2012

Monday, December 31, 2012 – 17:43  It is all over 

Of course, I am talking about 2012.  I don't know if I accomplished what I set out to do this year but I doubt it.  I think that 2013 will be a year of great changes but I could be wrong.  I have been wrong many times before.

I have many decisions to make in 2013 and one of them relates to this blog.  Should 2013 be a whole new blog?  Different blogs for different years?  Or should 2013 just appear above 2012 in this same article?  If anyone has any thoughts concerning this, shoot me an email.

You might wonder what is happening with Persson Technologies.  Well, it is still moving forward.  I don't know if anything will come of this but at least I am learning a great deal.  Smile


 

Saturday, October 20, 2012 – 23:40  DLL files!

This was a historic weekend for the design and development department of Persson Technologies.  Some of the code for the license routines and some of the code already in the String Transformation Utility was moved into DLL files.  These are Dynamic Link Libraries which contain routines that will be used in several products.  Rather than copy the code into each product, the code is compiled into a DLL and linked into the main project at run time.  Here are the routines that were created this weekend:

  • Base36 Conversion
  • License Key Encrypt/Decrypt
  • Standard File I/O
  • String/List Conversion
  • Password Generation

Best of all, after updating the String Transformation to use the code in the DLL files, it still worked in Linux!  I don't know why but when I make some radical change like this I always expect the code to crash in Linux and when it works perfectly it really surprises me.

Note to self:  If you create a DLL and you can reference it from the main module but cannot get the "using" clause to work, it might be because the main class is not set to public. 


 

Sunday, October 7, 2012 – 11:22  New Computer!

A new computer has been built specifically for Persson Technologies.  The details of the computer can be viewed on this page.

This computer will be used to test new software releases on a number of operating systems:

  • Windows 8
  • Kubuntu
  • Mint
  • Fedora
  • Debian

The last four operating systems are now the four most popular versions of Linux.  If my software runs on those in theory it should run on everything.  Of course, Linux is not officially supported as of now but I am planning for the future.


 

Saturday, September 22, 2012 – 18:25  It Must Have Been A Joke

As you might know, I have been developing software since 1983.  I have decided this should be my future and toward that end I have created my own software development firm, Persson Technologies.  I am currently working on a few software projects and one of them is a process whereby I can encode important information into a license key which I will give out to customers.  One of the most important rules to follow in software development is to always give your variables meaningful names to aid in troubleshooting your code.  Today after six weeks I returned to my code to work on this license encryption software.  Just look at what I found:

byte[] Silly = EncryptionModule.ToArray(); // the output is a collection of unsigned integers
String duh = "", doh = "";
for (int i = 0; i < Silly.Count(); i++)
{
duh += Silly[i];
doh += duh + "-";
duh = "";
}
MessageBox.Show("this is the output before Base64FormattingOptions :" + doh);
String hohoho = "";
hohoho = doh;
Base36Conversion MyBase36 = new Base36Conversion();
String strBase36Output = "";
String strRawBase36Out = "";
doh = "";
for (int j = 0; j < Silly.Count(); j++)
{
strBase36Output = MyBase36.Encode(Silly[j]);
if (strBase36Output.Length == 1) strBase36Output = "0" + strBase36Output;
strRawBase36Out += strBase36Output + "-";
doh += strBase36Output;
}
doh = doh.ToUpper(); 

It seems to me this was a cruel joke that I played on myself!  Doh, Duh, Silly, and HOHOHO! Surprised  I wasn't really laughing when I saw this!  Yell  However, after looking at the code I realized what had happened.  This was some code I threw together in a hurry to test something and as soon as I am through the testing phase I am deleting it.  However, when I first saw this I was in shock! Cry


 

Sunday, September 2, 2012 – 10:35  Progress!

This weekend I started working on the Persson Technologies web site and also created the Persson Technologies Facebook page.  It feels like I am making progress!  Let me see what else I need to do in order to launch just the first product.

1.  Finish the licensing module (creating and reading license keys)

2.  Finish the user guide – including the licensing chapter

3.  Create the installation guide

4.  Finalize the formal test plan

5.  Create some support documents for the web site

6.  Create a standard method for publishing the support documents

7.  Create the purchase module on the web site (using PayPal?)

8.  Create a method for tracking license purchases (Microsoft Access?) 

The web site design was started by my friends at Infinity9 web design and I am taking over from here.  They also designed the corporate logo, by the way.  The Joomla design they used is a little different than what I used for my personal web site so the final product will probably be a hybrid of the two.  I have to admit I am not a Joomla expert, I am just learning as I go.  I figure I will do a backup of the site when I am done with most of the articles.  I have been with GoDaddy for years and they have never lost any of my data so I am not going to worry myself about that while I am trying to get the site setup.  Originally I was going to use a "special looking" Joomla template so my site would stand out from the crowd however, using a standard template means there are many articles out on the web to help me customize it.  Since time is money and I have many steps to complete before December, sticking with the standard template makes sense.  It is the content of the site, not the layout, that I hope will make my company special.


