Monday, December 07, 2009

Even More Space Marine Painting

I've been slowly working on my Space Marines. It's taken a while, but they almost look like a unit. I think I've spent between 10 and 20 hours on them, but much of that was spent learning. Most of the major painting is done, and now it's time for touchups and details. For example, I spent some time on that rocket launcher to make it appear to be metal, painted red, and then worn. I think it's pretty convincing. I intend to do the same with that red bolter. The one that's not wearing armor needs a lot of work. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Standard algorithms and boost::ptr_vector

I did something bad the other day.

OK, I can't tell if it was bad. In another environment, it would have been bad, but since this was C++, perhaps it was OK. I was in the situation where I had a boost::ptr_vector, and I wanted to use a standard algorithm on it. Specifically, I wanted to use std::partition to separate the objects that were still "alive" from those that were "dead" (where alive and dead are domain concepts in our application). The complexity here is that ptr_vector is a crazy container.

Most containers deal with a specific type T. You add Ts to the container. Dereferencing an iterator gives you a T&. It's generally assumed that a container operates on a single type, and the standard algorithms make this assumption.

The ptr_vector, on the other hand, appears to be two containers at once. Semantically, it's analogous to a std::vector<managed_ptr_type<T> >. It is intended that, by adding a pointer to the ptr_vector, the ptr_vector takes ownership of the lifetime of the memory at the end of the pointer. So, it is a container of pointers. On the other hand, when iterating a ptr_vector, it appears that it is a container of Ts.

In my case, I wanted to rearrange my ptr_vector. In particular, I wanted to partition the pointers into those whose object was still "alive", and those whose object was "dead". Since a ptr_vector is semantically a container of pointers, it made sense that I should apply std::partition to the ptr_vector. However, ptr_vector::iterator removes a level of indirection: instead of iterating T*, it iterates T&.

In fact, ptr_vector doesn't seem to provide any ways to rearrange the pointers once they are put into the container. Sure, you can mutate the object on the end of the pointer. You could operate at that level. But there doesn't appear to be a safe way to treat the ptr_vector as a container of pointers.

Fortunately, ptr_vector provides a back door. Its iterators support a base() method, which will return an iterator over T* (instead of an iterator over T&). This allows us to treat the ptr_vector as a container of pointers, and to use standard algorithms to manipulate those pointers. Now, this is not without peril. While it seems to be OK to rearrange the pointers, it wouldn't be safe to change the set of pointers. I wouldn't trust using something like std::remove_if, because it might leave garbage in the container after it is done. The container might contain duplicate pointers. Some pointers might get dropped completely. If the container then goes out of scope, it will try to delete these pointers multiple times, which would be a bad thing. It might also fail to delete some pointers, because they were overwritten (and not preserved elsewhere in the container).

This whole thing felt like the best solution possible, while at the same time leaving a lot to be desired. I felt like I was violating the encapsulation of the ptr_vector. I suppose this is one of those cases for which they put in the base() methods on the iterators. Additionally, I don't see any clear way that they could do better. For example, I think an assumption of ptr_vector is that a given pointer only occurs inside it at most once. The standard algorithms don't necessarily respect this assumption; see my commentary on remove_if in the previous paragraph. The standard algorithms, in some cases, expect more freedom than ptr_vector can provide. This disconnect is unfortunate, but not without reason.

An important first step to helping with this problem would be to add methods to ptr_vector (and its siblings) that allow you to treat it as a container of pointers. You could add, remove, and re-arrange the container using these methods. In addition, they could maybe provide specializations of some of the standard algorithms for each container. This is difficult for third party developers to do, since the actual type of a ptr_vector::iterator is implementation defined. The boost guys can cleanly provide a specialization of std::partition for this kind of iterator, but I can't. Now, this isn't perfect. It would help with the standard algorithms, but not third-party algorithms. Still, it would be a great step in the right direction.

So, did I do something bad, or did I do something necessary?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Why Google Experience phones are pretty awesome

As Android has grown, devices fall into one of two major classifications. Some devices are so-called "Google Experience" devices (featuring the phrase "with Google" somewhere on the device). Other devices are, well, not Google Experience devices. What is the difference? I've had a hard time figuring it out.

