Archive for October 2006

Memory Consumption in Firefox

Published on October 30, 2006

I don’t fully understand why people get so upset about the supposed “memory leaks” in Firefox. While I don’t disagree that an application as large as Firefox could have memory management issues, I severely question the reports out there that indicate that Firefox eats up hundreds of megabytes of memory without ever releasing it. I use Firefox every single day for many hours, and I have never run into such a problem. In fact, what most people are complaining about is actually a feature.

That aside, let’s assume that Firefox does indeed leak small amounts of memory here or there. What would it matter? Sure it might be sloppy programming practice. It’s certainly not fair to eat shared resources that you’ll never return. But under what circumstances might you be hindered from doing work on your computer because Firefox is “consuming” one or two hundred megabytes of RAM? What memory intensive operations are people constantly doing that causes them fume over this perceived problem? I can think of no single instance of computing that would both consume the entire system’s memory, and be common enough that everyone encounters it on a daily basis. Granted, gaming might be one exception, but not everyone does that.

So my question is this: why care? Who cares that Firefox might use up to 200 megabytes of memory? Memory is cheap. If you’re that concerned about the memory usage of your applications, you clearly don’t have enough in your system. Just 1 gigabyte is more than enough for today’s environment, and NewEgg has 1 GB modules for as little as $80. If you’re complaining, just go for the upgrade; you’ll be glad you did.

Loving The Office

Published on October 29, 2006

Does anyone else besides me love The Office? A coworker of mine (thanks Dustin!) got me into the show, and I’m currently working through season 2 (so no spoilers, please). Season 1 was surprisingly short, and I wish it had been longer. The one thing that I enjoy most about the show is that all of the characters are incredibly believable. I mean, I feel like I could work with any of these people. None of them are overly beautiful, like most television shows where the actors are all Barbie and Ken cookie cutters. Steve Carell does an excellent job as the manager, and John Krasinski is great as Jim. Dwight is a riot, and Ryan the temp plays a good part as well.

Don’t even get me started on Pam; words simply fail me.

Update: I’ve finished season 2. All I can say is wow.

Thoughts on Accessibility

Published on October 26, 2006

October is “People with Disabilities” awareness month at IBM, and I attended a panel discussion on the topic today, which was quite insightful. One of my coworkers, who has cerebral palsy and speaks with an augmented communications device, was one of the panelists. I learned a number of interesting things about the opportunities IBM offers employees with disabilities, along with a number of other interesting things.

All of this got me thinking about the lawsuit facing Target, which I commented on quite a while back. A recent update to the story indicates that the trial is still moving forward. Target recently argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act only covered physical store space, not electronic store fronts. But a California judge ruled last month that this was not the case, and has allowed the case to proceed. This fact brings up an interesting point: if the law were to apply to physical locations only, how would businesses like, who have no physical locations, be allowed to operate?

It only makes sense (even business sense) that the ADA applies to electronic store fronts. If it didn’t, think of the number of customers that would be turned away. According to the Wikipedia entry on blindness (so take this figure with a grain of salt), the World Health Organization estimated that 161 million people in the world were visually impaired, with 37 million of those being blind. Would you, as a business owner, turn away 37 million prospective customers? I know I certainly wouldn’t.

I can only hope that the National Federation of the Blind wins this important court case. Regardless, it will hopefully wake up online retailers to the fact that web accessibility is important. Not only for blind users, but for search engine robots; all of which are blind. When the biggest internet user (the Google bot) is blind, I might begin to be concerned about the accessibility of my site.

Firefox 2.0 Now Available!

Published on October 24, 2006

If you’ve been holding out for Firefox 2.0 (although why would you?), you’ll be glad to know that Firefox 2.0 is now available. Lots of new goodies in this release: inline spell checking (the greatest feature yet), better tabbed browsing, session saver, and more. It doesn’t get much better than this (until Firefox 3.0, that is).

While you’re upgrading, make sure you have the latest versions of CoLT and Googlebar Lite.

