I've tried reviving this blog a few times, but I think it is time to acknowledge the fact that I just do not have the drive I once did to update this, and I think it is unfair to string anyone along who is still checking here for updates.
All content will be preserved, as the Japan portion was the original reason for the website creation, and I am working on updating the photoblog using Flickr. I have an account (link) setup where I am in the long process of tweaking and uploading photos that existed here, and more, and also updating the photoblog portion of this site utilizing Flickr badges and tag links. This will be a somewhat lengthy process, so do check back from time to time.
All is not lost, however. One thought I currently have is to perhaps create a new blog: a travel blog. I plan for this to encompass not only the Study Abrod portion, the USA Summer Camps, and the (not yet posted) Hong Kong/Korea trip, but future trips as well, with a log, pictures, and recommendations along the way. I am in the process of planning a return trip to Japan hopefully in spring 2007, and I figure that will be a great kickoff time. It gives me time to get my photos in line and to come up with a plan. I'm not sure if it will be hosted on this site or another, but check back here for details.
This particular blog has been fun, and I think I did post some informational content along the way, as well as a fair amount of nonsense, but now it's time for the chapter to close.
This is Ebany, signing off.
Well, my time the last week to week and a half has been rather taken up by the intracacies of HTTP 1.1 vs HTTP 1.0, the workings of HTTP 1.1 100 Continue, and how IE works vs how many other browsers work. I'm not going to elaborate on that, because I've spent enough time on it as is.
One thing I did do this past weekend which I haven't done in many years is actual go to a Guitar recital. The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music hosted a faculty guitar recital, with styles ranging from baroque to rock to jazz, and I enjoyed the entire time. The ampitheater was smallish, seating perhaps a hundred and twenty people, yet I was impressed that there was not an open seat to be had, and it was a fair cross section of age and gender.
As a kid, my dad would take me to see players such as Christopher Parkening, even though I was too young to really appreciate them at the time. Now that I am old enough to appreciate them, I somehow got away from attending recitials, and almost entirely away from practicing the guitar, both are problems I hope to rectify.
I've practiced off and on with guitar previously, first starting with finger style with nylon and copper strings, then got an electric guitar and worked on rock. The electric guitar just wasn't my style, and I think that's perhaps what got me away from it. That, and my guitar teacher who was more interested in doing his own thing that instructing. While I enjoy rock and love a great riff, when it comes to playing I prefer classical, and finger over pick.
While I utilize my technical side on a day to day basis, it's nice to indulge my artistic side from time to time. Actually, when you get down to it, many of my hobbies and interests fall into the artistic category, between music, art, culture, and theatre, even though much of my current activity is more observation than participation.
I've been playing a lot of Sudoku lately, and with my recent investigation into smart clients, I ran across a little smart client Sudoku program. You can find the EXE in the comments, and you may want to skim the article considering there's no documentation with the program. The program is a tad confusing with all the dots, but considering it was designed to be used on a cell phone, PDA, and a computer, it works well. Not only is it fun, but it's also a good starting point for understanding the design of a smart client.
As a sidenote, for a fun non-smart client version of Sudoku, try WebSudoku.
After my last post, I got to thinking that I should perhaps expand and clarify a few points I made.
The general point I was trying to get across in regards to Web applications is web applications in the traditional sense: cgi applications, retrieving information and displaying it in one round trip to the server. In this sense, I've seen many developers who are new to the web attempt to transition existing large desktop applications to the Web, just because they heard it was the 'in' thing to do. Now, this has merits, depending on the size of the application.
What is better is the idea of "thin-apps", where an application has the display layer, and perhaps some business logic, reside within a small install on the client machine. This 'program' then gets its functionality by calling Web Services exposed by the software company (a SOA, or Service Oriented Architecture). This is a good step in the right direction, avoids the "DLL hell" problem VB developers have had to deal with in the past, and allows for a mechanism whereby the application can be updated client-side with small downloads, and all the data access logic and major business logic can be taken care of at the servers, without having to issue a new version of the software.
A new twist on the thin app are web applications now taking advantage of AJAX to asynchronously gather data, on demand. This opens many new possibilites, many of which we are only beginning to see as developers learn how to utilize this. One benefit that readily comes to mind is the multi-threading that is now possible, instead of the traditional method of sending a request and then getting all the data at the same time, during which you cannot use the application.
