Manchurian Candidate

Just finished watching the remake of the Manchurian Candidate (2004). Do yourself a favor and don’t watch this one. The only thing it has in its favor is that its in color. Otherwise, it is more graphic, more disturbing, with fewer nuances and worse storytelling.

I can’t get back those 2 hours of my life, but at least I was doing some nifty Cocoa coding while I was watching.

Go watch the original Manchurian Candidate (1962) in black and white instead. It’s much better. IMDB users give it an 8.4 vs 6.7 for the remake. It is actually the #64 top rated movie in IMDB! Who knew Frank Sinatra could be better than Denzel Washington? It may be hard to find in the rental stores, but Netflix stocks the original.

Book page meme

Merry Christmas everyone!

I was combing through my NetNewsWire backlog and trying to get to 0 items waiting to be read before the New Year and ran across Erik’s book page meme entry. I’ve never done one of these before, but I’ll try it. :)

Page 123 meme

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

“Personally, I like compatibility.”

That’s page 123, fifth sentence of Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders.

By the way, I tried to trace back this meme to its origins. Couldn’t quite get back all the way. I got stuck somewhere in LiveJournal. I found an interesting autopsy of the page 23 meme. I wonder how it got converted into page 123. Its like the telephone game via blogs…

Eclipse 3.1 M4 – an early Christmas gift from the Eclipse team

Eclipse 3.1 M4 is out. It was released right on time, last Friday, December 17th. This is a nice early Christmas gift from the Eclipse team.

As always, since this is a beta release, expect some bugs especially with the new features. When you find a bug, make sure to report it, as that helps Eclipse improve.

1. More Java 5 support, specifically annotations and autoboxing are now supported.
2. Java preference pages use a new look and feel and are now more Web-like. Not sure if this is a good thing, however.
3. multi-line search and replace
4. SWT spinner – looks nicest on Mac OS X, in my opinion
5. preference filtering – nice, very iTunes or search
6. preference dialog now has back/forward buttons like a browser – do people get that lost when setting preferences? Perhaps that indicates that we have too many preferences.
7. Import/Export to tar.gz – nice for OS X
8. Even better support for RCP apps. Here’s a nice write-up on the improved RCP support from Ed. It looks like 3.1 is going to enable RCP apps to be written much more easily than 3.0.
9. You can now start up Eclipse via just regular “java -jar” command, instead of using eclipse.exe. I’ll have to experiment with this on OS X to see what the ramifications are.
10. Several new CVS goodies – looks like Eclipse is becoming the best CVS client on the market. This does not bode well for Subversion support, but should be great news to CVS users.
11. Mac OS X specific: You can now drag out of SWT apps (including the Eclipse SDK) into other OS X apps. For some reason, this doesn’t seem to work that well dragging to Finder, but I can drag things like to TextEdit.

Make sure to also check out the New and Noteworthy for 3.1 M4.

When you want to get 3.1 M4, try the mirror sites first, as they should let you download faster.

Project Post-mortems

Post-mortem (noun) – what a good programmer writes after he’s released a product. Also known as project retrospective or after-development report.

Here’s some thoughts on the post-mortems by Gus on VoodooPad 2.0 and Brent on MarsEdit 1.0 (which was spun off from NetNewsWire):

As a user of these apps, I find post-mortems nice because I see that they have learned good lessons which they will apply to improving their products and also get a feel for where they’re going. It is also interesting to see some back-story to give the apps more of a personal feel. It is like the equivalent of a DVD extra, but for apps.

As a programmer myself, I find post-mortems invaluable for my team and myself. Post-mortems from fellow programmers are a huge bonus. If you realize that you are not perfect and have room to grow, you can learn a lot from the lessons contained within them. Also, if you’re already doing some of these practices, like having automated builds, it reinforces that habit when you see that other successful developers are doing the same practice as well.

This is one of the big benefits of going to a conference as well: you don’t just learn from the speakers, but you learn also from your peers. I’ve found also that the smaller the conference, the better this camaraderie works.

Brent said that “most people don’t care about outliners.” This was pretty surprising to me, as I had always wanted an outliner on Windows, but never got a good one. Microsoft Word may be many things, but it is not a good outliner. So when I switched to the Mac, I was pleasantly surprised to have OmniOutliner 2.0 pre-installed. I use it frequently, although Brent has me thinking that the experience could be better.
It seems like there is a market for outliners, at least on the Mac. Especially if people are still missing MORE. Perhaps I’m just thinking as a power user here?
BTW, I’m not that big into the media features of outliners either. Not sure why I would nest an entire Quicktime movie into an outline. Seems like it defeats the idea of an outline. Maybe most people, if they don’t care about outlines, do care about To Do lists, however…

Dave Winer commented on the two post-mortems and he has put it out there that he wants to eventually ship an open source outliner for Mac and Windows.

