Since version 3 of Firefox, the browser has moved over from using flat files for keeping track of browsing history (history.dat) and bookmarks (bookmarks.html) to using SQLite databases (places.sqlite). This change over was required because the old flat file formats were badly implemented, clunky, and not able to handle the new demands of the location bar and browser history. Using a SQL database was the perfect solution for the complexity brought in with the new location bar and its dynamic searching of previous URLS, as SQL is easy to implement, is mostly compatible against multiple SQL application implementations (removing dependency on a single product), and powerful for cross referencing lookups. As a matter of fact, most of the data Firefox keeps now is stored in SQLite databases.
SQLite was also a good choice for the SQL solution because it can be implemented minimally straight into a product without needing a large install and a lot of bloat. While I like SQLite for this purpose and its ease of implementation, it lacks a lot of base SQL functionality that would be nice, like TABLE JOINS inside of DELETE statements, among many other language abilities. I wouldn’t suggest using it for large database driven products that require high optimization, which I believe it can’t handle. It’s meant as a simpler SQL implementation.
Anyways, I was very happy to see that when you delete URLs from the history in the newest version of Firefox that it actually deletes them out of the database as opposed to just hiding them, like it used to. The history manager actual seems to do its job quite well now, but I noticed one big problem. After attempting to delete all the URLs from a specific site out of the Firefox history manager, I noticed there were still some entries from that site in the SQLite database, which is a privacy problem.
After some digging, I realized that there are “hidden” entries inside of the history manager. A hidden entry is created when a URL is loaded in a frame or IFrame that you do not directly navigate too. These entries cannot be viewed through the history manager, and because of this, cannot be easily deleted outside of the history database without wiping the whole history.
DELETE FROM moz_annos WHERE place_id IN (SELECT ID FROM moz_places WHERE hidden=1);
DELETE FROM moz_inputhistory WHERE place_id IN (SELECT ID FROM moz_places WHERE hidden=1);
DELETE FROM moz_historyvisits WHERE place_id IN (SELECT ID FROM moz_places WHERE hidden=1);
DELETE FROM moz_places WHERE hidden=1;
This could all be done in 1 SQL statement in MySQL, but again, SQLite is not as robust :-\. There is also a “Favorite’s Icon” table in the database that might keep an icon stored as long as a hidden entry for the domain still exists, but I didn’t really look into it.
I’ve been delving into the Perl language more lately for a job, and have found out some interesting things about it. Perl itself is a bit shrouded in mysticism, with it often being said that it runs on “magic”. The original Perl engine, written by Larry Wall, has never been duplicated due to its incredible complexity and hacked together nature.
One funny little thing I noticed is that an arrow “=>” and comma “,” are completely synonymous in the language. For example, this is how you SHOULD declare a hash and an array, because it just looks better and is proper coding standards:
@MyArray=('a',1,'b',2); #An array with values a,1,b,2
%MyHash=(a=>1, b=>2); #A hash with keys a,b that contain the values 1,2
but you can actually declare the exact same array and hash objects like this
@MyArray=('a'=>1=>'b'=>2); #An array with values a,1,b,2
%MyHash=(a,1,b,2); #A hash with keys a,b that contain the values 1,2
It’s also easy to find the length of a non referenced array in Perl as follows:
print $#MyArray; #Index of the last element, so add 1 to get length
There are two ways to do it with a referenced array:
print scalar @$MyRefArray;
print $#$MyRefArray; #Index of the last element, so add 1 to get length
Moral of the story: there are many ways to do things in Perl.
After now having delved a bit more into how Perl works, I still like PHP better as a strictly quick scripting language. Oh well.
To start off, Merry XMas ya’ll! (And Happy Holidays, of course! [I’m actually Jewish by heritage for those who don’t know me personally ^_^; ] )
I decided to get an eBook reader as a present for someone for the holidays, so I tried out both the Sony PRS-505 and Sony PRS-700. I decided on the Sony readers for now as they can handle most, if not all, of the main eBook formats. Here are the important things I discovered out about both.
This is a minor upgrade to the first eBook reader that Sony released in September of 2006 (the PRS-500), and costs $300. It works as it should and is advertised, and does everything I’d really want from a basic eBook reader.
