Software Is Never Done

Software Is Never Done

This is all too true. I’ve worked on a fair few different projects in my time and, apart from those that were only ever designed to be used once to produce some very specific output, not one of them has ever reached a state that could be described as ‘finished’. Even the small personal projects I’ve embarked on over the years, although to be fair that’s largely because I’m an inveterate tweaker and twiddler. I suspect that most programmers are the same.

Web Development on the iPad

I’ve been enjoying my iPad very much over the last few weeks. Apart from the numerous games and productivity apps I’ve downloaded, I’ve also tried most of the major web development tools. Some of them are very good, but there’s still room for a real killer app. Personally, I’d like to see a version of Eclipse for the iPad, ideally with Subversion support, the latter being sorely lacking. I need PHP, JavaScript, HTML and CSS syntax highlighting and code completion as a bare minimum.

If anybody’s aware of an app that fulfils all my needs I’d love to know about it.

Google Latitude History

I’ve been using Google Latitude for some time now, and have built up quite a bit of history. I’ve been having a play with theĀ Location History Dashboard, which is quite scary. It’s correctly guessed which location is home and which is work and can tell me how much time I spend in both places, but it also shows me which of my friends I’ve visited and when, and can also show me a little animation on a map, showing my movements over any period of time.

I like it but it’s somewhat freaky. Of course, the real crux of the thing is to figure out something useful to do with this information. I keep thinking that there must be something but what exactly that is eludes me. Any suggestions?

First Impressions of Google Wave

I’ve been playing with the preview of Google Wave for a few days now and overall I’m quite impressed. It’s still a little rough around the edges but I think that by the time it’s launched in 2010 it’ll be much better. And as developers start to build extensions it’ll become even more useful. I’m already pretty happy to use it for collaborating with friends on small projects and as a replacement for email and IM as Google intend. The only downsides are that it clearly uses a lot of Javascript and users with older machines may not be entirely happy with its speed and that it’s a bit more complicated than regular email and instant messaging.

Incidentally, I have a number of invites to give away, so if I know you and you’d like one, drop me a line.

Music Streaming On My Phone

I have a Nokia 5800 mobile phone, which I really love. It’s easily the best mobile I’ve ever had. I’ve recently been playing with the podcast client, which is pretty good, and also the client, Mobbler, which is great. But until Spotify release their client for my phone, something I’ve been awaiting eagerly, I wanted something that would allow me greater control over what I listen to. At this point, step forward MeCanto. Sign up, install the software on your computer and also the phone client and you’re away. Instantly, you can listen to all your music on the move, regardless of how large your collection is. The software uploads your collection (limited to a speed you can control) to the MeCanto servers, from where you can stream it to any computer with a browser or to your phone. And if it hasn’t been uploaded yet that’s OK as long as your computer at home is on, as it’ll grab whatever you want to listen to from there.

The service even preserves the file structure on your computer and allows you to connect multiple machines, so a whole family could share a collection with each other. I really am very impressed. It doesn’t quite do away with the need for an MP3 player, since the 3G/WiFi coverage required isn’t yet universal, but it comes very close indeed. Top marks.

Update: The Spotify client for Symbian phones is now available! Point your mobile’s browser at to get it.

WordPress 2.7

I tried to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress this morning and regretted it, since it screwed things up rather badly. Possibly it was the automatic upgrade plugin I was using. If you tried to view the site earlier today and couldn’t, that’s why. I’ll try again using the normal procedure when I get the time and see if I can get it to work.

Update: I have now tried the normal upgrade procedure and have run into the same problem, which is that when I try to load and page which is part of WordPress (other scripts elsewhere are fine) I’m offered the page as a download, as if the web server was no longer configured to process PHP scripts. I’ll see if I can find a solution to the problem (no luck so far) but if I can’t I shall either have to change hosting company or blogging software.

Location, Location, Location

I’ve been playing with a number of location-based web services recently, thanks in large part to the joy that is Fire Eagle, and the most interesting so far has to be Rummble. As well as locating people you know it allows users to add places of interest, tag them and rate them on a sliding scale. And not just pubs, clubs and shops, either, but any sort of places. I’ve added mediaeval buildings of interest, for example.

