Computer Lays the Prettiest Brick Walls Since Eladio Dieste : TreeHugger

One of the oldest building materials known to humankind, bricks have great thermal mass and last almost forever. But laying them takes skill, and complex forms and shapes are hard to design and build.

Now Professor Ingeborg Rocker and students at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard have taught a computer to do it.

via Computer Lays the Prettiest Brick Walls Since Eladio Dieste : TreeHugger.

11 Tools Every ASP.NET Programmer Should Install

I found a great list of “6 Free Tools that every Windows Programmer should Install” via a contact of mine on Twitter, which made me want to create my own list, similar to the tools listed in the link above, with a few additions and changes:

  1. Firebug

    If you have Firefox, but you haven’t tried this yet, install it now. You’ll thank me later. Firebug is currently my most essential tool (besides Visual Studio, of course) to web development since it effortlessly debugs JavaScript and shows you the ins and outs of the DOM on any page you’re inspecting. Firebug is available as an extension for Firefox, or as a bookmarklet for any other browser.

    It’s also worth noting that Safari and Chrome (well, anything rendered with Webkit, it seems) have an excellent set of development tools built-in that are very similar to the functionality of Firebug in Firefox, and even IE8 is catching up to the game with its Developer Tools window/pane.

  2. Unlocker

    I agree with Ian, this program is excellent. Gives you some useful information for a change (and something you can do with it) when you get the message “Cannot delete <X>: It is being used by another person or program.”

  3. TortoiseSVN

    If you’ve been using Subversion for source control, I’m sure you’ve heard of this client. If not, get it immediately. It rocks, and integrates exceptionally well with Windows Explorer. (Not to mention Visual Studio, via AnkhSVN or VisualSVN)

  4. IETester

    Since Internet Explorer is the scourge of the Interwebs that will never go away, it helps to be able to test your site in multiple versions of IE, and since only one version can be installed at a time (and since IE8 Compatibility Mode doesn’t really help at all), IETester is a good solution that lets you test IE5.5, IE6, IE7, and IE8 rendering engines in the same tabbed browser. Very cool.

  5. VMWare Player

    …But, as my coworker mentioned, Internet Explorer is pretty invasive and modifies more on your system than just the rendering DLLs, so it’s a good idea to keep a spare VM running each flavor of IE as well. VMWare Player is the free version of VMWare Workstation, which will run pre-existing virtual machines, but can’t create new ones. Since that functionality is missing from VMWare Player, you can use this site to create your own virtual machines from scratch: EasyVMX! Virtual Machine Creator.

  6. .NET Reflector

    RedGate’s description says it best:
    “.NET Reflector enables you to easily view, navigate, and search through, the class hierarchies of .NET assemblies, even if you don’t have the code for them. With it, you can decompile and analyze .NET assemblies in C#, Visual Basic, and IL.”

  7. Sysinternals Suite (includes Process Explorer)

    Ian Hickman’s post (6 Free Tools that every Windows Programmer should Install) suggests Process Explorer alone, which is a superior Task Manager replacement, but I’ll extend it to suggest the whole Sysinternals Suite, since it comes with so many other great utilities and includes Process Explorer along with them. One of my favorite tools besides PE is AutoRuns, which is a msconfig.exe replacement that offers a much better look at your startup apps and services.

  8. WinMerge

    TortoiseSVN comes with its own diff tool, but I tend to end up using WinMerge instead because it does a great job with comparing local files or differing versions of a file in source control, and integrates seamlessly with TortoiseSVN.

  9. Launchy

    I’m definitely a keyboard junkie, so anything I can do to keep my hands on the keyboard is a plus. Launchy is by far my favorite application launcher for that reason. All I have to do is hit Alt+Space (you can reassign the hotkey if you like), and it brings up a prompt that allows me to launch anything on my Start Menu, and do a number of other tasks as well (launch websites, perform quick calculations, etc.). Definitely saves me a ton of time.

  10. Charles / Fiddler

    Of the two apps listed above, I prefer Charles, which is a paid application, but I’ve listed Fiddler as a free alternative. Both apps are proxies that log traffic between your system and the server you’re debugging (even localhost) and both provide valuable debugging information that is particularly helpful when trying to debug web services. From the Charles website:
    “Charles is an HTTP proxy / HTTP monitor / Reverse Proxy that enables a developer to view all of the HTTP traffic between their machine and the Internet. This includes requests, responses and the HTTP headers (which contain the cookies and caching information).”

