Archive for September, 2009

Published by Kenneth on 16 Sep 2009

Trade Profiteer – New script to create a desktop shortcut

The question I’ve been asked the most about the Trade Profiteer is in regard to setting up the desktop shortcut. Well, I’ve got an easy way to do this now. Simply download and run a quick little tool and it should be taken care of for you.

Download CreateShortcut

Fair winds.

Published by Kenneth on 15 Sep 2009

Latest Puzzle Pirates updates

I went up to the Puzzle Pirates forums tonight and noticed that there was a post saying the Bleach uploader is broken thanks to the latest Puzzle Pirates updates. So what happened, and is the Trade Profiteer affected?

First, the shoppe and ship interface is what changed. They combined several commerce functions into one tabbed interface. This means that the “Buy/Sell Commodities” interface on a ship or in a shoppe is no longer compatible with the Trade Profiteer.

This means that if you want to import the data, you will need to go to a commodity market to do so. I will see what I can do about getting it to work elsewhere. I don’t anticipate it taking much, but I likely won’t be able to really look into it until the weekend.

So until I’ve released an update to correct this minor annoyance (watch this blog for updates), you’re currently relegated to the commodity market buildings and forts for getting market information.

Published by Kenneth on 11 Sep 2009

Eight years later

September 11, 2001

I think most of us can say within reason that we can remember what we were doing that morning when the towers fell. The World Trade Towers, the tallest landmarks of the New York City skyline, bastions of the world financial and commercial architecture, gone. What took likely thousands of men years of blood, sweat, tears, and effort took only a small group of men, armed with two jumbo jet aircraft, less than a couple hours to bring to the ground.

I have not forgotten what I was doing that morning. I still recall seeing the second plane fly into the north tower, saying to my mother, “Mom, I just saw a plane fly into the building”, or something along those lines.

But they didn’t stop there. They escalated this to an act of war by attacking the Pentagon, the center of our military.

So many lives lost in such a short time.

I’m sure we all have stories similar to that, the horror on our faces and the terror in our eyes. Nothing could have prepared us for that fateful and frightful morning.

On behalf of Colony West Software Company, I wish to extend my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those lost that tragic morning. Though they were lost, they will not be forgotten.

Published by Kenneth on 09 Sep 2009

Windows 7 Sins – Creation vs. Evolution meets the software industry

Recently the Free Software Foundation created a website called “Windows 7 Sins” in which it details seven “sins” that Microsoft is allegedly committing. I’m going to respond to them because they detail clearly how narrow-minded the FSF has become (or has always been).

Note: Their new site makes heavy use of yellow coloring in images and text blocks. This may make the site difficult on your eyes and/or cause eye strain or headaches.

Before they even get to their first “sin”, they already state their obvious bias by stating that Windows 7 is proprietary software, the “same problem that Vista, XP, and all previous versions have had”. Is this really an issue?

The Free Software Foundation seems to think that computer owners care if their operating system is proprietary or open source. Here’s a news flash: they don’t. And much to the FSF’s frustrations, that won’t change any time soon. Do they think that we’ll just become a world of software engineers? I highly, highly doubt it.

Most who shop around for software also don’t care if what they select is open source, otherwise there would’ve been thousands of calls for me to open source digestIT 2004 (guess what, there hasn’t been a single one, and the software has been downloaded hundreds of thousands to over a million times over the course of approaching 6 years).

Jack Wallen at Tech Republic recently commented on this web site as well, in which he, predictably, stated that he agrees with the Free Software Foundation’s claims, though he did correctly state that the majority of users couldn’t care less (he says “could care less”) whether they can share, modify, or study what they’re using. Someone should send a memo to the FSF saying the same thing.

But let’s look at each of the 7 claims individually, something that most religious FSF proponents won’t.

1. Poisoning education

Okay this argument is similar to the creation versus evolution debacle. Students aren’t presented with any other options than Microsoft, apparently, and the FSF is screaming like the Discovery Institute was screaming prior to and even after the famous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision in 2005.

In this instance, the Free Software Foundation is complaining about how Microsoft seems to hold a monopoly over public education like the theory of evolution holds a monopoly over public school biology classrooms. Tough luck.

The point to make here is that open source has never been a major part of primary or secondary academia. Apple used to hold the torch there, but Microsoft in the early 90s managed to take the torch away by doing 2 things in primary and secondary schools: lowering computing costs and preparing students for more real-world applications.

The reason Microsoft still dominates education is because they’ve been the primary provider of computing to public education for almost 20 years. You’re not going to break that hold without one hell of a fight trying to convince those making the decisions in public schools that the change is worth it.

