Archive for May, 2010

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I’ve owned a number of Macs over the years – a Mac Classic, Apple IIe, PowerPC 7200/90, Mac Mini (G4 processor running Tiger), and a 20″ iMac (G5 processor running Leopard). Six months ago I decided it was time to buy a Mac with an Intel processor. I like laptops and so I decided to buy a new Apple 2.26 GHz Macbook.

Why write a review about a laptop that is no longer the current model sold by Apple? Because I have used it extensively the past 6 months to do development, productivity, and design and it is the best laptop I’ve ever owned. It doesn’t have the hardware in the MacBook Pro line, and the white case is the same used in older Mac laptops, but I don’t care. It is everything I hoped it would be, so let’s take a look at the equipment.

Hardware Specifications

  • CPU – 2.26 dual core Intel processor
  • OS – OSX 10.6.3/XP
  • Memory – 2 GB
  • Hard drive – 250 GB with 2 partitions
  • Screen – 13.3″ LED with backlight
  • Video – NVIDIA GeForce 9400 graphics (shares some of main memory)
  • Networking – 1 GB (wireless/lan)
  • Built-in speakers and microphone and camera
  • Full size keyboard and multi-touch trackpad
  • Two USB 2.0 ports

Using the Laptop

I write a lot of reviews, so I installed a lot (see Software Latest and this blog for my reviews) of software:

  • Design products -Adobe CS4 and CS5 Master Collection.
  • Productivity products I- MS Office, Final Draft, Movie Outline 3, Ulysses.
  • Development products – Eclipse Ganymede/Galileo, IntelliJ IDEA 9.x Community Edition, STS, MAMP,  MySQL, Tomcat, Mathematica 7, FileMaker Pro 10, FileMqker Pro 11 Advanced, and Bento 3.

Most of these programs take up a lot of space, yet they run fine and I have not had any issues with performance unless too many are opened at the same time. A memory upgrade could help, but is not in my plans for the near future.

I take advantage of Spaces to arrange different types of applications to different windows and have no problems switching between the programs as needed. I have my browser and Word open in Space 1, develop websites (using DreamWeaver) and graphics software (Photoshop, Fireworks) in Space 2,  work on Java and C code in Eclipse and IDEA in Space 3, and use Space 4 to work on scripts and stories with Final Draft and Ulysses. Very efficient way to organize the desktop – not as good as dual monitors, but still a lot of help.

The new multi-touch trackpad took time to get used to, but now it bugs me when I have to use a laptop without the same touchpad functionality. And the quick release MagSage power adapter is nice, although my cat has been able to remove it when he thinks I’ve spent too much time working and now it is time for him to get some attention or food.

The laptop stays cool enough that I don’t need to buy a cooler even though I have used it for 8 – 10 hrs on a few projects. And it is lightweight, which is nice when compared to my heavy (and old) HP XP laptop. And I like the long battery life – I’ve gone 6+ hrs between recharges 10+ times and think that is a huge upside when using a laptop in school as many classrooms may lack enough outlets for all students to be able to plug in during class. The backlit screen is easy to read in dark or light rooms.

Overall Impressions

  • CPU – 2+ GB dual core processor is fine. No issues with speed.
  • Screen – backlit (which is nice, and adequate at 13.3″.
  • Touchpad – very cool.
  • Keyboard – I like it enough that I ordered a new one for my Mac Mini.
  • Hard drive space – I still have a lot of free space on OS X and XP partitions. I allocated 32 GB for XP and the rest of the 250 GB for OS X 10.6.
  • Weight – it is light and I don’t need to use a cooling fan.
  • Bootcamp setup – setting up a Bootcamp partition was relatively painless and usability was fine after I added the necessary Apple drives.
  • Speakers – liked the built-in speakers and jack for external headphones. Very nice way to listen to songs or music in iTunes.
  • OS X 10.6 – I like it, but wish Apple made it work with G5 Macs as well as Intel processor Macs.
  • Networking – I mostly use wireless access for web browsing, and I never see the same connectivity that affect my Mac Mini.