 

Monday, July 30,2012 – 20:55  Hilarious memories

I am sitting here thinking about something that happened when I was just a boy, probably 46 years ago.  I was helping my mother make Christmas cookies from scratch.  We would put all the ingredients in a huge bowl and mix them all up.  I remember just when I thought I was done mixing she would say, "No, not done yet" and then she would throw in another cup of flower.  When the mixing was all done she would roll out the cookie dough, cut out the figures, transfer them to the cookie sheet, and stick them in the oven.  When they came out we would sprinkle red and green sugar on them.

Well, I was getting a sheet of cookies out of the oven and as I was carrying the cookie sheet across the kitchen I touched it with my finger and it startled me so I dropped the sheet of cookies.  There were broken Santa Claus and angel cookies all over the floor!  I could not believe what I had done and because of all that work out the window I knelt down on the floor with broken cookies all around me, put my face in my hands, and started crying.  The dog heard the commotion so he came running into the kitchen and starting eating the pieces of cookies off the floor.  My dad came running in right after the dog and was eating cookies off the floor while he was trying to push the dog away.  This entire affair looked so hilarious that my mother was sitting in the dining room laughing so hard she was crying.

I have to say that I do have some wonderful memories when I look back on my life.  Laughing 


 

Sunday, July 22, 2012 – 18:21  Horrific, New, Orange

This theater shooting in Colorado certainly is horrific.  They said he was young, intelligent, creative, quiet, and seemingly a normal guy and very ambitious and studious.  All of a sudden he just snapped.  It really makes a person wonder what that is all about.

In the area of Persson Technologies there have been some new developments.  The creation of the GUI layout for the new release of the Email Composer Utility is complete.  Versions 3.2.3 and 3.2.4 of the String Transformation Utility are complete.  Version 3.2.3 fixed a little bug with the drag and drop of text and macro files onto the form, the file path was not being saved to the user settings although the path was saved to the user settings if the "file open" feature was used instead of a drag and drop operation.  Version 3.2.4 addressed bugs found when the application was used on the Linux operating system and also addressed design problems relating to the creation of new edit screens and the opening of text files.

In designing my applications if they are designed to run on Linux perhaps they can someday be easily ported to Macintosh.  That is, once my company starts bringing in some money and I can buy a Mac.  If I don't have any customers and this idea never takes off then there is no point in thinking of the Macintosh.  I have to say I am very happy with how easy it has been to get these applications to work in Linux and I am very impressed with the work the Mono people have done to make this dream a reality.  I think I am on the right path now with my development projects.   Smile

Has anyone seen the movie "Midnight in Paris"?  The entire movie looked orange to me.  It was difficult to even concentrate on the plot.  All through the movie I kept wondering what in the world Woody Allen was thinking?!?!?!  People on the web have said he is a genius for using those colors and he is thinking of using that same technique for all his future movies.  Okay then!  I thought the color was not very natural at all. 


 

Sunday, July 7, 2012 – 16:31  Historic Date

It just dawned on me that today is a historic date!  Five years ago today the cats and I moved into this house.  For anyone who has kept track of my various moves through the years, this house has now surpassed the time I spent in the first property I owned, a coach home in Rolling Meadows.  I moved into that place in November of 1989 and moved out in September of 1994.  The house I lived in the longest was my boyhood home in Evergreen Park. 


 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 – 19:52  Microsoft Does It Yet Again!

As I have mentioned before, I am using Microsoft Visual Studio C# 2010 for my development projects.  The real version costs around $450 at Amazon and I don't have that kind of money so I am using the Express version which is free.  Wouldn't you think they would spell out in great detail what is not included?  No, all their web site says is "you will be so happy" and that is it.  As I trip across the missing components and look at articles on the web, someone else has to tell me that the feature I need is missing.  First I discovered that the icon library was missing, today I discovered there is no functionality to create an installer for your custom-made software.  So as Microsoft says, you can create great software but they neglected to mention you cannot send it out to any customers!

I will just go with a free product from someone else…..but don't you think this is something that they should mention to their customers? Surprised 


 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 – 07:59  My New Ubuntu Desktop

I am posting two pictures of the new Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin desktop.  The first picture shows how the desktop appears with no windows open and in the second picture I have a bunch of applications running.  I have the Unity Launcher set to "non-hidden" on the left side of the screen in the first picture so you can see it, this is normally hidden.  The strip of icons along the bottom of the desktop are the "Cairo-Dock" which is similar to the dock they have in Macintosh OSX.  When you hover over an icon it gets larger and when you click on an icon it rotates while the application is being launched.  The icons to the far right signify which applications are currently open.