And to that I say, “Good luck”.

2. Invading privacy

Windows Genuine Advantage was problematic, I will agree. But to say that it “inspects the contents of users’ hard drives” is absurd without evidence backing it up. And the Free Software Foundation so far has presented none.

Windows Genuine Advantage is an anti-piracy tool. Microsoft does have a right under the law to enforce their copyrights, and while I disagree with WGA, it doesn’t scan a person’s hard drive. Instead it is very limited in how it determines whether the copy of Windows or Office you are running is legitimate – which is why it also originally produced a lot of problems.

Microsoft is not invading anyone’s privacy. If anything they are trying to enforce their copyright, not steal information about those using their software. I welcome evidence that Microsoft is, in fact, stealing personal or demographic information without the knowledge or consent of their customers and user base.

3. Monopoly behavior

What the FSF claims used to be true. The monopoly that Microsoft still enjoys is one of brand familiarity. Many are familiar with Microsoft, Office, and Windows, so they stick with it, even when presented with other options (like Macs, for example).

They also say that “even computers available with other operating systems…often had Windows on them first”. Generic statement with no evidence. Jack Wallen is right: the FSF is slipping here.

4. Lock-in

“Microsoft regularly attempts to force updates on its users, by removing support for older versions of Windows and Office, and by inflating hardware requirements.”

Hate to say this, but this isn’t Microsoft driving this. It’s consumers. Consumers are always wanting more features, and the bigger and badder, the better. And show me a company in their right mind who still actively supports software they put out years ago. I’m one of few – I still provide support for MD5 for Win32, which was released in 2002. And Microsoft is trying to sunset support for XP, which was first released in 2001.

Even Sun Microsystems removes support for older products (Java 5 goes EOL at the end of October), as do Linux vendors.

5. Abusing standards

I don’t buy the arguments they present. They say that Microsoft has also bribed officials – evidence please? Who was bribed? There is the suggestion that Microsoft bribed officials in Nigeria (not that it’s a difficult task), and from what I can see it is Linux vendors making the claim.

But on top of this, Microsoft is free to dictate what standards their software will or will not support. One thing we can honestly say is that certain standards Microsoft has little choice but to follow, such as the many standards that are in wide use on the Internet. But when it comes to data storage formats, open source vendors are just as bad as Microsoft.

Look at GnuCash. Sure it can import data in several different formats common in financial software, but as for export… your options are limited.

6. Enforcing DRM

The FSF calls it digital restrictions management instead of its real name, digital rights management. Here they are talking about access to media on the Internet. The FSF also incorrectly states that users have the “right” to record what they see online. Not always the case, and access agreements on web sites dictate what you can and cannot do while there.

But with Windows Media Player, Microsoft added support for DRM to ensure wide availability. If they didn’t support it, but say Apple’s QuickTime player did, Microsoft would lose out big time. It was a strategic move that Microsoft made to help maintain their market share if not take more of it.

7. Threatening user security

Yes Windows has security issues. Guess what? Linux ain’t immune. But part of the security issues with Windows is that Microsoft was catering to usability instead of security. A balance is needed, but Microsoft originally wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices needed for fear of user complaints – like on the order of what they received with UAC in Vista.

And Microsoft’s software became a big target for hackers purely because of market share. If you’re a hacker looking to steal personal information, you don’t cast your malware into a stream where few fish seem to be biting. Oh no, you cast your malware into the largest pond with the most fish, and that pond is Windows.

Concluding…

It is really becoming obvious that the Free Software Foundation is becoming nothing more than a bunch of whining babies. Microsoft got into academia early before Linux was even a thought in Linus Torvalds’ head, and the FSF is upset that they’re not getting their turn. I mean, Apple had their turn, Microsoft has had theirs for about 20 years, and now the FSF feels that it’s their turn but Microsoft isn’t relenting and bowing down like the FSF seems to think should happen.

The Free Software Foundation, hate to say it, is less about open source than most other open source vendors. The FSF is about one thing and one thing only: GNU. Not Linux, not anything else, only the GNU project. They feel it’s superior to Microsoft’s offerings, yet they haven’t been able to gain market share like RMS probably thought would magically happen, and they’re fuming about it.

So instead of actually trying to compete in the same arenas as Microsoft, they’re pulling the same punches that creationist organizations tried to pull with education: get a few people in there to try to form a “resistance” and see what happens. And when the majority shout back, scream persecution, demonize the majority, and hope that helps when you cannot compete on merit.

And hate to say this, but Jack Wallen has kind of become the Kent Hovind of the open source movement.

