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I'm Ryan Lowe, a Software Engineering graduate living in Ottawa, Canada. I like agile software development and Ruby on Rails.
I write this blog in Canadian English and don't use a spell checker. Typos happen.
» Full-time Ruby on Rails freelancer
» Full-time with Rails since May 2005
» Former committer for RadRails (now Aptana)
» I also have a few Rails side-projects in development:
1. wheretogoinTO.com Toronto nightlife
2. Hey Heads Up! TODO list and sharing
3. Layered Genealogy family history research
4. foos for foosball scoring
5. fanconcert for music fans (on hold)
Hiring Rails developers? I can telecommute by the hour from Ottawa, Canada
»» Email: rails AT ryanlowe DOT ca
Now hosted on Hey! Heads Up -- check it out!
Derek Lowe's (Ryan's older brother) words at Ryan's funeral
email@example.com no more
Forging Email Headers: Good, Bad or Ugly?
Sarcastic Dictionary (Part 1 of Many)
Twisting Rails is Risky Business
Risky Business? My Take on Early Alphas
Whoa, it's August 2007
A Postscript to "Growth at the grassroots"
»» All Blog Posts
David Heinemeier Hansson
James Duncan Davidson
Signal vs. Noise
Amy Hoy: (24)slash7
Luis de la Rosa
# Trash Song in iTunes From a Playlist
A few months ago I griped that iTunes wouldn't let me delete a song from my collection while looking at a playlist. Turns out that's not exactly true -- it's just undocumented.
Marshall Robin dropped me a line to say that it indeed is possible to do it: just select the song(s) you want to delete and press Shift-Delete (alt/option-delete on Mac) and you'll be prompted to delete the track from the collection.
Thanks Marshall! Now I can get rid of all of those old singles in my collection by looking at a playlist I made of just those singles.
# Durham 0.2.0 Released
I released Durham 0.2.0 today, incorporating plugins and files from Eclipse 3.1. Durham's goal for 1.0 is to be effective metadata support for the Eclipse platform and Rich Client Platform (RCP) applications
Along with the Durham library, I also released the two proof-of-concept applications: AudioMan and QuickEditor. The best part about the release of these applications is that because of the RCP and my Ant build scripts I've released both applications on three platforms (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux) simultaneously.
Now that everything is set up I can continue to release these applications on all three platforms at the same time, which is an incredible advantage for an application developer. I do admit that the deployment setup took a good amount of work but RCP applications will really have an advantage in the future here, especially as non-Windows platforms like Mac OS X and Linux take up a larger share of the pie.
The Eclipse Rich Client Platform is very, very close to having very easy deployment, I think, and it will only get easier.
Now that deployment is taken care of, Durham 0.3.0 will include some necessary refactoring and new features. I will continue to demonstrate new Durham features with AudioMan and QuickEditor.
# Default File Encoding Issues
Here's an interesting issue that North Americans using Eclipse probably won't run into: Eclipse uses a different default file encoding for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
On Windows the default file encoding is a Windows-specific "standard" called Cp1252 which is actually a modified version of the ISO-8859-1 file encoding standard.
On Linux the default text encoding for files in Eclipse is UTF-8 (Unicode). I would have never have noticed this discrepancy if I didn't have variables with accented characters in them. I'm using these variables to create an enumeration class (pre-Java5) to represent a code standard for the most popularly used languages in the world: ISO 639-2.
I originally created this source file in Eclipse on Windows and it used the Cp1252 standard. The file was then checked into a CVS repository.
When I checked out the files in Eclipse on Linux (screenshot) I got this Eclipse compiler error:
I initially thought that Eclipse or Linux was at fault but after discovering the encoding difference (thanks to some prodding from
As I mentioned above, the default file encoding Eclipse on Mac OS X is also different: it uses a one byte Apple-specific file encoding scheme called MacRoman.
Why isn't Unicode being used by default across the board? Wouldn't that make cross-platform development easier? Using different default file encodings for each platform somewhat nullifies Java's cross-platform nature, no?
True, the differences between these encodings are small but they are enough to possibly cause people internationalization (I18N) problems down the line.
But that's not all. Changing Eclipse's file encoding to UTF-8 has some interesting consequences for my project's Ant build scripts. I had to specify that I'm using UTF-8 for the source files in the
Otherwise the Ant
# Rideau Canal Footbridge
I was driving past the intersection of Somerset Street West and Queen Elizabeth Drive here in Ottawa and noticed some piles driven into the west side of the Rideau Canal.
I was curious so I got out of my car and saw more piles being driven in on the other side of the canal. It looks like the multi-million dollar footbridge from Centretown to the University of Ottawa is finally being built.
There's not a lot of room on the west side so the bridge cuts off the existing bike path there. It looks like it will go completely over the bike path on the east side of the canal.
