Gadget Ahoy

OPENXTRA Console Screenshot
I’ve been seeing lots of activity on the Desktop recently. Apple started it all off with their Dashboard built into OSX. All very impressive but hardly of much interest to Microsoft Windows users.

Anyway. Google have brought out a similar system for Windows users called Google Desktop. It has been through a few versions now and it looks pretty good.

As an experiment I thought it would be fun to create a Gadget as the Google Desktop plugins are called. So, that’s exactly what I did 🙂

You can download the result here. You will need Google Desktop first, you can download that here.

The Gadget displays the current readings from the Sensatronics range of network thermometers. Please let me know what you think.

Strictly Fun Dancing with the Falcom Samba 55

Samba 55 Screenshot
Is it just me or does everyone find the Falcom Samba 55 GSM Modem a real pain to set up? Loading the driver is OK, but trying to get the Mobile Phone Tools to install is a struggle.

I tried following the instructions on the CD to load the BVRP Phonetools, it seemed to an obvious place to start! but as George Bush said after the mid term elections, “Shows what I know!“.

I clicked on software when the CD opened up, then on BVRP mobilePhoneTools setup.exe and it appeared to install OK. When I clicked on Install.exe all I got was an error message, Run-time error ’76’ Path not found.

In fact I had to open the CD and click through software\win32.BVRP_SAMBA\Install.exe. Then plug the Samba 55 into a USB port (it’s a good idea to have SIM in it) and then everything works. At this point I even started to read the installation guide, but the software detected the phone and did all the rest itself.

You’ll get the image of a phone on your screen and then you are ready to go.

Give me a boost Boost

I’ve not been programming full time since the end of 2002. Ah, those were the days…strong coffee and err RSI a plenty 🙂

I am just about to embark on a heavy duty bit of programming, likely to last a few intense months. I’ll fill you in about the reason why in another post.

Anyway, I’ve just been having a peek at all of the new C++ goodies and my, haven’t the C++ standards people been busy. I don’t know why, but I am struggling with the new features. It doesn’t seem to matter how many books I read about generic programming, none do a good job explaining the new features.

Take a look at the Boost library. C++ is finally getting a library as high quality and broad in scope as many of the scripting languages like Perl and Python have had for some time. The main problem is the steep learning curve. It would be nice to play around with the various sub-libraries contained inside Boost, but time is always at a premium.

So, what’s the answer. Well, pragmatically I’m going to ignore all of those nice new features. Learning whilst in production mode is one of the more stressful things you can do in programming. Also, the resulting code is rarely of high quality.

As a pragmatic programmer I am going to write the code in a style I already know with a liberal sprinkling of unit tests. That way, I can refactor the code to my hearts content with the firm knowledge that when I break something I will know immediately.

Why selling on the web is hard

We are currently on our fifth full iteration of our website. And when I say iteration, I mean full gut wrenching, throw everything out and do it again iteration. That works out to over one full iteration per year.

We’ve used the simplest e-commerce system you can use, called Mal’s-ecommerce, through a PHP based cart and then eventually to our current system based upon Elastic Path.

Trust me, it’s hard. But, that isn’t the hardest part of e-commerce. The hardest part on the web is trust. Trust is way harder to imbue in your visitors than anything else.

The whole trust issue was reinforced to me yesterday. My sister’s PC got infected with spyware. As the family IT guy I got the call. Of all of the tools to cure the problem, all of the ones I’d heard of didn’t work. So, how can I figure out which of the remaining tools I can trust? Well, you can’t. You just have to guess.

Thankfully I guessed right but I had no real information to go on. The bad ones look just as good as the genuine ones.

How to go about imbuing trust in your website I will leave for another day.