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Archive for February, 2015

Brent Simmons tackles a subject that deserves further debate, especially in the light of the events of the last two years:

Were software engineer a profession like doctor or lawyer, we’d have a strong and binding set of ethics.

Defining the exact rules isn’t that simple however, as Brent shows in just a few paragraphs with the words “spying” and “monitoring”. Politicians all over the world are asking for more supervision of travellers, of money transfers, of telecommunications – how is that compatible with the ACM‘s principle 1.03, which states: “Approve software only if they have a well-founded belief that it is safe, meets specifications, passes appropriate tests, and does not diminish quality of life, diminish privacy or harm the environment.“?

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You may be forgiven to think that nowadays developers no longer need text editors, now that there are fantastic IDE’s on the market (IDE = Integrated Development Environment). But if you do any kind of web development, you’re probably using some kind of text editor, in combination with the IDE of your choice or perhaps even instead of an IDE. I know I prefer a tool that doesn’t try to be everything at once.

Choosing a text editor is not so simple, however. No matter what OS you’re on, Windows or OS X or Linux or even Android or iOS, you’ll have a rich palette of tools to choose from – and choosing is always hard. That’s why you will find dozens of web pages extolling the virtues of “the ten best text editors” on your favourite OS! I have mentioned a few OS X editors 9 months ago, but in the meantime I have also installed and worked with KomodoEdit.

I have been trying out a whole series of text editors on Windows as well. Choosing is hard, not only because currently any tool I pick also has to be compatible with Windows XP (I know, don’t say it). At work, I need even more features in an editor: I want macros or programmability, search and replace with regular expressions, syntax highlighting for all my favourite languages, extensibility, and more. Plus a tool I’ll be using a lot has to be friendly to this user: it should please me visually, and I want my most frequent commands to be easily executed from the keyboard. You can see why I do not yet have made my choice…

At this moment, I have no quarrel with TextMate on the Mac, but I’m not really pushing it either. On Windows, I am a staunch defender of Notepad++, which I use daily. Notepad++ is fast, knows HTML, XML, JavaScript and more, does macros, sorts lines, can handle read-only files, has a flexible search-and-replace: that’s almost all I need. I also appreciate its author, who is not afraid to publish a new version of his application just to express his opinion: the latest version, as we speak, is the “6.7.4 Je Suis Charlie” version. Well done, Don!

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So why would I look beyond Notepad++? Well, for SharePoint developments Notepad++ comes in handy, for a quick check of HTML or JavaScript. But the rest of my code is mostly CFML (ColdFusion). The standard XML syntax colouring is a bit too simple, and that’s where my troubles start.  You see, there’s a nice plugin to support ColdFusion development in Notepad++ – but it is not entirely compatible with the latest versions of Notepad++. I used Brien Malone’s instructions to get the plugin installed in version 6.7.3. Unfortunately, from time to time the application complains about a missing plugin, and then I have to redo parts of the manual installation described by Brien. After a while, that is no longer funny and adventurous, just plain annoying.

Besides that: sometimes I need just a bit more from my text editor. I do not have a C-compiler at hand to create my own plugins, so I went looking for an alternative text editor. Like I said, the list of possible candidates is long, but in the end I decided to try out KomodoEdit and Editra. Not because they’re the absolute best, but because they work on XP and are installable without admin rights… Their programmability far exceeds Notepad++, and that has already paid off (I’m also learning a bit of Python this way, just on the side). I can use them on Windows – but there are versions for the Mac and Linux as well, which is handy if you dabble on all three platforms like me. But for the moment both of them stay as an assistant to Notepad++, and neither is going to become my main editor soon.

If you’re looking for a text editor, be prepared to spend a serious amount of time on your search – and make sure that you know what you need and what you don’t need.

PS. I think I have found a small but annoying bug in Notepad++. I had this little macro that included a “goto the end of the line” instruction. When repeated until the end of the file, however, the macro failed to do its intended work if and when the editor was in “word wrap” mode. I’m not sure it’s the same problem as described in bug report “#4526 Macro scrambles on EOL with word wrap“, but it seems to be related… Anyway, it’s a bug that easily avoided, so this won’t make me throw Notepad++ out the window ;-)

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I don’t know about you, but I’m always juggling SD-cards and USB-sticks between my computers. Editing, publishing and archiving photos can take a lot of time, and that means that I’m not always able to finish the job in a single session. I do not copy all downloaded PDF’s to my hard disk, so reading them thoroughly usually takes more than a single evening. I always set my computers in sleep mode before leaving my desk, so when waking them up my Macs always bite me with the message “The disk was not ejected properly“.