For my next Apple Laptop

  • Dedicated video memory – I would rather have main memory used for my applications than for video.
  • A larger display – I have to scroll too much on many websites, so  I think 17″ will be better in the future.
  • More USB ports – I need more than 2 USB ports and while I acknowledge I can use a hub, I’d like more built-in ports.
  • A larger and faster HD – I have a lot on this computer, but applications are growing at an alarming rate, so I’d like at least a 1 TB HD in my next laptop.
  • A different Bootcamp partition – I installed XP but next time want to install a 100 GB Windows 7 partition.

Recommendation

Get one. My next Apple laptop will be a 17″ MacBook Pro. I’d encourage anyone in school to buy a Macbook or a MacBook Pro, and I like using it for development as well as productivity and design work.

From: Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/uk)
Enterprise Edition Pricing:Full £5,333.32 UK (inc VAT)/$7499 US, Upgrade £2,666.08 UK (inc VAT)/$3750 US
Standard Edition Pricing Full £927.08 UK (inc VAT)/$1299 US, Upgrade £464.12 UK (inc VAT)/$649 US

By Mike Hubbartt, Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved

Free Trial -> Download free trial
Free Developer Edition -> Download
Windows 8.0.1 Updater: Download (Mac OS, Linux and Solaris updates also available)

Like many Consultants, I’ve worked at a wide variety of clients during my career. Some clients used cutting edge technology that met or exceeded their business needs, and the greatest challenge with those projects was either company politics or getting approval for the hardware needed for the applications. While tough, the technology was interesting and those are usually the most fun places to work.

Then there are clients that choose to limp along on some underpowered and inappropriate tool or deprecated programming language written many years earlier that miraculously works because of constant nursing and continuous patching by some tired and unappreciated developer. Those companies rarely understand the costs of moving to modern technology and it is a frustrating situation for any developer to deal with, but unfortunately this is experienced far too often in the business world.

An important decision when upgrading a legacy application or creating new software is to know which platforms need to be supported. Many companies have multiple operating systems, or there may be an initiative to move to a newer or different operating system in the near future. To handle this situation, many companies are moving towards internet or intranet applications. As long as a browser is available to display the software, the operating system is not the limiting factor as was often the case in the past.

There are a number of good internet/intranet packages, including DreamWeaver, but e-commerce and reference projects need access to a lot of data that is stored in a relational database, so there is a need for a package to tie the front end web interface with the backend relational database, and that is where ColdFusion comes in. ColdFusion has been around a fairly long time and is well known to many internet developers. Let’s take a look at the latest version of this Adobe product.

Configuration Considerations

There are several ways to setup a ColdFusion environment. The first is everything – web server, database engine and ColdFusion on a single server – is simple, takes the least hardware, but performance can be an issue as each part of the environment needs adequate resources (memory, drive space, CPU) to perform reasonably.

The second configuration consists of dedicated servers for each element – web server, database engine and ColdFusion on separate servers – is more expensive but offers benefits over the first configuration. This option provides dedicated hardware for each element and that should provide much better performance than the first option.

The third configuration consists of two elements – web server, database engine and ColdFusion on one server and the third element on a second server – is a compromise between the first and second options and it. This consolidation offers better performance than option one, yet it reduces the hardware expense incurred for option two.

While all three configurations were doable, the first configuration seems best for developing and testing ColdFusion, but I would recommend the second option for production environments. The third option would only be when hardware costs were a huge factor in the decision process.

Getting Started

ColdFusion 8 works with a number of operation systems:

  1. Windows – W2000 Professional with SP3, W2000 Server/Advanced Server/Datacenter Server with SP3, W2003 Server Web/Standard/Enterprise with SP1, XP Home/Profession, and Vista. Pentium II or AMD Athlon processor.
  2. Mac OS X 10.4.x on a system with a G4/G5/Intel processor
  3. Linux – SUSE Enterprise Server 9/10, Red Hat AS/ES 3.0/4.0/5.0
  4. Solaris 9/10 on system with a SPARC processor
  5. AIX 5L/5.2/5.3 on RS/6000 with a POWER3 processor

Note: All supported operating systems require a minimum of 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended), 500 MB hard drive space, and a DVD-ROM.

