Boxing Day Madness

Okay, I guess 24th was a crazy day after all…

At 8pm Futureshop wanted to open their Microsoft Server + ASP (active server pages) online store for boxing “server crasher” deals. Unfortunately the same thing happened as always, only a few seconds after 8 the site was down. It resumed around 10pm. The two deals I was hunting for were almost in my pocket. I was hunting for PS3 bundle and HD-DVD Toshiba D3 player for $99. Thanks to a very nasty thing called Visa Verified, I’ve lost Toshiba deal. I had passed the queue and had both items still “in stock” clicked through the payment pages and in the end found myself on a Visa Verified page which expired in browser and once I refreshed it threw me back to the shopping cart. But Toshiba HD-D3 HD-DVD player was already out of stock. I guess, this is my last time I’ve used Visa online, thank you Visa, thank you TD Bank. I will be using only my AMEX from now on. I repeated the process and bought the Playstation 3 80GB + Blue-Ray Remote + 2 Games + 5 Blue-Ray movies via mail in. I’m still hoping HD-DVD player will return tomorrow for a short time, though unfortunately nobody knows when. But I’m definitely not standing in line for it at 6am in the morning (though it might be fun, I would say even extreme fun).

After all this experience I’ve also left a comment on Futureshop website that next time they should deploy their servers on Linux/Solaris boxes with some load balancers… instead of Microsoft crap they use. Rogers heard me and now they are powered by a very nice Java server. I always ask myself, why do I dislike Microsoft technologies so much, today I’ve got a new ground to stand on for my believes system.

All in all, congratulate me, I’m the proud owner of Sony Playstation 3, the machine that will change the future of entertainment.

Microsoft finally acknowledges that Internet Explorer 6 and 7 are crap

Well, not exactly, but the headline is loud, but still more of a wish then reality :)

Anyway, in the recent IE Blogm Internet Explorer’s Development team finally decided to recognize that Web Standards are “standards” and not something that can be easily ignored, even though Microsoft was successful doing this for 7 years now. They recognized the standards by announcing that that Internet Explorer 8 in its normal mode has passed ACID2 test. Though the test might not really be an indication that all standards are well supported, it is a milestone that has been reached by other browsers quite long ago.

Unfortunately, still, there will be many ignorant web developers that code not for W3C published standards, but for IE6 and IE7 only. My only hope is that all of them one day loose their job and never be accepted into development community again.

Don’t ignore open standards – follow them.

Linux Survey Results

The results of the Linux Foundation Client Survey were published a few days ago, but I’ve just discovered them.

The results are amazing. Interesting bits are that Ubuntu/Debian distribution lead distribution of choice in any category. I’m sorry for Fedora and OpenSuSe guys. For some reason a lot of people want Photoshop ported to Linux, my question would be if those people plan to legally purchase it for almost $1K USD. I don’t use Photoshop myself, but I would have wanted other image editors ported to Linux much more, for example Corel’s PaintShop Pro, which costs $69 from time to time in our local electronics stores. A funny bit part is that quite a few people want Skype for Linux, I don’t know what they mean, probably those who responded live under the rock or use distributions from three years ago, but there is a very nice Qt4 based Skype client for Linux with amazing Video and Audio support…. My wish is for it to be a 64bit application, but I don’t think this will happen. Others also wanted some anti-virus packages ported, while it is understandable that they can be used to check sanity on Samba shares for all the Windows folks, the goal should be to get rid of the viral operating system altogether and not to use anti-virus packages.

I’ve also enjoyed that only a few use Novell’s Mono C# port to Linux, imho, a totally useless project that should stop its existence. There is an open source Java that can cover all bases. C# should stay where it came from – Microsoft and their beloved Windows. On the other hand Eclipse and Qt rule the world :).

In related news KDE 4.0 Release Candidate 2 was published and I’m downloading both Live CDs (Kubuntu and OpenSuSe based) as I write this post, it should be amazing year this 2008…. Just a few days left before KDE 4.

