Thursday, January 29, 2015

Getting Started with AppEngine

I'm teaching a class at the University of Pittsburgh on web development with App Engine and as part of it I'm putting together a getting started guide.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Giant Phone Showdown: Xperia Ultra vs Nexus 6

I've been using an Xperia Ultra (Play Edition) for a few months and I have to say - other than the fact that it's about the size of a dinner plate, it's a pretty great phone (interesting to note - you could actually use it as a dinner plate and then wash it, since it's waterproof).  Sure, everybody makes fun of it for its giant size pretty much all the time, but hell - I like the attention and I'll take any attention I can get.  I spend a LOT more time browsing the web or reading & writing email than I do talking, and the large form factor is really effective for that.  The battery life is great, performance is good, and the screen is large enough to do just about anything you need.

The Xperia Ultra has lots of upsides:
  1. Nice, big screen.
  2. Long battery life - I can get 2 days, easy.
  3. Great processor / memory.
  4. It's super thin.

That being said, my 3 biggest complaints about the Xperia Ultra:

  1. No stereo speakers.
  2. My kids have one of these and it takes much better pictures.
  3. It is just a bit too big.

I started using a Nexus 6 recently and I've found it to be a pretty great phone.  The screen is gorgeous.  The performance is outstanding.  It sounds stupid, but the rounded corners make it a lot easier to put it into your pocket, and the curved back makes it a lot easier to hold.  Android 4.4 seems to run much better on it than it did on the Xperia Ultra.  It also has stereo speakers which make listening to music or watching a movie a bit better.

So the Nexus 6 has a few points in its favor:

  1. Nice, big screen, but not quite as big as the Xperia Ultra.
  2. Amazing resolution.  The screen looks less like pixels and more like reality.  It's actually a bit weird until you get used to it.
  3. Stereo speakers.
  4. Better physical feel.
  5. Great processor / memory.
  6. The camera is pretty great (I mean, for a phone).
I just have a few minor complaints:
  1. Vibration intensity.  Every time I get a new message it registers on the Richter scale.  It's intense.
  2. Battery life - it makes it through the day, but just barely... a little too close for comfort.

All of that being said, you can pick up an Xperia Ultra for a little more than $300, and the Nexus 6 seems to be approximately $600 (off-contract).  The specs for the Xperia Ultra and Nexus 6 aren't exactly the same - the edge goes to the Nexus 6 - but the Xperia Ultra isn't too far off.  The Xperia Ultra is a pretty great deal at $300, if you can handle its massive size.  The Nexus 6 is a wonderful phone, but it's expensive.  If you can handle the lack of stereo speakers and the horrible camera, the Xperia Ultra might be a good alternative.

That Nexus 6 screen sure is amazing, though.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

When C++ is your hammer

I've always liked this meme: "When C++ is your hammer, everything looks like a thumb."

A thumb with multiple inheritance.

The problem is that all languages have issues... so I wondered, "What kind of hammers would they be?"  These are my best guesses**.

Houses with questionable indentation.

But the hammer is so easy to use!

But you have to pay extra for the special glove to hold it.

And your screwdriver is made of modeling clay.

A problem that somebody will probably solve with a screwdriver instead.

But then it will be really easy to use.

And nobody else will ever be able to figure out how to use your hammer.

And the hammers come from a AbstractHammerBuilderFactory.

But it comes in any color you want!

** I'm sure that other people have come up with the same jokes so I'm not claiming any amazing originality here.  I couldn't find a system to look up joke patents.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Final Exam, Question 11 (again)

Last spring I decided to have some fun on the final exam for my Computer Data Structures class.  I was happy with the way it turned out, so I figured I'd do it again in this past fall term's Web Development class.  These are the results.  Disclaimer: to the best of my knowledge, no actual rabbits were harmed during this exam.  However a few students took the exam outside of the normally scheduled time with a proctor and I really don't have any idea what kind of interactions they had with rabbits or any other rodents, for that matter.

Click the images to enlarge.

* * *

 #10: While not the most artistically drawn rabbit in the bunch, this rabbit has evolved into a bipedal species so I think he should get some credit.

#9: I don't have anything to say about this rabbit, but I hope that's a foot in the back there. 

#8: This rabbit also scores points for having hands and opposable thumbs. 

#7: This rabbit makes the list because it will haunt my nightmares FOREVER. 

 #6: I like this one but I would think that rabbits would be more partial to Perl; I suppose in Python it's easier to find bugs.

 #5: This rabbit gets in for the most accurate depiction of rabbit happiness.

 #4: I especially like this rabbit since the student who drew it was obviously paying attention to one of my tangential monologues about nothing in particular.

 #3: I'm not sure if those are leaves or if that giant carrot is on fire... or if it's maybe not even a carrot.

#2: There were a few Trix rabbits.  This was the best of 'em.  

 #1: I don't know why this rabbit is so happy, but it just looks so ecstatic that it makes me smile.  Look at that rabbit and try to get angry.  It's not possible.

If you enjoyed these, take a look at the latest in the series.

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