This is a major update to Sony’s eBook line, released in September of 2008, and costs $400. The most important new feature to this is the touch screen, which has some major pros and cons.
The main comparison points that I found between the 505 and 700 are as follows.
- I immediately noticed upon comparing the two how much lighter and more reflective the screen is on the 700, making it much harder to read. After some quick research, I found the following here:
Sony added a touch layer on top of the e-ink display and embedded LED side-lights into the frame that surrounds the display. Clever. But this comes at the expense of contrast and glare, and the Sony Reader PRS-700 looks more like a grayscale notebook screen than an eBook reader. The glare isn’t nearly as bad as the average PDA or gloss notebook display-- it’s on par with matte finish notebook displays.
As far as I’m concerned, very unfortunately, this makes the product completely worthless as far as an eBook reader. You might as well just use an LCD display instead of an eInk display for the quality and price!
- The touch screen (that comes with a pointer pen too) itself is a spectacular design, and would make the device far better than the 505 if it didn’t ruin the readability of the device. The ability to navigate the device is much easier, quicker, and more intuitive due to the touch screen interface, which also allows for a lot of additional functionality including a virtual keyboard and selecting text.
- The 700 “turns pages” about twice as fast, due to the processor being about twice as powerful.
- The 700 also has many more zoom levels by default, which is a big plus for people who need the eBook devices specifically for bad eyesight. The “Large” zoom level on the 500 just doesn’t always satisfy what is needed in some eBooks, but the XL and XXL on the 700 definitely go that extra step. I was told by a rep at the Sony Style store that there is a way to download larger fonts to the system (possibly through the eBook files themselves), but I have not fully researched into this yet.
- The 700 allows for searching for text now because of the virtual keyboard. I find this to be an incredibly useful feature for a book reader.
- The 700 also allows you to takes notes and make annotations on pages due to the virtual keyboard.
- The 700 has side lights that can be turned on, which is kind of neat, but this is really just an extra luxury.
One unfortunate annoyance of both devices is that you cannot use them while they are plugged into the computer (for charging via the USB interface or uploading new books).
After playing with both, I’d definitely recommend the 505 for now. If they could fix the contrast problem with the 700, it would be perfect and well worth the price.
I’d like to try the Amazon Kindle too, but their stock of it is so far backordered, I don’t feel like dealing with it for the time being. When I checked around the 23rd of this month, they had a 13 week wait to have the product shipped to you! The Kindle is also, unfortunately, more DRM laden with proprietary formats. This can be bypassed though.
OllyDbg is my favorite assembly editing environment for reverse engineering applications in Windows. I used it for all of my Ragnarok Online projects in 2002, and you can find a tutorial that uses it here (sorry, the writing in it is horrible x.x; ).
Ever since I started using it back then, the author was talking about his complete rewrite of the program, dubbed version 2.0, that was supposedly going to be much, much better. I have been patiently waiting for it ever since :-).
Rather randomly, I decided to check back on the website yesterday, after not having visiting there for over a year, and low and behold, the first beta of version 2.0 [self-mirror] was released yesterday! :-D. Unfortunately, I’m not really doing any reverse engineering or assembly level work right now, so I have no reason or need to test it :-\.
... So yes, just wanted to call attention to this wonderful program being updated, that’s all for today!
So I decided to go over to the evil side recently and get an IPod Touch. I originally wanted to just try it out in The Apple Store, but I just couldn’t find out all I wanted to about it there, and was getting highly annoyed by the completely ignorant sale reps, who couldn’t answer any of my questions anyways, hovering over my shoulder. And, yes, I asked them a few questions and neither they nor their managers had a clue. >:-(
However, all the sales reps I’ve been talking to lately at different stores about the IPod Touch and other electronic products I’ve been interested in buying have been pushing me to just buy them, and return them if I’m not satisfied. This sales tactic is a bit new to me, and I don’t like buying something and returning it needlessly, but they suggest it, so I decided what the heck! I guess it’s assumed most people will buy it and either decide they like it, forget to return it, or are too lazy to return it! So I decided to go to Fry’s to grab one (IPod Touch 2G v2.2) for testing and possibly keeping if I liked it because The Apple Store were really uncool about a lot of things, and also charged a hefty restocking fee on return... jerks. The jury is still out on if I’ll be keeping it or not, but I decided to share some of my findings.
