Journal of a Geek

Parallels: Initial Install

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A few months ago Apple announced you would have the ability to run Windows on an Apple using an Intel processor. A day later a company called Parallels announced they were releasing a version of their product Parallels Workstation for Mac OS X. This software uses something called virtualization to create a fake computer running inside your operating system.

I’m in the process of ordering a Macbook and decided to start testing the speed of Parallels when its running Visual Studio 2005. Since this software is $50 ($80 after July 15th), I decided I should start seeing if this program is worth the investment.

I began by downloading the free trial of Parallels. The installation was as easy as most OS X applications. It uses a simple PKG installer. I then launched Parallels and created a new virtual machine. A wizard took me through the steps of creating an environment for the guest OS (the operating system being run inside the virtual machine). There were a ton of preconfiged packages that came straight from Parallels. It has configs for every version of windows (Windows 3.1 to Windows 2003 Server) and plenty of preconfigs for different versions of Linux. Once my machine was setup I simply hit the big green “Play” button. The virtual machine launched just like a normal PC.

The first OS I am testing is Windows XP. I downloaded an ISO off my student MSDN account and connected it to Parallels using the CD ROM menu at the bottom. It works exactly the same way as Virtual PC. The setup for Windows XP was identical to that of a normal PC install, but it was already much faster. Once Windows XP was done installing I used a Parallels menu to install the Parallels Tools. These tools let you do cool things such as clipboard synchronizations, allow the mouse to move in out of the OS easier, adds drivers for your virtual devices, and let you share folders between OS X and the guest OS. Windows XP doesn’t require any updates to install Visual Studio 2005, so I stopped my setup there.

The next OS I tired was Windows 2000. I installed it off a Windows 2000 install CD at work. I just used the CD ROM menu to capture the default CD/DVD. Once it was done with its once again speedy install, I used the menu option to install the Parallels Tools just like with Windows XP. I then ran Windows Update just as would normally be done on a Windows install to get the system ready for Visual Studio 2005.

One thing I forgot to mention is the specs I’m using for both virtual machines. The default hard drive size is 8GB which I left the same for both installs, and I set both machines to 512MB of RAM. Since my Macbook will only have 1GB of RAM, I want to test it under similar conditions. The iMac I’m using in the test is the 2.0GHz 20″ iMac.

Tomorrow I’m going to finish up installing Visual Studio 2005, and begin testing. I’ll make another post once that is complete.

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Written by Ryan Farnell

July 5, 2006 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Apple

Meetro OS X [Updated]

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Meetro is a new type of instant messenger (as if we need more), that combines the idea of instant messaging with social networks (MySpace, facebook, etc.). The idea is pretty cool because on the Windows client currently it handles all the major messaging services, and let’s you browse the Meetro social network. The OS X beta client came out (could be alpha, dont quote me on that) recently. I thought I would give a go and review it. The sign up and install were pretty easy. It just ask you for a desired user name, password, and your email address. The profile portion for the social network has a MySpace importer to make creating your profile easy. The client has a interesting way to display the people on the network. It shows whatever picture you upload as buddy icon, then groups the people by distance from your location. Everything seemed well, and it stayed online for a few hours, then suddenly i began to get intermittent service. I could sign on for about 10 minutes, then I would have to wait another 10 to get back on. At the time that I’m writing this, I can’t get on at all. I’m not sure if this is just a problem with the OS X client, but it seems difficult to test the software if someone cannot get on. I checked the help portion of their website, but found not information on what the problem could be. So in short Meetro seems like a good idea, but let’s see if they can make it a bit more stable.

Update: It seems Meetro is having trouble keeping up with the demand of users logging in. I can’t fault them for having a lot of business, so I’ll do another review once everything calms down. Thanks for the info Dan.

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Written by Ryan Farnell

June 15, 2006 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Web 2.0

Flock Public Beta 1.0

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So like a week ago I mentioned that I started using Flock. I only really used it for about a day, then switched back to regular Firefox. Well last night the first real beta of Flock was released. In just one week, it has changed quite a bit and is very nice. Mike Arrington also interviewed some of the head guys over at Flock in his podcast this week.  The browser was basically designed on, what is the hard part about today’s services and how can we make them easier?  The main services they focus on are RSS, photo sharing (Flickr and Photobucket), blogging, and favorites sharing.  All of these but RSS require that you have a account at the given service.  It is actually pretty easy to sign for Flickr and delicious (bookmark sharing) at the same time.  They are both owned by Yahoo!, which seems to be Flock’s main sponsor.  Yahoo! is the default search engine used for the upper right search box.  You can easily change it to what ever engine you want in the “Accounts and Services” window.

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Written by Ryan Farnell

June 14, 2006 at 11:33 pm

Posted in Web 2.0

Ruby on Rails and SQL are great!

