Time to Organize the Book Collection!

15 08 2009

I consider my book collection to be pretty large. I make genuine efforts to read through all my books, but by the time I finish one book, I’ve bought two more.

While I like curling up with just one book and reading straight through it, I’ll often find myself working on reading three, four, or more books at the same time (not the exact same time, but switching between them). That’s about the time when I notice my lack of bookmarks (or maybe just my inability to use them reliably). I’ve lost my place, so I put the book down saying I’ll come back later. Well, Crime and Punishment is still sitting on my dresser two-thirds done, and I’m not about to re-read 500 pages just to refresh myself with the story.imgres

Fed up with losing my place and abandoning books, I’ve decided to use this as a time to learn some web programming and make a dynamic website that will keep track of what books I own and how far along in each one I am. Not only this, but it will have bar graphs! Yay!

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I’d use Linux, but it doesn’t have the applications I want…

13 08 2009

The biggest complaint I hear about Linux is that people can’t find applications that they need to be productive. Well, if you know where to look, you can find a replacement for nearly every Windows application out there.

To make your transition to Linux easier, I’m going to point out the Linux equivalent of some key Windows applications. Then I’ll show you some places to look on your own if you can’t find what you want.

Linux has all the applications you could want!

Linux has all the applications you could want!

Even better, all these programs will be free!

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I’m So Sick of Testing and Sorting Through Logs by Hand

11 08 2009
Not those kind logs silly!

Not that kind of logs, silly!

Software testing is a very important part of releasing any product. After all, no one wants a big buggy product. (Especially when it can ruin your whole mission.) On the other hand though, testing software is boring. I’d much rather be writing software than testing it. (Besides, my code never has bugs! *sarcasm*)

When I’m working on a project for school or work, I usually spend a lot more time testing and tracking down bugs rather than coding (80% of effort on 20% of work kind, of thing). I usually try to give my code pretty good test coverage, but its tedious to run through a large set of tests, especially just remembering them all.

To help with this, I wrote a Python tool to run my tests and then display the results visually using HTML, rather than a log file or something similar.

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Who would have thought Sublime Text was so, well, sublime!

7 08 2009

A few days ago, I wrote about my Quest for the Perfect Editor. Well, the quest is over, with Sublime Text being a clear winner.

I’ve used it as my main editor these past few days to give it a fair chance to impress me and it hasn’t let me down yet. Sublime bills itself as, “The text editor you’ll fall in love with,” and I can easily see that happening.

She obviously just tried Sublime Text for the first time.

She obviously just tried Sublime Text for the first time.

Sublime has features that you’ll love no matter what you’re writing, whether it be code, prose, or poetry.

I thought I’d write a little bit about why I like it so much, as well as encourage you to at least try it for yourself. If you’re in the market for a new editor, this will be where your search ends.

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Quest for the perfect text editor

3 08 2009

No matter what language you program in, you probably use some type of text editor (or IDE) to write your code. There are a ton of choices out there. I’m sure we each have our own opinions on what is good and bad in an editor as well as what is necessary, depending on the type of work you are doing.

A good editor can make you more productive , by providing frequently used shortcuts, good syntax highlighting, and easy ways to navigate your text. Or, it can make you less productive by providing no shortcuts, no highlighting, and making you use the mouse to navigate. (I’m looking at you Notepad.)

I’ve never really found an editor that hits my needs right on the head, so I thought I’d write down some of my opinions and experiences.

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Sick of installing software over and over by hand? Then don’t do it!

21 07 2009

When releasing a new product, it’s a good idea to test it on all platforms and configurations your product supports. Obviously, right? Well, not everyone does this. While it’s important to try your product on every¬† configuration, it’s also tedious to sit down, install, and test all the possible choices. This is when having an automated method of installing all the software would really pay off.

Linux has pretty good options available through package management software and great support from shell scripts. Windows is a little harder to work with though, which is funny since there are so many different varieties of Windows. It would be possible to pull together a monstrosity of batch scripts, messages, and shared folders, but what about an integrated tool? How about one that runs as a service so it doesn’t bother the user?

Luckily, such a tool exists! It’s called Wpkg. It bills it self as “an automated software deployment, upgrade and removal program for Windows.” Even better, it’s licensed under the GPL so no need to pay for it! It’s a very straightforward, well-thought out program.

Installation is very simple:

  • Put some .xml files on your server in a shared directory.
  • Run an installer on the client and click next a few times.
  • No reboot required!

The documentation isn’t the clearest, but it gets the job done. The only real issue I have with it is the word choice the program uses. You have a hosts.xml file that configures what packages you download depending on the ‘host’. Pretty simple? Well, a host is actually the client, not the machine hosting the files. I pulled my hair out about this for half a day before I figured it out. Maybe I’ll contribute to the project’s documentation and try to make this clearer…

Anyways, after a few hours of writing XML files, I can now install a large suite of software on all my machines in around 20 or 30 minutes total. Normally, it’d take about 30-40 minutes per machine. Since I configure over 10 machines, that’s a savings of over 6 hours!¬† Hopefully, this doesn’t happen.

While you're here, check out this rhino.

The whole thing is very “fire-and-forget”. In fact, I usually start the whole process before my lunch break and it’s done when I come back. So if you spend a lot of time installing software when you could be developing or testing the software instead, I’d highly recommend giving this program a try.

While you’re here, check out this rhino! Big horn, huh?