Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why is my ThinkPad T40 groggy?

I can’t fathom why my IBM ThinkPad T40 takes so long to come out of sleep. It’s somewhere between 30 seconds and 1 minute before I the logon prompt! Seriously, this is one of the things about Mac laptops, like my PowerBook and iBook, that is make them such a joy to use. When you open the lid on either Mac laptop, OS X is usable at full speed in perhaps 3 seconds. It’s so fast you don’t even think about the time. This was one of the WOW moments when I showed my co-workers at the time how the iBook came out of sleep.

My previous ThinkPad, a T23, was much better about coming out of sleep, under 30 seconds, but nowhere near Mac laptop speed. So I don’t really get why the T40 takes so long. Yes, I have hibernation enabled, just in case I want to use it, but when I close the lid, XP is configured to go to sleep, not hibernate. Even if the ThinkPad is hibernating behind my back, I get no indicator this has taken place. The screen is completely black from the time I open the lid until I see the logon prompt. The status indicator on the bottom of the LCD for HD operation is dark, and the sleep icon remains lit.

If anyone has figured this out, drop me a comment. If it’s XP, I am probably screwed without a reinstall, but if anyone has a T40 and the laptop comes out of sleep quickly, let me know if you have ever had to do anything to make this work.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Madden PSP Review or Hey Sony, where is the software for the PSP?!

When I posted on WoW's Impact, I included a short blurb on Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP). Well Madden 2006 finally came out last night, and I quickly dug into the title.

I have been waiting MONTHS for this to come out. Seriously, I have been carrying the PSP around in my backpack to work doing nothing with it because nearly all of the games were disappointing. How has Sony handled the time since the PSP launch in March? It’s clear now that Sony and all their publishers have been holding out for the holiday season to release some games. What did they do in the meantime? Release a bunch of UMD movies instead.

Why in the world am I going to buy your UMD movies?!?!! Where the iTunes for the PSP that Sony supports? I am not going to pay for some third-party iTunes clone to rip my own movies from DVD to computer and transfer them to the PSP. If you think I am going to drop $20-$30 on a UMD that I can only play on the PSP, you are sadly mistaken. I hope the UMD market completely tanks. You could have at least released a way to connect the PSP to a TV to play movies, but I know that’s too much to ask. Say I actually wanted a movie, like Sin City, to watch on the PSP. I watch that on the PSP, but if I have some friend’s over to watch Sin City, can I watch that on the TV? No, I have to go rent or buy the DVD! Hey Sony, why don’t you stop crap like A-B repeat to the 2.0 firmware and write some software for Mac and Windows, of course.

Back to Madden. I am playing on the train into NYC. We pull into the station, do I stop playing, no, I walk and play at the same time. I have a franchise to groom dammit! I stop in Starbucks to get my morning coffee, I am half a block from the office, do I stop playing, no. I get my latte and sit down, finish training camp and start the preseason. I am laying into the Bengals, I am the NY Giants of course, when the Blackberry vibrates. I jerk my left hand off the PSP to grab the Blackberry and I forget the wrist strap is on my left hand. PSP slams onto the counter and just completely turns off!!! I don’t mean I nudged the Power button, the thing is off cold. Turn the power back on and it does a cold boot. At this point I have a knot in my stomach, have I just lost my franchise work and the beginning of my first preseason game? Surely not, Madden has to have been saving all those changes I was making to my franchise!

Madden doesn’t know anything about my franchise, I am totally disappointed but also thankful I figured out this quirk now. You see the franchise “Save” option is behind the “My Franchise” menu on the main screen of franchise mode.

Besides the comedy of errors above, how is the game? It’s pretty good, but not great. Graphics are somewhat chunky, maybe not even Dreamcast level. Load times are not good, even while in game. Try this, on offense hit the audible key (I think triangle), and then wait 3 seconds or so for the game to figure out overlaying buttons on the screen, weak. Camera seems kind of far away from the action sometimes, but maybe that is just the screen size. There might be some tweaking for me to do there. I haven’t played a Madden game in a long time, used to Sega’s awesome football games, so maybe it’s a bit of what I am comfortable with. Regardless, this thing is going to eat a whole bunch of my time. If you like football games, you’ll probably find yourself sucked in, regardless of the flaws.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stupid Xbox DVD Player

When I moved from CA back to NJ, somehow I lost my Xbox DVD Remote. I had been using the Xbox as my only DVD player since pretty much it came out, 4 years ago.

