Monthly Archives: February 2002

Puzzle Pieces

This is kind of what I mean when I talk about there being a set of puzzle pieces out there for software development. These days you see more and more things and it just boggles my mind at the ways you could connect them. For example, if you took:

Well, one thing you could quickly build is a digital orrery that showed the relationship of the planets to one another at any given time. Or you could use the map to build a world clock or automatically find place names in news items coming over the wire and color them on a map to see world hotspots where events are happening. I’ve got no idea what you might come up with but the toolbox only seems to grow.

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Linux (Oh, and HotSheet Too)

I spent a goodly amount of time Sunday in Linux. This is actually an event for me as I usually only run Windows, and I’m thus a little behind on my shift off of Windows. But yesterday I made up for a lot of that. I spent quite a bit of time under Linux, installed Ximian Gnome, patched patched patched, and got that about 90% working the way I want it to.
Then I tackled Java, Java Web Start, and even NetBeans. That all went very very well except that HotSheet isn’t running under 1.4.0 on Linux. It dies without any exceptions being thrown and in fact it looks like it may be throwing some kind of signal at the lowest level (i.e. Java itself is crapping out while running my app). When I installed 1.3.1 and ran HotSheet under that, there were no problems. Sigh…

Card Models

I couldn’t talk about it before Valentines Day because I wanted it to be a surprise for Rockelle but I built a model of cupid that flaps its wings that I downloaded from this website. You print it out on a heavyweight cardstock (regular office supply stores are carrying 110 lb. (!!) cardstock these days) and then cut it out and paste it together. I won’t try and make it sound simple, it wasn’t, I probably spent five hours working on it in total but I wasn’t working like my life depended on it that whole time.
If you are interested in more material on card models I would direct you to the awesome Card FAQ. It collects tons of information about acquiring models to make and techniques for making them.
The other thing I worked on for Valentines Day was my first book. I’ve done a lot of paper projects and I’ve thought about doing a book before but this is my first attempt to actually do one. It has stitched signatures, paper covers, endpapers, the works. I’ll scan and photograph it and the really cool Valentine that Rockelle gave me and put both up on EphemeraStudios.com sometime soon. That’s the site that Rockelle and I intend to use for our various art projects.

SQLJC

Along the theme of database tools, I thought I’d also mention SQLJC. It is a command line oriented tool to run scripts against a database or let you interactively work with databases from a CLI. I found it very helpful the other day when I wanted to do some automated testing because I could use it to run scripts which cleaned out a database and prepared it for a run, then our application was run. A batch file looped that sequence over and over again and we could see the failures much more easily than my repeatedly trying to do the same thing over and over again without making a mistake and forgetting a step.

Database Tools

OK, it’s not DbVisualizer, but the Squirrel SQL Client has a new version out and it has one big advantage over DbVisualizer. It’s open source. DbVis is free but you can’t add to it and improve it so ultimately we can hope that Squirrel will overtake it in features to give us something where we can make improvements, even little ones, ourselves.
If I could tackle the source to DbVisualizer the one thing I would change about it is to allow you to copy column names when you copy a bunch of data out of a table and also I’d put keyboard accelerators in there for a lot of functions.

Exquisite Corpse Redux

I received at least one email about the Exquisite Corpse thing because it wasn’t clear exactly what was going on there. So now that the first one that I worked on is finished (though not yet posted to the website), I thought I could go ahead and show some images to explain a little.
I was the third spot in an Exquisite Corpse with four pieces. Here is the small slice from the bottom of the second part that I received (keep in mind I could not know what any of the first piece looked like or any of the second except for this small slice):
70_2_slice.jpg
From that I created this to go with it:
70_3.jpg
So I then sliced off the bottom 15 pixels of that image and that was sent on to the last person working on our Corpse. She received this:
70_3_slice.jpg
We’ll just have to see what it all looks like when it gets put together.

HotSheet: State of the Union

Here is the email I posted to the HotSheet mailing list the other day. I’m pretty sure the readership of the list is pretty darn low but surprisingly enough, this site gets way more traffic than you would expect so I’m repeating it here.
I’m working on HotSheet again. I’ve done a few small updates to the source over the last month but no big changes that warranted a release. Now I’m trying to get the dialog done that will allow adjusting the various properties that could previously only be set through the properties file. I did a lot of work last night on improvements to the RSS library and I’m hoping to bang on the program for at least an hour a day every day until I see some big improvements.
So now that I use HotSheet on a daily basis and I’m no longer sick of looking at it I’ve started to ask myself what the future holds for it. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that RSS is not enough. News headlines are nice but wouldn’t it be better if there were a set of data classes that handle RSS (obviously), but also weather, daily comics, sports scores, other forms of news, email notifications, calendar event notifications, stock info, tv shows, and tracking of items that change status like auctions or shipped packages. In other words, all the things people go to portals for all the time. People could build anything from a portal to an information appliance to a web service. By having one library there could be more consistency in interface, documentation, testing, etc. and the results would probably gain a lot more attention than a scattered set of separate libraries to do the same things.
I’ve got ideas where to graft on existing libraries to get some of this data:
Weather
http://www.amug.org/~glguerin/sw/#weather
http://javaweather.sourceforge.net/
Sports scores
http://sportwire.sourceforge.net/
Stocks
http://www.neuro-tech.net/app.xml?name=jfl
Email notifications
http://java.sun.com/products/javamail/index.html
but for others there isn’t an existing Java solution. We might port an existing application in another language or wrap the data that it pulls. Some likely candidates for that treatment include:
Comics
http://sourceforge.net/projects/pycomic/
TV
http://noomore.org/GuideParser/
http://freeguide-tv.sourceforge.net/ (this is an existing java project that uses data pulled via Perl)
http://membled.com/work/apps/xmltv/
Still others, like auction and package tracking… I’ve got no knowledge of existing libraries to use, and for some of the existing ones mentioned above there may be license issues to be considered. It’s very important to me that any library included be either BSD, LGPL, or some equivalent that won’t impose unpleasant restrictions on any application in which it is used. Especially since it may represent a very small part of functionality in the application.
Clearly this kind of expansion will require me to separate HotSheet into two projects rather than just one. There will be a data libraries project and a separate project or projects for interfaces to that data.
In the meantime, expect a new release of HotSheet within the next couple of weeks.

Quickies

It seems like sooner or later every website resorts to doing “quickies” updates periodically just to clean out a list of software updates or links or whatever out of the queue. Sometimes it’s nigh on impossible to think of anything new to say about a program if you’ve talked about how great is is multiple times in the past, so just telling people there is a new version is sometimes enough.
In the category of new software we’ve got Mozilla 0.9.8 which just showed up on Tuesday, NetBeans is up to 3.3.1 (a major bugfix release), Sun has released JDK 1.4 Release Candidate 1, Bouvard & Pecuchet is up to version 1.2, Lumbermill has had new releases since I last talked about it, as has the Java Outline Editor.