Internet Explorer Has A Use

Posted October 9, 2012 By Dan

Internet Explorer:  Number one browser used to download other browsers


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Twitter Stalking

Posted October 1, 2012 By Dan

Twitter humor

Someone is following me on Twitter...Call the Police

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Sean SmithSean Smith, an information management official with the U.S. State Department, died on September 11th, 2012 during a massive assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  The assault claimed three other lives, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.

Sean was 34 years old and an Air Force veteran.  He was an online gamer, a student enrolled in Penn State’s online school, and someone that even his mother called a “gaming nerd.”  He was truly an IT hero.

Sean was married with two kids.  If you are interested in donating, an online fundraiser has been set up on  Over $100,000 has been raised so far.

Here is the video of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton speaking about the four killed Americans.

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Oracle Certified Associate, MySQL 5

Posted September 7, 2012 By Dan

Recently I passed the exam to become an Oracle Certified Associate, MySQL 5.  I scored very well with minimal studying.

The Oracle website here gives a good overview of the exam.  Obviously I’m not going to give out exam questions and answers but I’ll tell you how I prepared.

The exam was 50 questions and you have 90 minutes to complete it. Time really is not a factor – I’m a slow reader, and I finished in under an hour.

If you are comfortable with select/insert/update/delete, including simple joins, then you’re halfway there.  If you have solid experience with SQL, even if it’s with another database, you’re well on your way.

Download and install MySQL.  Create databases, users, grant permissions, switch databases, etc etc.  You may not need all that but it’s good experience.

Run through this example from Oracle.

Know the common functions:  manipulating dates, times, strings, etc.

10% of the test is importing/exporting data.  Read all about the various options and practice them.

Know the basic concepts of transactions.  I have years experience with this in PL/SQL and I find that the basic concepts transfer over well.

If you do all that and understand what you’re doing, you’ll do fine!

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Curiosity on Earth

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft — called Curiosity — launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket November 26, 2011. It traveled for nine months until it reached its destination: The Red Planet. This trip, and the ongoing scientific experiments, were all made possible by the hard and complex work of programmers.

What’s On-Board?

Curiosity “is powered by a RAD750, a single-board computer (motherboard, RAM, ROM, and CPU) produced by BAE. The RAD750 has been on the market for more than 10 years, and it’s currently one of the most popular on-board computers for spacecraft. In Curiosity’s case, the CPU is a PowerPC 750 (PowerPC G3 in Mac nomenclature) clocked at around 200MHz — which might seem slow, but it’s still hundreds of times faster than, say, the Apollo Guidance Computer used in the first Moon landings.”, according to

“On the software side of things, NASA again stuck to tried-and-tested solutions, opting for the 27-year-old VxWorks operating system. VxWorks, developed by Wind River Systems (which was acquired by Intel), is a real-time operating system used in a huge number of embedded systems. The previous Mars rovers (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft all use VxWorks.”

MSL Tech

The image to the right is from NASA, showing the various scientific instruments built into the rover.  “A suite of instruments named Sample Analysis at Mars analyzes samples of
material collected and delivered by the rover’s arm, plus atmospheric samples. It
includes a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a tunable laser spectrometer with combined capabilities to identify a wide range of organic (carboncontaining) compounds and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements.”  Here is a link that includes NASA’s description of the laboratory equipment on board.

The Trip to Mars

Curiosity launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and landed on the floor of Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012.

Even during the trip to Mars, Curiosity was gathering data and sending it back to Earth.  “Unlike previous Mars rovers, Curiosity is equipped with an instrument that measures space radiation.”, NASA reports.  “The Radiation Assessment Detector, nicknamed “RAD,” counts cosmic rays, neutrons, protons and other particles over a wide range of biologically-interesting energies. RADs prime mission is to investigate the radiation environment on the surface of Mars, but NASA turned it on during the cruise phase so that it could sense radiation en route to Mars as well.”

And how did this 10-foot-long, 1-ton rover gently land on the Martian surface without breaking all these delicate instruments?  “During the three minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft slowed its descent with a parachute, then used retrorockets mounted around the rim of an upper stage. In the final seconds, the upper stage acted as a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to the surface.”

What can it do on Mars?

The mission’s 21st Martian day (sol) taken on August 30, 2012

Powered by 10.6 pounds of plutonium dioxide, this nuclear-powered rover may travel up to a couple dozen miles on Mars throughout its life.  It has has 17 2-megapixel cameras on board and will be constantly sending photos back to Earth.  It also has drills and lasers powerful enough to drill into rocks.  It has claws, too, to lift up samples to place into its two on board labs.

