16 January 2014

Modific Sublime Text Package

I recently started using the Modific Sublime Text package. It highlights (with a subtle icon in the gutter) lines changed since your last commit. It supports Git, Subversion, Bazaar and Mercurial.

It also has some other useful features: view a file diff, preview committed code for the current line, revert a specific change, and cycle through changes.

By default, it uses the svn binary on PATH. For my Windows machine I configured it to use svn.exe out of my Cygwin install:

{
    "vcs": [
        ["svn", "C:\\cygwin\\bin\\svn.exe"]
    ]
}

On my Mac, I had to set this option to true:

{
    "svn_use_internal_diff": true
}

I’m finding it pretty useful.

11 December 2013

It's the future: spare parts online

The microwave had just beeped. Nina went to pop it open and get out the hopefully warm bottle of milk… but there was no pop. The button just flopped there, and the door didn’t budge. It was busted! My initial thought was: expensive repair job or expensive new microwave purchase. My second thought was: maybe I can fix it.

Getting the microwave cover off was a cinch, and finding the problem was easy too: a plastic lug had been sheared off the door button lever. How do I fix that, I thought? Maybe I could jury rig something using a screw in place of the lug, but that would probably be sub-optimal, even if I could pull it off.

Then I thought: hey, it’s 2013, nearly 2014, surely I can find this part online. I wasn’t optimistic, but I located what appeared to be a part number (5Y00AP) on the broken part and chucked it into Google, and was surprised to find this place: Big Warehouse spares.

They had my part listed, a “PANASONIC NNSD686S DOOR OPENING LEVER”, complete with multiple photos from different angles (great for piece of mind that you are ordering the right part). It was $19.04; maybe a little pricey for a single piece of plastic, but I’m not complaining because that it a lot cheaper than having to pay someone else to fix it. Delivery was $5.95.

The part arrived in a couple of days. The photo below shows the broken part on the top, and the new one on the bottom. Spot the difference?

Untitled

Fitting the new part was easy enough, and the microwave was as good as new.

The morale of the story is: Big Warehouse spares is awesome, with stacks of spare parts (they claim a million!), so check them out.

7 October 2013

GeekDesk

I have had my height adjustable GeekDesk v3 for about two months now, and I love it.

GeekDesk

GeekDesk lets me work standing up for most of the day, but when I feel inclined to rest my legs or feet, I can easily adjust it to a sitting height by pressing a button that operates a small internal motor drive.

Why bother standing anyway?

Two reasons.

Firstly, and mainly, because I have a bit of a crook back. Other people have described this condition as Programmer’s Back, and I think that is apt. My theory is that moderating the amount of time I spend sitting will lead to a healthier back.

Secondly, because sitting is quite bad for you.

Why a GeekDesk?

As usual, I did a fair amount of research before making this purchase.

Initially, I started searching for desks available locally in Adelaide, but I was disappointed by the range, and in particular, I was disappointed by the lack of information and reviews available for the products.

So I expanded my search, and I found that there are some top products available in the US. After reading various reviews, I narrowed the list down to three products: the GeekDesk v3, a Mod-E, or the NextDesk Terra. If price was not a factor, I would get the NextDesk. But price is a factor, and $US1500 + delivery to Australia was just too much.

So that left the GeekDesk or the Mod-E. They both seemed like top notch products, so I didn’t think I could go wrong with either. I settled on the GeekDesk because I liked that it had a low cross bar for stability, and because it ended up being cheaper, once the delivery quote was factored in. I decided to get the large frame, rather than the small frame, as I think a desk top width of 1.5 metres is the minimum for my purposes.

GeekDesk also offers a more expensive “Max” model, which adds extra lift capacity and programmable height presets. However, the v3’s capacity of 125 Kg is plenty for my purposes, and programmable height presets are simply not very useful. One of the advantages of a height adjustable desk is fine tuning the height for your comfort, for different users, and even for when you are wearing shoes with a different sole depth; presets just get in the way.

Getting a desk top

I didn’t get a top with my GeekDesk purchase, because shipping that from the US to Australia is just too pricey. I had to source one myself.

Initially I considered making a desk top out of timber myself. But after realising that I didn’t have all the required tools, or the time, I thought better of it, and decided to look for a pre-made one.

The dimensions of the medium size top sold by GeekDesk is 160 x 80 cm, so that was the ball park size I was looking for.

We are lucky to have an IKEA in Adealide, so I investigated what they offer:

  • LINMON table top. A 150 x 75 cm particle board table top for the miserly sum of $49. But it is $49 for a reason, and on inspection, I was not at all impressed. It was a bit too cheap any nasty for my taste. The table on display had lots of chips around the edge of the top, showing the fibre board colour underneath. I hate that. Also, the dimensions were a little smaller than I was looking for.
  • NUMERAR kitchen bench top. A 186 x 62 cm solid Beech timber top for only $260. This would have been great, except that 62 cm is not deep enough; 75 cm was my minimum.
  • GERTON table top. This looked perfect. A 155 x 75 cm solid Beech timber top for only $189. I really wanted this one! But when I enquired with IKEA about stock, this is what they said: “Unfortunately I’m unable provide you any information of when this arriving. Possibly looking at 7–8 weeks till we get shipment date.” Very noncommittal, and not very promising at all. A shame.
  • GALANT table top. A 160 x 80 cm particle board top with Ash timber veneer for $149. Its a perfect size, as it exactly matches the size sold by GeekDesk. It is quite good quality. It is available in a black/brown stain, which happens to match our other furniture. I had found my desk top!