So instead of going right out and buying another remote, $29.99, I was sure it would turn up as I cleared boxes. Alas, no remote ever surfaced. In the meantime, I used one of those cheap Wal-mart portable DVD players, an ESA something, for like 6 months. The remote on this thing is terrible, you can never find the buttons when you want them, and finally I got tired of it and went to EB Games and got a previously used Xbox DVD Remote, $24.95, which works perfectly.

I can’t say the same for the Xbox DVD drive. The first DVD I tried playing on the Xbox was Willow, which I had got from Netflix. 3 chapters in, and the Xbox is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Try skipping 4-5 chapters, same deal. Stupid POS Xbox!!! DVD has all kinds of light scratches on it all over the disc, and the Xbox has never liked any scratched discs. I want to watch the movie though, so then I go get the ESA player and plug that back into the TV, same thing, completely frozen.

My wife had the 14” iBook on the coffee table, so we threw the movie in there just to see if we could watch the flick, played perfectly without a hitch the entire way through. My point, obviously the Xbox and the ESA are using about the same quality DVD drive, low, while Apple is using something much higher. Thanks Apple.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Google Talk Reloaded

I previously blogged about Google Talk here. In short, lots to like, a little sparten, but I couldn't test the biggest feature, you know, the talk part. We'll today I got my chance and all I can say is wow. I was working from home today, and I needed to talk to a co-worker. Out of the blue, she called me on Google Talk. Connecting was super simple, and then we starting talking. Just amazing. Clarity was amazing. I can't overstate this, Google Talk was more clear than:
  • Cordless phone using Vonage
  • Blackberry cell using a headset on Cingular
  • Blackberry cell talking directly into the device on Cingular
I don't know if Skype is this good, but I don't even know if I am going to bother trying. Since eBay bought them, my money is on them charging for everything, trying to squeeze you at every turn, just like their auctions. Let's hope Google Talk stays free and they get a native Mac client soon, or Apple and Google work together to get the Talk part interoperable between iChat and Google Talk.

I wish Bluetooth were as insecure as WiFi

So I am riding the train home from NYC and the guy sitting right next to me, let's call him Franklin, has a PC, I have my 12" PowerBook. After a few minutes of using his PC, Franklin rumages through his bag and pulls out a bluetooth card the he plugs into a PC Card slot. You can spot these suckers a mile away with the stubby fat antenna. I am intrigued cause I have bluetooth on the PowerBook, and I have tried to get an internet connection through the Blackberry, but it looks like the Blackberry can't do, though OS X Bluetooth Assistant finds it no problem. But I start wondering if Franklin is going to use his cell phone to get net access. Sho'Nuff, Franklin does a little incantation on the cell phone, can he starts browsing. Like a shark to chum, I immediately activate my bluetooth hardware (I normally disable it to save juice) and tell the Assistant to go russle me up a device. Hey, I had the World of WarCraft 1.7 patch to download! Not more than 30 second later, the v**** device is listed and I can move to the next step in the process. But here is where things get weird. See I had forgot that Bluetooth wants the device you are connecting to to type in a CODE to complete the connection. Bluetooth doesnt just willy nilly allow any devices to mate, bluetooth uses contraception. What I am used to is slutty WiFi, it will hook-up to anything, and I had grown to used to its free spirit. As soon as the assistant tells me this, I know I have to bail, but its too late. Win XP has already let Franklin know that its been thinking real hard enabling a bluetooth connection, and that all he has to do is click on XP's "idea" and Franklin can make it happen. There is no cancel request button on the OS X bluetooth assistant, and I can't remember the Force Quit key stroke in time, so Franklin notices the thought bubble, and you can see him get a little alarmed and start looking around before we make eye contact. I have 2 choices. 1) Admit I was trying to leech off Franklin's expensive cell data minutes for free or 2) Feign ignorance and blame it on the computer. To choose option 2. No muss, no fuss, Franklin of course accepted their was a "ghost in the machine" and went back about his business and I disabled the Bluetooth so I wouldnt try that again. :-)

iTunes 5: Stealth Release?