The results of all these lab tests, images taken from its cameras, as well as log files indicating what it did and any error messages are sent back to Earth.  “Curiosity can either communicate directly with Earth’s Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna via an X band (8GHz) link, or it can use a UHF (300MHz-3GHz) transmitter to relay signals through Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which orbit a few hundred miles above Curiosity. Because it’s a lot cheaper for Curiosity to use UHF, and because the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has a very-high-speed 6Mbps X band antenna, relaying will be Curiosity’s main way of sending data back to Earth.”. says

Back on Earth

With all this data streaming back to Earth from this technologically advanced rover, NASA developed some sophisticated reporting systems to display and disseminate data.

“The project utilizes a new MySQL-based system to process the large amount of raw and complex data that comes in from Curiosity. Called the Mission Data Processing and Control System (MPCS), it interfaces to NASA’s Deep Space Network and processes data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and other in-orbit systems. MPCS produces a tailored view of the data that is used by other flight operations teams, such as information on the power system”, reports Information Week.

If Curiosity, with all its tools, is able to survive the harsh conditions of Mars like its cousins Spirit and Opportunity, we are in store for many years of exciting revelations from this technological marvel.

Curiosity’s official website is



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Samsung and Consumers Lose Case Against Apple

Posted August 25, 2012 By Dan

In a followup to an earlier article, Apple has successfully sued Samsung for $1.05 Billion in a patent infringement lawsuit.  Apple threw the book at Samsung, claiming a sole patent on things like a cell phone being rectangular with rounded corners, size/shape of icons, etc.

From the NY Times

The image shows the two different phones.  Samsung, on the left, is bigger, darker and just fundamentally different than the iPhone on the right.  Do they have similarities?  Absolutely.  But there are similarities between any two things that essentially perform the same the same functions (ie, talk, text, surf, etc).

What gets me is that Samsung just bought, used and observed the iPhone.  I could understand if Samsung stole code or images, but all that happened is that Samsung was inspired by the iPhone.  If Apple was more secure about its creative superiority, then they wouldn’t need to waste time in the courtroom, they’d just work on the next great iPhone.

However, that didn’t happen, and us consumers will pay for it.  The NY Times reports:

The case underscores how dysfunctional the patent system has become. Patent litigation has followed every industrial innovation, whether it is steam engines, cars or, now, phones. And it is the courts, rather than the patent office, that are being used to push companies toward a truce.

In the end, consumers may be the losers. The substantial legal fees may be passed on in higher prices, analysts say, and litigation can deter entrepreneurs from entering the industry, so there is less competition.

“It is hard not to see all the patent buying and patent lawsuits as a distortion of the role of patents,” said Josh Lerner, an economist and patent expert at Harvard Business School. “They are supposed to be an incentive for innovation.”

By one estimate, as many as 250,000 patents can be used to claim ownership of some technical or design element in a smartphone. Each patent is potentially a license to sue.

Samsung says it will challenge the jury’s decision, which covered design basics like the shape of the iPhone itself and its array of small on-screen icons. So the courtroom conflict could continue for years, and even then, the case is but one of dozens of lawsuits and countersuits in 10 countries between Apple and Samsung, the world’s two leading smartphone makers.

Coders beware!

I personally feel this is unfortunate in the history of programming.  If we’re not able to be inspired by products in our field without fear of legal retaliation, growth in our field would stymied.  Learning what works and building upon that is the cornerstone of innovation.

Lawsuits have their place in our industry – fight monopolistic practices, protect code, protect consumers.  But slowing down innovation during such an exciting time is awful!

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JavaOne 2012 Keynote Speakers Announced

Posted August 22, 2012 By Dan

Oracle’s annual JavaOne conference, which is taking place September 30 – October 4, 2012 in San Fransisco, California, has announced its keynote speakers.  From Oracle’s announcement, they are:


Sunday, September 30
Java Strategy Keynote

Oracle’s top engineering executives will highlight the vast opportunities Java provides and demonstrate Oracle’s continued commitment and positive stewardship. Speaking are:

  • Cameron Purdy, Vice President of Development, Oracle
  • Nandini Ramani, Vice President of Engineering, Java Client and Mobile Platforms, Oracle
  • Hasan Rizvi, Senior Vice President, Oracle Fusion Middleware and Java, Oracle
  • Georges Saab, Vice President of Development, Oracle
  • Henrik Stahl, Senior Director, Product Management, Oracle

Sunday, September 30
JavaOne Technical Keynote

Learn how the entire Java portfolio is evolving to offer developers a high-performance, standards-based platform to meet the challenges of the next generation of enterprise computing. Speaking are some of Oracle’s most technically talented engineers:

