Back on the Distro Trail
September 23, 2004
The itch has been growning stronger and stronger over the last couple of months for me to toy with a Linux installation and finally I had to opportunity to return to one of my favorite pasttimes, Linux Distro Hunting. One of the main reasons I started using Linux was to experience something new and different. So much uncertainty, yet so much to achieve.
I struggled with this decision for a while since there are so many excellent Linux distributions available, but I finally decided on SuSE 9.1 Personal (available for download at linuxiso.org). I have always been a Mandrake Linux guy and I don't regret sticking with them for so long. But I was really starting to get bored with the monoculture that was developing in my little server garden and I needed a few fresh faces. The target machine was my old, old Quantex laptop. The goal was to get Linux up and running on it with wireless access so that it can be used for recipes in the kitchen. The PII processor doesn't leave much room for anything else anyway.
Firefox: The Browser that Reincarnates Itself
September 15, 2004
Even though Mozilla's second coming no longer sports the emblem of a legendary bird, it still soars above the crowd. (The brower's original name, Phoenix, was actually quite fitting since the browser, like its mythical namesake, would periodically burn to ashes and be reborn again.) Just when you thought that this browser had nothing more it could possibly offer, the Firefox team has surprised us again! I spent part of the morning previewing the release candidate for version 1.0 and I love what I see. I will highlight a few of exciting new features...
Feeding the Fire: Sizing Up Java IDEs
September 09, 2004
There is nothing that piques a jihad quite like a tools debate. Whether it is a discussion comparing text editors, web browsers or Java IDEs, strong opinions are always present on both sides of the table and the intensity usually escalates until someone not party to the debate has to finally cut it off. These discussions are by far the most prolific threads on the internet.
With that introduction, you may be asking me why I would want to contribute to the debate. I'll tell you. I hate to see a development group select a Java IDE arbitrarily and then not exercise its true power. After years of programming, I have finally been coerced into using an IDE for my Java development. When I began using one at work, I instantly recognized the gains in efficiency I was experiencing. While tools like Ant, Vim, and the commandline are certainly very powerful, they are not context aware and therefore cannot offer project-wide timesaving utilities, such as those offered by build wizards, code refactoring, code templates, and automatic deployment...at least, not without a significant amount of preparation and scripting. IDEs offer these features right out of the box, and developers should take advantage of them.
When I started at my current position, developing web applications, I was required to use JBuilder X, and it constantly pissed me off. It pissed me off because, for how good IDEs are today, JBuilder just isn't. My frustrations with JBuilder launched a quest for the ideal Java IDE. After months of evaluation, the conclusion I have to draw is that it comes down to personal choice and project requirements, so you have to evaluate the best candidate. I hope that my discussion can serve as a starting point for developers searching for their tool of choice and to provide feedback to those who develop the IDE editors. More importantly, there is always something new to learn about one of these IDEs. Each time I discover a cool new feature, I am going to add it to my list of likes and/or dislikes, so that I can easily rediscover the right tool for the job. Today it could be Eclipse, tomorrow IntelliJ IDEA, but never JBuilder, that's for sure.
September 03, 2004
If you read the recent blog entry about my frustrations with the mass transit system in Maryland and D.C., you will know that I haven't had much in the way of free time lately. To squeeze a little extra time out of each day, I decided to make use of all the time I was spending on the train. So, I purchased a new, extended-life battery and began taking my laptop with me to work so that I could program during my commute, which typically lasts about 1 1/2 hours. So if you see some crazy hacker sitting across from you on Metro/MARC hacking away at a black terminal, that would be me!
I am sure that many other open source projects can claim roots in similar environments and I would love to hear about them! So, I am going to pose the following question as the topic for comments. What crazy places have you programmed and on what projects? It is always neat to know I little bit more about the background of various projects. For me, it has been the Studs MVC Framework+ project that has been victim of my commute hacking.