Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Best Python IDE for MacOS

eclipse.pngI keep coming back to TextMate, not because it does anything intelligent with my python code but just because it's fast and simple. For some reason the speed of the text editor makes a big difference to usability.

For the past few years I've purchased Komodo IDE which has great features but the editor is infuriatingly sluggish, to the extent that often when I try to select some text it misses the beginning of my selection or fouls it up in some way. With every update I hope they'll have addressed this and I'm not alone in being frustrated by the editor.

It's time to look again at Eclipse and the news is good. The widgets (SWT) have been ported to Cocoa and this means that in the latest release, 1.5, no Carbon is required and I understand this means the future is bright for Mac users upgrading to Snow Leopard in August.

Starting with the "classic" download I then add update sources for PyDev, Subclipse for Subversion, and jseclipse for Javascript.

PyDev also supports Google App Engine projects which will be interesting to try out.

Battery.pngEclipse "Galileo", version 3.5, looks really great and runs very snappily on my lovely new laptop.

BBEdit is my choice for manipulating large text files, TextMate quickly became a favourite and I look forward to what ever Allan Odgarrd is up to with version 2, but until then I'll live in Eclipse for a while.

It's a great time to be a developer working on the Mac platform.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

LED lighting for the computer desk

star light.jpgA few years back we made the mistake of replacing the ugly track lights in the house with halogen lights in the ceilings.

These lights are inefficient, don't last long and punch holes in the ceiling causing air to leak to and from the roof space.

Friend Gerald is studying energy efficiency and got me inspired to look at improved lighting for home.

This morning I went out after minimal research and purchased six of these Cree LED star light modules and a 700mA constant current power unit that takes a 12V rail (which I have here on hand) and regulates the current for the lights.

light bar.JPG

I screwed them all to an aluminium bar which helps to dissipate some heat and of course wired them in series.

computer light.jpgThey are blindingly bright to look directly at, but overall probably put out as much light as a 40W incandescent bulb. This unpleasant dazzling effect is no doubt because they are such point sources compared to a bulb, they really need a diffuser.

Judging by how hard my 1A meter bashed I'm guessing it's pulling about 1.5 to 2A at 12V so that's up to 24W. Just guessing.

The arrangement I've constructed places them behind my computer screen pointing up to the ceiling.

Overall the effect is quite pleasant and provides light around the computer screen with no glare. Here's how the ceiling looks.

ceiling light.jpg

These LEDs cost $20 each, not cheap, the power regulator was $25. Looking at the specs now, I see that I'm driving these LEDs beyond their rated current so I guess their life will be short. The aluminium bar is getting hot.

My guess is that about 20 of these devices would provide reasonable illumination for a work desk.

Making beef jerky at home

jerkyOff.jpgA few of my more amusing workmates last week held a "jerky off" where they brought in home made beef jerky flavoured in different ways and we tasted them all.

I've tried to make jerky at home in the oven but it wasn't very successful and no doubt burnt a lot of electricity.

The secret is to get a food dehydrator. I paid $54 (plus $20 postage) for one on eBay and it arrived promptly.

It's a nifty device with a fan forced heater in the bottom that blows hot air up through the drying racks so that it exits via little vents in the lid.


Bought some beef stir fry strips, nothing special and a bottle of honey soy marinade and left the beef to marinate in the fridge over night.

In to the dehydrator first thing in the morning and six hours later we gobbled up excellent beef jerky. This thing will pay for itself after about ten batches I figure.

home jerky.jpg

The only drawback is the mess to clean up afterwards. I think next time I'll put aluminium foil at the bottom of the dryer.

That dried marinade cooked on to the base is hard to remove.

Spurred on by this initial success, my daughter has now made dried apple:


and yummy dried banana:


Django 1.1 please finish it

hdr_logo.gifFor the past few months I've been re-writing a PHP application in Django.

The PHP application was built on a framework called CodeIgniter which looks very good shares many similarities with Django but the stuff that Django gives me "for free" is great. I personally prefer Python to PHP which helps of course.

As we move through UAT towards production I've been anxiously tracking the progress of version 1.1. Today the outstanding bug list is down to three. (And one seems pretty trivial).

The main feature I'm itching for is aggregate functions in the ORM, the other is the ability to do actions to multiple objects in admin - like delete multiple.

Yes, I could install the latest from Subversion but that's not a good thing for future support, mind you we all ran version 0.96 for ages.

Keep up the great work Django developers, and how about another podcast?

Friday, June 19, 2009

iPhone Tethering on Telstra

Internet Tethering.jpgCan't believe I've lived without this until now.

I'm on Telstra and just as an experiment took the iPhone browser here and clicked the APN link for telstra.iph (which for me mistakenly reported it would use telstra.internet).

Went to Settings, General, Network and there is was.

Unplugged my desktop computer's ethernet cable, plugged the iPhone in via USB and a new network alert was shown.

Picture 3.png

On the Mac, all was smooth sailing.


Works great, seems very fast and low latency (under 130ms to ping Australian sites).

This is a fantastic feature and I can understand the carriers wanting to charge extra for it but how can they justify it? We pay for the data on the phone anyhow but for some reason they feel that if we use that data in one way we pay more than if we use it in another way. What possible justification can there be?

I'm not alone in this view.

Carriers - don't try to limit this! You'll make more money and be able to upgrade your networks if you step up and just meet this pent up demand.

Early indications are that if Apple really wants to block this re-configuration they are going to have to work very hard in the hacking arms race.

Having tried it, and thought about the use, a phone that tethers is infinitely superior to one that doesn't.

Great stuff Apple, I hope that all phones will follow suit.


