Monthly Archives: January 2005

Google Translate beats Altavista Babelfish


I wanted to read Marcello’s blog, but I don’t read Italian. He’s a fellow Eclipse on Mac developer who lives in Milan.

So… I tried the good old Babelfish, by Altavista. I entered in Marcello’s blog and chose Italian->English and got redirected. Then I waited… and waited… and I’m still waiting as I write this post. (Update: After several minutes, I just stopped the attempt.)

Then I tried Google Translate, with the same options and got the translation I wanted in under a second.

The translation is quite interesting:

NetNewsWire Lite accidentally gets translated to NetNewsWire Argument :)

My favorite:

“Directly from Wikilab the signalling of the escape of release the 1,0 official of Thunderbird , the client of e-mail open source of Mozilla Foundation .

Perhaps it will not have bannerino ovunque or the page on the New York Times like Firefox , but it is worth the pain sure to try it.”

(BTW, I have tried it and I do like Thunderbird 1.0.)

Even with the so-so translation (which is unfortunately the state of the art), its nice to be able to mostly understand a fellow developer who blogs in Italian, especially when its free and at lightning speed.

Will Apple be supporting Eclipse and SWT better in the future?

Marcello pointed out this Apple job posting for a Java Frameworks Engineer in the Eclipse-Mac Google group:

“We are interested in an energetic developer who can master our Java implementation (Java, Obj-C, C & C++) and contribute to making Mac OS X the best environment for Java development.

…You will quickly become a valuable member of the team responsible for the next generation implementation of the HI Frameworks for Java on Mac OS X.

…Responsibilities include portions of the implementation of the MacOS X Java SWT, AWT and Swing APIs…

…Required experience:
We are looking for 1 of these 4 types of people:

- has developed core pieces of the Eclipse IDE and has strong knowledge of SWT and its implementation
…”

(emphasis is mine)

As far as I know, the SWT implementation for OS X has been an Eclipse Foundation affair, with Andre leading the way. So it is nice to see Apple starting to adopt SWT as one of its own.

I think they’ve done a great job with the Swing on OS X implementation. I think its one of the better (maybe best) Swing implementations available.

PC Magazine recommends the Mac mini

“If you’ve been thinking of switching to a Mac but have been put off by the high price of a new system, now may be the right time.” – PC Magazine

Exactly.

Read the full Mac mini review here.

They also like the iPod Shuffle: “Probably the best flash player without a display, the iPod shuffle has excellent audio performance, a low price, a near-weightless design, and interesting random-load/random-play features.”

Mac mini – the first few days

It’s been two and a half days since I brought the mini home from the Apple store and I thought I’d share some of my early experiences with it.

It’s tiny – I mean it is unbelievably small. When my wife came in for the first time to see it, she said “Where’s the computer?” because she was expecting this big behemoth that we’ve become used to in the age of Tower and even Mini-Tower PCs.

It’s cool – not just that it is wonderfully designed, it runs cool. I think the aluminum sides make a difference. Whenever I touch them they feel cool. Plus I’m guessing the fan/ventilation is well engineered. Hope that Dvorak notices this, since this is was one of his concerns before he started to officially recommend it.

It’s quiet – The only exception to this is when the optical drive spins up. Otherwise, you can’t hear the fan or the hard drive. This is a stark difference when compared to my old PC or even my Xbox.

Display resolution problem – when it first came up, the mini started displaying at 800×600 on my Gateway 2000-branded Sony Trinitron 17″ CRT, which I normally run at 1024×768. I had to dive into the preferences to change the display resolution. This may be a problem for those who are switching, since the mini doesn’t come with the Display menu item enabled. Instead, you have to go to the Apple menu, then go to System Preferences, then choose Displays. Anyone else out there experience this problem or is it because my monitor is almost 10 years old?

The mini has an internal speaker! This isn’t a PC internal speaker that just goes beep or click. This is a speaker that outputs sound like a PowerBook would. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there is a hole for the sound to come out of, so it is quite muffled. Or perhaps it is not amplified. So you could get away with not plugging in external speakers, but only if you’re in a quiet room and you have good hearing.

Now, when you connect external speakers while the mini is on, the sound automatically re-routes from the internal speaker to the external. Very smooth. I think that the iPod has this sort of headphone jack sensing technology too, except that when you unplug your headphones, the iPod stops playing. It won’t re-start playing unless you manually re-start. BTW, I think the mini calls this jack a headphone jack.

