read, to get an actual diagnoses, I will have to start eating gluten again, so they have something to test. I can't do that, because of the fuzzy brain problem really effects my job performance. Would it be a waste of time to talk to the doctor without eating gluten?

If I go to the doctor, what do I do if she does some tests, they come back negative, and she says it's all in my head, go get a pizza?

What do I do if she says I have to eat gluten for a month so I can have a proper test?

Is it worth the time and (especially) the money going through a whole bunch of test for other issues, that I'm already sure I don't have?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Question on Twitter

Ok, I still have not found my "voice" on twitter, but I have noticed something. Since I've followed a couple of high profile twitters, I've gotten a lot of people following me now. Now I'm certain it's a case of them wanting to build followers themselves (for the most part). I have no illusions that is is because they are interested in what I have to say.

At first I followed anyone that followed me first. Recently I've stopped doing that and even unfollowed a few, because I'm just not that interested in what they have said and it causes me to miss others that I do want to follow. To little signal-to-noise.

So, should I be following those who simply follow me? It would be great if I could filter the tweets, and do so by default. Or hide those I don't want to see all the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What for Twitter?

I signed up for Twitter recently. Mostly it was to get the riksca account, although I don't believe it was at risk. Also, I occasionally run across some writer or such that posts on Twitter that I would like to follow.

Now that I'm there, what do I do? I don't really care to inform the world what I'm doing every hour of the day. If you want to know what I'm having for lunch, call me. Better yet, I'll meet you someplace and we can talk over lunch (has to have a gluten-free menu). It's not that I'm a closed person. Ask me how I'm doing and I'll probably tell you in details you aren't interested in. But I'm also not the type to go out and announce what's going on in my life, as if the world really cared.

I've talked already about being on Facebook. Facebook, for me, has become the "hi, how ya doing" forum. I can keep track of friends near and far, and throw out cool or otherwise pertinent things going on in my life. I had originally tied my Twitter posts to my Facebook posts so they would update each other. After being teased by someone for a rather technical post, I undid that. It will remain that way until I find what I want to write about on Twitter.

Which brings me to the reason for all these means of communication (Blogger, Facebook, Twitter), which is to get practice and time writing. My long term goal is to have a career as a writer (when I say long term, I really mean it. I'm talking 20 years). Yes, I know that time spent on these forums is time I'm not spending writing something I can sell, but it does give me practice writing something for someone else to read. Possibly (if anyone ever reads this), I can even get feedback on my writing.

So back to the point; what will I use Twitter for? Since it's more for me, and not to get a following in a way, I'll continue to post what I'm thinking about, especially if it's something that would benefit from feedback. Eventually, I'm sure I'll find my "voice".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Facebook black hole got me

I don't do computer games much partially because I'm usually in front of the computer for long hours each day programming or writing. Recently my sister got me to signup for Facebook so we can share pictures, etc., of our respective families. Since she still lives in the South and I've been in the Mid-West for a little more than 20 years, we have not kept up as much as I would really like.

I had resisted joining online social sites because of simliar reasons to why I don't do computer games. I'm on the computer a lot anyway, why do I want take more of my social relationships online.

After being on for a little while, I found that I could reconnect to people I went to high school with. People that were important to me more than 20 years ago. I could reconnect, find out how they are doing, what they are doing, and kinda track how things are going for them. It's been a good thing for that, but has really taken a lot of time away from other things I do on a computer. Since I can't give up time programming, as it pays the bills, it has cut drastically into time I should be writing. Hopefully I can recapture some of the time, while still keeping in contact with friends both old and new.

Back to Chrome, for now

Since I've found that Read It Later can be used via bookmarklets, and I've been having some proxy trouble with Firefox, I've tried using Chrome again at work.

I still like the fact that is feels much faster. Everything from launching to browsing to certain pages seems to be snapper than other browsers. However, I've found that a lot of things do not work well in Chrome. So I have to browsers open. I have Chrome typically running my gmail account. Firefox loaded to test my work and also to go to several intranet sites. The latter is especially good because I have IE Tab loaded, and several internal sites only work under IE. With IE Tab, I can load these sites under Firefox, with IE embedded.