Introducing Monkey Album

Published on October 21, 2006

The Photography section here at this website is now open! I have switched from Plogger to my home-grown photo album solution: Monkey Album. Not only does it look better than Plogger, it’s much faster as well. There’s still some work to do on it, but please let me know what you think. I hope to add searching functionality at some point, and other goodies might come along at later times (such as per-photo comments). All of that is well down the road, however, so enjoy what I’ve got for now.

To help celebrate the new software, I have a brand new photo album to share: a trip to the North Carolina Zoo. A number of the photographs in this particular set turned out extremely well, and I hope to offer several of them as desktop wallpaper sometime in the near future.

You’re On the Air!

Published on October 20, 2006

My dad and I wanted to donate some money to WNCU, a local jazz station that we both enjoy, so I called the number they gave out tonight to make a donation. Does an operator willing to take my money answer the phone? No. The host of the live talk radio show that was currently on the air picks up. I explained that I was calling about the fund drive, and he explained that this was a live radio talk show. I apologized, gave him my number (hopefully off the air), and hung up. He still hasn’t called back, and he no doubt had a good laugh at my expense.

Oh the humanity!

Observations on the General Public

Published on October 19, 2006

My family took a trip to the North Carolina State Fair today (as we do every year), and we had a great time. While there, I had some interesting thoughts on the types of people one sees at the fair. And, to some level, these groups also apply at amusement parks (though I’m not sure why). Here are the major people groups that I came up with:

This demographic makes up a large portion of those actually at the fair. Many teens apparently mistake the fair for some sort of mass orgy; the girls dress scantily and the guys hang all over the girls they are with. Some teen “couples” can be seen walking around as if in some sort of mental haze. These particular teens “hold hands” (rather loosely, mind you) and seem stare into the distance at all times. Is this a result of a drug induced stupor? Quite possibly. Many of the teens smoke, and curse like sailors. I enjoy avoiding this group as much as possible.

Pre-teens Trying to Be Teenagers
There are fewer people in this group, but enough to be categorical. The kids who aren’t quite teenagers do their best to mimic their older counterparts, albeit in a much more immature way. I mostly feel sorry for those included in this group, since they just seem so pathetic.

Parents with Small Children
Small children drive me crazy, and this year’s fair seemed to be packed with them. There were strollers everywhere, and whiny, snot-nosed kids populated those strollers. And, through all the whining and tantrum throwing, mom and dad do nothing. Could they too be in a drug induced stupor? This group makes up (in my estimation) roughly a third of the people at the fair, if not more.

The Elderly
Lots of older people can be seen at the fair, which isn’t too surprising seeing that people 65 or older can get in free. The only main problem I have with this group is that they always walk slowly, and I inevitably get caught behind them. Come on grandma; get a move on!

Black, White, Hispanic, it apparently doesn’t matter what color you are; “gangstas” can be seen all over the place. Baggy jeans, gold chains, over-sized clothing, threatening looks, this group has it all. The end result is so pathetic, I can’t help but shake my head in disappointment.

Ugly People
The fact is that there are a lot of butt-ugly people out there. And they seem to flock to the fair. Why must ugly, overweight women wear clothes that reveal more of themselves than anyone wants to see?

Can you think of a group I’ve omitted? If so, feel free to discuss.

Counting Items in Multiple Tables With MySQL

Published on October 13, 2006

While working on my photo album software, I ran into an interesting SQL problem. I wanted to be able to display information about my photo albums, along with the number of images in each album. The problem is that my data is broken up into two tables: an albums table and an images table. My goal was to use exactly one SQL query to access all of the data, including the count of images. And I wanted empty albums (no images) to also show up in the query’s results. But try as I might, I couldn’t get the query to return the data I wanted. I finally found a solution that works, and I present an example below.

Let’s suppose we have two MySQL tables: one that represents directories, and another that represents files. The directories table has the following columns:

  • ID
  • Name

And the files table has the following columns:

  • ID
  • Parent_ID
  • Name

The Parent_ID field in the files table corresponds to the ID field in the directories table. In order to select both the count of files in each directory, as well as all of the directory information, we do a simple join. But here’s the trick: the order of your tables matters! Here’s the query that works for this scenario:

SELECT d.*, Count(f.ID) AS Count FROM directories d LEFT JOIN files f ON f.Parent_ID = d.ID GROUP BY d.ID

When the tables are reversed in the JOIN, only tables with 1 or more entries show up in the results. What a subtle change! Hopefully someone will find this tip useful. It sure took me a while to get this working.