You can load settings with tether enabled for many carriers around the world, including Telstra here. You open this page on your phone by the way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

For our Tibetan readers...

IMG_2069.JPGWe do a little podcasting around here. Just launched is a series designed to help Tibetans moving to Australia to learn some English. It's called Tibetans Talk English.

This new site is the companion to the previous series which helps English speakers learn a bit of Tibetan, called Talk Tibetan.

It was a surprise to me that there are hundreds of Tibetans living around Dee Why at Sydney's Northern Beaches.

The podcasts are constructed in GarageBand with fine audio editing in Sound Studio.


The ABC's 360 documentary series had a wonderful show on Tibetans in Dee Why including co-presenter Dorgee.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Journalism changed tonight

I've been listening to Dave Winer and Jay Rosen talking about rebooting the news so I'm primed for this.

As I write it seems that the election in Iran is out of step with the will of the people but the story has come out, not in the traditional media, but via "process journalism", where the story evolves in real time rather than being presented as the full story at the end.

Picture 1.png

Despite the fact that the mobile phone network was either deliberately disabled to prevent SMSs or quite possibly overwhelmed, news is coming out on Twitter and YouTube.

The Daily Show's story on the New York Times last week was very timely. One thing the Times said was along the lines of "the Huffington post doesn't have international bureaux.." and yet tonight we see that they have the best coverage.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

WWDC Keynote remote experience

gdgt.pngI really tried to stay asleep - if you can do that, but my dreams were awash with images of tablets and new iPhone hardware with front facing video cameras for live conferencing.

Despite a cold night and having the cat on 3, I was fully awake at 4am and headed down to experience the keynote via the live blogs.

The best experience, for me, was gdgt. Very simple, elegant and a nice stream of quality information and high quality photos. The site these guys founded, Engadget, also did a good job but took the approach of posting a series of stories as soon as they were announced.

On the software side I am looking forward to updating to iPhone 3 and Snow Leopard, on the hardware side the most interesting thing for me is the 13 inch MacBook Pro but I'm still getting good service out of the original Air and will probably wait. Seven hours battery life is a whole new ball game for a laptop and they are right to say that if it lasts five years I'm unlikely to still be using it.

live stream.pngThe experience of WWDC I really wanted was a live video stream. There was at least one, so I did get to hear live audio and poor video of the end part of the keynote.

I'd have to describe the announcements as solid but evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Perhaps they're holding back exciting new hardware for Steve's return at the end of the month?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Enjoying talks on ABC Fora

h1_abc-fora.pngThe ABC in Australia has a series of TV and radio spots that bring interesting public talks to the audience who couldn't be there. It has a rather unfriendly name of ABC Fora.

For a long time, I thought it was something to do with plants but over time I've, mostly accidentally, heard some fantastic talks from this program.

It's on TV on Sunday nights on ABC2 at 6pm and Thursdays at 5.35pm.

It's on Radio on Radio National on Wednesday at 6pm and Thursday at 3am.

Oddly, I think I've heard the 3am broadcast more than the others.

The best way to access this material is via the web here.

The podcast feed is here.

The whole project is a partnership with which has some great stuff.

I'm starting to find that broadcast media - TV and radio, is basically a way to find out about what's available on the Internet.

So, why do so many tech speakers begin sentences with "so"?

So, I've been listening to lots of excellent technical talks on the internet lately, Pycon 2009 and Google IO for example. Perhaps it's just me, but one weird trend stands out for me, very often speakers either begin their talk, begin a new paragraph, or begin an answer with the word So.

WikiAnswers even has an answer on this. Yes, it's not grammatical.

But why is it so common?

"So" suggests the speaker is continuing a previous train of thought. So is a conjunction that can be used to connect two clauses.

Perhaps it's a way for a slightly anxious speaker to launch into their talk with a feeling that they are already on a roll rather than starting from a cold start.

In any case, it's a redundant element at the start of a sentence, that seems to have crept into wide use. I hope it dies out.

The ability to access the content of fantastic conferences via the internet is extremely valuable. Being there is great but after a long flight can be very tiring.

I wish Apple would live stream WWDC so I could count the so's.

Friday, June 05, 2009

HDTV it's worth it: BBC Earth

bbcearth.jpegWe watch a lot of low definition video around here - and while content is king, it's great to see something both content rich and high definition.

For the first time, this evening, I watched the BBC Earth BluRay disk and it is really stunning.

5 years to make, 45 camera people, 2000 days in the field, 204 locations, 62 countries, every continent.

I have no idea how they did it or how the stabilised all the shots from the air but I can heartily recommend it.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Digital radio delayed in Sydney

Picture 1.pngAccording to the Digital Radio Plus website I notice that the launch in Sydney has slipped to June 10 "due to weather".

Having said that there are 17 channels showing up on my receiver although many are silent or just test recordings.

The station I'm most looking forward to is ABC Radio National. Here in Sydney we only get it on AM, while places like Coffs Harbour get it on FM, I'd love to get RN in high fidelity and if possible stereo.

Personally, I think stereo would be a great asset even on a primarily talk station, the guests could be arranged on the sound stage to good effect.

Unfortunately there are rumours about that not only will RN be mono but that the bit rate might be disappointing. Surely this can't be true?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Android CupUpdate 1.5 in Australia

DSC02162.JPGI've been clicking settings, about, check for update every day or so and finally it's coming down. Very exciting. I had a brief play with a Google staff member's phone the other day, will report back in a couple of days.

I used the G1 for about a week after I got it but reverted back to the much smoother iPhone. It will be interesting to see what Cupcake is like.

More news as it comes to hand.

Google Wave

Wish me luck. I attempted to explain Google Wave to a general audience this morning. Not sure if I succeeded. Audio is here.