Wednesday, June 24, 2009

iPod Notes Pleasant Surprise: Live and Learn

One of the first peeves I had about the iPhone was it not syncing its notes application with Outlook. With Windows Mobile, this was available but not an important feature to many. Even when implemented, it was responsible for the many crashes I had with it. Now you may wonder, why Notes. As an old school user, one of the first things I relished was the use of Yahoo's services and its ability to record notes with its notepad application. Imagine back in the day being able to record your lists, notes, thoughts and whatever online! I used to use it for passwords until my Yahoo accounts got jacked. Though the passwords were not tampered with since the person who hijacked the account was more interested in using my account for spamming, I realized that it was way too vulnerable and took out all the important data such as bank account numbers and passwords. I was very annoyed about that since I've always felt that I had the right to do that and felt violated that someone had made this something I shouldn't do.

Prior to this, I used the Palm Pilot note feature and when Intellisync came up with an application to sync your Palm with the Yahoo, I was elated. I could now put my info on the internet. Today they call this cloud computing. Soon I was using Yahoo as my initial point of entry for my calendar, contacts, notes etc and at night I would sync my PalmPilot just before I left for home. This way everything I did I could work with on the train etc. With the advent of smartphones, for a while I continued to use my PalmPilot since I couldn't seem to get the same functionality with the phones coming out. Some only partially synced with Outlook and the ones that did did so very conservatively. Afterall, memory was a problem. Phones back then only had about 64MB of Ram and that was a lot. Outlook syncing was a memory hog, though how Palm did it made it look quite easy and was very efficient. If you had a Palm Treo using the PalmOS you got good performance with Outlook syncing but any Windows mobile device staggered under the weight of handling this data. One would've thought that it being a windows product it would be much better at this. Not a chance. Many times I had to reboot my windows mobile device since it would just crash or freeze because of Outlook data.

Then came the iPhone. I was glad when from the onset it touted Outlook syncing but this was severely limited to my mind as it didn't include notes. To make matters much worse, they did have a notes application but it was not syncable to Outlook notes. It was like dangling a plastic carrot to a rabbit. Its there but you can't use it. There were third party applications that did some of this but by and large it was a bit cumbersome. With iPhone 3.0, the latest release, I happened to be looking at it while syncing and saw it flash "Syncing Outlook Notes". I immediately looked at the options and after scrolling down the list of items, I saw that it will now sync with notes. Interestingly enough this was after syncing it a few times after the update, so you can imagine how I felt when I realized that for a while I was walking around with my notes in my pocket and didn't even know it. Well so much for that.

For now, I'm enjoying having notes. I can edit them iPhone style which for some and sometimes for me can be frustrating. One of the cool things you can do is email the notes. This was available with some smartphones but was cumbersome. There are some quirks and I'll have to go through them to really find out how to work with them. One of the thnigs it doesn't do provide sort options. All notes are sorted chronologically with the earliest being the first. You can't also seem to search notes for keywords, something that you could do with Yahoo and Windows Mobile.

Overall, making iPhone notes sync with Outlook notes is a great feature and would finally allow me to do my ditties on the phone, sync them up on the computer and then do whatever I want with them there. I can then put what I have back on Notes, sync it to my iPhone and when I'm on the road, mess around with them. Oh incidentally, I'm not able to sync with Yahoo right now as the sync application is giving me an error. I have to look into that. In the meantime, let me find that list of groceries my wife sent to me last week. I'll be in big trouble if I don't go home with the milk, eggs and bread.

Do you use the iPhone notes and sync it with Outlook? If so, what's the best and worst thing about it? Send me your comments.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Eclipse: Written by Geeks for Geeks

In the web development world, you know You've met a geek when they talk of the glories of Open Source software. You'll hear of how much better Linux is than Windows, how much you don't have to spend on any of the technologies that are open source and how much "easier" they are to use. Of course, no one speaks to the time factor involved. Time as a cost is always something to be looked at and here is where much of the hidden cost of OpenSource software comes into play.

