Taking a Chance with x.0 Releases

For the past three days, I’ve had the Snow Leopard disc that’s in the mail sitting in a pile. Generally I couldn’t care less about installing software, but for some reason I was second guessing myself. From the people I know that have Macs, they are generally split between getting the latest release and waiting for the first point release (i.e. 10.6.1). I can easily see the logic in waiting, but you hold off on getting the latest and greatest. The same dilemma will arrive in a few weeks for PC users when Windows 7 launches. I’ve been using the Release Candidate for quite a while and I find it fine with the exception of a few compatibility issues with software here and there.

I usually don’t like to get into specifics, but I think maybe holding off for a point release may have been better with Snow Leopard. Most of the problems I was having didn’t really get fixed and now I have a few more bugs to deal with.

Exchange Support

What a load of nothing Exchange support has been to me thus far. The only reason I intended on using it was to hook up my school email with my regular email in Mail. Unfortunately, I presumed the same technology was in Snow Leopard that is on the iPod/iPhone. Apple’s portable devices license a technology from Microsoft called ActiveSync which allows it to directly connect with an Exchange server. On the desktop/notebook side, they connect to Exchange using EWS or Exchange Web Services. I assume since I can access my school email through the web, they have this enabled on their servers. I could be horribly wrong and pointing the finger at Apple, but they should have just used the same technology.

WiFi Connection

Apparently a ‘cool new thing’ in Snow Leopard was that you can see all the signal strengths in the drop down menu. Whoop dee doo! The problem that I currently have after upgrading to Snow Leopard is that it likes to time out my connection. It’s not dropping connections like a few other people are complaining about, but when I try to load any web page it will time out. The funny thing is that Adium still appears to be connected for a minute or so until it eventually times out and signs off.

QuickTime X

While I generally like the improvements they did with the new QuickTime Player, I wonder why they didn’t take the time to build in WMV playback into the player. It’s like the freaking Swiss Army knife of players with Perian installed, but it still lacks support for WMV playback. I have to use a turd of a plugin called Flip4Mac WMV. It might not be the developers fault it’s a pile of crap since Apple probably has him go through plenty of hurdles. The import time of a WMV file on Leopard wasn’t that bad, but it’s currently slow as molasses in Snow Leopard. This is most likely a result of the beta version I have to run.

In general, Snow Leopard is more refined than Leopard though. Expose is a lot better, along with new version of the Finder which is a bit faster than the old version. Start up and shut down times are a bit faster. Also, Stacks on the Dock can actually dig down into other folders and the Put Back ‘feature’ in Trash has already been put to use (Only god knows why it took them so long to put this in). I haven’t had a chance to test out the HFS+ read support for Boot Camp yet or the built-in support for Cisco IPsec VPN connections. I must say this though:

I wouldn’t have purchased 10.6 if it had been the normal price. ($129 USD)

The $25 price made it a lot easier to swallow.


Classic: Learning A Programming Language

This post was originally made on January 29th, 2007 on another blog I had.

You may not be a geek, but I’m sure you have always been curious as to what all that stuff on the screen of programmer actually means. You first need to understand that programming isn’t an easy task. Also, it requires dedication and the curiosity to learn it. Here are my thoughts on learning a programming language.Like I said in the introduction, this stuff isn’t easy. You may have heard of some magical programming language that is incredibly easy to learn, but it’s just a gimmick. To give an example, there is Visual Basic. By the title, you can guess that it is fairly simple. I have news for you though, it isn’t. Back in the day, BASIC was easy to learn, but no one programs in that anymore. Visual Basic is probably one of the easiest languages to learn, but it still requires reading a couple of books to really gain some experience in it.You shouldn’t get confused between markup languages and programming languages. HTML, the angled bracket tabs that allow your browser to display everything, is a markup language. HTML is easy to learn and isn’t used to program anything. If you really want to get into making programs for the web, you need to learn a web programming language.

Web programming languages are vast in number, but there are a few quality one’s that you should take a look at if you are interested. One of them is PHP. This site is actually powered by PHP. It isn’t the best by far, but it is the most widely used one. There is also Perl and Ruby. Those three are actually called server-side languages which means that they are parsed by the server before they are displayed to the user. Client-side programming involves Javascript mostly. Since Web 2.0 busted out, Javascript has had a second coming in the form of AJAX web apps and such. There are many libraries to help you out and if you’re interested in making all that glam, buy yourself a book and learn the basics.

There is also application programming. The majority of game development now takes place with C++. This is a complex language that may take years to master, but it will certainly be rewarding in both your sense of accomplishment and your salary. There is a program or collection of programs from Microsoft called Visual Studio. These components rely on Microsoft’s .NET Framework. That’s where Visual Basic is and also Visual C++ and Visual C#. Those are the most common ones. Visual C++ is different from normal C++ though. So you can choose either one or the other. When you use C++ to develop a game for example, you usually use a graphic library. You have probably heard of DirectX, but there are also others, like Qt.

Also, if you’re interested, there is programming for micro controllers. This is what I do on my robotics team and can be a pain, but it’s fun. When you are working with them, you have to take into account the memory limitations and capabilities of the microprocessor. If you are programming for a normal computer, you are able to use floating point numbers, on a microprocessor though, you would probably fry it. Microprocessors can be found anywhere from your car to your toaster. Someone has to program them, why not you?

