Verizon – Google Droid Review

It’s been about 3 years since I’ve been running with my trusty Blackberry 8830.  I’ve had it replaced once because of the track ball, otherwise it’s been more then solid.  No other blackberry impressed me enough to upgrade in that time.  Besides the lack of a camera the 8830 was great. But like many BB users I’ve longed for the coolness & impressive apps of the iPhone.  BB simply doesn’t stand up in these categories.  Problem is AT&T.  Their network isn’t the best around here & all of my friends & family are on Verizon so my calls are free.  I really didn’t want to switch carries & so I waited for a device on Verizon…and waited…and waited…you get the picture :)

 

Droid Keyboard

It’s soft, not metal-like the 8830. It took me 2 days to get use to but I’m doing pretty good now. Harder to use while driving then the blackberry but give me a few months & I think I’ll improve.

Droid – 7 | BB 9

 

Droid App Store

Awesome, really awesome.  Now I know what all these iphone users are surfing all day, their app store. I’ve (my kids) played games, IM apps, pandora, etc… The only thing is the download part only seems to work with wifi turned off.

Droid 9 | BB 2

 

Droid Battery Life

1.5 days of pretty hard usage with the wifi on.  My BB easily went 2.5 – 3 days.

Droid 6 | BB 9

 

Droid Operating System

You can tell Google made this because, it’s very fast, kinda ugly, & they left some cool debugging apps right in the phone. Search is enabled everywhere in the os & makes it easy to find things, very Windows 7ish.  All & all a much better experience then the BB. 

Droid 8 | BB 5

 

Droid Phone

They got this right.  Interface is simple & fast, clarity is rock solid, & speakers are great.  This is where the BB & iPhone fall down.

Droid 9 | BB 5

 

Droid Web Browser

You get a fast webkit (yeah for standards!) browser.  Zoom in/out & scrolling work great. Only BB users know what a truly bad browser is.

Droid 8 | BB 1

 

Droid Speakers

Again, clarity is rock solid & speakers sound great.

Droid 7 | BB 2

 

Droid Email

No one outdoes BB when it comes to Email & Notifications.  Droid has interesting concept of “notifications task bar” which I’m getting use to.  But BB users will kinda miss this their BB. Droid exchange support is pretty good including synching of calendar & contacts.  You don’t get the Global Address book, though there is an app to do this but it doesn’t integrate fully with the email client.  Gmail users get a first class email experience with basically a full functionality gmail client (labels, stars, filters, etc..)

Droid 7 | BB 9

 

Droid Turn by Turn Directions

Good bye TomTom.  This is as good or better.  You see why Google has been involved with mapping technologies for a long time.

 

Droid Misc Thoughts

Love when you touch it vibrates a little, very nice.

Why micro USB? 

I’ve attended some android sdk & iphone seminars.  I remember my impressions of the android sdk much better then iphone.

 

Droid Final Review

So far I am super impressed with the droid. I give it a 8/10.

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The New IDE

image I’ve been writing a new web application at work lately, very web 2.0 ish with lots of jQuery & ajax calls being made on every page. After doing some performance testing, it’s very apparent that the various browsers fall into 1 of 3 categories, fast, medium, & slow for how fast they render. Chrome & Safari are seriously blazing fast compared to the rest, so much so, I’ve started to dump Firefox for Chrome as my browser of choice. But one major element is stopping me from being a full time chrome users – Debugging.  That’s right, Firefox isn’t a browser to me anymore, it’s a freaking IDE. Firebug for dom and css inspection/manipulation, JavaScript debugging, packet inspection. YSlow & Hammerhead for performance tuning. Colorzilla for design elements. Web developer toolbar for various odds & ends. Fireshoot for screenshot taking.  Yes, I know Chrome & IE ship with dom/css inspection but they don’t measure up to Firebug yet.  Until Chrome can catch up with these plugins, Firefox is still the default browser.

Fast
Chrome, Safari
Medium
IE 8, Firefox 3.5
Slow
IE 7

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Getting Your Education

My friends at Educator.com recently rolled out their new website.  Sufficient to say, they did a great job on the new site design & the content looks very promising.  It’s very interesting to see how their business model will work out, $20 a month or $200 a year subscription. 

With all of the education budget crisis we are seeing in this country, could a system like this help fill the void?  Educator isn’t offering “core” classes, rather advanced Math & Science, in which good teachers are tough to come by & students are of a different nature. Just a thought… 

Some of their courses

Algebra I

Calculus AB

Calculus BC

Java

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Balsamiq Awesomeness

We are building a little something here at work and I needed to throw together a quick UI design before things got heated.  In the past I’ve come across Visio designed application or a mix of visio & photoshop. I found some decent visio stencil sets for web applications but I just wasn’t satisfied with the end result and didn’t want to jump into Photoshop to make things prettier.  I wanted a something simple, that understood I was building a web application, & a low learning curve.  That’s what I found with Balsamiq Mockups.  I highly recommend you give it a try.

 image

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Must Have Software 2008 Edition

Development

FireFox 3 – Extensions have made this my main web development browser.  Too bad it feel clunky now compared to Chrome

FireBug – The best toolkit for any web developer out there.