It will be interesting to see how this affects the Centretown neighborhood east of Elgin Street. Right now it's a good walk (especially in the winter before or after the canal is frozen) to the university from Centretown. This bridge makes Centretown easily accessible from the school -- it could very well be the next Sandy Hill as far as students are concerned.
# My Experience Moving RCP Apps from 3.0 to 3.1
Durham has two proof-of-concept Rich Client Platform (RCP) applications to demonstrate its metadata support (AudioMan and Quick Editor). While using the Eclipse 3.1 milestones, I was still building/packaging/running these RCP applications from Eclipse 3.0.x plugins because they were more stable as a platform.
Now that Eclipse 3.1 is out, I want to move these RCP applications to RCP 3.1 plugins. There were a few new things and issues that I'll share here.
1. A lot of Eclipse 3.1 plugins are now distributed as completely contained JAR files. This makes them much easier to move around. Their internal structure has changed a bit: it's not just the old plugin directory structure JAR'd up (note: a JAR file uses the same compression as ZIP). There's no JAR-within-a-JAR. What if you wanted to extract the JAR back to a directory and make a slight modification, would that be possible? With the new structure it seems unlikely that it would work but I'm not sure. An upside is that these plugin JARs are harder to "corrupt" accidentally.
2. There's a new plugin in the RCP redistributable:
3. One of the main RCP classes,
4. The last problem I'm tackling is a major one: I can't get my RCP application to run with the 3.1. It seems like
If I set the proper
If I set the proper
Looking at how Eclipse 3.1 itself defines its application, I can't see where I'm going wrong. I haven't changed the product or application extension points at all and they worked just fine with 3.0.
I had to make a slight change in my
I also replaced
It's so frustrating to run into problems like this but I'll keep bashing on it.
Update 9:21 PM: I overlooked the Eclipse 3.1 Plug-in Migration Guide. Maybe it will help.
Tuesday 6:45 AM: Yep, boneheaded mistake. Remember that change to
pattern that an
Also, I could have been given a better error message in the configuration log file when the application failed to start. Seems like having
At any rate my RCP apps work now so I'm happy as a clam.
# Content Type Support Saves Me Time
Eclipse 3.1's new support for content types is already helping me out.
Durham has a lot of Ant build files, many of which don't have the default Ant build file name
Eclipse 3.1 looks at the file's contents, sees that its an Ant XML build file and associates the file with the Ant editor right out of the box. This is especially helpful with XML files because there are so many different file types with the extension
Fannnnntastic. It's little things like this that save me loads of time in the long run. That's exactly what using an IDE is all about.
# Unrecognized XSLTC extension Redirect:write
I'm moving the Durham project to Java 5.0 and not unexpectedly I've run into a few issues.
I Googled the error and found a solution. It says to change any instances of
Well, that's almost a solution. A developer is left to figure out which XSL file to edit in the case of
I wanted to change the default transform behaviour so that all of the Ant properties wouldn't be in the report. I was publishing these reports on the Internet and I didn't want sensitive information like passwords and machine specs in them.
I copied this file to my project and then specified its location when I called the
You use the
The problem seems to be my custom XSL transform file; it's from an older version of Ant and doesn't have the
My solution was to recopy the
# Welcome Back, Durham
For a variety of reasons I've decided to resume work on Durham and its proof-of-concept Rich Client Platform (RCP) products QuickEditor and AudioMan. Durham plugins provide metadata support for Eclipse plugins and RCP applications.
I'm not sure how long I'll continue to work on Durham but I have a few goals in the short term:
Rather than take a lot of focus away from the music-related project I'm working on, Durham should be comfortable and familiar territory that will keep me in the development loop.
Call it a psychological fake-out but I really need to be coding and releasing a real product right now. Durham 0.1.0 will be released very soon. Durham will probably take up 1/4 to 1/2 of my development time.
# Brain Dump Part I: The Itch
I don't think too many people will argue that good software solves a problem. Often the hard part is figuring out the exact problem that needs to be solved. In the software biz sometimes this is called requirements gathering, requirements analysis, domain research, etc.
After a month just thinking about it I've distilled an itch that needs scratching: a problem that probably needs some sort of software solution.
I can't keep track of all of the bands I like. I don't know when they release albums. I don't know when they are playing shows within a two hour drive of me (Ottawa or Montreal).
It's not even close. I can't even keep track of a dozen of my absolute favourites -- and want to be able keep up with over a hundred bands quickly and easily.
Why does this problem exist? The sources of information aren't arranged for the convenience of fans.
The itch: Give me personalized relevant news about all of the bands I like all in one place.
I choose what types of news are relevant and what isn't. Only the bands I'm interested in. All genres in one site.