Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tivo Premiere

Just a quick post to share with everyone that I finally got a Tivo Premiere.

Back in April, Comcast forced customers to go digital so that people like me with HD Tuners couldn't get free high-def local channels. Rather than opting for the crappy, free, low-definition digital decryptor, I upgraded my Comcast service so that I could get HD, including the ESPN family of channels and Big Ten network in HD (which is fantastic).

Unfortunately, this put my old Tivo in a pretty useless state (unless I wanted to try to rig the Tivo to send IR commands to my cable box). Since, that's pretty lame, I went ahead and tried a Comcast DVR (which turned out to be lamer).

I got the top of the line Motorola, Dual-Tuner HD DVR, which appears to be technology from circa 2002.

Let's review how this thing sucks:

  • No ability to undelete programs
  • The entire interface is just WAY too laggy.
  • Quite often sound goes out.
  • About once a month I need to reboot it.
  • Recently, deleting a program also meant that I needed to go back to the main DVR menu (this should happen automatically).
  • Shows never started at +0 seconds (they always started at +2 seconds)
  • No netflix, No you tube, No Hulu (of course, why would we want that). Suprisingly enough, no Fan-Crap-Cast either.
  • Online Guide is clumsy to use.
  • Searching for programs was ridiculously slow
  • Scheduling of programs was quirky at time, forcing me to manually review recording each night to make sure it was going to do what I wanted it to
I'm sure I could have found more, but that's just off the top of my head. Basically, I bought into the Comcast DVR because it was quick and easy to get and I thought it was worth the try. After a few weeks, I grew tired of the DVR. At just about the same time, the new Tivo Premiere was unveiled, and I was pretty psyched to get one. After all, I just loved my old Tivo.

Unfortunately, real life got in the way and recording live TV no longer became a priority. Fast forward seven months, and with Jenn's encouragement, I got the new Tivo Premiere.

Major benefits and good points:

  • I got the XL version which lets me record a 1000 hours of standard definition TV (150 hours of HD). This is fantastic when you have kids.
  • Accepts dual-tuner M-Series Cable Cards that are a SNAP to install (unfortunately, Comcast "forgot" to activate my HD channels, so a I had call them back a few time to fix this).
  • Has all of the great season pass management, conflict resolution, Tivo suggestions, remote scheduling that you'd expect from Tivo.
  • The new Tivo remote has a light sensor on the back so that it knows when to go into "backlit" mode. Very nice.
  • Support for Netflix, BlockBuster, and Amazon on demand instantly make me forget about Comcast OnDemand
  • Support for YouTube and PodCasts is fantastic. Collin loves watching YouTube videos.
  • Set up is a piece of cake, and provides a set of glasses for color-tuning your TV
  • Comes with all of the cables you would want
  • Optional wireless antenna accessory piece of cake to install
Minor complaints so far:

  • User interface is much prettier but is a little bit more laggy (it's like they are trying to do more with not quite enough CPU power). This is only the main menu interface, the TV watching interface is still excellent.
  • First time set up took about 2 hours just because lots of content and patches needed to be installed.
  • You Tube support is a little buggy (it doesn't pick up all of my favorites and playlists) properly.
  • Netflix app does not let me browse the store - I can only play out of the instant queue
  • Netflix app seems to not perform as well as my Wii. (not sure why)
  • I wish that there was support for more web video (I heard Hulu is coming soon).

Overall, I am very happy with the new Tivo. I wish it was just a little bit slicker, but overall this is a solid product and I am sure that it will be well worth the money. I wish I got it before college football started back in last August!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Migrating to Spring Security 3.0

I recently upgraded my web application (a side project that I am working on at home) to use Spring 3.0 and Spring Security 3.0.

Moving to Spring 3.0 was pretty seamless - drop in the new jars (don't forget aopalliance.jar) and you are good to go. My project works the same now as it did before, and now I can start using some of the new features!

The migration to Spring Security 3.0 took an hour or two work through.

