The odd bit

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

The odd bit - Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

Interesting browser stats

I just checked the browser stats for this blog and there are some interesting facts to gather from the data. Just so you know, the data is based on the past month (Aug 23 – Sep 22).

The first one is not really a surprise to me because this blog has a higher chance of attracting a more technical crowd that the average site. The number one spot is clinched by Firefox with 52.18%. Second place then of course goes to Internet Explorer with 33.88%. If I take the same browsers combined with the operating system, I end up with the following list:

  1. Firefox / Windows: 39.74%
  2. IE / Windows: 33.88%
  3. Firefox / Linux: 9.71%

Conclusion: Firefox is the leading browser on this blog on all major operating systems (Mac is further down the list with 2.74%) and thus also overall.

But what really surprised me was the browser that clinched the number 3 spot overall. My guess would’ve been Opera and while it did come close, it was just beaten by Google Chrome. I guess this shows what a strong brand name can do. I’m curious to see how Chrome’s percentage will evolve.

For the record: Safari came in fifth.

Farewell eZ Publish

It is with great sadness, and a bit of anger, that I’m writing this post but today is the day that we have officially lost the fight for a future with eZ Publish.

It all started in 2002 with the 2.2 version of the package. We shifted to the 3.x series as soon as the very first alphas became available and continued to walk the enlightened path across all of the 3.x releases. The shift to PHP 5 and thus eZ Publish 4.0 also unleashed the power of the eZ Components and it only happened in early spring of this year.

We knew the day of doom would be coming despite our attempts to enlighten others. The only thing we managed to accomplish was to delay the decision by nearly two years. I would happely accept it if we were going to something superior, but the only reason why we have to switch is because “it is not .NET”. That’s just sad…

So I’ll take this opportunity to thank eZ Systems for their great product and let’s not forget the wonderful community. I’ll continue to monitor the project to see where it’s heading, but that will be about it.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the replacement for eZ Publish, our CMS future is now called Sitecore.

So long and thanks for the fish!

F1 Belgian GP: Petition against FIA decision

The Belgian F1 grand prix ended with a spectacle. Slight rain turned the race into a gliding party and a historic fight for 1st place started. Hamilton (McLaren) passed Räikkönnen (Ferrari) who later crashed into the wall and Hamilton won the race… until FIA came into action.

Just before overtaking Räikkönen in La Source, Hamilton had little choice but to cut the last corner of the Bus Stop chicane. By doing that he got in front of Räikkönnen so he let him pass again. The traction of the Ferrari on the wet surface was awful, but when they both passed the start/finish line, Hamilton was driving nearly 7 kph slower than Räikkönnen. Hamilton got behind him again and passed him in the next corner where the Ferrari was again very slow.

Two hours after the race, FIA stewards decided Hamilton had gained an advantage by cutting the corner and gave him a drive-through penalty. That’s a bit silly after a race so it was converted into a 25 second penalty, putting Hamilton third in the race’s rankings.

I have read the Formula One Sporting Regulations and the FIA International Sporting Code with special attention for the two rules quoted in the official press release, but those rules say nothing more than “you must use the track”. The so called “gaining an advantage” is never explained or declared and the rules are absolutely void of any regulations about what should be done to normalise the situation again.

The decision has once again fueled the discussion about FIA being biased in favour of Ferrari and several important people in the F1 have now said what a big part of the public has been thinking for years. In any case, such decisions are the exact opposite of what the sport needs. An online petition has been started to try to convince the FIA to revert the decision. Will it help? Probably not, but not trying won’t help at all.

Do you want to sign the petition? Just click here. I already did!

The quest for a PHP editor

I’ve had a hate-and-love relationship with a few editors over the past few years, but I’ve never found one that I truly love. Some look promising in the beginning but after some time I really get tired of their limitations.

I thought I had settled with Eclipse (with PDT) because it’s the best I’ve used, but the software update messes up so often it’s not funny anymore. That and those pesky “builders” that keep flagging stuff as errors in places where they’re absolutely useless. So with Eclipse rapidly losing credit I started a new search… without any results so far.

