Category Archives: tech

My Sublime Text Setup

A couple of months ago I produced a video course for lynda.com about the Sublime Text programmer’s editor, “Up and Running with Sublime Text 2”—sample videos below! One of the best things about producing a course or writing a book is that you get to know your subject really well, so after a couple of friends asked me today what I recommend when setting up Sublime Text for the first time, I thought I’d write it up here.

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Fix “format not supported by the iPad” error on transferring iTunes movie rentals

For the past several months, I’ve had an ongoing issue with iTunes, where TV shows that I purchase from iTunes download, but then are unplayable with the error “This movie requires QuickTime, which is not supported by this version of iTunes.” Emails to iTunes support have not yielded any response, but I’ve found a work-around, which is to delete the episode from iTunes, tell iTunes to keep the file, and then add the file back into my iTunes library, after which it is playable.

screenshot of the error: “This film requires QuickTime, which is not supported by this version of iTunes.” Continue reading

Diet Coda for Modern Web Development

Following the announcement (and imminent release) of Diet Coda from Panic Software this week, I’ve heard some complaints that it has been designed for a workflow that no longer exists (or shouldn’t). “Edit files directly on my server? Who does that anymore!?” Setting aside the fact that there are probably plenty of web developers who still do exactly that, those who think Diet Coda unsuited to a more sophisticated workflow are, I think, simply lacking in imagination. Continue reading

Pre-order PHP & MySQL: Novice To Ninja, 5th Edition

phpmysql5-cover.jpg

At parties, one of the things I tell people I do for a living is write books that teach people how to build websites. It might be more accurate, however, to say I write a book: I’ve just written it five times! There’s a special place it my heart for collaborations like Simply JavaScript and Everything You Know About CSS Is Wrong!, but PHP & MySQL: Novice to Ninja (titled “Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL” in previous editions) will always be the one I made all by myself.

Approaching the 5th edition was honestly a little daunting; PHP and MySQL haven’t changed much in the three years since I wrote the 4th edition. Of course, the programming language that powers sites like Facebook hasn’t sat stagnant in that time. There are plenty of new frameworks, open source libraries, and development tools to keep an experienced PHP developer occupied, but the basics—the things you learn in a beginner’s book—haven’t changed much at all.

I had a mental of list things that needed to change—some pretty great ideas, actually. So great were they in fact, that when I sat down to start writing I discovered to my dismay that they were all the ideas I’d put into the 4th edition! No wonder I’d liked them so much.

For the first time in all my years writing and re-writing PHP & MySQL: Novice to Ninja, I found myself with the time to improve the book, and no obvious list of things that needed fixing. Apart from some minor updates to the installation instructions, there was nothing actually wrong with the 4th edition. But I’m not the kind of guy (and SitePoint isn’t the kind of publisher) to just bump all the version numbers, stamp a new edition number on the cover, and send it out the door.

What else could I do? I set about making the book even better. With each chapter, I took a step back and thought through the assumptions I’d made about what a beginner learning PHP and MySQL for the first time could do, and then I found a way to do more.

To give just one example, perhaps the core skill that you learn when reading the book is writing PHP code to display content stored in a MySQL database on a web page. PHP supports several ways of doing this, but the best way is to use PHP Data Objects (PDO), a new feature added in PHP 5.0. The thing is, to use PDO you need to understand the basics of object oriented programming, something that I’d always considered too complicated to cover in a beginner’s book; instead, I taught a simpler, more old-fashioned technique.

Instead of sidestepping this challenge, PHP & MySQL: Novice to Ninja, 5th Edition tackles it head on. It teaches the essential concepts of object oriented programming (not to mention exception handling!), then uses PDO like a grownup.

And that might be the best way to summarise the changes in this edition. Just as PHP and MySQL have grown from the young upstarts of the web development world into mature, stable platforms for billion-dollar businesses, this book that I’ve been writing again and again for over a decade has finally grown up.

It’s time to write PHP like the big kids do.

PHP & MySQL: Novice to Ninja is available for pre-order from SitePoint from $17. The digital version will be delivered May 1st, 2012.

My New Gig: CTO at Avalanche Technology Group

After ten years (!) at the SitePoint Group, I started a new job in January. For posterity, here’s the press release announcing my new gig as CTO of Avalanche Technology Group:

Avalanche Technology Group Creates CTO Role For Strategic Partnership Growth

Kevin Yank to provide technical oversight in expansion of subsidiary partnership opportunities at Avalanche, parent of AVG (AU/NZ), and internal technology development.

