This was a very good class, as I learned a lot more than I expected and took away some experiences that will significantly help me and those I work for in the future. The interest in applications that allow groups to work together online has been growing, with technology being a limitation on what can be done. However, with advanced web developments, tools, infrastructure and abilities that lower the barrier for implementing this kind of application, this sector is now veritably exploding.
It was a tough quarter on a another level as I changed jobs after being in the same company for over 10 years. So I had to deal with interviewing and departure details, as well as, adjust to a new work place. Interestingly, the class had an immediate effect on my transition. In future interviews, I will be sure to enquire about a companies use of groupware and ways of collaborating virtually. As my new job has required me to work with team members who are located in different buildings and my new boss is in another state. Other valuable learning included a good overview of the current crop of groupware and the actual use of two groupware applications. This class also required a team project, which went really well, in part because of the groupware that we used.
I recently had a nice experience as a tech consumer, a lifetime warranty that was honored and a product that worked as advertised for something where there is a lot of debate. First the warranty was for a 1GB ram chip. When I bought my laptop almost two years ago, I bought 2GB of ram from a third party dealer. It was much cheaper than the ram offered by Apple, but of course I would have to install it myself. Which is dead simple as most laptops now make a special door to install ram (it wasn’t always like that… many laptops from the late 90s had to be taken apart to get at the ram). At any rate, late last year one of the ram chips started crapping out. First I would get a kernel panic, which I thought might be something else, but then I noticed after restarting, that the ram read at half the capacity (512 MB). I ran Apple’s hardware diagnostic and it indicated the chip was going bad. Eventually, it just quit working all together. I still had 1GB in the system, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it is nice to not have to close anything during the day as I work. So I missed having the 2GB. I thought I would have to buy a new chip, so I went to check the company I bought the chip from www.4allmemory.com and there on the page was a lifetime warranty link. I checked my original invoice and sure enough, it was covered. So I called half expecting them wanting me to explain the problem and what I did to verify it was the chip and do everything I already did to verify the chip was bad. Instead the friendly person simply said pack it up and send it in, and they will send a replacement. That’s it, no fuss, no hemming or hawing, just great service. Ok, it did take them two weeks to send the replacement, but it was great just to receive it at all.
Working on a recent layout, I was finally confronted with the need to have an IE CSS hack. I hate hacks, because they often break with browser updates and aren’t easily remembered. So I avoid them as much as possible. However, I finally succumbed to having to use a hack… except the method I use is not a hack so much as relying on IE functionality. My designs typically can be made to work in Opera, Mozilla/Firefox and Safari browsers very easily, and then occasionally take some head pounding to get to work for IE (first windows then mac). While some might suggest designing for IE first, that is not desirable as I use a mac to develop on, although I do use a PC at work. Also, when resolving a design for IE first, it is tempting to not check the others, as IE is still the browser of the masses. Working with Safari, Mozilla first gets the less numerous browsers out of the way. The additional nightmare of IE is that you have to deal with the subversions, 5.0 does not work the same as 5.5, which is not the same as 6.x (don’t mention 4.x browsers).
Intel Macs have been released and they are even better than I could imagine. They came out with a new iMac with dual core Intel and new powerbooks. All the rumor sites were saying that it was going to be the mini or the iBook and all I kept thinking was how could they possibly pass up the PowerBook. It is (or was) their top selling system, which was in fast decline becuase of the aging G4. I just couldn’t see any way for them to do the iBook especially without doing the pro level laptop as well. On the otherhand, while they didn’t do the mini just yet (I think they will have something in April), they did do the iMac, which leaves the PowerMac desktops in a precarious position. They did release a twin-dual core (quad) G5 desktop late last year, so it is still a step up from the single dual core Intel iMac, but how many developers are going to spend time optimizing for the G5 versus the new Intel systems which are the future. Another drawback for the Intel iMacs is the all-in-one form have a limited appeal for thoses who only want a system, so I guess it makes sense. I just wish I had a couple grand to buy one of the new MacBooks… yes, they had to change the name since it no longer has a powerpc chip and everybody is ripping on the name.
