If It’s Part Of a Series, Tell Me!

I went to my local Barnes & Noble yesterday to pick up book 18 of the¬†Aubrey‚ÄďMaturin series, The Yellow Admiral. While there, I looked around just to see what else was available. I’m a sucker for great cover artwork and have bought many books based on my initial reaction of seeing the cover. And I’ve also gotten burned doing that. It happened with Every Which Way But Dead, which turned out to be the third book of a series. I went back and bought the first book, but didn’t like it, never tried the second one, and thus ended up with a pristine copy of book 3, that I’ll never use.

It happened again yesterday. I saw an excellent cover on¬†Endgame¬†by¬†Kristine Smith, so I picked it up. I read the back cover and it sounded interesting. So I bought it. Later in the day, I looked it up on Amazon, just to see what people were saying about it. That’s when I found out that it’s actually the fifth book in a series. I picked the book up and read every single word on both covers and the spine and there is absolutely no indication that this book is part of a series. I’ve still got the receipt, so I’m going to take the book back and see if I can swap it for something else. There’s a chance¬†I might swap it for the first book in the series, but more than likely I’ll go for the 19th Aubrey-Maturin book.

Note to publishers: I don’t like feeling tricked. I don’t know if this was an oversight or an attempt at deception, but it’s certainly cost you this sale, and it may have soured me against the entire series. Be honest with book buyers about when a book is part of a series. You know if it’s part of a series or not, so how about let us know before we buy. You’ll get more sales in the end.

Strange Seg Fault In Simple Cocoa App

I just got Aaron Hillegass’ 3rd edition of Cocoa(R) Programming for Mac(R) OS X (3rd Edition)¬†and am working through it as if I never went through the 2nd edition. (It’s been so long since I did any Cocoa, that seemed like the smart thing to do.) Anyway, I’m in Chapter 4 on memory management and things were going fine. Until all of a sudden, the program started dying with a segmentation fault. After trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, I figured I’d mistyped something and just wasn’t seeing it, so I reverted my changes back to what I had in my Subversion repo. I then started making the changes again. And again the program died with a segfault.¬†

Any time I’m working through a programming book, I always type all the examples in by hand, rather than downloading pre-written code. I learn better that way. But in cases like this, I don’t have a problem with looking at the author-provided code to see where I went wrong. I downloaded the solutions from Aaron’s site and started comparing. I found the problem pretty quickly.

Originally, the code for creating the NSCalendarDate object for today’s date was

NSCalendarDate *now = [[NSCalendarDate alloc] init];

which, when you later add the code to release it, would have worked fine. But at some point between when I wrote that line of code and when I added the release, Aaron mentioned a convenience method on NSCalendarDate for getting back an autoreleased date object. That code looks like this

NSCalendarDate *now = [NSCalendarDate calendarDate];

I had changed my code to use that instead of the original version. That was in Chapter 3. So, when I hit Chapter 4 and added the call to release the date object, I ended up with my segfault. The chapter assumed that you still had the alloc & init calls, and so made no mention of the calamity that would ensue if you had switched to the other way of getting today’s date.

What made this difficult to find was when the segfault occurred. It didn’t happen when I called release on the date object. It happened on this line

[pool drain];

which is one line before the program ends. That’s boilerplate code there, so it was really strange that it was barfing.¬†The reason this caused the problem is that this way of getting a date is autoreleased, which means that unless I retain it somewhere, it’s going to get deallocated when the NSAutoReleasePool is deallocated. But when I called release on it, I ended up setting it’s retain count to 0, so when the pool was drained, it ended up sending a release message to an object that had already been deallocated, which is a no-no.

Bottom line is that had this been a big program, this could have been really hard to track down. Of course, turning on the Objective-C 2.0 garbage collector would have solved the problem too, but then you have a Leopard-only program.

A Few Things I Hate About iPhone OS 2.0

I love the new iPhone 2.0 OS, mostly, though I really think they should have let it bake for another couple of months before releasing it. There are parts of it that just don’t feel fully cooked.¬†For instance, one application dying should not cause the entire phone to reboot. That doesn’t happen in OSX, nor does it happen in Linux. It does happen in Windows, but that’s another story. It’s happened to me at least six times with different apps, and that’s just not cool.

Next, it’s really difficult to actually delete an application from the phone. I’ve figured it out, but here’s what I went through. The first time, I deleted it from the Applications panel of iTunes and said “yes” when it said that they would be removed from the phone the next time I did a sync. Perfect. Except it wasn’t. The next time I did a sync, I got a dialog saying that there was purchased content detected on the phone and did I want to transfer it. A parenthetical note advised that failure to do so would result in the content being removed from the phone. I answered “transfer” because I wasn’t sure if I’d installed anything directly to the phone or not. Of course, the only content that was on the phone that wasn’t in iTunes was the apps I’d just deleted. Actually, the very first time I tried to delete apps this way, I didn’t get the “purchased content on phone” message, because I’d seen it once before and had checked “always transfer” as the default. That means that it would be impossible to ever remove apps this way, since iTunes would always transfer them from the phone back into iTunes.

So then I tried deleting the apps from the phone itself. I pressed the icon and held it down until the screen went “wiggly” and then pressed the ‘X’ on the icons I wanted to delete. They got removed just fine. Until I did a sync with iTunes again, at which time they were dutifully reinstalled.

