Random tidbits

I’m too lazy to finish the travelogue now (and truth be told, even I find it a little boring as a tale instead of the experience), but I think I’ll get around to it later. In the meantime, some interesting bits and pieces.

I’m learning C!

Well, trying to, anyway. I decided to do my data structures project in C. The single most useful resource so far: How to read C declarations.

TortoiseHg now runs on x64

As of 0.8, TortoiseHg works with the 64bit Windows Explorer. Yum! I had close to zero success running it using a 32bit Explorer on Windows 7 – the fractional bits of “success” were the times I noticed TortoiseHg overlays in the File Open dialog of a 32bit app… 😛

The mystery of the Two Document Folders

I figured out why I have two sets of “My Documents” (and a bunch of other links I can’t open) in my home directory:

Screenshot of Windows 7 Explorer showing two "My Documents" folders

I figured they appeared when I chose to have Explorer display all hidden files and folders. The second “My Documents” is in fact a NTFS junction point that exists no doubt for compatibility reasons. The first “My Documents” folder is really called “Documents”, Explorer just has some magic to translate the name. I wonder what happens to the junction if I switch languages…

Live Writer needs to ask for confirmation before publishing a blog post…

… or I need to stop blogging when I’m too tired to think straight. I was trying to change the formatting of a block from “Paragraph” to “Heading 3”, and what I did instead was hit “Publish”. Apologies for RSS subscribers, all um… two of you, I have a sneaking suspicion you may see an earlier version of this post due to said mishap.

That’s it for today.

London travelogue, part 1

It’s been a week since we returned from our trip to London, and I thought I’d post a bit on said trip.

Monday

Hit Helsinki-Vantaa around 15:00 local time. Dropped our bags at the BA bag drop — which was still handling a flight to Rome, so we had to queue for about twenty minutes before proceeding. Did the security dance and sat down to wait for boarding.

I took my student laptop (an Asus EEE 900) with me, thinking it would be easier to carry that around instead of my own laptop. Besides, were it to get stolen, the cost of replacing it would be much lower. There were some open WLAN hotspots, but none of them had a strong enough signal for me to do anything with, so instead I began a game of Solitaire on my iPod.

Approximately an hour to boarding there was an announcement saying we’d be delayed for 40 minutes due to the plane arriving late from its previous flight. I didn’t think much of it, but a half hour from that, they announced another delay. Eventually we boarded the plane two hours late, and arrived similarly two hours late of the intended schedule.

After departing the plane on the tarmac and having a bus drive us to the airport, then walking through the seemingly endless hallways to the luggage pickup, our bags were already there. I also spotted an ATM and withdrew some local currency. A few minutes later we found our way to the Tube. I bought both of us Oyster cards with a travelcard and some charge for the trip from Heathrow and back.

We took the Tube from Heathrow to Earl’s Court, switched lines there, and found ourselves at Bayswater Station at 22:30 local time. We spotted a Subway, went there to grab a bit to eat, then went on to the hotel, which was a two-minute walk from the station.

The hotel room was comfy, if cramped. Unfortunately, the net connection was not wireless, and I hadn’t brought an ethernet cable with me. When we were settled in, it was getting pretty late already, so we turned on the telly, watched it for a while and then went to sleep.

Tuesday

We got up relatively early, seeing as we were still in the GMT+2 sleep cycle. I had looked up the local map, and knew there was a mall called Whiteleys near the hotel. We hit the mall – almost no stores were yet open. There was a Starbucks though, so we went there for breakfast. I have to say I’m disappointed with the Starbucks latte. 🙂

After breakfast we did a quick tour of the Books, etc. store at Whiteleys (I bought “The War of the Flowers” by Tad Williams, entertaining read and refreshingly, not a trilogy). Back to the hotel for a bit, and next up was Camden Town.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Camden Town, but it would definitely have exceeded whatever expectations I might have had. The Tube exit was to the side of Camden that was filled with street merchants, little clothing shops, veggie restaurants and whatnot – the entrance was on the other side, which we immediately labeled “the boring side of Camden”.

We walked from street merchant to store and back in the maze-like alleys of the Stables Market for hours. There seemed to be no end to new things to see. And to buy, of course.

Dog on a riverboat at Camden Lock Village

The experience was pretty overwhelming, being used to living in small suburbs. My feet were beginning to scream – the walking shoes I was wearing weren’t really intended for the cobblestone streets of the Stables Market.