Here are some of the small issues that I ran into: (these only take minutes to fix)

  1. Make sure you change your XSD references to reference the new 3.0 schema.
  2. There was some package refactoring, so several of my classes had to have import references fixed.
  3. <security:anonymous/> is really no longer needed.
  4. The getAuthorities method on the UserDetails interface now returns a Collection (rather than an array).
  5. Make sure to include spring-security-config.jar

The only other issue that really bit me was an XML validation issue. I was using a customer authentication provider in my XML file that looked like this:

<security:authentication-provider ref="userDetailsService">

This was giving me the following validation error:

cvc-complex-type.2.4.c: The matching wildcard is strict, but no declaration can be found for element 'security:authentication-provider'.

Luckily, someone else ran across the same issue, and I fixed it by wrapping my authentication-provider inside an authentication-manager:

<security:authentication-manager alias="authenticationManager">
<security:authentication-provider ref="userDetailsService"/>

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Crappy Graphics, Lots of Fun.

So, I actually played with an XBox 360 the other day. I had some time to kill while Jenn was at church, and she gave me some errands to run. Before running the errands, I decided to drop by Best Buy and get some hands-on time with some digital cameras. The digital camera selection at Best Buy quickly bored me, so I decided to play with an XBox 360 (since there was no one using the demo kiosk).

I walked up to the kiosk, and fumbled my way through a driving game. The graphics were great (but on par with modern computers). The force feedback was good, and I was having fun playing the game... for about 5 minutes. After five minutes, I realized that I was using a little thumb nob to move a car around a race track.

I was completely amazed at how much I missed playing Mario Kart. Sure the graphics are about 10 years old. Sure the game does not have the uber-realistic physics system that allowed me to dent up the car.

But Mario Card has a controller that lets me play a game with a real steering wheel.

I walked away from a top-of-the-line gaming system, thinking "Meh".

Oh yeah.. Played Mario Kart again. It was a blast.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

iPhone Development using the web.

iPhone development has really been the buzz as of late. Apple is boasting 100,000 apps (unfortunately - 99,900 of them really suck -- or to use Internet speak: "they are the FAILS").

I've fallen pray for this scam... I probably have 50 apps on my iPhone (and the ones I care about most is under 10).

I feel like I am living in circa 1995 when everyone discovered the Internet and saw that they could download all sorts of crap on their computer! Come on... we all remember Elf Bowling!

I don't have anything against iPhone apps -- I think there are always going to be times when I really want to play Madden Football, rock it out on iTunes, compulsively check my Twitter account, or check my work calendar. But, it just seems more and more silly that I keep downloading apps.

What ever happened to the true mobile web? Luckily for the iPhone, it is really still alive! I can't believe I never checked out GMail on my iPhone until last month.. and you know what? It ROCKS. And it even allows me to properly archive my mail (unlike the stupid iPhone mail client). And there's no client to download!

It's amazing what you can do with Javascript and a little bit of CSS.

O'Reilly has a great online tutorial so that you can start iPhone enabling your site today.

Check it out today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I am still listening to a lot of podcasts. My 35 minute drive to work gives me a solid 1 hour a day of solid listening time.

What am I listening to? Here's the list! (my top podcasts are at the top of the list):

1. This Week in Tech - Let's face it. Leo is a fantastic facilitator, and it's a nice brainless podcast to listen to. Without Leo, this should would probably be further down my list. But with Leo in charge, and a revolving cast of characters on the panel, this podcast gives me a nice light view of consumer and end-user technology.

2. Security Now - Steve Gibson is just fantastic. This show goes from light and fluffy news about the latest security patches on Windoze to hard-core bit twiddling and crypto. Honestly... anyone even remotely interested in security should just start listening at Episode 1.

3. Blue White Podcast - This gives me my fall fix of PSU football.

4. Penn State Football Podcast - I like this podcast as well because it's done by two former PSU football players (that quite often give an interesting different perspective on the game and team).

