Jon Udell Screening Room Screencast on IronPython

Episode 8 of Jon Udell’s The Screening Room features Jim Hugunin, creator of Jython and now IronPython, a .NET implementation of Python. For Python fans, this is a fascinating screen-cast to watch. They’ve done some great work on IronPython, which just hit its 1.0 release this week.

Some of the cool things I liked about what I saw:

  • Integration of the Python language with the Visual Studio IDE (including the Debugger)
  • Full access to the .NET framework (The Avalon demo was cool)
  • Optional integration of CLR methods into Python objects (String.Trim() vs. String.strip())
  • The PowerShell demo was also pretty cool
  • In the early part of the screen-cast, Jim takes a benchmark program and increases performance of the program dramatically by refactoring one function into C#. Shows off the optimization opportunities possible with the platform, along with the great integration between IronPython and other .NET languages

IronPython looks like a really fun thing to start playing with and could be a really great addition to a Windows development group for prototyping. I am a big fan of dynamic languages and think this is a great addition to the .NET tool set.

Dabble DB – WOW

Back in June, Tom the Architect posted about something called Dabble DB that he said was pretty impressive. He described it as “collaborative data management, authoring, and publishing web application”. I made mental note to check it out (Tom doesn’t normally recommend stuff on his blog unless its exceptionally cool) but as most mental notes go, I forgot about it. That is, until I saw Tim Brays post from yesterday talking about how he invested in the company.

After reading this, I remembered Tom’s post and went over to check it out. I watched the seven minute demo and was completely blown away.

As you watch the demo think about the amount of data in any large corporation that is managed in spreadsheets. I had recently made a comment to someone that Excel seems to be the largest Enterprise Data Management tool used after seeing the number of extremely large spreadsheets in a meeting we were attending together. All of this data is passed here and there, modified, forwarded on, until there are so many versions of it you have no idea which one is correct anymore.

That is the beauty of Dabble DB. It allows you to pull this data into a centralized repository, refactor it into a normalized format on the fly, and even calendar the data if you have timestamps in the data model. The benefits of unifying all of that data tracked in spreadsheets is just too much to even comprehend given the pricing model that the company is offering the service for.

I do see one small problem though. Everyone talks about “software as a service” as the next “big thing” and I agree – in an ideal world. However, in the “not so ideal world” that most large corporations live in I see this model (or, more specifically, providing this model only) as a huge detriment to adoption in large companies who do not like to have their data hosted by a third party vendor. Given the volume of data tracked in spreadsheets of a confidential nature, I see this as a huge barrier for adoption. Until large businesses go through a major cultural shift in which they understand that they do not have to own and maintain all of the systems that their data resides, the audience that Dabble can have a huge effect on is limited to those “new companies” who get the “Web 2.0” thing (or whatever we are calling it these days) – and quite frankly, this is not the audience that needs them the most.

The fact that Dabble does not offer an option to host the application internally for a customer (that I could find on their web site anyway), in my opinion, may be the one thing that keeps them from actually providing the huge benefit they could provide to the user base that needs them most.

All that rambling aside though, this is one cool application. I think to really appreciate it you need to see it. Check out the demo and tell me this isn’t one of the coolest things you’ve ever seen!

Vienna – An Open Source NewsReader For The Macintosh

Screenshot of Vienna News Reader

I had mentioned in a post earlier this year that I have outsourced many of the tools that I use to third party vendors. Google Reader was one of the applications that I started using.

Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the “river of news” type of newsreaders, and would rather see a list of sites that I can categorize under folders that I can check conveniently. When I was on Windows, I used FeedDemon after hearing about it from Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and I really liked the application a lot. It was perfect for me.

Since moving to the Mac though, I’ve been unable to find something as easy for me to use as FeedDemon, so I’ve just made due with Google Reader.

That is, until I found Vienna.

Vienna is an open source RSS news reader for the Apple Macintosh. It has a feature set comparable to Feed Demon. It also supports “Smart Folders”, which are a way of defining search criteria to automagically group posts based on filter criteria.

The reader also supports tabbed browsing, using WebKit – really nice if you are looking for “continuity of experience” – not having to jump from app to app in order to finish a unit of work.

I was able to pull my current subscriptions from Google Reader as an OPML file and import them straight into Vienna. No muss, no fuss. The application is very stable, I’ve found no bugs or issues that have gotten in my way since starting to use it a couple of weeks ago – and I find it much more to my liking than Google Reader was. I can look for specific site updates without scrolling all over the place or trying to figure out keyboard shortcuts. There are too many features to list here without being redundant, but their site has a list of the features included in the application, so check it out if your curious.

The best part about Vienna is that the source code is available. If you don’t like something, you can tweak it.

I’ve had a very positive experience with this news reader and recommend it highly to anyone looking for a news reader for Mac OS X.

The Mac has Spoiled Me

On Sunday we went to Jonna’s company picnic and had forgotten the camera. Jake had his camera and we took some pictures there. When we got home I smugly hooked up Jakes Kodak EasyShare C330 4MP Digital Camera to the Mac and oddly got the message “No images to import”.

Checking the iPhoto camera compatibility list I found that the Kodak EasyShare C330 4MP Digital Camera is not compatible with iPhoto. You know what this means … time to boot up the Windows machine upstairs. It goes without saying that my puffed up chest deflated just a bit.

I put it off for a couple of days, but this morning I decided to grab the pictures off the camera to upload to Flickr, using my Windows machine. It literally took about 5 minutes for the machine to boot, if not more.

I’m extremely spoiled with the Mac. While I’ve done no official timings, it feels to me that I’m up and booted in about 20 seconds. A five minute wait for a system to boot and load all of its start up applications is just something that I now find intolerable.

Before grabbing the Mac, I used to come downstairs in the morning, hit the on button on the gateway, say good morning to Jonna, go to the garage to smoke, come back in, make a pot of coffee, hit the washroom — and by the time I was done the hourglass was just fading away and the machine was ready for me to finally hit my email.

Ed Gibbs wrote a post on Saturday about how fun PhotoBooth had been with his kids on visit to the Apple store, and mentions how this little application enriched the Apple Store experience. He mentions a number of positives he experienced just in the Apple Store itself, all true.

But I tell you, a key piece of the Mac experience for me over the past few weeks has been the complete rearrangment of my schedule in the morning. All of that stuff that I used to do in the morning still happens, but in a completely different order. Now I hit the on button on my Mac, run into the living room to say good morning to Jonna, come back to my desk, log in, check email, check my daily feed, and maybe get up at some point to make coffee.

The Mac has eliminated a LOT of wait time in the morning. For me, thats worth the price of admission. Photobooth is pretty damn fun too though.