It's been all over the web that iTunes 5 includes resources, images and strings, that lead you to believe it already supports an iPod video! It had better. I just spent close to 30 minutes going through iTunes 5, seeing if behavior changed for existing settings, seeing if I had missed functionality in the 4.x point releases, and wow, I am amazed by how little new is visible in iTunes 5. Sure, the UI is reskinned, and I really like it. I am all for removing extraneous pixels wherever they might exist. This is one of the worst tyranies of Windows, there is so much wasted space. Damn you BillG for allowing 42 icons to consume my screen real estate near the clock!!! Anyway, iTunes 5 will either go down as the least spectacular "major" release in a long time, or as genius for stealth enabling functionality that isn't visible. Just about the only thing that might have an immediate impact is folders, and I don't even feel like bothering organizing my playlists into folders. I have had a flat list for years, why bother now?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Missed a chance to meet Adam Curry

At my current employer today in NYC, Adam Curry, former MTV VJ and Podfather, was giving a presentation on podcasting through his Podshow company.

This was very exciting yesterday when I heard about it because it was open for anyone to attend and I had every intention of going.

Alas, I will never meet Mr. Curry. My development team required me to fulfill my duties as app architect on the project I am running, and I missed the presentation.

Adam if you ever read this, thanks for the show, I really enjoy the podcasts.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

PDC 05 - Webcast Feeback - Live!

11:30-11:58 AM
Watching the PDC 05 Webcast right now; and Bill hasn’t said anything yet, its all historical recap.

The webcast blocked out the recruiting video, with this message:
“Due to the proprietary nature of the content being broadcast we must temporarily suspend the audio and video portion of this telecast. Normal program will resume in a few moments”.


11:59 AM - 12:04 PM
Bill doing more recap, snooze.

It strikes me how crappy the video quality is. Apple’s special event where the iPod nano and the Motorola ROKR iTunes phone Webcast, not live mind you so that may be part of it, but once available is gorgeous in Quicktime  HD (mpeg-4 is the standard).

Anyway, waiting for something to happen…

12:05 PM – 12:09 PM
Audio is still live, but video is freeze-framed. Hopefully it will figure itself out before Bill starts showing demos.

Ah, there is goes, Bill is animated again…

12:10 PM – 12:31 PM
Chris Capposela is now demoing Windows Vista. He took one deep breath before starting to talk.

App Switching
Thumbnails on the taskbar, ok, but not great. New Alt-Tab, again ok, but not great.

I missed something with sideways presented 3D windows, but a co-worker interrupted me.

Quicksearch Seems to work just like Spotlight, I don’t see anything here that is impressive. They have the search box everywhere like in OS X Tiger.

There is some stuff in the new Explorer, like expanding amounts of detail with a slider, which looks like it might be cool.

Sidebar and Gadgets. LOL…This is just like Dashboard and Widgets. You can undock Gadgets from the sidebar and put them on the desktop.

I don’t like mini-apps on the desktop, but some due and I think its largely personal preference. It’s clear the sidebar is very influenced by Dashboard and Widgets, Chris C. makes sure to point out they have nice visuals!

Aux Displays. These little LCDs on the front of laptops can show gadgets, which might be useful.

Games Explorer. Has built-in parental controls, and box shots (this is what it looks like) of the games.

Phishing. Chris attempts a joke about paypal phishing emails, it falls like a rock, not even a chuckle. I hope he doesn’t attempt that again. I have nothing against Chris, first time I have seen or heard of him, he has a tough job, just jokes when you don’t have “it” don’t work. He is also going a bit too fast.

IE 7. Thank goodness, they moved tabs under the address bar. Tabs bar itself is looking blueish. Ah, the first nice moment. The Exposed the tabs you have open inside the browser. This is nice functionality, implementation is a bit plain.

Moved on to printing. They finally fixed dangling headers and footers, which has always been annoying.

RSS. Chris says how nice they are presenting the feeds in IE, it looks just like, I mean near identical to Safari. They even put the filter bar on the right. Geez guys, at least put it on the other side, anyone that has ever cribbed a paper off someone in college knows to move sentences around…

12:32 PM  - 12:54 PM
Audience thought Chris was totally down, an awkward cheering moment ensued, now Chris is doing Office 12.