MELBOURNE 8 March 2012 – The Australian owned Avalanche Technology Group, that takes innovative technologies to market in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, has appointed Kevin Yank to the newly created position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
Avalanche’s continuing growth has necessitated a dedicated CTO role with both internal and external responsibilities for the Group which includes AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, the local regional distributor of the award-winning AVG Internet and mobile security software.

As CTO, Kevin Yank will be working with the executive team to identify and evaluate the technology and business opportunities for expanding the group of companies with proven partnerships such as that with AVG. His role is to provide technical perspective, guidance and oversight in that process. He has also taken ownership of all internal systems including the Group’s internally developed e-commerce / CRM / Reseller management system.

Over the past decade Yank has held CTO and other positions at online media company SitePoint and has built a strong reputation, especially in the web development and broader technical communities. He is also a highly regarded author and accomplished presenter. Yank holds a Bachelor of Engineering, Computer Engineering from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Kevin Yank said: “I was attracted to the potential in Avalanche’s thriving business and this demanding position where I can be pivotal in helping make the right technology choices from the exciting opportunities in front of us.”

Avalanche’s CEO Peter Cameron said: “The AVG (AU/NZ) subsidiary is a success story we’re looking to repeat. Kevin’s appointment, with his expertise and commitment, will ensure we have the right team to provide outstanding technology solutions for the Australian, New Zealand and regional marketplaces. We are delighted to have him join us.”

For the first time in a decade, I feel like I have everything to learn and more than a little to prove, which is both incredibly exciting and a wee bit scary. Thankfully, the team at Avalanche and AVG (AU/NZ) is a wonderful bunch of people; without exception, each person there is both a pleasure to work with, and a genuinely lovely human being.

2012 Apple iPad Event Predictions (Updated)

Like clockwork, Apple is hours away from announcing the third generation of its iPad device. I’m sure I won’t be the only Australia-based Apple watcher getting up at 5AM to take in the news.

Since people keep asking me what news I think Apple’s event will hold, and since I managed to predict Apple’s last announcement seven months in advance, I thought I might as well break the blogging ice with my predictions for today.

Here are my guesses:

  • iPad 2 will be discontinued
  • iPad 2S will be announced, featuring:
    • an upgraded A5X processor
    • an improved back facing camera on par with iPhone 4
    • available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB RAM configurations
    • 4G LTE networking (not on Wi-Fi models, of course)
    • slightly different shape to the body, but compatible with the current iPad 2 Smart Cover
    • available in Apple’s usual launch countries (including Australia) on March 16th
    • Priced from US$399 ($100 less than current iPad 2 models)
  • iPad HD will be announced, featuring:
    • the new A6 processor
    • 2048×1536 pixel Retina display
    • an improved back facing camera on par with iPhone 4S
    • available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB RAM configurations
    • 4G LTE networking (not on Wi-Fi models, of course)
    • slightly different shape to the body, but compatible with the current iPad 2 Smart Cover
    • available in Apple’s usual launch countries (including Australia) on March 16th
    • Priced from US$599 ($100 more than current iPad 2 models)
  • iPhoto for iPad, which will be able to receive photos from iPhone via Photo Stream and sync photo library events with iPhoto for Mac via iCloud for on-the-go photo processing and publishing.
  • An updated Apple TV capable of 1080p video output.
  • iOS 5.1 will be released next week, with many minor tweaks that we’ve been hearing about for months (such as the ability to delete single photos from Photo Stream).

My prediction of two new iPad models (one with Retina display, one without) breaks from the pack, and would certainly be unlike Apple, in that it would result in 24 different iPad SKUs (three RAM configurations, two colours, with or without cellular data, 2S or HD). I’m guessing this amazing new 10″ Retina display simply can’t be made at volume for current iPad 2 prices. Heck—just 12 months ago we were hearing they couldn’t be made at all!

Can’t wait to see how I do! Join me on Twitter at 10AM PST (5AM AEDT) for the announcement.

Update: Looks like I had roughly a 50% strike rate! iPad 2 will remain on sale at $100 off the old price, the nameless “New iPad” rocks an A5X processor, Retina display, better front camera, back camera about halfway between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S cameras, 4G LTE networking (US only), same old RAM options. Launching March 16th (pre-orders today). iPhoto for iPad and iOS 5.1 launching today.

