Nov 30

So happy to see a Erik Thauvin post

Mobile, Tech with tags: , , , , 1 Comment »

Erik Thauvin’s link blog was huge back when I was doing TheServerSide. If you read both the TSS feed and Erik’s you were pretty sure that you were getting a look at most of the interesting content in the Java, and Enterprise Java communities.

I had huge respect for him, and it was sad to see his link blog die out as he got interested in other aspects of life. I can’t blame him. I also moved on from the world of Enterprise Java and got into other technologies and interests. Ajaxian was born to fill my “I love working with communities” itch.

Erik was developing top notch mobile applications and as soon as I launched devphone I knew I had to reach out to him.

So, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this at the bottom of a post on how Google Maps Mobile works:

devphone 11/30/07 11:00 PM erik Java Networks Windows Mobile

Welcome, Erik. Who know where the ride will lead, but whatever happens, I am honoured to have some fun with you along the way :)

Nov 28

My own personal Ellis island

Personal 4 Comments »

You have heard the stories of how immigrants had their name changed as they went through Ellis. Rockowskus became Rock. Smyth became Smith.

The US government wants me to be “Almear”. The INS somehow messed up my green card even though when I look at all of the forms they are spelled correctly, and I have Almear on it. Grr. Having to get this changed will be a royal pain in the backside. Nothing with the INS is simple, easy, or fast. They make the IRS look like a well oiled machine!

The problem got worse today, as I had the pleasure of doing the DMV jig in California. Taking another “test” on how many pounds a 5 year old has to be before you need a proper restraint and all that jazz. Turning your wheels in various directions depending on if you are uphill, downhill, and if there is a curb. Once I had passed the test, they got to work on my new license. They spelled my name “Almear”. They said that since they were using my Green card as the official document they had too!

I don’t want to have Almear smear through my real name, so I had to tell them to only give me the temporary license, and I need to work with the INS to fix the green card, and then I can change the license. I can’t wait :/

Nov 27

Agile Programming and Dilbert

Tech with tags: , , , 1 Comment »

First Ajax, now Agile. Scott is having fun with the developers:

Nov 23

Finding more Almaers

British, Personal with tags: , , 3 Comments »

My family name “Almaer” is a rare one. We have never found any others in England, and the same goes for the US. The family tree goes back in many directions, to countries all over Europe, and one line is aristocracy in England.

Then, out of the blue, I got a Skype message from “Jean Almaer”. Hmm, it could be bogus. I added Jean to Skype, and it took forever until he was online at the same time as I. I sent him a message and then it began. We knew that the name came from Belgium, and Jean Almaer lives in Flanders! I have gotten my Dad in touch, and we are working down the line to see if/where we connect. Pierre, Jean’s brother, is a linguist and knows about the history of our name:

“Almaer” is definitely a Dutch/Flemish name in this spelling. “ae” is the old spelling for long “a” (now replaced by “aa”). The German equivalent would be Almar. The etymology : “al” stands for adel/adal/German Edel, or Old English Aethel,Ethel, as in Alfred, Albert, Aethelred, and means “noble”, and mar (or “maer” in its Flemish/Dutch form) is an old Germanic word meaning “famous”. I was told by the same professor that “Almaer” used to be a (very rare) first name in Flanders. Note that the German family name “Almer” is of a different origin and stems from the Alm river in Bavaria. The Flemish name Olmer has the same etimology as “Almaer”. There are a few Olmers in Belgium, but no Almaers (except our family, of course)

My favourite part of an email was this sentence which was saying how exciting it is to work this all out:

To tell the truth, the “da Vinci code” story is almost as funny as a phone directory of West Mongolia, compared to this.

Classic :) I am excited to see more Almaers out in the world!

Nov 22

Brekkie aint no Breakfast

British, Personal 2 Comments »

I woke up on Thanksgiving Day to some crusty warm popovers. Yummie. I appreciated them (and my wife!) a lot more this morning, as I just got back from London. Now, people like to poke fun of British cuisine, but for the most part I am quite happy there. For this trip I got too:

  • Eat at three Indian restaurants (all good, but the fancy place wasn’t as good as the old fashioned curry house)
  • Eat at La Porchetta, my favourite pizza place in the world
  • Eat at a Nandos restaurant, which is a chain, but has spicy Peri-Peri which I enjoy

Lot’s of good stuff there, and I hope Ben appreciated the food compared with some of our other trips to Europe, which had him in horror mode.

My favourite meal of the day is breakfast. I have been spoiled by the american version too. Waffles, pancakes, french toast, crepes, decent bacon, eggs, hash browns, etc etc. The breakfast at our hotel (a nice one) was an awful euro-buffet. You are expected to double down on dodgy meat. In the end, I always end up going for the cereal and yoghurt.

To be fair, it is a touch better than Germany where the same meat comes out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What else did I notice about my lovely home town this time around?

