Saturday, September 20, 2008

Camtasia: Recording Desktop made easy

There are many tools that you can use to record your desktop, and some can be really complicating and at the same time, expensive. Camtasia is one good tool out there, which is reasonably expensive ($300), but provides a free 30-day trial version, as well. What you find at the Techsmith site is the latest version, 5.1, which has quite a lot more features than what you see in here (version 3.1, released in June 2006), which I apparently downloaded based on a link I saw in here, several months ago. The version 3, is now not supported, but link still works, if you want to give it a try.

The application provides you with a great deal of capability including:
  1. Selecting various areas in your screen.
  2. Recording/Pausing as you wish.
  3. Editing and Removing un-wanted content.
  4. Publishing in many popular video formats.

The video seen above explains how Camtasia can be used to easily record your desktop (you can find a tutorial here). The .wmv version produced is however not so good on the eye, and Windows Media Player is having it's problems even with the .avi version. However, I managed to make use of a professional video editting software, Adobe Premiere Pro (free tryout version available), which preserved the original formatting. I generated a .avi file, which I then converted back to a .wmv version with the help of Windows Movie Maker. Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker are a part of your Windows OS, assuming you have a version equal or greater than Windows XP.

Please note that the .avi file generated by Adobe Premiere Pro is around 100MB for a mere 100 seconds, and this means that if you need a good quality output for what you've done, you will need to have an equal amount

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Surfing Standing on your head, courtesy Dulip

Dulip Kokuhennedige, a 22 year old Sri Lankan living in Dorset Britain, became perhaps the only person in all of UK who could do the marvelous trick of surfing standing on his head made it to the headlines of most English news papers, for his amazing capability that attracted quite a number of tourists, and along with it a great deal of attention to the small town that he lived.

A resident of the Southern coast of Sri Lanka, Dulip was one of those unfortunate few who was badly affected by the tsunami that struck the island in December 2004, loosing everything he owned in this small island country. I bet he's putting up a marvelous show out there as seen on The Sun UK, The MirrorMetro, Telegraph, and BBC's news videos.

As described on The Sun's news page, "Dulip can stay upside down - when most can’t even stand up - and ride a wave for up to 15 seconds before it breaks and flips him over. The builder has tried to teach his friends how to surf upside down but none of them have been able to do the stunt he invented."

The young chap is looking forward to the completion of Europe's first artificial surf reef currently being built in Bournemouth, which is to be finished in October 2008, providing waves like those found in Malibu Beach California.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

J#: Java on .NET (part III)

In addition to what I mentioned in the first two posts on this topic (part 1, part 2), I also discussed various other alternatives that are available as means for you to convert Java code to .NET. One such method is the use of the Java Language Conversion Assistant, JLCA which simply converts Java code to C#.NET. The JLCA tool is presently in version 3.0, and available for download from here. The JLCA tool version 3.0 comes with the capability to convert Java code upto J2SE and J2EE 1.3, which gives you a wide range of opportunity.

JLCA tool also has an associated companion, found in here, which gives you the capability to customize the way in which JLCA does language transformations. By doing so, you get the additional possibility to extend the capabilities of the tool to even support later Java versions according to your need. The tool also provides you with interactive assistance which guides you through the conversion process whilst providing you with valuable information on your legacy code base.

However, like J#, the JLCA tool also is now a discontinued product in terms of Microsoft's involvement in it. But, there are still several developers who are interested and working on the tool, who'd be ready to provide you with necessary help and support. The capabilities of JLCA is limited but ideally suits as a mechanism to convert legacy Java code .NET. Even though Microsoft seems to be quitting from the Java to .NET conversion sphere, there are other commercial tools available which are still continued.

The JNBridge is one such commercial tool that can be used to bridge your Java code into a .NET code base with least amount of effort. JNBridge comes with a number of advanced operations that make the life easy of developers who wish to migrate large Java code bases in to .NET. However, similar to its capability you need to pay a lot to get JNBridge. A single license can cost more than $1000 which is quite a big amount of money.

