STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Monday, July 31, 2006


The comment below was left on my blog by one Mr Philip Walsh, teacher of computing-type subjects at my old workplace:

Hi Justin, showing Yr10 blogs and thought I would show them yours. Cheers, Phil Walsh

In light of this, I say howdy doody to all possible St Paul's people who occasionally visit my blog. I have to comment that I can't vouch for the content being particuarly responsible or interesting, but I appreciate the thought. ;)

While I'm speaking of St Paulites, I should also appologise to "luke" who commented (off topic, I should add) on this post and asked me to contact him in regards to some IT questions he had, and then I never did. Sorry man, but seriously... It was never going to happen. In the credits of my life, you would appear as "Random student with question #1295", and I've got a job and a wife and a kid and stuff. Keeps me busy. But hey, feel honoured that I now, multiple months later, have mentioned you in the context of another blog post. And remember, most IT problems can be solved with a suitable application of excessive physical force. Or of money to my wallet. That works too.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Interface Design

Pop a copy of Filemaker Pro 8 in your CD drive, and you'll be presented with the following screen:

Now, these buttons don't have tooltips or text labels. So you tell me - what do they do? Now, one assumes that the first button will be "install" and so that makes guessing that one pretty easy. But what about the other two? Without some substantial pondering, their purpose is about as clear as Turkish coffee.

Yay for form over function!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Year in the Making

Last year in September, I posted this post which contained a small number of fairly useless crazy facts about myself. Note that point number one was:

1. My current location in the StarOcean:TTEoT universe: The town of Whipple, Elcoor 3.

Do you know, I was about 15 hours into the game when I posted that. I finished that game about 2 weeks ago. Nearly a year later. It took me over a year to get through Final Fantasy X-2 with 100% story completion. I was like 80% through it when my son was born and then didn't finish it until almost a year later. As in, there was playing during that time. I maxed out the play timer.

Conlusion? I'm REALLY SLOW at playing RPG games. Changing games once every 12 months is just plain wrong when there's so many good games to play.

Decline in value

Some of you may (or probably "may not") notice that I've removed the "how much is your blog worth?" box from the sidebar of my blog. There are two reasons for this. Number one: the image, which was hosted on Flikr, is no longer available so it looks a little odd with a "image not available" picture in it. The other reason, is that when I noticed this had happened, I went back to the original site to see if maybe they'd updated the code they provide to retrieve the image from another location. So I typed in my blog's address, and was shocked and dismayed by what I discovered: My blog, which was worth $2,258.16, is now worth less then a quarter of that amount. True, the methodology by which this value is calculated is based on external links to your blog from the Technorati website (which I think hosts other blogs...) and therefore if Technorati suffered a decline in popularity, so your blog's value would fall, but personally I believe it's probably more to do with the marketability of things like photos of mouth-ulcers. Mind you, I had a photo of me as a ninja, so I'm not really sure why my value didn't go into the millions following that one. After all, ninjas are the epitome of cool.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Small Helpdesk Rant

So I just got an email from a client with some files attached. The message went along the lines of :
"Here's our <....> module. It's not working, and we need it fixed urgently."
Problem is, this module isn't actually part of our product. It's something one of our developers here built specifically for this client, and that guy is currently on holidays. There is no developer documentation, no user documentation - heck, I don't even know what it's supposed to do. However, my boss tells me I need to fix it for them. See, I don't boast a bunch of industry experience, but if I was running a company and one of my developers built a client an undocumented database module, and the client then rang up for support on that module while the original developer was on holidays, I'd apologise to the client that we couldn't help them at the moment, and then fire the developer. Or at least give him a warning. How on earth am I supposed to support something that the client knows more about then I do? It's worth saying that there's no policy in regards to developer documentation at my work, but personally I think it's a bit of a given - especially where you're doing something that's client-specific.

OK, end rant. If you're reading this and you're a developer: DOCUMENT YOUR WORK, BUGNUT!!!!! Some poor schmuck will be supporting it long after you've forgotten you wrote it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ninjas and pirates = cool

I just thought I'd try something different, and title a post something completely unrelated to the actual content.

So what is this post about? It's a musing on Apple's Universal binary... thing. Idea? Concept? Standard? Framework? Whatever. It's about Universal binaries.

So you might be reading this as part of the sensible 95% of the world's computer users, and you might say to me "Justin, oh man with a rant, what pray tell is a Universal binary?"
To which I'd probably reply "Well, first we need some very quick history..."