I feel bad for this guy that he has to know all the Vista stuff and Office 12, why couldn’t they split this up? I am surprised Chris is making it through this, you really gotta give it up for him, I have known people giving BillG demoes, they are almost always sick.

Office 12. Chris is in Excel 12. Menus are gone; they act like big tabs that switch the entire toolbar. This is tough to tell if it’s useful or not, the video is so small

Formatting data now, there is definitely some cool stuff with pre-built styles for formatting data. This has always been tough in Excel, it it’s as easy as the demo, they have done some good work.

Ugh, the scrolling repaint is very jaggy. Don’t know if this is the webcast, but painting just wasn’t smooth. Cool functionality, but where is the attention to detail.

Oh my goodness, I think they have a machine for every demo. Chris is demoing an add-on from some company. I know they mirror the machines back stage just in case the main demo machine fails, so it must be a crazy amount of machines they are using for the keynote.

Word. Live preview of font changes, I think Chris thought this would be a homerun demo, but its not really because the font transition happens to subtlety, you need some transition in place so show the user something is happening. He is doing a lot of stuff that is pretty hard now Word very easy.

New File menu, huge departure from any current notion of a file menu.

Ah, they integrated hidden information removal into the File dialog. This has taken way to long, and you get no points from me sir on this.

Powerpoint. Built-in ability to change text only to graphical diagrams, like cycles, flow-charts, arrows.

Man is this annoying; I can hear music over the feed from somewhere. Clearly not part of the demo and it’s very faint in the background. When there was silence earlier, I could hear ESPN radio in the background.

SharePoint. Next version has a recycle bin. How timely, I was in a meeting where my company was discussing backup and restore strategies for Sharepoint, including writing our own code and tables in the DB, or buying a 3rd party tool. They can’t ship this feature fast enough.

Outlook. This is yet another new machine (YANM). Ah how I miss Outlook (I hate Lotus Notes). Tasks are in the main UI now, as is a small calendar. They achieved this by collapsing the folder bar.

Ah, the finally got preview in the messages for attachments. This seems like a potential security nightmare, just knee-jerk reaction based on past history.

Outlook gets RSS. MS just killed RSS readers for anyone using Outlook. Uses the same store as IE 7 for RSS, as expected.

Search looks just like it does in Apple Mail with Spotligh, but it’s across all of Outlook, including Tasks and anything else.

Outlook has SharePoint integration, which includes using the document libraries offline.

Ugh, seriously Moby – Beautiful is playing in the background. Mute WMP, no music and Webacst, unmute, you hear the show and music. Guy running the Webcast should be shot.

12:54 PM – 12:59 PM
BillG is back on stage, recapping again. There is just no energy in this presentation now.

Damn, co-worker wants my attention. Now seems like a good time, Bill is building up to workflow in the server, but I might have time.

1:00 PM – 1:19 PM
I am back online. Jim Alchin is one stage; he is telling the audience that they are getting a pre-Beta 2 build of Vista.

There was some proprietary content, so I picked a good time to answer a question! Jim also demoed what may have been Windows 1.0, so nostalgia is a good thing.

Jim I have always enjoyed listening to his presentations before, his keynote at PDC 03 was very entertaining, particularly with Don Box and Chris Anderson.

But so far, Jim is not very entertaining. It sounds like he is building up to a demo, but geez, we have all heard this before. Maybe this is just me, but I want the delta from PDC 03 to 05. A lot of this keynote seems like PDC 03 redux. I guess that is unfortunately where we are.

Ah, Jim said they are highlighting the changes since PDC 03 somewhere, too bad I am not there.

Jim said there are hundreds of new features in Vista, he can only talk about a few. Stop talking, DEMO DEMO!!!

1:20 PM – 2:02 PM
Reboot Manager. Jim mentions this to reduce reboots from config changes. Very nice.
Transactional NTFS. About time.
Protected Users. Standard normal user, yes, they he is going to demo!!!

LOL. Jim asked if anyone has a machine that gets slower over time? Some chuckles from the audience, everyone knows Windows decays over time. Commonly held rule is that 6 months is the half-life of a Windows install. They are trying to do something about it.