Therefore, J# still provides you with the necessary convenience of migrating legacy Java code in to .NET without much of a hassle and with the minimum investment. In addition to the information discussed in these three posts, which covers the presentation I did last Friday, we also discussed some important aspects during the QnA session.
  • I explained in the demonstration, that J# does not only recognize .jsl extensions but also the .java extensions. Therefore, converting a legacy Java code base only required you opening the existing Java source files inside VS2005 and then simply building it which will create a DLL for you which is now .NET compatible. Converting a legacy Java code base to .NET was left as a task for you to try out.
  • The Common Language Runtime (CLR) does not recognize Java Bytecode, and therefore the J# distribution also includes a JAR to DLL converter which can convert the .jar files to .dll files that are .NET compatible. This tool can be found inside your VS2005, or J# installation directory.
The complete presentation will be mailed to the Microsoft Student Champ (Sri Lanka) mailing list, and also will be made available as a part of the Student Champ Newsletter that we are hoping to make available by the end of September 2008. The presentation is also available in .pdf format in here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

IRC Logging Made Easy

Internet Relay Chat, IRC has become a very popular means of communication not only among people of common interest, but also people who belong to a certain group or community. Open Source Development Teams are one such good example. I, along with my pals working on SCI-Flex, Final Year project at University of Moratuwa, decided to have our own channel as well.

Creating a IRC channel is not a big deal, but maintaining chat logs has become one big requirement for Open Source Projects such as SCI-Flex. We decided to have our very own chat logger as well (still experimental). Googling for chat loggers, I found that it is not a very big deal to write a simple chat logger software.

Based on this post, by Philipp Lenssen, I created my very own variant chat logger application that works on php. Perl scripts have also been a popular choice, but for my requirement I chose php. Therefore, inorder to get going with this script you simply need to install php and that's all. The bot was also registered on the freenode IRC network and thus needs to authenticate itself in.

This application is capable of:
  1. Joining to your IRC channel
  2. Authenticating itself
  3. Logging messages on channel during presence
  4. Periodically publishing the log (I use a daily publish cycle)
  5. Hide IP addresses of all users on log
and several other features. You are free to donwload this from here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Picasa 3.0 beta: Yet another release by Google

Google announced the availability of Picasa 3.0 beta, a way in which you can personalize the photos you post on the web. Along with Chrome, the latest browser Google released few days ago, Picasa seems to be getting an equal amount of attention. For those who are already familiar with earlier versions of Picasa, the latest release brings a load of new features that you've long been waiting for.

Picasa's latest release also comes with upgrades to cousin, Picasa Web albums, which is a two year old technology according to Google, which brings together some millions of users sharing billions of photos online. Upgrades to Picasa Web Albums, adds several new features including name-tags, and explore. Two innovating introductions making organization rather simplified.

As seen in this video that shows a glimpse of several new features added, Picasa 3.0 gives you the ability to do quite a deal of photo editing including dust and scratch removal, improving colour and brightness, picture re-sizing, red eye reduction, text insertion and many more. And, the most interesting part is that all of these features, that normally are only a part of expensive professional photo editing software now comes at zero cost, you having only to download and install the software.

As a proud user of Picasa since its first release, I'm quite happy on the amount of effort Google has put in their latest introduction. The software has helped me better organize my photographs with having to pay virtually nothing for a great deal of functionality.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

J#: Java on .NET (part II)

I have created a video on the demonstration I did during the presentation on how you can easily create a J# application in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. Shown below is the video uploaded on YouTube.

A better version which is more clearly visible is found here. In here I have focused on several key areas:
  1. How to create a simple Hello World application
    1. Creating the application
    2. Compiling/Running program
    3. Using Java as well as .NET code
  2. Visual Studio Features
    1. Intellisense
    2. Debugging
    3. Object Browser
    4. Code Completion
    5. Code Snippets
  3. The Calculator Starter Kit
    1. Creating the application
    2. Using the code
I also discussed many other alternatives that can be used to utilize Java code in .NET applications, which I will be discussing in my third and last post on this topic.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Google Chrome: The latest Toy

Google, adding yet another cool addition to what they call software, introduced Chrome releasing the beta version for MS Windows systems (chrome 0.2), on 2nd September 2008. The new open source browser is told to serve as a faster alternative to Mozilla Firefox once done, and since its inception seems to be. Geared around simplicity and innovation, Chrome introduces some of the most coolest features in browsing while using a little amount of screen real-estate and consuming a way little memory when compared to the bulky giant Firefox.