Apple Macs have run on PowerPC chips now for many years. I've asked around, and it appears that when they changed to the PowerPC chips from the Motorolla chips, the compatability issues were all but overcome by embedding a Motorolla emulator in the ROM. Nice idea, but apparently it still caused some issues because it didn't do any of the floating point stuff. But hey, this was before Quake, so who needed floating point?
Anyway, the PowerPC architecture is RISC and likes to sort it's bytes using a different "end" to the rest of us Intel/AMD people. PowerPC likes the big end of Ian, and Intel/AMD prefer the small end of Ian - whoever Ian is. That's why they call these different approaches Big EndIan and Small EndIan. So writing a single piece of code that will run on both is nigh impossible - and seeing as how the computer can't tell one end of Ian from the other, it does make life difficult. There is other... stuff... involved but this isn't a technical blog per se, so I'm not going to bother explaining. Basically, if you write and compile code for one, it sure as heck isn't going to run on the other.

Fast-forward to today when suddenly we have Apple's OSX running on both PowerPC AND Intel CPUs. There's a bunch of software out there that was written for the PowerPC chips, and so cannot run natively on these new fangled machines. However, see people don't get that, and wouldn't get that. So the first thing Apple did was bung in an emulator, and give it a trendy name. Why? Well, because that's what Apple do - give things trendy names. It's not an MP3 player - it's an iPod (C)(R)(TM)(Patent will bite you in the ass). It's not an internet Macintosh, it's an iMac. Are we seeing the sparkles here? I know I am. Sorry - tangent.
So Rossetta. Named so after the Rossetta stone, although from my limited understanding, the stone helped translate between 3 almost forgotten languages, and Apple's version only seems to translate the one: Macintosh software. Now you can go out and spend double what it's worth on a new Mac, and have it run most stuff SLOWER then your old one. "This will never do" says Steve. And so, he comes up with a brilliant idea. (note that I can't support Steve Jobs actually comming up with this idea personally...)

(You knew I'd get to my point sooner or later, right?)

The first Apple product with a name less-then-vaguely related to it's purpose! What is it?
Well, at first glance you might think "Binaries, that are universal". And hey, that actually was my first guess. But from our discussion of Ian's ends earlier, you may remember that this is "nigh on impossible". You can't just take once piece of compiled code, and have it run on both platforms, can you? Well... no. Or yes. Or maybe.
Apple simplifies this as follows: From a user's perspective, a Universal program such as Filemaker can be run on either a PowerPC or an Intel Mac and for all intents and purposes they use the same set of files on either architecture. However, what isn't obvious is that it's not the same code. Actually, each executable file contains two seperate applications - one compiled for PowerPC and one for Intel chips - wrapped up together in a nice compiled Universal wrapper so that they can't be seperated. This, for your average user, works fantastically as anything carrying the Universal logo can be run on any recent Mac.
However, here I come to my gripe with this. Most Mac users will bandy about the term "bloatware" in reference to Windows and Microsoft software in general, and on occasions I can see their point. However, I have never seen something so wasteful as using double the necissary hard disk space for an application, simply so that your users don't have to remember the word "Intel" when they're buying software. Doesn't this seem like going a little too far with the "It Just Works"(C)(R)(TM)(Patent will bite you in the ass) mentality? If I were to say fill 100Gb on my Intel Mac with executables, (on avaerage) 50Gb of that would be useless padding that will never be referenced. Ever. Seems just a little wasteful to me.

So why would I write this post? I mean, the Mac users seem happy enough - what's the problem? The problem is that the arguments that I hear from Mac users on a daily basis about why Macs are so much better then Windows PCs are based on bad computing practices. Inefficientcy, supported user ignorance, data hiding. The Mac OS is like one giant rootkit, perminantly hiding files in the GUI that Steve doesn't think users should need to see. There's no option to show them - they're just never there. And Mac users are fine with this, because why should the graphical representation of files on your disk actually represent the files on your disk? That would just be confusing. And now with Universal binaries, you can fill 50% of your hard disk with superflous code, just so we can continue to support the users' right to be completely ignorant of their computer as a computer. Because your Mac isn't a computer - it's like a trendy 20-something guy in jeans and a t-shirt who starred in that "Ed" TV show. I don't know about you, but that guy always seemed like a bit of a useless dork to me, and I prefer my computer to be useful, even if it doesn't come in indigo.

Alright - through writing this post (and viewing the link immediately above), I've become so fired up about my anti-Mac-ness for the day, that I'm going to write another post.