Upon our return from Camden Town, I picked up an ethernet cable at an electronics store to get online at the hotel. With that sorted, I was able to get the netbook online and report in to people back in Finland. It was also useful for looking up Tube routes, and for the online check-in due for our way back on Sunday.

To be continued

I intended for this post to be only moderately long, and to publish it today. In order to do that, I’m going to have to cut off here. Apparently it’s not possible to write anything meaningful about a week’s worth of events in only a few paragraphs. Who knew. 🙂

London calling

So my vacation has just begun. I’ve only got three weeks this year, because I switched jobs about a quarter of a year into the period that determines the yearly vacation time. I didn’t negotiate more paid vacation time when I took this new job, either. My mistake, but there you go.

We’re kicking my vacation off with a trip to London tomorrow. We’ll be there for a week. Our current plans include some of the mandatory sights, but mostly I just want to wander around a bit, sit in cafés, browse books at book stores and get to know the local culture a bit.

In the meantime, three of our friends are touring the Europe together on the InterRail. With any luck, they’ll manage a detour to London for a day or two so we can hit the town together, and see what sort of mayhem we can come up with. 🙂

In other news, I’m futzing a bit with Windows Live Photo Gallery – I think it really needs a publishing plug-in that creates a zip archive from the selected images. This will most likely end up being Yet Another Project I Won’t Finish, but still, it’s enough to keep me interested.

Another developer-y thing I’ve been looking at is the XNA framework. It’s really fun, even if all I’ve managed so far is to draw a couple of lines here and there. I’m considering starting a small game project with a friend of mine.

This about wraps it up for today. Rytmis out.

Friday, here we come

Last night we went to see Faith No More at the Kaisaniemi park, home of the Tuska Festival (which begins tomorrow, by the by), and even though I’ve never been a big fan, the gig was pure awesome. The sheer intensity of Patton’s act is amazing, his vocal range is beyond belief, and the style with which the band performed made it one hell of a night.

While going through the photos (a few of which I cropped up a bit and uploaded to a Flickr set) I remembered how much I suck as a photographer. By and large that’s because I practice rarely if ever, and I don’t really know the camera I’m shooting with. 😛

So Tuska tomorrow, and while I’m not attending the festival, I am planning on a little get-together on the lawn outside. The weather so far has been incredible and we’ve got friends from all over coming to join us. Should be fun!

Mike Patton

“I see beer… lots and lots of beer in the near future!”

My wrongness quota is filling up

Today I blamed TFS for a problem I was having, when it was me all along who was looking in the wrong place. Granted, VS could have been a liiiiittle bit more informative, but still, had I opened the correct branch to begin with, the problem wouldn’t have been there.

In the same vein, I noticed that my issue about getting the “upgrade to IE” error on IE 8 was actually because the page in Firefox is a result of a redirect – and guess what happens when you copy the redirected URL and paste it into another browser? You guessed it! You get the redirected page instead of the original one. Duh.

Edit: Boy, reading this a month later, I realized I had mixed up the link titles and the link texts. Even took me a while to figure out what I was trying to say there. 😛 Well, that’s fixed now.

Windows 7 RC and Visual Studio 2008

So I thought I’d install VS 2008 to dabble around with WPF a bit. After the installer was finished, I was confronted with this:

Visual Studio 2008 installer, showing an error on every component

OK, so I reboot my machine, and as soon as I log in, this pops up:

Visual Studio 2008 setup screen with "Check for Service Releases" link active

After having seen the error, I think “service releases, let’s see,” and click on the link. Firefox opens up with this:

Firefox showing a Windows Update message asking to visit the site using the latest IE

OK, fair enough, let’s take the URL and fire up IE:

The latest IE showing a Windows Update message asking to visit the site using the latest IE

OK, now you’re just fucking with me. Seriously.

The kicker? Looks like VS has no problems working, despite the apparent failure of every single installed component. 🙂

A week of Windows 7

I’ve been playing with Windows 7 Beta for just under a week now. Initially I thought I’d install it in a virtual machine, but I never seemed to have enough space on my laptop. I also had an issue with my Vista install – a lockup that forced me to do a hard reset also broke a file or two that were integral to the functioning of Windows Update. Imagine my surprise when I figured I hadn’t had any updates in over a month. I tried various voodoo-esque methods to fix things, but as each of them failed to provide results, I began to consider using a beta version more and more.

The installer seemed nice for starters, almost on par with modern Linux installers. 😉 However, one thing that caused hours of frustration was that since I had PowerShell installed, the upgrade refused to run. And Vista refused to show me any way to uninstall PowerShell. After some searching I found a registry setting which fooled the installer to thinking I didn’t have PS, and things began to work.