I think that Google Experience phones are updated by Google itself, while the rest of the devices are supported by the phone's manufacturer. I have an original G1 (a Google Experience phone), and I've gotten prompt updates as each new Android OS version has been released. This is similar to the experience that iPhone users enjoy.

Some devices, such as the HTC Hero and the Motorola Cliq (and the HTC Magic in certain regions), are not Google Experience phones. These phones were released with heavily customized software (such as HTC's Sense UI or Motorola's Motoblur). These customizations, while attractive to some users, also make it much harder for the phone manufacturer to update to a new version of the base Android OS. Both the Hero and the Cliq shipped with Android 1.5, and I don't believe that there are announced plans to update either to 1.6 (or 2.0, for that matter).

At first, I thought that the notion of a Google Experience phone was silly. At the time, the Magic was launching on Rogers with Exchange support, and that somehow disqualified the phone as being a Google Experience device. I now understand that Google Experience really means "unforked code base". In order to add Exchange support, I suspect that HTC had to fork and modify the standard Mail app. While they were able to add a feature that people wanted, it really just makes these phones into some sort of mutant Android device. No thank you. Google should really make it clear to users that the Google Experience is a feature in and of itself.

Android, at this point, is a rapidly evolving platform. Google Experience phones seem to be the best way to keep up with this evolution. I was pleased when I heard a Verizon rep say that the Droid will be a Google Experience phone. Now they just need to release a T-Mobile US GSM version, and I'll be happy. Over time, Android evolution will slow down, and then it might make sense for a manufacturer to fork the Android code base. Maybe they would even be willing to contribute back to the core distribution. But, until then, I'm sticking with Google Experience devices.

Fixing hard disk clicking / aggressive head parking on Mac OS X

I recently bought a Western Digital Scorpio notebook hard drive to put into my 2007-vintage Macbook Pro. Everything seemed fine at first. However, as I used my laptop, I noticed that it would frequently make a quiet clicking noise. At first, I thought that I had gotten a bad disk. However, after doing a little research, it became clear that this is a common problem. This clicking is a "normal" operational noise - it is the sound of the heads parking.

People say that you should just get used to the noise. However, this blog post makes the argument that every one of these clicks is killing your hard disk. Some people claim that this is related to the sudden motion sensor that's built into most (if not all) Apple portables. However, this is a red herring. The disk still clicks even if it is sitting on a table. It is the hard disk's own built-in power management that is causing the head parking. The disk's SMART statistics record the number of head parking cycles. If you want to see this for yourself, you can use either this menu extra or this command line tool (MacPorts). You are looking for the Load Cycle Count value.

To explain the problem (as I understand it), modern hard disks have some responsibility to manage their power consumption. One manifestation of this is to spin down the platters and to park the read/write heads. The operating system can influence the time before the heads are parked by setting the "APM Level" of the drive to a value between 0x00 and 0xfe. Each drive manufacturer is free to interpret this value as they see fit. Mac OS X seems to set a default APM Level for all disks, and I think this value is 0x80. This is fine with Apple-shipped disks, but not necessarily for third party disks.

But wait! Perhaps you have bought the same kind of drive that Apple ships in their laptops. Are you safe? Not necessarily. Allegedly, Apple flashes their own firmware onto the the hard disks that they install at the factory. That's right, you're not running stock disk firmware. My suspicion is that this firmware changes the drive's interpretation of the default APM level. Recently, there was a firmware update from Apple that fixed this problem on disks that were shipped by Apple. Unfortunately, you can't use this utility to flash the new firmware onto a non-Apple drive.

Right, so the two solutions that I see are either:

  1. Write our own firmware
  2. Set a different APM Level value
Obviously, option 2 looks much more attractive. Bryce McKinlay wrote a utility called hdapm for doing just that. He even includes a launchd configuration to run hdapm as the system starts. One thing not mentioned in the readme is that you need to get the permissions of the launchd config file correct. The file needs to be owned by root (preferably root:wheel), and must not be group- or world-writeable. I also changed the config file a little; here is my version:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">

The biggest change is that I removed the "LaunchOnlyOnce" and "ServiceDescription" keys. I didn't see a reason to load it only once, and ServiceDescription seemed undocumented. This solution isn't perfect, however. First of all, hdapm uses a seemingly undocumented back door to adjust the APM setting. Ideally, we would actually spawn a daemon that continuously monitors and adjusts the drive's APM level. I'm not yet convinced that Mac OS X won't override my setting. Still, I have been running with this configuration for a couple of days, and things seem to be working well.