The Unity Launcher along the left side of the screen is part of the OS and actually serves the same purpose – it will allow you to launch applications and it will show what applications are currently running.  So….why have them both?  I wanted to use Unity because it is the future of Ubuntu and I want to get used to it.  The Cairo-Dock I think looks way cooler, I can see all the icons at once (the bottom Unity icons get compressed), and I can therefore find things more easily and can be more productive.

The desktop wallpaper denotes how it feels to use Ubuntu.  It is like a sanctuary of peace away from Microsoft Windows.  Linux doesn't crash, you don't have to reboot it every so often to make it behave, and you never get viruses.  I spend all day with Windows and when I come home at night I relax with Ubuntu.  So far this new version is very cool!  Laughing

                                   

Edit to add:  The other thing I don't like about using Windows is that Microsoft owns the software.  They dictate how I can use Windows and where I can use Windows.  They are also constantly checking my machine to verify I paid for it.  I realize the software is their property and they are within their legal rights but I don't have to like it.


 

Monday, July 2, 2012 – 21:16  What A Difference A Day Makes

I had a special deal where I could get Windows 7 Ultimate for half price.  That deal fell through, it was available in November but I checked this morning and instead of a 50% discount now I get a 6% discount.  That was not an option.  I know what you are thinking, I should get Windows 7 Home Premium.  I would, but that does not include the RDP feature and I like to control my computers from anywhere.

I found a cheap video card for $30 with a $15 rebate and according to the Ubuntu HCL guide and reviews it works perfectly with version 12.04.  I am running Ubuntu 12.04 right now and everything is working perfectly, including Unity and Cairo-Dock.  So far so good.  My mission tomorrow is to spend some time configuring my new Linux home.  Did I mention that I am on vacation? 

Why is it so important for me to run Linux, you ask?  It is a brave new world for me, it gives me a break from boring Windows, it is fun, and there are no viruses.  The more time I spend on Linux the more productive I am.  This "disaster" this weekend taught me a great deal.  Did you know that if you have a machine that is not working, you can boot from the Live CD, do a CNTL-ALT-F1 to get into a terminal session, mount the root partition in your machine and then change over to the root to change things in the file system and install/uninstall packages?  I had no idea!  It is only when things go terribly wrong that I learn about this OS.  Things don't go wrong very often and I am happy – I think that in this case, ignorance is bliss.  Wink


 

Sunday, July 1, 2012 – 22:20  My Main Production Machine is Dead!

I guess this is a historic date.  Because the Lucid Lynx version of Ubuntu is being discontinued in April of next year, I tried to upgrade to Precise Pangolin.  The upgrade actually started Friday night with data backups.  I installed the new OS on Saturday and thinking that things were working I started installing software and customizing things.  However, last night I discovered the open source drivers were unstable on my machine.

Today I spent hours trying to get this to work and I am giving up.  I have way more things to accomplish in life and cannot spend two days trying to do something that should take one hour.  Yes, I could in theory go out and get a new video card that will work but what will it be next time?  The motherboard?  The network card?  No, I am tired of the Ubuntu people and other vendors not caring about their customers.  I think I am going back to Windows.  Frown 


 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 – 23:07  Latest version of String Transformation is done

I would like to think that all my work since 2009 to convert this application from VB.NET has contributed to my announcement today.  Version 3.0.0 is being released for Beta testing.  This version fixes many issues which were present in the Java 2.x version.  It also fixes several major shortcomings that were a problem in the VB.NET 1.x version:

1.  The progress bar would cycle many times for the most simple transformation because each transformation type was a "unit of work" and quite often a transformation would perform "work" when it actually didn't have anything to do.

2.  Everything was done in the 1.x version using arraylists.  Each transformation when it was complete would package all its work into an arraylist and send it to the next procedure which would then unpack it.  This overhead has been eliminated in this version.

3.  In the 1.x version there was no way to cancel a transformation without crashing the application.  This version now has a cancel button.

4.  In the 1.x version if the file was large (over 1000 lines) the progress bar would stop working.  Now the progress bar works perfectly.

However, the feature of this version I am most excited about is the processing speed.  I did a test today with the old 1.x version and it took 21 minutes to process a file with 4,212 lines.  With this new version it took only 8 seconds!  For fun I processed a file with 42,000 lines and it took only 9 minutes!

Version 3.1.0 will have the "Color Chooser" which will allow the user to customize the colors of the form.  However, I did pick some colors for the 3.0.0 version so it is not boring white and gray.  I think it makes it easier to find the textboxes on the panels.


