Only showing posts tagged with "Apple"
June 20, 2007 2:00 PM by Daniel Chambers
Finally, this semester is over. Its been a long, long, semester and I'm glad that its finally finished, exams and all. As usual, I'll write up a review of the semester, but this isn't the blog for it.
Now that I've had my two 24" screens for a couple of weeks, I can formulate a proper opinion on them. Were they worth the two grand I spent on them? Absolutely. There is nothing quite like being able to work on code on one massive screen, only to have the multitude of supporting windows that I also use on the other massive screen. Highly recommended for those that can stomach the price.
It was requested of me by a peer that I illustrate the supreme coding environment that two 24" screens provides. Here is a picture showing Visual Studio (with two panels of code), MSDN and a uni project requirements PDF all open simultaneously. Don't mind all the mess on my desk (that was good watermelon and ginger beer).
The screens are so bright that they literally light up my room. I almost don't need any other lights on in the room. That said, they can be a little glaring if you don't have some other supplemental light on.
The first thing that annoyed me was the lack of a taskbar on the second screen. I wanted all the windows on the second screen to be on their own taskbar rather than junking up the single one on the main screen. A quick search later and Ultramon solved my problems. Highly recommended for those with two screens.
However, not is all sweet smelling roses in the 24" garden. One of the screens seems to have a bit of light leakage on the right edge. My last screen had tonnes of light leakage and as such it wasn't really an issue. This screen, however, has no light leakage except for this tiny bit which makes it all the more obvious and annoying. It doesn't affect standard work but during movies with dark scenes it is particularly obvious. It only affects one screen out of my two.
So, I submitted a warranty claim with Dell to try and get it replaced, fully expecting to be rebuffed. To my extreme pleasure, I was called within a day of the report and told they will send me a replacement and I can send my existing screen back with the courier that brings the replacement. Hats off to Dell. Exemplary performance. I will recommend Dell to anyone who asks me now.
But enough raving about the screens. Now that exams are over, I am planning to put a lot of time into my web development business. We are currently developing a CMS for use in a few clients' websites. Its written in PHP 5 in a fully object-oriented manner and is turning out nicely.
Aurora (the CMS) will power the next version of DigitallyCreated.net. The next version? Yes, this design, although nice, is getting a bit tired and as such I've developed a new design from the ground up that, when the correct components from Aurora are done, I will replace this current website with. Expect a much more robust blogging system with comments when that's released. Closer to the time, I may release some screenshots.
People may say that Microsoft has grown stagnant, and certainly some sectors haven't been doing as well as was expected (Vista for example). But, as I've always said, if there's one thing that Microsoft can do right, its development tools.
They've gone and released a new web platform called Silverlight. At first glance, it seems to be a Flash-y sort of thing, but when you look closer it seems (to me at least) to be more of a platform than a media presentation format.
However, its got one main failing point at this time. It doesn't work in Opera. Works in Firefox and IE, but not Opera. Sorry guys, but until its pervasive, its not going to take off. And they realise that. Their current plan seems to be to release an Opera version "soon" (I'm hoping with the final version of Silverlight 1.1 which is in Alpha currently). At least they are bothering, which is new for Microsoft and Opera (*cough* fix all the Windows Live services while you're at it *cough*).
Silverlight seems to be a good place that Microsoft can finally use XAML. I always thought that XAML didn't seem to be particularly useful in the Visual Studio - C# world (I haven't actually used it though, so I very well might be wrong, so take that with a handful of salt). But for a web application, XAML seems to be perfect. Check out the short tutorials on the Silverlight website to see what I mean.
Another indication that Microsoft have still got the smarts, so to speak, is the new Popfly mashup creator/website creator/community that they've created, built on Silverlight. I was raving for hours after I saw this. The coolest thing about Popfly is its mashup creator. You literally drag "blocks" onto a drawing surface and join them with lines to join together services like Virtual Earth and Flickr. Its insane.
You can create your own blocks as well. There is a Visual Studio plugin you can download that helps you with this. You can then share these blocks on the little community thing that Popfly's got. Don't like what someone's shared? You can easily copy it, edit it and reshare the updated version!
If you need to dig a bit deeper into the code, say in the web site developer tool, or in the mashup creator, you can. And its even got Intellisense code prompting. In a web browser. Insane.
