July 27, 2011

Firefox 5 and Google Toolbar

I just found out that Google has decided to not support the Google Toolbar in Firefox 5 and later. I had been waiting for sometime to upgrade Firefox for this very reason. Now that "waiting" won't do me any good, I've decided to resort to the Add-on Compatibility Reporter Hack. It seems like it will work for now, but how long until newer versions of Firefox prevent this from working.

It's sad that Google has decided to take this approach. Google toolbar is always one of the first extensions that I install in Firefox. It seems like they are trying to push people to Chrome, which is sad. I think Firefox may have shot itself in the foot with it's rapid release cycle, but I really don't think it has anything to do with Google's decision.

December 2, 2010

Design Patterns in Software Development

Design patterns are a great tool for software developers. The classic text by the "Gang of Four", Design Patterns is a great starting resource. I honestly will have to admit that I don't have all of the patterns memorized, but I do refer to them on a regular basis. Whenever I find myself struggling with a design decision, I flip open the book try to get some inspiration. I don't always find a magic answer, but it can help me straighten out my thoughts.

Design patterns are great, but not anything new or earth shattering. I believe that most good software engineers tend to use the generally ideas anyways. They may not match exactly what is described in the traditional design patterns, but generally they are similar ideas. The introduction of formal design patterns just helped to formalize and standardize these good design principals.

In my opinion, design patterns are not the answer to all things. They provide a framework and common vocabulary for organizing my thoughts, and having discussions with other developers. Since the original book came out others have come up with additional patterns, which in most cases provide similar value. I recommend to all software developers to make sure that they are familiar with design patterns, and have a resource available to use when they need it.

November 30, 2010

C# Generics

A few days ago I was reviewing some old code that I had written a while back, and I found that I was having problems scanning the code quickly to see what it was supposed to do. After a couple a minutes, I realized that a number of areas in the code we're a little more verbose and confusing than they needed to be. The primary reason behind this: no generics. I know generics have been around for a while, and I have just gotten used to having them around. They make it much easier to deal with collections of objects in a type safe, and easy to follow manner.

Sure, before generics you could make things work, but in many cases I found myself having to cast object to a type, that I knew they we're. Now with generics, I just don't even worry about it. Everything just works, and that's good.

November 25, 2010

Android vs. iPhone

Lately, I've seen a lot of articles about how iPhones are so much better than Android devices, or that Androids will take over the world and Apple should be running scared. So far I think we would all have to admit that Apple has done an exceptional job with the iPhone (and iPod Touches). They have sold a ton of them, and everyone seemed to want one. Yes, meant to use past tense. Now that there is a real competitor in the market, Apple has to be a little concerned. They still have an excellent product, and the quality and quantity of applications that they have in their app store is unbeatable, but how long will it last?

With the plethora of Android phones (and other devices) available, it seems like will will continue to see a pretty big shift away from the iPhone. This may change if and when iPhone's are available on other networks, but I still think it will continue. I will admit that I have an HTC Evo 4G and I also have an older model iPod Touch. I've had the iPod longer, and honestly, when I got my hands he EVO, it was great. The screen was bigger, it was better to use, and it was just cool. My iPod is now a toy for my daughters to play with.

My biases are obvious, even though the iPhone is still a good product, unless Apple can do something dramatic, they will loose this battle. Their are more phones, more features, and more variety with the Android phones, and the number and quality of applications available for the phones will increase pretty quickly for the coming years.

Just to be fair I thought I would mention two of the other contenders in the market: Blackberry and Microsoft. I used to have to carry a Blackberry Pearl for work and hated it. It worked OK as a phone, and was barely passable for reading texts and emails, but it was impossible to use the web. It was a complete waste of space as a smart phone. I know that they have come out with some newer phones and features, but it it's too late. Backberry had their chance.

Microsoft is another issue entirely, they have tried time and time again to create a decent mobile operating system, and failed each time. I don't think this time will be any different. I haven't used the new Windows phones, but just looking at the user interface makes me cringe. I will give Microsoft credit for trying to think outside the box, but I think they completely forgot about the box, and ended up with something else entirely.

November 23, 2010

ASP .NET Chart Control

I recently needed a chart in one of the asp .net website I've been working on. In the past I've never been able to find a satisfactory solution that was free or inexpensive. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0, that Microsoft included new chart controls for ASP .net and for Windows forms. I figured that since they we're free and already included in C#, I might as well try them.

At first glance they appear to be pretty decent. The control includes most of the basic features that you would expect: multiple chart types (bar, line, pie), multiple series, 3D capabilities, legends. It also has a number of other features that we're well beyond what I was expecting for a free solution: advanced statistical calculations, and over 12 different categories of chart types.

My needs for the project I'm working on are very simple, so after a few minutes of looking at some examples (4 Guys From Rolla was a great starting point), I was up and running. Within a few minutes I had a basic line charts working, and shortly after that I had the legend, labels, and multiple series all working as well.

So far from what I've seen, these chart controls seem to work pretty well, even if someone had some intensive charting needs, these free chart control might still fit the bill. Definitely worth a look before buying anything to fill your charting needs.