Supported databases include:

  1. MS Access
  2. SQL Server
  3. MySQL
  4. PostgreSQL
  5. Apache Derby
  6. DB2
  7. Informix
  8. Oracle
  9. Sybase

I installed the software from a disk, instead of downloading the file and ran it on a Toshiba laptop running Windows Vista with SP 1 installed, a 1.9GB dual-core CPU, 2 GB RAM, a 120 GB hard drive, and a DVD-ROM.

The installation process was simple and error-free. A directory was created under C:\ColdFusion8, taking around 595 MB of storage space on my hard drive. I’d like to note that I downloaded the 8.0.1 update at the end of my tests and that file was 130 MB and it took up 174 MB during the installation – there were no problems during or after the update.

Using the Product

To use ColdFusion, create a website with DreamWeaver or another web development package. Next, if one does not already exist, setup a relational database like Oracle, Sybase or SQL Server. The final step is to connect ColdFusion to the new/existing database, and then create the ColdFusion pages and put them on server (use FTP when the ColdFusion and development systems are not the same). Yes, it really is that simple.

And you use a browser like FireFox to access the ColdFusion Administrator to setup or monitor the server.

Note: I used ColdFusion’s standalone web server for testing, instead of a dedicated web server. This product lets one person create, link and maintain all aspects of a site, or allows dedicated people to handle their parts of the environment. As a developer and an Admin, I like this degree of flexibility.

I had no configuration issues with ColdFusion, and found integrating it to a web frontend and relational database backend fairly simple but it did take a little time. The documentation and online web help sources answered my questions – I never needed to contact Tech Support, which is a huge plus in my eyes. I have used the earlier versions of the product, which may have helped me understand how to use it, but I think people already experienced with internet development will find it just as easy to use.

New Product Features

Version 7.2 was the previous version and the updates in version 8.0 include:

Performance increases                                          Server Monitor
PDF features                                                           Ajax features
.NET integration                                                    Interactive debugger
Microsoft Exchange Server integration             Adobe Flex integration
Per-application settings                                        Multi-threading
Image manipulation                                              Presentations on demand
Atom and RSS feeds                                              ZIP and JAR file features
User-based Administrator and RDS access      Improved file manipulation functions
JavaScript operators in CFML                             CFC improvements
Strong encryption libraries                                   Reporting enhancements
Database interaction improvements                   Argument collections
Array and structure creation improvements
Expanded platform, OS, and database support

The new features I personally liked best were the PDF and .NET support, the multi-threading (with the push for multi-core CPUs in servers, this seems like a must), and the improved reporting enhancements. The JavaScript operators in CFML were also nice and needed, but I know little about Flex so I don’t know how that integration will help users.

Conclusion

Companies choose ColdFusion to create complex and robust mission-critical applications for internal and external access. While there are a number of ways to integrate web content with relational data, it is a simple task with ColdFusion, and the support for modern technology (Ajax, .NET and Java) is a valid reason to consider using this product.

I have worked with version 7 of ColdFusion, but can’t attest to performance comparisons between older and the new release since I don’t have those versions and a server environment setup for performance testing. There are sites that publish performance comparisons on the internet, and Adobe has their own application performance brief at http://www.adobe.com/products/coldfusion/pdfs/cf8_performancebrief.pdf.

Positives

So many positives. The application administration interface is simple and intuitive – it should be no problem for anyone with experience administering a web site or application. And I like the new server monitor, which is an impressive Flash application that is as well organized as any administration interface I’ve used over the years. Anyone with a UNIX admin background will appreciate the ability to take a snapshot of the server on demand. That server snapshot information is saved as a file and can be read from a browser, and it is thorough.

The ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML) is useful, but supporting existing Ajax applications is more important in these Web 2.0 times. I really like the inclusion of support for Exchange and .NET integration, as there are so many companies that have mixed Microsoft/non-Microsoft environments.

I believe the ability to dynamically generate PDFs is indispensible. Anyone that ever had to handle source and version control for documents at any company will be pleased that they can keep just one version of each document and let ColdFusion create PDFs as needed. Very nice.

I almost forgot to mention the Eclipse plug-in for CFML. Eclipse is one of my favorite IDEs and I use it for C/C++ and Java development projects as well as Java. While you can use a text editor to create ColdFusion pages, I’d rather use a familiar IDE like Eclipse. To download the plug-in, go to http://www.cfeclipse.org/download.cfm.