  11. EmEditorNotepad++ / Notepad2

    All three of the apps listed above are excellent full-featured text editors, but I prefer the feature set of EmEditor, which is a paid application. The killer feature that EmEditor provides which I haven’t yet found in either of the other editors is the Find *and Replace* in files. Notepad++ has a Find in Files option, but I haven’t found a Replace in Files function without opening up every single document and performing a replace in all open documents (info on that approach here: How To “Find And Replace” Words In Multiple Files).

    Notepad2 doesn’t offer the same tabbed document interface that both EmEditor and Notepad++ offer, but it is an incredibly lightweight, and more importantly, self-contained executable that’s a perfect drop-in replacement for Windows Notepad (info on how to do this here: Replace Notepad with Notepad2).

    Any of these apps offer syntax highlighting and are a great alternative to firing up Visual Studio when you need to make a quick edit (or on one of the *many* occasions when Visual Studio slows waaaaay down or locks up your system).

Honorable mention: PhraseExpress
This program rocks. I’ve only started using it recently, and not nearly to its fullest potential, but the clipboard manager functionality alone is worth the download:

Also, I neglected to mention AutoHotkey since I haven’t used it as much as I probably could, but I can say that I’ve had a lot of luck with the AutoHotkey script iTunesAnywhere, which helps since I don’t have a keyboard with multimedia keys and for whatever godforsaken reason, iTunes *still* doesn’t natively support global hotkeys like Winamp does. (I’d switch back to Winamp, but I drank the Apple kool-aid and picked up an iPhone in January.)

The dark side of Dubai – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

Fascinating read, by quite an eloquent journalist:

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed’s smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions – like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island – where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never – and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.

Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history.

(via The Independent: The dark side of Dubai)

SkipScreen – Firefox Plugin to Skip Tedious Web Pages

Wow. Nice plugin!

SkipScreen – Firefox Plugin to Skip Tedious Web Pages

A free Firefox add-on that lets you skip all the clicking and waiting on sites like RapidShare, Zshare, MegaUpload, and Sharebee. Your downloads start instantly. Never read a music blog without it.

via SkipScreen – Firefox Plugin to Skip Tedious Web Pages.

Drupal Installation: Turn off register_globals on 1&1 Hosting

Update: If you’re having other trouble with your 1&1 Drupal setup, such as the “500 Server Error” or problems with clean URLs, try this post on Drupal.org:
http://drupal.org/node/232773


Thank you, thank you, thank you! This was bugging the hell out of me, and the link from the Drupal installer is less than helpful for sorting the register_globals issue out:

I run a couple of Drupal sites on 1and1 for historical reasons (3 years free). A while ago, I dutifully upgraded them to Drupal 5.7. And was surprised to find that PHP’s register_globals was enabled.

All this time, I’ve been running with a .htaccess file which explicitly disabled that setting — if 1and1’s Apache was running mod_php only, it turns out. Apparently, such PHP settings in .htaccess files don’t do anything if running PHP in CGI mode.

Since Drupal 5.7 warns you if register_globals is enabled, it became glaringly obvious that they were. Not a happy situation at all. Drupal is coded intelligently and securely in general, but register_globals is inherently a security risk. It should never be enabled. But worse, in many versions of PHP, there is a bug which allows even more exploits to be used when register_globals is enabled. This bug has been fixed in recent versions of PHP, but hosting companies like 1and1 are notorious for not upgrading their PHP, MySQL, etc. versions.

(via Making 1and1 More Secure | Web node for Chris Johnson, Drupal developer.)

For reference, the site above suggests to create a .htaccess file at the root of your hosting directory (~/) and add the following line to it:

AddType x-mapp-php5 .php

This helps with MediaWiki as well, but MediaWiki does have a workaround that auto-forwards the .php file to it’s corresponding .php5 file if it detects that it is running under php4.

Advertising: The Future Was Grander in 1993

The practice of predicting the future in ads has always been dicey. But in 1993, AT&T got damn near everything right! Present-day dreamers Microsoft would kill for this record of adverfuturism accuracy…

via Advertising: The Future Was Grander in 1993.

America’s Unhappiest Cities: Portland, Oregon is #1!

Supposedly my hometown, Portland, Oregon, is the unhappiest city in the United States. Oh, bother… 😉

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Portland, Ore.

  • Overall rank: 1*
  • Depression rank: 1
  • Suicide rank: 12
  • Crime (property and violent) rank: 24
  • Divorce rate rank: 4
  • Cloudy days: 222
  • Unemployment rate (December 2008): 7.8%

(via America’s Unhappiest Cities: Portland, Ore. – BusinessWeek.)