I have an open support issue with Western Digital to see if they have a fix for this issue. If there were some way that we could change the way the disk behaves under OSX, we could forego the additional software, which would be great. I've also heard of a utility called wdidle, which allegedly lets you write new idle settings to the hard drive. However, I was unable to find any official site for this software, so I'm not using it.

Finally, I would like to thank two people. First, Doug Aghassi's post really explained the symptoms that he was experiencing and put me on the right track for solving the problem. Thanks, Doug. Also, Bryce McKinlay was kind enough not only to write the hdapm utility, but also to answer the questions that I emailed to him. Thanks, Bryce.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Painting Space Marines

I have an update to my Space Marine painting. I've continued to shade the marines. After the previous coat of 1:1 Regal Blue to Ultramarine Blue, I added the following:

  • 1:2 Regal Blue to Ultramarine Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • 2:1 Ultramarine Blue to Codex Grey

Each coat is painted in a slightly smaller area. The goal is to shade the model to match an imaginary light source. In my case, my light source is directly above the model. Here are the results:

I'm now only painting 2 marines. I'm going to finish them before starting others, so that I can improve on my technique for those later models.

I also started painting my Tyranid spores. This has been basecoated with Chaos Black spray, then painted with Blood Red, then washed with Chestnut Ink. I had tried Red Ink, but unfortunately, that color is too close to Blood Red.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Painting Space Marines

For some reason, I got an itch to paint some Warhammer 40k figures. I've been slowly assembling them over... I don't know, maybe 2 years. Hey, I have a lot of things that I do in my free time. Anyway, I finally got around to priming them the other day, and I've been painting like a crazy person since then.

Now, I should mention that these aren't the first figures I've painted. I had painted a squad of 5 marines that came in a box along with 6 paints and a brush. Here's one of them.

That was a good learning experience. This time, I have quality glue, basing material, spray primer, a variety of brushes, and lots of paints and inks. I'm posting some photos of various steps of the process. Hopefully, by putting them here, I will actually finish painting them.

This space marine has been assembled, based, and primed. The basing material is sand and rock, glued into place with regular white glue. The whole model is sprayed with a flat black primer, to help the other paint stick better.

This marine has had his armor painted with Ultramarine Blue. Actually, his feet are missing some paint, but I'll get around to that. Additionally, the black ground cover has been drybrushed to look like sand and rocks. I started with rocky sand, painted it black, then painted it to look like rocky sand again. Crazy? Probably.

This marine has been washed with a blue ink (which I think has been replaced with Asurmen Blue Wash). Ink is used because it settles in the crevasses and provides great depth.

This marine has had his armor panels painted with a 50/50 mix of Regal Blue and Ultramarine Blue. By leaving a slight gap around the edges, the blue wash peeks through the armor panels, and this looks great.

For those who don't know much about 40k, these figures are pretty small. Here's a comparison shot.

Now imagine trying to paint those eye lenses. Yeah, I'm not looking forward to it, either. Besides the eyes, I still have a lot to do. I plan to put another few layers of blue on the armor, paint the shoulder pad edges, drybrush the metal pieces, and so on. If anybody reads this and has feedback or suggestions, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, August 07, 2009

I wish Blogger would let me rename tags

Occasionally, if you read this via RSS, you will notice that I repost old articles. This isn't intentional - any time I edit or retag a post in Blogger, it puts it back on the feed. I don't see any way to say "quietly republish this post". The same problem occurs if I want to rename a tag - I have to remove the tag from all posts, and then re-add it to all posts. Please, Google, add features to Blogger to make this less painful.