While I’m not a big Exchange guy, integrating to that product makes sense. There are CFML tags to handle calendaring and contacts and tasks – very nice features.

Negatives

None I could see. While the price seems steep, even small companies shouldn’t have an issue with the price when considering the tools and functionality that the product offers.

I did not try to run a load test on my laptop. If your company wants to know how it performs, I’d suggest first creating a test website and test database, and then download an evaluation copy of the software.

I also think that some will balk at hiring dedicated ColdFusion developers, but believe it is reasonable to find existing DreamWeaver developers (perhaps internal resources as well as external candidates) that are capable of creating the web content, the office DBA can help with the database access issues, and a network administrator can help place the content on a server and monitor how well it works.

Recommendation

This is a good product for companies already using older versions of ColdFusion, or companies looking to move older legacy systems to a newer, more robust solution that easily integrates the application and relational database data. The interface is intuitive, just like Adobe’s other products, and I did not encounter any errors during my tests. I have used other Adobe products to create and support web applications, but like that ColdFusion lets me build applications – not just linked HTML pages – for use on the internet. I would encourage anyone that is interested in ColdFusion to take advantage and download an evaluation copy of the product and take it for a test drive. While the cost of the software – especially the Enterprise Edition – is more than most people will spend, Adobe offers a free developer edition for Consultants that want to expand their repertoire of internet application development tools. To see a list of ColdFusion hosting partners that offer hosting, check out http://www.adobe.com/uk/products/coldfusion/hosting/.

This review was originally posted at Software Editorial in 2008.

By Harry Babad © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

With A Chip on My Shoulder — I avoid greening sites that equate a demonstration of a concept (e.g., a lab or small scale pilot scale test) to having an industrially viable commercial solution that an instant cure all for our environmental and energy woes. My paradigm, government subsidies don’t make things commercial — all governments have the proven habit of bowing to either lobbyists or homo populous <the loudest voice.> Governments, one and all, according to my Googling, have, Internationally, been shown to pick losers. [E.g., Corn Ethanol vs Food]

The best and real, role for governments is supporting R&D, and funding large scale demos – wonderful – that covers risk that the commercial sector cant or will not accept.[e.g., Nuclear power with its large up-front capital costs, large scale energy storage, biofuel demonstrations, carbon dioxide storage.] Subsidizing industry to use its favorites… no way.

Okay, now my biases —

  • I favor nuclear power for handling baseload while shutting down coal-fired plants. Make nuclear technicians out of coal-miners — it pays more and is less hazardous.
  • I know, based on personal knowledge and personal experience that all nuclear wastes can be safely stored [350-500 years] or disposed for up to 10,000 years. Radiophobia sucks, but so does hunger and disease – let’s treat it and get on with our lives./
  • Unless a process can handle a base load capacity, rain or shine, calm or wind, and can deliver power where it’s needed; it’s a hope and a wish, not a solution.
  • • Real Costs are all that counts — The fifth or sixth law of technology… if you don’t check the whole life cycle of a new process or energy solution; you’re going to fail — 100% bomb out.

Sources & Credits:

Most of these items were found in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the libraries technical and regulatory agency users. It is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  I then followed the provided link to the source of the information and edited the content (abstracted) the information for our readers.

The remaining material I share in the articles that follow comes from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. Their selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at times my emotional and philosophical views. The resulting column contains a mini-summary with links to articles I found interesting. I also get technology feeds from the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Discover Magazine, various international advocacy groups, and the American Nuclear Society. This all started while writing two textbooks on things nuclear for high school students and their teachers, and turned out as a good way to keep up with a rapidly changing world – who would have thought a few weeks ago that off shore oil might not be the main route to energy independence?

I’ll be posting articles for you comfort and anger in the next few weeks. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog.

Harry {doc} Babad

Author & Consultant

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From: Wolfram Research (http://www.wolfram.co.uk)
Pricing: Standard and Government version £2,035, Education £860, Students £80
By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved

Mathematica is the powerhouse mathematics software product, available for Microsoft, Mac OS, Linux and UNIX (Solaris, HP and AIX) operating systems. People using Mathematica for research, development and education are Mathematicians, Scientists, Computer Scientists, Engineers, Educators, as well as math students in secondary school and those attending university. Mathematica is powerful, but it doesn’t take a math wiz to use it, so let’s get started with the review.