Popfly's only in Alpha so its still a little rough around the edges. But its remarkably stable. I haven't fiddled with it all yet, but what I have used has been remarkably smooth and polished. The alpha is still only in invitation only mode, but I was lucky enough to get an invite. If you hurry up, you might get one too. To see the really awesome presentation of Popfly check out their page here (you need Silverlight installed to view the movie).
Just to put a downer on all this new-found excitement, Apple released a PC version of their Mac Safari browser. Why do I hate this? Because its another damn browser I've got to now test for, me being a web developer. I've already got enough to tear my hair out with, what with Opera, Firefox and IE 6 and 7, since bloody people seem to not want to update to version IE7 (go find some statistics and see). The Inquirer has a nice article that explains why Apple dumped this pile on us and its not because they love us.
Hell, now that I've got all annoyed with Apple, I might as well focus some rage on their zealot fanboys. A perfectly innocent ZDNet blogger wrote that the new MacOS X that is coming soon isn't too different from Vista. Although I don't agree with everything that she said (especially the part about Coverflow looking like a rip off of Flip3D), she made a lot of good points. However, she was literally threatened and abused into backing down by angry Apple zealots. She was literally told that she should "find a new career", that she "should be running a car wash in Frezno", and one of the zealots was going to complain to her manager to get her fired.
This sort of thing, people, is completely unacceptable. The Internet is not a place where you can threaten and abuse people. Its a place where you can present your viewpoint. Its okay that someone else has a different opinion to you. Its not okay to insult and threaten those other people. These people are one of the reasons why I dislike Apple. I don't want to be painted with the same brush as these spineless cowards who didn't even leave their real email address when they posted their insults so that Mary Jo (the blogger) could respond to them rationally. Here's a good rule of thumb for the zealots: if you want people to join up with Apple, try to act in a mature manner. If you need to hide your real name and email address, what you are saying is not appropriate.
Cooling down now, I am aware however, that this vocal minority of users is just that: a minority. There are plenty of rational people with Macs. My favourite lecturer has a Mac, one of my best friends has a Mac and some of my uni mates have Macs. I still am interested in Apple's progress and activities. Hell, maybe one day I'll get a Mac. But that day is not now nor in the foreseeable future at this point.
Getting back from another Apple rant (sorry, its a habit I've got to get over), let me bring this massive blog to a close on a positive note. At the end of my presentation that I gave on Monday (which went brilliantly), the marker told me about a Google presentation video that talks about tagging as a concept and kindly sent me the link in an email. It sounds boring, but in fact it was an entertaining and facinating video to watch. I highly recommend it. Here's the link. Its long (about an hour) but well worth the watch.
Especially on a 24 inch screen.
November 14, 2006 2:00 PM by Daniel Chambers
Bah, I seem to be attracting hardware failures of late. The new stick of RAM I bought for my laptop in June decided to up and die, corrupting my Windows installation along with it. Luckily it has lifetime warranty, so I didn't lose anything, except my patience with the sluggish remaining 512MB of "not enough" RAM and having to reinstall everything which sucks when you're a developer (it takes ages).
But let's move onto the more interesting things. What I've begun doing is having a folder in my bookmarks in Opera, and when I get a particularly interesting article I stick it in there to write about later. This should mean I will blog more frequently*.
* Terms and Conditions Apply. :)
So. The first item: Windows PowerShell has gone 1.0! As we all know, the standard command prompt and scripting offered in Windows blows when compared to Bash in Linux. PowerShell is here to rectify that. However, don't go jumping into it thinking that you can just run all of Windows from the shell. Windows is still a strongly GUI-centred operating system and you can't just run the OS from the command-line like you can in Linux. Certainly it has been touted to make Windows Server administrators' lives easier, but unlike Linux, most apps for Windows aren't written with command-line functionality or COM interfaces.
The PowerShell syntax is a weird amalgam of C# syntax with a little Bash and some weirdness thrown in there for good measure. I almost wish it was more C#ish; just some things like the equality operator being -eq, as opposed to the more C-style ==, seem strange when you are doing C# style foreach loops.