What really surprises me is how many Google sites/apps don't work quite right under Chrome, although those seem to get fixed quickly.

Chrome is, for me, becoming a good appliance for several functions, including email and news reading. For a while at least, I will continue to run two browsers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sci-Fi => SyFy

As a blogger (somewhat) that is a Science Fiction Fan and wannabe writer, I guess I should comment on the news that the Sci-Fi Channel is changing it's name to SyFy.

In short and up front, I don't like it. Now you know my bias.

As much as I've been a fan of Science Fiction, both written, small screen, or big screen, I've not been a fan of the Sci-Fi Channel for sometime. I'm still irritated at them from years ago when I sat my 5 year old daughter down to watch Star Trek (the original) and a very explicit commercial for one of the Chucky movies came on. I had to dive across the couch for the remote to change the channel. For years after that, I did not watch Sci-Fi Channel without the remote in my hand.

I've never been a fan of horror. There are some exceptions. But, for instance, I liked Aliens much better than Alien. Don't like any of the slasher movies at all. Sci-Fi channel has said in the past that they are not just Science Fiction, but also include Horror, Speculative Fiction, etc.

The Sci-Fi Channel has done some things that I've really liked. Eureka is still one of my favorite shows; what ever happened to it? I liked the Dresden Files, even though it's nothing like the books, and was irritated when they canceled that at the last minute. Loved it when they picked up the Stargate series (and was irritated with how they treated that in the end). There seems to be a trend there.

For full disclosure, and this would probably get me in trouble if anyone actually read my blog, I've never been able to get into the new Battlestar Galactica. It's a bit too dark for me and is much more of a drama than a Science Fiction story. Every time I've tried to watch it, I get the feeling the theme is, how far can humanity fall under stress, as opposed to how high can we reach if pushed. You can get that type of story from daytime soaps, or watching politics.

Sci-Fi Channel used to be one of the first places I looked if I was looking for something to watch, I was often disappointed, but sometimes there would be gold. SyFy will be just another channel on the dial like WGN or USA Network. If I happened to find something good to watch, great. I will not be going out of my way to find it though.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another thing I like about Virtual Box

In a previous job, I had to be able to VPN into work to support the applications I worked on. Occasionally I would even work from home by connecting my work desktop from my Mac at home via the VPN. I would be irritated that I could not access anything outside the Mac, except through the VPN, and they blocked some Internet access.

In my newest job, I also have VPN access, but so far can only do it from Windows. I don't run Windows on any of the computers I have in my house, except through Virtual Box. As I was setting things up on my OpenSolaris laptop, I noticed that I could continue to get my email, stream audio from Z95 on the Gulf Coast, and use my web browser normally in OpenSolaris, even though the Windows virtual machine was VPN'd into work.

The separation also protects the work network. There is no network traffic to the virtual machine that the VPN does not control, so it's effectively like two different machines on my home network.

I love it when I can multitask in a productive way.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

OpenSolaris Bible

I took some time to look for the OpenSolaris Bible (OSB) in my local bookstore. I was wondering if it really contained anything that I could not already get online somewhere. I mostly looked over the chapter on Zones. Although I'm sure this information is online, the OSB is written in a manner I understand a great deal better.

Most of the information I've found online so far is apparently written for SysAdmins. Although I've been a SA in the past, I am a programmer through and through, and we think differently.

Since I really need to understand Zones to setup the environment I want on my laptop, I will be picking up the OSB soon (probably about 3 weeks when I get paid). (OSB on Amazon if you're interested)

Note: what I'm attempting to accomplish on my laptop is a separate Zone that I can run GlassFish, Apache, and MySQL on so I can run "Intranet" type apps separate from my development environment. Yes, I've found instructions for running GlassFish v2 in a seperate Zone, but I want GlassFish v3 (Prelude), which fails to install with those instructions.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Moving toward anti-heroes?

