Monthly Archives: March 2005

Colour

A bunch of new PCs arrived at work. It would seem that in Wintel personal computer colours, black is the new beige.

iTunes.com.au

I know rumours of an Australian iTunes store have been around for ages, but it looks like in the past week, Apple has registered itunes.com.au

Domain Name: itunes.com.au
Last Modified: 23-Mar-2005 22
Registrar ID: R00010-AR
Registrar Name: Melbourne IT
Status: OK

Registrant: APPLE COMPUTER AUSTRALIA PTY LTD
Registrant ID: ACN 002 510 054

No web site responding as yet.

How much should you customise?

Joel Spolsky has started a series on the making of FogBugz 4.0, initially talking about the requests of customers, and how (and when) this should translate into changes in your software.

The request for customisation is a question most of us involved in coding will face at some time or another. Even if your system has only a single “client”, do you really want to bend it and stretch it in such a way that it’s no longer future-proof?

In most cases, if you can avoid it, I suspect the answer is no. You want to keep it generic. Because as sure as night follows day, the pendulum of your customer’s direction will swing back the other way, and you’ll end up having to build yourself out of that hole they urged you to dig.

For example, in my work on the earlier version of what has become eVision’s Message Exchange, at times we have needed to generate and transmit messages quite different from the established standard types we were already spitting out. Natively we could handle XML and flat file (delimited or fixed-length) output files, but what if we wanted to add Zip compression on top of that? Or what about some other weird and wonderful thing?

In the case of Zip, we built that into the software using the very handy InfoZip DLL. But for others that appeared to be so specialised that we didn’t want to lumber the code with them forever more, we built on a “post-process” step, which allowed the output file to be subject to an external process before it was transmitted.

This kind of generic hook into the software has opened up numerous possibilities. So when the business dudes came along and asked for a file to be generated that did an additional lookup off a reference table, we were able to write that step as a separate process. It all works rather well.

So in some cases, the answer to customisation is interopability. Rather than bend and stretch your masterpiece into something it shouldn’t be, you put the hooks in so you or somebody else can do the bending and stretching over in a separate corner.

Your code can stay clean and future-proof, and everybody’s happy.

Josh’s freaky Compaq PC

I’m using a Compaq D5S/P1.7/20j/p/128c/6 AUST

I’m getting whitenoise in the soundcard at work. It’s there all the
time, but drowned out by music. It stops when I have the left mouse button
depressed to select cells in Excel, but releasing it resumes the whitenoise.
Clicking on or selecting stuff outside of Excel doesn’t affect it. Outlook
selections don’t stop it, but selecting stuff in Word stops the whitenoise -
but again, only while the mouse button is held down. Another thing to stop
the whitenoise is dragging splitter bars around in Visual Studio 6. So it’s
not the mouse per se. And just recently, these “fixes” have stopped
working. Stopping a particularly long build restored the fix. Popping up
task manager shows that it seems that the white noise goes away when the CPU
goes to 100%, unless there’s disk activity. Got any suggestions how I can
fix this? And, preemptively, I don’t intend to load the CPU at 100%
permanently for my listening pleasure.

Firefox 1.0.2

A another day, another browser release. But BEWARE. As Marc Orchant says, Bad Things will happen if you try to install Firefox 1.0.2 over the old version, as the Automatic Updates tells you to. Instead, download it, remove the old version (it should leave your profile intact) then install the new one.

This happened with 1.0.1 as well. Like the long Title popups bug, they really should have fixed this by now.

Changing the default “Search For” engine in Firefox

As a follow up to Daniel’s previous post. If you want to change the default browser search engine in Firefox (say from .co.uk to com.au after you’ve installed the ‘proper’ English version of Firefox) it’s a simple procedure.

Type about:config in the address bar.
Scroll down the list to browser.search.default.url.
Double click on this and change .co.uk to com.au – you’re done. All your browser searches will now run through the Australian version of Google, with correct spelling.

And if you want to remove/add/edit the search options in Mycroft (the search box at the top of the screen) there’s a great free utility at http://www.svenbader.de/e_index.html

Traffic climbing

I’d like to welcome all the readers we seem to have picked up over the last few weeks. I don’t know where you’ve all come from (haven’t had time to properly peruse the logs) but the graphs are clear: like a thriving assassination business, we’re getting more and more hits all the time. Hopefully it’s not ‘cos it’s a couple of people who’ve got their RSS readers pounding us every 5 seconds.

Don’t forget to leave us comments. We love to hear your thoughts on the gumpf we post up here. If you were waiting for a post where you felt you could contribute something witty, relevant and intelligent, well… you can keep waiting, or feel free to say hello on this one.

Bearing in mind that we’re currently on a low budget cheapo traffic plan at the moment, and perilously close to blowing out our monthly quota after just 3 weeks into March, I’ve fiddled the WordPress settings to only serve 10 posts via the home page or RSS feed — down from the default of 20. This should still give you about a week’s worth of Geekrant Goodness, which should be plenty for most people. And hey, it’s all in the archives if you want to delve back further. But let us know if it effects you.

And if the traffic keeps climbing, I’ll be pushing the plan up a notch to handle it.

Firefox and application internationalism

Having installed the UK-spelling version of Firefox, it almost looks unnatural to see dialog(ue) boxes about “colours”. And I think it’s the downloads dialog that refers to saving to “disc”.

It’s a consequence of most IT-related innovation coming out of the USA that we’ve become used to US spelling dominating the world of computers. From Windows 95′s “Network Neighborhood” (yes, even when installing Windows with supposedly Australian English) to “floppy disks”, “dialog boxes” and of course IE’s “favorites”… You just learn to live with words spelt (spelled) just a little differently.

Admittedly it starts to get a little grating when spellcheckers claim “English” is the same as “US English” and otherwise usable applications keep showing the dates the wrong way around, or insist on two character states and five digit postcodes. Not to mention web sites that have a country dropdown list and put USA at the top (rather than, say, putting it in alphabetical order and defaulting to it).

And don’t get me started on programs that default to Letter sized paper instead of A4.

Ahem.

Anyway, one catch with having dispensed with Firefox’s US spelling is ending up on Google UK when searching. Fortunately the “Add Engines” feature of the search box is pretty easy to use. Search for your preferred engine eg Google Australia for me, and click to install it. Easy.

Removing the old Google UK option may be a little trickier, but it doesn’t much matter, since once you use the AU one, it sticks as the default.

MS on iPod

Microsoft has a page about buying Flash-memory-based MP3 players. One could be forgiven for thinking they’d written it specifically to discourage people buying iPods. First it says Flash-based is better. Then it says you should make sure you have voice-recorder and FM (so not iPod). And you should have a display (there goes iPod Shuffle) and of course concludes that you should look for WMA support. No surprises there.

Firefox goes multilingual

For those of us who speak English but are outside the USA and spell “colour” with a U, Firefox is now available in “British English” (that is, non-US English) as well as a host of other languages.

Meanwhile, the domain firefox.com has been acquired by the Mozilla Foundation, and is displaying one of those “Umm, which Firefox did you want?” pages, like bbc.com did for a while after it was bought from Boston Business Computing.

Pixel perfection: video game maps online

If you’re looking for maps of your favourite video games, check out the Online Video Game Atlas. There are some very large and detailed maps for download.

Be careful, though. This quote may act as a warning:

Weellll… I just learned how big a PNG has to be before Opera rolls over and plays dead.