Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Age of Empires Online: Signup for the Beta

How many years have I waited for this?? More than a decade of playing my favorite Real-Time Strategy game, the Age of Empires is finally coming online… and I am super excited. The thing is currently under beta and if you are lucky enough, you might well be one of the first people to play the game online with the world of friends, share kingdoms and be friends/enemy with players all over the globe.


Although Ensemble Studios was closed down, a few developers from the original game creation team moved to Robot Entertainment. These guys at Robot Entertainment have taken AoE online.

Together with the Games for Windows – LIVE service, "Age of Empires Online" delivers a rich, social experience that lets you play however you want - anywhere, anytime.
Marrying fresh features with iconic gameplay, "Age of Empires Online" offers something for long-time fans, newcomers and everyone in between. "Age of Empires Online" will feature:
* A persistent online capital city that lives and grows even when you're offline
* Cooperative multiplayer quests, trading and a level-based system that lets you progress at your own pace
* Fun, approachable style and storylines
* Free-to-play experiences via Games for Windows – LIVE

More information, news and chances to join the beta program are available at

Monday, August 16, 2010

Netbeans UML Moves to Community

Today after the hand over conference call, we are proud to be the first set of community developers (The Since 2010 developers) of the Netbeans UML plugin. I’ve been a fan of the Netbeans UML plugin, as it was simple and helped produce neat looking UML diagrams, without a lot of fuss. When the Netbeans developers from Sun decided to abandon the UML plugin, I was pretty disappointed. Nevetheless, a few weeks earlier, some members of the Netbeans community were contacted to get involved in reviving the module and I was among the interested developers.

The primary goal of the community developers will be to create a stable release that can be put back on the Plugin Center. This means eliminating the P1 bugs and then P2 bugs which are listed on the dashboard against UML. I hope we can do this before the next release of Netbeans, which is Netbeans 6.10. There are about 3 P1 bugs and 19 P2 bugs today and I’m sure there are more coming on the way as we move to committing fixes and reaching code that works with Netbeans 6.9… It is indeed a milestone that UML has been handed over to the community. Next is the tough part of make it available to the users, so that they can then start filing more bugs and enhancement request and make our contributions more interesting. The developer wiki pages will be updated soon as we start committing code.

NetBeans IDE UML Features is listed under Netbeans 6.9 Features

I guess we aren’t yet here, but we wanna be there soon…

$35 Indian Tablet Vs Dell Streak

Sagar, a friend of mine has been pushing me news about the new $35 laptop from the Indian HRD Ministry… And I’ve been saying it’s one of the false promises that politicians are known to make. Nothing good comes out of these news flashes. On the other hand, we also have another device that Dell is preparing to launch known as Dell Streak. These two devices have a lot in common, but are also quite different in the markets they are targeted for and obviously the price.

Now the Indian $35 Laptop:

  • Processor / Chipset still unknown
  • 7-inch resistive touch screen display
  • Capable of browsing the web
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • USB port
  • VGA camera on the back
  • Interestingly the software or the operating systems seem to be different in different demos. Some recent demos are showing an Android operating system, while the initial demos of the device seemed to have Meego installed on it. The device is still a year away from availability, but having seen it run and that too pretty smoothly for such a cheap device on Android, I am very pleasantly surprised. No technology in recent years has blown my imagination like this one… and if it can be mass produced with excellent software, this is the tablet that the world’s poor children were waiting. Understanding some of the challenges of such devices, I do not believe the tablet is still there. But it is definitely a leap forward…

    Dell Streak:

    The Dell Streak is another tablet device running the Android operating system. The Dell Streak is costing $550 and is available with a contract from AT&T at $300.

  • 1Ghz Snapdragon ARM processor from Qualcomm
  • 5-inch capacitive multi-touch WVGA
  • 5 MP autofocus camera on back
  • VGA camera on the front
  • 512MB RAM
  • 3G + Wi-Fi support
  • GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • Streak is pretty expensive when you compare it feature-wise to the Indian tablet. Obviously the market and the margins are different, but just goes to show the line between phones and tablets is blurring. As Android becomes more prevalent in the market, the line becomes more blurred. As realized in Meego, the combination of Maemo (Nokia) and Moblin (Intel-Linux) turns out to be very powerful smartphone OS. Although these devices are great, it is the applications that make the user-experience special and make these useful.

    As the Indian tablet progresses forward, the acceptance of the device are going to be determined by the applications that run on the device. If they are targeted towards children between the ages (6-12), it is going to be very interesting to build applications for them. Where education and knowledge can be taken to new limits, the true potential of such devices also depend on how they are delivered.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Tabbed Interface to OpenMRS Global Properties

    I’ve always hated to scroll through long lists when trying to find the thing I’m looking for. Computer interfaces which are designed as long list and give you a hard time to look through all of the things without a filter is definitely bad design. But even with a text field filter, long lists take a lot of time to load... The two applications that I’m working with these days, OpenMRS and DHIS2, both have these long lists that in my opinion are a pain to use.

