LEGO Building / Design / CAD Software

I’ve loved LEGO all my life and I recently found out that a bunch of cool LEGO building/design/CAD programs existed. So, I set out on a quest to find the best one for me. Not knowing anything about these, or much about the LEGO community online, it was a little difficult to find out what was available. I figured I’d share my quest so others might benefit.

Not knowing what these programs had to offer, I had a pretty short list of evaluation criteria:

  • Try to build the same model in each program and see how easy it is to build (my primary objective)
  • Must be compatible with Windows 10 (OS I’m running on my main PC)
  • See how easy it is to build without reading the documentation first (not that consulting it was out of the question)
  • Settle on a program that appears to be somewhat current and maintained

My primary objective was to find something that I could use to build LEGO models. I didn’t really dive into the more advanced features that some of them offered, like parts authoring, scripting, animation, creating build instructions, exporting parts lists, etc.. To be honest, I didn’t really know that some of these features were available when I started my search. Going into detail about all the different features would make for a very long post and that’s not my main objective. After having used the programs a little, I settled on the following evaluation criteria, since they cover the basic building experience that I was originally looking for:

  • Adding parts (i.e. part searching and selection)
  • Manipulating parts in the build area
  • Changing part colors

I didn’t spend the same amount of time with each application. Because of that, some might complain that I wasn’t “fair”. Well, to be “fair”, this isn’t a professional review/evaluation, it’s just documentation of my personal quest to find a program that works for me. Take what you will from it. Maybe you’ll find that you love one of them that I didn’t particularly gravitate towards, that’s the wonder of personal choice! 🙂

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MenuInflater NullPointerException (NPE)

I just recently published my first app on Google Play, and after I had published it I was playing with it on my Galaxy S3 and it crashed when I tried to delete a page. I know I had this working correctly on my Nexus 7 prior to publishing it, but I didn’t test it on my phone (shame on me :(). So, I went to work trying to figure out what the problem was, and here’s part of the stack trace:

After checking the stack trace and doing some research, I narrowed it down to an issue with setHasOptionsMenu(true) and I thought it might be a problem with the ActionBarSherlock Library. Well, I stumbled upon this post and found that setHasOptionsMenu(true) was set in onActivityCreated(). I had set it in onCreate(), since when I had looked at how to use it that’s where everyone seemed to put it…at least in the posts I looked at. Well, it was already broken, so I had nothing to lose and the other stuff I had tried didn’t fix it. I moved setHasOptionsMenu(true) from onCreate() to OnActivityCreated() and then ran a test. Bingo! That fixed the problem on my phone! I tested on my other two tablets (Nexus 7 and Motorola Xoom) and it worked like it should on both of those as well.

Anyway, just throwing this out there in case anyone else runs into this problem.

Android Tutorial: Implementing a Drag and Sort ListView with a Database

I’m working on an app and got to the point where I wanted to implement a drag and drop ListView that allows re-ordering, adding and deleting of list items using a database. I didn’t think that it would be all that difficult. However, with my limited experience with Android, it turned out to be a bit of a pain to get working. But, now that I have it working I figured I’d post some example code so that others can take advantage of what I learned and hopefully have an easier time getting this implemented.

My initial searches had me stumble upon DragSortListView (DSLV) by Carl A. Bauer. I was excited to find something that looked so polished, and it appeared pretty easy to implement. After digging into the demo code (available from above link) and playing with the demo app (available as app on Google Play), I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do to get it working. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get it to work with a database. I could get the items to display correctly and then I could drag them around to re-arrange the order and swipe to delete them, but I couldn’t figure out how to save any of that in the database.

As part of my trials, I posted what I thought was an issue on the DSLV GitHub site. Turns out that it’s not an issue, just a misunderstanding on my part. But, through the discussion of that issue I figured out how to get it to work. YEAH!

The SimpleDragSortCursor adapter class provides most of the muscle to get things up and running. The difficult part was to get it to correctly update the database. Read on to find out how I got it working.