At first, I thought the name wasn’t that great either, then I kind of warmed up to it, since they are really nice systems. Then writing this post I realized; What the heck are they going to call the PowerMac once it is switched to Intel? Please not the MacMac Pro! Ah well, despite the name, I may look around for a freelance job or two to do in the evening or weekends to try and get enough money to get one of the new laptops. Don’t know how I will fit that in with school too… I guess I can wait til later this year or next year. Or if anyone wants to donate some money…
[update 2011-03-27: Kind of funny reading this now and thinking about Oracle being the one to end up buying Sun last year. Sun’s days were truly numbered when linux started to really gain traction in the server space]
This is to go along with every other “MS should buy X” story out there… Ok this sounds crazy, but really this is the best strategy that MS could have… buy Sun. It would probably end-up being a hostile takeover, but it would make sense for MS whatever the cost. MS keeps talking about their current strategy to run a command line interface (cli) on top of windows. In fact they already have it and are working to make it robust enough to woo unix types over to the windows platform. But this is a joke of the largest proportions as the problem with running windows with the cli on top, is that it does not solve the code problems with both security and performance underneath.
Recently, I’ve had conversations with a few of my developer friends who are all a twitter about AJAX. Saying how great it is and all the cool things Google is doing with it. Honestly, after taking a real close look at it, I find it to be hardly more than another buzzword. It simply does not offer anything of real value for web development. Yes, it can make interfacing with certain web applications smoother, and it solves some problems inherent in web applications. However, it introduces a whole set of other problems, that in my opinion, make it widely unsuitable for most work.
I worked a little more with automator (when I should have been studying regression analysis)… and have come up with a cool new automator. This incorporates an undocumented aspect of automator, so it took some trial and error to figure out. Basically, I wanted something that would allow me to turn a request to view a man page into a pdf file for easy printing and viewing in the gui side of Mac OS X. Only a unix geek could love the man page as it is… for unix newbies though, it can be quite frustrating. Personally, I am use to man pages, but I still like to print some out now and then and converting them to pdf allows me to access them without opening terminal (not that you wouldn’t probably have terminal open anyway).
So I wanted to find a way to make a man page into a pdf. Of course you can do this from the terminal, but where’s the fun in that (plus you have to remember the commands each time you want to do this). There is a free GUI utility called ManOpener that allows you to view man pages easily as well, and is much more featured than this automator tool. But if all you want (as I did) was a man page made into a pdf, then this is what you need to do;
- Open Automator, from the Library column select TextEdit. From the actions drag “Ask for Text” over to the workflow area.
- In the question field type “Enter man page name?” or something to indicate what you need to enter
- You can leave the default field empty or enter something that will serve as a reminder of what to enter
- Check the require answer box
- Next, from the Library column select Automator, then from the actions drag over the “Run Shell Script” to the workflow after the previous item. Type or copy & paste the following as one line, modifying the paths so that they point to your preferred locations (include the quote marks this time);
man -t $@ > /hardrive/Users/Shared/manpages/$@.ps | echo -n “harddrive:Users:Shared:manpages:”$@”.ps”
Set the “Pass Input” to “as arguments”
Note: The $@ takes the value entered in the “Ask for Text” and runs it as a shell command. The first part which calls the man page then passes it to a postscript file named with the name of the man you are looking for, then it echoes out the path to the next function. The echoed path has to be in the style of the Mac OS drive path reference which uses “:” instead of slashes “/”.
- Last select Finder from the Library column and drag “Open Finder Items” to the workflow in the last place. Set the “open with” field to the Preview application. The path passed from the previous action will be opened in Preview converting it into a pdf.
You are ready to test, click the run arrow and try it out. If everything works, the requested man page will be open in Preview at this point. You can either save it or discard it after use. You can get fancy and do things like check for existing ps files or remove the ps file after it is converted. But this gives you the idea of what fun you can have with automator and how it can make working with unix fun. Be sure to save your workflow and make it readily accessible on your dock or wherever you like to put things to be accessed often.