Well, by “work” I mean the installer agreed to run. It took hours to “gather” my files (why it needed to know that, I have no idea – every file I care about is in the exact same spot it was in before the upgrade). In the morning I peeked at the progress. It told me “21%” and “Windows needs to reboot”, but gave me no way to agree to the reboot. A forced restart later, the installer booted up, only to fail at resuming. I figured this was due to the forced restart, booted back into Vista (luckily the installer left Vista untouched at that point) and fired the installer again. This time at 21% I got a reboot prompt, after which things have gone smoothly.

I had to futz with the settings a little to make sleep-on-lid-close work again, which was a bit annoying, but the bigger problem is WMP 12, which downright refuses to work after I wake the laptop up by opening the lid. The application launches, but then it presents me with this:

Windows Media Player 12 frozen right after launch

and a busy cursor. And there it remains. In fact, it refuses to die by any conventional means: the close button doesn’t work, the close command in the Jump List menu doesn’t work, taskkill doesn’t have any effect, and neither does ending the process via Task Manager. The only thing that does work is restarting the computer. At least once I’ve had even that fail to kill the WMP process, so the shutdown process shut down, and the OS kept on running. A hard reset and a disk check later, things work fine again – until the next time I close the lid.

I posted a summary about the problem on the Windows 7 Beta TechNet forum. Here’s hoping someone has a solution. 🙂

Overall, I like Windows 7. It does a good job at bringing the Windows GUI closer to modern standards. The window manager has even learned a couple of useful tricks. I can’t wait for the day when alternate Window Managers for Windows begin to appear.

Unleash that dragon

So I’m in the clutches of the lurgy here, and trying to keep my brain active. I’ve received a miscellaneous bunch of books in the mail in the last few days, one of them being Microsoft Expression Blend Unleashed. I’ve read the first two chapters, and skimmed the next two.

First, a quote:

“If you have used Microsoft Vista, you will have noticed how Microsoft appears to have finally gotten an outstanding balance with their product with respect to familiarity, visual appearance and general feel.”

OK, so we’re starting off with a Vista ad. Great. This bit, on page 10, was the moment when I began to question my judgment in choosing this book over the others on the market. No, wait, that happened on page 4:

“Next Generation Hardware Is Coming!

Already hardware changes are being made to accommodate Vista-specific features like Windows Sideshow.

[…]

However, it appears that the implementation has been slow to gather momentum in this particular case.”

… yeah.

The same chapter expresses similar feelings towards other Microsoft technologies, such as Silverlight. Fine, I get it, Silverlight is cool. However, I bought a book to learn how to work with the tools, not to be blasted with marketing garbage.

Chapter 2 really makes clear that this book is not intended for a programmer. Topics that are obvious or at least easy for a developer are discussed in a tone that, to me, feels condescending. Around page 48 things get more interesting – first demo app. At this point, the author’s conversational tone is beginning to feel forced. However, the next few pages do cover bits of the Blend tooling that are interesting to me. On the downside, that coverage is accompanied by a step-by-step tutorial no less than 44 steps long. Perhaps this could have been broken down to a number of sub-tasks, so that the steps could be kept simple, and grouped logically?

Chapter 3 meticulously goes through all the panels of the Blend UI. Maybe it’s just me, but again a little breathing room would have been nice.

I have few comments about the XAML basics bits in Chapter 4. It’s a very short chapter.

I’m really hoping the rest of the book offers something more compelling for me. More posts when I read further.

Lazy bum…

No pictures, or posts for that matter. I’m coming down with something, possibly a flu, possibly worse – I already have a sore throat, and my bronchi seems to be clogging up.

Brief updates: I’ve started my new gig with a day of general briefing about the customs of the customer, and another day of training specific to the customer’s platform. Movements are definitely constrained, code-wise, but the platform seems impressive.

I’m also re-doing week one of One Hundred Push-ups, now with considerably less muscle ache on the in-between days. Now, if I could only get my eating habits in check… 🙂

Ow ow ow

I’m back to trying the one hundred pushups exercise program – they even have a spiffy new logger now – and yesterday was week 1, day 1. I feel like someone beat me up with a baseball bat. It’s going to feel worse tomorrow, and tomorrow’s week 1, day 2. Ow. Ow ow ow.

I’ve got the prosthesis now, trying to get used to it. It looks great, but feels weird. More on that, possibly with pics, later when I feel less lazy.

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