revision3 needs a revision

September 29, 2006 under IPTV, Revision3

I like the relaunched Revision3; I really do. Kevin Rose has great ideas and seems like he has his act together when implementing those ideas. Hell, at the end of TechTV’s life, he was the only on-air personality with any tech cred. However, I’m not one of those 17 year-old fanboys who thinks that Kevin’s farts sound like angels singing songs of joy. So I’ll mention a couple of oopsies that I’ve noticed.

How do you launch your IPTV service with no support for RSS? An oversight or a bug? Perhaps. That’s what QA is for. Revision3/digg does have a QA team, right? I think this is a case of taking the cookies out of the oven before they’re fully baked because they look so damn tasty and you just can’t wait. At any rate, as of last night, I still didn’t see the RSS feeds but I was able to find the new shows on iTMS‘ Podcast Directory. Indeed, the feeds still exist, but aren’t displayed on the Revision3 website for whatever reason. I subscribed to Mysteries of Science and Web Drifter via iTunes. Once the episodes were downloaded, I tried to sync them with my iPod and received this error:

iTunes Error syncing with iPod

The Diggnation videos have always been playable on my iPod and still are, and all the videos are MOVs. So why are the new Revision3 shows encoded with some freaky iPod-unfriendly codec?

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kill your television

September 27, 2006 under Internet, IPTV

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin was were right when they instructed us to murder our TVs. Not a whole lot on TV interests me at the moment; just more of the same ol’ same ol’. IPTV, on the other hand, brings a lot of new things to the table such as choice, variety and convenience.

Tonight, Kevin Rose‘s Revison3 relaunches with a new lineup of IPTV shows. Up to this point, Revision3 produced a few podcasts and shows. The only one’s I cared about were Infected (I love Gator’s stories) and The Broken, and it’s been a long time since a new Broken episode has been released.

Now, it sounds like they’re planning a deeper lineup. I’m interested to see the types of shows that they’ll produce, and the frequency of new episodes.

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server.transfer() saved my asp

September 25, 2006 under ASP, IIS, Programming

At work, I’m near completion of an ASP ecommerce project. Up to this point in my life, I had never coded with anything other than Perl or PHP running on Apache when working on web-based projects that required dynamically generated content. So this project stole my ASP-on-IIS virginity; this is a good thing.

Server.Transfer() is a useful method that I stumbled upon by accident. I had an ASP script that was called from a POSTed web form. Said script took the form data, did some stuff, and needed to post one of two possible forms, depending on the data. I knew that out-of-the-box, PHP has no way to accomplish this. I became nauseated, believing that I’d have to generate a new form on the fly, complete with some JavaScript to be called in the BODYs onLoad event so as to post the form automatically. Ugh. Then, a gift from the heavens, “heavens” being a Google query, bestowed Server.Transfer() upon me. I found Response.Redirect() as well, but that totally smacked of PHPs header() function, which won’t submit form variables via a POST request, and would not be of any help.

If we’re on a.asp, which contains a bunch of form elements, and we want to go to b.asp, we can do the following:

< %
   ' Go to b.asp and preserve all of the form elements from a.asp.
   Server.Transfer("b.asp")
%>

Now from b.asp, we can retrieve the form elements that were on a.asp via the Reponse.Form() method. You just have to be careful as to what is already written to the browser prior to calling Server.Transfer() as it won’t be requesting a brand new page like Response.Redirect() would. Server.Transfer() is, thankfully, also available to ASP.NET.

This is probably old hat to all of the ASP veterans out there in Internet land, but it’s new to me and I’m glad that it exists 🙂

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waterloogle

September 22, 2006 under Communitech, Google, Kitchener, Waterloo

I know it seems like my blog is becoming Google-centric. That’s not on purpose, and it’s totally not my plan. I just call it like I see it. Chalk this up to another Silicon Valley company moving into our neighbourhood.