T-Mobile Visual Voicemail Problems

T-Mobile recently released their Visual Voicemail application in the Android market. It had some launch problems, but those are mostly smoothed out at this point. The app works pretty well, and I'm glad that they have finally implemented it. However, the app does have its share of first-release problems. They are listed here, in the order that I hope T-Mobile addresses them.

VVM doesn't work with Wifi. Most people probably have Wifi enabled on their phones. After all, it's the most efficient (both bytes / time and power / byte) way to tranfer data. However, VVM doesn't work with Wifi. It will neither notify you of new voicemails, nor will it download new messages. In order to make it work, you need to

  1. Turn off Wifi
  2. Wait or click "Synchronize Voicemails"
  3. Turn Wifi back on
Call me crazy, but that's just stupid. At the very least, the "Synchronize Voicemails" button should do those steps for you, similar to the My Account app. There has been some FUD about the reason for this omission. Some people claim that it's for "security". I'm going to make this perfectly clear: there is no security-related reason to prevent people from getting their voicemails over Wifi. It's easy to encrypt data that is transmitted over the internet. There are a number of possible reasons they don't support Wifi. It might just be too much work. Maybe they haven't had time yet. It might be cost prohibitive. Perhaps there is a technical restriction - they would need to read the SIM's IMSI into the app, which Android might not allow. Whatever the case, it's not a security issue.

VVM has a separate notification icon. Every time you get a new voicemail, you get the standard voicemail icon. In addition, you get a new VVM icon. For now, this is fine. If I have Wifi enabled, I still get notified of a new voicemail (via the standard voicemail icon). When the Wifi issue is fixed, however, I would like to see the new icon go away. The notification bar is crowded enough.

VMM uses the wrong audio stream. VVM uses the "media" audio stream. Many people complain that prevents you from using a bluetooth headset to listen to your VM. I don't have a bluetooth headset, so I can't confirm this. It should use the "phone" audio stream.

The UI needs polish. There are some small look-and-feel issues:

  1. The VVM status bar icon doesn't match the Android UI Guidelines.
  2. After pressing the "Synchronize Voicemails" button, there is no feedback. No spinner, no progress bar, nothing.
  3. The long-press context menu on a VM does not include a "delete" option (only Open, Reply As, and Copy To)
  4. The buttons that appear when you press the "Menu" button have no icons.
  5. The "Copy to" screen is a little too technical. The file name defaults to vmn (i.e. vm0, vm1, vm2). It should instead default to something like "Voicemail from John Smith on 22 Jul, 2009". In addition, the save directory defaults to "/sdcard". Should users really be exposed to UNIX pathnames? Clicking the Save in Directory dropdown presents me with a file browser for my SD card. For me, this lists locations like ".Trashes" (I use a Mac), espeak-data (the data files for the Text-To-Speech engine), "where" (the data for Where), and other places that I probably shouldn't be saving random files. Do I really need to be able to specify the location to save the voicemail? Why not just save everything to /sdcard/voicemails? Or at least, why not assume that all voicemails get saved to /sdcard/voicemails or a subdirectory (i.e. you can't save a voicemail outside this directory, only inside)?

Initial, first-run experience is lousy. When I first installed and ran the app, it wasn't able to connect to the server. After disabling Wifi, it worked. I was taken to a set-up screen, but then got distracted by something and hit the back button. When I relaunched the application, the set-up screen wasn't presented. This worried me (is there some setup that needed to occur), so I uninstalled the app and re-installed it. I don't think I did any harm, but the app didn't behave as I expected, so I didn't know what to think.

Deleting doesn't always work. I'm going to chalk this up to glitch behavior. The first time I used the app, I went through and deleted some old messages. Then I went into the analog voicemail system, and they were back! I deleted them a second time, and now they're really gone. shrug

Now, I don't mind all of those problems. I'm glad that T-Mobile finally released a VVM app. I'm glad that they released it early, warts and all. I hope that they are not done working on it. For me, the Wifi issue is huge. I'm connected to Wifi 90% of the time, and that means that the VVM app doesn't function as a voicemail app 90% of the time. I suspect many other people are in the same boat as me. Furthermore, Google Voice is coming. If the Wifi issue isn't fixed by the time GV is generally available, I might just jump ship, and T-Mobile doesn't want me to do that. I understand if T-Mobile can't fix this on their own - they might need support from Google. Still, every carrier is going to want to provide VVM, and it would behoove Google to provide whatever support necessary.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Getting Started with Stack Overflow

I joined Stack Overflow shortly after it launched, but I didn't do anything with it. I found it in search results here and there, but I never asked any questions. I would have done more, but new users are pretty helpless. You can't vote up or down, you can't comment on answers, you can't post an answer with more than 1 link, etc. It's almost like you're not wanted. Compared to the relative freedom of Wikipedia, it was really demoralizing to me.

