General

Car Hunt: Part 1

After totalling my car last Tuesday, I’ve embarked on a week long search for a suitable replacement. Upon thinking about things, I concluded that I wanted something that fit my 6’5″ frame well, had more pep than my Camry, looked nice, good long-term reliability, and was a good deal. Gas mileage was somewhat of a consideration (don’t insert “Peak Oil” arguments/links in the comments, please), but only a deciding factor as SUVs threatened to dip highway mileage below 20 MPG.

A fun week to be sure. Over that time, I test drove an Audi A4, Ford Escape, Mazda3, Nissan Murano, Infiniti G35, Subaru Legacy, and Acura TL. I also looked at the Acura TSX, Mazda Tribute, Honda Accord and Pilot, Toyota Camry and Highlander.

A common issue was what I call the “stop light problem”. Many of these cars, at a stop light, require me to crouch and tilt my head so I can see when it turns green. I’d prefer not to do that in my next car. Many had legroom issues, including, surprisingly, some of the SUVs and every Nissan car. The Audi A4 beat everything in legroom, due to highly adjustable power seats. I’ve already decided on the type of car, and am busy working deals to get the best price, probably on a slightly used car. I’ll detail my choice and the decision process in part 2.

Auto technologies are developing at a blistering pace. The list of cool technologies I played with over this week is mind-boggling: direct injection engines, turbo, hybrid engines, Continuously Variable Transmissions, All-Wheel Drive, navigation systems. I’m hoping all of these can be found in one car by the NEXT time I’m car-shopping.

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General

My car… totalled

Had a lovely get together with a Hyundai Santa Fe on West Paces Ferry Rd on Tuesday night. My Toyota Camry is officially “a total loss”, so I’ll be spending my Memorial Day weekend in the hunt for a new car. I have a few criteria – I must fit in it (I am 6’6″), it mustn’t be overly expensive, it must get non-sucky gas mileage, and I would prefer it to be peppier than my Camry. New or used. Any suggestions?

Java

Live: Atlanta Java DevCon 2005

I’ll be blogging live from the Atlanta Java Users Group DevCon [conference] today. With over 200 attendees, we’re at the max capacity they can hold here. If I can get a power outlet, I’ll write a lot. If not, I’ll be writing sparingly from my Sidekick II. Matt Thompson is up next with a JavaOne preview.

Update – I found power, but no wi-fi. Looks like I have a comment for the feedback form for next year.

Update 2 – JRoller wouldn’t let me post from my phone (just saved my posts as drafts), so I’ll be trickling the posts 24 hours behind schedule.

Technology

Netflix Flexing AJAX Muscle

Netflix is now using AJAX throughout the site to display a pop-up with information on individual movies on mouseover (see picture):

It’s a well-executed, clean use of the technology. Like it or not, AJAX is here to stay – at least until Microsoft bakes something like it into IE7 in their next big attempt to monopolize the web.

Fact is, end users don’t CARE about whether something’s a hack, whether it meets your exacting architecture standards. Programming may be art, but it isn’t museum art, it’s pop art. It’s Thomas Kinkade, non Picasso. It’s meant to be consumed in large quantities, and only looked at superficially. AJAX gives a site that extra flair and usefulness, and users care more about that than whether or not the developers think the design meets their exacting standards. Time to suck it up and get comfortable with AJAX.

Click here to see it for yourself.

General

Star Wars: Return of the Franchise

Took in Star Wars Episode III last night at a 10 pm showing. Not bad. Not great. I found it overall enjoyable, but the challenge was that the plot hinges on a supposed love story between Anakin and Padme that is thoroughly unbelieveable. Natalie Portman has acted well before, so I’m left to conclude that Hayden Christensen isn’t a very good actor. Every seen in him tends to drag, to be awkward, but scenes with Chancellor Palpatine, Obi Wan, and Mace Windu are more tolerable since their acting chops are able to lift Anakin’s performance to near tolerable, particularly Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Kenobi.

This is the movie where the pieces snap into place, connecting you with the Star Wars you think you remember from episodes IV-VI. Kenobi becomes the powerful yet humble Jedi you’ve seen before. Anakin’s anger grows (and seething is one of the few things Christensen does well), and the sense of awe is still there as he shows up in the cape and mask of Darth Vader. Several parallel scenes are nicely interwoven in some of the best editing of any of the 6 films. Visuals are stunning, yet still obviously CGI in some places. State of the art isn’t quite to photorealism yet.

In brief, if you’ve slogged through episode I and II, you owe it to yourself to see Episode III with guarded expectations. In some ways, this is Lucas’ love letter to his original fans, and it almost makes up for the insults from the first two. If the last name Organa means something to you, go. If you know something about a pilot named Antilles, go. If you want to see a planet of wookies (though not nearly enough), go. If you want to be convinced once and for all that Yoda is the most masterful Jedi, and understand why he became a hermit on Degobah, go. The connection to the original trilogy will be enough for most fans to enjoy this movie.

Java

Atlanta: Java Conference – great value

If you’re even near Atlanta, the AJUG Java DevCon 2005 is a steal at $75. It’s next Wednesday, May 25th, from 8 AM to 5:30 PM. It’s $25 more than last year’s event, but that’s probably why they don’t have such a hack speaker presenting :). The fee includes all sessions, breakfast, and lunch, and is presumably being subsidized once again by sponsors and the Atlanta Java Users’ Group. Based on the schedule so far, I’d guess they’re either replacing the keynote they had last year with an extra session, or expanding the number of concurrent tracks from 2 to 3.

Sun’s heavy local presence is certainly being felt, with John Bobowicz of java.net on building the Java community, Roger Kitain on JSF (which he is co-spec lead of), and Matt Thompson giving a look at the future of the Java platform. JBoss will be pitching in with a presentation on Hibernate by Gavin King and a JBoss jBPM session with Matt Thompson. The Roundbox Media crew will be showing off how they’re doing some slick integration between Flash and J2EE. James Mitchell, a Struts guru who happens to be local, will be giving Struts best practices, and Keith Donald will be introducing people to Spring.

The only huge gap I see is nothing on non-Struts, non-JSF MVC. Struts is getting a bit long in the tooth, and JSF isn’t gaining as much momentum, so Tapestry (or WebWork) might be worth covering, especially with the recent release of 3.0.

I’ll be there, along with most all of our development team, and based on last year, I’d recommend it highly!