ITV Play. Really?

There is a TV show on ITV called Play (used to be a network but was caught cheating) which is so poor that it amazes me that it exists. I had to have Ben watch it too. The show has a random idiot thrown in front of a camera and babbles on trying to get someone to phone in (or text or play online) to answer a really silly wordplay puzzle. The answers always seem obvious, but then you see that there are actually 399999999 words that could fit in, or the answer they are looking for it insanely bizarre. Sometimes the same puzzle is on screen for an entire hour and the host resorts to true silliness to pass the time. Why does anyone watch this crap? If you win you also normally win a whopping 10p.

Mangos are juicy

A big deal was made about six months back when real Indian mangos were allowed back in the states after a long embargo. Finally, the juicy mango didn’t have to get smuggled in. In London, which also doubles as little india, we found out that mangos are very juicy. As Ben and I were walking down Upper Street in Islington, we got belted on our backs. We turned around to see 10 youngsters whipping fruit at us. We thought they would laugh and move on, but they kept going! Ben ended up returning fire, and then we luckily reached our destination so they couldn’t keep wailing on us. Lovely.

London is a good place to bring a jacket

Ben showed up in London without a jacket. He will tell you that “there is a story” but really. No jacket in London. It also didn’t help that it rained all but 2 hours of our entire trip. At least our arms could get a work out as they held up umbrellas. Man the weather was bad. I heard that it got really nice on Wednesday (after we left). Getting back to sunny and 65 degrees has been a real pleasure :)

I took Ben out of London to see more of England itself. A mate lives out in the boonies (Coggeshall, Essex) so we head there to do a traditional pub meal, and a little walk. Watching Ben freeze was a lot of fun. Looking at the prices of houses was also fun. “600 thousand pounds for this dump in a little village?”. Ben had a truly big grin though when my mates wife told him that the national health service was crap and that everyone is lazy and soaks money from the government. “Your little socialist bubble has been destroyed”, Ben said. I really hope that he watches Sicko (even taking it with a pinch of salt).

Expedia messed up names

I was sharing a taxi to the airport with Brendan Eich. He was staying in another hotel (which he chose as he wanted to be closer to the conference, but it turned out that it was further away :)) so I got the cab and went over there in the morning to pick him up. When I got there he wasn’t waiting in the lobby so I went in and asked the front desk to call his room. “I am sorry sir, no Brendan Eich here”. Hmm, maybe he has checked out? “I am sorry sir, no-one called Brendan Eich has stayed with us”. I started to sweat. Was he at another hotel? I tried to think if there was another hotel with a similar name. Nope. I cranked open the laptop and got his number up. I called it. No answer. Bugger. At some point I would have to choose to hit the airport! Then the good news, he called back: “Sorry, I am a bit late. I am in the lobby checking out”. I walked back over and sure enough he was doing just that. It turned out that the hotel had him down under his mothers name. I guess being CTO of Mozilla is a celebrity-like situation so he has to check in under fake names ;)

A beautiful city

I did really enjoy taking advantage of being right in the busy. Walking past the Abbey, parliament, the Thames, the eye, down to Holborn, over to SoHo, through Hyde/St James park, past Buckingham palace, and back home, was real fun. A great city. As long as you realize that the tube will be broken half the time.

Nov 19

Still much room for browser competition

Tech, Web Browsing with tags: , , , , 2 Comments »

I am in a weird hybrid browsing situation at the moment. I have Firefox running as my Firebug client. WebKit nightly gets downloaded every day, and it is my general browser of choice due to its speed. I have also experimented with Opera, and I have to say I am quite impressed there too.

The real shame is that although WebKit is fast, I still prefer the Firefox experience. I would love to see a world that conjoined Firefox the browser with WebKit the renderer and Tamarin/other super duper JavaScript VM for long living apps.

What do I prefer about Firefox as a browser?

  • Tab implementation: I am a keyboard user. That doesn’t mean that I am disabled as Apple seems to claim all over their documentation. The way I navigate tabs is via Apple-NUMBER. I load up windows with tabs with constant order. I know that Apple-1 is my email on “that” kind of window. I also jump to the end for Apple-9. I never iterate through my tabs, as I have to do when I am in WebKit/Safari via Apple-[ / Apple-]. This seems like such a small thing, but I really miss it.
  • Greasemonkey: Using Gmail without Mihai’s scripts is painful. The same goes for the subtle little tweaks that I have made on other sites. I miss not having “my Web”.
  • The toolbar add-on is fantastic. Using Safari bookmarks again? Ugh.
  • AdBlock: Nuff said.
  • Misc: There are other tiny random add-ons that I like.

I know that you can get some features via Safari add-ons such as Stand, but I have never found quite the same feel.

Although many are moving to Safari for its speed, it is still lacking in features, so Mozilla has room to maneuver. Apple also seems to really dislike keyboard shortcuts which drives me nuts.

