Posts in Category "General"

Has It Been 17 Years Already?

How many of you are in 17-year Cicada zones? We didn’t have many at first, we thought because most of the commercial and residential development around here happened about 15 or 16 years ago, so we figured they needed one more cycle to populate this area, however they have either migrated from other areas, or were just slow digging themselves out of the ground, because now they are everywhere! Wherever there are trees, there are always dozens cicadas in the air, and hundreds perched in each tree. Whenever you drive anywhere, you usually end up with about six or seven of them splattered across your windshield, or mutilated inside your grill. The males make a somewhat eerie hollow buzzing type sound which I think has been used in several B horror films, and can be heard all the time, whether you’re inside or out. They are, of course, harmless, and apparently nutritious, too, as the local paper has published some interesting 17-year Cicada recipes. As you can see from the picture below, they are also quite friendly and even loving. I caught these two out on my deck early this morning, holding hands, enjoying the romantic view, gazing into each other’s beautiful red eyes. They are apparently making the most of their only summer above ground.

You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about 13-year and 17-year periodical cicada here.

The Change is All Counted!

In honor of the last day of community week, I will be giving away a free DRK to Steve Nelson. My change jar contained exactly $363.75 worth of change, and Steve’s guess was $362.56, making him off by only $1.19. Congratulations, Steve! I’ll be contacting you directly.

Now for some other interesting statistics:

Total number of entries: 76 (between comments and personal email)

Highest guess: $764.19 (I wish!)

Lowest guess: $98.00

Most scientific guess: 1 penny weighs 2.5 grams. 1 nickel weighs 5.0 grams. 1 dime weighs 2.268 grams. so 1 penny + 1 nickel + 1 dime weighs 9.768 grams and is worth of $0.16. 1. assume the collection is random, but no Quarter; 2. assume the jar itself weighs 2 pounds (just a wild guess … if this is not close enough, the guess won’t). 35.5 – 2 = 33.5 pounds = 33.5 * 453.6 = 15195.6 grams. 15195.6/9.768 * 0.16 = $ 248.90

Runner up for most scientific guess: Other than myself, 63 guesses placed. Lowest 113.08, highest 764.19…Most guesses are placed between the 300 and 400 (21 of them). Average value is $334.60. Now, if we sample the coin count from the well lit part of the picture we assume that 35% pennies, 26% nickels, 22%dimes and 17% quarters jar contains. Distributing the total weight to coin types and calculating the actual values with per coin type unique wieght gives us $360.00. I will go with the average of these 2 values, so my guess is $347.30.

Least scientific guess: $123.45

Most important lesson learned: Next time, just use Coinstar! (As Sam warned.)

Thanks for playing, all! It was fun (except the counting part)!

Count Some Change, Win a DRK

I’ve been collecting loose change in a giant pickle jar for years, but recently it’s reached its capacity. I thought about using one of those Coinstar machines at the grocery store to convert it to cash, however I seem to remember they keep something like 8 or 9% of your money, which can go a long way toward a personal coin sorting machine. I picked one up at Staples over the weekend, and one evening this week, I’ll turn on some music or sit in front of the TV and see how much my pickle jar actually holds.

How much money do you think is in the jar? I have absolutely no idea myself. Somewhere in the hundreds, I guess. More than one hundred, less than one thousand. The person who can come closest to guessing will win a free DRK of their choice (post guesses here, or send them to me directly). It’s ok if you go over the amount — you just have to be the closest. One guess per person, please.

I included a CD in the picture help give you some perspective on how big the jar is. Another hint: the jar weighs 35.5 pounds, if that’s of any use. Good luck!

Ugly Desktop Icons

One of the first things I noticed when setting up my new ThinkPad was that the labels below icons on my desktop had solid background colors rather than being transparent as they are on OS X, which made them look terrible. Having been a Mac user since OS X was first introduced, I couldn’t stand the effect, so I started searching for a way to “fix” the OS. I downloaded the TweakUI Powertoy from Microsoft’s website, and although it provided me with some other interesting capabilities, making icon label backgrounds transparent was not one of them. To make a long story short, I ended up going to Control Panel -> System -> Advanced (tab) -> Performance Settings and checking “Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop”. I also checked several other options in that menu which has made working with Windows XP a little more aesthetically pleasing. It’s still no OS X, but at least it’s also no Windows 98.

Migrating and Propagating Bookmarks

I recently got a second laptop (a ThinkPad) which I will be using on a day-to-day basis in conjunction with my Mac, so naturally I wanted to have it equipped with the hundreds of bookmarks I’ve accumulated inside of Safari. I also decided that it was time to solve the problem of bookmark synchronization once and for all. Firefox, an extension called “Bookmark Backup,” and a handy little program called Safari Bookmark Exporter solved all my problems.

The first thing I did was download Firefox 0.8, then I used the Safari Bookmark Exporter utility to export all my hundreds of bookmarks from Safari to Firefox. I then installed the Bookmark Backup extension which automatically FTPed an XML file containing all my bookmarks to a central server where any number of other Firefox instances could, and soon did, import them. Now all my machines have the exact same bookmark configuration.