To get started, I based my test app on the CursorDSLV.java class from the DSLV demo. I already had a database class that I was using (DatabaseAdapter.java), so I modified it a little for this test app (it’s available in the demo code you can download on GitHub). Next, I ended up creating my own method to setup the ListView and configure click and long-click actions. Here’s what I put together:

Replacing the similar lines in the CursorDSLV.java class with this method allowed me to display the list of items from the database and drag them around and click the red X to delete them. However, I wanted to be able to swipe to delete, put the drag handle on the right and get rid of the red X. I ended up doing a straight swap for some of the layout files (in CursorDSLV.java):

  • Used warp_main.xml instead of cursor_main.xml in order to get swipe to remove working:

  • Changed the layout file for the actual details view from list_item_click_remove.xml to list_item_handle_right.xml in order to move the drag handle to the right of the screen:

After those changes, I had the desired look and actions setup. Now all I needed to do was get the changes to actually save in the database. In order to do that I first came up with my own way, but then Carl set me straight and I used the built-in DragSortCursorAdapter methods. I added the following persistChanges method to the MAdapter class in order to create a method that I could use to save the changes (here’s a snippet):

I thought I was doing really well, but I wasn’t sure where I should call the above method to get it to actually save the data correctly. Carl said that I should call it at the activity level and suggested that I put it in the onPause() method. DUH! Made sense to me. Here’s what Carl suggested:

Yeah! Now I had a working example that would successfully save the changes whenever the back button was pressed. Saving the changes in the onPause() method might not be ideal, so feel free to play around with where you call it so it works best for your application.

The above code is just to illustrate the basic steps to wire up DSLV to work with a database. I put together a more comprehensive demo app that implements what’s talked about above using a SQLite database. The app allows you to add/edit/remove/sor items to experiment with DragSortListView. You can download it from GitHub and play around with it. The app uses ActionBarSherlock, so you’ll have to download it as well as the DragSortListView library and make sure your project is configured correctly to use these libraries.

Hopefully this helps make implementing Drag and Sort ListViews easier for you.

Android Tutorial: Implement A Shake Listener

So I’ve been playing around with Android and have a little app that I wanted the user to be able to shake the phone and have something happen. I did some digging and the following is a tutorial on how to setup a shake listener to capture a shake and then do whatever you want.

This is by no means something that I’ve created, I just used examples that I found on stackoverflow.com. Also, this uses G-force to calculate the shake threshold. Many thanks to Peterdk and Akos Cz for their input and answer for this solution. Peterdk recommended using the G-Force app by Blake La Pierre on Google Play Store if you want to get the actual G-force value on your phone and tweak it in the code below.

Long story short, there are 5 things that need to happen to get this to work:

  1. Create a new class named ShakeDetector
  2. Define variables for sensor manager, shake detector and accelerometer
  3. Add/register the sensor manager and listener in the onCreate() method in your activity
  4. Configure onResume and onPause to activate/deactivate the accelerometer
  5. Edit the AndroidManifest.xml file to require the device to have an accelerometer

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vmware: where do I start?

My first real work experience with vmware was a project that I was assigned to virtualize a remote data center and move it to our main data center. I was tasked to design and build the infrastructure at our main location and to help those at the remote location P2V the servers there and get them to the main data center. I was really excited because I had always wanted to learn more about vmware. So, now I know what I need to do but where do I start? What do I do? Where can I find what I need?

This post is a quick reference for those that are getting started. Hopefully it will help you find the resources you need to be successful in designing, building, testing, maintaining and troubleshooting your infrastructure.

The first place to start is vmware’s website. It’s not easy to find stuff, but start with the documentation section and then download and read as much as you can about the version that you are working with. Click on Support and Downloads on the top and then click “Documentation”. Once there, look under the “Server Virtualization” section for the version you want, for example, ESX 4.1 Download and read the

Hardware compatability guide: http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php

Technical resources for virtual networking:

http://www.vmware.com/technical-resources/virtual-networking/resources.html

However, you might want to start with the following. Don’t get tripped up on the docs being from ESX 3, the concepts and recommendations are stil relevant to current versions (and vmware hasn’t created any updated docs).