 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 – 08:22  EEStor and ZENN Motors

I last blogged about this two years ago and I see there was a press release about four weeks ago.  Every time there is a press release there is renewed interest in this whole exciting saga.  http://www.marketwatch.com/story/eestor-provides-a-progress-update-on-the-development-of-its-electrical-energy-storage-units-2012-05-15

I don't really know what to think.  ZENN Motors has put their entire future in the dream of EEStor.  Now reportedly EEStor is selling equipment to raise money to keep going.  Many of the chemists who worked for EEStor and believed in the dream are now leaving the company and finding work elsewhere.  Does this mean the ship is going down and they are saving themselves?  If EEStor fails, they are taking ZENN Motors with them.

Back in 2007 EEStor claimed to be able to produce their product in volume for ZENN Motors for use in their vehicles before the end of the year.  It is now 2012 and still nothing.  This does not sound good at all!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EEStor 


 

Monday, June 11, 2012 – 00:40  Sometimes I hate computers

I typed an entire blog entry and Joomla just threw it all into oblivion and it is lost forever.  Sometimes I hate computers.  Note to self:  save all blog entries in another application before clicking save.

The blog entry went into great detail about what happened last week and explained that the error message "An object reference is required for the non-static field, method, or property" could mean that the code is in a class and attempting to access objects on the GUI in the main form.

However, I am not typing that whole entry again.  So you see?  Even those of us who are writing computer software sometimes get stabbed in the back by computers.  UGH    Yell


 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 – 18:40  Sometimes I have to laugh

I am currently on vacation and putting the finishing touches on the 3.0.0 version of the String Transformation Utility.  The speed of this version as compared with the 1.2.4 version just knocks my socks off!  If I wanted to process a file with 20,000 lines in the old version I would expect it to take an hour…..I am not exaggerating.  This new version can do that many lines in under a minute!  The original 1.x version (VB.NET) and the 2.x version (Java) never had what I would call a functioning progress bar.  These versions were single-threaded, meaning that all the application processing was done in one thread.  Therefore, if the application was busy processing a large file, for instance with one thousand lines, the GUI would appear to freeze because the application was too busy processing the data.  During the remainder of this week I will be attempting to update the 3.0.0 version so it has a "worker thread" which will actually be performing the transformations.  I am just not quite sure how the worker thread is supposed to communicate back to the GUI to update the progress bar.  (Yes, this is what I am doing for fun and relaxation.)  Wink

Anyway, take a look at this link.  This is what makes me laugh.  Back in 2005 I had just separated from my first wife, I was stuck in a dead-end job, I had no money, and I was living in a one-bedroom apartment that was barely large enough for me and the cats.  The bedroom was mostly used for storage and I slept on the couch in the living room.  This "Persson Business Advisor" was a project I was using to get myself all excited about software development.  The project was way too large for one person to really create but this was how I got myself motivated to learn VB.NET (this project allowed me to get a new job with 50% more pay!).  Anyway, if you look at the very top of that screen shot you will see a "System Color Picker" widget which allowed the user to pick the colors they wanted for their application windows and the values would be stored in a SQL database (yes, it all worked!).  Next week I will be using that knowledge to create a "Color Chooser" widget which will be used in all future Persson Technologies applications.  I think color makes things more interesting and cheerful, don't you?  Smile 


 

Saturday, June 2, 2012 – 20:16   Well, what do you know?

I was just looking at the last login time of user accounts on my two virtual servers on the web and they are set to an Iceland time zone.  That is bizzare!  I wonder if that means my servers are really in Iceland?  What a concept!  Surprised

In other news, by the morning both my personal and business sites will be updated to Joomla version 2.5.4. 


 

Friday, June 1, 2012 – 23:57  The future of the IT industry

Recently I have been reading the handwriting on the wall when it comes to the IT industry. It is something that has been on my mind lately and today I overheard an executive at my company talking to someone on the phone. “You have to realize”, he stated emphatically, “That IT is collapsing in on itself.” and I started to think about that image. Oh, first some ground rules: 

  1. People in India have just as much right as anyone on the planet to make money so they can buy food and enjoy life. If they have found a way to make this happen, more power to them.

  2. Corporations are a great deal like living organisms, if they think their existence is threatened they will do whatever it takes to survive. This is not about corporate bigwigs getting rich (well, it might be but let's not go there).

So to discuss how corporate IT used to be and now is, let us look at some trends.

DATA CENTERS:

How it was – Companies had huge data centers filled with racks of equipment that took up entire city blocks. They would buy the land, build the structures, including expensive battery backups, cooling systems, miles of network cables, and entire departments of experts to keep these servers running.