The real fun comes when you’ve added enough places for Rummble to be able to figure out the kind of thing you’re interested in. At that point, it start colour-coding places depending on whether it thinks you’ll like them or not. Find people whose taste you trust and the system takes their opinions into account, too.

I should point out that Rummble is still under development but I think it shows real promise. The interface is, perhaps, a little cluttered but that’s fixable and it’s far from unusable. If this kind of thing floats your boat, give it a try. Oh, and try not to worry about the privacy issues – you don’t have to be too specific about where you are, you can set privacy options on the site and, of course, you can always lie about where you are.

Google Drops Support for Browser Sync

I read yesterday that Google has decided not to port Browser Sync to Firefox 3 and to finish supporting it at the end of this year. I’m very sorry to hear this as I really have come to rely on it.

I’ve installed Foxmarks in preparation but, although it does a good job of synchronising bookmarks, it doesn’t handle history, cookies and passwords. I guess I’m going to have to knock something up myself when I have time. It shouldn’t be that hard to do.

Firefox 3 Font Rendering

I’ve been playing with the latest pre-release version of Firefox 3 and overall it’s excellent. It’s fast, much more memory-efficient and has some nice new features. There is, however, one major problem. The font rendering is quite simply atrocious. It’s eye-wateringly ugly and nothing I’ve tried so far has improved it to the point where it’s usable.

I should mention here that I’m talking only about the Linux version – from what I’ve seen online, the Windows and Mac versions are fine. I’ve also seen screenshots of it on Linux that look fine, so clearly the problem depends on your precise set up. For the record, I’m using KDE 3.5.7 on OpenSUSE 10.3. I’ve tried Gnome and found that it makes no difference, and I don’t think I would switch to Gnome just so that my browser looked prettier anyway. I love KDE way too much.

I’m sure there’s a solution out there that will work for me. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that when OpenSUSE’s official version of the final release comes out it’ll work beautifully and I’ll be a happy man. It’d be kinda nice to be reassured that all will be well before then, though.

Update: I finally managed to get it sorted, after much messing around. I’m now ready for the launch on Tuesday.

Flock 1.1

I’ve been playing with the latest version of the Flock web browser, and it’s good. Very good. In fact, it’s come so far since the last time I tried it that it’s practically a different beast altogether. It now imports all your bookmarks, cookies etc. from Firefox, the browser upon which it’s based, flawlessly. It connects to services such as Flickr and Facebook automatically when you log in to them, and shows you a very nice summary of your contacts’ activities in a sidebar. It does all manner of cool things. But. I just can’t quite bring myself to use it as my main browser. Something’s still not quite right.

I think it’s partly that I can’t configure things I want to configure (I don’t want to see the bookmarks toolbar, but I do want to see the very handy Flock toolbar, for instance, but they seem to come together or not at all). It’s also partly that I don’t like the way RSS feed content is displayed and, while I could simply continue to use Google Reader as I do now, it goes against the grain to use Flock and not use all the facilities it offers.

In short, I recommend trying it. If you like it, and you may well, then use it. But I don’t think I’ll be switching just yet.

Google Desktop

I’m currently having a bit of a play with Google Desktop for Linux, and so far I’m suitably impressed. It installed on my computer without a hitch and is now busily indexing everything.

I tried the Windows version on my work computer when it first came out, way back in the mists it seems now, and the way the Linux version works is pretty similar, although it doesn’t have all the desktop crud like weather reports and news feeds. No loss there, quite honestly, I can live without all that. Besides, I can understand that it’d be hard work to get it to play nicely on KDE, Gnome and all the other desktops that are available for Linux.

Anyway, using it is simplicity itself. Configuration is done via the browser, and then it’s just a question of hitting the Ctrl key twice to summon and dismiss a simple search box, which will pull together results from the web and your local machine. It seems to work very well indeed, although it’d be nice to see it also indexing Google Reader and Google Documents. I suspect that that’ll happen in the future.

If you’re a Linux user and you’re after an application like this, give it a try. I reckon it’s better than Beagle, although these things always come down to personal preference, of course. Some people may have privacy concerns, which is entirely understandable, but I’m happy that my information isn’t going beyond my home PC. Famous last words? I hope not.