"Getting Real" on project development

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The folks behind Ruby on Rails, 37Signals, have compiled ninety essays on almost every aspect of project development and are making it available as a $19 PDF "book" called Getting Real. As a taster they have four essays available for free, which give a good idea of what to expect in the rest of the book, and so far it looks like it'll be well worth reading, just looking at the table of contents is enough to get me salivating.

MSFT looses brain learning AJAX

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While developing their competition for Google Maps, MSFT seem to have forgotten how to develop good applications and gone back to the philosophies they used to develop Bob. I present, to you, one of the worst pieces of crud ever:

While it is true that this maps application is still under development, there's almost no way they could turn this into something usable without throwing out probably two-thirds of its functionality, which I doubt they'll do. Yet another example of why MSFT drastically needs to learn the concepts of KISS, as others have to great effect: Google Maps and GMail, 37 Signals's Basecamp, Campfire, Backpack, TaDa List and Writeboard, Carson System's DropSend, etc, etc, etc.

Damien

Firefox browsing carrots?!?

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For the last two days the Firefox install on our home PC has been behaving oddly, specifically moving the arrow keys no longer moves the page as a whole, instead it scrolls through the text like in Notepad, MS Word or something. As it turned out I had inadvertantly turned on caret browsing/navigation where you can move around the page and select content with your keys rather than the mouse. Most likely I accidentally hit the F7 key which turns it on while I was tidying the desk at home, ironically I found out about it while cleaning my desk at work and wiping down my keyboard when I accidentally hit the relevant key. I can see how it would be beneficial at times but I wish there was a status display to say it was turned on/off to at least give a clue to newbies that it was at least possible, so they don't think they're going insane when their computer starts doing something funny. Doh.

Tip: Thunderbird and IMAP caching

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A small tip for all your Thunderbird users who read your email via IMAP.

For some reason I was under the assumption that Thunderbird stored a copy of each message in subscribed IMAP mailboxes. As it turned out, this assumption was 100% incorrect with the default settings, and so a large chunk of email archives that I thought I had stored from 2004 and 2005 are now gone. Darn.

It is possible, however, to enable this life-saving feature. What you have to do is go to your account settings (Tools menu, select Accounts), then on one of your IMAP accounts go to the Offline & Disk Space section. On this page make sure to check the two top options (Make the messages in my inbox available when I am working offline and When I create new folders, select them for offline use), then click Select folders for offline use, and in the window that pops up go through the list checking off all of your important folders (usually everything except for your Trash and Junk mailboxes).

That turns on the feature, but it won't automatically cache all of the email that has already been listed. To do this you simply go to the File menu in the main program, select Offline and then Download/Sync now. The window that pops up lets you select what you want to download (email, news or both), then just click OK to have Thunderbird fly through your email and download it all.

While I'm not sure why this extra level of caching is not turned on by default, a little bit of fiddling to get it working will ensure that you don't end up loosing two years of email.

MySQL Tip: phpMyAdmin export filename

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A quick time for any users for phpMyAdmin and MySQL.

When you backup your database using phpMyAdmin, an "export" in their terminology, by default it names the file simply databasename.txt, e.g. damien_blog.txt. If you do regular backups this becomes a slight hassle as each time you have to rename the file to something more useful, and decide if you want to name it after the date, or add a version number (e.g. "database_backup_5.txt"), etc.

There's an easier way to take care of this. Instead of letting phpMyAdmin name the backup file after the database, have it automatically add the date to the filename too. Then, when you download the file you'll be able to list them in order, oldest through newest, and never wonder whether you named the file correctly the last time, or which one is newer.

To do so is quite easy, simply go to the Export page in phpMyAdmin, change the Save as file filename template to __DB___%Y%m%d%H%i and your backup will now be named e.g. damien_blog_200602131315.txt. What makes this even more useful is if you click the option labelled remember template, that way you'll never have to remember this again, simply click it and all backups that you do from then on (from that computer and that web browser) will be named accordingly.

Note that the date is listed as year, month, day, hour and then minute, which when you have several files listed in a directory one after the other makes it really easy to see the files in the correct order, rather than trying do list them with e.g. the European date format of day-month-year or the American format of month-day-year.

Update: Thanks to reader Jörg for pointing out that the last part of the string should have been %i rather than %m to output the minutes.

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