The joys of large-screen monitors

In my ideal world, I’d have two 30″ Apple Cinema Displays, but my less than ideal world ain’t so bad either. My souped-up 24″ iMac serves me well for my day to day work, quite well indeed.

I’m positive that my productivity gains are large – I always have emacs open with at least 4 frames, or eclipse with several views open without anything important having to stay annoyingly minimized. I also have a browser open with lots of tabs, a bunch of terminals open with iTerm, and a bunch of other what-nots, and managing all this is easy. This multiple desktop manager makes it even easier. Finally, if all those windows distract you, use Think!

Anyway, if you want a quick and relatively cheap way (in the long run) to become more productive, get a large screen monitor. Or three.

Using Emacs for Ruby development

Emacs, the God of all things. I’ve been working my way through, over the past several years (after having been introduced to it by Ravi), all kinds of books and tutorials on lisp. Unfortunately, I’ve not been particularly good at following through and becoming a master, so I’m not really a guru or anything when it comes to Emacs skills. (I promise, it will change this year.)

Anyway, while working on Ruby, I was looking to find a good editor. Who isn’t, after all? I’ve used Eclipse with RDT and RadRails, but it wasn’t compelling (that might change with this stuff). After moving to the Mac, however, I was looking to buy TextMate – which I’ve heard a lot about. Before buying it, I thought that since it was “inspired” by Emacs, why not give it a shot? Ultimately, I got comfortable using Emacs itself, so I haven’t really given TextMate a real shot, despite owning a license (thanks MacHeist!).

So. This is my first in a series of posts about using Emacs for Ruby and Rails. The “cool” thing for this time is – inferior mode for Ruby. This provides a SLIME-like interface for Ruby, and allows you to work really interactively. What that means is, while typing in the editor, you can ask fragments of code to be interpreted, change only particular definitions quickly and rerun other code that uses them, pipe all that back and forth between windows, so on and so forth. And at any time, you can switch to the Ruby process (running with Emacs using irb) in use and explore the current environment.

Check it out, its very neat and it even comes with Ruby.

Lotus Notes Client on Mac OS X

Boy – each day I use Notes, it seems to scale new heights of un-usability (is that a word?). This time, it was after I installed the Mac OS version of it on my new iMac. The fonts were tiny. Really, – so small, that I couldn’t even read anything properly… it was awful. Anyway – I gave it the benefit of the doubt – maybe my monitor resolution was too high, and that the default font size was set to something small. I figured I’d just change it.

So I went to the user preferences dialog. There it was, change font. But – while I could change the actual font being used, there was no way to change the size! I looked around, and really – there was nothing! Unbelievable. I googled around a bit, and there it was – some obscure software company had actually created a utility that allows you to change the settings for Notes on Mac OS. Including the font-size. Why a utility, you ask? And why only for the client on Mac? Well, obviously, because on Windows you can just edit the configuration file notes.ini. (Mac stores settings in binary format).

Yep. Usability at its best. Edit the configuration file. A couple of years ago, when I had to use Notes v5.5, I thought that the worst sin they’d committed was that whenever the application crashed (quite often), you couldn’t just restart it. It would lock a file or something and you’d have to *reboot* if you wanted to re-open notes. This continued till I found a utility called Zap Notes – which allowed you to restart Notes if it crashed without having to reboot. I’m sure it was a best seller.

What are we still using Notes for? ThoughtWorks is consciously attempting to move away from it – once our systems move out (which they are, slowly but surely – travel has moved, expenses and time-sheets have moved) we’ll say bye-bye to that horrendous piece of crap for good.

BTW, here’s the utility – it’s called NiniX

Update – I installed Lotus Notes R7 client for Mac OS X and it seems to be much nicer.

NTFS vs. FAT

(or why does Windows complain of low disk space when there is enough available?)

This was an issue I was running into, trying to copy a large 17GB file onto my portable, external hard drive. It had about 60 gigs free, and yet, everytime I tried to copy the file, Windows would complain about lack of disk space. It was frustrating.

Until I realized, that the external drive was formatted with FAT, which has a 4GB limit on file sizes. Really stupid error message, but what else could one expect from Windows? Anyway, changing that to NTFS fixed the problem.