The reassuring Apple LED – there’s a small, round pinpoint of an LED on the front that glows when the mini is on. When it is asleep, it has the reassuring slow pulse that tells you that it is sleeping soundly, just like on a PowerBook. The Apple logo on top doesn’t light up or glow, but maybe it should. It would be quite cool and also match the PowerBook’s glowing Apple logo.

I’m the only one who hasn’t cracked open their mini with a putty knife – or so it seems. Already, Russell, James, smash and even Dan Frakes from MacWorld have not just opened theirs with putty knives, but even posted instructions, pictures, and video!

Why would someone risk damage to their brand new and elegant Mac mini? Well, because people don’t want to pay $450 for 1GB of RAM (which is the official maximum amount of memory you can put in a mini.) Instead, many folks are buying them for roughly $200, give or take $20, opening up their minis with a $5 beveled puttty knife and then replacing memory like you do with any other Mac or PC. I don’t think I’ll be doing this anytime soon since it seems like 256MB is going to be OK for my kids usage.

Setting up the Mac mini – an illustrated guide

Mac mini in the box.jpg

Ahh… home sweet home. Here’s all my new Apple stuff (minus the printer) on the desk where my PC currently resides. The boxes look cool, I must admit. Gateway 2000 boxes used to be kinda kitschy with the cow spots, but these boxes are elegant.

Opening the Mac mini box.jpg

I open the mini box… Ah yes… “Designed by Apple in California.” Reminds me of the opening credits to a movie.

Notice that styrofoam makes a nice white frame for this package within a package. Let’s open it, shall we?

Read this.jpg

The package opens up like a little gift and reveals some DVDs of software, some manuals, some warranties, and 2 nice ice white Apple stickers. I always take a look at the manual, which is called the Mac mini User’s Guide. Yea, I’m the one that actually reads the manual. What I found out though is that you really don’t need to read the manual to set things up…

Mac mini wrapped.jpg

I take the mini out of the box and lift it up. It actually feels substantial for its size. Like a really nice watch. I bought a combo VHS/DVD recently and when I picked it up out of the box, it just felt wrong, like all the gears inside were made of plastic.

Yes, the kids still love VHS though I’m slowly weaning them over to DVD. Still looking for a good backup solution to prevent the skipping of a scratched Finding Nemo.

Back to the mini… it is an interesting blend of Apple styles. The top is a highly reflective iPod white, while the sides are an aluminum like a PowerBook.

Mac mini unwrapped.jpg

Witness the caterpillar emerge out of its chrysalis and emerge as a beautiful butterfly.

Apple wraps all of its stuff in this tightly wrapped clear film that lets you know that you are the proud owner of something new that has been protected during shipping with this wrapping. This is one of the nice touches that only Apple gives you.

Power brick.jpg

Here’s the power brick. It’s quite large compared to the mini, probably about a third of its size. It’s too bad that it doesn’t use the same power adapter that my PowerBook uses.

Cables plugged in.jpg

OK, so here’s what you do to install a Mac mini after you’ve taken it and its power supply out of the box:

1. Back up your PC and put the data that you want onto CDs or DVDs or another computer. Then shut it down.

2. Put the power supply together, plug it in the wall, then plug it into the mini

3. Unplug the Internet connection from your PC, then plug your Internet connection into the ethernet port of the mini

4. If you’ve got a USB keyboard and mouse, unplug those.

Plug your USB keyboard and mouse in – I bought the Apple keyboard because it has the volume control and eject keys; I bought the Apple one button mouse because the right button causes more problems for my kids than it helps. They used to bring up the Macromedia Flash properties panel at least a few times a day while playing games.

Also, if you’ve got a PS/2 keyboard and mouse, you can get a USB to PS2 adapter, but after you do so, unplug those as well. Russell has some good pics of his Mac mini switch that shows a USB to PS2 adapter.

5. If you have a VGA monitor, then put the DVI-VGA adapter into the mini and turn the little thumb wheels to secure it (interesting design – I should take a close up of it), then unplug the monitor from your PC and plug the monitor into the DVI-VGA adapter.

6. Unplug your speakers from your PC and plug them into your mini.

7. Unplug your other USB peripherals (I have a printer and a scanner) and plug them into your mini.

8. Push the power button (its in the back on the right, right above where the power supply goes in.)

Basically: Plug the Mac mini into the wall, unplug all the cables that go to your PC and plug them into your Mac mini, then turn it on.

