Palm Pre - first thoughts

posted: 08 Jun 2009

So the Palm Pre was launched in the US on Saturday, only available on the Sprint network at the moment, so not available on GSM yet. It has been touted as an iPhone killer, but I don't think that's a sensible place to start when looking at this phone and what it does. As an aside, the attitude of one phone being the best and requiring all opposition to wither and perish, is in my mind a crass and stupid perception of the market. The iPhone is a great phone, what it does is astonishing. However, I don't believe this means it's ideal for everyone or that just because the iPhone does things so well that no one else can attempt to improve on that.

So, on to the Pre...The Palm Pre is the first truly new phone/OS combination to come out of Palm in many years. I converted to Palm, back in 2003 when Palm/Handspring released the Treo 600 in Europe. I bought one as soon as I could and I loved it. For the first time, I had a good sized screen to browse the web and an established community of developers making apps for the PalmOS (yes the idea of community written apps isn't new). The Treo, however, started to show its age as the smartphone market grew and PalmOS stagnated...

The Pre, on the other hand, has recaptured my interest in Palm and their ability to be at the front of the mobile experience. I've only had it two days, but so far, it has done nothing to fundamentally disappoint. That's not to say, there's not room to improve, that would be complacent and short sighted, however, the technology is very polished and all in all the phone 'just works'.

There have already been plenty of reviews and discussions about this device, detailing many of the features and capabilities so I won't bother describing those to you again, however, I'd like to touch on two things that really stand out for me.

1. The human interaction is exceptional, it's taken the work that Apple did with the iPhone and moved it on again. The gesture interface is simply a joy to use and makes me smile each time I use it. Delete an email? Just drag it off the side of the screen. Close an application? Drag it off the top of the screen. View all running apps (yes it is a true multi-tasking OS)? Click the little nub at the bottom of the front (it's the only button on the whole front face of the device). I love it all.

2. The Synergy integration is truly magnificent. What's Synergy? It's basically the phone's ability to mine your online networks and applications and consolidate your contacts into a single unified list. Oh and if you use and sync with Facebook, it brings down the users photo from there too :)

Those are the two killers for me at the moment. But there's plenty more to get a geek excited. But I'll leave those for you to discover when you go buy one.


Eclipse and Subversion

posted: 26 Dec 2007

I've used the Eclipse IDE for ColdFusion development for a few years in the guise of CFEclipse but in the last year, my invovlement in Java, particularly for web applications, has increased and with Eclipse installed on my desktop already, it seemed a perfect fit to carry on using the same familiar IDE for the Java development as well.

However, we are a big user of Subversion for our version control and I found that I was suffering predictable but unhelpful functionality from the Java build process in Eclipse. The basic problem is that during compilation, particularly a full build, the IDE would strip out the build output folder and then replace it with the freshly comiled contents of my src directory. This has one major flaw when using Subversion; Subversion uses a folder (.svn) and sub folders/files to control the version control information for the contents of that folder, in particular the url into the repository where these files live. During a rebuild, this information was being replaced with the Subversion information from the src folder, including the repository location of the src files. Trying to commit the compiled classes to Subversion (I know, probably not the best thing to do) would result in my compiled classes being pushed at the Subversioned src folder in the repository, this would break Subversion and I couldn't commit anything to the repository.

I Googled this problem and I found one posting about excluding the subversion files during the compilation but no help in how this could be done. But this morning I figured it out and thought I would post it here for my own use and to help anyone else with a similar problem.

The settings can be done either local to a project or globally to the IDE (I chose IDE wide). To do this, select Window from the main IDE menu and then 'Preferences...'. In the left menu expand the 'Java' node and then expand the 'Compiler' node. Now pick on the 'Building' node, this brings up the Building preferences in the main pane and scroll down to the 'Output Folder' section. I modified two settings to make this work for me:

1. Uncheck the 'scrub output folders when cleaning projects', otherwise your .svn and other control files will be removed 2. Enter two (extra) terms to the 'Filtered Resources' text box. '*.svn*, *svn/'. This should stop any svn folders or files from being copied.

Then hit Apply or OK and rebuild your project.


Outlook for time management

posted: 16 Oct 2007

I have long thought that Outlook, with its various abilities for flagging and categorisation, would make a good time management tool, but I have never arrived at a good solution...until now.

Following a discussion with a friend and colleague about a system that he uses and some new found features of Outlook, namely 'search folders' I have arrived at something that is working very well for me.

The basic premise lies in the realisation that my performance is not just reliant on the tasks I have to do, but in keeping an eye on those tasks that other people are doing, that effect my critical path. So my method is built to separate these two things.

The basic methodology is siple, flag everything that is a task for me with a red flag and flag any input that I am waiting on with a blue flag. I then set a due by date for all flagged items and move the item to a local folder where I file these correspondences.

But in older Outlook editions (pre 2003) once the item was moved, the flag became pretty useless, however, with more recent versions a feature known as 'search folders' was introduced. These allow you to build a folder based on the results of a structured query, and man these can be very powerful. I essentially build a folder of all items that have a flag set, in fact, I believe this is default Outlook search folder.

Customising the display to give just the info you need is down to you, but in a matter of minutes, you have a task list of everything you need to do and everything you need to chase.

PS Once you have the red and blue flags working for you, you can invent uses for the other flags. I, for example, use purple for long term tracking issues and yellow for ideas yet to become projects.