What if Mozilla started a new browser project to do experiments? Zoomable UI, Vertical tabs, and totally rethink the browser as we know it.

Nov 17

Ben Galbraith and the Hindu Meal

British, Personal, Travel with tags: , , , 5 Comments »

“You see $1800? I see $800!”

That is what I said to Ben as we were looking at flights to London for our trip to @mediaAjax. I am writing this on the flight itself as I look over Greenland. Only 5 hours to go! :/

It showed just how bizarre the pricing of flights can be. I taught a bit at Sabre, which gave me an appreciation of why that may be the case. One of the classes was so poorly managed that we ended up having to take equipment out of a closet, and installed desks and computers (they had double booked the training room and this was the best they could do).

Anyway, a difference of more then 100% for exactly the same flight? This lead to me booking the flight for Ben and put me in the position. Ben was giving me his info as I filled out the forms on, but then a drop down shone like a beacon into my eyes.


Oh man, the prank was here. I took a look at the list which is surprisingly large. I had to get the right balance here. “Gluten free” would result in some paste that would be inedible (not that plane food is ever gourmet. I had the salad). Kosher? nah. Then it came: Hindu. This was a safe bet as it would just be vegetarian, which is probably one of the better options. I selected it and tried so hard not to crack up as we went down the list setting it all up. All I could think of was the site of a flight attendant walking up to Ben and saying:

stewardess from the 60s: “Mr. Galbraith, we have your special meal”
Ben: “Erm, huh?”
sft60s: “Yes sir, your Hindu meal”

I have been so proud of myself, and today the time was here! But, it all went arse backwards as Ben changed his earlier flight to the Bay to “spend more time with the family” (goody two shoes) and cocked up the times. This meant that he had no way to connect and had to get on another flight. I feel gipped. Next time, Mr. Galbraith.

Nov 16

Leopard Update Saved My Marriage

Apple with tags: , , No Comments »

You are always happy to see the first .1 release after a major bump in version. I was crossing my fingers for one fix.

My problem was that I Leopardized Emily’s machine, and for her the upgrade was bad. Everything worked great apart from one thing. When she booted into Scrabulous the fonts were messed up so she couldn’t see the scores and such. Since Scrabulous is her main usage on the computer, I was in the dog house.

“Fix it!”

Luckily with 10.5.1, it was fixed. Phew. Her scrabble games can continue!

Nov 15

A lean, mean, Wombat

Tech with tags: , , 4 Comments »

Brian McCallister gave a talk on mod_wombat at ApacheCon:

I got really tired of cases where apache comes >< close to exactly what I want. mod_rewrite not enough, mod_perl too… heavy and perlish, mod_ruby… no threads, mod_python, GiL and HUGE memory footprint. Need a really small, actual language, which you can do little, fast, efficient modules in.

Often slides are useless unless you are there, but Brian has annotated his nicely. I just got told that a recent deck of mine was very “Eno”, and definitely made no sense at all. It would be kinda fun to have done slideshow karaoke with that deck.

Oh, and Brian would use Lua wouldn’t he :)

Nov 12

Happy Birthday to Android and

Android, Google, Java, Mobile, Open Source, Tech, iPhone 3 Comments »

devphone launch

Congratulations to Bob, Cedric, Romain, and the many many engineers that worked on Android.

Today the Android SDK was released, and along with it a raft of video content and documentation.

For all intents and purposes for developers Android == the SDK right now (until killer phones ship in short order). The development experience for Java programmers will be a dream, and I really like the architecture. They have really learned that declarative markup for UI is a Good Thing &tm;.

If you want to get a high level look at what this is about, I would start off by seeing what the phone can do:

Then, if you want to write some code, start by watching Dan build a simple application on Android and then delve deep into the Androidology that shows you the full architecture. Learn what .dex files are. See how cool Intents are. Check out the markup. phones are decent now

I am really excited to see the bar being pushed by Apple, Google, and other players out there. You know that when the iPhone came out, Nokia had a lot of meetings and engineers got a better budget for doing innovative processes on their phones. With Android pushing the bar too, in a different way, I think that we can safely say that the phone that we hold in a year or two is going to be amazing.

I am quite astounded at how little Emily uses her laptop since she got an iPhone (apart from Scrabulous. She uses her laptop for her scrabble addiction.). You can see the future today by visiting Europe and Asia. Ben and I were so excited about this, that we went looking for a community to rally this excitement, kinda like Ajaxian for mobile. We were surprised that we couldn’t find it. It seems like most developers hang out in the forums and such of the various platforms. Since we are interested in development that transcends one implementation, we decided to start devphone as a place to throw all of the ideas into. It just launched and is very raw, so who knows what will come of it. Check out our welcome, an interview with Joe Hewitt, and subscribe to the feed