McAfee was the latest Silicon Valley heavyweight to open shop here. Communitech is reporting that Google may be opening a research office in Waterloo (PDF). It’ll be nice to be able to submit feature requests with a local phone call. HA! I’m kidding. I’d do it in-person 😉

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wii can expect it in november

September 21, 2006 under Gaming, Nintendo, Wii

Nintendo has announced that the Wii will be available in Canada (and elsewhere in North America) on November 19th for $279.95 CDN. I haven’t been an avid console gamer since the days of the SNES, but I’m definitely interested in the Wii, and I’m rooting for Nintendo to inform Microsoft and (especially) Sony what the 5 fingers said to the face…SLAP!

Nintendo WiiWhile the Wii will be priced lower than both the XBox 360 and the PS3, I’m still not sure if I’m willing to jump back into the console gaming world. I definitely like Nintendo’s stance of game play over glitter, which has always been their mantra. Perhaps it’s more apparent as more and more “pretty” yet sub-standard games ship for Microsoft’s and Sony’s consoles. But I’ve been planted in the PC gaming world for a while now, and I’m not in the financial position (yet) that would allow me to support both PC and console gaming habits. Even then, I’m still only finding that a handful of games hold my attention anymore; Unreal Tournament and EA Sports titles being the only ones, and I’m still not that into gaming much lately. Since Dena and I have been in the market for a house, the amount I’m willing to spend for extra entertainment is dwindling. I’ve considered other avenues such as NAS for media storage and media centre computers for media playback and management; I’m certain that a NAS device is a definite need. The amount of ideas I have kicking around in my head is bound to drive me nuts. Do I need a gaming PC? What if the Wii will get ports of the (few) PC games that I’m interested in? If I get media centre PCs, what operating system will they run; Windows, Ubuntu? Are Macs even in the running for this? If I go all Ubuntu and keep a Windows virtual machine for the few apps that I need (Visual Studio, IIS and SQL Server and iTunes), will the Wii handle the games in interested in, so that I don’t need a kick-ass Windows gaming rig? Perhaps once the dust settles from the Wii’s launch, it’ll be worth re-evaluating. Unless, of course, Epic is planning a Wii port of UT2K7 – then it’ll be a no-brainer 😀

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writely so

September 20, 2006 under Computers, Google, Internet, Writely

Nobody wants to sit through another one of my gripe sessions about how the majority of Google’s services don’t allow GMail for Your Domain users to login with their domain email address, thus forcing you to use a Gmail address, correct? I’ve done it before and perhaps for the last time…

Last evening, I received an email from Writely; the Web-based word processor that Google recently acquired. It was to inform me that within the upcoming days, my account will be upgraded so that I can login with my GMail for Your Domain account. That’s correct, I can login with my chrisbellini.com email address 🙂 So for the hell of it, I decided try a few other services that forced me to use my gmail.com email address (which I only use a spam catcher when I fill out web forms on unknown web sites) like Notepad and Spreadsheets. Lo and behold, I can login with my chrisbellini.com address in those too!

Thank you, Google!

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how to be an awesome developer in 74 seconds

September 19, 2006 under Computers, Programming

eWeek’s article about 10 Programming Languages You Should Learn Right Now, posts like this about the 5 languages that matter, and 5 Easy Ways to be a Better Developer appear to be this week’s trend. Everybody loves a good list; see my list of favourite Firefox extensions in my previous post 😉

When it comes to the world of software development, there are no easy ways to do it right and knowing specific languages isn’t a silver bullet. That’s what I’ve learned based on my experiences. Your mileage may vary. When it comes to programming, I’m no Raymond Chen; not yet anyway 😉 But I don’t think I suck at it, either. In my brief career, I’ve never had a project fail (minus two death marches), so there’s hopefully no smoke-blowin’ on my part.