When I talk about the IPod Touch here, I am also talking about the IPhone, because they are basically the exact same product. The IPhone just has the camera and the phone features, but the rest of the software is all the same (they run on the same OS). I also have a few IPhone specific comments below, as a good friend of mine got one for XMas and I helped him out with setting it up and found out a few things about it at the same time. Whenever I refer to the IPod Touch from here on out, I am referring to both IPod Touches and IPhones.
First of all, as is advertised and highly touted, The IPod Touch has style. The design is wonderful, it has a lot of nifty features, and has lots of useful applications in the App Store, many of them free. The product itself is by far better than anything else I’ve tried on the market for music playing and general PDA (personal digital assistant) purposes.
The Blackberrys I’ve tried out at a Verizon store (the Storm and Curve IIRC) weren’t even in the same league as the IPod Touch. I also tried out a G1 (Google phone) at a TMobile store, and initial impressions were not spectacular. However, I can’t make a solid judgment on the G1 because I didn’t spend as much time with it as I could have, as I knew I couldn’t use it anyways. This is because I refuse to switch from the Verizon network because the signal quality and customer support I have received from them are worlds better than what I had ever received from Cingular (now AT&T), AT&T, and Sprint.
Now that I’ve gotten the initial information out of the way including why the IPod Touch is nice; on to all of the problems I’ve found with it.
- Apple has horrible draconian policies regarding what can be put on an IPod Touch. Applications can only (legally) be put on the IPod Touch from the App Store, and Apple specifically regulates what is in the store, only allowing in it what is “best for their interests”. This, of course, includes denying any application in the App Store that “duplicates functionality” of an Apple product. This is bad for many reasons.
- First and foremost, it’s not Apple’s place (though they argue that it is) to say who can develop and what can be developed for the IPod Touch, as long as it is not malicious in any way.
- Apply very specifically blocks, quite often, products that would be excellent with great functionality because it “competes” with their generally inferior applications. Of course, one can unlock older IPod Touches, and I’m sure newer ones will be unlockable soon enough, so this problem can be bypassed. When a phone is unlocked, it can be theoretically used on a compatible network (not AT&T), and you can install any application you want to on it for free (as long as you can find it). The legality of this is questionable, but it’s not really risky.
- This can force developers who have spent their time and effort to build a good product to not be accessible to the market, thereby completely screwing them after the fact. Apple is not specific on what can be put on the store, and is very subjective about the whole matter. Unfortunately, many developers have found themselves in this position after submitting their application to Apple for inclusion in the store.
- Apple can decide to block a product after it has been released and people have bought it, deleting it from their phones without refund. I believe (but have no proof) that this has already happened when a product “duplicated the functionality” of a new application or feature in an application of theirs that was added after the fact.
- The SMS (texting) interface on the IPhone is horrible. It only allows you to see part of the message that you are typing at any time (40 characters as a hazy guess). This could easily be fixed through a third party application, but Apple blocks any application that has SMS as it is “duplicating” the functionality of something they built. See the above bullet for more information.
- The keyboard correction on the IPod touches leaves much to be desired, and there is no text prediction (suggesting words you are typing).
- The virtual keyboard itself, while far ahead of any other virtual keyboard on a cell phone I have tried as far as usability goes, also leaves a lot to be desired, and can be quite annoying. I did get used to it pretty fast, but mistakes were very often and easily made, and I do not believe one could ever type as fast on a virtual keyboard, like the IPod Touch’s, as a physical keyboard, though I haven’t spent near enough time practicing on it to confirm this. The Google phones (at least the G1) solves this problem with its flip-out keyboard interface.
- No multitasking. Period. The IPod Touch can do a few things at the same time (mainly play music), but 2 applications cannot run at the same time, and trying is against their developer agreement. Apple did this to control the user experience, so that a user doesn’t try running too many things at once, creating a bad user experience on the product from lag, which they would blame on Apple. Granted, the IPod Touch isn’t that powerful and it would be easy to bog down the system if too many things were running, but some things need to continue running in the background, with minimal processor time, to create a good experience.
