Archive for October, 2006

“dagen@ifi” – Or “the day at IFI”

October 27, 2006

Yesterday, October 26th, I spent most of the day at the deportment of informatics (IFI) at the University of Oslo, which is where I’m studying for my master’s degree. Every year, the student organizations at IFI organize a day full of events, pizza, games, fun and stands where potential employers can be introduce themselves to the students.

From 12:00 to 18:00 there are lectures on various subjects, and I was so happy with the lectures this year that I decided to write about them here. If you’re a student at the department, you should definitely regret not coming this year!

At 12:15, Accenture opened this year’s lectures with a talk on RFID, which they implemented a trial of at the student festival in Trondheim (UKA) last year. It was used to pay in the bars at the festival, which lasts for a week. This seems to make the subject especially interesting for IT students (beer + technology can’t be anything but good, right? At least if you like beer). I have heard plenty about that RFID implementation before, but the lecture still included some new tidbits, and the delivery (by two relatively high-ranking Accenture people) was fresh and sprinkled with some good jokes.

Objectware continued at 13:15. The title of their lecture was “Modern software engineering”, and the two presenters went through a huge array of cutting-edge software engineering technologies. Maven, Hibernate, WebWork, Spring… and about 10 more. I know most of these, but I think the lecture was a bit bewildering for those who had no prior experience. Still, I think the lecture was a good high-level introduction to the tools software engineers use today, and more importantly, we learned a lot about Objectware’s attitudes towards these tools.

A very brief demo of unit testing was also included. Unfortunately, not enough context was provided to make this demo useful for those who could have benefited from it. More explainations next time, please – or leave the demo out altogether.

Microsoft sent one of their top R&D evangelists in Norway to talk about Windows Vista. He made a good impression, gave a nice overview of operating systems history, and did a good job with fending off the mandatory anti-Microsoft fanboys in the attendance. There was plenty of questions for him to answer, and he easily spent more than his alotted time, but I don’t think that bothered anyone. Some of the topics touched upon were Vista’s lineage, its kernel (mostly unchanged since the old NT kernel of 88-89, if I understood him correctly), the system monitoring tools bundled with Vista (lets you know when the disk drive approaches failure, detects bad memory sticks), Supercache, the technology that learns your program useage patterns and preloads programs into memory so that they start faster, drivers, and much more.

At 15:15, Opera’s product manager for Symbian gave an overview of Opera, the company’s technology, talked about web standards and introduced us to the ACID2 test (which made for a nice demo, where Firefox2, IE7 and Opera9 were compared). The number of platforms were Opera has a commercial presence was emphasised – 16. That is quite a lot. The Nintendo Wii was mentioned; apparently they are working hard to make Opera for Wii as good as possible. The console is launching in the US in about three weeks; the European launch isn’t before December 8th. I’ll get one on launch day and surf the web from the couch. Overall, it was a good talk, with a very amusing widget thrown in…

After four hours of lectures, I decided to have a break, so I missed out on the Geographical Information Systems talk by Geodata.

At 17:15, Norwegian consulting company Bekk had the final lecture of the day, interestingly titled “Agile development in anger”. To be honest, I can’t really recall the angry part returning anywhere in the presentation – not that I missed it. Bekk is a proponent of agile development, and shared their experiences and work methods from a real-world six month project where agile development was used. The lecture was stuffed with good advice that any software developer would find useful, and I reckon this was the best talk of the day. The developer giving the talk had good presentation skills, too. I certainly think Bekk made a good impression on graduate students looking for work.

At six o’clock, everyone ate free pizza, and then I had to go home to finish a report. That means I missed out on the stand-up show, live concert, gaming and partying. Still, even though I only experienced half of it, I think this year’s “dagen@IFI” was really great, and a marked improvement from last year. Well done. Hopefully even more students and employers will show up next year.

The dagen@ifi website can be located at http://dagen.ifi.uio.no.

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Mac OS X annoyances, part 3: The missing Finder keyboard shortcuts

October 20, 2006

This site has a great collection of OS X tips, but there are still a few things missing in the Finder.

OS X annoyances, part 3
Here be dragons

There is a contextual menu (the “action menu”) you can bring up for items by right-clicking on them. It is really handy – unfortunately there is no way to get to it without using the mouse, which makes it nearly worthless to me. Windows XP lets you use the right-click button on the keyboard (to the right of the spacebar, where the second Command key is located on the Mac) for this purpose.

Finder’s sidebar, called the Places sidebar in the previously mentioned site, lets you add shortcuts to directories or files you access often. Very neat, but again, there is no way to reach these shortcuts by using the keyboard.

There is also a nifty search feature in the Finder. Guess what – you click on the search box in the top left of your Finder window and enter your search string. If you want to modify where the search is looking, you also have to use the mouse. And when time comes to move the focus down to the search results… yep, the mouse.

On a related note, there is no way to make the search results include what directory the found item is in, so if you have several files with the same names, you have to click in the list, and key through them – the directory is listed at the bottom of the window. Why not include an option to customize the results list? This is a small detail which makes File & Folders search in Windows a lot more effective to use.

(Yes, I know about Spotlight, which by the way suffers from the same problem. Fortunately, Quicksilver is a lot more useful, but not quite stable on my machine at the moment – and not integrated with the Finder.)

These are just a few of my minor complaints with OS X. The sad part is that these are really, really easy to rectify, and I can’t understand why these (to me) obvious shortcuts are left out. On the whole, their absence make OS X a lot slower to use. Apple – please let me work faster with my Mac!

The Apple MacBook, three months on

October 8, 2006

After using my black 2,0 Ghz MacBook for three months, I thought I should write up a short review with the main positive and negative points this laptop has to offer.

I will contrast my MacBook experiences with those Margrethe has had with her Dell Inspiron 6400, which has similar specifications at a lower cost. The Dell is a much larger machine (15,4″ vs 13,3″ screen and a lot thicker) but I still believe it is a useful comparison. Most of my thoughts here would apply to the cheaper MacBook models, too.

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