Category Archives: IT

How to run Minecraft on a mainframe and other cool things

Here are two interesting pieces of innovative things people have done with Minecraft. The first one, New Minecraft Mod Teaches You Code as You Play, is a novel way to learn how to code. If you have a young one who loves Minecraft and whom you want to learn how to code, this may be a good way to do this. The second one is an amazing story found on Reddit: My experiences with running a Minecraft Server on an IBM Mainframe.

I was amazed he managed to get it to run, albeit slowly. Needless to say, a Mainframe is not an ideal platform for this software. Still, that he did get it to run is a testament to his ingenuity and also the flexibility of Minecraft and the IBM Mainframe.

Pebble and their smart watches are not going away yet

After the Apple Watch came out, I wondered how this would affect Pebble, the company. Turns out, instead of folding, they have plans to evolve and grow. For evidence of this, check out their latest watch (in the photo, as well as here: Pebble Smartwatch | Smartwatch for iPhone & Android). They seem to be aiming to finding a market for those wanting some of the features of the Apple Watch without all the functionality (or cost).

With the watch above, you can see them adopting higher end materials and also getting thinner (and round). It is more expensive than the original Pebble, but likely better quality. And still much cheaper than Apple Watch.

I have a Pebble and I really like it. It does what I want, which is send me notifications without having to get out my phone, which is great in meetings, at events, or driving (carefully). And you can even easily write code for it. Finally, it is a great watch that needs to be rarely charged.

Needless to say, the Apple Watch is a great product. Depending on your needs, it could be a better choice than the Pebble. But the Pebble is a good product too, and I think there is a place in the market for a range of watch makers. Get one that suits your needs. With the Pebble, now you have more choice.

Some thoughts on recently teaching myself Python

I have jumped on the Python bandwagon lately. I did because I was finding that more and more of the examples provided for integrating with APIs and for working with new technologies were often in Python. So I decided, why not? At first I tried teaching myself by way of various web sites, but I didn’t find this a satisfactory way to ramp up my skills as well as I wanted. It wasn’t until I came across this book in my local bookstore, Python in 24 Hours by Katie Cunningham and started learning from it did I find my skills increased at the level I wanted. By the time I was through it, I found I was writing good (not great) Python code at the level I was happy with. Furthermore, I felt I had a pretty good handle on the language, its features, and what it can do.

I highly recommend this book, and Python too. If you are new to programming, or are thinking of picking up a new language, read this piece: Why Python Makes A Great First Programming Language – ReadWrite.

On rose gold, white gold, and gold generally

There was a lot of scoffing when Apple recently released this

and claimed the colour was rose gold. It’s pink, was the common reply.  But as this piece shows ( The Semiotics of “Rose Gold” – The New Yorker), rose gold is a specific material. It refers to an alloy of gold to which copper has been added. For that matter, white gold, which is an alloy with nickel or manganese, is also a specific material. Jewelers know this, of course, and Apple is smart to associate with the metal (gold) vs the colour.

The New Yorker piece is fascinating. Worth reading, especially if you are skeptical about the colour.


Where Twitter the company may be going

This piece: Startups and Shit, Twitter’s Product is F—– Fine by @startupljackson on Twitter, is the best analysis I have seen of what twitter can and should be doing over the next time.

Read the piece, but in a nutshell, Twitter should not look to grow Twitter the Service so much as Twitter the company, that company being a collection of services, from Twitter to Vine to Periscope to…well, we will see. The Twitter service itself provides a foundation for the company to grow on. Over time, if Twitter the service shrinks, Twitter the company could still grow based on the other services.

Smart take on the company.

What programming language should you learn? (2015 edition)

It depends on a number of factors, but if you want to decide solely on popularity, then you need to see this: The Most Popular Programming Languages of 2015 | ProgrammableWeb.


At the top you have some consistency, with Java at the top, and C, C++ and C# in the top five. Python, a language that I am becoming fond of and using to replace Perl, is up there at #4.

Following that are what you’d expect: PHP, Ruby, and Javascript, as well as some data oriented languages.

What is interesting, and not shown, are new and up and coming languages, such as Swift. I expect that to inch into the top 10 in the next few years.

If you want to focus on learning a programming language, and you have no other criteria, pick something from this list.

Sadly, this one trick will allow you to connect iTunes when you are on Windows and suffering from connectivity problems

If you are trying to use iTunes on Windows and you can’t, you may have to disable your firewall. Seriously! I tried a number of things, and I finally came across this, Resolve issues between iTunes and third-party security software – Apple Support, as well as some other sites, and once I did that, I was able to get it to work.

If you are unhappy with that, your next best option is to methodically follow this and poke enough holes in your firewall to work. That’s the safer route, by far.