One of many examples of this is AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). When you start the application, it signs you on, and it keeps you online AIM until you specifically sign off (or perhaps if you turn off the phone, but I doubt it). This means that if you exit the AIM application after signing on, it shows other people that you are still online and receiving messages, even if you aren’t getting them. When you open the application back up, it retrieves all of the queued messages that were sent to you while the application was not opened. How hard and taxing would it be on the system to pop up a message informing the user a new message has come in while they are in other applications? Apparently too much, as Apple has to be black and white about the multitasking issue instead of allowing developers to petition for the right. Further, this queued AIM message system also tips one off to the fact that ALL AIM messages are sent through their servers to get to your IPod Touch, instead of your system directly connecting to the AIM servers, which is essentially an invasion on your private conversations.
- Crashing. The IPod Touch itself has crashed on me twice within the first 2 hours I used it. When this occurred, I could not even start most all of the applications, even after turning the IPod Touch on and off (all the way, not standby mode). The only way I found to fix this was installing a new application from the App Store, or updating an application that had a new version ready. Go figure.
- The IPhone can only take pictures, and not video. While there are products that allow taking video on the IPhone, they can only be installed by unlocking the phone, as Apple will not allow them on the App Store (see the top bullet for more information).
- No searching for text on the current page in the web browser (Safari). This really bugs me as it is an essential feature I need in my web browser :-(.
- I don’t trust installing Apple applications on my computers. I actually ended up using VMWare to use ITunes for this reason >:-(. ITunes likes embedding itself in your system in lots of places it shouldn’t, much like AOL since version 5.0. I do not believe it uninstalls itself completely either if you try. Also, when I tried uninstalling bonjour (an Apple communication protocol, which the program that runs it is also named, It used to be called Rendezvous) it didn’t even TRY to uninstall itself from my system. It just took the program off of a few lists and left all the files there. Even worse, I noticed that Bonjour was hooking a bunch of other processes it shouldn’t have been *sighs*.
- I’ve saved my biggest complaint for last. All music on the IPod Touches (all IPods actually, and Zunes and Zens too) organize music by the MP3’s ID3 tags into genre/album/artist/etc, and do not allow organizing the music in folder based structures. While for most people this is not a problem, it is a big one for me. This is not a problem for people “new” to the MP3 player scene that buy their music straight from the ITunes Store, as that music is already organized for them with proper tags how they want it. My, and many other peoples collections, that have been being built for well over a decade (from CDs myself or friends have ripped ourselves for the most part), are not all tagged very well, as it never mattered. While I could go through my whole directory and tag everything properly, this would take upwards of hundreds of hours to do, and would be a waste of my time. Even so, I feel being able to organize by directory can be easier to navigate and organize then straight up genre/album/artist listings. This is a very basic functionality of all MP3 players I have had up until this point.
- The above problem is actually solvable by playlist folder structures. Unfortunately, these are only available on some of the IPod types (for example, the Classic and Nano, IIRC) but not on IPod Touches or IPhones :-(. Further, building these nested folder playlist structures is also a minor pain. I started writing a script to do it for my music collection until I realized it didn’t work on my IPod Touch. ITunes transfers each folder to the IPod Touch as a flat playlist of all the songs in the playlists under it, but again, this is not a problem on some of the other IPod Systems. Unfortunately, if I was to spend the money on an IPod, I would like it to be a PDA too with much more functionality, which the IPod Touch satisfies, and the others do not.
As previously mentioned, I might not be keeping the IPod Touch, as I cannot justify the cost of it mainly as an MP3 player while I’ve already had other solutions that are almost as good for a number of years. I was one of the first adopters of MP3 players (of the MP3s on CD variety) back in 1998, I believe, and they still work great. However, I would probably get an IPhone were I able to use it on the Verizon network because it combines all the features I like on the IPod Touch with a phone. I would love to be able to use its excellent web browser (as far as cell phone browsers go) anywhere, not just when an accessible WiFi network was handy. The cost of an IPhone is more proportionate to what I’d like to spend since I’d be getting a phone and a music player out of it. Unfortunately, when unlocked, IPhones (and G1s) cannot work on Verizon, like it can the other networks, because Verizon uses a different kind of technology for its carrier signals (CDMA instead of GSM). Alas :-\.