This, I know of creating software:

  1. It’s hard.It’s not brain surgery, but it’s far from easy. Taking human ideas and thought processes, and mapping that onto a machine that basically sends electrons hither and yon is not a venture to be taken lightly. When you stop to wonder, programming is like teaching a tree to act like your washing machine.
  2. Formal education helps, but isn’t always required.Does my Computer Science degree help me in my day-to-day work? Not really. The degree is just a way to get your foot in the door for an interview, especially if you haven’t done a whole lot yet. It just suggests to a potential employer that I’m probably able to think on my own. A good Computer Science program should be language-agnostic, IMO. If Bram Cohen were looking for a job, would he really need an employment section in his resume? Probably not; he created the BitTorrent protocol, so it should be safe to assume his skills are in check.
  3. Languages/technologies come and go.What’s hot right now? SMP and multithreaded programming. Ruby on Rails. AJAX. Just a few years ago, OOP/OOD was the talk of the town, but its popularity has since waned due to the loosely-coupled contrast of SOA. What’s popular now, might not be in a few years (or months). I’m a firm believer in having a strong background in the fundamentals of programming, since it’ll allow you to be flexible. C++ used to be popular for enterprise development, but it’s not anymore. If you only know how to cook fried eggs, you’ll have a problem when you’re asked to bake a soufflé.
  4. There’s a lot to know. What will you develop; desktop applications, Web-based applications, games, networking protocols, embedded code, operating systems or any of the many kinds of software? If you’re a database developer, focus on that. Sure, it’s fun to dabble with AI and is perfectly cool if it’s a hobby or you have aspirations of joining the video game industry, but it shouldn’t monopolise the time that you could spend on refining your database skills. You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but having general knowledge about a lot of things is useful, especially during brainstorming sessions.
  5. You can’t stop learning for even a second. It’s a fast-moving industry. If you’re caught standing still, you will be left behind. Read industry magazines and websites. Peek at the code of some open-source projects. Write some sample apps using a new framework. Use it or lose it!
  6. Don’t be a dork. For the most part, you’ll work with a team. Don’t be a mute or a weirdo that mumbles Star Trek dialogue to yourself. You’ll have to communicate with your team mates, and that’s a big job requirement nowadays. Gone are times when the nerdy solitary programmer was common. Programmers tend to be introverts (myself included), but we should have no problem communicating with our own kind. Bonus points if you’re able to talk to non-techies in a manner that they’ll understand.

This has been working for me thus far. Actual results may vary. Batteries not included.

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how my fox is dressed for autumn

September 15, 2006 under Computers, Firefox, Internet, Software

How do you dress-up your Firefox? I don’t use any third-party themes, but here are extensions that I use on my computers:

Google Toolbar
Search term suggestions. Phishing detection. AutoFill for speedy completion of webforms. Spell check. This is a handy extension, but I’m not sure if I’ll have a need for this when Firefox 2.0 ships.

Adblock
Advertising pays the bills for a lot of sites, but there’s a 99.999% chance that I’ll never click on a banner ad. So my guilt is slightly alleived when this handy extension removes them from every site that I visit 😉

Adblock Filterset.G Updater
Filterset.G is a handy list of regular expressions that the aforementioned Adblock extension uses to determine ad content on a web page. This extension ensures that said list is automatically kept up-to-date.

IE Tab
This is one of those for-Windows-only extensions. This extension is extremely useful for web development testing, since it allows you to view any web page using Internet Explorer’s rendering engine right from within Firefox. It’s also perfect for viewing various web sites that only render correctly in IE (cough, MSDN, cough).

Web Developer
Another web development time-saver. It features a slew of tools to make development easier. The “convert POST to GET” feature alone is indespensible.

del.icio.us
This extension makes it easy to bookmark pages in my del.icio.us. Definitely a time saver when you use multiple computers.

Forecastfox
I’d rather not have to go to the Weather Network‘s website all of the time. This eliminates one step, since I already have a browser window open anyway.

I love Firefox’s customizability. The other browsers like IE, Opera and Safari don’t come close. Which Firefox extensions can you not live without?