Getting Started

Mathematica runs on a wide range of Windows platforms, including Vista, XP, Server 2003, Windows 2000 and Windows Me. The product can be purchased on disk or downloaded – either way requires a license. Licenses are not cheap, except for students (see the top of this review for pricing information). And speaking of students, some schools have programs where they provide Mathematica at no charge for their students – check with your Math department to see if your school has this option – mine does and I was quite pleased to be able to get a free license to have this powerful product on my home computers, as well as on university computer systems.

For my Windows OS tests, I installed the product on an HP laptop running Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2, using a 2GB CPU, 1.25GB RAM and a 100 GB hard drive. The installation process (using a downloaded file run from my local hard drive) took awhile, but it did not require constant user intervention so I started it and walked away to take care of other chores until it was installed. Mathematica 6.0.1 for Windows occupies a bit of hard drive space – about 1.28 GB – and installs in a subdirectory called Wolfram Research in the Program Files subdirectory.

No errors installing or launching – I did not need to reboot to safely start it the first time. It does take awhile to start – I’d like to try it on a dual core system with more memory and a faster drive than in my current laptop, but application performance is very good once it is running, so there is no real need to purchase a new computer yet. Oh well…

Product Functionality

Mathematica doesn’t do one thing well. It does many things. The categories of traditional software that Mathematica can replace include:

  • Audio Synthesis
  • Calculators
  • Algebra Solutions Systems
  • Data Visualization/Plotting
  • Application Development (code, interfaces)
  • Document Format/Typeset
  • Format Conversion
  • Grid Computing
  • Math Education
  • Number Theory
  • Presentations, Reports and Spreadsheets
  • Science Data Sources
  • Simulations
  • Statistics

I don’t have the resources to test all of these, so I’ll give a short rundown on the things I did check. I did use it as a basic calculator – not easy until you learn how to use the product, but something that will help you delve into it and worth the time. Next, I did some College Algebra problems from a textbook – not something that would stress the product, but something that could be interesting to a student or educator. No problems or errors, and I think this would be great to use while enrolled in an Algebra class.

Next I went to Wolfram’s site and found an area of their site devoted to using Mathematica for visualizing models (http://members.wri.com/jeffb/visualization/). I found some really impressive images and simulations. As an amateur astronomer, one image I particularly liked was the one showing two galaxies colliding, just one of many from Jeff Bryant. See: http://members.wri.com/jeffb/visualization/galaxies.shtml

You don’t need Mathematica to see this or other equally impressive images at the site above. They are well worth the time and effort to browse, and it was nice that Jeff made the effort to produce and share them with others.

Researchers in many fields will appreciate that Wolfram Research has external data sources available for download from Wolfram servers, where it is kept up to date. This is important because many Mathematica users add or import research data, but must be concerned how current the data is, since science is a rapidly changing field. Anyone that has had the onerous task of manually installing massive amounts of data for a project knows the time spent installing updates can be put to better use. Like sleeping, eating, or having a social life. I tested Mathematica using Astronomy and Biochemistry topics I’ve seen in research and was impressed how easy it was to retrieve the data. Nearby stars, elements and their properties, and complex chemical structures were easily downloaded and accessible. Nice!

Before the internet, Educators would need a graphics artist to create slides for projection onto a wall – few lower education facilities could afford studios to create movies, so slideshows were typically the best students could expect to see. Now educators can use some of the new built-in functions that help demonstrate mathematic and physics concepts to their classes. Mathematica also provides tools (like slider gadgets) to let users manipulate the data models to see how changes to settings influence the output as those variables change. Again, nice!

Every math class I’ve taken, regardless of the level of education, has answers in the back of the book to let the student check their homework. But, most text books only have some of the answers in the back, so you either need to purchase a solutions guide or check the unlisted answers with the teacher. I don’t advocate trying to use the software to do your homework, but it helped me a lot this semester as I could check my work before turning assignments in to the professor. Parents that have struggled when helping their children with math homework will appreciate this capability too. It really makes a difference and I can’t imagine taking a math or physics class without Mathematica.

