Archive | February, 2009

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Taming Netbeans

Posted on 25 February 2009 by Demian Turner

I’m really glad to see so many posts by PHP devs switching over to Netbeans – I don’t think there’s any real competition when it comes to a PHP IDE with a decent feature set that’s not painful to use.  Obviously this last requirement rules out anything based on Eclipse.

But there are a few niggling hitches remaining in Netbeans that need to be addressed.  Others have written about this already but I’ll paraphrase:

  1. fix the double-click drag select bug
  2. get a more native-looking Mac look and feel
  3. get some themes at least as good as Textmate, eg the default ‘blackboard’ theme

The first problem is in fact very painful and I haven’t been able to find any remedies for it.  Netbeans being a Java app, the GUI is implemented in Swing, which by default doesn’t seem to support the ability to double-click a string of text, then with the mouse button still depressed, drag to select additional words of text.

In any browser, for example, this works as expected: you can click the mouse in the middle of a word, double click to get the whole word, then drag left or right to get the string of words you need.  Not having this feature can be extremely painful because the alternative means you must place, with pixel precision, the cursor at exactly the beginning and end of a word, then click, then drag.

The former system lets you work a lot faster, and in a text selecting business like programming can really cut down on the agro in a day’s work.

If this problem drives anyone else crazy, or someone knows a workaround I’d love to hear about it.

For the second point the Netbeans 6.7 M2 release, out today, seems to address some of the issues.  But it has to be said the IDE is still on the ugly side of things, however slightly less bubbly now which I think is an improvement.

For the third point I dug up a theme this afternoon which is a definite improvement over the sparse selection of themes offered with the Netbeans download.  Check out Ruby Dark Pastels – Mac users beware that the .nbm file gets .jar appended to it when you download the component which makes it unusable.  Simply remove the .jar in the Finder.

The theme is not perfect however, method names are black on a dark blue background, and many code elements (constants, static methods, etc) are white and get match-highlighted in yellow making them unreadable.  Many of these elements are not configurable in the Fonts & Colours preference option.

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Date & time in the menu bar in OS X

Posted on 23 February 2009 by Demian Turner

Personally I find it unbearable not to have the date and time in the menu bar, or at least somewhere on screen that I can see at a glance without having to click to see it.

For some reason the Mac usability guys decided that showing just the time, and date on one click, was more usable.

There are a lot of tutorials about how to customise this and generally each one has around 50 comments, the thing is none of them work without a black magic hack that can usually be discovered around comment #47.  

If you don’t select the format medium and don’t include the seconds (even though they won’t show up) the formatting does not work.

I found this tutorial one of the more helpful ones, and after trial and error discovered the seconds problem.

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Is vendor sponsored software certification the way to go?

Posted on 19 February 2009 by Demian Turner

In his article Three elements of certification success, Darren Hague, a friend and former colleague, argues that when software vendors are driving the certification process, there is a conflict of interest worth examining.

For example, in the case of Zend PHP certification which has been around for several years now, who ultimately benefits more from the programme – the software devs or Zend?

Currently Zend certification is one of the only options available to PHP devs who want to get accredited, however.  But judging by general feedback from the community  it would appear that, despite the current certification choices, quality discrepancies between PHP devs on the market can still be pretty … impressive.

Getting quality programmers is no problem as long as you have a bulletproof hiring process I hear you say – that’s another subject 😉

Darrens’ final comment gives a nice insight into why PHP certification might not be more widespread:

The third major element of certification is market demand. Of course, if you are a doctor or a lawyer, then you cannot legally practice unless you are certified, which certainly helps with the demand side of things. Unless professional IT certification is legislated (an unlikely prospect for the forseeable future), then certification will only succeed if customers demand it.

Maybe industry demand for certification is not higher due to the lack of independent certifying bodies?

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IPhone Sync Nirvana

Posted on 19 February 2009 by Demian Turner

It’s taken quite a while and a combination of apps but I finally have a really good sync setup between the iPhone and my contacts and calendar.

I use Google calendar as my primary calendar and this can be synced flawlessly with the iPhone calendar app using Google Mobile Sync – make sure to un-tick the Contacts option though.  Even though Address Book has an option to sync all your contacts with Google contacts (from gmail) it does not store the full dataset nor the photos.

Before syncing your Address Book to the iPhone, I recommend you sync it to facebook using AddressBookSync.  You not only get a lot of extra useful information from facebook on your contacts, you get their latest photo.  Then using MobileMe (paid, unfortunately, but it’s the best service currently available) any changes to Address Book or iPhone contacts are synced almost instantly.

There are hacks, by the way, that claim to sync your iCal to Google calendar but I found the sync failed.  Google Mobile Sync is the key.  More info about it here.  And I find Google Calendar still has much better usability (mainly the colouring) than iCal, bu that’s just my opinion.

The result is great – when someone calls, or your texting a friend, you get their latest photo and details, which is a nice touch.  And when you’re out and about, all those meetings you arranged in Google calendar are at your fingertips, usually with a Google map to help you find them.

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