Everything but the monitor.jpg

Here’s the whole set up before I move the monitor over. Note how sleek the Apple set up looks compared to the PC keyboard and mouse.

You've been switched.jpg

You’ve been switched! Yes, that’s an old Gateway 2000-branded 17″ Sony Triniton monitor. Notice how tiny the mini looks next to it.

I’ll post some initial experiences with the Mac mini soon…

Mac mini frenzy at Tysons Corner Apple Store

I woke up at 8AM and got on the road just when the snow started falling. It’s predicated that we’ll get 4-7 inches of snow today here in the DC Area.

I got to the Apple Store at Tysons Corner and was pleased to see a small line at around 8:30AM. There were 10 people in front of me, some talking about what they were going to do with their new Mac minis. One guy said he was going to use his as a home theatre Mac. He is going to retire an old PC that is “held together with gum.” I can relate… I was trying to get all my data from my old PC backed up for the switch to the Mac mini and was repeatedly stymied by my CD burner which refused to burn any CDs. I instead copied off the data via Windows directory sharing and connecting to it with my PowerBook via the Airport Express Base. Another guy was waiting in line for an iPod shuffle!

I’m biding my time and wondering if anyone will walk up to me and talk to me about my blog (I was wearing my Eclipse hat like I had said in an earlier post), but there is the blogosphere and the real world. This was more of a real world crowd.

More people get behind me. I see about 20 more folks, mostly men. One guy has a 15″ Titanium PowerBook and is surfing the Web wirelessly.

I talk to one guy who says that says that he is finally agreeing with his friend that Mac is better and that he is switching. He bought a 1.42Ghz 80GB Mac mini.

I spy the Mac mini through the window of the store. It’s tiny! It’s hooked up to a huge 23″ Cinema display and is the computer closest to the hallway. Good positioning. They don’t seem to have any new signage for it yet though.

9:00AM – the doors open. People rush in. This couple glances at the line and casually sneaks in. Well, it doesn’t seem to matter as people just come rushing in and overwhelm the first employee who mans an iMac register.

The store manager (I think her name was Karen) comes out and announces to the crowd that there are no iPod shuffles. The one guy who was waiting for an iPod shuffle is disappointed, but goes to wander around the store. I’m next in the second pseudo-line and ask for a Mac mini. She says “40 gig or 80?” Funny… like “Small or large?” “Would you like to super-size your mini?” “40″ I say. I’m trying to stick to a budget…

She announces also that they don’t have the tools to do the Mac mini upgrades but that we can bring them back into the store for free upgrades later on. Cool.

She walks away to retrieve the minis and I glance around the store and see more people coming in. There’s folks everywhere it seems and it feels like the most crowded I’ve ever seen it.

She comes back wheeling in a pallet of Mac minis. Seems like 20 of them. I pick up a wired keyboard, a wired mouse, and an Epson C86 printer. The total came to $689.90, but that includes the printer and Virginia sales tax. The printer cost $99.95 but comes with up to a $100 rebate, so the printer is free. VA sales tax is 5% and came to $32.85. So minus the printer and sales tax, it came to $557.00.

So I think this is a great deal, to get $656.95 worth of computer for $557 + tax. The only thing missing is a monitor, which can be had for cheap nowadays.

I think I was the first to check out and I got home just as the snow was picking up.

I’ll post about my initial experience with the Mac mini w/pics later…

UPDATE: Finished my thought on “I talk to one guy…”. This happens sometimes when you’re trying to blog when you have little Luis minis =) running around. Thanks, Vik.

Eclipse at Amazon DevCon

Amazon is having the Amazon DevCon, which is an internal conference for its developers. That’s a nice perk, eh?

The easiest way to see who spoke is via the list of speakers. Here’s a few to whet your appetite:

Joel Spolsky talked about being a blue chip (ex: iPod, which he describes as a “$400 bar of soap”, which took 90% of the market, and succeeded because he thinks “Steve Jobs is secretly French” LOL),

James Gosling talked about Java – I’ll blog more about his talk later,

Michael Tiemann talked about open source – he gave a great talk at EclipseCon last year about The Eclipse Tipping Point which included an interesting look at SE Linux,

Craig McClanahan discussed “Struts and JavaServer Faces”.

