Archive for the_time('F Y')
Nightly builds – see the future
20 February 2008 in Apple & Mindscape & Tools | Comments (1)
Most people that know me are aware that I like to play with new tech. Being that I’m more of a software guy than a hardware guy this usually means the newest versions of tools, frameworks and applications. This is somewhat of a two way street – sometimes you get cool stuff early, sometimes you get buggy crap
I’ve been tinkering with FireFox 3 for about 3 months and had gone back to using FireFox 2 for the time being as there were one or two annoying bugs that prevented me working at a good speed. Recently however I gave FireFox 3.0 another crack on OS X and WOW, it is a million times better than FireFox 2.0. The native theme and widgets are just fantastic and the feel is much more slick all round.
I’d also read that WebKit (the rendering engine behind Safari) is blazingly fast vs. everything else at the moment but you need to use a nightly build. A nightly build is what it sounds like – a build of the software generated on a daily basis from the latest version of the source. It’s usually cutting edge, not guaranteed to work and often buggy. The upside is that you get early access, can help by submitting bug reports and also get to test your software against the newest builds (Xero, take note, FireFox 3.0 beta 3 does not love you very much!)
Tools for nightly builds
It can be useful to automatically update to the latest nightly and on the Mac there is a cool set of tools you can grab here that allow you automate this process for WebKit & FireFox (and several other tools I believe) which is super handy. It can even provide the changelog, maintain a copy of the old version in case the new one is borked and do all sorts of fancy things. Very nice.
We do nightlies too
Since very early on we have provided nightly builds off all our software at Mindscape. This is important because, as stated earlier, it allows people to test against new features, get access to new features we may be working on etc. We’ve enhanced this process for our customers by allowing them to access nightly builds based on what they own. That means that people who have bought the Enterprise edition for example will get the source code with their nightly build. This is something that many other vendors do not provide.
Sexy stats – heatmaps for everyone
19 February 2008 in Mindscape & Tools | Comments (0)
In the last six months we have been carefully monitoring the statistics for our website and have been using a mixture of Google Analytics & AWStats. Those two provide a reasonable amount of what I would consider “core” statistics and if you invest more time with Google Analytics you can get some seriously cool statistics about conversion rates for advertising campaigns (such as how many people click through, how many sign up to emails, how many download a trial etc). However I’ve always been wanting to try something like crazyegg to get some heat map statistics. Recently Sam from YouTXT pointed me in the direction of ClickHeat.
What’s a heat map?
A heat map is a graphical representation of where people actually click on a page and looks very similar to weather maps that you sometimes see showing rainfall (red means more, blue means less, transparent means none). This can be useful for identifying where people click on your page and highlights what is important on certain pages.
Here is a screenshot of a forum page from the Mindscape site:
What sort of things can you learn? Well, from my experience, I’ve learnt the following:
- Anywhere that you write “free” tends to attract clicks. I don’t have that currently hyperlinked to a download page so I should change that to increase conversions
- Continuing the trend of the previous information, I have found several areas where people click expecting a link but where we do not currently have links – time to update those locations
- Our services page does not have many links and yet people seem to click a lot on one or two of the technologies that we specialise in and can provide great services for. For example, Windows Server 2008 is attracting a lot of coverage at the moment with Jeremy doing the Microsoft road trip promoting Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008
That’s just a taste of some of the things we’re learning – there is a lot of data in there. Some of the more simple stats (e.g. most people visit our blog from the services page) could be calculated from existing web stats but it would more challenging to extract that information. Higher fidelity representation of information is a key to to improving information consumptionand this tool certainly highlights that.
How can you use it?
You could either use CrazyEgg or you can install and setup your own free version of ClickHeat, an open source alternative. If you would prefer to have some professional help in setting up this sort of system then you’re more than welcome to get in touch with me and Mindscape can help you out.
Mindscape – 1 year in
18 February 2008 in Business & Mindscape | Comments (2)
It’s hard to believe that Mindscape has been trading for a year today! It feels like just yesterday we were setting up the office, stocking the fridge with coke and ordering chairs (which incidentally arrived about a week after the desks!). I thought I’d make a post about my views on the year that has passed.
Rod recently mentioned that he was pleased to see Xero generating export income in the first 12 months and I’m pleased to say that we also managed to make export income quickly as well (around the six month mark). It’s great to know that you’re helping the wider economy by bringing more money in.
