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September 19, 2013

A few new apps worth trying.

I'm excited but at the same time nervous to attend the upcoming Launch Code even that will take place Monday, September 23, here in St. Louis. I've had about a month to prepare and pretty much cram some new knowledge. But at the same time I feel like my head is going through brain drain. Perhaps I just need to drink more water.

At the same time I've managed to pick up a new programming language, Ruby, but something hasn't clicked in yet for me to check out Ruby on Rails. Probably because I just picked up Ruby about a few weeks ago. I must say I wish I had picked it up much sooner. Fortunately, Ruby is easy to learn. It reminds me a lot about JavaScript and, unlike Python, feels very fluid. If it were any more perfect, it would have the variable manipulations hacks that Bash has (i.e. using ${var^^} to upper-case the string values of variables) as part of Ruby's interpolation.

In fact, I hope to rewrite some of the Bash scripts I wrote this year into Ruby Script.

At any rate, let's move on to the next topic.

I've tried out a few new apps this month. One of the on Linux, a couple of them for Android.

First, let's start with the Linux application called UMLet which instantaneously become my favorite new UML diagram program. While Dia still captures the hearts and minds of most programmers with the fact that it has plenty of styles and templates to work with, the major turn offs it has is that UML diagrams are too large to print, the comments fields are practically hidden in the object forms, and the program has a tendency to up and die every once in a while. UMLet is much different. Although it is written in Java, has limited style capabilities, and doesn't show comments in UML diagrams like Dia does, the fact that you can whip up a UML diagram faster than what you can with Dia has my undivided praise. I was working on a UML diagram for most of the week in Dia. But UMLet let me compose the same diagram in a few hours.

One of my favorite parts about UMLet is that there is a Properties field where you type in the text representation of that UML field and it quickly composes it. It reminds me of what GhostScript or AutoCAD can do using the command prompts. I hope to share a diagram made with it very soon.

On-the-go programmers may want to check out Ruboto and QPython a try.

Ruboto is a framework and tool chain to develop native Android apps using Ruby. But don't let the description fool you. This is Ruby for Android! It comes with IRB, runs Ruby scripts and even has and editor to write Ruby scripts. Although it will not beat using VX ConnectBot and FoxFi to connect to your SSH server which, if you are lucky, has a full arsenal of tools at your disposal, it is definitely a good alternative for offline usage. Although it would be nice to store my scripts on Dropbox as a back up. Something to suggest to the developer.

The same can be said for QPython. What Ruboto does for Ruby, QPython does for Python. Again, no Internet connection required.

It's a shame nothing like these apps exist for Android for Haskell, Lisp (namely Common Lisp or Clojure), Tcl/Tk, GhostScript, or LaTeX. There are apps for Haskell and LaTeX but there's nothing as nice as what Ruboto and QPython can deliver.

I should also point out that Android devices still has the advantage of having an HDMI port. What looks like a mobile operating system on a smartphone blows up into a full operating system when you plug it into an HDMI interface. If only the accessories for Bluetooth peripherals were as dynamic, namely keyboards and mice. On the other hand, a good slider phone (i.e. Motorola Droid) is always good to have for the mobile programmer.

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