As part of a project that I’m working on I’ve been building some toolbars recently. The experiece of building toolbars for IE and Firefox is pretty
radically different. This tutorial over on Born Geek was very helpful and I got some
console. I did hit one intermittent crash that was almost a ship-stopper, and did I mention that the documentation for this stuff is terrible? I dont mean to complain- I know its all free, but if Open Source stuff wants to compete with the alternatives, they need to provide some great reference materials for developers. When trying to use XUL the behavior of the 6 different kinds of buttons and various layout things seemed pretty random, and it was pretty much trial and error getting it to work right.
We werent even going to do an IE toolbar initially because I figured it would be a couple extra weeks of work to get all the COM and C++ stuff right. I went searching for some sample-code and came across ToolbarStudio on http://besttoolbars.net/. To
be honest my first reaction was that this was pretty damn weird. A full IDE for creating toolbars? With the ability to do all kinds of stuff with no coding (which was almost a negative for me)? For $75? Is there really that big a community of people out there making toolbars, and who really installs that many toolbars anyway?
One other note- so far Ive been unsuccessful at building a signed Firefox toolbar. Given how (one might say) arrogant the Firefox folks tend to be about their security being better than IE, this is pretty surprising to me. Most Firefox extensions that Ive seen arent signed and Firefox barely gives you better UI for being signed. To sign an extension you use some Netscape 4 era tools and need to do some bizarre packaging involving putting magic files into a ZIP in just the right order. To cap it off, if you dont get it right the package wont install, but the error messages wont really tell you what is wrong. Its a nightmare. Ive heard some rumors that this is getting better, but if the Firefox are really serious about security (as opposed to serious about pretending to have security) they will make signed extensions both a real advantage for developers, as well as easy for everyone to do.
Of course its possible that Im just missing the key instructions- Google doesnt always find everything easily. If so Ill be happy to get pointers to the magic solution and post my apologies up here.
posted in Technology |
Last night I updated CalendarData.com with a page of developer information. My approach with the
site is to take a totally “open” approach- support importing and exporting all the data through standard formats. These formats include
iCAL (ICS), RSS + xCal, and comma separated values often used to publish calendars for Outlook. The documentation is only partial at the moment but
I’m going to try to update it frequently.
This weekend, the Bumbershoot festival is happening in Seattle- I’ve
posted a schedule of the main Bumbershoot music events online here.
posted in Technology |
I don’t have a lot of time for games, but I do have to admit that I’ve been sucked into World of Warcraft a bit. Compared
to some previous massive-multiplayer games its pretty friendly towards people who only play a few hours a week. Since I started
my friend Chris has lapped me- I was halfway along advancing a character and he
created a new one from scratch and got it to 60 weeks before me.
The game has a current level limit- 60. My goal the past couple of months has been to get to 60 before the new
expansion came out, and sure enough last night I finally hit that goal! The expansion looks pretty cool
although selling an extra $40 box seems very old-school for a game that delivers new bits to me every month over the
internet. I assume they do this for shelf space or something during the holiday season, but it still seems a wacky thing
to do with their existing userbase (who are so far generating some of the biggest annuity revenue of any game ever).
posted in Games |
After my last write-up on laptop issues I was still experiencing blue-screens, although fewer. A bit more experimentation
suggested it was probably the audio driver and I finally noticed that Dell had an updated driver. The new audio
driver appears to have fixed the blue screens for now.
Of course then today I do a bone-headed move and spill coffee on my keyboard. I run to get paper towels, pull the power
and disassemble the thing as much as possible. 30 minutes later I have the laptop back together but the keys
on the left side of the keyboard aren’t working. This is pretty frustrating since I did clean up the liquid pretty quickly
and I actually took the keys off and cleaned out any liquid and the contacts themselves appear to be under rubber so I don’t
get how they got as broken as they are.
Lucky for me I forked over an extra $110 for the complete-care coverage from Dell. This covers you pretty much no matter
what, even if you drop your laptop or spill liquids on it. For Dell this is probably a great upsell, and for me for a laptop
its a great peace-of-mind purchase. So I connected to the Dell tech-support chat and apparently a replacement keyboard
is on its way.
I’m a bit skeptical that it is all going to work out so nicely so stay tuned. All in all the online chat thing was
way nicer for me than a phone call and I didn’t get any run-around.
posted in Technology |
A couple of weeks ago my fairly new (3 months old) Dell laptop started blue-screening. I suppose the first sad thing is that it took my awhile to
bother trying to fix it. I tried disabling drivers, making sure my memory cards were secure. Yesterday I started running the Microsoft memory test
tool and the Dell diagnostics and everything was coming up great. Part of the issue is that the kernel driver that it was reporting the crashes in turns
out to not be the real source of the problem.