How it is now – Companies get their servers in the cloud. I have two servers on the web, they are at philpersson.name and perssontechnologies.com. I don't know where they are, I don't know what they are, and I don't care. I don't have to maintain them or house them or run backups and each one costs $100 a year. How can you beat that?

CORPORATE CALL CENTERS:

How it was – Companies had office buildings filled with helpdesk call center people and systems analysts.

How it is now – All the call centers are in India and more functions are moving over there every day, saving companies a great deal of money.

SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT:

How it was – Companies had entire office buildings filled with software developers who wrote in-house applications to run the business. An in-house application would take years to create and would cost millions of dollars.

How it is now – Companies are buying off-the-shelf software such as Oracle, SAP, and Sales Force, saving companies a great deal of money.

I still say that change is in the air. I have read articles on the web where they have said if you want to stay in IT you had better learn how to write code. You need to be more creative and more technical than the geniuses in India, Russia, China, and Japan because now we are talking global competition. Come up with a great idea and sell it on the web cheaper than anyone else can. That might be the secret. 


 

Monday, May 28, 2012 – 21:20  The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I don't know the exact date, but some summer in the late 1970's my dad helped me build the article pictured below.  You have no doubt heard of the little engine that could, this is the little clock that could.  Originally when I built this I had some grand plans.  It was going to turn on my stereo system every morning to wake me up.  However, I procrastinated with this project and eventually decided that it would just be a nice clock and that would be good enough.  At the time that I built this around 34 years ago it was unusual to have digits this large.  It sits on the nightstand next to my bed and it is my friend in the middle of the night, telling me I still have time to sleep before the alarm.  I used mostly Radio Shack parts when I built it and have not had it fail once since I finished it.  Actually, I take that back.  There was a time when the digits looked like something from the planet Mars.  I think I took out the main chip, re-seated the chip, and that fixed it.  I have a spare chip somewhere so I can replace the original chip if it fails.  I think this was money well spent!


 

Sunday, May 20, 2012 – 21:32  Practice Makes Perfect

That was something my mother always said, practice makes perfect.  Of course, we can never truly reach perfection at anything.  However, it sometimes amazes me how good I can get at something I really enjoy.  After I have done it almost 300 times it becomes second nature to me.  I am faster, better, stronger….or was that the six million dollar man? Smile  Anyway, through the years I have noticed that once I have done something for a while it "just clicks" with me.  I get into some sort of groove and it just all makes sense.  I can't explain it.  I remember years ago at Motorola I was assigned as the head technician to troubleshoot problems on this new circuit board.  My boss came to me after some time and said, "You are really not getting the hang of this, are you?" and I had to admit I was really struggling.  Then suddenly it just all clicked and when I encountered a problem I easily found the answer.  I am hoping that this tendency of mine will carry over to my software development projects.


 

Sunday, May 13, 2012 – 08:50  Surprise, surprise, surprise!

I said in a previous post that I had so much I was doing at work this year that I was not going to work on converting any of my software from Java to C#. (Readers will recall that in a previous post I had given up on Java and my dream of making my software function on Linux since C#.NET is a Microsoft creation designed to work only on Windows.)  However, the syntax for the two languages is so similar that I could not wait to start the process.  It is going rather well.  I needed to create some standard routines that I will use for all my current and future projects, routines which will be embedded inside a DLL:

Standard File Write – Accept as input a file name and either a list of lines or a string with embedded newlines and write all the data to a text file.  The class has switches that are set before the write command to signify if the list or the string is to be used as the input object.  Return an error if there are any problems with the file open or write.

Standard File Read – Accept as input a file name and the output is either a list of lines or a string with embedded newlines.  The class has switches that are set before the write command to signify if the list or the string is to be used as the output object.  Return an error if there are any problems with the file open or write.

Convert string into list – This routine accepts as input a string with embedded newlines, puts each line into a list and strips out the newline characters.

In order to test these I wrote a little application with a textbox.  In the case of the "write to file as array" it would have to convert the string from the textbox with the newline characters into a list, stripping out the newline characters, then send it out to the file one line at a time (which will re-insert newline characters).  I am only working on this on the weekends, I am a little disappointed it took me two weekends to get this all done, I finished this last night.  Here is how it looks on Windows 7:

The interesting part of this is that on Windows the newline is two bytes (\r\n) whereas on Linux and Unix systems (including Macintosh) it is just one byte (\n).  I wanted to make my software platform independent so in writing these routines I had to account for this fact.  Yes I know, I had said that moving my software to C#.NET meant that it would never work on Linux and I was leaving that world behind me and killing that dream.  However, there is an invention called Mono which in theory will allow my software to function on Linux or Macintosh.  When I had this little test application done and working perfectly in Windows yesterday I thought I would get crazy and try it in Mono on the newest version of Ubuntu that was released at the end of April.  Much to my surprise, it worked perfectly!!!  Surprised

I know it does not look very polished in Linux, I read articles about this and was prepared for the shock.  I don't know if this means all my software will work in Linux and Macintosh but I thought this was a very interesting experiment. Laughing


 

Thursday, May 3, 2012 – 18:57  Starry, Starry Night

No, not the song by Don McLean.  This is much less exciting than the song.  Back when I lived in Chicago most every night was cloudy because…..well, because it was Chicago.  When we did have cloudless nights it was humid and I don't think the stars were very clear.  There were a few nights I can remember when the sky was crystal clear….but it was 10 below zero and while I wanted to stand outside and admire the stars it was just too darned cold!