The lately introduced Open Source Browser uses a heavy amount of the Apple WebKit and Mozilla Firefox core, according to this introduction to the browser. Among some of the innovations Chrome brings for you is its advanced Java Script engine that provides a much better experience when running bulky Java Script dependant sites such as Google's very own Gmail, which Firefox is having a lot of problems with when it comes to memory and performance.

Google explains how chrome can be used in this most creative comic book approach they have taken. Chrome has brought about a wonderful and pleasing experience to browsing, including the ability to do most day-to-day web tasks efficiently and simply without bothering the overall performance of your PC. They are hoping to introduce the Linux and MacOS versions shortly and are hoping to embed into it some really cool and fancy additions while keeping it simple and small.

There are still some minus points with the beta version of Chrome, which might be in beta for quite a long time according to what most believe as in Gmail which has been in beta for ages, keeping Google from assuring things will go well as expected instead of that it should work always. Many complain that the ability to view larger pdf files and some occasional hangs in the application sort of needs a thorough investigation.

To me, Firefox starts up faster than Chrome on Windows, but loads pages a bit slower, having also needed to keep in mind that FF3 adds a lot of your time in storing bookmarks and organizing history, which Chrome seems to do as well, but, in a slightly different and efficient manner. Performance wise Chrome outweighs FF3, as it being extremely lightweight and virtually un-noticed by other applications.

Friday, September 5, 2008

J#: Java on .NET

Today, I did a presentation on J#, at the September 2008 meeting of the Microsoft Student Champ community at the Microsoft Sri Lanka office, in Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 02. I decided to add here a few important aspects I discussed at today's meeting.

Taking a brief look into how various lrogramming langauges evolved, C/C++ strongholds of the 80s and early 90s, has by now gradually been reduced to a underlying system of core functionality that supports highlevel managed frameworks that sit upon them. Java was the most popular such managed runtime based programming language that came into being in the mid 90s.

Understanding the potential, and the possible gains in market and the ability to fortify the Microsoft Windows based production front, Microsoft put forward two main strategies, which involved the creation of an MS version of Java, which became known as J++ and the better replacement to Java, known as C#. VB.NET grew to become C#'s cousin but with some of the obviously crappy logic that makes programming a nightmare at times.

Due to some reason in time, Sun began to start accusing Microsoft for its unlawful use of Java technology that was to a great extent propietary in ownership, which lead to the demise of J++, which was brought to a virtual standstill in 2001. J# was then thought of, which became a combination of Java and C# which is capable of plugging most Java code written before and around 2001, at the time when J++ was officially discontinued. Mostly developed in India, J# became popular with it's integration to Visual Studio 2005.

J#, began a journey in which Microsoft provided a mechanism to make use of its investment and time, in making Java from MS a reality. Today, J# which was last released in mid 2007, has started a process of gradual decommission, and by now the project has been discontinued, and marked as will be supported only until 2015.

In spite of its current stance, J# provides an excellent way in which legacy Java applications can be integrated into .NET environments, which would be quite advantageous if you are planning to do 0% work in moving your bulky legacy Java code base into a modern .NET base.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sahana for Bihar Disaster

You might already be aware of the recent floods in Bihar, and several other parts of India. Many people have various interpretations about the situation, but all reveal that quite a large number of people are displaced, and are in danger, and that by now several have even paid with their lives. Disaster Relief systems play a key role in incidents as such, and applications developed in the DR domain play a vital role.

Sahana, is a free and open source Disaster Management system which is a web based tool for collaborating and coordinating the management of disaster relief. Sahana, has made a lot of ground in Disaster Management applications, including installations to manage,
  1. Tsunami Disaster in Sri Lanka (2004)
  2. Earthquake in Pakistan (2005)
  3. Mudslide disaster in Philippines (2006)
  4. And, many other recent disasters in eastern Asia
Sahana, has put a step forward in a deployment in India as well, in address to the recent disaster situation in Bihar. A short but informative writeup is found in here. Sahana designed to work in a multilingual environment still lacks some crucial feature of not having a large scale language database. The present stance the team is facing is the need to translate most content in to the native Hindi language spoken in affected parts of India. If you are fluent in both English and Hindi, you have a great chance in taking part in a very worthy cause.

Sahana, one of Sri Lanka's greatest achievements in Open Source remains one of the most worthy causes designed to serve man kind. Your help and contribution is greatly appreciated.