I decided tonight to actually try to get some reputation. Most of the interesting stuff happens around 50 reputation, so that's my goal. I answered 2 questions this evening. Suddenly, my rep is skyrocketing. I'm at 31 right now, and I bet that will continue to climb on its own. It seems that people are very willing to vote your answers up if they are relevant. As you can see, it shouldn't be hard to get to the point of actually being able to contribute.

So, if you want to get started with Stack Overflow, here are my suggestions.

  1. Go to the newest questions page.
  2. Find something that you know something about. Don't troll, and don't post to random topics about which you know nothing.
  3. Write an answer.
That should just about do it. Don't despair, it's easier than it initially seems.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fixing the Xbox 360 's Grinding Noise / Tray Ejection Problem

I spent an evening performing unexpected surgery on my Xbox 360. When I put a game in, the drive made the most horrible grinding noise. On top of that, the drive would not stay closed. The tray would almost always eject seconds after being closed. Research led me to conclude that the rare earth magnet that is part of the disc clamp had probably become unglued. Since my initial warranty has long since expired and the red ring of death warranty only has another year, I decided to crack the case myself.

It's not worth going through the details, but I did find two useful videos. The first is an overview of the problem. The second is a good tutorial on opening the 360's case. I used some Zap-A-Gap brand contact adhesive that I had laying around to actually reattach the magnet.

I felt quite proud to have diagnosed, researched, and fixed the problem on my own (without sending my console to Microsoft for repairs). $100 plus shipping just to have some intern apply some glue is a little extreme. So many people have had this problem that YouTube videos just refer to it as "the grinding noise problem." Either Hitachi (the drive manufacturer) just made a lousy drive, or Microsoft didn't correctly anticipate the effect that their game furnace would have on the glue that Hitachi used. I don't know who is to blame, but Microsoft should extend their warranty on the 360 to 3 years for all defects, not just those that cause the red LEDs to light up in a circular fashion. I don't expect my car to wear out in 2 years, and I use it every day. My game console shouldn't wear out, either.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feedback Works!

It's hard to say if this is coincidence, but it's worth mentioning. A few weeks ago, I sent eBay feedback on their new site design. My gripe was that they were nesting scrollable areas within scrollable areas. As I was using the site today, it dawned upon me that the bad behavior was gone. Somebody actually fixed it. Perhaps it was my email; perhaps it was the combined voice of thousands of users; perhaps some developer just realized that there was a better way. Whatever the case, I'm glad that eBay made the change, and I like to think that I helped in some way. Thanks, eBay!

Before, things just felt wrong. I would be scrolling the page, and it would mysteriously stop. This happened on every single page, it seemed. When they switched to good design, I didn't even notice at first. It just felt natural. This brings to light a sort of design axiom: design successes are invisible, design flaws are glaring.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Excellent Customer Service at Adafruit

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I just haven't gotten around to it. Well, that ends now! The time has come!

A little over a month ago, I ordered a couple of kits from Adafruit Industries. When the box arrived at my doorstep, it seemed a little too small. Once I opened the package, my fears were confirmed: they had only included one of the two kits.

I typed up a quick email to customer support that night, and figured I'd hear back in a few days time. After all, they are a small company (I think they are small. I don't really know.). The next morning, I was surprised to find this email in my mailbox:

hi daniel -

that's odd - we're going to send out a starter pack immediately - and
we will check the order to see what happened.


That email was sent at 3:03AM. They immediately sent out the second kit. It arrived a couple of days later.

