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Posts Tagged ‘productivity

Komodo 5.0 Review

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I’ve been using Komodo ever since version 3.5 came out several years ago. I first found out about it while looking for a Windows Perl distribution and happened upon the Activestate website. So, what is Komodo? Komodo is a IDE geared towards dynamic languages like Python/Perl/Tcl/Ruby that runs on all 3 major OS platforms (Windows, Linux, and OSX). It is put out by Activestate, the same company that puts out the most widely used Windows Perl distribution –Main Window showing debugger and variable viewers Activestate Perl.  I bought Komodo because I liked the built in Perl debugger and syntax highlighting. I purchased the upgrade to version 4.0 because it added VI keybindings. Version 5.0 didn’t have any features I thought were compelling, but I purchased the upgrade anyway because I wanted to support Activestate.

Features:
Komodo is a feature rich editor. Besides the required syntax highlighting, it has editing of remote files over FTP and SFTP, version control integration, VI emulation mode, a very nifty graphical debugger, http request and response inspector and editor (HTTP inspector), source control integration, a regex constructor (RX toolkit), and an interactive shell that lets you try out commands on the fly. These are just the features I use on a regular basis! Komodo is also extensible via scripts, supports macros, customizable keyboard shortcuts, and much more.

Usability:
Komodo is very user friendly.  Besides the VI keybindings, you can also customize the menu by assigning your own key combinations to the commands you use the most.  The interface stays out of your way until you need it, the main typing window takes up most of the screen with the quick link buttons  listed along the top.  You can bring up the debugger or your source control windows at the bottom and there are side tabs to let you quickly access files in your project, variables, and functions.  One area that is lacking is the help – it is sparse in some areas, especially on how to access the API and so sometimes I have to resort to trial and error.

The syntax highlighting is great, it makes the code readable and there are little red squiggles show you where you have errors in your code.  A little drop down pops up when you access member variables, however it is not as comprehensive as Microsoft’s intellisense in that it doesn’t perform the drop-down for every variable.

A great feature I use regularly but is not found in most IDEs is the ability to edit remote files over FTP and SFTP.  This allows me to get syntax highlighting, code folding, code completion and all the other nifty features of the IDE on files that can only be accessed via SSH or telnet.  This is great because a lot of my work is done on UNIX machines that don’t come with fancy editors but allow access via SSH and telnet.

Komodo Regular Expression Editor

Komodo Regular Expression Editor

I mainly use Komodo for Perl and C/C++ development but I have dabbled with Ruby on Rails using Komodo and it also shines in this area.  It has shortcuts to automatically generate scaffolding items and you can watch your site execute using the built in debugger.

I’ve discussed the features I use the most and like the best but Komodo has many more features that will interest others who work with different languages or with different needs.  Check out their features page for a full list of everything Komodo can do.  Activestate also offers a trial version and has a lite version of their IDE in Komodo Edit.

Conclusion:
Overall, Komodo is great software and I would highly recommend it to anyone who works with dynamic languages.  I don’t regret buying it since it has paid me back many times in saving me time and reducing the frustration of debugging code.

Pros:

  • Versatile and feature rich
  • Easy to modify to suit your tastes
  • Advanced debugging support
  • Great code editing features
  • Works on all major platforms – Windows, Mac, Linux

Cons:

  • Expensive!
  • Only supports dynamic languages

Checking out Slashdot with HTTP Inspector

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Written by M Kapoor

June 12, 2009 at 3:09 am

Deck Keyboard Review

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I ordered my Toxic Green Deck 82 key keyboard in April of 2005 to go with my Razr Diamondback and the new PC I had built from scratch. I still use the PC and Deck keyboard daily, the Razr Diamondback sadly turned out to be an over-hyped piece of trash. The Deck keyboard is billed as tough and a easy to mod keyboard. The keyboard is also unique in that each key is back lit by a super-bright LED. I use the keyboard for 1-2 hours almost everyday at home. While this is not the most comfortable keyboard I’ve ever used, I have been impressed by its durability and construction.

Background:
I bought my Green Deck keyboard more than 4 years ago on April 10th, 2005 from ThinkGeek.com for $119.99. The Toxic Green Deck keyboard had just been released and it was in high demand. ThinkGeek no longer carries the keyboard but it is still available through Deck Keyboards for almost the same price I paid years ago – $119.

Description:
Unlike some manufacturers that try to cut costs by painting letters onto the keys, each key in a Deck keyboard has its letter imprinted using a ‘sublimated negative printing process’, this means that the letter goes all the way through the key and will only become unreadable if the key wears through. Each key uses a ‘Cherry MX1A-11NN linear switch’ which is rated for ~50 million key presses or 20 years of use (according to the website). Each key is backlit by a super-bright LED (green in my case), the spacebar has two LEDs, and the caps lock key has an additional blue LED to indicate when it is active. The LEDs are readily visible during the day and especially in the dark which really makes the keyboard stand out. The brightness of the LEDs can be adjusted to one of 7 levels, 8 if you count off, by depressing the ‘FN’ key along with one of the 0-7 number keys. The brightness controls come in handy for when you want to turn the light down in order to watch a movie or when you are trying to avoid distraction. They keyboard’s edge housing is made of a very tough polycarbonate plastic and can be interchanged with other colored face plates available on the Deck website. The bottom of the keyboard consists of an approximately 1/8th inch thick metal plate that is screwed into the polycarbonate casing.

