November 17, 2009

Google Chrome starting to get Serious about Extensions

After opening the dev channel Google Chrome this morning I noticed a change in the info on the home screen:

If you look closely at the bottom you'll see a message notifying you of Google Chrome support for both extensions and bookmark sync. These aren't technically new features, but it is interesting to note that the link provided for extensions goes to a Google hosted link which at the time of this writing is not a valid link:

Also the jigsaw graphic in the corner connects to the same link.

With the rumors of the RSS feed extension for automatically detecting feeds in a web page being provided in the future as a default extension for Google Chrome this may be another sign that Google is ready to roll out full-fledged extension support, a feature which has been one of the main barriers to entry for hard-core Mozilla Firefox users.

Until next time

November 11, 2009

Glipper: the clipboard manager for Gnome

I like a clipboard manager. As a programmer I find myself needing to be able to keep track of a history of copied texts and codes for pasting at any given time (yeah yeah, call me a copy/paste programmer if you must, it is the number one form of code reuse :-P ). Anyway, I have been using Ubuntu almost exclusively on my personal laptop and mostly I miss ClipX. On my work machines I use Windows XP, just haven't taken the leap to Ubuntu yet with my Windows driven work life, but I have a common toolset which includes the aforementioned clipboard manager.

ClipX is a bare-bones, no nonsense clipboard manager. It is small and simple and does exactly what I need: keeps a history of my clipboard and allows easy access to those entries. I miss that when using Ubuntu. For a while I was using KDE and it comes with the standard KDE version: Klipper. Gnome though comes with no such default and this is a bit disappointing to me.

I finally found Glipper. It was constructed for Gnome in the tradition of klipper and is simple to use.

It's in the repos so you can find it in Synaptic or simply execute a console command:

sudo apt-get install glipper

It will install and then you'll go looking for it, but you won't find it... anywhere. This is because it's an Applet that can be added to your panel. To get it to show up in my Add to Panel... dialog I actually had to log out and log back in... but then upon launching the add to panel dialog I found Clipboard Manager (or something similar, just start typing clip and you'll see it).

I have to uncheck the option in it's preferences (found by right-clicking the icon on your panel and selecting Preferences) for the mouse selection/middle click option, I have a bad habit of selecting things I don't need when using a mouse and for some reason it was adding all that stuff to the history as if I had copied it.

Until next time

October 30, 2009

Competition and Innovation: Duh.

So another release of Ubuntu is officially out in the wild and it is just another example of the credit due to Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical for making a head-strong push into bringing Linux into mainstream PC usage. But that's all I'll say about Linux because believe it or not I'm actually here to talk about Microsoft today... no don't go... crap!

Anyway, if you're still with me I want to discuss a bit about how competition has proven to get Microsoft off of it's laurels and into some innovative business thinking, even if the ideas aren't their own at least they're trying.

Bing! Though the TV ads are catching on I don't think the ad campaign is the innovation going on here. Let's think back to a few years back when Microsoft decided to start pushing a big ad campaign for it's own search engine (Windows Live Search) in order to try and win some customers over from the ever popular and ever growing do-no-evil giant of search, Google. What ended up happening was people saw the commercials and thought: "Oh look, that company that makes computers has a place on the internet to search for stuff." Because to the general public that is what Microsoft is, a computer manufacturer (and some might even thing they run the internet!)

Some of these people might have even tried this search engine. Those who had used MSN search before would think how it was nothing new and the new people coming from Google would think how it doesn't really work. Results aren't what I'm looking for. To the former I say "Spot on!". Live Search was barely even a rebranding with a bit of new CSS thrown into the web page to make it look more web-modern. To the latter I'd have to conclude that it's not that it didn't 'work' but that it was different than the results you were used to seeing with Google. They used different ways to determine what was relevant to your search terms, and on a behemoth of data such as the world wide web that can produce drastic differences in results.

