Thursday, March 18, 2010

Riddle me this, Batman.

So, what's the difference between these two things?

  2. FILENAME.txt

Nothing, right, especially if you're on a Windows system?1

Well, according to one of our ASP vendors they are completely different.  We are setting up a new interface with them, and have been testing the process through their automated web-portal upload tool.  Item #2 works just perfectly fine.  However, if we try to upload a file named like Item #1, their portal tells us that it's not a valid text file.

As a developer, this makes absolutely no sense to me.  If you are determining file type based on the extension, instead of inspecting the file itself or letting the user specify the file type, then obviously you're approaching this with a Windows-centric mindset.  After all, file extensions don't have any inherent meaning on UNIX/Linux systems, at least not like on a Windows box.  So, that being the case, how difficult is to either either use a ToUpper() or ToLower() type function on the filename, and then inspect the extension?  To require your clients to meet an arbitrary filename case rule is just asinine.

What makes it even more frustrating is that the application that generates the file is a DOS-based app, so it is going through the DOS command interpreter.  Since the DOS command interpreter does not register an entry for long file name, the file name is automatically converted to all upper-case by the system.  The only way to get the file to load is for the user to manually rename the file, changing the case of the extension.

*mumble* *mutter* GRAH!!!!!!

That is just stupid, horrible, disgusting, nasty code, and this is a major national ASP in this particular product space.  (No, it's not Microsoft).

1For the purposes of this argument I will ignore Posix-compliant filing systems that treat all file names as case-sensitive.  I develop software that runs on Windows systems.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

IE9 Platform Preview Released

Microsoft has released the first Platform Preview for Internet Explorer 9.  Basically, the Platform Preview is not even alpha code.  It's intended for developers only, not end users.  In fact, most of the GUI features are not implemented (there's no address bar, no back button, no tab support, etc).  Microsoft wants developers to use it on their sites, and then provide feedback on how well the render and javascript engines are performing.  Updates are currently planned on an 8 week cycle.

From a standards and performance point of view, there are several interesting things about IE9.  It uses a new scripting engine called Chakra, that is considerably faster than the IE8 engine.  In fact, Microsoft claims that it is faster than Firefox, but still slower than Chrome and Opera.  One of the things Chakra does is compile any javascript on a page to native code instead of running it in interpreted mode.  Also, they've finally decided to adopt support for HTML5, including Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).  It appears this will finally kill off VML, which has been dead since 1998 but still included in IE.

IE9 will also off-load a lot of the graphical processing to the GPU.  They can apparently leverage the Vista/Windows 7 graphics sub-system, and thus the GPU, to achieve much better performance for multimedia support.  Oh, and it also includes native support for multiple cores.  For instance, Chakra will background compile script code on a separate thread and core from the main IE9 process.

Naturally, no discussion in the article about security holes or patches, or anything they've done to make it more robust in that regard.

Another vehicle recall?

At least this time it's not Toyota:

Japanese car manufacturer Honda has announced it is recalling 410,000 cars in the US because of complaints about their brakes.
The specific complaint is that the brakes are getting mushy.  Honda explains that the problems ". . .were due to the gradual accumulation of air over time in a part of the braking system".

Hello, it's a hydraulic system.  Don't you think integrity of the lines would be a major design consideration?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Karma, Three-fold Rule, Fate, Yin & Yang, Just Desserts. Your choice.

In the process of relocating, we decided to build a house instead of buying a pre-owned home.  We were fortunate enough to find a rental house available where the landlord allowed pets, the backyard was fenced, and the landlord was willing to agree to a 6th month lease instead of the one-year lease most landlords wanted.

Everything was looking good until we moved in.

The rental house was not in the best physical condition, but the roof kept water out and the A/C system kept conditions moderate.  We could struggle through.  First, the landlord only provided us one key and we had to get another key cut.  Then we realized that the garage lock was broken and the garage could not be secured.  The garage door into the house could be locked, but not the outside garage door.  I called the landlord, and he said he'd have a guy come out an install an opener.  I called him back another time or two, having to leave a voice mail each time.  We never did get that garage door opener installed, and I wasn't about to go through the hassle of paying for it myself and deducting it from the rent.

Then, one of the waste water drain lines in the basement started leaking.  Fortunately, it was just a grey water line and not a black water line.  It seems that at some point the pipe had broken off right at the basement foundation or just below it, and someone had just run the world's largest caulk bed around it to seal it up.  Well, that caulk bed started leaking.  Again, I called the landlord and left him several voice mails, and again there was no response.  We resorted to running the dishwasher or washing machine separately, not at the same time, and we started keeping a mop in the basement to periodically push the water to the drain.

Finally, we sent in our 30-day notice with our final rent check.  In that letter, we requested instructions on securing the property, returning the keys to the landlord, and performing our move-out walk-through so we could get our deposit check back.  After 2 weeks, there was no response.  Toward the end of February, we called and left him another voice mail requesting move-out instructions.  No response.  The day before our lease was up, we called again.  Again, no response.

Finally, on the last day of our lease I close and lock all the windows, lock all the doors, and put the keys in a drawer in the kitchen.  I called the landlord one last time and left him a voice mail that we were out of the house and letting him know where I'd placed the keys.  I then called my Realtor and told her the same thing.  Finally, I walked out the garage door, pulled it shut behind me, and verified that the house was properly secured.

My Realtor called me this morning after talking with our landlord.  She wanted to verify where I had put the keys and asked if we happened to still have a key in our possession.  I told her that no, I'd fully secured the house and left all of the keys inside.

Apparently, the landlord only has one key for the property, and it was the one that he gave us when we moved in.

He is now locked out of his own rental property.

Yes, I laughed, out-loud and loudly.