Published by Kenneth on 09 Sep 2009

Open source hardware? Not quite…

Article: “Open source camera could pave the way for open source hardware

Another article by Jack Wallen. Let’s see, is he full of himself again, or is he actually saying something coherent and thought out? Sorry to disappoint, folks, but he’s full of himself again.

The problem is how over the top he takes this new idea, so let’s start with the idea, which, in actuality, isn’t anything new.

According to Science Daily, at Stanford University, some photography students have created a camera with a firmware that they are releasing as open source. The idea of open sourcing firmware isn’t new, but the application to photography equipment is, and could prove to be rather interesting. I am certainly interested in how far this could go.

But let’s get back to Jack’s response to this. He goes very over the top here. Perhaps Jack’s brain is operating at Internet pace, because he’s not slowing down to think.

And how is it he’s not slowing down to think? He talks about the Android operating system for mobile phones as if it’s something that hasn’t come to fruition yet:

Phone developers releases next smart phone as open source and open source developers go crazy making apps to outshine iPhone app store.

But from here, his lack of thinking goes even further, just not in order:

Auto maker creates open source car and some hobbiest (sic) discovers a means to double the gas mileage.

Given that Jack is a stylist with a degree in theatre, I won’t fault him for not thinking on this one. So here’s a little science lesson: you can only get so much energy out of combusting gasoline, and we can only optimize the internal combustion engine so much. And there are laws of physics that say that it takes so much energy to move a particular object of  certain mass at such a speed for a certain distance. This is why there are concerns that the only way to improve gas mileage further than what we’ve done, aside from substituting every car for hybrids or making them so aerodynamic they’re useless for hauling cargo, is to cut weight.

So it’s highly, highly unlikely that a hobbyist will discover a way to double the gas mileage of a vehicle by modifying software. Sorry Jack, but just some more wishful thinking. But it, unfortunately, doesn’t stop here. His next statement is absolutely absurd.

Cancer center releases their current drug research under the GPL and retired chemist discovers cure for cancer.

Here he puts his ignorance out there for everyone to see. But given that creationism still consumes the US, I can probably assume that Jack doesn’t understand the scientific process either.

Science has been nothing but open for centuries. So if a cure for cancer is going to be discovered, it’ll happen in the open and very peer-reviewed world of science. And if someone claims to have a “cure for cancer”, you can imagine it will be hotly debated for years, if not decades, to ensure the claim has merit.

Some “retired chemist” isn’t going to take a cancer center’s drug research and turn it around into a cancer cure.

And here’s a question leading from this quote:

I want:

  1. To be able to go to a site.
  2. Search through a listing of firmware for my hardware that matches my exact needs.
  3. Download that firmware.
  4. Install that firmware.
  5. Use my hardware in the exact why I want to.

Okay you want to be able to find “firmware for [your] hardware that matches [your] exact needs”?

Since you keep boasting about open source and that users can become developers and “rework it so it’s exactly the application you need”, how about learning to do that yourself? You talk on and on about software development, implicitly proclaiming yourself to be an expert with regard to open source, when you’re nothing more than a bastion of assumptions that haven’t seen a drop of reality since RedHat 4.2 was released.

If you want the exact software you need, practice what you preach and become a software engineer. Then you’ll get that dose of reality you so obviously need.

I want my hardware to have an “app store” so I could just download new functions and features instantly.

Will you be contributing to said “app store”?

Others have pointed out where you’ve gone wrong in your statements, yet you’re still spouting the same stuff. You do not understand software development, you’ve never been involved in software development according to every profile I’ve seen about you on the Internet, and yet you keep spouting off like you’re an expert.

Now I could be wrong and you could be a great software engineer. So if you’ve tailored all your software to suit your needs (something I highly doubt), then by all means publish the source code for all of us to see your brilliance, or lack thereof.

Oh and one last thing: separate in your mind the difference between open source and an open design. You can’t “open source” a car, but you can openly publish the designs and engineering drawings. You can also openly publish the hardware designs to, say, a mobile phone, but you open source the firmware.

But in a way your car is kind of “open source”. If you want to dissect your car to study how it works, be my guest.

Published by Kenneth on 07 Sep 2009

Another data patch

Following an investigation into a reported issue regarding the inability to see any listings for cannonballs in the Trade Profiteer, it was determined that the cause of the problem is the name of the commodity in the database. As such, I’ve prepared and released another data patch.

The issue was in the word “cannonball”. In the database (which can be viewed using the Data Manager feature) the word was spelled without a space between “cannon” and “ball”. However in Puzzle Pirates, the commodity is named with the space between “cannon” and “ball”: “Small cannon balls” instead of “Small cannonballs”.