So it seemed that Microsoft went off the grid as far as their new plans of search engine domination went. But then there were rumors... Something new was in the mix and it was rumored to be a new search engine from the company that brought us PCs, the internet, AND Windows Live Search. When it finally came out of hiding it wasn't a new version of Windows Live Search at all, it was a completely NEW product. Microsoft branding all but disappeared from the product and this new brand emerged: Bing.

But they didn't stop there. If you've paid attention to the TV ads yo probably noticed a difference in how Bing is being promoted. It's not a presentation of "Hey! we have a search engine too!" but more of a claim of "Bing is new, Bing is different, try Bing". Now even taking direct hits at Google int he ads by claiming a sense of feeling inundated with floods of info from Google (which I don't find accurate, but it's an ad folks) and how Bing brings different results (their slant on different being more of what the searcher wants.. again, just ad speak).

Do I think Bing will take the reigns from Google and begin dominating the web search engine usage? No. But I think Microsoft finally got something right. I think they realized that sometimes it's not good enough to just be Microsoft and have the Microsoft brand (in fact with today's viral market it's a bit of a detriment).

until next time

October 28, 2009

The Making of Our House

For those of you interested here are some shots of the house that we've taken throughout the building process. Enjoy!

Until next time

September 25, 2009

Change: The Ever Present Constant

Yes it's been more than a while since my last post here. I'm sorry but I won't be like all those other bloggers and start this post with an apology.

I just rounded off the end of a year doing government contracting. Eight months of which I can't say much (too soon), the last 3 months of that though were very interesting however to my geek side. I got to brush up on my .Net skills and check out the latest in C# technologies (impressive) and I also got to dabble a bit in Java Swing with a HUGE GIS application.

But that has come to an end and I've started a new chapter in my career working back in the private sector doing Java web development. I have to say hello again to Java 1.4, Websphere, Rational Application Developer, AND EJB 2.x

So I've got to get back in the groove of these things and while I'm at it see how I can contribute to maintaining and improving these web applications into a growing industry. I may be jotting some notes here (don't count on it) while I do some digging into the in's N out's of these things again.

All in all things are good.
Until next time

May 21, 2009

Municipal Headache

For the past year I've been very peeved at my city. I got a letter last summer stating that I had "tall weeds/grass" and that if I didn't mow all weeds/grass on my property I would be fined. What's the problem? My property was mowed. Come to find out the unkempt property was an empty field directly north of the property of my neighbors and my property. Last year it took care of itself with little more than headache from me as the proper owners took care of the property the same day I got the letter from the city. Convenient I say.

This year is a bit different. The owners of the property owns the house that is at the far west end of that entire field. They also are in the process of selling their house and, if I'm informed correctly, leaving the country [military]. No one has been taking care of the field, I got another letter from the city.

Here's what happens. The city 'code officers' drive around and find a lot that breaks the 'code'. They pull up their computer and go to the GIS map provided by the county. They use the nifty little tool to click a spot on the map that corresponds to the property in question and then generate a letter to the address signified according the mapping data.

Here is my property according to that county map:

See anything wrong there? Well according to the data that comes off the official legal document (the deed) This is the info about my property:

Of note you see "# of Bldgs: 1" and "Acres: .3100"

Now lets use the GIS tools to map out the plot in the pretty picture:

Interesting... 1.5 acres. Now I do NOT pay property taxes on 1.5 acres or 3 homes, as the GIS data shows. After talking with the County (Oklahoma County) authority, I was informed that the municipal authority could not use that GIS map as a legal means since the data was not correct and there was no guarantee behind it. However, the city 'code officer' tells me that according to state statutes they are supposed to use what the county provides, which to them means this GIS map.

What's the worst part? Here is the disclaimer you see (even the city sees this), when accessing the Oklahoma County GIS mapping tools (found here):

What? I asked the 'code officer' about that. He called the county, he tells me that the county told him that that site is publicly available and that the disclaimer is there for the public. That even though there is a disclaimer that says 'does not constitute a legal survey' the city is supposed to use this map.

I'm confused and on a mission. This is NOT acceptable.

Until next time

May 11, 2009

a linux tip

If you're considering switching to Ubuntu, or any desktop flavor of linux, the first thing I would tell you to do is this:

Find out what hardware you are running. Especially for notebooks.