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programmer's day

September 14, 2006 under Computers, Programming

Would you believe that nobody outside of work wished me a happy Programmer’s Day yesterday? Of course, I work for a company that’s chock full of programmers so there were plenty of well wishes to go around, but c’mon, people. It’s just one day out of the whole year. Is that too much to ask? Sheeesh 😉

Yesterday, Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood should’ve put their differences aside for Programmer’s Day and made no mention of Ruby vs Wasabi, or business needs vs technical elegance arguments. Can’t we all get along for just one special day? 🙂

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57 channels and nothing on

September 13, 2006 under Computers, Internet, Life, lonelygir15, YouTube

It turns out that lonelygirl15 is a fraud, like I suspected. The LA Times printed a follow-up story, and it seems that the goal was to exploit the Web as a new distribution method for entertainment. And why not? There aren’t a whole lot of interesting things happening on traditional TV. Letting the “non professionals” take a stab at it seems fair to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an email conversation with Michael Markman and he pointed me towards a video that he hand in creating called “Day of the Longtail”. The clip clearly praises self-produced content and the Web as a low-cost and efficient medium for distribution. RSS, low-cost/no-cost video editing software, inexpensive digital video cameras, and social networking sites like YouTube make it easy for amateurs to create and share. Hopefully you’re reading my blog via my RSS feed 😉

Arsenio HallThis got me thinking – damn, I wish this all existed back in 1991. For Mr. Clausi’s Advanced English class in grade 10, Stephan Peltier, Marc Seguin and myself decided to take a different route than the rest of class when it came to our Julius Caesar project. Instead of a skit or essay to be read in front of the class, we decided to spoof the Arsenio Hall Show while keeping the theme focused on the denizens of ancient Rome. Using Steph’s fancy (at the time) camcorder, we parodied Arsenio’s show complete with Greek gods as guests who came with movie clips to promote non-existant films. I remember that Steph portrayed Caesar and was promoting his film that was a send-up of T2: Judgment Day. I think he had another guest on the show executed too, if my memory serves me correctly. We used the camera’s ever-so-slick slow-motion feature to accentuate Steph’s running with a big knife. Get educated or we’ll kill ya! We even added our own commercials. I could never forget the split-screen (more special effects) zaniness of Portia‘s Pizza – be careful of the toppings…they’re hot hot hot! 😉 Of course, I was Arsenio. Yes, I know that I look nothing like him, but I imitated his mannerisms as best as I could, whoopin’ and all. We got an A+ and a standing ovation from the class.

For the class’ next project, which centred on Greek Mythology, other students in the class actually requested that we do another Arsenio Hall show video, and we obliged. The goal was to be bigger and better, like any good sequel should strive for. We added John Harvey and Ryan Harper to our group, extended the running time from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, and sorta had a budget. Steph, as the mighty Zeus, killed yet another guest with a lightning bolt. Hercules (John) reduced our musical guest, MC Hammer (Ryan), to nothing more than a pair of shoes and hat with a single swing of an over-sized hammer made from one of my baseball bats and an empty cardboard box. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I came up with this, but we spoofed Freddy Krueger with a Nightmare on Mount Olympus. Picture a dark room of soundly sleeping teenagers, while the quiet intro of Metallica’s “Fight Fire With Fire” plays in the background. Wait a sec, who or what goes there? A sinister spikey-haired figure (John) lurks in the room. As the gentle accoustic guitar of “Fight Fire With Fire” plucks its final chord before the drums and distored guitar kick in, the spectre begins killing all of the teenagers with violent stabs to the face and chest using its spiked scalp. I can’t remember what we were portraying or how it fit into Greek Mythology, but it was freakin’ cool! We used a mixture of cherry Jello, flour and water for the blood. Again, we were awarded an A+ for the film and it was the hit of the class again. I’ve starred in a few other video productions for projects in high school, but none could compare to those Arsenio videos. If anybody has a copy of those, I’d love to get my hands on one since the whereabouts of my copy has long been a mystery. I could totally see them landing on YouTube or Blip.tv 😉

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