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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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Seagull 0.6.6 Released

Posted on 27 January 2009 by Demian Turner

A new version of the Seagull framework has been released, download it here.

This is mostly a bugfix release but with some important improvements:

  • Improved preferences management
  • Better handling when DB connection is down
  • Updated FCKeditor to 2.6.3
  • Added German utf-8 support
  • Updated Horde_Routes lib
  • Consolidated translation features (SGL_Translation, SGL_Translation2) into new SGL_Translation3 PHP5 only package
  • Added media2 module which makes ajax uploads easier and provides media features to the CMS module

The Seagull framework release coincides with a new release of the CMS module, and an announcement of Doris, our new productivity app.  You can read the announcement here if you’re not on the mailing list.

This will be the last release of the CMS module as a mainly developer-focused download.  Version 2.0 of CMS will get its own website, improved developer and enduser documentation, and a Pay as You Go format for those who need the convenience of a hosted service.  Read more about the improvements and try the preview here.

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Error Message Control

Posted on 06 January 2009 by Demian Turner

Technorati error messages

I’m always amazed to discover quite high profile sites letting goofy errors out in the open.

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Unit tests, new packages, good practice

Posted on 06 January 2009 by Demian Turner

In case anyone missed it quite a nice PEPr proposal came in the other day, suggesting guidelines for software best practices and writing testable code.

Check out the original article too, it’s slightly better formatted.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaargh SELinux!

Posted on 06 January 2009 by Demian Turner

When it comes to installing Trac it’s not something I usually worry about, I must have installed it from version 0.9 to the latest around 20 times and on at least most of the flavours of linux, OS X and recently Windows.  It used to be tough to setup but the package has been great improved over the years.

And what great software, by the way, I can’t say enough good things about Trac, I’ve been running all my projects on it for around the last 4 years.

But I recently got a new dedicated box, running Fedora Core 9 32 bit, and I’ve already installed Trac twice on this OS, it’s one of the smoothest platform/software combos.  However something went wrong, with the app complaining about requiring root permissions to write to the DB file.  Considering I setup Trac to run with the mod_python module in Apache, this seemed a little strange.  Stranger still was that Google returned absolutely ZERO results for the error message I was getting:

The user root requires read _and_ write permission to the database file 

The log file set to DEBUG also failed to shed any light.  I tried giving root every possible permission to the DB file and its parent folder but the above error persisted.

After banging my head against the wall it struck me that maybe my new web hoster enabled SELinux by default, something I always take special precautions to disable  right off the bat, having struggled with it in the past.

A prompt reply from RapidSwitch revealed that it was in fact enabled, and it was a quick job to disable it.

You can check the status of SELinux in the configuration file as follows:

/etc/sysconfig/selinux

You can then disable or enable it by editing this file.  The contents of the file looks like this on Fedora:

# This file controls the state of SELinux on the system.
# SELINUX= can take one of these three values:
#       enforcing - SELinux security policy is enforced.
#       permissive - SELinux prints warnings instead of enforcing.
#       disabled - No SELinux policy is loaded.
SELINUX=enforcing
# SELINUXTYPE= can take one of these two values:
#       targeted - Targeted processes are protected,
#       mls - Multi Level Security protection.
SELINUXTYPE=targeted

Needless to say, problem solved!

I hope there will be at least 1 Google result now 😉

NB: I’ve recently used a pretty handy recipe HOWTO install Trac on Fedora Core 9, it needs some adaptation which I hope to post soon.

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Low Cost Usability Testing

Posted on 01 December 2008 by Demian Turner

Caught this on Hacker News – Paul Graham’s oft-mentioned news feed – seems like a great way to get honest and inexpensive usability feedback for your app.  What a great idea!

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The Secret to Making Money Online

Posted on 29 November 2008 by Demian Turner

via David Heinemeier Hansson at Startup School 08. David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails framework and Partner at 37Signals gives insight into creating a profitable startup company.


Check out the whole Startup School ’08 Series.

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How to make £70/day more on your next contract

Posted on 07 November 2008 by Demian Turner

In brief, wait 3 hours.  I got these two emails only three hours apart, the second offering £70 more per day!

Better than that, both offers can from individuals working within the same recruitment company.

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