Perhaps my requirements are too steep, but Visual Studio [1] manages to combine them so I don’t think they’re too far-fetched. What I want in a PHP editor (or rather IDE):

  • Projects instead of loose files (think of: Visual Studio solutions or Eclipse projects).
  • Smart intellisense (not just autocomplete, it should be able to parse the project and recognize custom classes – Visual Studio is the reference here).
  • Handle whitespace properly (tabs to spaces, clear trailing whitespace per line, clear empty lines).
  • Formatting (with bonus points if I can configure my own set of rules).
  • A non-cluttered modern interface.

Extra bonus points are awarded to IDEs that can perform small “design-time” checks (e.g. unreachable code, non-returning branch, unused variables, …) and have a couple of refactoring functions/shortcuts (to name two: rename variable/method and implement interface).

So if there’s anyone who knows about a little gem for PHP development, please let me know. Oh, and don’t make me beg 😉

[1]: No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. Visual Studio is actually a Microsoft product that I like. It’s simply the best IDE in my very humble opinion.

MOSS 2007: laugh or cry?

When Microsoft released Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) 2007, it was touted as The Next Big Thing™ for enterprises. And that’s where the good news ends…

This piece of software has so many issues I don’t even know where to start. My first encounter with it was when I had to evaluate the web content management features of the product. That evaluation period lasted about a week, but was stretched to a month just for the sake of it. When coming from something like eZ Publish, it felt like I had done some time travelling all the way back to the Stone Age [1].

A remarkable feat that Microsoft managed to pull was to release an anti-developer product. My career is still pretty short, but it was the first time that I encountered a piece of software that was set on making a developer’s life as hard as possible.

After the dust had settled and a couple of holidays had joined other historical facts, it was time for the second encounter. The idea was to give the collaboration features of MOSS 2007 a test run. So my colleagues and I clicked around when we suddenly noticed the “My site” link. A harmless link [2] to a personal site… until we (= 3 persons at that time) managed to click at the same time: one arrived at the personal site, one got an error but managed to proceed and the other one got an error and another one when trying to proceed. Guess which one was me… I was told it was caused by the speed of the network connection. Makes sense? Not to me.

The security settings regularly start leading their own life causing all sites to go down, file uploads went wrong and blocked all edit actions on document lists, etc. These are just a couple of things, but I could go on for quite a while. It’s at a point where I don’t know whether to laugh when it goes wrong or to cry with the fact Microsoft managed to produce such a nightmare.

[1]: I know there were no computers back then, but let’s forget that little detail so I can make my point 😉

[2]: Or so it seemed…

Ubuntu? No thanks

It’s probably the most popular Linux distribution for home use now, but Ubuntu just isn’t my cup of tea.

I’m sure it’s pretty nice if you only need desktop features, but it just doesn’t feel right when you want to use it as a server. I usually need a couple of server programs on each operating system I install: at least a web and database server with some PHP glue. Ubuntu aims to make your desktop life in Linux simpler and it does that pretty well. But all those “features” have an adverse effect on the server role.

One of my major annoyances is that you can’t be root. That’s a security feature to prevent people from messing up, but it also prevents easy server administration. You can run things as root by using the sudo command, but it’s not quite the same. You always have to add it in front of the actual command and you also need to provide a password every 5 minutes or so.

A second annoyance is that you’re pretty much in the dark when you’re trying to do more advanced stuff in Ubuntu (read: when there isn’t a GUI for what you want to do). The location of configuration files is a bit weird if you’re coming from a non-Debian distribution so at least some hinting would be nice.

A third annoyance is the crappy “service” configuration GUI, or in other words: which program starts when at startup? The GUI only allows (un)ticking a box and that’s it.

And last but not least, the software versions that are available can’t follow my requirements. Debian stable has e.g. PHP 5.2.0 with some fixes backported from newer PHP 5.2.x releases. New small features of a point release are not backported and version numbers aren’t bumped either. This will cause version checks to fail.

When you go past the GUI, you’re left alone and sudo adds a couple of jumps to make your life a bit harder. Debian, Ubuntu’s big brother, scores better in the server department: you can be root and there’s documented runlevel changes, but it still isn’t ideal.

For some odd reason, I’m far more comfortable running Gentoo. The only disadvantage is that you need to compile practically everything, but that in turn also results in the fastest Linux I’ve ever used because everything is compiled for your machine. But I guess it’s each to his own.

Recommend me a 24 inch monitor

I’m looking for a 24″ monitor, but I just can’t find the one. I’ve been reading tons of reviews during the past few days and that has made things even more complicated.