I was surprised and pleased with their customer service. They didn't question my claim, didn't beat around the bush, and didn't make me wait. They corrected their mistake as quickly as they could. Adafruit Industries is a top-class outfit. I will be ordering (many things) from them in the future.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Arduino librxtxserial.jnilib on MacOS

After re-installing MacOS from scratch, I found that I was having problems launching Arduino. I got the following error:

In order to solve this, I followed the instructions at The solution was to use Finder to configure the application to launch in 32-bit mode. I quickly looked to see if I could modify the Info.plist file to enforce this behavior, but I don't see any way to do that.

Another solution from technobabble is to replace the library inside the Arduino app bundle with a 1.6 compatible version.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quick, Over There!

I'm going to try to continue posting stuff here, but it's worth mentioning that I will also be posting over at the Gents with Beards blog. Anything related to the iPhone will go there (though I will make brief mention of it here). Anything else might go there, might come here, or might get cross-posted.

I made a couple of posts so far, related to my experiences with OpenAL in the iPhone Simulator and differences in the Initial Developer Experience between iPhone and Android. I hope to write one or two about Git, and who knows what after that.

Friday, May 15, 2009

JTextArea and javax.swing.text.Document

I was playing with a JTextArea in my Swing project today. My underlying data is actually quite simple (a list of names and quotes), and my JTextArea is read-only. Therefore, I decided to try to make my own class that implements javax.swing.text.Document, but whose internal structure more closely models my real... model.

I had a hard time getting started. From poking around in Document's Javadocs and in related Java source code, it appears that Document is a very general concept. It seems to have originally been intended to model an SGML document's structure - or something like that. The Document interface lets you navigate a tree structure that represents the document. However, when it comes to modeling data for a JTextArea, things are much simpler. Instead, it appears that JTextComponent (the base class of JTextArea) assumes that the Document models a list of lines of text. That is to say, it seems to expect that the Document has one root element which contains a separate element for each line. This is most obvious from JTextArea's getLineCount() method:

public int getLineCount() {
Element map = getDocument().getDefaultRootElement();
return map.getElementCount();

Now, the problem with all of this is that Document is a pretty complicated interface. On top of that, since SGML is a tree-oriented structure, it is not quite intuitive to map the concepts of "stream of text" to "tree-shaped structure". More problematically, I didn't see anything in the documentation to even begin to shed some light on this unspoken relationship. I stumbled upon it while examining stack traces from my first cut. I vaguely recall this being much easier in the little bit of Cocoa that I dabbled in, but I can't be sure. Maybe I'm just crazy - there are certainly a number of other concrete, Document-derived classes out there.

So remember, if you want to implement Document, make sure to model your document as a list of lines of text.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Something Nice

I don't like that most of my blog posts have a negative tone. I'd like to balance that by talking a bit about something that was really cool. Let me wax lyrically about MacHeist.

After buying the last MacHeist bundle a year ago, I got put on the MacHeist mailing list. As a result, I was able to participate in the missions that they've been putting out for the past few months. Between the free apps I got from completing the missions, the apps in the actual heist, referring 2 friends, and tweeting once, I managed to score 40 apps worth a theoretical value of almost $1700. It cost me $33 (I got a $6 discount by completing in the missions), and a few hours of my time. Let me go into a little more detail about the whole thing.

In order to drum up support, the MacHeist team starts by putting out challenges for several months before the actual sale. In order to solve these riddles, you need to do a little internet sleuthing. This year, they got the cooperation of Veronica Belmont, Lisa Bettany, and Chris Pirillo. People work hard to figure them out but, if you're lazy, you can just follow the walkthroughs that people post. I usually do about 50/50 - working on the challenge until I'm out of ideas, then go read what smarter people than me wrote. By doing this, I got $541 of software (and a $6 off rebate on the actual bundle) for just a few hours of time. Lisa Bettany also starred in a handful of mission briefings as Sophia, the Eastern European secret agent trying to save the world from time glitches. A little campy, but entertaining nonetheless.

