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Date: 21/10/2004
Well after about a year of putting up with very quiet and distorted output from one of my Linux machines sound card I finally had "it" out with my Linux install and beat it into submission. If there is was any doubt that Linux is not ready for the desktop, then you need to try setting up audio.

I basically had to install a recent version of alsa, a somewhat painful process involving far too much terminal time and linux-fu for my liking. I used this recipe for my Intel i810 card.

I've now got crystal clear audio at full volume, but man... what a screwed up place Linux is to live. With Windows you just blow it away every so often (me: 1yr) and start over with a clean install. With Linux it's better to pick a kernel/distro to use for the rest of your life and then slowly get everything working. And you can never change or upgrade because the pain of getting everything working again is like having to give birth.
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Microsoft Visual C++ 7
Date: 18/10/2004
Microsoft's Visual C++ 6 is a rare treasure in the software world. It's fast, flexible, easy to use and has hardly any faults whatsoever. It's in fact one of my fravorite applications, and I spend a lot of time using it so I should know. So even when it does something annoying I'm very forgiving due to it's good behaviour on the whole.

Now recently I had the misfortunate of having to actually use Visual C++ 7 (VC7) in earnest for the first time. And man I was shocked at how far such a almost perfect IDE/compiler had fallen in just one major version release. VC7 manages to disappoint at lots of levels, and I can't see myself ever moving to it. Maybe I'll just skip 7 and wait for 8 (or 9 or whenever they get it right again).

First up I imported my VC6 project and built it... well tried to build it. You see they changed all the hotkeys for everything. Ok ok you can go and select "VC6 Hotkeys" in the settings somewhere to map them all back again but why change it? Why WHY WHY! It worked fine before and change for change's sake is plain dumb.

Ok, take a deep breath Matt. It's just key bindings. Next I try and link an application with a DLL generated in VC6. Doesn't work. Or maybe you need to know some "voodoo" to get it to work. Oh well time to upgrade all the projects to VC7.

Then it starts bitching about unresolved externals, because I exported some template class in the DLL. Ok ok fine.. don't export the class and it works. But why did that work in VC6 then? Why WHY!

Now it seems if you use "Multithreaded DLL" you also need a 337kb MSVCR70.dll in your applications distro, blowing out the download size. Grrr.

Ok so I need to change all 23 vcproj files to "Multithreaded DLL" instead of "Multithreaded". This is easy I say to myself (Que peanut gallery: snicker snicker). I'll just select all of the projects at once and edit the setting all in one fell swoop like in VC6. Um, No. You have to open every proj settings separately and change the setting. Argh, stupid stupid stupid.

And now that I'm in the swing of it, lets try and clean one project... opps the clean just cleaned ALL the projects. Thats not annoying at ALL!

Ok rebuild them all. Hmmm, compile is nice and quick. But the "make" functionality that checks for changes and rebuilds the required parts of the projects is sooooo slllllooooowwwwww II'mmmmmm faaaaalllllllliiiinnnnngggg aaassssslleeeeeppp. Bloody hell, how does anyone get anything done!

Oh well what can you do? It's like a Microsoft product.. and they are world champions at ignoring customers. Anyway I was building and fixing the code... just doing my normal coder type stuff and I was wondering whether I could get to the definition of a symbol easily. Oh look a "Go To Definition" menu item. Excellent. The symbol "blah" is not defined. Hell it is! It compilies doesn't it! Stupid. VC7.

And finally I did get the impression that everything is just a little sluggish in VC7. The menus, the dialogs, the time it takes for windows to open, the startup time, the time to paint the windows. It's all just slower than VC6, like everything has been spray painted with a "slow gun". It also has this charming trait of randomly locking up for a few seconds every now and then FOR NO REASON AT ALL. Which of course I LOVE. The end result feels unfinished and cheap.

All I can say is "Dot Net. You Bet... ter not make me use it".
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MS Visual C++ Madness
Date: 14/10/2004
For those who write code in the Microsoft Visual C++ environment here is a little pearl of wisdom for you. In the project options, you can build with several types of "Code Generation":
  • Single Threaded
  • Multi Threaded
  • Multi Threaded DLL
Now this seems all innocent and nice. But those of you that have experiemented with different settings across DLL/exe boundaries have surely discovered that mixing code gen types generally causes crashes.

But there is more to it than that. In fact something which I found quite disturbing. (And I'm assuming that no one uses Single Threaded anymore).

There is a major difference between "Multithreaded" and "Multithreaded DLL" that is not so obvious, in a "Multithreaded" exe and associated DLL's the memory allocated by the DLL cannot be freed or realloc'ed by the exe and visa versa. With the "Multithreaded DLL" code gen you CAN free memory in the exe that was allocated in a DLL.

Now there are 2 camps here, the DLL crowd and the non-DLL crowd. Both have written swathes of code based around the assumption that the memory model has always been this way. I certainly had no idea the other camp even existed until today. But I met someone from that camp and had a good 'ol argument about it. In the end we both realised there is a whole other model out there that we just didn't know anything about. Lgi is firmly written in the DLL camp, and can't be used in just "Multithreaded" mode even if you wanted to.

I think the technical reason behind all this is that when you link to msvcrt.dll (i.e. "Multithreaded DLL") you get 1 clib (e.g. malloc/free) and 1 heap. If you don't, each DLL and exe has it's own clib and it's OWN heap. And the malloc and free calls don't work with memory from another heap.

And I've been coding for how long without realising all this? ;)
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i.Scribe / InScribe
Date: 13/10/2004
The latest Scribe release has fixes for all the outstanding crashes and hangs (on my radar) in the core functionality. If you are still experiencing a crash, hang or unusual CPU usage doing core tasks (receiving/sending email, viewing email, working with contacts, etc) with Test25 then let me know and I'll prioritize that.

Non core issues, like display problems, glitchs with workarounds and so on can still be reported but please accept that they are not at the top of the list right now.
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Linux Question
Date: 12/10/2004
I'm wondering how an application can tell if 2 paths point to the same thing. For instance my home directory on linux can be addressed by:
Whats the best way to compare these to see if they point to the same thing?

My first thought would be to lstat both of them and compare the inode of each. But there might be a better way, and more importantly a more cross platform way. As this should ideally work on windows as well. But I don't mind #ifdef'ing around the platform specific parts if I have to.

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The Upgrade Cycle
Date: 7/10/2004
I was just reading this and it made me think about what I'm planning to do with InScribe's v2 release. I've always said that I'd charge an upgrade fee for v2 and I'm planning some features that are worth it. The main one being a rewrite of the folder format to enable some very exciting searching capabilies as well as more speed and robustness. That in of itself would be worth almost the cost of InScribe v1 again. But what I feel about the price and what people actually pay are 2 different things. Do people accept that for a software business to make money that upgrade fees must be charged ($10 for v2)? Would you buy software based on a subscription (e.g. $10/yr for upgrades - bought versions work forever)? Or even a micropayment (no free version, just InScribe for $0.50)?

The other aspect that I'm thinking about with regards to pricing is simply the outright first purchase price. People want to buy the software for the cheapest price available, or even just crack the commercial version for free. However that is in direct contrast to the value that people associate with a product. The reasoning is that the more expensive the product the more useful/valuable it would be. In that regards Scribe is one of the least useful email clients on the market, having a low cost price. Many of the faithful users would smile at that, knowing that it holds it's own against OE, Eudora and so on.

What would you do in my shoes?
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