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October 2008

Friday, 31 October 2008

I downloaded and installed Ubuntu 8.10 last night. I flattened my test computer (erasing 5 Linux installs) and it installed easily. I haven't done much with the new version yet, but I will, and I will let you all know what I think.


Happy Halloween

If you click on the image below, a large version will come up that you can save and use as wallpaper.


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Thursday, 30 October 2008

It's been a few days since I worked on the home Java program. I will be getting back to it tomorrow. I need to do a sample program to use HSQL, to determine how easy it is to incorporate into a program, and how capable it is. I suspect the program I am working on will need to perform transactions, so that must be tested in HSQL.

I also need to start learning about how to deploy a Java program. With DOS or Windows executables, deployment is fairly simple. With Java, it is much different, since Java is interpreted. You need to not only install the program, but also the run-time interpreter and possibly libraries to support the program.


At work, after testing our Windows installer by doing 27 installs on 9 different Windows systems, I am back to working on a C++ DLL. I don't have much experience in this, but I seem to be the company's 'go-to' guy, so I need to learn how to use a Windows API call in C++ (from a separate MPI.DLL). I really need a good textbook on this, as the help I have found on the Internet is pathetic.


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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Well, I survived the doctor's appointment. But my left forearm feels like someone cut out a rectangular piece of skin, then stitched the long edges of the rectangle back together again. Oh, wait...that's exactly what the doctor DID do. Needless to say, I didn't get much accomplished last night.


When I read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother back in May, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to get a hardcover version of it. I ordered one from Amazon the other day and it arrived yesterday. Yet another reason for me not to do stuff I should be doing.


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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

I've been assigned to upgrade a log file reader at work. The reader in question monitors the Windows event logs on the machine on which it is installed. My boss wants it to be able to monitor those logs on a remote machine.

In principle, that is a fairly easy task. I discovered that the Windows API function being used has an argument that, if assigned NULL, will monitor the local machine. If the argument is assigned a computer address, it will monitor that machine instead. Except for one little thing - security. I have modified the program(s) for this, and I am connecting to the remote machine. I am getting back a "can't read the file" indication, and that is because the remote machine needs to know I am authorized to look at those logs. So I need to add authorization to the code.

To top all this off, the reader consists of a normal Java log reader which calls a C++ DLL, which calls a Delphi DLL. I needed to modify both the Java and C++ programs to get the new functionality to work. And C++ is probably my least favorite modern computer language. I will soldier on, though. After my doctor's appointment this morning.


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Monday, 27 October 2008

I looked for graphical editor plugins for Eclipse, the Java IDE that I use, over the weekend. I found two, installed them and can't figure out how to use them. It would help if they had instructions.

In the meantime, I added two more dialogs to the program. I think I have about four or five more to do and I will then have to do some real programming. The business rules are going to be a barrel of fun. Oh yeah, I have to check HSQL, too.


My last gas fill up was a couple of weeks ago, and I paid $2.84 a gallon. I filled up again on Saturday, and I paid $2.44! 40 cents in two weeks? Since we were paying $4.00 a gallon when oil was $140 a barrel, why are we still paying more than $2.00 a gallon when oil is now $70 a barrel? There's no price-gouging, oh no.


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Friday, 24 October 2008

I went searching for HSQL last night, so I could evaluate it for the program I am working on. I started in Ubuntu's Synaptic package manager, and searched for HSQL. It listed an HSQL server and I highlighted it to read the description. It's a good thing I did that instead of just installing it as the description also stated "More commonly, HSQLDB is used as an embedded database engine, which does not require this package."

So I scrolled down the list some more and found libhsqldb-java, which is the library for use with Java. And I also found it had already been installed. So I selected the documentation for installation and left it at that. I will be looking at this package in the very near future, as I am rapidly running out of dialogs to create and will have to work on the business rules soon.


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Thursday, 23 October 2008

I picked up my Dodge last night and spent some time cleaning it up. As far as I know, it is now completely operational. Turn signals and wipers work, and it no longer sounds like it has no muffler at all. I will be putting snow tires on it, probably on next Friday, as I have taken that day off. In the meantime, I will drive it to work today to make sure everything is working okay.


I have been re-reading David Weber's Honor Harrington series. I started with the first book I had, which was actually the third book in the series. I finished the fifth book in the series the other day, and was wondering how to get the books I don't have. Then I realized I have the entire series on a CD that came with the 'War of Honor' book. So I started reading 'On Basilisk Station' last night on my workstation. I should put the files on my EEE PC, so I can carry them around like a regular book. I read just about everywhere, but you are limited to one place when what you are reading is on a workstation.


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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

I created yet another dialog last night. They go a lot slower when you can't design them graphically. This one was very simple, though - 11 text boxes and three buttons. There will be some business logic behind them that I will be writing later.

I had planned to use mySQL as the DBMS for this project, but a co-worker suggested I look at HSQLD. That is a Java-based database management system that implements most of the SQL standards. The attractive part of this is that it can be deployed right along with the program itself, instead of requiring that the DBMS be installed before (and separately) installing the program. If I decide to port the program to be browser-based, I can always switch to mySQL.

It's called HSQLD because it is based on the Hypersonic SQL Project, which was closed source. HSQLD is open source.


Betty Zirkle had a birthday last week. A belated happy birthday, Betty.


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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

I tweaked the date spinner model I was using in my program and put it in another dialog, where it became a time spinner. Just like the Windows Set Date/Time dialog. And all it took to do that was changing one simple format mask.

I also added another dialog with a two-tabbed pane. It was much simpler to do this the second time around, since I knew exactly what I had to do. I have now done 11 dialogs and I probably have about that many to go. Still no business logic, though.

I am also looking into using JXLoginDialog in place of the first dialog I created. That is not a straightforward thing to do, though. I will have to read the documentation closely to figure out how to use that. And try to find an example on the Net that isn't totally stupid or wrong.


For the normality challenged in the crowd: check out Ray Villafane's pumpkin carvings. And also check out 25 inspirational pumpkin carvings.


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Monday, 20 October 2008

I spent six hours on Saturday doing Dutch oven cooking in the park in Rathdrum. We (the North Idaho Dutch Oven Group) supplied dinner for the ladies of the Libby (Montana) Quilting Society. They had fried chicken, sourdough biscuits, jalapeño potatoes, German chocolate cherry cake and pineapple upside-down cake. They finished it all off, so that meant very little cleanup for us. The only problem we encountered was the lack of lighting, so we had to make do with gas lanterns. Someone stole the good lights in the Rathdrum park facility. Probably for their grow-light facility.


I got more done on the program I am writing at home. I learned how to use a spinner control to do a multi-part spin up/down, just like the one in the Windows date/time dialog used to adjust the time. I also learned how to do multiple tabbed panels in a dialog. I have come to the conclusion that the Swing library for Java may be lower level than I am used to, but that allows you to be more creative with your solutions.


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Friday, 17 October 2008

I didn't get anything done last night, as I was attending the monthly meeting of the North Idaho Mineral Club. The program was about agates, so I stuck around for almost the whole thing. I was amazed at the variety of agates I have not yet seen in person.


Before I went to the meeting, I stopped in a restaurant in Post Falls to have dinner. I took my EEE PC inside with me, hoping I could cruise the Net while I ate. There was only one open connection, but it was far too weak to hook into. When I mentioned this to one of the employees, he asked "Is that (open connection) legal?" The powers that be who insist that everything must be owned and locked down seem to be winning.


I'm sitting here writing this blog, while I am using a Windows program on another computer to download podcasts. Imagine my disgust when the Windows machine decides to reboot itself in the middle of the download. This is not the first time, or the first Windows computer, to do this to me. If I have anything to say about it, it will be the last, though.


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Thursday, 16 October 2008

After I commented about other Java toolkits being easier and faster to use than Swing, I decided maybe I better find out more about the actual state of the toolkits out there. I googled Java toolkits and found several. Some of them were in an unknown state. Some were being used but were more primitive than I would like. And some look really good, but I don't know how easy they would be to use.

wxWidgets is a cross-platform GUI and tools library. It appears to work well, but the look and feel of the results reminds me of Windows 95. I looked no further than the surface.

On the other hand, Java Jambi is also a GUI and tools library. It wraps the Trolltech QT library and the results are spectacular. The nice thing about this library is it can use the QT Designer program to allow you to visually lay out your dialogs. If I had the time, I would look into this one further. Instead, I will get back to the dialog design using Swing tools.


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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

I mentioned yesterday that it involved more work in Java to display an image than it did in Delphi or C#. That's true, if you are using the original Swing toolkit, like I am. Apparently, other toolkits allow you to do all the dialog layout more easily. I will stick to Swing, as I now have done 7 dialogs with it. That was a lot of work, which I don't want to repeat.

I discovered how to load an image into the window. So now we have a file object used by an image object used by a jximagepanel, which is just about what I did for the list boxes.


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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

There is a fundamental difference between Java visual components and visual components for Delphi or C#. The Java components are implemented at a much lower level than the components for other languages.

I can explain what that means by example: a list box in Delphi and a list box in Java. In Delphi, you create the list box in your window and you can add or remove items from it at that point. All that is needed is the box itself. If you want to have a scrollbar for the box, that's included, and the scrollbar is displayed automatically when the number of list items exceeds the visual space for them. the container that holds the list lines is included, too.

In Java, you create a list box by first creating a DefaultListModel object to hold the list box lines. You then create a JList object using the DefaultListModel object. This is the actual list box. Then, if you want a scrollbar, you create a JScrollPanel object using the JList object. The JScrollPanel object is the thing that gets displayed. As you add more items to the DefaultListModel object, when the number of objects exceeds the capability of the JList object to visually display them, the JScrollPanel object will automatically display a scrollbar.

As you can see, there is a lot more work involved in doing list boxes in Java than doing them in Delphi. I could create a Java ListBox class that would mimic the behavior of the Delphi class, but why should I have to do that? It perplexes me.

List boxes aren't the only components that are implemented on a lower level. Graphic images exhibit that behavior, too. I still haven't figured out how to actually load an image from a local file into the Image object that resides in the JXImagePanel object. I'll figure it out, though. I've got the rest of this stuff working.


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Monday, 13 October 2008

We had a good Linux users group meeting on Saturday. Rod Anderson gave a talk on command line utilities - how to find things. Not just finding files, either. It was very interesting and informative. Next month, we plan to talk about the Gnome and KDE desktops; how they are different and how they are the same. A talk about how to customize the bootloader is also in the wings.


I spent all of Sunday working on my program. I just got involved in it and the time flew by. I only added one more dialog to the program, but I also hooked up much of the dialog functionality on the dialogs. For instance, if a dialog allows you to enter information in several text boxes and then click on the Add button to add that information to a list box, that functionality is now working. There is still no underlying business rule functionality, though.

The only thing I didn't get working was a component I snagged off the Internet that will allow editing of times. The component works fine as a standalone program (it has its own main method), but when I add it as a class to one of my dialogs, it always throws an exception. I may have to have someone at work who is more experienced in Java GUI help me debug the component.


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Friday, 10 October 2008

The North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting is tomorrow. Every time I get a spam email with an attachment, I think "This can't hurt me, because I'm using Linux." I do everything with Linux I ever did with Windows, and more. If you are tired of paying through the nose for your software, or just want to get off the adware, spyware, trojan, virus wagon, you should come to our meeting and find out about the solution to all those problems.

End of partisan rant.


I needed a couple of extra visual components for the program I am writing at home, so I went to SwingLabs and downloaded their SwingX package. Java doesn't have much in the way of visual support for things like calendars and time, so this is the best way to get some support. I need to read the docs on how to use the components and then add them to the dialogs I am doing. Easy as pie, eh?


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Thursday, 9 October 2008

The shop has just about finished working on my Dodge. It turns out that the exhaust manifold was not the part that had a hole in it. It was the pipe that the exhaust manifolds hook into that had a problem. They are also fixing a couple of other small things. I expect that they will be finished today or tomorrow.


The log program I was working on at work is finally finished. What a comedy of errors. It went from a single HTTPS stream to two streams to two threads with a stream each to one thread with two streams to one stream in one thread. That was basically the externals; the internal changes are what caused all the external changes.


I don't know why my web host chooses to perform maintenance on the server that hosts my web site at 6am PDT, but they do. I had to delay posting this until I got to work, to give them a chance to finish up.