We launched two products to market, LightSpeed and the WPF PropertyGrid. LightSpeed has had two subsequent releases and is at version 1.2. We’ve received a heap of positive feedback from users who are super impressed with the performance and ease of use. The buzz that you get from building, shipping and then getting positive feedback is second to none!
We grew our team, Ivan Towlson came on board and has added significantly to our ability to develop new products – his contributions have been impressive.The Summer of Code came along so we took the opportunity to have a student work with us for the summer. Mat has been working on various research pieces for us.
Of course we haven’t done this all alone. We knew right off that bat that we needed to surround ourselves with fantastic advisers and supporters. I’d like to comment on two of them in particular:
Rowan has been an adviser to us for about six months and has provided a lot of great advice that has helped up grow and evolve. It’s certainly hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re working in a business and Rowan often provides the 10,000 foot view that helps clarify situations. The thing that stuck me early on is just how passionate Rowan is about business and technology – the amount of time he invests in learning about anything relating to these areas is impressive and that knowledge had helped us immensely.
James was at Bell Gully when we were looking for our first office space. Things tend to move pretty quickly when you find a place you like so we called up BG and got put through to James who invited us in to have a chat. We covered off on what we had to do and he was very professional. We have since built a fantastic relationship with James – he’s honest, friendly and always has time for us despite our size compared to the organisations he normally deals with. James has since moved from BG to Kensington Swan and while he specialises in property, I would recommend him to anybody in business.
There are, of course, many other people who have helped us get to the end of year 1, too many to list.
Year 1 is down, now it’s time to tackle year 2!
We shipped LightSpeed 1.2
6 February 2008 in .Net & Mindscape | Comments (0)
Earlier this week Mindscape shipped version 1.2 of LightSpeed, our domain modeling and O/R Mapper. I always love the feeling of making a new release, the feedback and knowing that people are able to work more efficiently because of it is great.
This is a significant release and so far all feedback has been really positive about the changes:
- More elegant property code to reduce the code you have to write
- More lazy-load options
- Finer grained mapping options for those who want it
- Debug visualizer to see what SQL a LightSpeed query object will generate right in the IDE
- Many more small feature additions – see here for more
You can find out more, including some of the features we’re thinking about adding for LightSpeed 2.0 in the official blog post. We’re also asking for feedback about what developers would like to see in LightSpeed? If you’re not using it, what is stopping you from using it today? Leave a comment
The rise of WPF vs. Winforms
6 February 2008 in .Net | Comments (7)
WPF has been around for a couple of years now and it’s great to see that it is starting to get some solid traction in the market. Obviously we believe this however it’s always useful to use a tool like Google Trends to identify where things are heading.
Here’s a graph of WPF vs. Windows Forms vs. Winforms
Some thoughts and notes:
- WPF is likely bolstered somewhat by Silverlight as it used to be called WPF/e
- It is interesting to see the general slow decline of winforms over the years. I believe this is because web development has grown more popular for replacing client applications
- I can’t think of a nice term to measure the rise web development in a pure developer sense.
- WPF will continue to take market share from winforms as end user machines become more powerful and capable of running some of the awesome effects of WPF more smoothly
- Microsoft seems to generate most queries for almost any technology they have created (or at least lots of people in Redmond, Washington are interested )
- India was generating, by far, most of the real queries, a real sign of just how large the outsourcing machine is over there.
- Web frameworks are considerably larger, even SilverLight at this stage is about two times as popular as a search query than WPF
On a personal note
5 February 2008 in Blogging | Comments (4)
Lately I’ve been asked by several people why I don’t write anything that is all that personal on my blog. Truth is, I used to, however that didn’t result in much traffic and it became boring to me very quickly – I don’t know what that says about my own life
While I’m planning on sticking with technology related posts for the time being I thought I’d share some statistics for my blog which is at least somewhat personal to me since I don’t publish any figures normally.
While not strictly technology related I decided to check my blog stats this morning, I’ve been surprised to see that my traffic has been growing despite the low number of posts I’ve been making lately. For the month of January this blog served more than 60,000 page views which is quite pleasing. I can’t help but wonder where it would have been if my posting rate hadn’t dropped off for the second half of 2007.
A considerable amount of traffic comes from Google; I get a heap of traffic from people searching for details about Windows Vista memory usage and many about my previous employer, Intergen.
Now I’m thinking more about what I should focus on posting about in the coming months. Is technology posting interesting to you? Would you prefer some other topics? More business or Mindscape related posts? You tell me, it only takes a moment to comment and your feedback is appreciated.