Sunday, November 20, 2005

Other blogs

Yesterday morning I created this blog. Last night when I went over to my brothers house to give him an XPSP2 installer he showed me this cool new thing he started on Friday. Yep, it was his blog. Now I'm just waiting for our other brother to come over and tell us about how he suddenly decided to get a blogger account too...

It seems like there are a lot of people getting into blogging. So many in fact that it's hard to keep up on the blogs that I like let alone the many other ones that are good. I've even added a 'Feeds' folder to my Links toolbar in firefox. And then there's reddit. I only started looking at that recently and it's starting to get more of my attention than Slashdot.

So what blogs do I like? Well the ones topping the list are The World, According To Me by my friend Bob, The Simpleness of the Way by my brother, and pretty much everything that Paul Graham writes. I have two of his books, three if you count the PDF version of On Lisp.

I think this is going to be fun writing my own. After visiting with my brother last night we both agreed that writing a blog is a definite thought exercise. Even if nobody cares to read it at least we all cared to write it and organize our thoughts into something just a little more meaningful than they were before.


P.S. Did you know that the blogger spellchecker doesn't know the words blog, blogging, and Firefox.


Do you ever find a cool utility and feel the need to use it in a program? Last week I was faced with the problem of needing to load PDF files and separate out sections of them. I found a tool called pdftk and it's great. There are windows and Linux versions and it is a simple command line tool for splitting, mixing, and concatenating PDF files.

I made a small front end for it in C# that uses the Acrobat reader control. Here's what it does. The PDF gets loaded in the acrobat reader control. Then it makes a call to pdftk to generate a manifest file that has a page count for the PDF along with some other information I'm ignoring for the moment. A listbox is populated with all of the page numbers in simple select mode so the user just has to click on the pages he/she wants and click the save new PDF button. Another call is made to pdftk that generates the new PDF with all of the selected files.

Now it is at this point that I must say how much I like the UNIX tradition of making a bunch of small utilities and stringing them together into one bigger program. First off, It's a lot easier to make calls to a text based program from within another program than it is to use the windows automation features that only some windows make use of. Second, My program barely does half of what pdftk can do from the command line simply because you're limited by the windowing interface and how it shows you the world.

It's amazing how limited we can sometimes be in our windowed existence because we can only see the programs we use through the eyes of their creators. I have run into this problem time and again where I create a form in one of my programs and I know how to use it, but others just stare right back at me and tell me they can't use it. UI design is a curious thing that I hope to improve at someday.


PS. If you are interested in any sources drop me an email, though I can't promise a completed program. I'm writing a control that is part of a bigger program, not a stand alone PDF manager.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

To hack or not to hack

I doubt that this is a question so much as an afterthought. Now before I go on I must reiterate to the reader that when I use the terms 'hack' or 'hacker' I am speaking of it is the sense of programming and not so much in breaking through security. That would be a cracker.

I hack because I have an active mind. In fact, I would say it's a little too active. Too many things that I would like to write are just a little bit out of my league. Or maybe I just need to realign my priorities and stop having a life. Either way, I am a curious person with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

These things said, I'm going to let you figure out what brand of nerd I am over the course of my posting. Mind you... I am not only a hacker, but for now I will claim it as my title and invite you to figure out who this Shaun Kruger character is later.