After a few searches I tracked down the issue to a driver called tfsnifs.sys. It turns out that the Sonic DVD software that
Dell includes with the laptop somehow turned on its “DLA” feature which does some drive-letter mapping for I think writable
CD and DVDs. I’m not sure how this got turned on but I probably accidentally launched it trying to burn an ISO or something.
In any case the software appears to be a piece of crap. I really wish Dell did a better job making sure the stuff they
shipped on their PCs was higher quality. The sad truth is that they are more interested in selling you the upgrade to whatever
package is installed. Still, this explains the huge tech support problems they have been experiencing. Between poorly-written
anti-virus, firewall, and three media center packages and all trying to fight for the system resources its amazing that it runs
as well as it does.
In any case, my experience is stay away from the Sonic stuff- it appears to suck, and I did check and there is no upgrade
available at the moment. My laptop is happy now that I’ve disabled it. I still need to figure out why media-playback
isn’t really working right anymore. Any medium disk access tends to make it stutter which is just not supposed to happen.
posted in Technology |
Last night Kat, Fen and I went to see an exhibition match between DC United and Real Madrid at Qwest Field. It was packed- the reports
are that 60,000 people showed up at a soccer game which is pretty amazing for the United States.
Overall the game was good and Fen even seemed to enjoy it. I do have two critiques. The first is that they were really poor at providing
information on the players. Here we had two out-of-town teams playing. There was no program for sale (that I saw). Even a photocopied piece of
paper listing the players names and #s would have been great. Or some more regular use of the score-board displays to give us information
(rather than just showing ads all game long). Our seats were way up high which was great for watching the plays develop but to be honest I had
no idea who was down there on the field.
The other thing I noticed were the soccer snobs. There were some people sitting near us derisively talking about other attendees
who didnt know everything there was to know about each player or the sport in general. Ive seen this same “more obscure than you” thing in many of my interest
areas (although thankfully I havent seen it play out much among my friends at all). You meet the wine people who make fun of you if
you admit to liking California Cabernets or wines from Bordeaux- if you cant appreciate (and know all the details about) some obscure
region in Spain you are clearly not a true wine aficionado. Alternative Music gets the same thing- to quote an Art Brut
song My Little Brother- “He no longer listens to A-sides. He made me a tape of bootlegs and B-sides.”
Sure I love a good soccer match, a nice obscure wine and a cool B-side, but dont give me attitude for liking Song 2 or a bottle of Shafer
Cabernet Sauvignon. I hope I’ve never come off as that snob myself and apologize if it ever seemed that way.
On the topic of Soccer, here is a schedule for the Seattle Sounders- we may try to catch a game or two in the remainder of the season. US Music Festival schedule.
posted in Sports |
I’m giving up on my Belkin pre-N router. I have to reset the stupid thing 2-3 times per day. I suspect there is a bug
in some firewall or parental control feature where too much HTTP traffic (uploads from a backup service) cause it to lock up and
not route HTTP anymore. The strange thing is that it keeps routing other protocols just fine.
In any case, I’ve ordered the NetGear WNR854T from NewEgg for $139 with free shipping. I’m fearing that I’m going to regret this purchase-
its the one with the Marvell chipset instead of the Broadcom stuff, but on the other hand its wired ports have gigabit ethernet. All of the rest of my
wired stuff is gigabit so I just couldn’t bring myself to buy more slower equipment especially since I do lots of high-bandwidth video, etc within the house.
For many people faster than 100mbit doesn’t matter at all since they just use the network to talk to the Internet, but i’ve got several TB of storage and
like to be able to access it at close to local-disk speeds.
posted in Technology |
The last week my blog writing has gotten stuck by the combined forces of having too many things to write about and being pretty busy. The task
of writing up my visit to Yellowstone (for a couple of hours), flight to Chicago, great dinner, weekend at the Pitchfork music festival and all
that has been too daunting to tackle.
In the meantime ComputerWorld
has an article “So how do you code an AJAX Web page?”. This article may be just fine but it turned clueless pretty quickly by saying
“Beyond the XMLHTTP Request object, which has been around for several years as a solution looking for a problem”.
This is just completely opposite the real history of XMLHTTP Request. Part of the what made this whole thing so cool was that it was an object
fined tuned to solve a really specific problem- creating really dynamic data centric web pages. In other words, what we call Web 2.0 or AJAX nowadays
although we were not slick enough to coin any cool terms for it. Sure, there are plenty of things that could have been done better with it,
but its one of the few examples of any web technology developed post-1996 that was actually developed by an application team just filling in a missing
hole in the platform.
The calendar feed of the day is the US Music Festival schedule.
posted in Technology |