What this means is that there is only one surefire way to delete apps: delete them from both¬†the iPhone and iTunes before doing a sync. You could just delete them from iTunes and then answer “don’t transfer” from that dialog the next time you sync, but you have to make certain that the only “new” content on the phone is the deleted apps, and not something that you want to hold on to. Good luck with that.

Finally, I hate the fact that every time I do a sync, iTunes will gladly spend 20 minutes backing up the iPhone. It apparently goes brute force and just backs up everything on the phone, whether it needs to or not. Some of the installed apps, like Apple’s Texas Hold’Em, have tons of images and audio files, which take forever to backup. And once those files have been backed up, there’s no reason¬†to ever back them up again; they won’t ever change! A little checksumming of files could go a long way towards solving this.

I still love my iPhone and the ability to install apps on it is awesome. I’ve paid my $99 to Apple to get into the developer program, and as soon as I come up with something decent that needs writing, I’m going to write it. So even though this post contained the word “hate,” I still love you, iPhone. XX OO XX

A day or so ago Apple began seeding iPhone OS 2.0.1 to developers, so I’m hoping that goes GA quickly and that it addresses some of these problems. Just like Leopard had problems at launch and a relatively quick point release solved them, that’s what I’m hoping for with the iPhone.

07-26-2008 16:20 Update: When I sat down to write this post, it was originally “Three Things I hate…” but at the end, I’d really only included two. So I changed the name. But a little while ago, I remembered the third thing, and that’s when you update apps with new versions, they don’t stay where I had them. For example, just this morning, UrbanSpoon had an update and when it was updated, it moved from page 2 to page 5. That’s very uncool, too.

Dr. Horrible, Act III

I just finished watching Act III of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog and it was very powerful. The end was not what I was expecting, I can tell you that. I don’t want to spoil anything, but don’t look for the clich√©; it’s not there. The writing and acting in this short were both top-notch. As I said before, I really wish it weren’t just a three-part special. I’d like to see more episodes.

They should also make the soundtrack available as a download from iTunes. There was some good music in there.

Two New Monitors For Me! W00T!

I just bought two, count ’em, two new 22″¬†Samsung 2232BW+¬†LCD monitors for my office. That’s them in the photo below. I am replacing two 21″ CRT’s that weigh about 100 pounds each; one was a Sony and the other was a Nokia. They were both good, but they were starting to get old, they took up way too much space on my desk, and they generated enough heat to keep a small family warm in the winter. Needless to say, they kept my office extremely hot in the summer, no matter how many fans I kept running. Hopefully these new monitors will not give off so much heat, and my office will stay at a reasonable temperature.

“Prize Notification” From “Microsoft”

I just checked my email and found this oh-so-exciting email from MICROSOFT EMAIL PROMOTIONS:

MICROSOFT EMAIL PROMO:OFFICIAL PRIZE NOTIFICATION

The MICROSOFT EMAIL PROMO TEAM is glad to announce that after a successful completion of the PROMO DRAWS on the 17th July 2008, your e-mail address,attached to winning numbers:(55) (73) (14) (41) (36) (29) won in the Tenth lottery category.

You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of £150,000,00(One Hundred and Fifty Thousand British Pounds Sterling) in cash credited to file REF NO:MSW-L/008-28793, BATCH NO:2008MJL-05, this is from a total prize money of £3,750,000 (Three Million,Seven hundred and Fifty Thousand British Pounds Sterling),shared among the Twenty five (25) international
winners in this category.

All participants were selected through our Microsoft computer¬†ballot system drawn form 167,000 Names,as part of our¬†International “E-MAIL” Promotion Program for our prominent MS-WORD users all over the world and for the continuous use of the¬†internet. You are adviced to contact the claims processor with¬†the details below via his e-mail address :

NAME:  Marvin Cunningham
EMAIL: mrmarvcunn@yahoo.com.hk
TEL:   +44 703 5902789

PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU ARE TO SEND THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION TO CLAIM  YOUR WINNINGS:

1.Full Name………………………………
2.Address:………………………………
3.Phone:……………Fax:……………….
4.Country:………………………………
5.Sex/Gender……………………………..

In order to avoid unnecessary delay and complications,please remember to quote your reference and winning ticket number in all correspondence with  your claims officer.Your secret pin code is ML0757985.Be warned that cases of double claims and unwarranted abuse of this program  will be legally pursued.

YOURS FAITHFULLY,
MRS. MARTHA TAYLOR

There are so many spam dead giveaways in that email that I can hardly count them. There’s the all caps subject, the three different email addresses associated with the “prize,” the fact that the “prize” is to be awarded in pounds instead of dollars, the fact that the coordinator is using a Yahoo account from Hong Kong and the fact that there are numerous spelling errors that just scream “Nigerian scumbag.” I love that they have quotes around E-Mail, which makes me think of Dr. Evil saying “laser” from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. I also love the fact that the prize is given to those in “our prominent MS-WORD users all over the world and for the continuous use of the¬†internet.” Riiiiight. I’m a “prominent” user of Word and the intertubes, so now I’m eligible. Suuuuure…

Yeah, I’ll be responding to this one.