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Stupid Berries (Blackberry 7100t)

Posted by james on Feb. 20, 2006

I've been on the search for a smart phone (ie. a phone plus extra crap). Specifically, I want something with great text input and calendar'ing, and above all a flexible Todo list. The phone must sync to my computer (and <b>not</b> use Outlook!). I want to be able to move the individual items on my Todo list up and down at will, position them however I want. I don't want to deal with "priorities", "dates", or other nonsense to auto-order the list, I want control over that. Haven't seen a phone that lets me do that yet.

I recently got a <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1651988,00.asp">Blackberry 7100t</a> for T-Mobile. I've been interested in Blackberries, as they started out as text only and evolved into phones. The keyboard is great, QWERTY, 2 letters per key with numbers laid on top. It uses the guessing as you type thing, and I've found I can type faster on that then any other pda/phone type device. Awesome. The text guessing software needs a few tweaks (sometimes it just comes up with random words of garbage letters instead of a commonly used word. Totally Gwkbrded!), but overall I'm surprised how fast and easy it is. Much better than ABC phones (alphabetic 3 letter per key).

But the software stinks. The interface is definitely very email/corporate focused. You must sync to Outlook, which I do not want to do. There's optional "connectors" for other software, but they don't have a standalone PIM like the Palm Desktop (outdated and clunky, but good enough) and nothing for Thunderbird (can't blame them, but still...). They have a scrollwheel that you click (which is a little hard to click easily, bad feel). It's like a right click on windows, pops up a context menu with about 10-20 items on it.

Message someone? Scroll the wheel through numerous icons to "Address Book", find the person (scroll or type), click and get a menu:

-Hide Menu
-New Address
-New Group
-Call [the person]
-SMS [the person]
-SIM Phone Book

Ok, I want "SMS Smappy Mcgoo". Scroll, find it, click. Then type easily (love that keyboard). Done, so I click:

-Hide Menu
-Save Draft
-Edit AutoText
-Show Symbols
-Enable Multitap
-Change Language

Find send, click that.

This whole "one finger does everything" business is great for people who must do the whole process with 1 hand, want to send something out, and are willing to spend the time running through the menus. It is not great for quick glance type of stuff, ie in the car or just doing things quickly/efficiently.

Some menus are so big they scroll past the screen (so you can't see it all at once), in relatively small font. Great, that's not a UI nightmare. Plus, some things are just confusing. Someone tells me a number, so I type it in first and then want to add it to the address book. I can't without calling them first. What the heck?

So Blackberries are out. And while a <a href="http://www.palm.com/us/products/smartphones/treo650/">Palm</a> would fare a bit better, maybe there's something better out there. Maybe a <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2006/02/06/sony-ericssons-m600-3g-tri-band-gsm-cellphone/">Symbian</a> next?

Dog Sick.

Posted by james on Feb. 19, 2006

Last weekend I was sick as a dog. I don't really know what that means, maybe that I had long droopy ears, my sense of smell was 10 times better than a normal person's, and I always landed on my feet. More accurately, I couldn't smell much, was sore all over, and tripped/dropped things often. Which I suppose is very dog-like.

One thing; you know how people normally lose weight while they're cold? Usually cause they lose their appetite. Well, I couldn't stop eating. In fact, this whole past week I've been hungrier than normal, combined with being much more tired every afternoon. Yay.

I'm going to now wildly promise incredible updates to this site, new layout, new code, pictures bigger than a 1.5x3 index card (!) very soon now! In fact, I have no plans of doing so, but I figure at least I'd give you guys some hope. What you can expect is... a thumbnail on the main rants page linking to pictures. Man, so exciting.

Version Number Creep (aka Meaningless Marketing Crap from Java)

Posted by james on Feb. 14, 2006

I've seen a whole bunch of programs now that use version numbers as pseudo-meaningful symantic nonsense. Usually this involves changing version numbers for no real reason.

The latest incident; Java. Java had so much promise and potential when it was first designed/released. Then for some reason the acceptance was rocky and it had a very hard start. It's gaining popularity now, especially in server software. So I've finally decided to jump into it.