Superfetch. Jim shows what XP is like today. Everyone knows that XP on cold boot load time sucks, but its pretty good after a cold boot.

Jim now turns on superfetch. Shows a monitor that is loading up memory with all the applications you typically use. Everything is fast. Jim has to ask for a clap, because superfetch is faster, but not ridiculously faster.

This is something; Jim plugs a USB memory stick into the box. The virtual memory manager just uses the USB stick as main memory. Impressive, though not sure how USB sticks perform relative to main memory, latency has to be bad. Need to see more info.

Sandbox. Jim is demoing sandbox mode for IE. This is truly impressive, caveat always on if it really works. Even a standard user can break themselves with holes in IE, just as they can on OS X. Sandbox mode for IE, or any app, prevents that. This might be the second killer feature for me, behind transactional NTFS.

Presentation layer. Jim is introducing Atlas, MS’s Ajax dev environment. Atlas works with any modern browser, extension to ASP.NET 2.0

Jim claims the Windows Presentation Foundation (Avalon) is well ahead of what anyone has, breaking it down to the dev framework and the engine.

WPF/E. Windows Presentation Foundation for Everywhere. A subset of WPF on Vista. Instead of C#, dev is in JavaScript.

Darryn Diekon came out to do a demo based on work they have been doing with NetFlix. This should be interesting. App that runs on a PC, Tablet, Media Center, and a phone.

If they are all running some flavor of Windows, not so impressive. Netflix catalog browsing app on Vista, very similar to the Amazon catalog browser they did for PDC 03. They obviously couldn’t show that again, so they came up with this. Again, maybe it’s the Webcast, but the animation ends choppy, I think its not the Webcast because most of the time it’s smooth.

Damn, connectivity problems again. I lost everything for 20 seconds. Darryn is demoing the Netflix browser on Media Center Edition. Movie previews in the app are a bit sketchy, slow to start.

Cell phone itself looks cool. Its over a $1,000 phone. But Jim has a special deal, $149 for first comers at the PDC. That’s sick, and its totally like an infomercial, and he knows it, one of the few genuine laughs during the show.

Darryn shills for Resonate, the app developer that they got the browser done in 1 month with 3 devs and a graphics designer. Geez guy, we all know those people didn’t sleep the whole!

LINQ. Language Integrated Query for searching across XML, relational, or other stores.

Windows “InfoCards”. Something about federated identity, like Hailstorm, but totally different this time.

This is getting very long, I am not sure if it gone over the time, but I am tired even thinking about the new information.

P2P. Can’t remember what they called this feature, but you can connect to other machines on your local subnet and share documents, joint edit, and replicate the changes back to the original machine. Very cool, but as Jim says the experience isn’t done and it shows. I wonder if this is stuff from the Groove acquisition.

DON BOX! Don is such a presence the feed crapped out again for a few seconds. I love Don’s presentations. Here comes Ander’s Heijsberg, father of C#. He is talking about LINQ.

You can query any IEnumerable derived object, like arrays. This looks powerful, but the syntax is looking very similar to T-SQL. Same where and order by clauses.

2:03 PM – 2:27 PM
We get automatic object mapping to the database with LINQ being the query language. This is very powerful, bridging data and objects in a seemingly elegant way. This is tough to see though as the Webcast window doesn’t allow me to see the code.

You can join a table and an in memory object together. This is great stuff.

XLINQ is next. I really don’t know what the standards compliance aspect to any of this is if any.

Chris Anderson is now onstage, Don is talking through the Indigo stuff and the universal contract.

OMG, this presentation is so long, 2:47 so far since I started a few minutes before 11:30 AM.

Don is going crazy fast, you really can’t follow; he obviously knows this backwards and forwards.

Don and Chris so how to connect the browser to indigo services using AJAX. Nice, but the details are lost now because I can’t see any code.

ScottGu is on stage now to flog Atlas. Can’t see code, *sigh*. Scott is going to connect a better looking UI to the indigo service, lots of typing by Chris. Chris types very fast. The client side of this is very nice too.

2:28 PM – 3:22 PM
Wow, drag and drop client side and pretty rich presentation. And they add in the MSN Virtual Earth control.