Where Bash is often centered around plain text hacking, PowerShell does it differently. When you "pipe" things around you are piping objects. Yes, PowerShell is weirdly object oriented. Kind of. PowerShell is built on top of the .NET Framework, and it shows through. Passing objects around instead of plain strings is better since different cmdlets (pronounced "command-lets", these are the commands in PowerShell) can act on the objects differently without the need of string hacking ala Bash. For example, instead of (in Bash) getting a list of files, using awk to rip out the filenames then throwing them into file, PowerShell does it by getting objects that represent the files and passing those objects to some other command which will extract the filename object property and write them to a file. Its a crappy example, I know, but I haven't spent a lot of time in PowerShell yet. :)
The next item on today's agenda: threading in the Source Engine! If you don't know what the Source Engine is you either live under the "I don't play computer games" rock or you play way too much Starcraft. For you people, the Source Engine is the game engine that powers the bestselling Half-Life 2 game and has been licenced for other good games like Dark Messiah - Might and Magic, and Sin Episodes.
Most game engines these days don't properly take use of dual/quad core CPUs because they are not "multithreaded". A program that is multithreaded has multiple lines of execution all running concurrently. This means, on a multi-core computer, more than one thing is happening at once. If your game isn't threaded it pretty much means a whole half (or three-quarters or whatever) of your CPU is going to waste. So its an important thing for games to become multithreaded.
Valve (the makers of the Source Engine, oh uneducated ones :P) have started work on making the Source Engine multithreaded. This is difficult since threading can be a real pain in the butt and will require a large amount of the engine to be rewritten. There are three main ways that multithreading can be done in a game engine: in a coarse fashion, in a fine fashion, and in a hybrid fashion that uses elements from both coarse and fine.
The coarse fashion is where different game subsystems are put on different threads. Valve found this to be ineffective in utilising the entire CPU fulltime. The fine fashion is where low level tasks are split across cores. This method was also unsatisfactory since not all tasks are well suited to being split in this fashion. Valve settled on the hybrid method which pretty much means it uses the coarse fashion where it suits the problem and the fine fashion where it suits the problem. This way is the most complex but it scales well and maxes out the CPU.
What Valve has done is to create N-1 threads (for N cores on the CPU) with the other thread being the master controller thread. Valve uses lock-free algorithms to help remove the problem of threads sitting around blocking (doing nothing) while they wait for access to data (two threads cannot write to the same piece of data at the same time, that would be bad).
Multithreading in Source can only bring benefits to Source-based games. I know that currently half of my CPU (1 core of 2) sits around doing nothing when I play games, and last time I checked I didn't fork out good cash for it to be slacking! There is a full on article about multithreaded Source which goes into more detail and has a good focus on the technical side of the threading, which a lot of the other articles about this didn't.
A nice thing to hear is that Valve uses iterative development on the Source Engine (building and improving it piece by piece over time, rather than writing it and then rewriting it from scratch for upgrades) because my course at University likes to rave about iterative development. Wonder whether they do unit tests :).
And finally on today's show is a little something to back up my rant on Apple a few blogs ago. I will now degrade into IM-speak: LOFL, ROFLMAO, LOL.
August 13, 2006 2:00 PM by Daniel Chambers
Apple really gets my goat sometimes. I'm not going to turn this into an Apple bashing session, because I honestly like what they make. They make a good operating system that is, in many ways, superior to Windows. Their computers are really nice looking with some nice features, especially now that they are x86 based. Their software, for example iMovie, is very nice.
But it really gets my goat when Apple acts like a spoilt brat. I only follow Apple based activities with a cursory eye, and get major overloading updates from my Mac man friend even now and again. But when I see Apple making ads like their "Mac Guy, PC Guy" ones, that really pisses me off. For an example, go watch this.
I'm going to drop an expletive here, so if you don't like that then skip a couple of words. Fuck you, Apple. Fuck you. Okay, I've got that out now. I find those ads rather offensive. Kind of like if Apple came and spat in my face. They are incredibly derogatory and worse, condescending. They completely disrespect any person who uses a PC over a Mac. In fact, it reminds me of a child who screams at their parents trying to get their attention. I'm sorry, Apple, but face the facts. You own, what?, two percent of the market? Consumers vote with their wallets and you lost 98 to 2.
Their TV ads are nothing less than straight propaganda. For example, their viruses ad. They quite correctly state that PC's have lots of viruses and Macs don't. Okay, known fact. What they fail to tell the average consumer who knows nothing of this type of thing is that the only reason Mac OS X doesn't have viruses is because no one uses it. If anyone used it, say 98% of people (*cough* like Windows *cough*), then it would have viruses.