Now fast forward a few decades and here I am living in the middle of nowhere out in the desert where we never see clouds and every night is crystal clear.  The stars are just awesome out here!  So when they said on the news "There will be a meteor shower tonight and it will be so awesome, you can see twenty an hour!" I of course go out in the back yard with my lawn chair expecting this spectacular show.  Of course, I am expecting to see twenty a minute, not twenty an hour.  After being out there for a few minutes wondering where they all are I realize that is one every three minutes – not quite the show I was expecting.  Then I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  Was that a shooting star?  It's gone now, was it really there or did I imagine it?  Oh wait, I think I just saw another one in another part of the sky…..or did I?

I have come to realize after a few such evenings that looking for astroniomical wonders in the sky for me is like watching paint dry.  The other night my wife Pam and I got to see the international space station fly over.  They said on the web that there are no flashing lights, it will be about the size and brightness of Venus but it will be on the move.  Yes, there it was – a tiny little dot in the sky moving toward the horizon.  I don't know, it sure doesn't compare to watching a movie on TV.  Wink

I did however enjoy the evening I got to watch a total lunar eclipse.  Watching the moon gradually get dim and then turn red was very special.  That was back when I still lived in the city, I should check the official lunar eclipse web site to see when there will be one for the Phoenix area.  Maybe we should have a lunar eclipse party! 


 

Saturday, April 28, 2012 – 09:04  Random thoughts 

I see that the latest and greatest release of Ubuntu came out two days ago.  At this moment I am downloading the 32-bit version of 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin.  Then I will download the 64-bit version which I plan to install on my test desktop, it will be a dual boot Windows 8/Precise machine.  This was my plan when I finished my web site because I plan to upgrade my main machine to Precise before the end of the year.  That desktop machine will feature two operating systems which are both designed for tablets and are therefore "somewhat strange" when you are using a keyboard and mouse.  Many people on the Ubuntu forum are asking if the world has gone mad and others are saying it is the future and we need to move forward and adapt.  Many people are switching to Kubuntu or Xubuntu to have a "Windows-like" environment.  Windows Vista was such a disaster and Windows 8 is such a departure into a brave new world that I think Windows 7 will be with us for a long, long time.  I would not be at all surprised if many people were still using it in the year 2020 and beyond.

I was encouraged to learn that Visual Studio Express 2010 will work just fine on Windows XP, speaking of using ancient technology.  My laptop is a dual boot Windows XP/Kubuntu machine and I didn't want to be forced to buy a new laptop now that I have hitched the future of my mythical company to C#.NET.

It amazes me how many articles on the web relating to software development originate in India.  With all software development seemingly moving to India, product design going to Japan, and manufacturing going to China, I really wonder what we are doing here in America.  What are we producing here?  I have heard it said that in the new reality we will be producing ideas that will define the future of the planet.  I don't understand that and I am not sure how to find the section in the classfieds for "idea people".  Many long years ago I sensed change in the air and I had to read a summary of the book "Who Moved My Cheese" to get an introduction into the new reality.  It seems to me this new reality is still marching forward. 

Just keep saying, "It isn't personal, it is just business" because regardless of what happens, that makes it all okay. 


 

Saturday, April 21, 2012 – 16:20  Some things are getting simpler

One of the advantages of this new Joomla web site is that creating blog entries is easier.  It used to be that I had to type them into Yahoo with emoticon symbols like 🙂 :-O  :-S and then I would change the blog entry into a text file on my Linux machine using Thunderbird.  Then I would feed the text file through a "blog generation utility" which I wrote in Java which would:

1.  Add strange "line graphics" between the different entries, randomly choosing the image and making sure it had not been used recently

2.  Convert the paragraphs into HTML paragraphs with <p></p> tags

3.  Convert the emoticon text into a real smiley face

Now instead when I enter each blog entry I can import a file from Outlook or Word directly into the article editor in Joomla.  The very cool control panel (pictured below) allows me to control exactly how the article will appear and I can even add emoticons on the fly!  SurprisedLaughingCool

I can do this from any computer on the planet.  I can use a variety of different browsers, right now I am using Chromium. When I embed an image into an article I still have to resort to manually entering the HTML but I had to do that in the old blogs as well.  I think this is most definitely easier!  I can't get over the dance moves that these banana guys are doing, they are so talented!!!