I hope I gave you insight into the wonderful world of programming and maybe you want to get started on a project of your own. It can be frustrating at times, but that’s when you need to try your hardest to understand it. Sometimes you really have to push yourself because the programmers who made the languages usually make them for functionality, not ease-of-use. You can find programming books in most bookstores or online at Amazon. If you don’t have much money, fire up Google and find some tutorials.

Future Standards

I just read Kyle Neath’s article titled HTML5 and CSS3 are doomed for disaster. I took away a lot of information, but it kind of stated what a lot of people are thinking. Making specifications is easy compared to the implementations of it. Although I think HTML5 will be a bit different.

The specification for HTML5 is being created with browser developers as part of the process. Since they have an idea of how hard it will be to implement each part of the spec, it should go smoother. Also, HTML5 is an incremental upgrade. It’s nothing as radical as XHTML and provides several neat enhancements that will make developing for the web easier. XHTML is currently just HTML with self-closing tags in most implementations. It’s a struggle to try and design with standards when they aren’t even supported and you’re just left with “tag soup“.

Being a good web designer is partly being able to develop a design that works across multiple browsers and platforms. This can truly be a pain when you’re talking about trying to get your code to work with IE6. How I yearn for a scenario when we can just tag team IE6 and no one would create sites that are compatible with IE6. This would force the user to upgrade to a browser with a least some standards support. Our entire school system just made the switch from IE6 to IE7. If our school system with hundreds of computers can make the switch, any small company or personal user should be able to also. All they have to do is click the install button, and then it works (not 100% of the time, but hey, nothings perfect). I by no means advocate IE7 to people, but if it’s the only option, so be it.

The Flash Player 9 has been downloaded over 3.2 billion times.

The reason why Flash does so well is that it comes pre-installed on a lot of machines and it can automatically update from within the browser. As I have said before on other blogs, people are stupid. They are also a bit impatient. If they have to go out of their way to install another browser or upgrade to say, IE7, they aren’t going to want to. Hitslink provides a glaring example. IE still controls about 78% of the market with IE6 still ahead of IE7 by 4%. IE7 was pushed through as a priority update on October 18th, 2006 [source]. That’s over a year and it’s about even percentage-wise. Now look at the Firefox trend. Firefox 2.0 has 15% of usage while the previous iteration, 1.5, has .63%. Since then, Firefox has updated automatically within the browser itself and it’s updated when the browser is restarted. No fuss for the user and most of the people that use the browser are on the latest version. Flash just upgrades and installs and people get the latest version without them having to do much except maybe click a link to automatically download it.

I digress. For all my hopes, they may just be dashed. I want to be realistic about it, but I so desperately want standards to become, well, standard. Making it so the user doesn’t have to do anything would be a step in the right direction.

The OS Software War

Through out the history of operating systems, there has always been people siding with a specific operating system. The current systems today are Windows, Linux, and OS X. Well, those are the major one’s at least. I’m not counting Unix as you can see. I would love to stay bi-partisan on this issue. The fact of the matter is, you use what you need. I know there are plenty of people that swear by Linux, but what good is it if you don’t need it?

Many people bash Windows for it’s security concerns and bloat. Well, if you looked at how many people use Windows, it shouldn’t surprise you. I mean, if you had millions of people using your software, there is always going to be bugs. I figure the amount of bugs and holes vary directly with the square of the popularity of the software. If you would like an equation: y = kx2. This would create a parabola that I think represents this phenomenon well. I commend Microsoft for being able to support such a large user base. Windows has probably the most software written for it too. Since it’s so popular, many people write software for it. If you look at a random batch of programs most of them run on Win32 exclusively, or have a port for it.

Now onto Linux. Everyone says Linux is the best thing since sliced bread. If you’re looking for free software that’s reliable I would go with Linux. I think the main problem with Linux is that there are too many distributions to choose from. First there was Slackware and then came a whole bunch. It went from none to such a large offering people didn’t know what to choose from. The most popular now is probably Ubuntu or Fedora. I think it’s mainly because of the ‘pretty’ aspect. It has to be functional and look nice at the same time for an enjoyable consumer experience. This is what both of those distros pull off. I’m pretty sure this market will grow, but I just heard that Microsoft is working with Novell on something involving Linux. I don’t know what’s in it for Microsoft, but I’m sure they have plans.

I can’t say much about OS X. I’m saying this because I’ve never owned a Mac. I know people who do own a Mac and I know they love it. I have to say they are a dedicated bunch. I figure Macs are mainly for graphics design and some high end video editing. I know there are some nice games and the interface is probably the best out of the three major operating systems. I always laugh when I hear the joke about how you can determine a man’s sexual preference based on his OS of choice. Macs have always had that reputation of being for the more ‘festive’ bunch of males. I know it’s a joke, but I think some people actually think it’s true, which it’s not. If you’re looking for ease of use and some cool hardware, you might want to look into a mac. I just saw an article on digg about Windows being easier to install on a Apple computer than on a PC. Nice job Apple ;).

Not much else to say. Stay Classy Readers!