As I had mentioned, I'm now forced to use Eclipse. Most likely its my boss who probably used it in college and now wants the world to do the same. Eclipse is a wonderful tool. With its extensibility, its capable of pretty much doing anything you can on the web. Whatever you want it to do there's some extension that can enable that. Well unfortunately, that is the problem as well. Contrast that with Dreamweaver and you'll see the big difference. With its intuitive WYSIWYG interface, at least you have some visibility to what you're doing. Starting  a project is much more "human" and less about making you do things that take up time you should be using to think through the project you're working on.

My biggest peeve with Eclipse is its code hinting. In the developer world, you shouldn't have to know the exact syntax of every command and method. With the right tools, you can certainly be helped to continue on your project. Afterall, the objective is really to make your work lighter. In Eclipse, CFEclipse to be exact, this comes and goes. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. When asked about it, you get some speaking to about how much resources you're using up on your machine and if you can just only have 1 application other than Eclipse up you'll be fine. Of course this doesn't work. Rebooting and all the like doesn't work. 

Creating projects is in itself a project. Normally you would find the files or set up the directory where the files would be. In Eclipse, you have several options all of which are not intuitive. All of it is basedon how you'll be managing the project. If you're using a source repository such as Visual Source Safe, I found that the best thing to do is first find the files on the local working directory first. Get that set up and then add it to the repository. This is what most would do but sometimes you're asked to set things up in the repository, especially in a team environment. 

The other thing I find interesting is the ability to overwrite someone else code. Normally in VSS, the code is readonly to those who are not working on it. No so in Eclipse. So people can trample all over your code, especially if you're working in areas where you're developing on a development server that your team shares. For this reason, you have to do lots of checking in.

I'm sure you can find lots of idiosyncracies about using this application but I'll leave it like this for now and will let you know more about the things I like and dislike about it as we go forward.

Monday, November 10, 2008

CFEclipse Line Numbers Fix

One of the first things I noticed in CFEclipse was no line numbers. Thinking it was a simple configuration fix, I checked the preferences and saw that under Editors, there is a check for "show line numbers". I checked it and . . . voila nothing happened. I checked the documentation for CFEclipse, which is just a Wiki on the site and they said that there should be a check box for the same thing in the CFEclipse portion of the preferences. I checked. It wasn't there! After doing some research, here is what I found:

Show Line Numbers in CFEclipse:

  1. First you have to go to your workspace directory which would've been the first thing to set when you started the application for the first time. To make matters easy just do a search for the word workspace from the root of your machine's hard drive. Mind you, I'm using Windows XP so you can make any adjustments to your own OS. The files are hidden so you'll have to enable viewing hidden files and directories.

  2. Navigate in your directory to the following:

  3. Open the file with notepad or any plain text editor and add the following line:

  4. Save everything. Close out everything and restart Eclipse. You should now see line numbers appearing in your code. Don't forget to re-enable hiding your hidden files.

Did this help you or did you get more frustrated? Let me know.

Using Eclipse

At my current employer, I am forced to use Eclipse for coding. After almost 10 years of using Dreamweaver, its now down to this. Mind you, I can understand the reason. The thing is cheap ie free and is supposed to do everything the other editors can. And even more. The problem is that like all OpenSource software, things sometimes drop and is not dealt with unless research is done. I'll be documenting issues regarding using CF Eclipse as I go along. What are your issues and how did you get around them?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Learning .NET after ColdFusion

I certainly don't claim to be a great programmer but I try. Not having an initial formal education in Computer Science can be a handicap at times but still you are given the chance to see programming from a more practical level than most with CS degrees. For one thing you are more focused on the results than on the process. I started out as a ColdFusion programmer in the mid to late 90s when the web was young and folks were beginning to come up with easy ways to add functionality to web pages. ColdFusion was very popular with this and for a time one could make some good money as a CF programmer. I had always been a computer enthusiast and caught the web bug when my friend Pete Tarnowsky introduced me to HTML. CF was easy because it used the same tag like structure as HTML so the progression was natural.

