Microsoft Surface or Sink?

Well, in the end it was a bit of a disappointment I suppose. Microsoft have announced a tablet computer in two flavours – ARM and Intel, in two form factors, with an integrated keyboard and stylus support. As a lot of commentators are saying it does raise a few more questions than it answers in some ways – not least how is this going to play with the hardware manufacturers that are Microsoft’s usual bedfellows?

As a point-in-time view though you have to say that Microsoft simply didn’t have any alternative. They have a semi-successful hardware business already, they have been shown the way by Apple with the iPad and the enormous sales potential. They are releasing a new operating system version with intrinsic pad support which also is backwards compatible with the existing desktop software. Microsoft and Apple agree with the rest of the world that there is a huge market in tablet computing and there is plenty of space for everyone.

The remaining questions are will it work and where will we be in a year’s time? Some of those versions mooted of the Surface may not. But is this seemingly scattergun approach to seeing what works going to be successful? I’m looking forward to seeing it more out of interest than anything else but with this profusion of interfaces – keyboard, stylus, touch, will that work? How will that work? We’ll only know when we get one in our hands.

However in the meantime it’s nice that wiki is already disambiguating the old Surface from the new one.

Feature Complete

The amount of actual merging of Rosegarden for Windows that has gone on in the last couple of weeks has been minimal as I’ve been implementing the final features for Friendlier 1.0 Beta.  And jazzing up the website and thinking about how I’m going to sell this thing.  You’ll find out more soon but suffice to say Friendlier will not only be pleasing on the eye, but also pleasing on the pocket.  You’ll also get some great benefits for being an early adopter.  More details to follow soon on pricing and availability but I’m pleased to say that Friendlier is now feature complete for V1.0.

In the meantime I’m thinking more seriously about Git following this article from El Reg.  Version control integration is going to be a core part of Friendlier and it seems there will be no avoiding Git and GitHub going forwards.  I’m looking forward to putting those features towards V2.0.

Merging Rosegarden

Ok, so it’s time to merge the trunk revisions of Rosegarden onto the mingw branch that I’ve created which  makes the Rosegarden for Windows build available.  This process is done of course in Windows and traditionally I’ve used the excellent QtCreator alongside Tortoise SVN to handle the source control side of things.  Aside from that and a little perl to ease the cogs a little it’s all done just like that.

This time though I’m making life a little bit more complicated.  I’m using Codename Friendlier to do the editing and to run the builds.  I’m using this merge exercise as a test bed for my other software – so see if it’s possible and fun to work in the new environment for this ‘Light’ IDE.  I probably could have started this exercise a month ago but instead I fell down a  rabbit hole with indenting and text highlighting and to be honest this has made me feel a lot better about using Friendlier.  None of the features are finished yet but it’s quite competent at allowing me to edit and build stuff.  Or so I will find out in the next few days..

To Kickstart or not to Kickstart?

A long long time ago I was quite heavily involved in developing a piece of open source software called Rosegarden (the history of which is pretty well documented). It was, and still is, a piece of software that helps you compose, record and create music and it originally came into being during a final year University project that Chris and Andy did back way before when there was a Linux – back when everyone still thought Macs were just for accountants or graphic designers.

I got involved in the first steps of Rosegarden under Linux in 1995 and that snowballed into working on it full time for a while during the early 2000s. I’ve not been involved with the project in any big capacity since about 2006 but I’m pleased to say that the project is still going strong under the watchful eye of D. Michael McIntyre who has been the self-appointed custodian of all things Rosegarden since the rest of us swanned off to have children and do real jobs and have all the fun you can’t have when you’re sweating over an open source cookpot.

Rosegarden is now, what, about 18 years old? About to come of age or already there. Perhaps it’s coming to the end of the road, perhaps it just needs a nudge in the right direction? I’m keen to see it continue and I’ve been doing a small amount of work on a Windows version but the days when we could sit around throwing days and weeks and coding challenges are way behind us. Challenges need to be bite-sized, or life-sized, and Rosegarden might be just too much of a monster to continue. The last time I looked there were over 200k lines of code in there.

So the question is – where to now? And from a quick search I can see that Rosegarden is not the only Open Source audio project thinking the same thing. The question being is there any incentive to continue? Is there a will and if there’s a will – what is the way?

I’m ambivalent about Kickstarter for software projects because I’m not really sure who it benefits the most. For example I love the idea of Light Table maybe because that’s because I’m working on something similar myself (which, like Light Table, will be paid software) but I don’t want to take people’s money up front for it. However for a project such as Rosegarden – where there already is a popular piece of software there already and it’s looking for a way to survive – is this a more valid way for a project to fund itself? If so how should it be structured to attract and retain developers? Who decides who gets paid and how? To me the accountabilty and governance of a Kickstarter software project is still something of a mystery and perhaps we will see a backlash occuring at some point if and when projects fail to deliver? From the Kickstarter guidelines it is suggested that a project should ‘under promise and over deliver’. Perception is everything and with some big ticket Kickstarter projects currently running who is to say what the perception will be in a year’s time for crowd funding?

For Rosegarden perhaps nothing needs to be done other than a holiday for developers and a dose of enthusiasm. However structure always helps any development be it open source, commercial or both. Without vision and leadership things will drift and what helps to keep everyone sweet is an occasional pay day too. So – to Kickstart or not to Kickstart?

Things I always forget in Application Express (Apex) from Oracle v4.0.X

Firstly – How do You Copy a Page?

I always forget that you can copy a page really simply but it’s hidden away in some obscure place:

– Click on the page you want to Copy

– Click on Create -> Page as a new Copy

Oh so simple but you’d be amazed how much time I’ve wasted trying to remember this.

Secondly – Page Templates. You can’t seem to change them once they are set. At this time I can’t even remember how you assign them without doing a Page->Copy (see above).

Thirdly – How to create an Updateable Report? Again another one that’s so well hidden you think they did it deliberately. You can spend as much time clicking as you like but you have to remember this one or look it up every time:

– Create Region

– Form

– Tabular Form

Then you get the option of Update, Insert, Delete et voila you have an Updateable SQL Report.

Bottom line with Apex is this – there’s always a way of doing it but it’s so well hidden that you need to dig dig dig to find it. Also sometimes even the simplest stuff is hard to remember.

Basement Desk

I’ve always been good at taking things apart. The bedrooms here are ravaged now, free of the built-in furniture that made them neat-but-wasteful spacewise. Instead my basement is full of the remnants. So a few weeks ago I hatched a plan to use this stuff for a project: basement desk.

Tried making plans but in the end in proper DIY style decided to just go for it and make it up as I go along.