Having probably used Windows (or even MacOSX) for any period of time has probably shielded you from the pain of having to deal with hardware issues. That is unless you've done a clean install of your OS, or maybe you've seen a glimpse of this frustration by trying to connect a printer to Windows Vista. =]

At first you may be thinking something like this: Windows takes care of that for me so it must be better.

Wrong. When was the last time you installed Windows from scratch? Well I got news for you. Windows didn't take care of that hardware compatibility for you. Do a little research and find out what an OEM is. Yeah, the people that put the computer together for you, they're the one who resolved the hardware issues. Just think, if there were more OEM's that would sell a linux OS out of the box how little then would these hardware issues be?

So, dig in and find out what you are running. A few of the most common gotcha pieces of hardware is:
  • wireless adapter (whether built in or external)
  • video card
  • sound card
Find out what you have, write it down somewhere for safekeeping. When looking into linux do a bit of research. Google is your friend. Search for your hardware with words like 'linux compatible' or 'ubuntu'. If there are problems then I can almost guarantee you that someone has already ran into them and resolved them.

Ways to find out your hardware:
  • from the distributor (toshiba, hp, compaq, dell, lenovo... etc.)
  • in Windows look under the Device Manager
  • if you're already in linux then just google it for your distro, some have simple ways, just don't be afraid to use the command line
Take your time and have fun. If you don't like it then don't use it.


February 25, 2009

Why I won't get a Mac

A lot of people I know use Macs. They carry their shiny Mac Book Pro like a badge of honor, a talisman which embodies the measure of their master-geekery. It is quite funny how unknowingly religious such an iconic piece of shiny technology can make these latter-day geeks, but without many exceptions they are all very religious about it. Many times I find myself being invited to their Church of the Mac. I suppose they wish to save me from the evils Microsoft and protect me from the effort it takes to run an open source OS such as Ubuntu or Fedora. But I'm not interested. I believe in the seperation of Church and Tech.

What I find particularly interesting about this following, at least amongst the people I know, is that they are most big FOSS (Free and open source software) supporters. I ask them why not use an open source solution to their OS needs? Linux afterall is Unix based (like Mac's OS) and it's FOSS!!! But apperantly these master craftsmen, these warriors against the Big Corporation Microsoft find that using Linux distribustions to be a bit taxing on their patience. And apperantly, similar to Microsoft's Windows, Mac's OS is made to be a bit more user friendly.

What is the usual hold-up for using a FOSS operating system? In my experience it's been hardware support. This is getting better with every kernel release and distro update, but admittedly getting Linux to work with your particular hardware configuration can leave you a bit befuzzled. I happen to enjoy tinkering when I have the time, but I do realize the turn-off it can be when you just can't seem to get your wireless card to connect to the Internet of all things.

But Apple takes the fuss all out of that. They've got their proprietary, Unix-based OS that is very much like it's distant cousin's in the Linux world, but one HUGE caveat: Apple manufactures their own pricey hardware. In fact, if you read the EULA (you do read those from time to time right?) for your favorite Mac OS you'll see in plain text that it is an infraction of the Mac OS license agreement to run the OS on any other hardware than that provided by the manufacturer. Now I understand that Apple has found a niche market, but this wreaks of non-compete, monopoly-esque, the kind of stuff Microsoft get's taken to court for all time business. (Jeff Atwood, of fame, compares it to the dongles of old.)

Sure Microsoft's dominance in many areas has led to product stagnation and other negative side affects, but you can take their products and run them on pretty much any hardware, manufactured by any company and it's fine. At what point of company growth will Apple no longer be able to get away with this. I'm glad their are companies like Psystar that are trying to keep Apple honest, but even they seem to be on the losing side.

So in the end, I don't see Apple as a Microsoft competitor, but more of an equal to them in their philosophies and business model. Sure they're competing with Microsoft, but only in a niche market. But they resemble that competitor more than their proponents want to admit.

For now I'll keep tinkering with Ubuntu and using Windows as deemed necessary.
Until next time