Other People’s Code – Open Source

I think that open source software (with license agreements that let me use it in commercial applications even if it means contributing my changes back) is great. We use it extensively in my work and have contributed back our changes as required in one component. Another component we use has proven to be a constant thorn in my side that I’m almost at the point that I’m going to scrap the code and write it myself; however, it does stuff that I don’t know how to do. I’ve had to fix this particular bunch of code twice in the last week. On a positive note, it keeps me employed.

New iMac

I picked up a new 17″ iMac running the Intel Core Duo today to do testing and development. I didn’t realize until I got home that I had the wireless keyboard/mouse model which wasn’t a big deal as it was only $60 more (the box doesn’t indicate this…not even the label, unless you can decode part numbers). Setting it up took a few minutes, but the wireless keyboard and mouse was kind of weird as it took awhile for the Mac to discover the keyboard and mouse after I figured out how to put in the batteries.

As I always use disc images for development so that I can wipe down a hard drive and start over, I plugged in my external 120 GB FireWire drive, partitioned it, booted from the CD and attempted to install the software. It failed. Turns out I had to switch from the Apple Partition Scheme to the GUID Partition Scheme. Yeah, that was an easy one to figure out.

I haven’t played much with the machine, yet, but will do so later after I finish imaging the drive.

WirelessModem up for sale

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to put my WirelessModem program up for sale. I’ve neglected the software for too long due to my own lack of interest (I haven’t used the software since I got rid of my Treo 300 a few years back). If anyone is interested in purchasing the source code to both the Macintosh side and the Palm OS side, please contact me. Serious offers only.

Macworld – Day 3

Day 3 started out with me crashing a customer’s Treo. He was complaining that the PhoneCallDB file wouldn’t backup and would hang the sync. So I thought that purging the call history (which uses the PhoneCallDB database) would help out. So, I purged the call history for calls older than 1 week. His device immediately reset and then wouldn’t start up again. After a few minutes, he was able to get it running again, but the phone didn’t work. He kept blaming me and our software and didn’t understand that his problems were most likely caused by a corrupt database which clearly (in my mind and the mind of one of my colleagues) is evident by this chain of events.

Lessons learned: 1. Never touch a customer’s device; let the customer screw up his/her own device. 2. Give customers ideas on how to fix the problems, but don’t have them try the ideas in front of you. Let them wait until they get home so that if they have problems, I don’t have to hear about them.

Before the show I picked up a copy of iLife ’06 at the Apple Store. I knew that I’d pay an extra $0.39 by buying it in San Francisco (8.25% sales tax vs. 7.75% in San Diego), but I easily saved that in gas. I’ve only played with it for a few minutes and will have more to say later. Update went fairly smoothly except I was impatient (install took 45 minutes) so I launched the new iPhoto after it got installed, but before everything else was installed. This seemed to confuse things as my dock disappeared at the end of the install to add the new icons, but never came back. I had to restart to clear things up. Maybe I should report it to Apple and demand my money back because I didn’t pay to be a beta tester 🙂 (That’s a reference to some users I deal with who complain about every little thing and except free stuff.)

I had a chance to walk around the show floor a little yesterday and I just wasn’t all that impressed. I’m not sure if I was just too exhausted to see what was neat or I really don’t care. I played around with a MacBook for a few minutes (the Apple rep at the particular demo station I went to said that he loved our software which made my head swell a little) and must say that the specs on the new machine are much more impressive on paper than in real life. The big way to demonstrate it was faster was to open up a video iChat with multiple machines (of course all were connected over gigabit ethernet, but the point was to show how fast the machine could handle the multiple video feeds). This worked well and apparently doesn’t work with the current generation of PowerBooks. I say apparently because I’ve only been part of a video iChat with more than one person once; that was when the Mark/Space Sales/Marketing guy brought me into an iChat with Seal (the singer); it didn’t work well because there wasn’t enough bandwidth to make it useful. Other than the video stuff, launching applications was a little faster (these were native Intel application), but it definitely wasn’t 4 times faster. This leads to the conclusion that the bottleneck isn’t the processor, it is probably I/O (hard drive), video, etc. I’m now less excited about getting one and can wait without feeling computer envy.

Three days of talking to people sure does wear me out. Good thing I go home today and am only on the show floor for a few hours.

Tech support for Sinbad

At the end of yesterday’s show (6 pm), a man comes up to the booth and says that his friend, Sinbad, has a support question and wants to know if I can talk to him on the phone. He dials Sinbad, hands the phone to me and I gave Sinbad some help with his issue. Do I think it really was Sinbad? Absolutely. I know that Sinbad is a Mac user and other Mark/Space people told me he stopped by the both last year. Kind of cool talking to a celebrity and helping him with a problem; however, I was a bit nervous.

Macworld – Day 2

Another long day at the show; great feedback from customers and the day was topped off with dinner with members of the Sync Services development team and other companies doing Sync Services. I’m quite excited as I see Sync Services the future to synchronization on the Mac.

Macworld – Day 1, part 2

Apple announced some really cool stuff and I’m torn on if I should buy a new MacBook. Speed seems great, but I normally get new hardware every 2 years and it’s only 18 months since my last machine. Also, it is 1.0 version of hardware and with AppleCare and enough RAM, it is over $3100 which isn’t a drop in the bucket. iWork and iLife have some neat new features, but I don’t exactly have time to look at it all.

Talking to customers at Mark/Space booth was kind of cool. I did get to talk to Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and it must be cool to know that you can make or break any tech product by writing about it; it really can make you have a swelled head.

I’m completely exhausted and will have round 2 of talking to people tomorrow. I’ve been up since 4:50 am and it’s almost 9 pm.

Macworld – Day 1

I’m headed up to Macworld today for what will probably be another decent show. The rumors are going rampant about what Steve Jobs will announce. Whatever it is, it should be decent. He also puts on a good keynote and that really excites the entire Mac community. This will also be a good chance for me to talk to users/customers as I’ll be working at the Mark/Space booth. It’s great talking to users to hear how they use our products and to show them what they can do. However, it always wears me out and I tend to lose my voice the first day. I’ll post more later when I hear what gets announced.

Upgraded my server

Yesterday I received email that the OS my server was running (Fedora Core 3) was going to be put on legacy status and only security updates would be posted or something like that. Normally I don’t like to do major upgrades on my server as I always spend tons of time futzing. However, in order to get bug fixes and such, I had to upgrade. So I followed the directions on upgrading to Fedora Core 4. It downloaded 420 MB of stuff, installed, and rebooted without a problem. I had to do a few minor tweaks to get MRTG working again as well as MySQL with PHP (old configuration file had to be removed), but other than that, things went smoothly. I got new versions of lots of stuff, but I’m not sure any of it will be all that helpful to me. At least I know that I’ll be getting updates for awhile. (Fedora Core 3 has been out for about a year, so it was probably about time for me to upgrade.)