5. Stuff You Should Know - It's kinda like listening to Wikipedia for 20 minutes. Great all-purpose knowledge podcast.

6. FLOSS Weekly - Leo's a great facilitator, and Randal and the Ubuntu guy are really enthusiastic. It's great hearing from a lot of folks in the open source community talk about their projects.

7. 60 Second Science - These are quick fillers when I have a few free minutes int the car. At 1 minute a piece, it's hard to turn this down.

8. LostCasts - These guys are *really* annoying, but they do a great job on keeping up with all of the latest theories on the message boards.

Stuff on my iPod that Used to be higher on my list that I don't have the time to listen to:

1. This Week in Google - I liked the two episodes, but then I found it was just taking too long to listen to. I wish truly more about cloud computing and more technical content rather than "this is how you use this google product". I hope to give this one another try in a few weeks.

2. Diggnation - I used to *really* like this podcast. And then there were the live shows that were unfunny. And then there were more advertisements. And then there was listener feedback. It seems like every Diggnation show only covers only 5 top stories. I've gone 2 months without listening to Diggnation.. It will probably leave my rotation.

3. Java Posse - As a Java developer, I *really* wanted to like this podcast. And I think that I really used to like this podcast, but I'm not sure why I drifted away. Was it the fact that I do so much Java programming during the day and I really don't need another dose of Java during my commute? Was it the bland banter of the hosts? Was it the sickening way these guys seem to get along? Was it Joe Nuxoll? Was it the fact these guys are a little too obsessed with language design? Was it the crappy audio from their open space conferences? I suspect all of the above. Don't get me wrong -- these guys are doing a great service, and I think I'll try listening to them again over the holidays (when my other podcasts run dry).

4. Windows Weekly - Boy the Windows world is really in a world of hurt when the key content contributor for this podcasts feels like he's continually beaten-down about Windows and he's more excited talking about Apple products. I like Paul, but he's really losing my interest.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Here Cometh the Cloud.

I am a big fan of cloud computing. It is a giant trend that was very easy to spot from a long time ago, but I was never quite sure exactly "when it's here".

For me, I think that day is today.

I just got done trying out SpringSource's Cloud Foundry. It's basically a way to easily deploy web applications on a Spring/Java/Tomcat/Apache/MySQL platform on Amazon EC2. And you know what? It freaking works!

As a Java developer, this is what I wanted -- a really easy point-and-click web interface to deploy a distributed Java application on the cloud. I don't have to worry about all of the boring systems plumbing. (and this comes from a guy who kinda likes the boring systems plumbing!). As a developer, I just want a platform that can scale effortlessly and cheaply.

Sure... Cloud Foundry has all sorts of issues: limited DB support, limited configuration, no elastic block storage, etc. But for a first release, I think the Spring Source folks shows what the future could be like for developers.

Cloud Foundry isn't the only cloud solution out there, but it's the one I care about as a Java developer, since java/tomcat/spring apps are what I write. And let's face it: Google's App Engine for Java just sucked.

I really do see computing as a utility. And I really hope to see scalable computing systems with full software stacks to become a utility as well. I think it could usher in a whole new wave of developer innovation. When you lower the bar for the deployment of scalable applications (and you make it really cheap), you start to invite a whole new segment of developers with interesting ideas and interesting solutions.

The next 10 years are going to be cool.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bucket List 3: Work with Someone Great (and then impress them!)

I am a big believer that only true way to get better is to surround yourself by great people. I believe this works in sports, business, the economy, and just about everything.

I think it's really true for a developer. Want to write better code? Work with someone that really really really knows their craft. You'll learn a thing (or 10). Try to keep up with them -- try taking your craft to the next level!

You'll know you've succeeded when you come up with an idea that will impress the heck out of them.

Don't work with smart people? Get on a new team or a new project!

You're the smartest guy in the company? Find a new job!

Can't find a new job with smart people? Find an open source project with smart people. There are tons of them out there! Get on the forums for a software project and contribute! Impress the experts!

You'll never get any better if your the sharpest programmer in the shed!