    The DHIS2 uses lists for data elements, indicators, users and these are not divided into pages. There is a text filter, but the time it takes to load the page when the list is long is excruciating. One of the recent examples, where we had over 5000 users in DHIS2 Punjab mobile application, it was excruciatingly slow to load that list of users. And then finding through that list to change anything is also quite slow and painful.

    Similarly in OpenMRS, one of the things I often use for our modules is the global properties. Modules can use the global properties infrastructure to store options and it is a quick solution when you want to store some settings that can be configured by the user for your module. But as the number of modules or the number of options in a module increases, it becomes a pain to search the exact option from that long list of options. It also does not have a text filter, but you can always use the browser search to reach what you are looking for and text filters, don’t really solve much. Infact, may be the text filter in your application does not have a shortcut, while Ctrl+F would quickly give you a browser search text field.

    Nevertheless, a quick hack by our developer Viet Nguyen (the JavaScript Ninja), was an OpenMRS module called moduleoptions. This is his first module, just to understand the OpenMRS framework and to me is quite a useful thing. It divides the global properties in tabs and makes the properties more manageable in my opinion. It provides better management to the long list of global properties and looks more convenient to use. It was developed in a few hours time and is definitely something that I would want to see as default when managing global properties. Below is a screenshot of how the global properties looks now:


    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Netbeans 6.9.1 Released

    Update1: Due to technical difficulties as mentioned here… The download links are not available

    Update2: Its available for download again…

    The latest bug fix release for Netbeans IDE was just released few minutes back. Netbeans 6.9.1 contains some critical bug fixes and includes some new updates to the JavaFX IDE. Hard to believe, but the resources into JavaFX continues…

    NetBeans IDE 6.9.1 is a minor update to NetBeans IDE 6.9 and includes the following changes:

    • Availability of the latest IDE bundled with JavaFX SDK 1.3.1
    • Improvements to the JavaFX debugger
    • Important usability issues fixed in the JavaFX Composer and Editor
    • Critical bug fixes made to other modules since the 6.9 final release

    The complete release notes can be found here… Netbeans 6.9.1 can be downloaded from here.

    Fixing Wireless in OpenSuSE 11.3 and Dell Studio Laptops

    The new and shiny OpenSuSE 11.3 was released on 15th July, 2010 and I was eagerly waiting because it promised to give a preview of the GNOME 3.0 and LXDE desktops on the DVD. As with my forgetful self, I forgot about the release, until now when I had to create an openSuse based appliance (but this one is long story for another day)… Nevertheless, I downloaded the DVD image yesterday and was ready to install it.

    After the installation like I always do with the Dell Laptops (which have the Broadcom wifi chipset), go and download the Broadcom proprietary ‘wl’ drivers from packman repo. But this time, the 1-click install button didn’t work and gave some error message. Nevermind, I got the rpm and installed it. Rebooted the machine, but couldn’t find the wireless on… Odd I wondered and went to YAST and checked what was the issue… I discovered that starting from OpenSuSE 11.3, the ssb module is bundled with the kernel to deal with the Broadcom chipsets, but then Broadcom changed the hardware address and hence the driver doesn’t work correctly. Also because there are two options (wl and ssb), I couldn’t get the wireless automatically working after installing the ‘wl’ like it otherwise does.

    Thus, I realized that ssb and its dependencies need to be blacklisted and only then wl will be the only one available in the kernel and things will work well… Thus, the following steps need to be followed:

    1.) create a file 50-Broadcom-wl-blacklist.conf, if it does not exist with the following content:

    blacklist bcm43xx
    blacklist ssb
    blacklist b43
    blacklist ndiswrapper

    2.) install the Broadcom-wl, if you haven’t already installed. Download it from the above linked packman repo. If you had already installed it, then do the following:

    rmmod bcm43xx
    rmmod b43
    rmmod ssb
    insmod wl

    3.) reboot

    This should only load wl into the kernel and should show the wireless in the network manager or ifup, whichever you may want to use.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Slow JSP Editing in Netbeans 6.9

    Haven’t blogged in a while, but today was reminded by a friend, that I need to write about this… We’ve been using Netbeans as our IDE for some years now.

    I have been acknowledged as the most significant contributor in the Netbeans 6.9 NetFIX program, which is a where community members fix bugs in the Netbeans release… But this is something that I’ve completely missed. The JSP editor performance for free-form projects sucks real bad in the Netbeans 6.9 final release. The problem started somewhere in the beta1 release where the whole IDE hangs after any change in made through the JSP editor. This has been one of the showstopper bugs and yet it became part of the 6.9 release. The issue has been filed here.

    Thankfully, the issue has been fixed and is part of the latest release of Netbeans and is a candidate for the Netbeans 6.9.1 which should be sometime during this month. In the meantime, if you have been affected by the slow performance, I suggest that you download the latest release from here. Also keep a watch of the final release of Netbeans 6.9.1 from the dashboard below: