This (‘/’) is a slash.  It is used to separate pieces of paths and filenames.  It is used by all the UNIX systems I am aware of, the Mac (that’s right, I said UNIX and the Mac separately, and I will continue to), and  URLs around the world.  On a US QWERTY keyboard, it is on the same key as the ‘?’.  It is located in a convenient place so that a touch typist can sit down at virtually any keyboard type a filename and know where it is. a/b/c/d/e/file.c.  Wow, that’s easy.

This (‘\’) is a backslash.  It is used by Microsoft to separate pieces of paths and filenames.  It is used by Microsoft Windows.  On a US QWERTY keyboard, it is usually above the enter key, except in some cases where it is in the same place but ½ the size, or other cases where it is located at the bottom of the keyboard. a\b\c\d\e\file.c.  I can’t say that was exactly painful  but it wasn’t as easy.  It just wasn’t.  Also, this could just be me, it looks funny.

Sometimes when we start a project, we do something to differentiate ourselves from other similar projects that came first.  Sometimes these things don’t serve much purpose except to say “See?  I’m not doing what you did, I’m doing something different”.  It could be that’s how the backslash came about.

Regardless of why it’s here with us, it is time for it to be put to rest.  Support both for a few versions if it makes you comfortable.  Or just make a clean break.  I’m OK with either one.

Next time on “Dan Rants About Things That Don’t Make Much Sense to Him”, I’ll cover the Mac using the Control+Click as a Right Button Click even though two button mice have been widely available since Nirvana was a garage band.  I’ll cover drive letters in an upcoming episode but I just exposed the uselessness and confusion of the backslash and I don’t want to stick it to one company twice in a row.  Plus we don’t have to do it all at once.  c:/a/b/d/e/file.c.  I can live with that.

Today’s tip, as most of these prime numbered tips, comes from something that was a default years ago that I stuck with.

Put your build output in an edit window.

Most programmer’s editors or IDE’s relegate the output from a build to some sort of tool window that is typically in a tab group docked a the bottom.  This is how SlickEdit works by default, because it is what is expected today.  Sometimes you have to jump off the bridge because all of your competitors did.  But that doesn’t mean that is the most powerful way to work.

Try right clicking in the Build tab and selecting “Send Compile Output to Editor Window”.  This means the build window (what we call the the “concurrent process buffer” or simply “process buffer”) is in the ring of open files when you cycle through them using the next-buffer/prev-buffer commands, or pick one from the Files tool window.  This is actually very powerful.  At first it may seem that you can’t move freely, but you can.  The cursor-up key will cycle through the command history by default, but clicking the mouse or using a non-cursor key to move (page-up for example) will allow you to move freely through the output, or delete it by hand.  I find this much more useful than trying to view my output through a porthole.  Try it out and let me know what you think.  You can always turn this off by right clicking in the Build tab (or the process buffer) and turning off “Send Compile Output to Editor Window”.

Guys usually get the shorter end of the stick when it comes to Valentine’s Day gift-giving. The best we can usually hope for is to be allowed to sneak a couple chocolates from the heart shaped box we overpaid for. But if the Techo-Universe at large wanted to be my Valentine, here are some thoughtful, if not realistic gift suggestions.

  1. I would like Time Machine to not start up right away as soon as I log on. Please, please allow me to fire up Outlook, start a Terminal session, and fetch the latest from subversion before you start monopolizing the disk I/O.
  2. Non-silent ‘everything’s OK’ compile output. Some compilers and linkers do a decent job of this. Some report useful things like “All files up to date”. It’d be great if all command line tools did this.
  3. Some helpful hints when it’s time to create a new password. Every couple months I am forced to dream up a new password, something sufficiently secure but easy and fast to type. Perhaps an interface similar to Captcha prompts? Give me a couple suggestions that already meet the password complexity criteria.
  4. Rechargeable batteries for my Magic Mouse that actually hold a charge for more than 1 week.
  5. A release of Java that is free of Zero Day security flaws.
  6. Ditto for Flash…
  7. …and Internet Explorer
  8. An e-mail client feature that automatically truncates replies. All we really need are the most recent 3 or 4 responses of a long-running back-and-forth e-mail thread when composing yet another reply. I can’t remember if it was web-based gmail or the Mail app on my iPad that did this for me recently. I sure wish this was everywhere.
  9. Selective Bookmark Syncing. There are some links I’d like to have everywhere, and there are some links I have at the office that I’d like to show up on my home devices (and vice-versa). But it seems that most current implementations are an “all or nothing” affair.
  10. A Seat Belt detector for my phone. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten to the first traffic light on my way home and remembered that I’ve left my mobile phone in my front pants pocket. Perhaps a clever trick could be done with the accelerometer to detect the motion of getting into the driver’s seat.
  11. A big red reset button. When you’ve got a runaway process that’s hogging all your system resources, how do you stop it? Right, by invoking the Task Manager or Force Quit dialog, which itself requires resources. It’s a huge chicken/egg problem. In my grade school days there was this awesome red button on the TRS-80 (complete with ergonomic recessed finger tip dimple) that would reset the system. How about something similar that would would kill everything except kernel and OS processes?
  12. Stretchy Cables. Ok, so this one’s a little bit strange. But it sure would be convenient to be able to stretch a cable to exactly the length you need. Right now on my desk I have a headphone cable that is much longer than needed to reach from my speakers to my head and a power cable on my MacMini that is just a teensy bit too short for where I’d prefer to position it relative to my UPS. The only perfectly sized cable is the USB cord that reaches from my keyboard to the back of the computer.

Did I miss anything?

« Previous PageNext Page »