Well along came ASP for which you didn't need to buy the application server. All you needed was what was Internet Information Server or IIS and you had pretty much the basis of what you needed to get a dynamic website up and running. If you were a VB programmer, you could create objects that could interface with ASP. The expense of buying the CF app server was gone. That provided some stiff competition to CF and eventually there were more sites built with ASP. Java followed and things got even more complicated. CF's engine was eventually written with Java and evolved into the scenario where you were actually running a Java application through CF. They were trying to sell it as doing Java the easy way with ColdFusion.

As every programmer knows, one of the requirements is upgrading ones skill set. Only a fool would put all his programming eggs in one language. Unfortunately this happens no fault of the programmer as you can get stuck in one environment. Some times it takes the ultimate plunge, going it on your own, to acquire the skillset to make yourself continually marketable. This is what I did, ending up unemployed for a few months. The great thing is that I was able to use this time to get into .NET. I did work a tiny bit on .NET projects but to be honest I was just editing code, not adding major functionality.

What I found was by being just a little resourceful you could teach yourself .NET without spending an extra dime. One needs to only download the latest application IDEs from Microsoft which would include developer or Express versions of the major applications used in .NET development. You will need Visual Web Developer and MS SQL Server 2008 Express. All of this is available as a download. In addition, a good friend of mine gave me a pdf of the book Build Your Own ASP.NET 2.0 Web Site Using C# and VB by Christian Darie and Zak Ruvalcaba. Obviously I won't offer the pdf file but would encourage you to buy the actual book. Click on the link on this site. While you're at it just a reminder that you're actually supporting this blog when you buy from our sponsors so be sure to check out some of the goods and services being offered.

I intend to be finished with the book in 2 weeks and since many of the concepts I already know, particularly the sections on databases, I hope to move quickly. At the time of this writing, I noticed that there is an updated edition. Seems the names are switched around so that its authored by Zak Ruvalcaba and Christian Dairie instead of the other way around. Whatever it is, get the book. Like I said on Twitter, I hope to be the baddest .NET programmer around.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Beta Beta! The Browser Wars cont'd

Thinking of the introductions of 2 browser betas I can't help but thing of the robot in Buck Rogers. I don't know if that's how it sounded but it I remember it being the robot always trying to be cool and using all the latest slang. Well looking at the browsers I can't help but think the same thing. Here we have 2 browsers in beta, one brand new, the other an update to an old staple, both trying to be cool. As you may know, Microsoft has launched the beta edition of Internet Explorer 8. At the same time, Google, in an attempt to join the browser landscape has come out with their own browser, dubbed Chrome.

Now when you look at browsers today, there's not much different between all of them. There's Opera, IE7, FireFox and Sapphire. What they all have in common are the tabs. Sure there are nuances in all of them but for the most part, users would use them for the same thing. For me, I have several Yahoo, Gmail, MSN and AIM accounts. With all these browsers, I can manage all the accounts at once. In some instances I can even do instant messaging with the different accounts. I don't think I would be different from most other users who have all of the browsers installed.

Based on the reviews, there are some cool things coming out with these new browsers. Chrome has detachable tabs which can be unhinged from the main browswer and placed anywhere on screen. These tabs can also be saved to the desktop as shortcuts. I can see several uses for this. Having a site on your desktop that's only a click away is very useful and cool. No trying to look up and down your bookmarks.

On IE8's side, one of the first things promised is speed. Today, FireFox 3.0 is way faster that this slug and when I use on my Windows XP machine, my machine chokes up. Since FireFox came out, I stopped using IE7. I have a Vista laptop and use IE7 on it as its a little faster given the power of the machine. What's promised is that IE8 would be a good competitor of FireFox 3.0 in terms of speed.

The most talked about feature of IE8 is what they are calling "porn mode". Here if you want to completely cover your tracks after visiting any site, you can. You are given the choice of which cookies to delete. Incidentally, some of these features are already available in Sapphire but not to the granular level that IE8 would provide.

I guess there are more features that make these browsers special but we'll have to see. Now in terms of the browser wars, I don't see IE8 losing. Afterall, IE, both 6 and 7 and yes there are may who still insist on using this mess, have a 70% market share of the browser landscape. One has to wonder if this will continue with IE8. For one thing, GoogleTalk was supposed to challenge the IM market but did not.