So I got the GALANT, and I am very happy it. The GERTON would have been perfect, but the GALANT was a very close second anyway.

Ordering, delivery and setup

The GeekDesk staff were very helpful in quoting for delivery to Australia, and I thought that the $US236 delivery cost was quiet fair.

Delivery of the desk took a little more than two weeks. Pretty impressive, given that it came from the US!

Setup was straight forward, and the instruction booklet is well written and easy to follow.

Cable management

As you can see in the photo, there is a bit of a mess of cables on the floor, and I even have my ADSL modem sitting there. However, I have plans to tidy all that up by adding a hidden shelf underneath the desk. I’ll be able to place the modem, router, USB hub and power adapters there.

Conclusion

I really dig my new GeekDesk. I love the solid quality, the simple understated look, the stability at standing height, and the fast, smooth and quiet motor operation.

What’s more, I really enjoy standing at it. I have the desk at home, and I find that I tend to stand around ninety percent of the time. It is actually very comfortable. It is easy to ergonomically sort your body out with a straight back and neck, and correctly angled elbows. Standing seems to even help me concentrate, I think. Importantly, standing at home compensates for the fact that I sit all day at work.

I have a few photos here.

If you’re a programmer, a height adjustable desk is very worthy investment, in my opinion. And you won’t go wrong with a GeekDesk! But if you’re rich enough, maybe get the NextDesk; it looks like the bee’s knees :-).

28 July 2013

Clink

I develop Windows software at work, so I often find myself within the Windows Command Prompt (cmd.exe that is), which is an utterly frustrating environment. Recently I found some relief with Clink, which makes the experience a lot more bearable for someone with a Unix leaning.

Clink doesn’t replace cmd.exe, it hooks itself into it. And it doesn’t do a great deal, but what it does do, I really dig:

  • Bash-like tab completion
  • Persistent command history, with Bash-like control
  • Readline shortcuts, such as Ctrl-a and Ctrl-e (go to start and end of line)
  • Automatically replaces slashes with backslashes

“It’s like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell…”

20 July 2013

The Lower Back is a Stupid Invention

That chair shouldn’t be there; I’ll just move it out of the wayyyaaaaaarrrgggh! Damn, damn, damn! I’ve done it again! I’ll just wait a bit, maybe it’ll settle down. I’ll take a small step. Electric jolts of pain! Yep, my back is stuffed again.

That was a month ago. I had three days off work, and it took at least two weeks for my back to be back to say 80%; it’s maybe 95% now. That was the second time I have injured my back, the first time was around three years ago. I really don’t want that experience of being reduced to an invalid, ever again, or at least not until I’m 92, so I have decided to be more proactive in looking after my back.

Front pocket wallet. In retrospect this is obvious: sitting on a butt brick all day is bound to put uneven pressure on your lower back, which can’t be good. Doing this on an oscillating bus seat to and from work, is probably even worse.

So I bought my self a new wallet, a Koyono X Slimmy Stealth, and started putting it the front right pocket of my jeans, instead of the back pocket. It is great! Definitely more comfortable. I still don’t know why I didn’t think to do this earlier.

Height adjustable, standing desk. I’m a software developer, and therefore I sit all day at work, and often for a bit at night too. Sitting too often is bad, and not just for your back. After a lot of research, only yesterday I ordered a GeekDesk v3 electric height adjustable desk from geekdesk.com in the US. I should receive it in about two weeks. The idea is to stand up as much as possible while I am at home, to compensate for sitting down at work all day. I’ll probably write some more about the desk after I have used it for a while.

Stretching and walking. I am doing a series of stretches targeting my lower back most days, and I’ll continue to aim to do a decent walk every day. We always have been pretty big walkers anyway.

That’s the plan so far.

29 June 2013

Replacing Google Reader

Google Reader is shutting down on 1 July. That’s just two days away! I better stop procrastinating and find an alternative.

So what RSS sync services do we have available:

  • Feed Wrangler
    • $18.99 per year.
    • Web interface, iPhone app and iPad app available.
    • Reeder 3.2 (not yet available, but has been submitted to the App Store) will support it.
    • Supports “Smart streams” (think smart play list in iTunes), which I think I might find handy.
    • Supports “Filters”.
  • Feedbin
    • $2 per month.
    • Supported by Reeder for iPhone.
    • Supports tags.
  • Feedly
    • Seems like the focus is on the web app aspects, rather than a syncing service. I’m not really interested in that, I prefer native apps.

I’ve decided to go with Feed Wrangler for the following reasons:

  • Seems like it has good focus on being a fast and reliable syncing service.
  • Reeder for iPhone supports it, and Reeder for iPad and Mac will likely support it in the future.
  • The smart streams feature sounds like it could be useful.

Feedbin looks like it would also be a good choice, but I had to choose one.

In terms of a RSS client, I have been using Reeder on all my devices (Mac, iPhone and iPad) for a while now, and I am really happy with it. Unfortunately, only Reeder for iPhone supports Feed Wrangler, but support for iPad and Mac looks like it’ll come eventually. In the mean time, I guess I’ll use the Feed Wrangler app on iPad, and the the Feed Wrangler web interface on the Mac.