But what is "it"? What do I need to learn? And how do I get it? I know I want the java that is used as the backend of server application processing. Does that mean JRE 1.5, J2SE 1.4 RE, J2EE 1.5 SDK, Java 5.0? What the heck? So first we're faced with a myriad of products, with no clear guide for the newbie. My questions; what are all the different products and how do they fit in the big picture? Now I know:

The runtime environment (RE) is just the "let clients run your programs" thing. Or from another standpoint, "I just want to run this java program."

The SDK is the programmers toolkit. It lets you make java programmers. It's the "compiler".

Java 2 is the overarching 2nd rev. of the language, released 5 years ago. For some reason they've broken it down so it's really:

Java 2 version 1.4, and
Java 2 version 1.5 aka 5.0

Umm... 5.0? Yes, that's right. They've gone from version 1.4 to 5.0 because it "better reflects the level of maturity, stability, scalability and security built into J2SE". That's a very nice way to say "everyone knows bigger numbers are better. Java is so good, it's 5.0 good!" This is so wrong.

Version numbers are supposed to mean something; they're supposed to mean that the later the version number, the later the software. 2.0 comes after 1.0. 1.5 comes after 1.0 and before 2.0. Simple. Then there's the now widely accepted convention that 1.0 means "ready for prime time", or "ready for most public users". But if you jump from 1.4 to 5.0, what does that mean? Then if at the same time you make 1.5 = 5.0? And all of that is for Java 2, so now it's really:

Java version 2 version 1.4,
or the newer Java version 2 version 1.5 aka Java version 2 version 5.0

When Java 3 comes along, will it come after Java version 2 version 5.0, or will it fall between Java version 2 version 1.4 and Java version 2 version 5.0 as the new Java version 2 version 3.0? And now we have Java EE version 5.0. Guess what that really is... <a href="#hint" style="color:gray; font-size:80%; text-decoration:none;">(hint)</a>.

As if that isn't confusing, we still have
SE vs EE (standard vs. enterprise... what's the difference?)
Beans (what are they?)
Struts (Action, Shale, or Classic?)
Java server faces

You can do about 20 searches and read for quite a few hours to figure that all out. Or there could be a very simple page that gives very general descriptions about where they all fit together. It can be simplistic. It can be overly general. That's fine. We just need to know what is what, and which of those we want.

The current litmus test is to download "Java". If you just happen upon the right download, great. But if you see all these options and don't already know which one is what you want, you're stuck in this mire of Java duplicity and ambiguity. Sweet! I can't imagine why Java wasn't more popular before now!

What would I do differently? First there would be Java 1.0. Then you make some changes. When you change the language significantly, you go to Java 2.0 (or if you've already hit 2.0, then go to 3.0). Then if you want, break that into SE and EE (but please, explain to us the difference). And have a single page or set of pages that points everyone in the right direction.

The clearest comparison I have is a fruit loops box. You know those oh-so-clever mazes that lead the tucan with the big nose through dangers and pitfalls to the magical box of cereal at the end? Now imagine you the developer on one side (the "start"), your goal (the system you want to build) on the other (the "end"), and littered in the middle are all the different flavors and extensions of java as colorful little icons along the maze. The instructions read: "Help developer Sam find his way to the Web Application Server Farm! You must hit all the different technologies that you'll need, and avoid those that you don't because they'll slow you down. Hurry, you've only got 8 months including server accreditation documentation, testing, and integration efforts!" Oh, that'll be a fun maze. Good thing you have a million different (ie. conflicting) java versions and no clear guideline as to what each thing is.

Next up on the block; Slackware 7. What happened to 5 and 6? Why, Mr. Volkerding, <a href="http://www.slackware.com/faq/do_faq.php?faq=general#0">why</a>!!?!

<a name="hint" style="color:gray; font-size:80%;">Java EE version 5.0 is the EE version of Java version 2 SE version 1.5 aka Java version 2 SE version 5.0. Fun!</a>

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