So download the patch and apply it to correct this issue.

Fair winds.

Published by Kenneth on 07 Sep 2009

Release management

Every software developer and engineer who has released software onto the Internet has gone through some kind of release management cycle, whether formalized or not. Previously at Colony West, our release management was entirely informal – actually more or less disorganized.

For the longest time, I didn’t use a source control system. About four years ago I started using Subversion, and it’s companion Windows program Tortoise, and I won’t part with it for anything else. I love using it, and after using it, I can no longer imagine not using it, and I couldn’t see how I was able to actually develop software without it.

Release management obviously involves the source control system, so what does the release cycle here at Colony West involve? I’ll use the release cycle for the Trade Profiteer as the example of what I do. Now how I release software may differ from what you require, and will likely vary between projects.

New Release Branch

The first step in the release cycle is to create a new release branch in the repository. This step may or may not be optional. That will depend on the project itself. During the Trade Profiteer’s beta release cycle, this step was considered optional, but became mandatory with the first release. Keeping a separate release branch allows you to target fixes for that particular version, while also making sure to keep any fixes updated in the main source trunk.

Release test builds

When the decision is made to create a new release, final test builds are made to ensure the current source state will build without errors. Once this is verified, scripts are executed to update version numbers within various files in the source tree with a test build executed to ensure everything still builds clean.

A test installer is also built at this time. The installer is tested on multiple operating systems running through virtual machines as both upgrade installations and clean installations. Any installation issues are corrected and changes made to correct issues checked into the repository.

If the installer runs clean on all supported operating systems, the changed files containing the new version numbers are checked into the repository.

Tagging the release

Anyone who has used a source control system should be familiar with tagging. Subversion makes revision tagging easy. For those not familiar with tagging, I highly recommend reading the section in the Subversion manual on branching and tagging.

After everything is checked in, the new revision is tagged within the repository with the release version number (major, minor, and build) as the tag name. This tag ensures that the source is readily accessible should I need it down the road to troubleshoot a reported issue.

Release build

After everything is tagged, the tag is checked out of the repository into a new folder for a release build. Final release builds are performed for the executable and installer and the installer may be packaged into a compressed file.

Preparing the web site

There are multiple steps here. Obviously the first step is uploading the packaged installer to the web site and making it available in the download repository. That part is easy. Once uploaded to the web site, it is available immediately.

Along with uploading the file to the repository, other files are shifted around. Previous releases are moved to their appropriate folders on the repository so they are not immediately visible, but still available if anyone is interested.

The Colony West web site contains a version management system that is used to track version numbers easily. The Trade Profiteer queries this system when it checks for a new version, so we add a new entry into this system to reflect the new version. When the Trade Profiteer queries the system, it will see the new version and will alert the user to the new release.

With everything uploaded to and entered into the web site, the release cycle is now formally complete. However there are still a couple informal details left.

Publishing details

Informally, now we need to alert other communities to the new version’s availability as well as providing details as to what has changed in the new version. This occurs through this blog, which will always be the primary source of news information for this company, but also through other venues. For example, with the Trade Profiteer, I will also post updates to the Puzzle Pirates forum.

Concluding…

Well that’s pretty much what goes on right now. Since the Trade Profiteer is a small, independent application, this way of managing our release cycle is reasonable. As the Trade Profiteer grows in complexity, or more software is released, the release process may need to be modified, but for now things are working well.

One thing that will certainly complicate the release process will be the upcoming addition of globalization. There are two international oceans on Puzzle Pirates. As those oceans were designed to be populated and navigated by native German and Spanish speakers, though an English interface option is available, it doesn’t seem fair having support for Opal and Jade, respectively, without having a native German and Spanish interface.

Including globalization will complicate the release process a little, but it will likely more complicate the testing… We shall see.

If you have any questions on the release process here at Colony West, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be happy to clarify anything.

Published by Kenneth on 06 Sep 2009

Trade Profiteer data patch released

In light of a recent report through the Puzzle Pirates forums, I’ve released a data patch that will correct a couple of records in the Trade Profiteer database.

First, it was reported that Rambutan was misspelled, spelled as “Rambuta”. Obviously when it’s misspelled, the Trade Profiteer isn’t going to be able to detect it in the market information.

Second, in the first beta release of the Trade Profiteer (build 1204), the commodity “Fine persimmon cloth” was not included. It was added to the database for the second beta release (build 1218), but no patch was distributed for those who were using build 1204. This patch will correct this as well.

As always, be sure to let me know if you have any questions.

Fair winds.

Download the data patch