On one side there are the TN panels. While I’ve been very happy with my current monitor (Iiyama AS4314UT) I can’t get rid of the impression that recent TN panels have a lower quality. The monitors at work seem to confirm that suspicion. The 24″ TN panels currently do not have response time correction (RTC) as can be seen from the specified 5ms response time. The result is that the 5ms as specified by the manufacturer is the most optimistic scenario (black-white-black). Gray-to-gray response times are pathetic.

On the other hand there are the *VA panels. While they should be superior to TNs in terms of image quality, they also have disadvantages. They do have hardware RTC but that hardware can also produce errors (read: it guessed wrong and a pixel gets the wrong colour). Depending on how severe the miss is, you will either see it or not. I haven’t found any monitor yet where you won’t see some errors. The biggest downside of these monitors is the price: they are effing expensive.

There are also S-IPS panels, but their price jumps off the scale.

I’m starting to think it’s still too early for a 24″ screen and that the market is still in the starting blocks. On the other hand I’d like to be proven wrong because I love the space on 1920×1200 screens. So if you have any idea, please leave it in the comments.

PS: Keep in mind that I’m in Belgium so we don’t have the abundance that e.g. Germany has. Example: I’ve heard of Iolair monitors, but I still have to come across a shop that actually sells them.

Exciting times ahead for PC gaming

So it’s been a little over 4 months since the last post, but this place isn’t dead yet… and the same can be said about PC gaming.

We’ve heard all kinds of doom stories concerning gaming on the PC, but I’m sure that good content will sell and the second half of this year is literally filled with exciting titles. I’m currently tracking 28 games and only 4 of those are currently scheduled for a 2009 release. That leaves 24 games that are scheduled for release between the end of August and the end of the year.

For those that don’t know what’s coming, here’s an excerpt from the list of games I’m tracking:

  • Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway
  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberium
  • Crysis Warhead
  • Empire: Total War
  • Far Cry 2
  • Mafia II
  • Pure
  • Quantum of Solace
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla
  • Tom Clancy’s HAWX
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld

Exciting times are ahead, but my wallet doesn’t agree…

Vanden Borre: 10 weeks to deliver a battery and counting

The story starts on December 26, 2007. That’s the day I ordered my new digital camera at Vanden Borre. I got a deal on the camera that included a mini-tripod, a carrying case, a 2 GB memory card and an extra battery. I was quite surprised to get a phone call the next day. My camera had arrived in the shop and I went to pick it up. All the extras were in stock too, except the battery, type Nikon EN-EL5, which was ordered immediately. Mark the date: December 27, 2007.

After two weeks, I went to the shop to inform about the battery. There was no news and I would have to wait. When I asked how long, they couldn’t tell me. In fact, it could still be the same 10 weeks later as far as the staff was concerned.

I contacted their customer support department after five weeks. There was no news coming from the store and the online tracking wasn’t really useful either. They replied they couldn’t do much about it, but they’d query the manufacturer. I received a follow-up message from customer support basically telling me the same thing: no news, keep waiting.

Today is March 11, 2008 and we’re well past the 10 week mark. Guess what? Still no battery! I have bugged customer support once again asking how long this is going to continue. I do know that I’m running out of patience.

10 bloody weeks… I think someone can walk from China to Belgium in that time frame. I’ll definitely think twice before purchasing something else there…

And just in case someone from Nikon reads this, they’re blaming you as manufacturer claiming there are no deliveries. For 10 f***ing weeks?

IE8 defaults to IE8 now

One of my previous posts mentioned that IE8 would default to IE7 standards mode unless web developers would specifically request the new IE8 mode. Well, there’s some good news coming from Redmond.

The IE team announced that they changed the behaviour. IE8 will now use its most standard compliant rendering mode for pages that meet the criteria for standards mode. If you, as web developer, want pages to be rendered using IE7’s standards mode you will have to use the META tag or the corresponding HTTP header. So they did the right thing and made this feature an opt-in feature: you only have to act if you want to use this feature.

I’m glad Microsoft listened to the web developer community and did the right thing. This puts the burden on the developers who don’t want to fix their pages and it might persuade them to update their code if it’s broken in a new IE version.

In other IE8 news, Beta 1 of Microsoft’s newest browser is now available. This is only intended for web developers and designers. If you are a regular user, you should skip this release.