getting started with the Finch in NetBeans

This year the robotics team is using The Finch for teaching the new programmers about programming.  The robot is cute and I know I’d want to play with it so I bought one too.

While I like Eclipse better than NetBeans, the programming team uses NetBeans.  I decided to try out NetBeans with the Finch so I’m familiar with their platform/interface.  I’ll want it soon enough anyway to check out NetBeans projects from git.

Step 1 – Install NetBeans on the Mac

  1. Download NetBeans – the basic JSE edition
  2. Open dmg file which allows you to choose to run the installer.
  3. Choose defaults and install
  4. When first launch NetBeans asks if want to install JUnit.  (not clear on why JUnit doesn’t come with NetBeans – it comes with Eclipse)
Step 2 – Import Finch project
This one took me a few minutes.  You need to
  1. Download the NetBeans project
  2. Copy it to the NetBeans project directory which is /Users/me/NetBeansProjects on a mac
  3. In NetBeans, File > “open project” and then drill down to Finch.
Step 3 – Run a program
  1. Connect the Finch’s USB to your computer.  (The tutorial doesn’t say this, but it is implied.)
  2. Per the tutorial, choose Run > Run File.
  3. Enjoy the Finch.  It’s so cute!
Step 4 – Run a different programs
I very carefully misunderstood the instructions about not choosing Run > Run and did it anyway.  Luckily, you can choose Run > Run File and have it ignore your preset default.  Or you can completely unset it by editing the file FinchBeans/nbproject/ and removing the main class line.  Then I can remember to choose Run > Run File.

Google Abandons Maps for Adobe Flash/Air

On September 2, 2011, Google announced it was deprecating the Google Maps API and actively encouraging users to migrate to JavaScript Maps API v3. While abandoning support for the Flash API comes as a bit of a shock, it is not completely unexpected, as Google has not released an update for the API in the last year and support for issues related to the Adobe Air version had deteriorated. As a silver lining, Google’s depreciation policy indicates the product will continue to function for three years until September of 2014.

Disappointed with Adobe

As JavaScript has radically evolved over the last few years, it is understandable that Google wants to settle on a single, browser-independent platform for its Google Maps API. In fact, the more I ponder the loss of Google Maps on the Flash/Air platforms, the more I am disappointed with Adobe for the current Flash situation. Following the release of Flash Builder 4, Adobe decided to take Flex in a different direction, one I objected to in my review of Flash Builder 4, focusing more on wooing designers than developers with its new skinning interface. In fact, prior to Flash Builder 4, I encouraged Java developers to learn Flex given the similarities in syntax and the richer user interface than Swing/JavaFX. These days, I do not encourage anyone to learn Flex, as the current API is erratic and future of Flash/Air is unknown.

The Future(?) of Adobe Flash and Adobe Air

The loss of Google Maps for Flash/Air feels like another nail in the coffin for Adobe Flash. Flex developers may recall that Adobe launched Air more than three years ago as a stand-alone Flash application platform. Adobe Air provides a run-time environment, similar to the Java JRE, that offers developers a richer feature set and more customization than a standard web-based Flash application allows. Unfortunately, with the growing mobile market, Adobe has virtually abandoned all efforts to market the Adobe Air platform. In fact, I can count on one finger the number of individuals, myself included, who I know have the Adobe Air runtime installed.

Final Thoughts

The last few years has seen the rise of mobile platforms in a big way, so much so that proprietary web platforms like Flash, Silverlight, and others have fallen by the wayside. I think Adobe’s biggest mistake regarding Flash in the last few years was in not actively pushing Adobe Air as a general purpose platform. Despite adding a number of Flash-specific features in the latest CS5.5 release, Adobe has not done a lot to encourage developers to stick with the platform. The loss of Google Maps for Flash may be just one in a series of events that leads to the end of the Flash platform as we know it.

jeanne’s attempt at pomodoro

When I work at home on personal computer projects, I have one of two problems:

  1. getting distracted from my main task by other computer things or other items that need doing around the house
  2. getting so absorbed in my task that I forget to look away from the computer causing me to get a headache and need to stop
Neither of these is an issue at work and I can usually get a couple hours of personal project stuff done on a given weekend day before it becomes a big problem.  Which is all the time I usually have anyway.  One weekend was different.  I was technical proofreading a 300-400 page book (The Well Grounded Java Developer) and needed to get a lot done in a short time.  I blocked out my weekend to have 15-20 hours to do it.  Then all I needed was focus.
I’d read about Pomodoro and decided it to try it with this particular project.  (which is evidence of problem #1 – I was experimenting with Pomodoro when I should be reading.)
Installing software
First I installed the GNU pomodairo app.  Including the download of Adobe AIR itself, this took less than ten minutes.  I added my tasks and kicked it off.
How it went
The beginning two Pomodoros were the toughest.
  1. On the first one, I got water 2 minutes before the break. I needed to trust it and wait longer.  The sound was a bit jarring.  I only read 3 pages (and played with an example.)  Not much momentum yet.
  2. On the second one, I worked a whole pomodoro but only read one page (and fiddled with examples).  I did get in the zone although I could have stayed there longer.  I took a break anyway to avoid burnout.  I did successfully wait out the Pomodoro to check my e-mail (which I noticed because gmail automatically pulls mail and I needed to refer to one as part of my task).  I learned the tool shows your pomodoro as interrupted if you don’t click the right button at the end of a Pomodoro.
  3. On the third one I was starting to feel the flow.  That time I did get fully into what I was doing in 25 minutes and got two tiny chores done during the break.
  4. At this point, it started working.  I got absorbed during every Pomodoro.
My stats weren’t correct.  I lost two pomodoros on the second chapter I read. I think it was because I didn’t explicitly select the next task when I finished the first one.  But the stats didn’t matter.  What mattered is that I was able to get focus and momentum going.  And I didn’t have a headache at the end of the day.
I’m not sure if it was the Pomodoros themselves that helped me or the fact that I was doing something different so felt obligated to be responsible.  Hmm.  That sounds like a good question to post on  Did so here.