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New programming site

The famous (in the programming world at least) Joel Spolsky (Joel on Software) and Jeff Atwood (Coding Horror) has created a new kind of programming resource web site called Stack Overflow. The site is sort of a wikipedia meets Experts-Exchange meets digg, with content licensed under the creative commons. Of course, I signed up the day the site entered public beta, and I'm working on building up my reputation on the site.

The reputation system is what makes the site especially interesting, because it allows the site to be run by the community without the explicit need to assign moderators that control the content. Anyone with sufficiently high reputation can do those kind of tasks. And getting a high rep is not very easy - or at least it takes time and dedication. As I said, you gain rep by answering questions, but the thing is you only get it if other people like your answers, giving you an incentive to write as good and detailed as possible. And only people with a certain amount of rep can actually vote, so you can't easilly trick the system by creating a bunch of fake accounts. Really clever.

There's more info about the reputation system and the site as a whole on the FAQ page. Also, Joel Spolsky's post about the launch explains a lot too.

Autopackage 1.2.5 RC1

I figured it was time for an autopackage related blog post in planet autopackage  so here goes:

After a long time in limbo, a new bugfix release of Autopackage has been made. Last week, I released 1.2.5 RC1 which so far has only had successful results in testing. If no issues pops up, it will be renamed to 1.2.5 and an official release will be made.

But before that, I need help testing it some more. So far, it has successfully been tested on:
  • Ubuntu 7.10 and 8.04
  • Fedora 6 and 9
The more people who are testing it, the quicker I can get the release out.

Everything you need to know about the release and how to test it can be found here:
Release Page:
   http://trac.autopackage.org/milestone/1.2.5
Mailing list announcement:
   http://article.gmane.org/gmane.comp.autopackage.devel/6624

After you've tested it, post a comment on this blog, write me a mail, tell me on IRC or send a mail to the mailing list. Contact information can be found here.

UPDATE: 1.2.5 is now released.

Sweet new tool

Launchy Screenshot Most experienced computer users will agree with me when I say that typing something is often quicker and easier than navigating a deep menu structure. I hate the standard windows start menu with a passion, which means I was quite happy when I found the nice open source tool called Launchy. Now just a quick <alt>+<space> away, I can search an indexed db of my launchers. That's on windows...

On Linux, I've been using a combination of terminal (requires you to know the binary name, plus tab completion only matches beginning of strings in bash), panel launchers and the deskbar applet.

Deskbar Screenshot

Unfortunately, the deskbar applet lacks the sex appeal of Launchy, and it's always crowded with results I seldom want (yeah, I know I can configure it and add/remove plugins and what-not, but it still lacks sex appeal ;-) ).

Gnome DO screenshot

Via planet gnome the other day, I found a new player in town - Gnome DO! It's a slick little app, very similar to Launchy on Windows, but slightly on stereoids. By default, you just type something and it'll run it for you when you hit enter. But for things which has multiple actions, there's also an "action" section which can be reached by hitting <tab>. So if I type "movie", it will display an icon showing my movie folder with default action to open it in nautilus. But right now, I don't want to do that so I hit <tab> and enter "terminal" giving me the option to open a gnome-terminal in that folder. Slick.

Now if someone could add SnagIt capabilities to the screenshot tool, I'd be an even happier Linux user. :-)

Autopackage Interview

At the end of last year, we (the Autopackage developers) were interviewed for an Indian PC magazine. I think I mentioned this in a previous post some time ago.

Anyhow, now the interview has also been published on Linux.com which is cool. In addition, I've put the original interview from the Indian PC magazine online on autopackage.org in PDF form.

Thanks to Samartha who made the interview. Let's hope something good comes out of this (like a horde of eager developers wanting to do nothing else than hack on the next generation installation framework ;-)

Quote of the week

The salesclerk in a shop in Bangalore, India, when finding out I am from Sweden:
Clerk: Oh, we once had someone famous from Sweden in this shop. Maybe you've heard of him, his name was car.. carl? carl-gustav!
Me: "Carl Gustav"? Yeah I know of him. He's the bloody king of Sweden.

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Web 2.0 continue spreading like a plague

 I'm both amazed by and a bit reluctant about the move to web applications. I recently praised Google Docs for the possibility to collaborate with other people, and I'm a happy user of other nice web apps: GMail, Google Reader and very recently started to play FallenSword, which is a semi addictive online MMORG played in the browser (html+javascript, nothing fancy), In short, Web based applications are great, where they make sense.

But when I needed to install VMWare server the other day, to be able to build linux packages on older systems, it was with a mixed feeling of technical amazement and complete discust. Remember VMWare 1.x, where they had this user friendly application to manage and run virtual machines? It's now gone in the 2.0 beta. All that is left is a butt ugly, slow and counter productive web implementation. You even run see the guest os in a tab inside firefox - ugh.
Granted, the product is only in beta right now, and will surely see some improvements in both speed and "prettiness", but I can't really see the benefits of this move.

And it's not even a "real" web application. It's a locally hosted program that installs itself as a web server listening on port 80. This means the nice benefits of web apps (universally available, transparent upgrades) are limted or gone, while all the negative sides (slow UI, poor integration with the desktop, inconsistent interface etc) are still there.

