Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leadership Character

A six-part series by West Point’s Col. Eric Kail 

Parts 1 through 5 have been published. In my opinion a must read.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Introduction to Steampunk

I have been a long time fan of Tanya Huff. Her Keeper's Chronicles series is a favourite of mine, as are the Blood Books (I did watch and enjoy all the TV episodes as well). A tweet from Tanya turned me on to Cold Magic by Kate Elliott. That lead to the Crossroads Trilogy while waiting for Cold Fire. Finishing up Crossroads put me a bit behind in reading Cold Fire So I'm only about halfway through. I think what I enjoy most about Kate's writing in the Spiritwalker series is that the Steampunk world she has created serves as a backdrop for the main characters' interaction with the spirit realm and each other in much the same way that late twentieth century Southern Ontario serves as a back drop for Tanya's Keeper's Chronicles and Blood Books.

Back After a Long Hiatus

I have been off working on other things, and neglecting my blog. But now I hope to be able to put some effort into this part of my on-line life. I'm glad to see many of my old friends on my blog roll are still active.

It was also time for a make over.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Software Kudos

I haven't posted much lately. I the reason is simple, I had a large Blackberry project coming to IOC deployment and my new Blackberry (a Bold) decided that third party applications were toxic, and after loading some number of them it would turn into a brick. For a long time, the only information I could get was that it was the fault of the third party (ie me) application writers. Much angst and many sleepless nights later I find out there was a bug (well two bugs actually) with the Bold OS, one that causes random failures during reboot, made more frequent with more applications loaded not just mine; and one that prevents third party applications from launching Blackberry Maps. Being able to use the blackberry is a very important feature of my project. Launching Maps is cool, but useful. So first kudos given, albeit grudgingly, to RIM for finally getting around to fixing these bugs. I will recommend the latest release / (Multilanguage) because that is what I'm using.

Next, my shop is full of virtualization fans. So kudos to VMware for releasing ESXi for free use. If you are using data centre virtual servers ESXi is the tool to use.

USB is a big problem for virtualization. It was never designed for that, and it shows in the difficulty virtual servers have in trying to support it. VMware neatly solved this problem in ESXi by ignoring it. No USB support. But what do you do if you want to connect a USB device to your virtual client? There are many solutions out their but I decided to use USB over Network from FabulaTech. It worked flawlessly for everything I tried, which is more than I can say for USBAnywhere.

Then I had to upgrade my Blackberry OS (see above). The macine I use to do this is where I had the USB over Network server running. My Blackberry wasn't shared, so the Blackberry Desktop software was abel to connect and start the upgrade process. At a point in this process the Desktop software must reboot the the Blackberry, then connect to low level software to replace the operating system. Now, the USB over Network server has to grab each USB device as it is connected so that it knows what to do with it. Once that decision is made the server may release the device. Unfortunately this release tells the Blackberry to reboot. So the Desktop software can never replace the OS and the upgrade fails.

I was in a bit of a hurry so I justed un-installed the USB over Network server. This resulted in being sent to a web page to let FabulaTech know why I was removing their software. So I told them, did my upgrade and re-installed the server.

The next day I got an email from a product manager looking for more details. So kudos twice to FabulaTech for makeing good software, allowing a free trial, and standing behind what they make.

Last but certainly not least Zarafa. They claim all the advantages of Exchange at 50% the cost. From what I can see they are being far too modest. For one Zarafa runs on on Linxu using open source products like Postfix and MySQL. They provide a virtual appliance, so if you are using a VMware virtual server product installation is as simple as plugging in the appliance and making a few simple configuration changes. They even supply tools to support the Blackberry Enterprise Server. So if you, like me, have been wanting to set up and take advantage of a small Blackberry Enterprise Server, but don't know how, or don't want to deal with the issues of setting up and maintaining an Exchange server give Zarafa a look. They will aslo give you a free trial license to check it out. Their web mail client is well worth a test drive even if you don't need all the enterprise stuff.

Oh, and I got some good long cross country flights in the plane over the last few months.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Google Latitude Thinks I'm in Arkansas

I installed Google Maps 3.0.0, then 3.0.1 on my Blackberry. Both have Latitude (press has not been universally positive). Big brother worries aside for now, for some reason when ever I get to work, it thinks I'm in Arkansas. Never been, though I'm sure it's lovely.

So, if people are worried about the implications of Google tracking and storing where one is, what about where one isn't?


I couldn't leave this alone.
One of the location based technologies Google uses to support Latitude is WiFi based. It turns out that by turning off WiFi on my Blackberry I am now back from my Arkansas vacation. So I guess my WiFi router is in Cozahome, not on my desk where I put it. Bad router! Time for a leash. I don't seem to have this problem with my router at home. I do have the same problem at home.

Friday, February 6, 2009

There's a Party in my Blackberry, No One Else is Invited

I've had a Blackberry Bold for a while now. I haven't blogged about it because the OS it was launched with became famous for instability. I upgraded twice looking for a stable platform. I'm also a developer for Blackberries, and there is nothing that can take the confidence away as fast as bricking your own Blackberry with the latest version of your own software.

I managed to beat down all the bugs except a pernicious and difficult to isolate one. Occasionally I would install a new version of my precious project. A reboot would be required, fine, no surprise. But, partway through the boot process it would halt at the dreaded white screen with tiny writing "App Err 200" and a "RESET" button. Some times resetting would result in a clean boot, often and more frequently as time passed, not. Finally I'd have to give up and wipe the device and re-install the OS. A good learning experience but once was enough. I eventually tried a removing the IT Policy. That worked by not really better than a re-install.

The event log was clear that the Application Manager (the program that displays the home screen and lets you launch other applications) detected too many processes, and just stops. I understand that a small device has limited resources, but stopping is perhaps a little drastic. Sometimes removing my, or other applications would result in a clean boot, often not. Frustration writ large.

Finding information on Blackberry errors is always a challenge, but when I found this knowledge base article I was a bit embarrassed. It claims to have been around since May 2006, I should have found it sooner. So Blackberries can only run 48 concurrent processes. That should be plenty no? Well apparently not. There are a lot of processes that run all the time in the background to do useful things. Over the past few months lots of user applications have been released for the Blackberry; Facebook, Flicker, Twitter, MySpace and a whole drawer full from Google. I don't run all of those, but some. Many need, or can be configured to run at startup. Most of my own applications also have to run at startup. So a routine reboot can turn into a process storm.

If RIM wants to keep pushing the social networking applications to broaden the appeal of the Blackberry beyond the boardroom they will have to come up with a more robust way of dealing with this situation. In the mean time their advice for developers building multiple auto starting applications is to have one seek out and run the others. And it works.

Yippie! Stability, it's a good thing.