  • Richard Bair, Chief Architect, Client Java Platform, Oracle
  • Terrence Barr, Principal Member of Technical Staff, Oracle
  • Arun Gupta, Java EE Technology Evangelist, Oracle
  • Mark Reinhold, Chief Architect, Client Java Platform, Oracle

Thursday, October 4
Java Community Keynote

Back by popular demand, this keynote will showcase several Java community luminaries and their work. Speaking are:

  • Sharat Chander, Group Director, Java Technology Outreach, Oracle
  • Donald Smith, Director, Java Product Management, Oracle


JavaOne has been an annual conference since founded in 1996 by Sun Microsystems to discuss Java technologies, primarily among Java developers. It has become a rather pricy conference, with pre-registration costing $1795, however, it does offer enthusiasts early access to new hardware and latest trends.

From Oracle’s site:

The JavaOne conference brings together Java experts and enthusiasts for an extraordinary week of learning and networking focused entirely on all things Java. With more than 400 sessions covering topics that span the breadth of the Java universe, keynotes from foremost Java visionaries, and expert-led hands-on learning opportunities, JavaOne is the world’s most important event for the Java community. By registering for JavaOne San Francisco, you join the community of Java technologists dedicated to expanding their Java skills and moving the #1 development platform forward.

To register:

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Studying the Competition

Posted August 5, 2012 By Dan

The first week of the Apple vs Samsung trial ended Friday over Apple’s allegations of “patent infringement” against Samsung.  Apple says Samsung stole their iPhone designs.

eWeek reports:

An Apple attorney showed Denison (chief strategy officer for Samsung’s mobile business) an internal Samsung document titled “Galaxy S1 v. iPhone” from March of 2010, when Samsung was developing a smartphone to rival the iPhone, which was first introduced in 2007. While acknowledging that the report was a detailed comparison of the two products, he said it was not about copying features of the iPhone in the Galaxy S.

Earlier in the day, Scott Forstall, the Apple senior VP in charge of the iOS software for iPads and iPhones, testified that Apple, too, did “tear-downs” of competitors products, including the Samsung Galaxy S, but that’s done to benchmark the designs of rivals, not copy them, which is what Apple accuses Samsung of doing.

I have to admit, the distinction doesn’t click for me.  Why would a company “benchmark the designs of rivals” if not to copy or improve upon them?  And is that truly a bad thing?

This lawsuit obviously has major implications for developers.  Would this mean “best practices” and learning from competitors could be outlawed?  In some ways it protects our hard work.  But in many ways it would stifle growth and progress.

Time will tell

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PHP Certification… What You Need To Know

Posted July 25, 2012 By Dan

PHP ranks among the most popular programming languages. It has become the programming language of choice for small to medium sized websites due to its low/no costs, simplicity to learn and the abundance of qualified programmers. It is also the language behind many Content Management Systems, such as WordPress, which keeps the language in heavy demand.

With ample PHP programmers around, you need to differentiate yourself from the pack as a knowledgeable, skilled, proven programmer. The best way to do that is by becoming a Zend Certified Engineer (ZCE). There are other companies that offer PHP certification, but Zend really is the industry standard.

Zend Technologies was founded in 1997 by Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski. They rewrote the PHP parser (originally developed by Rasmus Lerdorf), and are credited with making PHP the popular choice it is today. Zend continues to be the worldwide leader in PHP software.

There are nearly 2,000 ZCE’s in the U.S. and 5,000 worldwide. ZCE’s are able to distinguish themselves by placing the ZCE logo on their resume and business cards. Zend Certified Engineers are also listed on Zend’s directory, Yellow Pages for PHP Professionals.

The PHP 5.3 Certification exam covers the following topics:

  • PHP Basics
  • Functions
  • Data Format & Types
  • Web Features
  • Object Oriented Programming
  • Security
  • I/O
  • Strings and Patterns
  • Databases
  • Arrays

The exam is offered for US$195 through Pearson VUE testing centers around the world. To locate a testing center near you visit Zend also provides a study guide for free to help you prepare for the test.

Although obviously not a requirement to be a PHP programmer, it will definitely help get jobs and promotions. As someone who has hired many programmers, I strongly encourage folks to get certified. When you’re comparing two qualified similar resumes, certifications are an easy tie-breaker. Personally, I’m planning on taking the ZCE test next month or so.

Good luck to those who take it!

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Tech Support Starts Young

Posted July 20, 2012 By Dan

Some humor…

Kid talking on the phone, frustrated. Caption says No, Grandma, Listen, Click the Chrome Icon

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