Category Archives: Tech

What You Can Do with Web Apps in HTML5: A Response

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Hello all, I felt the need to respond to a discussion that was had on Web Apps and HTML5 on the tech show “The Gillmor Gang”… the “Pinch and Spread” episode. What was said was interesting but it seemed to be that the gang was coming to conclusions based on too limited a view of what HTML  5 was capable of. The embedded video I hope explains it all more fully. Hopefully you can pardon my excessive use of vocal pauses (umm), and you will still get a good grounding of the potential that HTML 5 has and what it can to do for the mobile space.

Link to discussion on programmatically determining if the browser is running on a regular iPad or an iPad Mini:   Detecting iPad Mini in HTML5
How to Detect iPad Mini Using Javascript
Note regarding the two links above: After looking into this deeper it seems that the difference in the values for availableWidth and availableHeight are due to the different tab counts when testing this code. So this is probably not very useful after all. 🙁

Amazon link to book:   Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript by Jonathan Stark. Note that I bought this also as an eBook on Apple’s iBooks and some of the page formatting in the reader there is really screwed up.

Related Chomer.com Posts:
Programmatically Determining if in Full Screen Mode in Mobile Safari

Initial Thoughts on My Makerbot Replicator 2x

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Today I finally received my new Makerbot Replicator 2x 3D printer. I also received another box containing two spools of plastic filament (one ABS and one PLA) that I had ordered extra. I am supposed to receive another package that contains the acrylic top cover… I have not received that one yet. I carefully opened the box for the printer and setup it up. Here are a few points I want to make:

  • A sheet of paper packed at the top of the box did mention that I might get the plastic cover shipped to me at another time (depending on the shipper).
  • White plastic tie-downs where being used to hold the double extruder print head in place during shipping. What was cool was they were wrapped around red blocks of plastic that were obviously printed on a 3D printer!
  • There was supposed to be a plastic spacer between the two gantry bars to kind of hold things steady during shipping. My printer did not have this. In other words it was missing.
  • As expected, the printer came with an SD card which was already plugged into the printer’s SD card slot.
  • The printer came with 2 spools of ABS plastic filament. It was not clear when I bought the printer that it would be included (which is why I had bought 2 spools separately).
  • It took a bit of jiggering to get the print platform aligned.
  • I decided to print the comb model (one of the models that came on the SD card).
  • I had a bear of a time getting something to print… Turns out you really need to put this film on the printing platform called Kapton Tape. This stuff, at least the stuff that came with the printer looks more like overhead projector transparencies than tape! Interestingly enough the user manual mentions nothing about this in the setup section of the book. And this stuff did not come pre-installed in my printer! After I put this stuff in I started to get somewhere.
  • You want to make sure that before you print that you remove any plastic goop off of the extruders (even if it is the other extruder that you are not using)! That goop may knock over what you are printing as the print head moves around!
  • I finally was able to print a “comb.” It came out a bit warped so I don’t think it would do a good job of combing your hair! This warping problem may be due to platform not being heated warm enough. The acrylic cover has a lot to do with keeping the heat stable in the printing area so we’ll see how that helps the print quality once I get it.
  • I can adjust the temperature of the print platform (make it higher), and perhaps I should adjust the height of the platform so it is slightly closer to the print head’s extruders. We will see.
  • BTW, I printed the comb in PLA which should be less fussy. I am still working out the tweaks.

Some final notes: some parts of the user manual are very clear, some need some help (there are two sections one after the other on loading filament… it gets confusing what is happening here). This mainly is during just the printer setup section.

I am looking forward to becoming a Makerbot expert! Until later…

Is 2013 the Year of the 3D Printer?

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Replicator 2 3D printer with plastic tractor printed on it

3D printers have been around for a little while. Instead of printing ink or toner on paper like a 2D printer, these devices print 3D objects by taking a computer file that describes a 3D object and print them by building them one thin layer at a time. Many printers print objects in plastic. But some even print in metals!

These printers used to be relegated to the use of R&D departments of companies who could afford $50,000 or more devices as large as a big refrigerator. Recently though, some small companies have been coming out with desktop 3D printers that are affordable to normal people. My first exposure to these kinds of printers (or any 3D printers at all) came from Make Magazine. They had an article about the Cupcake 3D printer kit from a company called MakerBot. Very cool stuff!

Me and a buddy of mine went to like the next MakerFaire in San Mateo and there were quite a few 3D printers around busily printing different objects. There were lots of people crowded around these things. I could see why! It was mesmerizing to see a device like this making an object from scratch.

Well my attention was brought back to 3D Printers with product announcements being made at CES this year. And folks, I broke down and bought a 3D printer! The Makerbot Replicator 2X! Let me say I ordered it. I do not have it yet. There is like an 8 week delay. I am looking forward to getting it though! I know, duh right? Oh, and this printer comes assembled. I don’t have to build a kit. Which for me is great! We’re planning on having a 3D printer party at my house a while after it arrives. We’ll see if that happens! 🙂

MakerBot is not the only one coming out with desktop 3D printers that people can afford. It should be very interesting what happens in this space!

And yes you can do more with this thing than just print out busts of Yoda and statues of owls! I’ve even seen such things as working shower heads! To get an idea of things one can print on a 3D printer check out Thingiverse!

Book Review: RibbonX – Customizing the Office 2007 Ribbon

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My Book Rating: 5 of 5 stars:

Power Users and Developers: Making customized Apps Using Microsoft Office
Those of us who have the responsibility of producing customized Excel workbooks, and Word documents that essentially have become small powerful applications in their own right are always looking for ways to make the tools we build in these Microsoft Office products more powerful, easy to use, and more like actual stand-alone apps. One of the ways I looked at enhancing the “tools” I created was by adding a tool bar to an Excel workbook for example. I first did this myself in Excel 2003. It was tedious but doable. One draw-back in the way tool bars were done back then is that the changes applied to the whole app (Excel or Word), and one screw-up on your part could truly clobber Excel or Word’s tool bars and menus system wide.