Radioshift Subscriptions as iTunes Podcasts

Like many displaced Canadians, I like to listen to CBC Radio 3 at work to keep me feeling culturally connected to my home country. But the shows I enjoy tend to be on at inconvenient times here in Australia. Thanks to Radioshift, that isn’t a problem!

Radioshift from Rogue Amoeba is a Mac application for scheduled recording of web radio streams. Radioshift makes it easy to import your recordings into iTunes, but it would be nice, I thought, if those recordings showed up as a podcast, instead of normal music tracks in my iTunes library. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the Microsoft Partner Program

An open letter to the Microsoft Action Pack Regional Service Center for Australia:

To: sppartner@microsoft.com
Subject: MAPS digital distribution – broken link?

Hi there,

Following the email I received today (Subject: “Important: Action Pack software now available digitally”), I tried to follow the provided link to access my Microsoft Action Pack Subscription content online: http://partner.microsoft.com/MAPScontent

This link seems to direct me to a survey about my company’s marketing activities—a survey that I was unable to fill out because it is badly broken. Not only is the layout broken (screenshot), but it would not accept my answers, complaining that I hadn’t answered all the questions. In the end, I had to select ‘no’ for every answer in order to get it to accept my submission. This then took me to the Partner Marketing Center home page, where I could see no sign of my MAPS digital content.

I continue to be amazed by how horrible a job your web team does. Why would we ever take marketing advice from Microsoft?


Kevin Yank
Technical Director, sitepoint.com

Streetwise Will Throw Away Your Mac’s Serial Number

Over the past week, I have decided once and for all to keep my computer out of the hands of Streetwise, a popular Apple retailer here in Melbourne.

I have previously written about Streetwise, an Apple Authorised Service Centre, and its policy of holding onto computers while they wait days for replacement parts to arrive so that they can maintain a high Apple Service Rating.

Missing Serial Number

That original post came about when I had to get the palm rest of my MacBook replaced under warranty, and in the past week another shocking outcome of that repair has come to light: when the Streetwise technician replaced my palm rest, he did not transfer my MacBook’s serial number sticker (which is attached to the underside of the palm rest—inside the battery compartment).

When I contacted Streetwise about this last week, service manager Jedda Wignall was appropriately contrite. “It is incredibly unfortunate that you have been hit with this inconvenience, as could have been put in a precarious situation as a result,” he wrote (sic.). “The technician who performed the work is no longer with the company, and I would like to think that this situation would not arise again.”

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Apple Service Rating Update

For those who’ve asked, here’s an update on the situation with Streetwise and the Apple Service Rating that I wrote about in my last post.

Streetwise replied almost immediately to my email complaint:

Hi Kevin,

I’m not sure why the technician on Saturday would have told you that – perhaps there was some sort of misunderstanding.
I do apologise if you felt that was inappropriate in anyway.
I can confirm that the part to be fitted would not be an issue and you can use your machine normally while we wait for the part.
As the technician is not in today – I will discuss the matter with him when I see him and to see if we can resolve this one way or another.
We will attempt to call or leave a message when the part actually comes in. Do you wish me to order the part for you?

Best Wishes,
Gary Chee
Service & Returns Manager

Quite the reversal. I asked Streetwise to go ahead and order the part. Two days later:

Hi Kevin,

The top case has arrived today. Could you please drop off your Macbook so we can install it for you?
Please allow us at least half a day turn around time to sort it out for you.

Thanks,
Gary

Still no explanation for the original incident, you’ll note. I queried this in my reply:

Thanks. Will do!

Has any explanation for the original mixup been forthcoming?


Kevin Yank

http://old.kevinyank.com/

Streetwise’s reply was about as vague as can be, but reading between the lines I believe my complaint was taken to heart:

No worries Kevin – I’ve spoken to the tech and he said there was a small mixup – but I hope that’s been cleared up.

Cheers,
Gary

The repair was completed the same day I dropped off the computer. In total, I was without my MacBook for about four hours. Not bad at all!

The next day, I received an automated email from Apple requesting my feedback on the support experience I had had with Streetwise. As you can imagine, I was very forthcoming, and ticked the box that said ‘You may contact me for more information about my experience’. Two months later, I have not heard from Apple on the matter.