Plus the whole PC guy, Mac guy stereotype thing. Apparently, all PC guys wear boring business suits, wear glasses, are overweight, and have bad hair. Mac users are the "cool, hip" guys. Again, I find this offensive. I'm sure there are PC users out there that look like that PC guy, but I can guarantee you that there are Mac users like that guy too. I can also guarantee you that I know lots of "cool" people who use PCs. That would be, ahh, most of the population. And really, judging people by their looks is incredibly childish. Remember the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover"?
Another thing that annoys me about the Apple ads it that they openly piss on Microsoft. Okay, Microsoft has screwed up a bit. But standing back, pointing and laughing really is a particularly childish thing to do. And that fact that Microsoft just takes it, not a word said in return. That, that simple act of not getting involved, and of not lowering themselves to Apple's name-calling level instils great respect for Microsoft in me. It draws parallels with the things you were told as a child: "If someone is being nasty, simply ignore them. Don't lower yourself to their level."
All this crap was brought to my attention by Paul Thurrott who wrote a brilliant article article about Apple's new upcoming OS X version versus Vista. I heartily recommend you read it, it really sums up my feelings about Apple. Paul doesn't support Microsoft, per se, but he sure shows that he does not approve of the propaganda that Apple generates daily and their pathetic childish attention seeking.
And the worst part is, people lap it up. People lap it up. Especially Mac fans. Have you noticed that for an Apple fan, Apple can do no wrong? A slight exaggeration would be if Steve Jobs told a Mac fan to run off a cliff, the guy would do it. Anything Apple makes is instantly legendary in the eyes of their fans. An example:
Jobs: "Hey Mac users! We want to completely change the operating system from Mac OS (OS 9) to Unix (OS X). This means none of your applications will work anymore (unless you emulate, which will be discontinued shortly)! We also are not letting you install OS X on older hardware. That's right, you have to buy our expensive upgrades! How do you like that?"
Mac fans: "Yay Steve, I'll buy a new computer just for you. You are so right in doing this!"
They are almost religious in their fanaticism.
Also notice the constant upgrades in Mac OS X. Steveo sees this as a good thing. No Steve, its not. Not when new apps are locked from running on the old OS X versions (eg iLife), forcing you to upgrade Mac OS X for a fee. If that happened in Windows, Microsoft would be shot. Notice Windows' massive backwards compatability? Christ, if Jobs started sending empty cases to users instead of computers, the fans would just go "What an innovation! Look how light it is! And it doesn't need cooling! Suck on that PC users!"
What also annoys me is the claims that Microsoft has been sitting on its butt twidling its thumbs since XP. Okay, so it screwed up Vista big time, but what about all the other stuff. For example, .NET Framework 1, 1.1, 2.0. Visual Studio 2002/3/5. C#. Just because Microsoft stuffed up making its operating system for a couple of years doesn't mean its completely useless and makes nothing good. On the contrary. .NET Framework and C# brings a whole new dimension to easy development of stable systems.
People don't realise how good they've got it with Windows. And how hard it is to make an OS like Windows in comparison to Mac OS X. Windows has massive hardware support. Mac OS X has Mac hardware only. Windows is massively backwards compatible, Mac OS X is not. Windows can run everyone's software and makes software development a breeze. Mac OS X has little software in comparison.
Windows' backwards compatibility is the thing that really limits Windows' development compared to Mac OS. Microsoft doesn't have the luxury of a rabid fan base that won't mind upgrading completely to run applications. Jeez, enough people are bitching that Halo 2 is only for Vista, and that Vista won't run well on crappy hardware. If Microsoft could throw away their current code base and redesign like Apple did with Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, I think Windows would be freaking awesome.
Some of Apple's claims of "stolen features" also annoy me. Paul Thurrott in his article expressed that especially well. For example, Spotlight, Mac OS X's instant searching utility that they stole off Microsoft. Ok, so they got it to market first, but it was Microsoft's idea originally.
Damn, I guess this did turn into an Apple bashing session. My main point is not that Apple makes bad products, on the contrary, their stuff is excellent. But the fact that they behave like goddamn schoolchildren with their (white)lying and name-calling. I could put up with their selective information advertisements/propaganda where they don't tell the whole story. But the derogatory PC guy vs. Mac guy ads really piss me off. It just shows how insecure they are if they feel the need to drag others down around them. Their vying for attention like a short kid jumping up and down in a crowd of tall kids is nothing short of pathetic.
If you haven't yet read Paul Thurrott's article, go read it now. Its a must-read eye-opener.