Darn It, Jim!

Published on October 12, 2006

It turns out that DreamHost does not allow system() calls to be executed from PHP. This nugget of knowledge essentially throws a gigantic monkey wrench into my plans for the photo album software I’m writing. I was planning on allowing the large thumbnail creation process to run in the background, while the user continued to do whatever else they wanted. Since I can’t spawn another process, these plans are shot. 🙁

So here’s what I plan to do for the time being: instead of using two thumbnails (100 x 100 and 640 x 480) and a base image (1024 x 768), I’m switching to one thumbnail (100 x 100) and a base image (800 x 600). It’s not what I had planned, but it’ll have to do for now. Thoughts? Suggestions? Sympathy?


Published on October 10, 2006

Google has apparently bought out YouTube, which is a rather surprising move. Greg Linden predicts that this will be the point in history where people say that Google jumped the shark. While I don’t think things are quite that extreme, I certainly don’t fully understand this acquisition.

Perhaps the Google higher-ups have insights that we do not. Or perhaps Google felt like dropping 1.6 billion (with a b) dollars for no good reason. It should be interesting to see what happens to YouTube as things move forward. Will Google Video be rolled into the YouTube look and feel? Or vice versa?

When Buildings Blow Up

Published on October 6, 2006

A chemical plant in Apex, NC has apparently exploded, causing over half of the town’s population of 32,000 to evacuate. It’s made the top story at CNN, as well as other news sources.

I went to school at Apex High, and know lots of people in the area. One of my family’s good friends lives near the plant (1/4 to 1/2 of a mile), and she is unable to drive due to a disability. We haven’t heard from her, so hopefully one of her friends came to pick her up to get her out of harm’s way. There’s apparently a toxic gas cloud over the city, so hopefully nothing bad will come of that. The current rain appears to be helping in that regard.

This entire event reminds me of a scene from The Simpsons (from episode 2F32, ‘Round Springfield):

Lisa returns to KJAZZ with the album, and the DJ puts it on a turntable and hands her a radio. “Here, you can listen to it on this,” he says, but as she walks away from the station, all she picks up is static. She sighs heavily, “I did the best I could, Bleeding Gums.” Just then, a large cloud appears over the radio tower and lightning strikes it. Suddenly, the signal comes in clearly — for Lisa, Homer at home, Abe at the Castle, and Wiggum in his patrol car. “Attention all units, attention all units, poison gas cloud heading for –” announces the dispatcher, but her voice is cut off by the jazz transmission. Wiggum approves until he passes out from a cloud of poison gas.

Bug in the Bedroom

Published on October 4, 2006

So last night I’m playing Railroad Tycoon 3 on my computer (a very fun game by the way; I highly recommend it). After wrapping up a scenario in my current campaign, I turn off my computer and swivel my chair around to get up. And what do I see on my wall? One gigantic bug. This thing totally freaked me out. I believe it’s a mosquito (its body certainly looked like one, though you can’t tell that from the picture), but I’m not entirely sure. I made an initial attempt to suck it up with our vacuum cleaner, but I failed miserably. As a result, it began flying about the room, adding to the fright level considerably. After a few more unsuccessful attempts, I finally sucked it up to its doom. Needless to say, going to bed last night was much more anxiety inducing than normal.

Update: This insect looks it might be a Crane fly (can anyone confirm this?). Creepy.

I’ll Cry If I Want To

Published on October 2, 2006

Today is my birthday! 😀

I received a Nintendo DS Lite, along with the new Mario Brothers game, and they both rock! The DS is quite impressive, and I’ve only played with it for a little bit. Perhaps I’ll post some photos in the next day or so. I also scored another Al Di Meola album (this guy can really play guitar – I highly recommend any of his stuff).

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