Oh, yes, one more thing I wanted to mention. Apple was originally turning a blind eye to the unlocking IPhone market because most of them were going oversees to markets untapped by Apple, which is good for business for them. However, when Apple started expanding into other countries and this practice no longer served their needs, they added on a section to the AT&T contract you are forced to sign up for when buying the phone. It basically stipulates that if you cancel the AT&T contract (which incurs a fee after the first 30 days anyways) that you have to return the IPhone too. This way Apple is guaranteeing people can’t use the phone outside of AT&T.
var MyObject=new FooBar(5);
This code creates a FooBar
object in the variable MyObject
with 2 members: Member1
=5, and AnotherMember
Prototyping adds members to all objects of a certain type, without having to add the member to it manually. This also allows you to change the value of a member of all objects of a single type at once. For example (all examples are continued from above examples):
var SecondObject=new FooBar();
Now both MyObject
have a member NewMember
with value 7, which can be changed easily for both objects like this:
The way to detect if an object has a member is to use the in function, and then to determine if the member is prototyped, the hasOwnProperty function is used. For example:
'NewMember' in MyObject; //Returns true
MyObject.hasOwnProperty('NewMember'); //Returns false
'Member1' in MyObject; //Returns true
MyObject.hasOwnProperty('Member1'); //Returns true
'UnknownMember' in MyObject; //Returns false
MyObject.hasOwnProperty('UnknownMember'); //Returns false
Now, the problem starts coming into play when using foreach loops.
for(var i in MyObject)
console.log( i + '=' + MyObject[i].toString() ); //console.log is a function provided by FireBug for FireFox, and Google Chrome
This would output:
So if you wanted to do something on all members of an object and skip the prototype members, you would have to add a line of code to each foreach loop as follows:
for(var i in MyObject)
This would output:
This isn’t too bad if you are using prototyping yourself on your objects, but sometimes you might make objects that you wouldn’t expect to have prototypes. For good coding practice, you should really do the prototype check for every foreach loop because you can never assume that someone else will not add a prototype to an object type, even if your object type is private. This is especially true because all objects inherit from the actual Object object including its prototypes. So if someone does the following, which is considered very bad practice, every foreach loop will pick up this added member for all objects.
You might ask “Why anyone would do this?”, but it could be useful for an instance like this...
for(var i in this)
if(this.hasOwnProperty(i) && this[i]===Value)
This function will search for the first member that contains the given value and return the member’s name.
It would be really nice if “for(x in y)” only returned non-prototype members and there was another type of foreach loop like “for(x inall y)” that also returned prototype members :-\.
for(var i in ArrayObject)
loops. Also, in my own code, I often add the following because the “indexOf” function for Arrays is not available in IE
, as it is not W3C standard. It is in Firefox though... but I’m not sure if this is a good thing, as it is not a standard.
Ugh. It’s been a month today since I made my last post here. Things have just been way, way too busy! I’ll try to pick up on the content regularity, once again. I should be able to handle at least a few weeks worth of semi-regular updates ^_^;.
I’ll keep today’s post short and simple :-).
Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS was released a few weeks ago, which came relatively shortly after the release of Final Fantasy IV for the DS. I should mention Chrono Trigger is one of my all time favorite games. I’ve played it more time than I can count, and was very happy for a port to the DS. Yay :-).
It’s pretty much the exact same as the original, not like the 3D updates that were the Final Fantasy ports. It has all the typical “Extras” systems added on to game ports these days like keeping track of the monsters you’ve fought (bestiary) and items you’ve collected, game art, cutscene replaying, game music jukebox, maps of all the levels, etc. It also has a few GUI updates, 2 new areas, a pokemon type fight-your-friend-over-the-DS-with-a-monster type system, and last but definitely not least, a great new translation.
The new translation is probably the best thing about the port. Tom Slattery did a wonderful job on it, though to his credit (according to Wikipedia ^_^; ) Ted Woolsey was only given 30 days to do the original translation. The new levels are all pretty lame :-\ but oh well. I still haven’t finished going through most of them because they involve a lot of annoying back-and-forth between time periods, and bad level design.
The main thing I wanted to mention was a single line of translation that really made me smile. If you take Ayla to Robo’s extra side quest, at one point she says “What you say?” ... Any of you nerds out there should know what that references :-).
Anywho, yeah, Chrono trigger is awesome. And now back to your regularly scheduled mostly technical posts... ^_^;