 

 ControlPanel 


 

Saturday, April 14, 2012 – 23:14  Cut your losses and move on

Many years ago on Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn they were building a bank.  They had a big billboard out front showing how the bank would appear when it was completed.  The first two stories of the building were huge.  Then on top of that there were four more stories of the building that were substantially smaller.  They finished the first two stories and then they changed the billboard that showed how it would look when it was done, removing the top four floors of the building.  It was if they were saying, "There!  We are done, and it looks just like we always said it would!"

This conversion of my web site to this content management system is very similar.  I have spent weeks downloading different plug-ins and trying to get them to work, only to be met with failure and defeat.  Therefore, I am going to use Joomla as a front-end for the web pages that I have already created.  I was going to have automated image galleries and multimedia players but the free plug-ins available on the web just don't work.  At least I cannot make them work with the pitiful documentation that is out there.

I have a word of wisdom for developers across the planet.  If you are going to put "free" software on the web and then neglect to provide clear and complete documentation so people can get it working, then please just keep your creations to yourself.  I have many things I want to accomplish in life and there is no way I can spend weeks wasting time trying to figure out how to use your software.  In case you are not convinced, I have a very important message for you:

 Gibberish

 

I suppose you are going to say that you cannot read that and it looks like total gibberish.  Good!  Now you know how I felt when I tried to figure out how to make your plug-in work in Joomla!! 


 

Friday, April 13, 2012 – 11:14  Java – the train wreck

This is a story of a journey into a brave new world.  I tried this brave new world because I thought the grass was greener on the other side.  Some might argue that one must travel to the other side to inspect the grass there in order to really know.  Otherwise, one might spend their entire lives wondering what they missed.  I made the journey and this is the summary of my experience. 

Version 1.x of the String Transformation Utility was created in VB.NET.  It had many problems, not because of the .NET environment but because of certain unfortunate design choices I made when I created it.  Here is a screen shot of the 1.3.1 version:

 

Now, notice that all the checkboxes are aligned vertically and horizontally.  The spacing of objects is even and it looks professional.  This would be a requirement for an application before I would publish it on the web for the entire planet to use.  Because of my fondness for the Linux platform and my disillusionment with Microsoft – for many reasons which are beyond the scope of this text – I decided to create the 2.x version of the String Transformation Utility in Java.  My goal was to make this run on Windows, Unix, or Linux.  I did create it and it was more than 20 times faster than version 1.x. Here is a screen shot of the 2.2.0 version in Linux:

 

Notice that the checkboxes are not aligned as accurately as they are in the 1.x version (actually in this screen shot they look pretty good but it took me hours to get them right).  In my mind this is a huge step backwards.  Several functions which were simple to implement in .NET could not be implemented in Java.  When I developed applications in the .NET world the documentation made sense, and there were examples from people who had already implemented the features I needed.  In the Java world the documentation (for me at least) was impossible to follow, there were no code examples on the web to guide me, and when I asked questions on the web no one seemed to have the answers.

I did successfully migrate the Email Composer Utility to Java and have been using it at work for months.  However, here again I wanted to implement a feature where I could not understand the documentation on the web and after spending hours beating my head against a brick wall I gave up.  Also, it sometimes crashes for apparently no reason.  This is a function of the Java JRE and a problem I never experienced when using the .NET framework.  Therefore, it is with great hesitation and regret that Persson Technologies will now migrate all current applications and will create all future applications in C#.NET for the following reasons:

 

1.       Many more people are using it, there are numerous examples and articles on the web to aid us

2.       It seems to be a more stable environment

3.       It looks more professional

4.       The migration from Java to C# should be simple as they share the same syntax

5.       In the future if we want to migrate our applications to Linux or Macintosh we can use the Mono approach 


 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 – 23:09  Microsoft Lies Yet Again

So….I have decided to use Microsoft Visual Studio Express to create the 3.x version of the String Transformation Utility.  This is due to my disillusionment with the Java development tools in NetBeans.  I meant to write that blog entry before this one, now my world is out of order. Surprised

I researched the Express version and basically the Microsoft web site said, "This is just like the full version which costs thousands of dollars, you will be able to develop all your software and you will be so happy!"  I figured this was their way to compete with all these other companies that are offering free alternatives to Visual Studio which are almost as good.  Now, I knew they were lying and I knew that eventually I would find perhaps dozens of things that I could not do but I certainly thought it would take longer than two days to run into a problem.  TWO DAYS!!  The icon library is missing!  So you can create a toolbar but you can't put any icons on it.  Thanks, Microsoft!!  Wow!