Programmers will enjoy the application support built into Mathematica. It already was able to interface with C++, Java, .NET, and XML code, and Wolfram added more external integration support in release 6.x, providing additional external device support, new system control and monitoring functionality, new integrated Web Services support, and they improved the file capabilities. I am currently testing this aspect of Mathematica and hope to have a follow up article soon with my findings.

I haven’t covered some of the other features of the product yet – using notebooks to group and distribute data, document formatting and publication, file (audio and video) format conversion, number theory, how to create presentations and generate spreadsheets, and areas more focused on topics of interest to heavier math users. Too much to cover in one review and do a proper job for our readers or for the vendor of this powerful product.

I want all of our readers, not just Mathematicians and Engineers, to know that this product is worthwhile and useful. It can do so much for people attending or teaching math or science or programming classes. Version 6.x has 1500 – yes, 1500 – new features over the 5.2 release. I’ve covered a few new features, as well as explained some existing functionality to help you understand Mathematica. For a detailed list of all new features in Mathematica version 6.x, see http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/guide/SummaryOfNewFeaturesIn60.html

Negatives

Mathematica does take a fair amount of hard drive space, and I’m guessing a faster process would be better, and it is not the fastest program to launch (although it is far from the slowest I’ve used). You need internet access to take advantage of the load-on-demand data support. And price is an issue for any license beside the student license.

Recommendation

Highly recommended. Documentation is available online and it is extensive and easy to use. Any student attending university that needs to take more than basic math or science or programming classes will find this product useful. While a tad on the pricy side for small businesses, it does the same as a number of other commercial applications and maybe it is time to consider changing from those packages to just one.

Please Note

This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Software Editorial. Click here to read my review of Mathematica 6 for the Mac OS in MacWorld UK, and click here to read my review of Mathematica 7 at Software Latest.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

I’m finishing up my undergraduate degree in Computer Science this Spring and will be going on to graduate school in the Fall and one thing I’ve appreciated are the student discounts of computer products. I love writing Java and C code, but something I have had access since going to school is Microsoft Visual Studio Professional. Three years ago students could buy Visual Studio Pro 2005 for $99, but then Microsoft started DreamSpark, a program where students can download some of their development tools, including:

  • Visual Studio Professional 2005
  • Visual Studio Professional 2008
  • Visual Studio Professional 2010
  • Game Studio 3.1
  • Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R2
  • MS Server 2003 Standard
  • MS Server 2008 Standard
  • MS Server 2008 R2 Standard

They have other packages, including the Express development editions (which already were free), available at their website. I would encourage any high school or college student to look into this website as it is a wonderful opportunity to get free full versions of this development software.

IntelliJ IDEA 9.0.2
From: JetBrains (http://www.jetbrains.com/idea/)
By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Programmers have a general tendency to like a particular IDE (Integrated Development Environment) to use when writing code. I have tried a number of free IDEs and especially like Eclipse, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use others when needed.

Six months ago I saw a discussion on a Java coding forum about IDEs and there were a number of developers that talked about IntelliJ IDEA from JetBrains. Version 8.x of IDEA was a commercial product and I didn’t want to spend the $299 to get it since I already have and like Eclipse, but shortly after that time JetBrains decided to release a Community Edition and a Ultimate Edition for version 9.x. Upon release of 9.0.0, I downloaded the Community Edition and installed it on my netbook and Macbook, and I have to admit I like it.

Using the Product

The most interesting and unique aspect of this IDE is the way it is organized. Every bit of space in the 4 borders is utilized. This is a screen shot of the IDE:

There are buttons on every border, providing shortcuts to many things typically available as menu or keyboard shortcuts. I like how Eclipse has tabs across the top of the editor that has the various classes and interfaces, but only so many show up at once. IDEA uses multiple rows, so all classes and interfaces for a project are opened and clearly visible – in the screen shot above I have 5 classes and 2 interfaces open, and I could have all 10 project files open at once if I so choose (see the next screen shot for 10 open tabs). I should add that it is easy to see that the files are classes or interfaces in both the project list to the left and the editor tabs at the top. Very convenient.

