CategoryReviews

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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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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New 32 GB iPod Touch

I’ve had the desire to get an iPhone since I first saw one, but I tried AT&T once and their service was terrible. Since the iPhone first came out there have been a lot of cool improvements and it’s nice to see that Apple appears to listen to it’s consumers (unlike some other companies out there <cough>Microsoft<cough> ;-)). So, with that said and the release of the new iPods, I finally figured I’d try to satisfy my iPhone cravings somewhat by getting a new iPod touch. So far it has done little to satisfy my cravings and has only increased my desire to own an iPhone. The new iPod Touch rocks!!!

Currently I have a Samsung Omnia on Verizon’s network. It’s the fourth Windows Mobile phone I’ve owned and the best of the lot. I have WisBar Advance Desktop (WAD) installed (and a lot of other stuff ) to allow me to customize it so that it’s a little more usable. I really like WAD and I think it does a lot to make the phone more usable. However, even with WAD it’s still somewhat clunky and not very finger friendly. Then along comes Apple.

I don’t remember my first encounter with an iPhone, but my brother got one and I remember playing with it and thought it was pretty cool. I wasn’t sure about the on screen keyboard though. I then had to configure a bunch of them for work and got to play around with them more and really started to like them (especially compared with Blackberries, which are an enterprise nightmare if you ask me). Then along came the iPod Touch. I’ve spent some time on those as well and as I mentioned above I finally broke down and bought one. I’m not disappointed one bit. As a matter of fact, I’ve fallen even more in love with it. Apple just seems to have gotten it “right” (notice I didn’t say perfect 😉 …yet).

One thing that I like a lot more is the capacitive touch screen, as compared to the resistive touch screens on my Windows Mobile phones. Sure it take a little getting used to at first (it’s rather sensitive) but I think it’s much more responsive and works more often. I can type a lot faster on the keyboard of my iPod Touch than I can on my Omnia. I think this has to do with screen size (the Omnia has a really cramped on screen keyboard) and the difference in touch screen technology. Some things that I think are leaps and bounds better on the iPod Touch (and the iPhone) are:

  • Email
  • Web Browsing
  • Picture Browsing
  • Apps

Email looks like it should when you view it. No more text only emails that are hard to read with pictures as attachments. HTML emails render the way they should and it’s wonderful.

Web Browsing is sooooo much better. I thought Opera Mobile on the Omnia was a huge improvement over IE, but Safari on the iPod/iPhone is much, much better. Pages render quicker and more accurately. You can navigate around the page and zoom in and out much better. It’s a night and day difference.

Picture browsing is much faster and more responsive. It just works.

And then there are the Apps. Windows has stuff out there, but you really have to dig. The App store is hands down one of the most alluring things about the iPod/iPhone. There are thousands of Apps available that allow you to do pretty much whatever you want. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for and you’re up for it they have an awesome SDK so you can develop your own App. I admit that I haven’t used the SDK, but I would like to play around with it. I have downloaded the iPhone Application Programming series from iTunes U and will be listening to them on the train on my way to and from work. And that’s another cool thing about Apple, iTunes U. Sure, there’s a lot of that out there that you don’t need Apple for, but one of the things that I think Apple does a really good job of is bringing content to the user. They have centralized a lot in one place with the App store and iTunes so that it’s easy to get what you’re looking for. Windows Mobile has nothing that even comes close.

So, there you have it. I’m sold on why people love the iPhone and iPod Touch so much. It just works and works well. I’ve only had mine for four days and I’m sure there’s a lot more that I have yet to discover. Have I been converted into an Apple fan boy? Only time will tell. 😉 Oh, and just for the record, I’m no Windows fan boy either. 🙂

Fun with VMware vSphere

So lately at work I’ve been tasked with implementing our new VMware vSphere virtualization infrastructure. We’ve been looking forward to getting into the virtualization space for some time now and we were really happy that the decision was made to go with VMware. Not only did we get the software, but I got the hardware that I thought would be necessary to get us started. We ended up purchasing 3 IBM x3650 M2 servers with dual Xeon 5560 procs and 32GB of RAM. Although, I think I short changed the server when it comes to RAM so future servers will have at least 64GB of RAM. The one downside to all of this was that we were hoping to get a NetApp SAN but ended up with a Hitachi USPV, AMS 2500 and ENAS Gateway.

Anyway, the last month or so has been spent downloading and printing out white papers and docs on VMware and NetBackup as I have tried to familiarize myself with everything and how it works. I’ve also had fun setting up VMware’s vCenter Server and playing with clustering, HA and Fault Tolerance. I did run into a couple problems at first with the UEFI of the x3650 M2’s and ESX (see http://communities.vmware.com/thread/213931?start=0&tstart=0 and comments by MCJJJJ). But, after doing research I decided to go with ESXi because it appears that VMware is moving forward with that rather than ESX (see ESXi Chronicles). Nothing major to really hold us up though.

In my testing I’ve been impressed with the functionality and resilience of this product. One of my tests involved running the vCenter Server in a VM and powering off the host that it was running on. A couple minutes later it came back up on the other host in the cluster and chugged right along. Similar tests with VMs were just as successful. It’s nice to run tests and actually have them work as advertised. 🙂 Also, having them clustered makes it really easy to update the hosts for whatever reason.

Fault Tolerance is another cool feature but at this point we really don’t have anything that merits the resource overhead associated with running it or that needs that kind of reliability.

Then there’s the backup solution. We weren’t really sure what to do there but since we already have NetBackup deployed, setting up a VCB (VMware Consolidated Backup) proxy seemed like the best solution for now. More docs and reading for that one. 🙂

Finally I got everything setup and it appears to be working. I am having some problems with the backups though, but this mainly appears to be with snapshotting SQL servers. One is on Windows 2000 Server and the other is on Windows Server 2003. I’m looking into it now but I think it’s because it’s not quiescing the server correctly before it takes a snapshot. I know the best way would probably be to put an agent on the actual guest but that costs more money and since the data is actually getting backed up to disk on that server through SQL jobs I think we’re fairly safe for now…I hope. Like I said, I’m still looking into this. However, as far as backups of the other servers go, it’s working great. I love how much faster it is and that we have the ability to restore individual files from the snapshot if we need to.

Overall, I’m really satisfied with the product and what it does.  It hasn’t been a real pain to get setup either (unlike some of the Microsoft stuff I’ve worked with). It works, and that’s nice.

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