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Wednesday, 8 October 2008

I added another dialog window to my program last night. I am doing these on a simple to complex basis. The first was the About box, with only an Ok button. The second was the Login dialog, with two text boxes and two buttons. The third is very complex compared to the first two. It has three buttons, nine combo boxes and five list boxes. It looks pretty good, though.

I have probably spouted enough on this program. I will continue to develop it, but will only mention when I have a difficult problem or some other interesting event takes place.


The North Idaho Linux Users Group meeting is this Saturday. Since I posted a notice on the web site, and announced there would be no formal program, someone in the mailing list has asked if there is a formal program. No, there isn't.

We really need a program director to arrange formal presentations. That might stimulate interest in the group. Currently, the only interest is in how to install and getting help after installing.


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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

I solved my final big problem with the user interface of my program last night. The dialogs were being properly displayed in the program, but they were always positioned in the upper left corner of the screen. I have figured out how to keep them on top of the main program window, which is where they should be. Next, I will be doing a lot more dialog windows. That will be tough because I am doing them without a graphical editor.


There is one more Dutch oven event scheduled for the year. We will be feeding a bus load of people, The Quilting Society from Libby, Montana, on October 18th in Rathdrum. Since I stayed away from the last event on purpose, I felt I needed to be present for this one.


Sarah Palin got an award. Check the bottom of this entry. Note: It isn't very flattering.


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I just had to share this with you:

Monday, 6 October 2008

I added more to the Java program I am working on at home. I added a login screen and I finally figured out why the menu system events weren't being processed. Newer versions of Java apparently do menu events a bit differently. I looked all over the Net for examples of how to do it, and most of them showed it was done the way I was doing it in the first place. I finally looked at O'Reilly books and found an excerpt from a book that showed the new method. I did it that way and all the menu system suddenly started working. If I can dig up the title of the book the excerpt was from, I may pick it up.

I will have to order the book online, as it certainly isn't in any store around here. I went to Borders and Hastings on Sunday, looking for books on Java Swing. There were no books on Java, much less on Swing. Way to go, guys. It's no wonder I order most of my books on the Net.


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Friday, 3 October 2008

I looked at the code created when I did the menu system for my project and decided it was way too long. So I put some of the strings and integers in arrays, then used some 'for' loops to do the work. I think I may have reduced the amount of code by about half. So now I can get on to the rest of the program. After the mouse and key processing and the graphic, I will add a window to take care of database setup.


I actually have no events scheduled for this weekend. So I will be doing more preparation for the upcoming winter. There is plenty to do, so I won't be bored.

I haven't heard anything from the shop about how they are doing on my Dodge. I guess they haven't had a chance to look at it.


Amazing! I filled up my car a couple of weeks ago and at that time unleaded was $3.53 at Costco. I filled up again on Thursday morning and the price had gone down to $3.36. Then Thursday afternoon as I was driving home from work, I went past a station that was advertising $3.29. That means Costco must be down to about $3.27, at least. Nine cents in one day, and the wrong way for the benefit of the oil companies! Next, I will be seeing a flying pig....


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Thursday, 2 October 2008

I started work on the program I am writing at home. I have created the main window and added all the menu items to the window. Next is to add key and mouse processing to the menu and add a graphic to the main window.

I am doing all this without a graphical editor, so that will take a certain amount of visual tuning. I will have to add a visual element, then compile and run the code to see what it looks like. Are we having fun, yet?


I put my LPI certification book up on BookMooch and it was snapped up in one day. I did that because I had purchased the second edition of the book from BookPool. I received it yesterday. The book is at least twice as thick as the first edition. I started reading the thing last night, and learned that the Linux certification exams expect you to know about a computer's BIOS, as well as hardware and Linux. Interesting reading, though.


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Wednesday, 1 October 2008

I am still working on that log reader. The QA person keeps finding little problems with it. Considering its complexity, I'm surprised he hasn't found more problems.


I will be using Java to write the application I have in mind. I have already determined I have the proper tools and libraries to create a GUI application with Java that connects to a database. It will be a lot of code, and Eclipse doesn't have a graphical editor like Delphi or Visual Studio, but I may be able to work around that. I also have NetBeans and it does have a graphical editor. Hopefully, I can view the graphical classes I create in Eclipse with the NetBeans editor.


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