Web Developer Toolkit – I uses this less and less with Firebug getting the job done 90% of the time.

Better Gmail – Makes gmail go over a SSL connection and also replaces attachment images with a nice icon representation.  I love the new skin, but at last Gmail is too slow on FF, have to use it on Chrome

ColorZilla – A great tool to quickly find the HEX value of anything on any web page.

Visual Studio 2008 – Visual Studio is still the standard for IDE’s.  Of course it could always be faster but it is really nice.

Resharper – Love rescharper, cleans my code as I type.

Microsoft SQL Server – Most .NET projects connect to this so it’s a good idea to have a local copy running

Management Studio – At first I wasn’t a Management Studio fan, give me back the 2000 version of Enterprise Manager and Query Editer.  Nevermind.  Management Studio is double sweet for the price of one.

Notepad++ – My texteditior and most of the time PHP ide of choice.  Fast, simple, customizable, a few nice plugins.  Love the custom color schemes, I go dark.

WinSCP – A free opensource SFTP manager for when you have to work on the nix machines.   FileZilla now does SFTP so I’m sure this is here anymore except it comes with PUTTY and they have a nice integration going.

FileZilla – Free, open source, clean, simple FTP client. Now does SFTP but doesn’t have way to open a terminal session like WinSCP.

Navicat – My preferred mysql manager of choice, although their query interface needs improvement.

CodeIgniter – Loving this PHP MVC framework.  Simpler then cakePHP. I’m building a little something, something in this, more to come on that front.

 IE Tester – A must for web developers.  Test against IE 5 and up all on the same machine.

Surround SCM – Of course my version control software of choice.   Cross platform, really nice GUI, intuitive interface.  Plus integrates on almost all IDEs.

TestTrack Pro – Our bug tracking software.  Great workflow engine.

QA Wizard Pro – Automated testing tool.

BitNami Wamp Stack – PHP development made much easier on windows.

Code Translator – I use to be a vb.net guy, this tools can be life saver.

System

Chrome – Some how this became my default browser of choice in less then 2 weeks.  It’s fast.

iTunes – I use iTunes to manage my podcast listening list.  It does a great job at that.

mRemote – Where would I be with out this terminal services manager.

Office 2007 – The biggest upgrade in Microsoft’s office line in some time.  The ribbon bar is nice and I love how they brought really useful features to the forefront.

Fireworks – Still better then photoshop for web graphics and cutting

Blackberry Manager – For upgrading your firmware on your crackberry and other crackberry tasks.

TweetDeck – Best twitter client I have found

Windows Live Writer – Who knew Microsoft could put out a nice Web 2.0 , errrr, Windows client.  Writing this post in Live writer as we speak…

CCleaner – Free PC crap cleaner.

7Zip – Can handle tar, zip, gz, and other compressed formats,

Foxit – PDF reader software.  Runs so much smaller then Adobe.

FreeRam XP Pro – RAM manager

Process Explorer – Free microsoft add on, this should replace task manager.

SlickRun – Launcher program

CleanMem – Runs in the background to release RAM

UltraMon – essential if you have more then 1 monitor.

Safari for Windows – because I have too

Sites

bloglines – nicer interface then Google Reader

gmail – the standard for web based email

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Amazon has twitterism?

Twitterism – A great web service, but always down, broken, or unavailable.

Amazon has the case of twitterism right now and of course I need to buy something for a graduation party tomorrow.  Amazon must be moving to Ruby on Rails.

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Drupal UI improvement

First of all Drupal administration UI is different, not all bad, but definitely different.  It has a clean look & feel to it but there is not a logical placement of where to edit things, etc… Compared to Joomla UI is doesn’t stack up, but on the good side it actually works much better then Joomla or DotNetNuke (whose admin UI also takes a while to get used to).  Maybe it’ll grow on me or at least I’ll understand their logic.

I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to enable the forums in the navigation section.  I could clearly see where it was disabled but couldn’t for the life of me figure out where to enable it.

Here is the UI of it:

image

Clearly it’s disabled, right?  Turns out although the checkbox looks disabled, in reality to turn it on you are suppose to select it anyway’s. Come on guys, things that look disabled are suppose to act disabled. 