I like Safari, and I really liked MyIE2 when I tested it out the other day, but the ability to synchronize bookmarks across machines and platforms has made me a devoted Firefox user.

PayPal Exposes Web Services

PayPal, following the lead of their parent company, eBay, has decided to expose a set of Web services to allow software developers to retrieve transaction information, refund money, and automatically transfer funds. Has anyone tried this with ColdFusion or Flash yet?

Who’s Using MyIE2?

How many people out there are using MyIE2 as their primary browser? I’m still mostly a Mac user, but I downloaded MyIE2 today on my secondary Windows machine to have a look at it, and I’m very impressed. What’s my #1 favorite feature? The ability to reposition tabs! Although I think Safari is generally a pretty good browser, and I love Firefox, MyIE2 is the first implementation I’ve seen that lets you reposition document tabs, which I have always wanted (as an aside, I think OS X really needs to start embracing the concept of tabs in general). I also like the “Super Drag & Drop” feature, and although I don’t know if could get into them or not, I like the idea of mouse gestures. The build-in search feature is also the most sophisticated I’ve ever seen, and I think the tiling capability is very cool and useful, as well.

I’d love to see a project like this for OS X. I generally like the rendering capabilities of Safari, but I don’t think the browser itself is nearly as functional as Firefox, and it’s not even close to MyIE2.

Offline For a Couple Weeks

Just wanted to let everyone know that I am on paternity leave from now until the first week of May, so I probably won’t be doing much posting. The time that I typically allocate for blogging will probably be used for sleeping instead.

Try not to let anything too interesting happen while I’m gone!

First Impressions of Eclipse

I’ve been playing with Eclipse a little recently, primarily in order to evaluate it as a tool for ColdFusion development. I actually haven’t gotten to the point of installing any ColdFusion plugins yet, however, because of various issues I’ve run into with Eclipse itself.

Below are my first impressions of Eclipse as a development tool. I’d be interested in hearing what kinds of experiences others have had, and in getting your reaction to my comments.

The first thing I noticed is that it’s a little on the slow side. I’m running Eclipse on a 1GHz Powerbook with 1GB of RAM, and I was a little surprised at how long it took to start up (well over 30 seconds!). It’s obviously not fair to judge an application’s performance solely by its startup time, however, and I did find that it was generally more responsive than its startup time indicated it would be, but there are still plenty of annoying pauses here and there. For instance, creating a new file for some reason took about five seconds, which seemed a little excessive. I’m looking forward to trying Eclipse out on a Windows box, however, where I suspect I will find it to be significantly faster.

I discovered that one of the reasons Eclipse took so long to start up was that it was actually starting an imbedded application server as well as the actual IDE. It seems the entire help system is written in Java and JSP, so Eclipse starts up an embedded server listening on port 57806 in order to generate and serve help content. There may be other reasons for embedding a server that I am not aware of, but I don’t think a dynamic help system is worth the overhead. If the Eclipse team decided that HTML was the best format for help files, why not generate them once, and include the static HTML files in the product? I’m also not crazy about arbitrary socket servers being started on my machine.

On a more positive note, I really like the overall metaphors Eclipse uses. Projects and perspectives are sound concepts, and are well implemented. I like the package explorer, and the way Eclipse organizes projects. One of the biggest problems I had with the application, however, was that it seems to want to recursively incorporate all files and directories into a project. For instance, I wanted to make a project that points to a directory where I keep most of my source code in various directories and packages, and Eclipse slurped up all the files, regardless of file type, including CVS directories, text files, etc. If nothing else, I think that behavior should be disabled by default, but I actually didn’t see a way to disable it at all. It seems to me it would make much more sense for developers to explicitly add files to projects.

Before I started working with ColdFusion files, I wanted to see how Eclipse worked with it’s primary file type — Java files. Of course, it has some very nice features for Java developers, but I actually didn’t see a lot that JBuilder didn’t have three or four years ago (although I will admit that had I been collaborating on a large Java project with other developers, I’m confident I would have been more impressed with what it had to offer — this is not an area I explored extensively). The code hinting didn’t work with dual monitors (the hint window would always appear on my main monitor even though the Eclipse window was on my secondary monitor), and I couldn’t get code hinting to work at all with any project type other than Java (isn’t it reasonable to want Java files in simple projects?). Eventually, I couldn’t get code hinting to work even with Java projects because Eclipse thought that my project was referencing another nonexistent project, although nothing was showing up in the project reference configuration panel.

I will give Eclipse a try on Windows to see if it performs and works any better, and I will continue to check up on the project to see how it is evolving. How do other people feel about Eclipse?

Free Music Friday!

It’s Free Music Friday! The code below is good for one free track from the Apple iTunes store (look for the Pepsi promotion). First come, first serve. Whoever gets there first, please post here what you ended up downloading. Good luck!

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