I'm a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy and used to be a huge fan of comic books. I've noticed a trend I'm not happy with. There seems to be some type of trend over the last several years of the Anti-Hero?

The first Anti-Hero story I ever tried to read was the Thomas Covenant series. I never made it through the first book. I've never even tried to read any of the Venom (Marvel Comics) books.

I do like the bad-boy heroes (Logan has always been a favorite and I used to read a lot of the Mac Bolan and Remo Williams books). Some of my favorite heroes are the ones who become heroes in spite of themselves (Luke Skywalker and Peter Parker).

But, many of my favorite heroes are truly heroes from the word go (Steve Rogers, Ben Kenobi, Michael Carpenter, and Clark Kent).

Steve Rogers has been replaced by Bucky, who is much darker. Not quite the Anti-Hero, but still, why go darker.

Would a story about a heroic figure sell in today's market? Do Superman (the blue boyscout version), Lensmen, or Doc Savage type stories have an audience?

Please note, I'm not talking about real heroes like our brave men and women in the military, or those protecting us at home, or bravely landing planes in the Hudson, or any real life heroes. This is about story telling; entertainment.

Do we really want our heroes to be dark? I know Dark characters are different than Anti-Heroes. I'm defining Anti-Heroes as the character who has no desire or ability to be the hero, but is forced into that role anyway (Thomas Convenient, The Joker). Dark characters (Bruce Wayne, Logan) are interesting, but I think it's now overdone(all the urban vampire stories, with the exception of the Dresden files, which are the best books especially for dialog). Also, the struggling hero (Peter Parker, Luke Skywalker) is a great story line, but at some point get over yourself and accept the mantle you are given and man up (as these characters do).

I'm ready for another knight in shining armor story.

(The opinions in this story are made with a very wide brush. Caveats, arguments, huge holes, discrepancies can be found all over. Hopefully you get my overall point.)

Committed to change

Are you teachable?

Are you open to the views of the other side of the argument? Whether your Conservative or Liberal, Christian or not, Java or .Net, or an Architect or Programmer, do you really listen to the other point of view with the idea of learning from it.

I'm not talking about just rolling over and accepting the other person's point of view. They have to make a point and prove it. But when they do, will you even notice it.

Do you ever have an "Ah ha moment"? That moment in Zen philosophy called Satori. I live for those. You have to commit yourself to change and live with the mind of a student. Where have we heard about being like a child?

I've had several times in my life when I have changed my position on something because of a point made by someone else. Discussion is a wonderful tool for learning and for firming up our own positions. I expect someone who is willing to have a discussion, especially an passionate one, to come to me with more than how they want the world to be. Come at me with facts and well thought out positions. Also, have an open mind. I have to come to the discussion with facts and well thought out position. Nothing makes me crazier than to have those facts and positions discarded because they are not what the other person wants to believe.

I've been able to do as much to build a firm foundation for my beliefs as learn from some of the discussions I've had. You have to be sure of your position if you are going to intelligently discussion something for more than a few minutes before it breaks down. It is not a myth that one of the greatest ways to learn is to teach.

But that brings me back to my question. Are you teachable? As a people, we don't seem to have discussions anymore, just lectures. I hear this when I hear someone make a great point and the other person ignores it because it doesn't fit his or her position. This is a shame, because this is what is truly polarizing us.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Write, just write

Dustin says I should be blogging (article). Does this count :-)

Chrome or Firefox

Yes, I'm a terrible blogger. One of many who have to come out and say, "I haven't blogged for a while, but...."

Updating my trail of Google's Chrome:

I've switched back to using Firefox for two reasons. First and foremost by a lot is plugins. I really use the Read Later plugin at work and at home to flag articles I do want to read, but my not have the time or the interest when I find them. I use several others, but at work (where I run Windows and can run Chrome), the primary one is Read Later. As an aside, Google Notebooks plugin is also a big one for me, but as Google has stopped production on Notebook, I'm looking for a replacement. I need a good research tool to take notes and save articles I find on the web in a long term and searchable way.