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/virtual_networking_concepts.pdf

802.1q: http://www.vmware.com/pdf/esx3_vlan_wp.pdf

vmware Infrastructure 3 in a Cisco Network Environment: http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/vmi_cisco_network_environment.pdf

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/techpaper/VMW_vSphere41_cpu_schedule_ESX.pdf

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/techpaper/vsp_41_perf_memory_mgmt.pdf

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/techpaper/VMW-Whats-New-vSphere41-Performance.pdf

http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vsphere4/r41/vsp_41_resource_mgmt.pdf

Technical Papers: http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/resources/

Interpreting esxtop statistics: http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-9279

Duncan Epping http://www.yellow-bricks.com/esxtop/

Twitter – I was hesitant to get started with Twitter for a long time, mostly because I didn’t see the value of it. However, I just started using it recently and have found a wealth of information about vmware. The trick is knowing who to follow. Here are some that I follow:

Duncan Epping

Eric Sloof

Scott Drummond

Vmware resources
I found one site that has a list of a lot of the top VMware blogs and sites, you can find it here:
Definitely check ou the first 5-10 sites unter the “Top 25 Blogs” section.
VMware’s site has a lot of good stuff, but it’s kind of hard to find simetimes. There are some really cool new things happening with CPU and memory management in 4.1. Here are some links to some of the newest info that you might want to check out:
From the above link:
Some cool tools:

How to Root and Install Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Flash 10.1 on the HTC Droid Incredible

****** If you brick your phone it’s not my fault and I can’t help you!!!
…just needs to be said. 🙂 ******


Special thanks to all the people who’s sites I used to get this put together!

All I have to say is, “WOW! Android 2.2 (Froyo) with Flash 10.1 on the HTC Droid Incredible is now truly INCREDIBLE!” I could go on, but I’ll just let you get started and you’ll find out all the cool stuff about it soon enough!

Final setup consists of the following:

  • Sky Raider 2.5.2 with Flash 10.1 and HTC’s Sense UI
  • Titanium Backup with BusyBox

So August 18th came and went and I, just like thousands of others, was disappointed that there was no Android 2.2 (Froyo) love for the HTC Droid Incredible! I was holding out since I didn’t really want to root my phone if an official update was available (I had never rooted an Android phone before…but that wasn’t going to stop me ;)).  However, since HTC had recently released the source code for Froyo for the HTC EVO 4G and the Droid Incredible I figured that by now someone should have something cooked up from it for the Incredible. So, I started digging and I found everything I needed to get a pretty bug free version of Froyo with Flash 10.1 up and running on my Droid Incredible. Here’s a brief overview of what I needed to do in order to get it all setup (with links to where I got my info):

  • Update the radio baseband (info here and here)
  • Root my phone using unrevoked3 (info here)
  • Do a nandroid backup
  • Unlock NAND using unrevoked forever (info here and here)
  • Install backup software (Titanium Backup (please donate) and BusyBox)
  • Backup everything up
  • Wipe everything
  • Install Sky Raider 2.5.2 with Flash 10.1 and HTC’s Sense UI (info here)
  • Restore apps/settings and extra stuff

Even though I did do some research before starting this, I did run into a couple quirks that took me a little extra time to figure out. Or, maybe I was just a little too anxious to get this done so I could enjoy it. 🙂 Anyway, I’ve tried to put together instructions that are pretty easy to follow and all in one place. Hopefully you can get your phone rooted and running Andorid 2.2 (Froyo), with Flash 10.1 in no time. I would recommend reading through everything first though, just to make sure you understand what’s going on. After I put this together I ran through it, using my phone, a couple times and it worked without any problems. Hopefully it goes well for you too! Enjoy!

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Hacking the Arras Theme

First off, I have to say that I love the Arras Theme and think it’s the coolest one out there. The other day I was adding some content to my site and I hadn’t upgraded to WordPress 3.0 yet so I decided to do the upgrade. I usually like to upgrade all the plugins and themes that have upgrades available before I upgrade WordPress just to make sure things are compatible. However, after upgrading WordPress and the Arras Theme I found that things didn’t quite look the way they did before the upgrades. Some of my issues were because I didn’t bother to check theme settings or save theme files that I had modified before I updated the theme. In my defense, I must say it had been a long time since I had setup the theme and had pretty much forgotten what I had done to customize it (yeah, it’s a lame defense ;)).  Anyway, here’s a list of what was different after the upgrades:

  • PHP errors on page because it was using PHP4, not PHP5
  • Colors were different
  • Links for pages across the top (Home, Resume, etc.) were missing
  • Thumbnails were not displaying in the actual posts
  • No picture in the header

Some of these were pretty obvious, but I’ll go through each one so I can save myself time the next time I need to do this. 🙂

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FUEL CMS

My brother Dave is working on some cool stuff to help him and his clients manage the websites he designs. It’s called FUEL CMS. Here’s what he says about it:

“At it’s core, FUEL is a modular based, CodeIgniter development platform for creating web applications. You can create your models, views and controllers like normal and only use the CMS part when and if you need it. It’s a hybrid of a framework and a CMS.”

Check out my brother’s blog post about FUEL CMS to get a better idea about what he’s doing and why. Currently it’s in private development but you can visit the FUEL CMS site and sign up for notifications (he’s “looking into opening it up for developers to play with and contribute to”). Go to the CodeIgniter website for more info about it.

His website is the Daylight Studio and he’s located in Portland, OR.

WordPress Upgrade Woes

It seems that every time I try to upgrade my WordPress site or any of the plugins, sometimes it hangs at downloading the file. I just tried to upgrade one plugin now and it didn’t work. I did a quick search and then remembered what I had done in the past (thanks to this post).

To fix the problem with the plugins, DISABLE ALL PLUGINS and then ONLY ENABLE the PLUGIN you are UPGRADING. This has worked for me every time…knock on wood. 🙂

Now, for the upgrade of the site. I thought it was cool that WordPress finally built in an autoupgrade feature, but I haven’t been able to get that to work most of the time. What has worked for me is this:

  • Download and install the “WordPress Automatic Upgrade” plugin (search for it from the Plugins page or you can visit the plugin site). Disable all other plugins if you have problems installing this one.
  • Disable all other plugins except the “WordPress Automatic Upgrade” plugin.
  • Once installed and activated, you should then see a ribbon at the top of the admin pages that says something like “Click Here to Automatically Upgrade WordPress to latest Version x.x.x”. Click on the link it provides and follow the instructions.
  • Note: I’m not sure if this is necessary, but I’ve also set the theme to the default WP theme before upgrading. If you have problems you might want to try this too.

I’ve used the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin since before WordPress built that functionality into the product and I’ve never had any problems with it, as long as I’ve followed the steps I mention above. I also like that it backups up your files and the database as part of the process (just don’t forget to download them…just in case).

Anyway, this is mostly just a note for me since I’m sure I’ll run into this again sometime and won’t remember what I did to fix it. However, it just might help someone else and that’s fine by me. 🙂

 

HTC “Droid” Incredible Review

My First Impressions

I’ve got my first Android phone and, long story short: I’m loving it.

Why make the switch to Android now? Read on…

I’ve owned WinMo phones forever because I wasn’t willing to switch to another carrier and Verizon hasn’t had a compelling phone to offer until now. Yes, the Moto Droid was a contender but I think it’s ugly and after demoing it in the store a couple times I just didn’t like it. I was waiting for the Nexus One, but the Incredible came out first, has a better camera and a better screen (no multi-touch issues like the N1). So, April 29th arrived and I called the Verizon store where I live and asked that they reserve one for me. I didn’t care that I still had about 6 months until my “New every two”. Shelling out a little extra to get rid of my Samsung Omnia i910 was well worth it. That phone was driving me nuts!

OK, so on to the Incredible. I really liked the responsiveness of the touch screen. Swiping through the home screens and using the “Leap” view made me a little giddy. Getting email setup was easy. Customizing the home screens was also easy and there are plenty of widgets to keep anyone busy. It’s nice that there are several customized Scenes that you can choose from. And, once you get a layout setup that you like you can save it. With so much to customize, I still haven’t figured out what I like best.

Below is my two cents on the HTC Incredible based on a few weeks of use. I won’t go over FriendStream or how the HTC Sense UI tries to integrate all of your contact info, because that’s discussed all over the Internet. I actually like it, others don’t. Although, there’s no way to turn it off on the HTC Droid Incredible.

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