Gus talks about how he moved to Subversion and realizes how bad life was with CVS. I’d like to hear about this a bit more, especially in regard to Xcode. Xcode 1.5 has built-in integration with Subversion, though I’m hoping that Subversion itself will ship with OS X Tiger. It seems like all the Apache projects are moving slowly but surely over to Subversion. I wonder if Eclipse will eventually head there as well? Eclipse seems pretty tied to CVS for the short term. Note to self: Try Subversion.

One last thought… Brent talks about “lightness” and “maximum elegance”, balanced against the possible perception of “slightness” (not enough features.) I think that developers and users tend to add as many features into a product as possible. That’s just the way the world works. This usually results in making the UI way too crowded with all those features or even worse, hiding features (which have to be maintained) in some deeply nested menu or dialog box where they rot and go unused. With this in mind, I think its great (and necessary) to have a guideline like “maximum elegance” to keep you focused on what your app truly needs to deliver.

I’ll be playing football video games again in 2010

The very first blog that I wrote was part of a website for a video game that I was passionate about: NFL 2K on the Sega Dreamcast. That game was so superior to all the competitors at the time that I learned it inside and out. It was the first football video game where people would watch me play and wonder if they were watching a real football game due to its realism.

Later on, I was on the first Internet-enabled console gaming network, playing guys from around the country in an online football league in NFL 2K1 over a 56K modem. This was pioneering stuff, with occasional lags and other glitches, but some of the most rewarding gameplay in my life.

So needless to say, I’m a big fan of the Sega/ESPN/Take-Two NFL 2KX series.

But now it’s all come to an end, so it seems, at least for 5 years: EA (Electronic Arts) has signed a 5 year exclusive contract with the NFL. OK, now it is one thing to not have a superstar like Lavarr Arrington, linebacker of the Washington Redskins, and instead have to deal with a silhouette of “LB #56.” That’s expected in video games. But to not have the NFL logo on the box, to not have any of the players, to not have the teams or the stadiums? That’s at least half the fun of the game, taking your favorite team to victory and crushing the other teams that your team has rivalries with.

So anyways, check back with me in 2010, when I’ll resume playing football video games.

Why Quicksilver rocks

I was going to blog about how Brent wrote up a project retrospective (which he called an after-development report and most people call a post-mortem) on MarsEdit. This is cool because I had wondered openly if he would write a post-mortem in a previous post. I’ll write about it tomorrow.

The reason why I’m waiting until tomorrow is that I couldn’t ignore the app that I use to open up MarsEdit and most of my other apps: Quicksilver. Here’s the reasons why I think it rocks:

It makes me feel powerful – like everything I’d ever want to do on my Mac is just a few keystrokes away.

As a self-described power user, I appreciate all the things that keep me in control, in the driver’s seat. Expose, Cmd-Tab, and Quicksilver give me all I need to be able to quickly navigate around the system without losing context.

Its elegant. I like the bezel interface that shows a huge dock icon, much like the system alerts for volume changes. It is minimalist, transparent, and just very nice to look at. Plus it clearly tells you what action is going to take place on what object. It also tells you how your typing found the current object via underlining the matching characters.

Its fast. Faster than the Cmd-Tab window even. The important thing is that it keeps up with your typing.

Its extensible via plug-ins – I call this “having Infinite Vision”, i.e. being able to envision infinite plug-ins. My friend calls this “knowing it can grow with you.” If you’re a developer, you can write a plug-in for your app. Even better, there is a community where you can download plug-ins (and they can be installed via one click and without restarting Quicksilver) that are written by other people who had the same need you did.

It cleans up your Dock. Instead of putting all the apps you want to launch on the Dock, you remember a series of characters for each. Three is usually enough, although you can get by with 1 or 2 for some of them. For example, NET is mapped to NetNewsWire, ECL to Eclipse, MAR to MarsEdit, and just S to Safari. This makes for a cleaner dock, but the tradeoff is you have to do a bit more remembering.

However, the person who develops it, Alcor, is kind of a mystery. I rather prefer developers who are more open and accessible, like Brent and Gus. I could only dig up a lone interview with 43 Folders, where his picture is some strange purple mask. It is amusing, yet morbid to note that users have asked that he amend his will to open source the Quicksilver source code upon his death.


A new sniglet, to describe my current condition.

Definition: This is what happens when you either a) watch an action/adventure movie or b) play a video game late at night. Your mind gets revved up because you feel like you’re in the action with the added problem that your body was just sitting there still for a while.

