ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Modest Windows 8 Wish: System-wide Spellchecker

8/18/2011 4:12:10 PM

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The BUILD conference is coming and lots of cool new revolutionary things about Windows 8 will be unveiled. I, on the other hand, want to ask for a simple mundane change from Windows 7 and earlier versions – move the damn spellchecker from Office [team] to core Windows [team]!

I write in 3 languages on a daily basis – English, Lithuanian and Russian. I have spellchecking for all 3 of them in Office apps.

I only have an English spellchecker in Windows Live Writer. That’s why there are a lot of stylistic mistakes in my blog posts, but not many spelling mistakes ;). But if I blog (say) in Russian, I don’t have a luxury of my PC looking out for me. So I have to either not suck at spelling (impossible when the last time I had to spell correctly in Russian was 18 years ago) or simply subject my readers to crappy texts riddled with spelling mistakes.

What’s worse is that in Internet Explorer 9 there’s no spellchecking at all. I know that there are 3rd party spellchecking add-ons, but they made the browser unstable in some circumstances. I honestly tried to use IE9 as my primary browser for a month or two but eventually gave up. There are other reasons why I use Chrome and not IE9, but absence of spellchecker is definitely my number 1 issue with IE.

The fact that all of the above mentioned products are made by Microsoft and that I have spellcheckers for all 3 languages installed on my machine is ridiculous. There’s no excuse for this except for some organizational issues inside Microsoft and I shouldn’t be exposed to them as a user.

I’m totally looking forward to all the cool things in Windows 8, but, please Microsoft, end this idiocy with spellchecking. There’s no excuse for not having a system-wide spellchecking engine with an API for 3rd party apps in 2012.

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Don’t Automate Technical Administrivia in a Startup

8/12/2011 2:22:50 PM

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Photo by Chris Stickley

Yesterday I’ve spent 6 hours semi-automating a technical administrivia task on AdDuplex.

Up until now I did log archiving and truncating manually, along with some other things. I did it once in 2 weeks at first, then once a week and lately 2 times a week. Each time it took about 10 minutes of attention (netto). It actually takes about half an hour but most of that time I can do other things while different processes are in progress.

Whenever I told that I did this manually to a corporate alpha-geek developer or admin they frowned. As a self-respecting developer you are supposed to automate these things. I always responded like “it’s on my to-do list but with a relatively low priority”, but I always felt like I’m hiding my laziness under this “low priority” mask.

Some time ago I’ve read a book by Rob Walling titled “Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup”. Here is a brilliant quote from it:

Every hour spent writing code is wasted time if that code could be replaced by a human being doing the same task until your product proves itself

This brings perfect sense to what I’ve been masquerading as “low priority” task. And I disregarded this advice yesterday.

I’ve spent 6 hours working on something that took me 20 minutes a week to do manually. This means that my “investment” will only payoff in 4+ months and there’s no guarantee that in 2-3 months I won’t rewrite some parts of the system in a way that will render this automation code obsolete.

I’ve effectively borrowed time from my own business and didn’t add any value to users in the process. I could’ve worked on something that is useful, but I behaved like a disgusted “self-respecting” developer, not like a businessman. And now I’m writing this down, so I don’t behave the same way again.

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Klok - Personal Time Tracking Made Easy

6/24/2008 2:43:50 PM

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When I saw a post about Klok on DownloadSquad I immediately thought that the idea is brilliant. Now that I've used Klok for 2 days I can say that implementation is a little rough around the edges but definitely useable and the idea is really brilliant and not only on paper but in real life too.

So, what is Klok? In it's creator's Rob McKeown's words:

Klok is a tool intended to be used by individuals, like myself, who have a need to track the time they spend on projects, tasks or anything else for that matter.

There are many project/progress tracking solutions out there but for tasks when you work alone or you are not a project manager needing to track activity of multiple developers using something complex is an overkill. When I needed to track time spent on some project most of the time I've resorted to post-it's or spreadsheets and system clock but with Klok I can save trees and my own time. And, by the way, it can export your timesheet to Excel, too.

Basically you just have a small bar on your screen

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and select a project you are currently working on. And the stopwatch starts. When you are done with the project you switch to other project or just hit "stop". Projects can have sub-projects and sub-projects can have sub-sub-projects and so on. Then you can view your week in calendar-like fashion. Or look at your data on project basis. Or generate reports. Or export data to Excel.

Not everything is pink in Klok: I wish it was just a tray icon or Vista SideBar Gadget rather than bar shown above, I wish there were some configuration options (a week doesn't start on Sunday over here), the UI isn't perfectly smooth and for reasons unknown not all projects are shown in project dropdown all the time. But all these are minor issues which I believe will be addressed over time because overall this is a really nice add-on to my toolset.

You can find Klok at http://klok.mcgraphix.com/

P.S.: I was somewhat skeptical about all this Adobe AIR thing but now I'm already using 3 AIR apps on a regular basis: twhirl (which is probably one of the most beautiful and polished little apps I've seen), Pandora (well, it's actually a website shell but still) and now Klok.

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