Now hopefully there's not any changes to how sites have to be written to accommodate these apps. If this is the case, then we potentially have the problem of a big headache for web designers and developers. In fact, there are still some nuances that have to be addressed for IE7 and FireFox.

For me, my biggest concern is how fast these browsers will be. In the not too distant future, there should be a beta for FireFox 3.1 coming out. We'll then have a Beta Beta Beta situation to deal with. Until then, I'll use what I have and will soon begin testing of both Chrome and IE8. At that time I'll post my findings.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Site Was hacked!!

I had just invited someone to look at my site and they responded by asking me what kind of site was it. I asked them if they saw the pictures I had on it and they said all they could see was a Turkish flag waving and a picture of a baby in a crib with a gold colored baloon on it. So I checked and sure enough it was there. On it was the description "HACKED BY iskorpitx (Turkish Hacker)". One can imagine my embarrasment when this came about. Here I am showing off the work of someone else.

In a way I was glad it happened to this site in particular. For the most part, it was my personal website and I am still trying to figure out what I'll do with it. Truth be told, there were a few vulerabilities with Joomla that made the attack possible. First there is a known security issue with Joomla. Aparently, there is the default admin user ID named admin. You do get to select your own user ID when Joomla is being installed but for the most part, most users keep the default. What I found on the site was a file named abc.php. When I pointed to the file, I got an application suite that apparently could run on my site showing all files, all folders, and could even query the database. Using admin as the user name, the hacker was able to somehow change the super administrator password which allowed him/her to go into the site and make changes to the front page. In panacking I decided that to ensure that the site is problem free, I simply reloaded the entire install. I dumped all the tables, all files, pretty much everything and started totally from scratch. Well this was a little extreme as I later found out. First of all I could've recovered the password. This would've given me the ability to regain control of the site. For purely the purpose of ensuring that the site was secure (I think) I decided to redo it from scratch.
Since I found the abc.php file, I made sure that the directory structure could not be easily accessible applying the right permissions to it. That way it would've been harder to put that file on it. Then I reinstalled the entire application from scratch. Fortunately I didn't have too much content so I was able to get things going quickly. However it was a great pain.
The thing had me wondering if I had made the right choice in choosing Joomla. What brought me a little comfort was the fact that, the parent site of Joomla! was itself hacked. The other thing reminded me of Microsoft products. They are the most hacked, the most attacked, the ones most likely to have viruses. That is because of their popularity and ubiquity. I guess Joomla is heading in that direction. Its very easy to work with and you can do whatever you wish on the web with it. The best part is that its all free, being OpenSource. The folks involved with it have recently formed a security team which would be looking at issues regarding it. So far they've been pretty good. One of the problems with OpenSource is that there's no one to simply call for support. However, there are the boards where a lot of answers you can find. In fact has a very good board with lots of answers to almost every issue. Thing is, security is a very interesting one and you really have to be careful how you describe handling it. Hackers are really the only ones reading the manuals to the max. They look for vulnerabilities themselves. Its what makes them thrive.
Anyway, I'm working on getting this thing up again soon. I'll post what I learned next.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Joomla! Great CMS or not?

I was asked by my home owners association to build a website that would have among other things, a blog, a discussion group and the ability of the members or executives to do their own editing. A long time back a friend of mine had mentioned using a content management system and so I looked into it and found a bunch. At that time, Mambo was recommended but there were a few others. Most of the information I had gotten from the web pertaining to this was about Mambo. Fast forward to today. By now, Mambo is no longer known by that name but is now Joomla from a Swahili word meaning coming together. There are also other players that are still in the game and one of them is Drupal. I looked around and sure enough there are even more and they all vary in complexity. They are out there.

I'll be dealing with some of the issues I find with Joomla and will be updating this blog regarding it as we go along. I realized that even though I could be reviewing several of the CMS systems, the best thing for me is to make sure that I am very familiar with at least one of them and then when time permits look deeply into the others. The most important thing is to make sure I can get a site up very quickly.

My foray into Joomla began with 3 sites almost simultaneously. One for my church (, another for me covering my interest in photography ( Needless to say I'm still tweaking them all while learning their intricacies.

Stay tuned.