Of course, there's also the heist itself. The whole bundle was introduced this year in a 90ish minute live streaming show with an overview of every app. They started this one by selling 8 apps for $39. From each sale, 25% of all sales go to charity. When they reach certain charity milestones, they add more apps. This year, there were 3 milestones. The last was $500,000 for charity, and that unlocked the final 2 apps. It was a little scary this year, because sales stagnated after a couple of days. The last two apps, one of which was Espresso, were still locked. Fortunately, there was a last-minute sales frenzy, and now they're waaay over their final unlock milestone. To try to incentivize people who were sitting on the fence, they added two more apps during the sale, for a total of 14.

Since Twitter is popular with the kids these days, MacHeist took the opportunity to reach tons of people by hyjacking the social experience. If you were willing to tweet a short message to get the word out about MacHeist, they gave you two more applications. Was I just helping The Man by giving free advertising? No! I wanted other people to have the chance to get these apps. This is the tweet they asked me to post:

I bought the @MacHeist 3 Bundle. 12 Top Mac apps worth $900+ for just $39 AND I just got Delicious Library 2 FREE!
That's not too bad!

Finally, I managed to refer two of my friends to the sale, and I got an additional 2 apps from that.

Now, I realize that I didn't actually get $1700 of worth from this bundle. I will probably never even start some of these apps. However, if you can find even 2 apps that you want, this deal makes sense. In my case, I had my eye on several of these apps for a while, and just never got around to buying them. Also, keep in mind that a big pile of them were totally free. I could have walked away with a bunch of software for just a few hours of puzzle solving (or walkthrough-reading). This sale always amazes me. Past sales have included Delicious Library 1, TextMate, CSSEdit, PixelMator, and other great apps. Good job, MacHeist.

Bundle apps

Apps for completing missions (these only took a few hours to get, but were only available for a limited time)

Apps for tweeting about the bundle (only available after buying the bundle)

Apps for referring others (only available after buying the bundle)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Android SDK + eBay SDK

I haven't done anything with Android in a while, so I thought I would see whether I could get my phone talking to eBay. I grabbed the eBay SDK for Java, stuck it in my project, wrote a small demo app, tried it out, and BOOM!

VFY: unable to resolve new-instance 1516 (Ljavax/swing/event/EventListenerList;) in Lcom/ebay/sdk/ApiCredential;
VFY: rejecting opcode 0x22 at 0x0015
VFY: rejected Lcom/ebay/sdk/ApiCredential;.<init> ()V
Verifier rejected class Lcom/ebay/sdk/ApiCredential;
Shutting down VM
threadid=3: thread exiting with uncaught exception (group=0x4000fe68)
Uncaught handler: thread main exiting due to uncaught exception
java.lang.VerifyError: com.ebay.sdk.ApiCredential
at com.ebay.sdk.ApiContext.<init>(
at org.balefrost.bodacious.Bodacious.onCreate(
at android.os.Handler.dispatchMessage(
at android.os.Looper.loop(
at java.lang.reflect.Method.invokeNative(Native Method)
at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(
at dalvik.system.NativeStart.main(Native Method)

It looks like it depends on a Swing class (EventListenerList), but Swing isn't available on Android. I guess I'm rolling it by hand then. It's actually unfortunate that EventListenerList is a part of Swing - it looks generic enough that maybe it should be promoted to the core library. For that matter, I'm a little surprised that this made it past the apk builder. Perhaps that is outside the scope of the apk builder.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Looking For a Laptop Table

I'm looking to get a small side table so that I can use my laptop in my living room without it burning my lap. I'm considering a LapDawg, but the $130 price tag isn't too appealing. Whatever I end up with, it won't be a Freedom Furniture Laptop Table II Mobile.

Does anybody have any suggestions?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vista Taskbar Transparency

One quick Vista UI tidbit. Window decorations (titlebars and borders) in Vista are normally translucent. When you maximize a window, its titlebar become opaque. The Vista taskbar is also normally translucent and, like window titlebars, also turns opaque whenever any window is maximized.

Interestingly, this is done even if the window is maximized on another screen. I recently switched from a dark background picture to a nearly white picture, and it's getting frustrating to see my taskbar alternate between black and gray for what seems like no good reason.

Ultimately, this is a small gripe. It's doesn't really get in the way. It's just odd. It reflects a lack of focus on fit and finish at Microsoft. I hope Windows 7 ends up being better.