KDE 4.0 Release Counter

Best budget GPS: TomTom GO 720

I was researching and following the topic of buying a GPS over several years. Prohibitive prices drove me away from the purchase for months and months. However the need to get GPS was growing as the pain of avoiding blocked highways in GTA was growing quarterly, always to the worst. But it seemed there was never a good time to get a device: either a new one was expected soon or maps were crappy for GTA or devices were costing an arm and a leg.

But the perfect moment has arrived. TomTom one of the leaders of GPS technology, also the company that bid to buy the second biggest map provider Tele Atlas, has decided to give a one hundred dollar ($100 USD/CDN) USA/Canada rebate for their GPS devices. I’ve got myself TomTom GO 720 from a local BestBuy store for $399, only to discover that its daughter company Futureshop is selling it for $349 until January 3, 2008. Life is Good and a short trip to BestBuy warranted me a price for $345 after price matching with Futureshop. Other devices are also on great sale and prices start at barely $137 for a entry level model. But why did I spend so much on GO 720?

TomTom GO 720

I’m using TomTom GO 720 for over two weeks now daily to route me everywhere, even to the local grocery shop. TomTom gives you so much more for the money that you feel the price is a steal. So where do I start?

  1. TomTom devices come with 30 day latest map guarantee. This means if you connect your GPS to the PC/Mac within the first 30 days after you have switched it on for the first time (it knows when you switched it on since GPS signal has time data), you will get latest map update for your region. In my case I’ve got latest Tele Atlas maps v7.10 (i.e. October 2007). The maps are as current as the maps that Google Maps use, you can compare Tele Atlas vs Navteq maps on this useful site. However, keep in mind that a lot of devices with Navteq maps have maps that are sometimes 5+ years old. With TomTom you get latest.
  2. 4.3 inch extra sensitive touchscreen, compare that to Garmin where you have to squeeze the screen to make it react
  3. Bluetooth 2.0, so my Sony Erricson K790i is permanently paired and I can use my GPS as a good quality hands free device. I can also pair Bluetooth headphones to listen to the embedded MP3 player. 720Go can download your full address book from the phone so you can make calls right from the device (you can enter it numerically at any time, in case you don’t want sync your address book)
  4. Possibility to buy external traffic antenna, so you get free RDS traffic data. Works well, according to the user reports, starting beginning of November 2007
  5. Best in class text to speech engine to clearly pronounce street names in addition to just “Turn left in 200 meters”. You can download additional computer voices via TomTom Home software
  6. In order to keep your devices more or less up to date with Points of Interest (POI) database and small map corrections, TomTom created a cool “technology” called Map Share. Idea is that once on the road you can mark via a single click locations which you believe are erroneous, like say a road is missing or a road block was introduced. When you get home you sync your changes with the changes of others (you choose what and how to sync). I’ve used this feature to add a few POIs myself and I’m getting updates daily. Feels good…
  7. GPS Quick Fix, in order to lock on a GPS signal FAST, TomTom updates your GPS with certain information about visible satelites in your region. By the time my GPS boots after power-off (10-20 seconds) it always has GPS lock.
  8. TomTom hope software is available for Windows and Mac
  9. Go 720 includes FM transmitter, which lets you use your car stereo instead of built-in speaker. The internal speaker is very loud and clear, so this feature might only be useful if you want to listen to MP3 music on your GPS.
  10. Go 720 supports SDHC cards, so you can put your favorite MP3s or load additional maps. Currently 8Gb SDHC class 4 card costs around 60 dollars
  11. You can customize your device the way you want: custom picture of a car, custom colors for day/night maps, “simple” menus while driving, customizable Quick Menu,
  12. Many other nice things you will find while using the device, like a pleasant surprise that TomTom Home 2.1 software is based on the Mozilla engine and UI is a XUL
  13. And a key “hidden” feature which makes your TomTom Go 720 device as good as much more expensive Go 920: Voice recognition for entering city and street names as well as house numbers.

How to enable Speech Recognition
TomTom GO 720 for North America does not come with speech recognition enabled by default, instead you have to get a much more expensive TomTom GO 920/T model. However, the same TomTom GO 720 for Australia, UK, Germany is voice recognition enabled. It didn’t take long for people to find out how to enable this feature on North American version.