A New Way of Doing Tool Bars in Office 2007
In Office 2007, Microsoft changed how their user interface worked. And they changed the scope of the changes. If you were going to screw something up for your tool bars now it would only be with one document file, not the entire system. Customizing this tool bar was more flexible. You could do much more with the new tool bar than the old version (the new tool bar Microsoft calls a ribbon). The Technology behind the ribbon they call RibbonX. Read more

Thinking About a Redesign… Again

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I am getting thoroughly dissatisfied with the design of my web site again. I’m looking for that right balance of nice presentation, easy updating, good navigation, etc.

I’ve not found it yet.

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify!

More and more lately I’m out trolling the Net looking for some good site design examples that capture the essence of what I’m looking for. I’ve been tweeking around with some CSS and HTML locally on my computer trying to find that magic something or other.

It shouldn’t have to be this hard!

I’ve been pondering just making my whole site a blog. One thing is for sure, I’d really like it to be some sort of complete content management system (one that would run on my web host and not cost allot, and has the features I want).

Of course this has gotten me back to thinking about writing my own CMS. I’ve started and abandoned this idea several times! I have written simple CMSes before. I used to have a site: “vbmaster.net” It used a CMS I wrote in ASP/MS Access. It worked pretty well. I got sick of running it and so I stopped. I lost ownership of the domain due to letting it expire and some spammer has the domain now.

That CMS was primitive. Too primitive for what I want to do now.

And, naturally, that got me thinking about the Movieland Directory. This site has a CMS that I wrote. Well, I started working on a newer, better design for this site months ago. I left off working on it quite awhile back though. Well, allot of what I need is already done. So I started thinking about picking up work on this project again. The point though: thinking only! No actual work on it yet!

I think that I have software constipation right now! 😛

iPhone SDK Beta: Some Progress

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To all you bright programmers out there, getting the SDK working probably seemed to be cake. Not for me. Apple made things confusing. But I’m finally getting somewhere!

Getting the first app example working (which I downloaded off of Apple’s site) was an uphill struggle. I was trying to get the  Kalimba Finger Piano working on my iPhone. Downloading the right licence files, putting them in the right places. Not to mention the fact that when ordering the SDK it took me to the Apple store to purchase it and promised a delivery within 5 business days, and that I’d need to be at the ship address to sign for it… Buzzz! Wrong!

I have now downloaded and got running on my iPhone several of the examples that Apple provides. These examples look like they will help me understand how to do different things that I need to understand in order to accomplish my desired goal: A simple game that I have in mind.

Pete from Trails In The Sand: thankyou for your help.

I’ve got a binder set up where I’m keeping all my To-do lists, activity logs, and misc notes for my game. I’m trying to give structure to this thing. I dearly hope this won’t end up being another unfinished project. I’m hoping that the simplicity of the game I want to write will help me in this regards.

The next thing I’m planning to do is assemble one of Pete’s projects and get it working. I think this is the next natural step in progression. It’s one thing to get working a project where all the files have been pre-added, and everything is pre-configured and get it working, it’s another thing to take the piece-parts and do that yourself.

After that, I’m really going to start digging into the code. My to-do list is much more detailed but I think you get the idea.

Tip: When selecting an item in Provisioning, it means more than highlighting it. It means checking the checkbox on the item. This little issue had me wasting probably 2-3 hours of time trying different things.

iPhone SDK Beta: Waiting For Delivery

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I got the go-ahead from Apple Development to be in the Beta program for developing for the iPhone. I clicked on the appropriate link, filled in the proper info, whipped out the old credit card, validated everything, read everything and am now waiting to receive my package!

I was pleased to see that I wasn’t just simply given a URL to download stuff from, but that they were going to send me a package containing the goodies I’m looking for. I will have to sign for the package.

I signed up I believe Sunday evening. So I am waiting expectantly for my delivery. I will be able to finally try stuff on my actual phone. How cool is that?

An Update on iPhone Development

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UPDATED.

I have managed to get a sample  iPhone app compiled and running in the iPhone simulator that they provide. The app is an African thumb piano. It is a very imaginative use of the iPhone. It would be much nicer running on my iPhone rather than a simulator!

There are some really neat and creative sample programs in the iPhone SDK now, some of them besides being good sampls to look at as far as their code are concerned are apps that I’d actually like to have on my iPhone for my own use! I like the idea of the program that turns your iPhone into a level you can use to make sure that your pictures are straight! Cool.

I’ve spent a bit of time looking over the African Finger Thumb Piano code. I’m still trying to follow where the “start” of the code is. To be honest though, I’ve not spent allot of time looking into this lately.

Crawling a Little Closer on the iPhone SDK

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My id for logging in to Apple’s developer web site is different than the id I normally log in to my MacBook with. I was wondering if this was the reason that I could not download the items I subscribed to in the Help program in XCode.

So, I created a user on my MacBook with the same user name and signed in as that and fired up XCode. Next, I brought up the Help, subscribed to the items  that I wanted, and, bingo! Those items loaded!

When I tried to compile to the actual iPhone device (as opposed to the simulator), I still get an error… though it is a different error  now.

Rats! I went to try it again and I get yet another error: “No Device is Connected” This is in spite of the fact that I can bring up iTunes and it shows that it is connected!

Oh, and in the Organizer, it shows my iPhone. Go figure! It is all too clear that I am still missing some of the pieces of the puzzle.

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