Back on the internet at last!

27 05 2007

Ok, so I finally got back online.
You see, we changed our ISP to Virgin Media, which is a cable service, but our wireless networking hardware was for an ADSL line only, so I had to wait until I got back from Spain to buy a new WiFi router that was compatible with a cable line.

Luckily, I was able to get hold of a Belkin box which will work with either connection type as it’s not a DSL modem \ router.
What this means is that if I move back to an ADSL line in the future, the router will still work, and since the connection I’m now using is slightly faster than the old one (ok, so going from 3mbps to 10mbps isn’t slight), things should be better for me as well.

Also, my 360 downloads a lot faster on this connection, which is nice.

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It’s Firday 13th…

13 04 2007

…And nothing has gone wrong thus fa… Oh dear sweet.. you can’t put that there, it won’t fiARGH!





Got me an iPod

9 04 2007

Ok, so I claimed I’d never buy one, but I did.
I got a 4GiB nano in silver.

Unfortunately, the G2 model doesn’t play nice with Ubuntu 6.06 and my system is refusing to upgrade to a version that has patches available (this is a fixed issue in Feisty Fawn, which isn’t out yet in it’s final form), so I’ve had to use iTunes 7 under Windows XP on one of our non-linux systems.
iTunes is pretty decent as far as music managment goes, but how it does music transfer to the iPod could be better.
You can’t just drag files to the iPod like you can with most other MP3 players and their software, you have to create a playlist and sync it with your iPod, which seems like a bit of unneeded fuss.





New phone

24 03 2007

Ok, so I’ve had an LG Chocolate in black for a few months, but I’ve disliked it since about a month after I got it.
The touch sensor thing isn’t overly great (actually very annoying) and it’s shiny plastic casing is like the PSP, a smudge magnet.

I decided enough was enough and bought myself a nice new phone on Friday and my sister now has my Chocolate in place of her pink one.

As a fan of Sony Ericsson phones (I don’t know why I got a Nokia and then an LG, but I did and I was wrong), I decided that I either wanted another Walkman phone or something that wasn’t quite as garish as my W800i at least.
The thing is that I had £200 to spend on the phone and a phone I’ve always liked was in the shop at £199.99, so I decided not to get a Walkman phone and I got a Sony Ericsson K800i instead.

Since I’ve used many Sony phones, especially those aimed at the same kind of market as the K800i, I pretty much knew exactly how to use it without even thinking about it.

The cameras on it are great for a camera phone (the back camera is 3.2MPX, but there’s a tiny little video phone camera hidden away in the speaker).
Most camera phones claim to have a flash, but they actually just have a light that can be turned on and off, but this thing has a real xenon flash, Sony’s usual auto focus, red eye reduction and so on and so forth.
If you’re planning on making frequent use of the camera, you’ll be wanting some memory, which is one area that this phone lets you down.
There’s only 64MiB of free internal memory and while Sony’s M2 (Memory Stick Micro) cards are supported, giving you around 2GiB of space at maximum, no memory card is included in the package.
This isn’t surprising though considering that Sony’s flash memory formats usually result in overpriced cards, so including one would drive it up over £200.

The K800i is a 3G capable phone, meaning it’s capable of pushing and pulling more data to and from place to place, meaning there’s no reason not to include common 3G phone features.
The K800i’s seconds camera is easy to miss, but it seems to pick up a decent enough image on my end (I don’t know anyone with a 3G phone and my 3G Nokia only has one camera).
Because mine is on O2, I haven’t played around much with the 3G stuff as I’m more used to using 3’s 3G services and I don’t know if the phone is locked to only work on O2 (not really a problem as they can be unlocked).
Another neat little feature to make use of this extra connectivity is the ability to upload images taken with the camera straight from the phone to the web using the “Blog this” feature of the camera mode.

In the box (which wasn’t as nice as the LG Chocolate box or the SE W800i display case as it was a normal O2 repackaging jobbie) there was:

  1. Phone
  2. Manuals
  3. Charger
  4. Software
  5. USB to phone cable
  6. Hands free kit \ headphones
  7. Wrist strap

The charger is designed so that you can plug in the headphones while the phone is charging by plugging them into the connector for the charger (so it’s headphones into charger into phone).
That might seem a little odd and possibly a little silly, but it’s partly so you can listen to music on the phone while it’s charging and also because the headphones contain the areal for the built in FM radio, which can be used in place of a tone or song if you set the phone as an alarm clock.

All the usual SE software is on the phone such as games and the various DJ apps for messing with video, audio and photo’s, but there’s also some HP photo software on it (I got rid of it on my last pre-built system, so why would I want it here) and an app called Facewarp, which takes an image, scans it for faces and then allows you to apply different warping styles, kind of like magic mirrors at the circus :/

All in all, it’s a brilliant phone for me and the whole camera thing will come in handy on my holiday in May.





RIA’s, Rails and you.

20 03 2007

Imagine for a second that you’ve had this really great idea for a new web based application
and you built it using standard HTML and some form of server side scripting.
You’re pretty pleased with it, but a short while later a similar app pops up out of nowhere with a better interface.
At that point, you start dabbling with the dark magick or RIA’s, only to get stuck.

RIA?
Rich Application Interface.
Basically, a way of making a web application function more like a desktop application by eliminating page refreshing for most common actions performed within the application.

Common methods for RIA’s
A RIA application can be built with a number of technologies.
The two most notable right now are AJAX (a mixture of JavaScript, browser technologies and server side scripting) and Adobe Flex (a system that compiles a mix of XML, ActionScript and CSS into a usable Flash 9 file.
There’s also the older OpenLazslo, which is now coming up to version 4, which does some similar stuff to Flex, but which will also create a DHTML based version of it’s output if needed.