The recent trigger for this was playing Return of the King which is pretty cool, since it blends parts of the Lord of the Rings movies as well as derived cut scenes seamlessly with the introduction of each level. At the end of each level, there is also a wrap-up movie snippet. The sandwiching of the level makes the game much more immersive than other games in the genre. Plus it is cool to be playing as Samwise, Gandalf, Aragorn, and the rest of the beloved Lord of the Rings characters.

Solution: Don’t do that. But late at night is one of the only times I can get to play games like this (or watch action movies), since the little ones are asleep. I did try doing this early in the morning as well, combined with a workout routine to take advantage of this mental state. However, that didn’t last, since like many programmers I know, I’m not a morning person.

Its too bad that we: A. have to live with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which says that I can’t take my DVDs and put them on a device like an iPod Video and B. don’t have something like an iPod Video (yes I know there are other devices, but really I’d like an iPod that holds all of my songs, all of my pictures, and all of my movies, including home movies, movies I’ve bought, and movies that I’m currently borrowing from NetFlix.)

If we could overcome these two obstacles, perhaps the best solution is to find sometime during the day when you really needed a break or when you’re feeling a little slow, and go take a walk and watch a few scenes from an action movie, for example when Neo spars with Morpheus in The Matrix along with when Neo and Trinity storm the building lobby. Then you don’t lose any sleep and you boost your energy level during the day.

MarsEdit 1.0 released

MarsEdit 1.0 was released today. I wonder if Brent will do a post-mortem of it like Gus Mueller did with VoodooPad 2.0. I found that to be pretty insightful, especially since it confirmed once again some things that I’ve learned about software development. For example: keep your apps focused and automate your builds.

For the record, MarsEdit works great with the TypePad service. It’s always good to know these kinds of things when there is a strong interaction between pieces of software, as there is between BlogEditor and BlogHostingServer.

The image handling in MarsEdit is quite nice as well. It is more intuitive and easier than the TypePad editor. You can drag and drop images into the window or choose them, then upload to your blog and insert into the currently edited post with one button click.

Here’s a picture of MarsEdit in action, uploaded with the images capability I just described:



In my previous post, I wrote about how Brent had coined two new words: Shower dementia and Shampoo vu. These are Sniglets, or for those of you too young to remember or who didn’t have HBO in the 80s, words that should be in the dictionary, but aren’t.

I’ve got a new sniglet: IdeaSomnia. It is the condition that you have when you have all these great ideas in your head and you can’t sleep because you keep thinking about them and working with them, which can cause new ideas to pop into your head, which leads to even less sleep. I know that some people remedy this condition by having a journal next to their bed that they scribble in. Well, being tech savvy and the proud new owner of a shiny copy of MarsEdit, I’m blogging about it. :)

There, I feel sleepy already… zzz

Back in Blogosphere with MarsEdit

I’ve been busy with work and family and side projects. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything. Also I think I had been spending too much time trying to organize my thoughts and format them perfectly for the blog. Plus, even though I love TypePad, the editor did not just work for me that well.

So I am trying out MarsEdit. Actually, I just bought the NetNewsWire 2.0 and MarsEdit bundle. Brent is a great developer and I love reading his blog. He’s got great insights into things big (software blackboxes, a good way to look at component-based encapsulation) and small (Shower dementia and Shampoo vu). I’ve cut down on my Shampoo Vu recently as a side-effect of this new shampoo that I’m using which sends this incredibly minty/menthol feeling into my scalp whenever I use it! (I believe its called Ice Cap.)

I’m hoping MarsEdit will help me write more blog posts, better and faster. Already, I created those two links in the paragraph above by using Add Link and it automatically figured out that I probably wanted to use the URL that I just browsed to in Safari and copied to the clipboard.

Also, I’m quite confident that it will eliminate the dreaded BlogPostingBackButtonOfDeath. What’s that you might ask? It’s what happens when you use a web-based blog post editor, type in an incredibly insightful (at least in your mind) and lengthy post, then for some reason (probably to look up something you want to link to), and press the Back button in your browser. When this happens, you go “oops” and press the Forward button. Guess what?

No more post.

In desperation, you press Refresh. This probably just makes the problem worse. Maybe you try pressing Command-Z to Undo. That doesn’t work either. You’ve just experience the BlogPostingBackButtonOfDeath.

By the way, I came across a nice little post that verifies that MarsEdit is pretty rock solid, even in the face of a nasty little “Design Bug” that Tog calls Power Failure Crash: Helpful Tiger documents MarsEdit auto-save recovery. I’ve always been a fan of auto-save, although my Computer Science background has taught me the value of manual backups as well (because most apps don’t have auto-save), which has led to the dubious habit of me hitting Command-S after every little change I make.

One more nice thing about MarsEdit: for some reason, it feels like writing an email in, which somehow changes my perspective on things. I feel a little more relaxed, a lot more in control, and I can concentrate on the content rather than the mechanics.