going offline

I’m about to disconnect my PC. Tomorrow the movers will come and take everything away so that means I’m offline for a few weeks. I’ll try to occasionally check some mail. Next post should be from Finland.

Moving time

I’m not much into life logging, I prefer to stick to technology :-). But under the circumstances, I’ll make an exception.

As you may know, I recently got a job as a research engineer at the Nokia Research Center in Helsinki. That means I am going to leave Nijmegen and the Netherlands soon. Soon as in next week. It’s been a bit more than five years since I moved back to NL from Sweden and now I’ll move to Finland. Just like the previous time indefinately, meaning that I’ll move back when I feel like moving back again.

I had my last day at GX last wednesday. Currently I am packing some stuff and tonight there will be drinks at Maxim (a cafe in Nijmegen) for my friends and colleagues. Tomorrow, after the hangover becomes tolerable, I’ll visit my parents in Breda and say hello to my sister. Then Monday the moving people will pack & pick up my stuff and hopefully deliver it to the apartment I will hopefully find real soon after I get to Helsinki, which is on Tuesday.

On a side note, ever since I got the strange idea of moving to Finland I’ve frequently been humming/whistling/etc. the Finland song:

Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I want to be,
Pony trekking or camping,
Or just watching TV.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
It's the country for me.

You're so near to Russia,
So far from Japan,
Quite a long way from Cairo,
Lots of miles from Vietnam.

Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I want to be,
Eating breakfast or dinner,
Or snack lunch in the hall.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
Finland has it all.

You're so sadly neglected
And often ignored,
A poor second to Belgium,
When going abroad.

Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I quite want to be,
Your mountains so lofty,
Your treetops so tall.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
Finland has it all.

All together, Finland fans!
Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I quite want to be,
Your mountains so lofty,
Your treetops so tall.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
Finland has it all.

Finland has it all.

(Monthy Python). Great song.

For those I won’t see anymore: it was nice knowing you and maybe we’ll meet again.

Howto start jEdit

At work I am (in)famous for being responsible for getting jEdit onto everybodies desktop. Despite this everyone uses textpad :-/. These primitive souls are perfectly happy (or ignorant?) not using syntax highlighting, not having their xml validated, not being able to search and replace using regexs, not being able to indent their xml files, not having autocompletion, etc.

Anyway, one of the nastier aspects of jEdit is integrating properly with windows and configuring it. Older versions included a convenient but broken .exe frontend. Newer versions require some manual setup to get going.

First of all, the jvm matters. jEdit runs faster and prettier with jre 1.5. Second of all, select native look and feel unless you really like the shitty java look and feel.

A crucial thing is to provide enough memory AND specify a small enough minimum heapsize. Contrary to the popular belief, java programs are quite efficient. jEdit for example can run with just 10MB of memory heap. Unless of course you open up big files or multiple files in which case you may need more than that. The trick with Java is that you can specify upper and lower limits on the memory heap. The garbage collector will never shrink the heap below the minimum or grow it above the maximum. With jEdit, most of the time you don’t need that much, so specify 10Mb as the minimum. You may need more sometimes though, especially when you are running lots of plugins so specify 256 as the upper limit (probably way more than jEdit will ever use).

Another crucial setting is -reuseview which will allow you to reuse already running jedit windows for opening new files.

Use the following settings for a shortcut:


javaw.exe -Xms10M -Xmx256M
-jar "C:/Program Files/jEdit 4.2/jedit.jar" -reuseview

I also have a nice cygwin shell script to be able to open a file straight into jEdit.


#!/bin/bash
currentpath=`pwd`
javaw -Xms10M -Xmx256M
-jar "c:/Program Files/jEdit 4.2/jedit.jar" -reuseview `cygpath -w $currentpath/$1` &

An ‘open in jedit’ context menu option can be obtained by importing this registry setting (create text file jedit.reg and paste stuff below, save, double click on the file)


Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT*shellOpen with jEdit]

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT*shellOpen with jEditcommand]
@="javaw -Xms40M -Xmx256M -jar \"C:\\Program Files\\jEdit 4.2\\jedit.jar\" -reuseview \"%l\""

Edited as suggested in the comments, wordpress conveniently removes slashes when you save the text :-(.

Update 02-04-2011:

It’s been a while since I wrote this and when I hit my own post accidentally with a Google query, I knew it was time to do a little update. All of the above is still valid as far as I know, except I now use a mac. For a mac, or in fact any linux/unix type installation, there’s a convenient way to start jEdit from a bash function. Just include the line below in your .profile or .bashrc (adjust paths as needed of course):

function jedit() { java -Xms15M -jar /Applications/jEdit.app/Contents/Resources/Java/jedit.jar -reuseview "$@" &}

Update 11-07-2011:

The above line of .profile voodoo is now also available on Gist, the code snippet sharing site on Github.

In search of the One True Layout

A few weeks back when I re-launched my blog in wordpress, I made a few comments about not being interested in working around the many specification and implementation bugs of CSS and make a really nice, spiffy layout for my blog. That’s why you are looking at the (pretty) default template of wordpress.

This article captures my point perfectly:
Introduction – In search of the One True Layout

It describes a solution to a very common layout problem: how to position blocks on the page next to each other. The solution outlined works around several IE bugs. Then when it works they point out to make it do what you really want (like put the whole thing in a containing block), you will need to work around even more bugs, including a few mozilla bugs that surface when you use these workarounds. Oh and the whole thing does not work in Mozilla anyway due to a recently introduced bug that (on trunk) has just been fixed (today!).

That’s why I don’t want to do CSS/HTML based web design anymore. Any reasonably complicated design requires you to either compromise on what you want to achieve or to use a whole series of bug workarounds, stretching the css implementation well beyond its specified/intended behaviour and hoping that next months browser updates won’t break things.

Unacceptable.

CSS is a hopelessly complicated and IMHO deeply flawed standard. Sadly, no alternatives are available.

gmail

Since last year, April the 1st, Google is regularly releasing interesting new products and services. Last year they kicked off with gmail, a free email service with some interesting technical characteristics.

It basically shook up the whole web design community by demonstrating that html+javascript+xmlrpc (a.k.a. AJAX) allows for some nice, interactive applications. It and similar web applications that since have been developed basically show how the next generation of webapplications can and should work.

So gmail uses xmlrpc to implement some interesting things using ajax:

  • Spelling checker
  • Address completion
  • Auto save of new messages
  • Fetching content without refreshing the page

Plus they allow their users to store gigabytes worth of email. The entire collection of email I’ve collected and kept over the past ten years is less than that!

Recently I’ve abandoned thunderbird, which is a nice mail client, and started using gmail for all my things. I find it works very well and includes a number of features that I have not seen elsewhere so far. The most important feature for me is that it groups related messages (and replies) into conversations on one webpage. This allows you to keep track of long running conversations easily and is also very convenient for mailinglists.

Another thing that I like is that the mail sits on a server. It doesn’t matter where I am, I can always access my full mail archive. I’ve been messing with pop based accounts for years. Inevitably you answer some important mail via some webbased account while traveling. Then you need to forward the reply to yourself for archiving, which is error prone and generally forgotten.