What is better yet is the concept of a "smart app", a thin app that can function online and offline. Now, Outlook is a decent example of this, and this is where I perhaps wasn't very clear in my arguement. Outlook functions online or offline, your email resides on your machine and on the server, you can write and read emails anytime, check your calendar, and basically do all your normal functions without needing to be connected. When you are connected it synchs any work the user may have done trasparently, and downloads anything new. Nice idea.
My main arguement, and one I've been mulling over in my head for most of the day, is falling into that same trap with smart apps as developers transitioning all desktop applications to cgi applications on the Web, when perhaps it might make more sense to have a "fat app" (or "rich app", like Word) reside on your desktop. Now, Live.com (the latest gossip item about Microsoft) to me looks more like a portal than anything, despite the rumors of an online Office package and an online version of Windows.
Whether or not software companies like Microsoft do choose to offer smart application versions of current products, I still remain vigilant for the trap of having to renew your software periodically (in essence, paying for software again, and again...), and I do not put it past them for an instant that they would choose to do that. This may have a positive effect were they to discount the overall price of the software, and allow for free (or cheap) upgrades. I'm a cynic when it comes to businesses though, and believe they look out for only one thing: themselves. Thus do I oftentimes look to open source projects to fill any needs I have, or the young upstart company eager to make name for itself.
What a week. First thing of note is that .NET 2.0 related items (Visual Studio 2005, SQL 2005, .NET 2 Framework) are out to subscribers, which affects me and my job quite a bit. I've been using beta .NET 2.0 items for quite some time now, and it is nice to be working with a 'final' product now.
First impressions: all the products are still damn slow. Seriously, .NET 2.0 may be an improvement over .NET 1.x, but the speed issue needs to be addressed. SQL is slow, Visual Studio is slow, Visual Web Dev is slow, compiling is slow, everything is slow. Now, it may be related to the fact that I've had so many different builds of the framework installed, and the development products, but I can't afford to wipe my work machine and do a clean install just for the sake of testing that theory.
I'm also not a big fan of the replacement for SQL Enterprise Manager, and considering I spend at least a few hours in it everyday, that matters. I'm also not really pleased with the fact I cannot connect to SQL 2005 with Enterprise Manager either. Sure, you can connect with Visual Studio, or Visual Web Dev, or whatever to SQL 2005 and manipulate it that way, which may work for some people, but I'm not a huge fan of the "all-in-one" ideaology, and it wouldn't address the speed issue anyway.
Quibbles aside, it's nice to know that the application I've been working on for the past several months appears to work in the final version with no revisions (yea!). If I ever attempt a project this big again, I really need to approach this from an Architect standpoint: draw out all the classes (using something like the Class Designer in VS 2005), get all the specifications upfront, and go object oriented from the start.
Looking back, I remember having a discussion with a software engineer one time and saying, "if you need to use OO in a Web App, it's time to start thinking if it really belongs on the web". I still think that is true to a certain extent, because even though the Web has become very prevalent and is a powerful tool, there still is a place for desktop applications. I personally think the idea of Windows Live (link, link) is dumb (and a bit scary as I don't want my Web to BSOD), and always thought that an online Office Suite was just silly. I have no doubt that we will see something like a full online Office Suite in the future (and more), in some form of thin-app with Web Services most likely, but would still rather have my "fat-app" installed locally. One simple reason is that I don't want to pay for a 'subscription' to use my products annually or whatever.
I apply that same sentiment to my music consumption as well: I'd rather own my music than rent it (although with the general state of today's "bubblegum" pop/rock, maybe renting isn't such a bad idea). I think Podcasting has become popular just at the right time, with people growing increasingly tired of RIAA, the MPAA, and the constant lobbying by both parties to further restrict your rights. Video podcasts and IPTV provide entertainment when you want it, talk podcasts are a great compiment to talk radio, and music showcase podcasts provide fresh music and give indie musicians a real chance to circumvent RIAA entirely.
Now is a time of reform. Look at the resurgence in Web Standards adoption, alternate browser adoption (Firefox now at 11.51% globally), alternate media adoption (podcasts and IPTV), a fresh look at tech news (digg.com, which I use more than Slashdot now), and the growth in indie musicians thanks to things RIAA shuns/doesn't understand (P2P networks and free records). I hope that business and software manufacturers learn to support standards (such as OpenDocument) rather than force lock-in, and hope that Microsoft continues to learn that IE is a terrible product and continue to attempt to (mostly) adopt current standards (link).
I say Viva la revolution.