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Dealer.com – Impressed

We recently were in the car market because of a bad transmission on our Toyota Corrolla.  As I was browsing thru the different online car dealers websites, I ran across a few that really impressed me from a tech/geekie view.  These sites were using lightbox for car photos, had some really nice icon work, their search had multiple filters you could apply, real nice rollover effects on their grids, all really good web techniques were being displayed.   I started noticing a trend that these sites were being made from the same mold, not exactly cookie cut, but defiantly produced by the same web shop.  Today I figured out they were all produced from dealer.com

Here is the list of technology they are using to make car sites really nice for once and what other technology they use that I could gleam from their source & site:

  • Thickbox – I’m a big fan of this lightbox cousin.
  • jQuery – You know I love jQuery goodness.
  • Validation – They have their own validation routines that they are able add a <script> tag and plug in an array with fields that need validation.  Not bad but they should look at my javascript generic form validation script which works in a similar way to jQuery.
  • Jive Live for the online chat sessions, although I thought Jive Live was defunct now but maybe not.  Either way I’ll give them a pass for using Java ;)
  • SEO friendly markup.  Not a lot of of table tags and a nice usage of friendly seo markup on important keywords. Although I think they could do a better job on URL, meta tags, and title tags.
  • Icon/Images/Navigation.  They stand out here, text style is pt so it scales to my dpi setting.  Images are clean, navigation is standard (which is good), icons are meaning full and big enough to give a real impression.
  • Ext JS – A really nice framework for AJAX grids and other ajax aspects.
  • Java – Ah, dang I was so impressed until I found this out :) .  Half joking of course.  In a world of dynamics language being the thing, it’s funny how I now feel more comfortable thinking about doing Java then say Ruby or Python.
  • MySQL – Another proof that MySQL scales, although they must have some really good DB guys to put their system on it.
  • CVS – Hey you guys should be using Surround SCM ;)
  • Hibernate – Yes another good choice here.  I’ve never messed with hibernate but ORM is a good thing.
  • Flex – No thanks, would prefer Silverlight

So here is a run down on their architecture and my choice if I was the evil mastermind behind the scene:

  Dealer.com Mine
Javascript Framework jQuery jQuery
Imaging Javascript Thickbox Thickbox
Ajax Framework Ext JS ASP.NET AJAX
Server Side Language Java C#
Database MySQL SQL Server
ORM Hiberate LINQ
Rich Application Framework Flex Silverlight

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Firefox 3 beta 5 mini Review

image Firefox 3 beta 5 is shipping soon or maybe already shipped, either way I got my hands on it today to play around.  It’s much further along then the last 3 beta I tried (2,3?).  Extensions don’t work and never will unless each extension developer updates their stuff to either tell firefox it is compatible or actual code changes to make it happen.  I’m not a fan of the architect of their compatibility system, I think things should try to work and if not let you know an extension broke firefox and let you disable it.  Microsoft Outlook does this very well.

Fast

Firefox 3 beta 5 is silly fast, so much so that I was browsing an internal web app today, thinking, "hey who ajaxified this thing?".  Turns out the web app is still doing traditional post backs but FF is so fast you can’t tell, the screen never "refreshes" only by looking at the green loading indicator at the bottom can you tell.

Gmail has become paininfully slow on FF 2.  With FF 3, the thing is blazing fast again.  You know the FF & Google guys must be working on things together like this. Gmail search is still slow though.

Memory

Better then FF 2 which is a memory hog but still not great, it easily got up to 100 mb after an hour of using (2-3 tabs open at once).

Conclusion

I’d be using this thing as my main browser if my extensions would all work, at last I’m back to FF 2 because I’m tied to my extensions.

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Android Developer Session

Although I have never done any mobile programming I went to the Google Android Developer session at CodeMash anyway.  I wanted to get a peek on how the big Goog was going to market and sell to developers.

I was not disappointed, this was the most educational session I was at.  First of all Android is java based like EJB.  I do not do Java and have no real idea what EJB is.  That being said, this is what I took away from Android.

  • UI – XML layout like XUL, striking similarities to Microsoft Silverlight interface design or vice versa if you want.
  • Should use Eclipse for your IDE
  • Views & Controls terminology is the same i.e. a view is a control and vice versa.
  • No intellisense yet on the xml gui, plus xml is case sensitive
  • Programs can be created as application or as a service.  Services have a longer life span
Overview

Again, I haven’t done any mobile program so correct me if I’m wrong here, but Android seems to function differently then any other mobile OS.  For one, Android programs (including programs you write for Android) never really die.  So when a user clicks close on an application, it still exists, running in the background.  That’s why when you click on the same application it is instantly there, no startup wait or anything.  I know on my Blackberry 8830, programs take a second or two to start up so they can’t be running in the background like Android does.  This makes things much more fluid to the end user.  Android deals with all these applications running by systematically killing applications that haven’t been used in a while and or "learns" the end users tendencies from what apps they use.  Brilliant.  When an app is killed by the OS, the program can see this event happening and can store its current state, file or on SQL Lite, so that when the end user fires this app back up, no data is lost.  One thing is that programmers must put this logic in their app.  Google isn’t Microsoft, they don’t seem to want to hand hold developers thru this.

Another feature Android is pushing is a new messaging system to replace SMS, although SMS will still be included.  SMS is limited to the number of character able to be sent.  This new protocol will have infinite character length.  The reason is Google wants to be able to push XML to the device, similar to how Blackberrys work.  This XML can have specific commands tied to specific applications that can be fired off.  There is a lot of possibility here.

Although I’m certainly not a Java guy (we do have one in the family), Android is something I have to make room in my schedule to whip something together.

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