More or less by accident I happened to find a possible fix for my troubles – as long as I’m willing to do some serious hacking – Apple does not make it easy to make sure that your external drives are unmounted and remounted automatically before entering or waking up from sleep mode.

The premise of the article “Automatically eject external disks on sleep and reconnect after on OS X“?

To find a way to auto-eject your mounted drives and upon waking up the Mac, auto-remounting any drives that is (sic) still connected…

Be warned, however – if you have never touched a Terminal session, let alone executed a ‘sudo’ command, then the instructions may overwhelm you at first reading. I will be rereading them again (possibly printing them out and annotate them) before trying my hand at the execution. But I know I will like the result… if it still works in Yosemite (the text was written almost two years ago).

Just as an aside: the solution mentioned requires a piece of software called ‘SleepWatcher‘. This little tool is written by the same man, Bernard Baehr, who brings us the ‘PDP-8/E Simulator‘.

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In case you don’t know what a PDP-8 is: Wikipedia calls it ‘the first successful commercial minicomputer, produced by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the 1960s‘. Computing prehistory, indeed!

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Yesterday, Sunday, was a very nice day in terms of the weather. That made for a good opportunity for a walk in the park where I played as a kid – and to try out my new lens, an AF-S Nikkor 10-24mm, at the same time.

Park 'Den Brandt' (Antwerp) (Click the picture to go to Flickr)

Park ‘Den Brandt’ (Antwerp)
(Click the picture to go to Flickr)

I love the wide angle play that the 10-24mm allows me, but I’ll have to learn to use those angles for the best results: it’s not always easy to keep the deformation of the perspective of the picture within reasonable bounds.

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Greece is all over the news these days. So let me add my bit, albeit from a completely different angle. I found this wonderful picture on Flickr.

Great picture of a BMW R1100S (c) 2014 by Pan Tsoutsas. (Click on the picture to see it in full glory on Flickr)

Great picture of a BMW R1100S (c) 2014 by Pan Tsoutsas.
(Click on the picture to see it in full glory on Flickr)

As I said on Flickr: I wish I could have been there with the photographer!

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Google is having a problem of the same order as Microsoft: an operating system version that just won’t go away. You could say that Google has its own Windows XP ! Ars Technica explains: “Android 2.3 Gingerbread—Four years later, the OS just won’t die“. But the situation of both products is different. XP is no longer supported, but Google is still helping those Gingerbread users:

The most important app of any smartphone OS is the app store, and Google has made sure to not leave Gingerbread behind—as you can see in the main article picture, the OS gets the very latest version of the Play Store.

Of course, XP is already a bit older than Android, all versions confounded. The endurance of XP says something about Windows 7 and its successors, doesn’t it?

Concerning Gingerbread: let’s not forget that smartphone producers could have done a lot to help users upgrade to more recent and more capable versions of Android. CyanogenMod and similar projects have proven that it is possible to upgrade many devices, although their makers don’t make the effort.

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As proof, I offer my 2011 Galaxy S Plus. It ran Android 2.3 as the (only) official version offered by Samsung – if I recall correctly, 2.3.7 was the latest update. Currently, it’s doing alright with a CyanogenMod version of Android 4.1.2, and I’m planning to upgrade it to 4.4… Samsung won’t even release Android 4.4 for the SGS 3, which was a top smartphone in 2012/2013, with more power and memory than the S Plus.

Then again, if the Samsungs and Huaweis and … (add your own make to the list) of this world were to offer us new smartphones just by upgrading existing software, then they wouldn’t sell that many machines. Which might be better for the environment, but not for their CFO’s!

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How can you make it clear what your business is really about? Try this approach:

When all other mobile devices fail...

For emergencies only – When all other mobile devices fail…

These guys show that mobile computing is in their companies DNA. A good sense of humour is there, as well ;-)

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