There is good version control support – CVS, Git, and Subversion, and I like how it is just too simple to generate and run Ant builds for a project:

This particular Ant build was done by selecting the menu option ‘Build/Generate Ant Build…’, and then I selected the options I wanted (kept the build in the same area as IDEA, not Eclipse, so the XML content was only visible to the IDEA IDE).

Some of my classes can get a bit long, so I like is how easy it is to show line numbers in the editor. To show them, use the menu option ‘View/Show Line Numbers’ and they are available for the current class or interface – this isn’t a global project setting and I don’t think it should be. Much easier than opening a properties screen and setting it for everything in the IDE.

IDEA also supports exporting an individual class or the entire project as HTML. This would be nice for Computer Science professors that just want to see the source code or for team code reviews. HTML files can contain hyperlinks as well as line numbers, so the code is easy to read.

I started with a fresh install of version 9.0.0 and updated to versions 9.0.1 and 9.0.2 when they were available. I did have some problems, but JetBrains support provided timely and accurate responses to address the problems. To see my issue with the 9.0.1 update, see my comments about the C/C++ plug-in below. The issue with the 9.0.2 update was platform-specific: I had no problem updating IDEA on a netbook running XP, but had to manually install the updated version on my Macbook.

I’m only going to mention two plug-ins: Eclipse Integration and C/C++. The Eclipse Integration plug-in lets you access and modify a project created in Eclipse. I was using Eclipse to write the Java code for a C compiler, and I wanted to see how well this Eclipse plug-in worked. All I had to do was Select the ‘File/New Project’ option, select ‘Import project from external model, press the ‘Next’ button, give the IDEA project a name and then enter the project files location. Simple, fast, and virtually foolproof. When I made changes in IDEA, I switched back to Eclipse and saw a pop-up saying the contents were modified and asked if I wanted to replace the editor contents with those contents. When I made and saved changes in Eclipse and switched back to IDEA, the editor contents automatically updated to show the new contents.

Now the reason I’m discussing the C/C++ plug-in was because it worked when I downloaded and installed version 9.0.0, but it caused an error with the IDE when I updated to version 9.0.1. I contacted JetBrain’s tech support on a Sunday with the symptoms and they replied the same day (pretty impressive support for a free product, don’t you think?). They told me to disable the C/C++ plug-in and I did and the IDE worked fine. When version 9.0.2 came out, I figured they would have address this but they hadn’t, which is depressing. I emailed their support (and had fast response from Serge – thanks), and the only news I had was that version 9.0.2 was not a release to fix plug-in issues, so hopefully they will address this in version 9.0.3.

Conclusion

I like this IDE. The layout of the tools and options is logical and fairly intuitive. I appreciate that JetBrains uses the top, sides and bottom of the IDE to put in things normally accessed from menus. Ant, version control and exporting are excellent, and the ease to access existing Eclipse projects is an absolute plus, since it lets a programmer use either IDE when working on team projects.

Positives

  • It is free and it is open source. Huge!
  • It is one of the faster Java IDEs I’ve used.
  • The UI is logically organized, with buttons on all 4 borders of the IDE.
  • The Eclipse Integration plug-in is ideal for environments with mixed IDEs.
  • Exporting as an Eclipse project and as HTML is fast, simple, and useful.
  • Simple to generate and run Ant builds.
  • Tech support is fast in responding to issues.
  • Good online help.

Negatives

  • The Community Edition does not support J2EE development.
  • Updating – I had issues moving to versions 9.0.1 and to 9.0.2. I checked with the JetBrains help desk and they said the same was true when moving from 9.0.2 to 9.0.3 – I have to say I don’t see why this is necessary and hope they address this before the 9.0.4 update.
  • The C/C++ plug worked in version 9.0.0 but not in versions 9.0.1 or 9.0.2. Why?

Recommendation

Get it. It is powerful, free, the UI is different than the Eclipse and Eclipse-derivative IDEs, and the performance was impressive. I enjoyed being able to link to a project I had in Eclipse, make modifications, and have those changes available when I launch Eclipse.

Oil spills, industry practices, and the Gulf.

Last year the prevalent political rhetoric was to scream about handling our energy crisis by just telling their audience “drill baby drill”. After the BP oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill, that rhetoric looks pretty bad, especially if you live in one of the states facing environmental and economic damages from the oil spill.