  1. Update your TomTom GPS software to version 7.221 via TomTom Home v2.1 and you should have latest maps version 7.10
  2. Create a text file named support_asr.dat in Notepad (if you use Windows and know no better) or in Vim and put a single number character inside: 1 (No spaces, line or carriage returns)
  3. Save file to ASR folder on your Mass Storage Device mounted GPS unit
  4. Reboot the device, and go to “Navigate To” > “Address” > ” Spoken Word (Dialogue)”.
  5. The rest you will figure out. :)

So what are the Cons of TomTom GO 720? Well, only a couple. Firstly, map updates should be cheaper then current 39 pounds per update, I would have preferred some some sort of a subscription for all updates during say 3 years for a price of $150 or less. You can get Nokia n810 with Wayfinder three-year map updates subscription for only $130 (may are by Navteq, which is part of Nokia). Secondly, you can report traffic cameras and radars, and they will be synced with the TomTom server, but you will not get any updates from others. Currently it is a yearly subscription. This is a rip-off. If you submit a traffic camera or police radar location, you should be eligible to get updates from others as well. Other small features are also paid, like weather updates, etc. At least the first year should be included for free.

I hope you didn’t think that I was convincing you to get a TomTom GPS, I was just describing my own eXPerience :P Life Is Good with Good Gadgets.

P.S. Even Cheaper way to get TomTom GO 720

If you believe in rebates there is a cheaper way to get GO 720. You can get the device for 399 from a small Chinese computer store – Infonec. This makes you eligible for the $100 rebate (not valid in big box stores). This can save you about $40, but you will have to pray that our snail mail will not loose your rebate form and TomTom will be kind enough to grant it.

Netbeans 6.0 Final released

I think some of you know that I really really like Netbeans as a Java IDE, today 1 hour ago the final release of Netbeans 6.0 happened. I think it is quite an amazing release, definitely best ever Netbeans.

Whether you like it depends a lot on whether you want to have out of the box great experience or you like to install 600 different plugins and setup servers and configurations infinitely… it comes with Glassfish 2 application server, Tomcat 6, all latest and greatest Java specs, supports future Java 7, two way UML design, crap like Ruby if you are into fetish stuff (they should have better supported Jython and DJango/TurboGears), C/C++ development (I have not tried it yet, but it is on my to-do list as it is basically what was previously known as Sun C/C++ Studio, so it should be good), and you can easily write programs for your Java MIDP 2.0 phone. Can’t be better, right?

Oh, and the most important, I forgot to mention is the UI designer and new Java Application Framework (JSR 296) for “easy” DB driven Swing application development using latest Java 6 persistence framework. This stuff I’ve tried and LOVE.

Go get it while it is hot. Always free Netbeans 6.0.

Queen Rock Montreal

A few days ago I’ve snatched a DVD release of Queen Rock Montreal (QRM) in a Woodbridge Costco store. What a bargain – only $12 for 2 DVDs, one with full concert from 1981 and another one is a Live Aid concert from 1985 and even more valuable unreleased pre-concert interview with the band. Even though I have original “We Will Rock You” DVD with the same concert, I decided it is worth to buy it again. Why? Finally a good DTS 96Khz/24bit soundtrack and digitally remastered original 35mm film. I did not expect too much after seeing how Queen Greatest Video Hits (both I and II) were ruined by poor video quality that nobody cared to cleanup, but this release was a little different. On Tuesday, December 4, 2007 they are planning to release HD-DVD and Blue-Ray versions of QRM, so my expectations were since any poorly re-edited and cleaned up film would look like crap on those HD disks. Amazed I was when I inserted the disk it it started playing, my “El Cheapo” Philips upconverting DVD player was giving me results that looked stunning. No grain, no noise, clean dark and bright areas – beautiful. Clean and crisp DTS sound was floating from all 5 speakers. Though might be not one of the best Queen concerts (mainly due to the cold and emotionless Montreal crowd), the music and performance gave me energy that lasts even now, two days after I saw it.
Queen Rock Montreal DVD
What can I say, definitely worth every penny I’ve spent and I will buy Blue Ray disk as soon as it is available, with the hopes of getting BR player (hint: PlayStation 3 60/80Gb is a good New Year present) some day in the future. Go grab this DVD in Costco near you while it is still available.