Mods:
The Deck website really plays up the modifications (mods) possible on the keyboard. The Deck website sells two main mods for the Deck keyboard. One is different colored polycarbonate casings and the other is key caps with different logos on them. Other mods include opening up the keyboard and changing the LEDs to different colors or performing different kinds of paint jobs. Deck even covers modded keyboards under its warranty – one caveat is that the modifications have to of good quality and performed with competence. In the 4 years I have owned the keyboard, I have not made any changes to it – it is flashy enough the way it is and I don’t feel the urge to spend extra money on new keys or casings.

Keys:
The cherry switches used on the keyboard are quiet, they don’t click like the switches on a Model M or Kinesis Contoured Keyboard. You only hear a click when the key hits the the base of the switch. The activation threshold on the switches is very low, so it is possible to type by lightly depressing the keys. This requires more concentration since you don’t get much tactile or audio feedback, but it allows one to type silently. The total key travel is deeper than on other keyboards I’ve used, this can lead to fatigue especially when you are are engrossed and start to pound at the keyboard.
As expected, the ‘sublimated’ lettering on the keyboard is very durable. Unlike most keyboards I’ve had, none of the letters have faded despite daily use. The keys are made of a hard, smooth plastic and they feel like they will last.

Usage:
The Deck Keyboard is a very solid keyboard. I use it regularly and its solid nature and silent keys make you want to pound at it in order to get feedback. It has stood up well over the last three years, all of the LEDs still work and it feels the same as the day I bought it.  You have to watch out for the screws on the bottom of the keyboard or they will scratch your desk if you drag the keyboard.

Ergonomics:
The Deck Keyboard doesn’t have the best ergonomics. It is a straight keyboard which means that typing on it stresses your wrists. The keyboard is also has a 7 degree tilt and is about 3/4 inches high. The Deck website claims that this was an overwhelming choice by their focus group. However, the extra tilt and height puts more strain on my wrists since I have to bend them back further in order to hit the keys.
In addition, the deep key travel quickly leads to fatigue if you start treating it like a regular keyboard and push the keys down until you hear a audible click.

Customer Service:
Early in its life, my keyboard would sometimes double print a character – that is if I typed in ‘a’ it would show up as ‘aa’ on the screen. I decided to contact Deck since the keyboard was still within its 1 year warranty period. They responded promptly and asked me to send the keyboard back. They never found anything wrong with the keyboard, however they said that they cleaned it before sending it back. This cleaning, whatever they did, fixed the problem and my keyboard has been trouble free since. I was impressed by their quick response and communication throughout.

Lighting:
The lighting on the keyboard is great, it is readily visible during the day and really lights up a dark room.  One thing to note is that the lighting is not even at low brightness levels.  For example, on my keyboard the ‘k’ key really stands out at lighting level 1 and doesn’t blend in with the rest of the keys until I get to light level 4 or 5.  Similarly, a few other keys stick out at low light levels but this isn’t as noticeable as on my ‘k’ letter key.  This is understandable since the LEDs used in the keyboard probably vary in their forward bias voltages, this sort of variation is common in semiconductor manufacturing since it is hard to create completely identical units during die fabrication.  I’m mentioning it here because it was a small annoyance when I got my keyboard.  The annoyance has since faded as I’ve come to see it as a uniqueness.

Summary:
Overall the keyboard is very strongly constructed and feels like a quality product. it is not very heavy but you can feel the sturdiness when you are typing on it. However, it has poor ergonomics and so isn’t suited for all day use.

  • Pros:
    – Solid keyboard that will add pizazz to your work environment
    – Excellent customer support
    – Easy to modify to suit your tastes
    – 20+ year lifespan (claimed)
  • Cons:
    – Expensive!
    – Poor ergonomics
    – Uneven lighting at low brightness levels

Written by M Kapoor

May 29, 2009 at 3:32 am

rescuetime

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Have you ever wondered what you do all day? On average, I spend about 9 hours a day at work and I often switch between many tasks. At the end of the day I sometimes wonder about what I did! So, I was very interested when I found rescuetime the other day while surfing around on the web. Rescuetime promises to help you manage your time better by letting you track exactly what you are working on. They do this by have a little taskbar application that you download and run in the background. The application tracks your active windows during the day and sends the data to the RescueTime servers. They then summarize the data and turn it into into pretty little flash bargraphs. The graphs show a variety of data, almost every imaginable combination is shown. You can see how much time you spend using each application, you can check your time by application category, and you can view the percentage of time you spend at your computer per hour across a chosen interval. All this information is available by day, month, year or for all time. It is a pretty nifty tool, you can even configure alerts and goals to change your usage. Also, they encourage the use of their API to create new applications.

I’ve been using RescueTime for about a month now and I’ve noticed that my top 3 categories are ‘Dev Tools’, ‘Comm (Email)’, and ‘News/Blogs’. Now, using dev tools and e-mail are part of my job. However, ‘News/Blogs’ is pure web surfing!

Top Categories for May

I counted up all the other categories and I noticed that I spent almost 20 hours in the past month online doing things other than work. Of course, some of these activites are off work hours and I often work extra so I don’t think the time spent is very worrisome. However, it is a siginficant drain on my productivity during the day since I constantly switch in and out of a browser window.

I was nodding recently as I read Paul Graham’s essay on Disconnecting Distraction and I wholly agree with with his assertion on how distracting the internet has become. As a result, I’m going to try out his idea of using my work computer only for work and my home computer for play. In order to do this, I’m going to remove all the applications that distract me – like my browser and my rss feed reader. I expect it to be difficult at first, however, I think that over time I’ll adjust and become more productive … I hope 🙂

Written by M Kapoor

May 30, 2008 at 3:39 pm