AJAX:
AJAX is ready and raring to go in Rails thanks to it’s integration with the Prototype and Scriptaculous libraries.
The basic AJAX stuff is easy to use in Rails apps and the generated code is also pretty readable, even for someone like me who never bothered much with JavaScript when learning to code.
One slight issue is that it can sometimes feel like you’re locked in unless you want to learn to use those AJAX libraries directly as there’s only so much Rails will do for you, but what it does do is often enough unless you’re doing something more complex (I’ve had no real problems using AJAX in the CMS I’ve been tinkering with as a first project with Rails).

The advantage of using AJAX via the Rails helpers is that you don’t have to type masses of code to make an animated drop down that displays data from a discreetly executed script and it’s quite possible to code around issues with users who don’t have browsers with support for xmlhttprequest, or who have JavaScript disabled.

The problems with AJAX other than the one mentioned earlier are that if you’re using AJAX, code validation can be a little more tricky as you can have display data in different places and something like W3C’s HTML validator won’t pick up on code inserted via JavaScript.
Another disadvantage is that whenever some new code is inserted, you may end up waiting in order for everything to update.

Flex:
Flex 2 is Adobe’s RIA generator platform as well as a tool for writing some Flash applications.
It basically allows you to write code in an XML based syntax with ActionScript mixed in for logic and CSS for presentation.

The benefit of Flex is that it saves you writing XHTML code for your interface and having to test that code in every browser platform to make sure it looks good as Flash apps will look the same regardless of if the user has Explorer 6 or Firefox 2.
On top of that, there’s still Flash’s ability to do what it does best, pretty and detailed animations that can update and change on the fly.
Taking a look at the Flex style editor application on Adobe’s site shows this off quite well as styling changes are done as you move sliders and change values, including the curvature of the element corners.

One big issue with Flex is that it’s reliant on Flash 9.
While Flash 9 is out now for Windows, OSX and Linux, people who don’t like Flash (you’d be surprised how many find it annoying) or don’t have access to Flash 9 will be stuck unless you cater to them by providing another interface.

Flex, being Flash powered, is designed to consume data in an XML format, but Rails provides a set of tools for easily generating XML data and there’s alreaty integration tools to make Rails + Flex applications easier to build.

As well as Flex, Adobe has been working on a system called Apollo, which is basically Flex for the desktop.
Apollo uses a runtime though, so it shouldn’t have any real issues with people not having the right version of the Flash stand alone player.

The only real gripe I can pick with Flex right now is the lack of a decent editor for it that doesn’t cost over £300 and which will run on my choice of OS (Flex Builder 2 is built on top of Eclipse and offers visual interface design tools like you’d get in Delphi or Visual Studio, but unlike Eclipse, it’s only out for Windows and OSX).
The whole “charting costs extra” thing doesn’t really bother me as Rails has it’s own charting packages that output to image files, which are then capable of being imported into Flex applications.

For more on Flex, pop by http://flexfanatic.wordpress.com/

Open Lazslo:
Open Lazslo is an older contender which was once commercial, but which is now free.
It does the same sort of things as Flex, in a similar way, but while Flex uses syntax like <mx: tag/>, Lazslo just uses <tag/> and Laszlo doesn’t use ActionScript, it uses JavaScript.

OL has many of the same issues as Flex when it comes to building interfaces with Flash, though it’s version requirements aren’t as high at Flash 7.
I’m not sure if there is a proper Lazslo editor out there as I’ve only used it through the example interface on their site.
I had some issues with OL and how it handles scrolling on things such as multi-line text boxes, but other than that, there was nothing major.

One advantage of Lazslo when it gets a version 4 final release will be that it can output to DHTML as well as Flash 7.
While DHTML may be the devil child that ruined many sites and “DOM scripting” and “AJAX” sound better, at least you’ve got options with OL as to what your code comes out as.

Again, OL consumes XML, but again, Rails is pretty good at spitting out XML code.

Other options:
Well, there’s always plain Flash, plain reloading interfaces or you could try to find something else to suit your needs such as Java… It depends on what you need and what you want as well as on what you expect your end users to have installed on their systems.





Welcome!

20 03 2007

Hello, welcome, konnichiwa, Willkommen, benvenuto and so on and so forth.

I go by Nuvo when online, but not many people on the web know my actual name, which is how I like it.
I’m 21 (22 in June), from northern England and I’m openly nerdy to the point of correcting almost every single thing people say wrong from what Big Ben is (actually the bell inside the clock tower) to why people don’t usually die when their car is hit by lightning (not rubber tires, Faraday Cage Principle!).

I enjoy playing console games and doing some web development on my Linux powered PC.
I currently use PHP, mySQL, Ruby on Rails, standards compliant XHTML 1.0 & CSS and I hate having to use tables for anything, so it’s DIV tags all the way.
I’ve been thinking of looking into Flex or Open Lazslo for RIA development to compliment the Rails AJAX stuff, which is pretty nice itself (Rails uses Prototype and scriptaculous for it’s AJAX).

When it comes to gaming, I’ve got a PS2, an Xbox and a premium Xbox 360 that I got at launch (though I had to have it repaired, costing me a few achievements, such as those in Kameo as I solid it due to having no intentions of playing though it again) and actually, that little remote is useful.
I mostly play racing games, platformers, RPG’s and stratergy games, but I’m also partial to the odd FPS and \ or 3rd person shooter such as Gears of War.
I’m a LIVE Gold user and I’ve been slowly building up my achievements, though I’m nowhere near the scores that some people have (I’ve only got something like 3570
Gamescore).

Members of Webmaster-Post and Sokial will no doubt know me as I work on both sites (I’m an admin on WP and a mod on Sokial… Both sites were created by the sameguy, but WP was sold and I remained there).

Expect this blog to end up being mostly about games, web dev and tech in general.