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Last night I was working on the newspaper's website, and I wanted to add an anchor to the end of one of the dynamic links Ruby on Rails was making for me. I searched for a few minutes and found out the key was just adding :anchor => "anchor name" to my link code. This is part of the reason I like writing in RoR so much. In any part of the program that is helping you generate a HTML tag, to set an option you just do :attribute => "value" inside your helper tag. This is so much better than memorizing some crazy syntax.

The model queries are great to. You can either use RoR's syntax for really simple queries. For instance, Comments.find(:all, :limit => 5) will find the first five comments in the comment model. If you need a more complex query, it let's you enter SQL statements. If you compare this to something like ASP.NET it's so much easier. In ASP it takes about 8 lines of code to generate that same query.

Speaking of SQL statements, I hadn't worked with straight SQL for about a year now. Last night I was writing a query to find the articles in the newspaper with the most comments. It helped remind me of how simple the SQL syntax is.

Written by Ryan Farnell

June 8, 2006 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Web Development

Photo Trick from Something Awful

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Something Awful had a cool tutorial on how to color only certain parts of a photo in Photoshop.

To selectively colorize a photo, you have to do the following:

1. Open up the image of your choice
2. Select Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Hue/Saturation
3. Set the saturation to -100 to make the picture black and white. Or, select the colorize check box, and mess around with the hue/saturation levels to skew the colors a bit (like I did with the strawberries picture below.)
4. Making sure the hue/saturation layer is selected, choose black as the foreground color and use a paintbrush to "paint" the areas you want to colorize.
5. Select Layer->Flatten Image

Here is one I did myself.


Written by Ryan Farnell

June 6, 2006 at 4:29 pm

Posted in General

New Stuff

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So there are three cool things I found today that involve Web 2.0.

First Google has launched a preview of Google Spreadsheets. This is basically Excel on the web.  You can do most of the basic stuff from Excel, but it offers collaboration and live chat.  This will be pretty cool if something comes up in class where you need to work on a spreadsheet with a group.  Everyone can see what’s happening with it right from their house.

So next the new thing I learned about today is Wikia.  This site was started by the Wikipedia guys.  Wikipedia is basically a free online encylopedia written by users.  They have a staff that tries to check all the information put on the site.  Wikia is for information that doesn’t belong on Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is about facts, while Wikia is for opinions.  They want to have make a guide on everyone created by users. So there would be a guide to TV shows like 24 and Lost, then another guide for traveling to Hawaii.   

Lastly while listening to a podcast about Wikia, a new web browser called Flock was mentioned. Flock is based on Firefox and Mozilla.  The general idea is to make a browser that works with lots of today’s Web 2.0 apps without as much work.  Like right now I’m posting to this blog without navigationing to the website at all.  It also features the ability to access your Photobucket or Flickr accounts right from the browser window, and drag and drop links of them into MySpace or a blog.

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Written by Ryan Farnell

June 6, 2006 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Web 2.0

Things you should know before doing web development…

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Starting from around the 10th grade, I got interested in programming. When I broke my ankle my junior year, I got interested in HTML and web programming. Since then I have been getting more and more involved in web development. I am of course still learning things about web development and do not consider myself a master by any means. But if you are looking to get into web development seriously, these are some things you should really learn about:

1) The basics of computer programming. Even though HTTP is a stateless language, programming for it still follows many of the same rules as a normal state language. You still need to learn what variables, data types, logic statements, loops, data structures, classes, and functions are.

2) Basic HTML. After the programming is done, all web development breaks down to basic HTML. When Ruby on Rails or PHP generates a page from a database, it turns into a basic HTML page. Also, most web programming is done based some what on tags. Knowing HTML will make the whole concept of using tags much easier to grasp.

3) SQL. Nothing lately has influenced my web development skills more than learning SQL. It doesn’t matter if you use mySQL, SQLite, Orcale, SQL Server, or one of the many other database variants. These are all based of basic SQL. Databases begin to open up the whole idea of dynamic web pages. If I can figure out how to store the data in the database easily, I can easily call it back up in any format I want.

4) Learn a web specific language. Once you have a good grasp of programming and database, you can start fooling around with web programming languages. There are a lot of languages and frameworks (helpers for a language designed to make it easier) out there. I would recommend ASP.NET, Ruby on Rails, or PHP.

5) Google. Google is probably the world’s best reference guide for programming, and the best part is that it’s free! You can pretty much type in what you are looking to do, and chances are someone once did it and put it on the web.

6) Stay informed about new web technologies. The main resource I use is TechCrunch and its podcast TalkCrunch.

This is pretty much the path I took learning web programming and development. It may not be the best approach, but it has worked for me. The most important thing is to keep playing with whatever language you are learning. Think of things you want to learn to do and see if you can do them. Also helpful is to look for examples online, and then play around with them to learn what each part of the example does. I hope you find this helpful.

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Written by Ryan Farnell

June 5, 2006 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Web Development