Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dell Customer Support: at least they mean well.

Twice in the past two months my family has actually had to use Dell's customer support.

The first was for my HDTV -- the one I had was broken. It was a painless procedure; they verified my warranty was valid, overnighted me a replacement HDTV, and let me ship the old one back in the same box. Even was able to get DHL to pick up the heavy-ass box at my doorstep.

Good deal!

My mother recently ordered her two grandchildren mp3 players from Dell -- they were those new Creative Zen Stone, the Plus version. The mp3 players came to our house, first, then she mailed them off to the grandchildren with a birthday card, etc. However, after that, my mom decided to get them a Napster subscription so their mother, my sister, wouldn't go broke buying them music.

Except that the Stone mp3 players don't support subscription music.

So she rings up Napster and asks; they try to sell her on the pay-per-mp3 model. Then she rings up Dell, explains her situation; says she needs some MP3 players that support Napster's subscription music, that she needs them overnighted to the children so they arrive by their birthdays, and that she needs to return the other Mp3 players -- which are now located in Texas, a million miles away.

Dell is surprisingly helpful! The shipping is free; they'll overnight it to my sister to save time, and they even schedule a pick-up with UPS so that all my sister has to do is give the old mp3 players (in the box, with all accessories included) to some dude in a brown shorts when he comes to the door, and all will be well.

Well, unfortunately it didn't work out that way. The package arrived here, instead of in Texas (so now it'll get there late) and my dopey sister didn't have the packages ready to be picked up by the UPS guy.

Compared to what I've heard about Dell support, it was a pretty good experience.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I feel the need... alert you to the fact that Blogger's rich HTML editor is by far the worst I've ever used.

I'm lazy, and you should be too!

(rant inbound)

I just saw this post in my RSS reader (not sure where it originated from). It's a little ditty about how lazy some developers are, and how the Pyro desktop project had to change from Bazaar to Subversion because people were unwilling to install the Bazaar command-line client.


No, seriously, SURPRISE!

I'm lazy, and you should be too, because we've both got shit to do.

I've got work, you've got work. I've got hobbies, you've got hobbies.

In the small amount of free time I've got, do you really think its realistic that I'll learn a new technology to possibly contribute to a project that I might find interesting? Getting interest in the project is a stretch, but you want me to devote time and energy to something else entirely (another version control system)?

Better yet, the guy harkens back to a time when you'd check something out of source control and the build would be broken. Harkens. Maybe I'm too young -- I'm only 24 -- but the very thought of trying to get contributors for a project that won't even build straight from source control is ridiculous. I don't find the concept of ME having to fix YOUR mess because you were too lazy to make sure it works fun or productive at all. That concept is not enamoring, no.

Then again, I'm a firm subscriber to keeping your broken shit in branches and making sure every check-in to trunk works de-facto.

Anyway, back to the point of my rant, if it had one: unless the technology in question is so amazingly awesome you were going to pick it up sooner or later anyway, why should you have to bother? It's not my idea of fun, to be honest.

I've had very little free time to myself this year, so when I decided to pick up a new web development language/framework, I wanted something I could actually use without having to pick up a bunch of extra baggage along the way -- that's why I chose Rails instead of, say, Seaside or whatever that clusterfuck of parenthesis is. Rails, and Ruby, being the extremely straight-forward beasts they are, were a perfect fit: no extra bullshit to set things up, no extra bullshit to get started. You hit the ground running and it feels good.

If I can't hit the ground running with a OSS project, I'm not interested in contributing to it.


I always wanted to end a blog post like that!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rails, Rails, and oh, what's that, Rails?

I can't stress this enough: Rails is _awesome_.

Recently I've been doing a lot of development in it and everything just works -- and when it doesn't, finding out where and how is infinitely easier than doing the same with ASP.NET.

Of course there are a few features from ASP.NET 2.0 I find missing in Rails -- the nested master-pages concept is one of them -- but not enough to keep me away.

The biggest thing I find lacking is of course a decent IDE. I've actually used quite a few: Aptana, Komodo, jEdit w/ Ruby plugins, SapphireOnSteel, etc.

I'm currently using Aptana a lot right now -- it feels really good to me. All of the important Rails features are exposed via the user interface, all Rake tasks have a description in the Rake panel for instance, and it supports debugging Mongrel and WEBrick servers via the debug-mode UI.

One thing that makes me kind of uncomfortable is the lack of any good intellisense -- typically I find myself paging back to Firefox for Ruby documentation. I'm used to "exploring" an API via Visual Studio / SharpDevelop's excellent intellisense features.

I don't need anything super special or super accurate, but it would make things a lot easier.

Aptana's "RHTML" editor sucks, by the way -- change it so that "RHTML" files are opened in Aptana's HTML editor instead, you'll thank me for it later. Do the same for "RJS" javascript files as well.

Really, the IDE just needs some polish (a bit rough around the edges, colorization occasionally fucks up when you're editing Ruby files) and it'll be a strong free offering in the IDE space, for whatever my word's worth.

Regarding Komodo, I gave it a few tries but I really wasn't feeling it. It sort of feels like the Ruby on Rails support has been tacked on to the IDE; a bunch of macros tacked onto the UI to run tasks, for instance.

Ruby in Steel felt a bit similar. It has great colorization support and its intellisense actually seems pretty accurate (the fact that it has it at all? SUGOI!). There's debugging support but, uh, I think everyone does that by now. The extent of its Rails integration seems to be one toolbar with a few sparse options, and some panels. I uninstalled the 30 day trial right after the "Rake" panel started appearing when I cracked open C# projects.

Ruby in Steel seemed to generate its own files -- database.yml, for instance, wasn't populated with the typical rails new app comments and etc. Oh, and it required me to input some database information before I could even create a project -- what the fuck? Annoying.

Aptana just feels like a right fit, even though work on its Ruby on Rails stuff seems to be going abysmally slow. We'll see what other commercial offerings start popping up in the future, and then you'll see me post something like this again -- but with much, much more bitching. ;)

Link Juice:
jEdit, jEdit Ruby Stuff
Ruby in Steel