LOL...they just brought up a Mac to demo cross-platform browsing with Atlas. They run the same demo on Safari, it works perfectly, no code change. Best part of the demo! This would seem to mean ASP.NET 2.0 detects the browser and makes any changes to the browser code as needed. Very intriguing.

The Avalon LapClient looks decent, at least the built-in controls look decent. They added some 3D in it, just goofy.

Jim Alchin just came back on stage. He is teasing a sample app, they are going to demo a sample app that demoes the platform. Hillel Cooperman is doing the demo. He did the first Longhorn UI demo at PDC 03.

Showing Microsoft Max. It’s a photo blogging app, with some nice image rearrange stuff. The smallest thumbnail view has to much white in it, but again tough over the webcast. Slider based zooming, looks very similar iPhoto resizing.

Oops! A co-worked pulled me away for a few minutes and the show is over. Man was that a long one. Some good stuff in there and curious what the other opinions are. Have to hit RSS Bandit!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

WoW's Impact

The NY Times has an article up on the impact of World of WarCraft to the gaming community at large. Here is a quote from the article:

"If you're only playing WOW and you're paying every single month, what does that mean for all of the other Internet games out there that are trying to get your $10 or $12 or $15 a month?" Mr. Green said. "WOW is now the 800-pound gorilla in the room. I think it also applies to the single-player games. If some kid is paying $15 a month on top of the initial $50 investment and is devoting so many hours a week to it, are they really going to go out and buy the next Need for Speed or whatever? There is a real fear that this game, with its incredible time investment, will really cut into game-buying across the industry."

I can tell you this is exactly what has happened to me, but I am not any kid. I have bought zero games for either the computer or Xbox since WoW came out. I would have bought probably 1 a quarter before WoW came out. WoW then is actually saving me money over my normal gaming purchases.

I have bought exactly 3 PSP games this year, Lumines, Ridge Racer, and Coded Arms,  and they have all been disappointments, except maybe Ridge Racer, I would call that acceptable. I got the PSP to play on the train while going to work, but the games are just retreads of existing stuff, nothing with good story. I hold out hope for Madden 2006 when it drops on the 20th.  If I could get an Internet connection to my laptop on the train, I would eBay the PSP and play WoW on the train. It would be tough, you really need a mouse, but I would make due.

I don’t see stopping either. I have only one character, and I have only played for one faction in the game. I have so much I can do with other characters, and I can’t wait to see what comes out next.

For Mac owners, WoW is really the only MMO in town, and as a Mac WoW player, I will continue to reward Blizzard for putting the Mac OS X and Windows on equal footing. Patches come out on the same day and have all the same features. I have to believe this has some affect on the success of the game. Don’t misunderstand, this game would be extremely successful without Mac owners, but since Mac WoW players are a very captive audience, and they have both Mac and PC friends, they lobby to get as many people as they know to keep WoW, their MMO, viable. WoW was the deal maker that allowed me to dump my PC and get a Mac. From the beta, I knew I would be playing this for a long time, so I didn’t need a PC around to play games; WoW is the only one I need.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Rx: Subversion

Let this serve as a reminder to all developers out there, source control is your friend.

I am working on my first Mac OS X development project, and I am the only dev on this, so I think I get rolling without figuring out the whole source control system.

A month later, and I have made pretty good progress learning the frameworks, Objective-C, and Xcode 2.1. I have been doing things the way I am used to in .NET and MS C++, but I just started wrapping my head around Cocoa Bindings, so I copy the code into a backup folder and proceed to start ripping things up to get Cocoa Bindings in the code.

I chop maybe a hundred lines of code out of my app using Cocoa Bindings, so I am pushing hard to do as much as possible using bindings, but then I break something that I SWORE was working with bindings, and I can’t figure out what it is.

I “restore” my backup copy and start adding stuff back in, which goes much faster because I know what settings to hit, but the thing I thought was working, having MyDocument class observe the NSArrayController for the keypath “selection.self” isn’t working. No exception, just nothing happens. I setup the observer in init, actually, maybe that is my problem. Have to try that on the way home. But if I had used source control, I would have had a log of my changes, probably, and I could have seen where things went off the rails.

I think I better get the Subversion stuff installed, find a hosting provider, and configured ASAP. Then maybe I can use Eric’s Subversion Cheat Sheet.