OK, I admit, Ruby on Rails is impressive

Ruby On Rails

I have been hearing about Ruby On Rails for around a year. A bunch of fanatics really devote their life to promoting it even where it’s off topic and inappropriate. I tryed looking into it a few times, but the syntax got me away from it every time. Instead of going the same way as any other langage, they decided to try to make everything comapct and unreadable. With the release of the 1.0 version, I visited the website once more and found these videos, which really demonstrate the ease of use.

The things they do within a few minutes really is impressive, but the impressive part is not the language itself, it’s the entire platform. All the examples I saw were made from OSX, so I don’t really know which IDE they are using, but it seems efficient with the language. There are a bunch of scripts available to generate base files and structures. All common tasks have quick ways to be done, from form validation to AJAX display.

It does look promising, but the syntax is so horrible, there is no way I could stand going any further.

Anything Better Than a Political Christmas?

Liberals

The opposition has finally taken down the Canadian government. Finally? Well, at least they will stop wasting time on the topic for a while. After a first failed attempt a few months ago, they passed the vote this week. 19 months after the previous ones, an other election will be held on January 23rd, which will leave Christmas holidays with a fun spirit of political debates and flamewars. Joy! Now what will the outcome be? Probably the exact same situation as we had last week. All national surveys give Liberals the advantage for an other mandate, as a minority once again. To keep the story short, this simply means the opposition will keep stoping any decision made and lock the commune chamber for an other 4 years.

The main reason Liberals have been governing for the past 12 years without interuption is that there is simply no opposition in Canada. Here are the runner ups for the campain:

  • Liberals: Was I born when someone else was there?
  • Conservatives: Northern republicans. Their leader associated the prime minister with organised crime this week, with juvenile pornography during the last campain, want to ban abortion and want to revert the law on gay mariage. Popular in the West, hated everywhere else.
  • New Democratic Party: No one had ever heard of them before the last campain, they focus on social measures and are being very opportunistic when it comes to dealing the survival of the government. They are getting more and more popular and they might someday be big enough to govern. Until then, they can’t really hope for more than being opposition.
  • Last and least! Bloc Québecois: Also known as the only party without a bilingual website (don’t even try to change fr for en in the URL, it won’t work). A sovereignist party in a federation, the only objective is demonstrate the federation is bad. Since they are totally closed to anything outsite Quebec, they will never be more than opposition, and opposition is what they are good at. They usually get around 50% of the votes in Quebec, which makes around 15% nation-wide.

The sad part about the Bloc Québecois is that they are actually very close to NPD in terms of social measures, but their presence really stops the NPD from gaining importance.

The Essence of Software Engineering

IEEE

I just returned from a presentation called The Essence of Software Engineering organised by the Montreal Chapter (ugly website, consider yourself warned) of IEEE Computer Society. The speach was given by Professor Pierre N. Robillard, from the École Polytechnique de Montréal. When I saw the announce, I thought the topic would be interesting. As a software engineering student in an other university, I was interested what is done by our rivals.

What I saw was a radically different vision of software engineering. Either he was unable to share his ideas correctly, used a voccabulary which contradicted mine or he simply goes against any form of software engineering literature from the past 3 decades.

Continue reading “The Essence of Software Engineering”

Windows Vista!

Microsoft

Windows Vista is due late this year and the recommanded requirements have been released. I made a few clicks to build a Dell system to meet those requirements (Dual core processor, 2 gigs of RAM, 256 mb video card) and the price went up to little over 3000$ CDN. I have to admit I did not try to optimize the solution, but it seems to be a high retail price just to run the new operating system. I’m certain the graphic effects on the desktop will be very nice, but do average office users need all this eye candy?

I bought my desktop system three years ago and it still performs all the tasks I need (I’m not a huge gamer). Why would I go out and spend 3000$ just to get all their new fancy stuff? Why would a company spend so much on hardware for employees when they can currently get a desktop that can do a lot more than office work for less than 600$?