I'm glad I was asked today to fill in a survey on my experiences with the beta version, and I think I'm not the only one with negative comments about the new interface. Hopefully, they have a backup plan containing the old, usable standalone application.

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Why make it harder than it has to be?

On ubuntu (and probably any linux distribution):
$ apt-cache search libmono | wc -l
58

On windows:
dotnetfx.exe or visual-studio-setup-2005.exe
*sigh* Sometimes it feels people try to make it as hard as possible, just because "it's always been that way"

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Online Collaboration

Joe Shaw (the Beagle guy) wrote a praise post about Google Docs, which triggered my desire to blog. I can only concur with what he's writing, and I've recently had the opportunity to try the online collaboration feature of Google docs.

About a month ago, we (the autopackage developers) were interviewed for an Indian IT magazine. The interview would be conducted by email, and the journalist sent us the questionnaire as an RTF document. Up to this point, I had no thought of doing online editing of any kind, but a small link at the bottom of the email made me curious. The link said "Open as Google Document", and I thought: what the heck, why not.

The document was automatically imported to Google Documents, and displayed to me inside my web browser. A button called Share allowed me to instantly invite Curtis and Taj so that we could edit the same document, at the same time if we wanted.

This is a major benefit, since it allowed us to work together without having to manually sync our answers through email. We're all on different timezones, and on different schedules, so it was really helpful to be able to see changes made by Curtis and Taj while I was sleeping or working as soon as I logged in to Google Docs.

Another aspect of this is that it inspires an iterative and dialog based work flow which suits very well for interviews. After I had written an answer, Taj or Curtis could easily continue on that answer, adding a feeling to the replies that we were sitting in the same room while being interviewed.

I'm starting to believe that Microsoft and OpenOffice.org is fighting the wrong war here. The kind of collaborative editing that Google docs is supplying out of the box is nowhere to be found in modern desktop word processors. There is a merge document feature of Word, but it seldom works and is quite hard to get working even for small documents.

I often use MS Word at work, and most times, I'm editing a document that will also be edited by my coworkers. What we usually do is appoint someone document master and let that person make sure that all peoples changes are merged. This works somewhat good as long as everyone edits with "Track Changes" switched on. That way, the document master can see what's been changed and copy/paste it to his master document.

The obvious downsides with this approach is, apart from the fact that it's tedious and time consuming work, is that it is extremely error prone. It's close to impossible to guarantee that all changes are merged into the master document. Another important aspect is that you loose all revision history, so all changes and comments will appear as being made by the document master himself.

Microsoft has tried before with their sharepoint servers and collaboration solutions, but I've yet to see one that works as simple and unobtrusively as the one in Google Docs. I know Abiword is working on something like it, but I haven't seen it nor tried it yet.

It would be awesome if Abiword or OpenOffice.org could lead the way here for online collaboration in desktop office suites. Few programs in my daily work causes me so much headache and time loss as MS Word does. Having an OSS alternative which is not only free of charge, but also allows for a more efficient work flow would be a nice argument for IT departments.

PS. I will publish the interview on autopackage.org somewhere in November, when the paper version has been out long enough. In the meantime, go buy the paper version at your nearest Indian newspaper stand.

Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

Finally, the game I've been waiting for since the day I first read about the Wii (called "Revolution" back then). A real Star Wars game utilizing the wii motion sensing control for swinging the light saber is coming early next year.

I bet the wiimote (which is equipped with a small speaker) will also feature the famous buzzing sound when the sabre is used.

There's a demo/documentary on youtube showing off some of the new technology in the game. Truly interesting stuff. Be sure to also watch the trailer.

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potpourri

Sports
Got a sweet new soccer shirt from Caroline for my birthday:

Notice that it has my name on the back:


How fitting, given that tonight, Sweden is playing Denmark for the euro 2008 qualifications. I know what I'll be wearing at least.

Development
Making releases is not funny. Not the least. That's the reason I haven't done any pureadmin releases for a long time. I usually do fixes and add features whenever I feel I need them or have a sudden urge to code, but I just put it in svn and hope that users get it from there. Of course, that's a dream world and I know that it's so far from the reality it's not even funny. In any case, I spent some hours today shaping up the codebase for a release and put 0.4 online this afternoon.

On the Autopackage front, I'm under the impression that development is progressing faster than usual. Curtis has begun adding the long requested EULA support to autopackage, meaning you will be able to display a license agreement (or whatever) when installing a package or when the user runs the program for the first time. Curtis dude, you should blog about this! I've been fixing a few bugs (including the annoying gtk-icon-cache beakage bug) and added a few features to the development tools. Taj has been fixing a couple of issues in the support code giving a more reliable experience for our end users.

Work
I will be supervising a thesis job involving wii controls, human/computer interaction and software development at ABB Corporate Research. If you're a M.Sc student in the computer science/computer engineering area looking for a cool[1] thesis work in a cool[2] country - take a look at the suggestion. I'm looking for a team of two students, with good grades and the neccessary skills. Location is Västerås, Sweden (100km west of Stockholm).

UPDATE: The thesis suggestion link does not work unless you first visit http://exjobb.sunet.se/. That will set a cookie which enables the direct link above.

[1] As in "pretty awesome".
[2] Temperature wise.