The Amazon Web Services team live-blogged the event, which took place over the past 2 days. BTW, thanks to James Duncan Davidson for blogging about this originally.

I haven’t read all the blog entries yet, but they are promising due to the great speakers. This is one of those times I wish I could order a bound hardcover of a blog. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Bjorn Freeman-Benson who used to work with the OTI/Eclipse team but is now with Predictable Software and is a member of the Eclipse Board had an interesting talk about Eclipse. It’s a good read so check it out.

Here’s some interesting tidbits:

There’s an Eclipse Collaboration plug-in by Scott Lewis. I’ll have to try it out. Also, he generalized it to have a “general platform for building component-based multi-point communications application within Eclipse.” Interesting.

“Milestones — next release [Eclipse 3.1] in June. Most of team is in Ottawa, they work hard in the winter, and take the summer off to go fishing. Team has fixed 1 bug/developer/day for 5 consecutive years, no exceptions. That’s 50-100 fixes per working day over that time. All is done using a public instance of BugZilla. Milestone releases every 6 weeks, they are good at hitting them.”

Funny, in DC, we lobby in the winter and protest in the summer. Seriously, I think it is an interesting metric that he picked out: bug/developer/day. I think he understates the point about the team hitting their dates consistently. The Eclipse team (as I have written about before) is one of the most consistent at hitting their dates as I have ever seen. They should write a book about how they do it.

“Q: Embedded profiler?
A: Not in base download, a bunch of Russians created one (YorkIT?).”

I looked around for YorkIT, but found Eclipse profiler/eclipsecolorer. I wonder if this is what he was talking about.

“[Referring to Eclipse 3.1]: Very large code base requires a 64-bit processor; Sun JVM has a 1.7GB limit and all of the data is resident.”

I wonder what he means here… Perhaps there will be builds of Eclipse optimized for 64 bit processors like the G5, Athlon64, and Itanium. I know that there has been beta testing of Eclipse on 64-bit Linux GTK on AMD64.

Not sure how he expects to get around the Sun JVM limits. Maybe he is referring to reducing the memory footprint of Eclipse by having the unused portions be saved to disk and brought into memory when necessary (via Large-scale development issues.)

Free To Do Lists – well actually, Ta-Da Lists

From the makers of Basecamp, 37 Signals, is a new free web app that lets you create To Do lists. It’s named Ta-da List and is available at http://www.tadalist.com. You’re allowed to have unlimited items on a list, with a limit of 10 lists. It’s a nice refactoring and extraction of functionality from within Basecamp.

I think this is a nice Web App, as it doesn’t make you press any Save or Commit buttons – it just saves automatically. Pressing Enter adds an item and and puts your cursor in the proper field afterwards to quickly add another one. And its fast.

Its built on Ruby on Rails and David from Loud Thinking provides some good highlights.

I’ve created a public list for potential blog topics. Another nice thing about Ta-Da Lists is that each list has an RSS feed: Rss

Let me know if you are especially interested in any of these topics.

Updated: Changed the URL to the RSS feed after some feedback from David.

Mac mini – camp out / meet up – Tysons Corner, VA – Jan 22

January 22.  We open early.

I saw Russell is thinking about camping out overnight so he can be one of the first to get the Mac mini at the SF store. Phew! I thought I was the only one who would rather go to the store than order online. With the shipping estimates being so vague (3-4 weeks), I called up the Tysons Corner Store in Virginia and they said they would have the Mac mini on the 22nd. They also said they perform memory upgrades in-store, but not hard drive upgrades.

Oh well, my kids will have to live with only 40 Gigs. OK, my turn to play the old geezer: “Back in my day… we only had floppies… and they only held 360K… and we had to format them… and we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get them!” So basically, my kids at their young ages will have the equivalent of 111,111 floppies that I had when I was 12.

Don’t even get me started about processor speed. Let’s just say that my kids will have the equivalent of 262 IBM PCjrs.

Tysons Corner

So if anyone wants to meet up, I’ll be camping out early outside of the Apple Store in Tysons Corner. I’ll wear my Eclipse cap.

All Apple stores are opening up one hour early, so that’s 9AM. Unfortunately, I don’t think the mall lets people actually sleep overnight inside. :)

It’s too bad Apple doesn’t do what video game manufacturers do with big releases and let you pre-order and then give you the system on midnight. That’s what I did with the Dreamcast back on 9/9/99.