Hardware prices dropped a lot recently, but I don’t expect the high end hardware to drop enough to be affordable by christmas. I know a thing for sure, I will stick to Gentoo for a long while.

Yahoo! Still in the race

Yahoo!

Navigating from an announcement about Yahoo! (you know, that search engine/portal from the ’90s) reaching 20 billion indexed items (which is more than Google), I found out they had quite a few developper friendly features. Their Developer Network contains quite a few webservices to access Yahoo! content and tools. Google does have similar services, but they impose restrictions (they did last time I checked) on the amount of requests made daily. I don’t think Yahoo! has such restrictions, and they offer a lot more services, and they seem well documented.

Other than the simple web search, the term extraction service is very interesting. Given a content and a few keywords, in extracts related terms based on relations you can’t have unless you have a few million pages indexed locally. There are other services such as map (which is not as pretty as Google’s), various RSS feeds, multimedia search and even more. On of the best part is that the services use very simple XML formats and they are all described using XML Schemas.

Overall, the Yahoo! front page looks better than it used to, but there are still too many options for all those times I only want to search. If only they had a page with only a search bar… I really need to try it out on a regular basis to see how accurate the search results are. After all, they use PHP and I should support them.

Lessons learned

NASA

With the shuttle falling apart, the NASA had to come up with an alternative solution to the 2 decade old space vehicules. They decided to come back to an older design and specialize the tasks of the vehicules. Instead of trying to carry mens and meterials at once, they decided have a small rocket for mens and a large rocket for material. As always, the American “larger than before” rule applies.

I hope they actually plan on building smaller versions of the material rocket for all those cases they need to launch less than 100 tons of material, like food for the International Space Station crew or the staff that will live on the lunar station (that’s the Bush plan, right?).

No dates are set yet as no contracts to build the rockets have been signed so far, but since the shuttles retire in 5 years and Bush wants manned missions to Mars by 2025, it shouldn’t be too long before these giants fly.

Finally found them back!

How I learned to Question Infinity

Back in the days when Napster was underground and we could download music without anyone bothering us, I discovered a lot of great bands. Since I was young back then, I couldn’t afford music CDs anyway. A few years after, I tryed finding the albums to actually buy them. The great record industry simply wouldn’t allow me to do so. While browsing Amazon today, I actually had results for one of those old bands. I had been searching for that band in my music collection every few months for the past 3 years. Since Amazon did not have the track list, I had to search on Google and found out the albums were even cheaper from the record label’s web site. I just ordered 3 CDs of Choke, including one released this year!

Foreword Needless to say

Now, why have I been searching for the same band for the last 3 years? Because it’s great! And RIAA does not want me to download new music and listen to new bands. I don’t really like what plays on the radio, and I seriously doubt what I like will ever play on the radio. Peer to peer was a great way to find new music. They should simply trust people enough to actually encourage the music they like instead of trying to sue everyone and step away from all this free publicity. I would actually spend a lot more on music if I knew what to spend on.

I still have a lot more to find…

Linux Consolidation

Tux and Linux

Every once in a while, a Windows user step in the GNU/Linux world and think things are simply wrong. There is a wonderful example right here. Thinking Linux will ever be consolidated makes no sense. Of course, there are many distributions and it can be complex to find the one that suits your needs the best. Microsoft does make the choice simple by offering a single solution and having a single GNU/Linux offering wouldn’t be any close to freedom.

The main reason why there won’t ever be a successful “United Linux” effort is that there is no such thing as a Linux CEO. Linus Torvalds is only envolved with the kernel development. What makes GNU/Linux an operating system is the whole community around it and all those people have different opinions. Some work on applications, others on packaging and distributing them, but in the end, they are all sharing the results: there is no “waste of ressources”.

An other useful patent

I found it quite amusing to see a patent on such a simple device. It seems like the coffee buisness is also threatened by patents. This very simple cardboard device used to protect the hands of the coffee holder against the unexpected heat. By looking at the patent description, viagra order something tells me more time has been spent on the patent than thinking about the cup holder.

Patent 5,826,786