Of course, this will not slow me down but it does frustrate me and makes me wonder what other surprises are in this "wonderful" Express version which Microsoft has so "graciously" offered to its customers to help them be successful in developing products which will only work on Windows. 


 

Monday, April 2, 2012 – 20:50  Traveling with rotating dreams

Where I live all the roads are one lane in each direction and I live just south of a rock quarry.  At least once a week when trying to get to work I get stuck behind a cement truck with the huge rotating drum.  I always wonder what this concrete will become.

Will this be a slab for someone's home?  Will this be a driveway?  Perhaps a sidewalk in front of a new store or maybe a swimming pool?  This could be something that someone has dreamed of all their lives and now it is about to become a reality.  These are the thoughts that always occupy my mind when I am stuck behind one of these trucks.

Our dreams are made of concrete….. 


 

Friday, March 30, 2012 – 10:14  A dad by any other name

Converting my web site to Joomla version 2.5.3 is turning out to be more of a challenge than I expected.  I will continue to add more blog entries knowing that someone will be able to read them……sometime……whenever this web site can be published for the world to see.

 I had some real name confusion recently due to my dad who is once again complicating my life.  This is quite an accomplishment since he has been dead for nearly 3 decades now.  You see, he grew up in Sweden and when he came to the United States he decided (or discovered) that no one here could comprehend his first name.  I will not use real names here, but let’s say his real name was “Ryan George Persson”.  Also let us say that the first name (which was not Ryan) caused people to descend into a bottomless pit of confusion when they heard it because it was so unusual in America.  He decided to tell everyone his name was really George and to not even mention “Ryan”.

 Back in the 1940’s he always signed legal documents with “Ryan George Persson” because that was his legal name.   Decades went by with everyone calling him “George” and towards the end of his life when he had his will drawn up it said, “I, George Persson, being of sound mind…..” but I tend to wonder how sound his mind really was since he had forgotten his first name.  Wink

Anyway, here I am in 2012 filling out a form on a web site requesting a legal document from the Cook County Office of Vital Records – or some such official-sounding name – and the form said, “To prove you are really the person you claim to be, write your father’s first name here”.  At that moment, panic set in as I didn’t know what to write!  I was going to make it multiple choice as follows:

 

a.)     Ryan

b.)     George

c.)      All of the above

d.)     None of the above

 

But I decided perhaps the people in the office of vital records might not have a sense of humor.  So I guessed Ryan.  I mean….that was his first name and this document was from the 1950’s.  For what seemed like weeks I waited, certain there would be a knock on the door and the first name police would haul me away to a special prison reserved for children who had forgotten their parents’ names.

I did finally get the documents – and would you believe that he wrote his name “George Ryan Persson”?!?!?!?!?!

Thanks, dad……you always knew how to make my life more interesting!   Laughing 


 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 – 10:27  A Small Blog Test

This is a small blog test to see how emails sent from Microsoft Outlook 2007 will appear in the new blog.  In the old blog the text transfer didn’t go well because apostrophes, quote symbols, and other special characters became “scrambled” because Microsoft uses their own unique values for these characters that aren’t part of the standard ASCII collection and didn’t get translated to the web page. 


 

Monday, March 26, 2012 – I already dislike using a CMS

Okay, I now have this web site setup exactly how I want it and my web provider wants me to start all over!  The issue is that this web site uses Joomla version 1.5.  Apparently this is now considered ancient and full of security holes.  Since that time they have released version 1.6, 1.7, and 2.5.  I have read guides on how to migrate and quite frankly I'm just going to save backups of everything, blow it away, and start over.  I think this web site is not that complicated…..BUT I would hate to do this with a production site – for instance, for a company that needs to be up and running constantly.  I guess I would: 

1. Verify that all the new items work on a test site with the new Joomla version, such as the template and any extensions, modules, or plug-ins

2. At midnight on a Friday evening put a banner up saying "web site undergoing maintenance"

3. Complete the upgrade by 6:00 AM on Saturday morning….IF I was forced into such an unhappy scenario. 


 

Sunday, March 25, 2012 – Brand New Web Site!

Well, I started this a year ago and I cannot believe it is finally done.  My goodness, what an adventure!  I was sidtracked along the way by other projects, such as my Java projects which turned out to be a total disaster, but more about that later.

I hope everyone enjoys the new web site, there is still much to be done.  Right now I need to figure out just how I want this new blog to work.  However, at least you know there are some new blog entries on the way!

My only concerns about this new high-tech web site are as follows: 

1.  I don't yet know how to perform a backup of all this high-tech goodness

2.  It seems slower than my old low-tech web site