At home, I also would miss Coffee Break and Web Developer quite a bit, but since I run OpenSolaris at home, I don't have the ability to run Chrome.

The second reason I'm not using Chrome much is the proxy environment. Running Chrome I seem to see the login dialog for the proxy a lot. It comes up a lot in Firefox too, but not as much as in Chrome. The proxy they use at work is a pain and only really works well in IE, but firefox seems to get around it better than Chrome does.

Once Chrome supports plugins and if Read Later is ported over to it (and/or other plugins come out for Chrome that would make me more productive), I may try Chrome again as my main browser. (I still and will continue to use it for somethings, like quick access to things like gmail).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Grails comes through

Update, moved to Just Thinking: Code

I am responsible for tracking the members of my local SCA group that fight (see here and here for explanations).  The previous marshal (the person responsible) had tracked the information in a Excel spreadsheet.  That's not a bad way of doing it, but come one, I'm a Java programmer.  Tracking information in a spreadsheet just isn't my way of doing things.

I had moved all the information into a MySql database.  I had been using Groovy scripts to generate the reports I needed to turn in quarterly.  The scripts would generate an html page with the report, and then I would use Mac OS X's ability to create PDF's to create something I could email in.

Recently I used Grails to create a quick front-end for editing the information.  Took all of an afternoon because I didn't like the generated pages.  (I could have had an entire CRUD application in minutes if I did like the generated pages).  I had modified the Groovy scripts to run under Grails to give me my report.  This basically involved creating a gsp page instead of a html builder.

Then I found the Jasper Plugin.  That was not completely clean to setup and the concepts of designing the pages gave me enough headaches, I almost gave up.  But I persisted and now have the ability to create the reports I need directly in PDF and Excel (and other formats if I need), although I'm still trying to create an Excel report that spans only one page, but have the PDF span multiple pages.

It only took me a few man-hours to create the whole thing.  If the objective was to allow others to use the app, I would need a few more man-hours to clean it up, but it would fine for me as is.  I will have to ask the next marshal if he wants to use this before I spend any time cleaning it up.

Once Griffon includes GORM, I intend on porting the entire application from Grails to Griffon, because I think this would be a better standalone application than a webapp.  I would like to get it to run on a USB drive, using hsqldb as the database instead of MySQL.  Then the entire application and database can be passed to the next marshal as a self-contained USB drive.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Updating FreeBSD to 7.1

This last weekend I updated my home server to FreeBSD 7.1.  Over the last year I've used freebsd-update to update it to BETA1, RC1, and RC2.  Going from BETA1 to anything else was kind of a pain because freebsd-update looks online for files from the current system during the upgrade, and they pulled the BETA files offline when they put out the RC files.  So I had to use a command to convince freebsd-update that I was using a different version to get it to run.

The last update from RC2 to RELEASE was a breeze.  Basically 3 commands and a reboot before the last command.  Kudos to the developer of freebsd-update.  I've liked FreeBSD for some time, and this just makes it that much better.

Some background on my environment.  I use FreeBSD as a headless server on an old Dell machine (almost 10 years old and it's still running with only a hard drive change during that time).  I use OpenSolaris on a Gateway laptop and have a old iMac for the family computer.

I wanted OpenSolaris on my development machine (the laptop) because I do a lot of Java programming at home and hoped that would be a good environment for that.  For Java development it has been fantastic.  For an operating system for this laptop, not so much.  I can't use the wireless network, audio is kinda flaky, and the machine overheats a lot (I think that is more the laptop's issue, not OpenSolaris', but OpenSolaris never throttles the processor, so I have to have a fan on it the whole time, a big house fan).  However, after using VirtualBox, zfs, and the Java environment on OpenSolaris, I like it for a development machine.

One issue I find somewhat funny is I cannot get the latest version of Gnucash to run on OpenSolaris, so I run Gnucash on the FreeBSD box and export the display to the laptop.  Works well, but it is a little slow (remember the 'BSD box is almost 10 years old).  A side benefit of this setup is I can run it from the iMac as well.