Saturday, May 12, 2007



I have been stumped on my VSIP work for the last week or so. Progress has been very slow fixing the code I stole from the IronPython project to get my "simple" language project working. It's very hard to debug and the code get's very dense very quickly. I learned something new today too, which is pretty surprising: don't rely on quotes when searching google.

I had been searching for a quoted block of text for my error message ["Could not get dependencies for project reference"] to try to locate some information about this mystery bug. This is the literal text of the error message. You'll notice there are about 5 results, none of which are very helpful. After a week of digging through code and yielding nothing I scrapped together a different query [Could not get project reference web], I got rid of 'dependencies' and 'for' and added the word web and low and behold we get this link in the first page. If you check out the "actual results" section on the bug report you'll see the quoted string "Could not get dependencies for project reference"! Which was my EXACT quoted query to google. Yet it did not yield results. Just goes to show you, a few select words is really the sweet spot for google. Their advanced query options aren't very good.

This might be an ok time to continue griping about Google. Don't get me wrong I really like Google overall and their website is still my home page but I do have a few gripes.

1.) When I was in college I had an undergraduate research project (don't laugh, I don't have permissions to edit that page anymore :-P ) that used the Google API. It was fun and a really great way to learn about web services and .NET and at one point in time I was featured on http://code.google.com/ as the featured project since their API was relatively new (this was just before Google maps API) and the project attempted to use Mono as well. Anyrate, so because I was featured on their page they offered to send me a Google T-Shirt as a gift. I thought that was pretty cool but no tshirt ever came. After harassing Chris DiBona at Google for almost a year he finally sent me the shirt as well as a spiffy lava lamp (that was the year of lava lamps since I inherited one from a friend, got one from Google and got one from my dad for Christmas... go figure). So they made some amends, which is good, but it's worth mentioning that waiting for a year for a Google T-Shirt is torture.

2.) The Google API is a scam. It's essentially a marketing ploy. As I mentioned in number 1 I worked on the Google API for an undergraduate research project but beyond that, if you go to the Google API usenet group you'll notice that I'm the #1 all time poster by far. Actually Manfred seems to be catching up. But anyway, the first half of the posts were me geniunely caring but the second half were me pretty much answering the same 3 questions over and over again:
  1. "I can't download the Google API zip file, can someone email it to me?"
  2. "Why are the search results different from the API than from the web site?"
  3. "How do I use the webservice in language X?"
Ok, #2 is the real problem. Why are they different? Well because they don't use the same databases for the API as they do for production. Which is incredibly lame, what is the point of only being able to query a subset of the data? There was one guy who was running the exact same query over and over every day and tracking the changes, the API never changed and the website was changing dramatically every day. The were essentially just using a set of junk data they ripped from their main databases but was never updated. Anyrate, there is a (relatively) new development you can read in this thread saying that the Google SOAP API has officially been shutdown in place of some AJAX search API. I'm not sure what the difference is... anyway it was really dissapointing to realize how lame the search API was after putting so much effort into it.

3.) What the hell is up with their desktop application suite? Is it just me or is it the biggest pile of crap? It totally goes against their sacred standards of simplicity. It is one of the most monstrous conglomerates of useless applications. In fact this has been a Google theme of late. Their iGoogle homepage site has become more and more bloated by widgets and tabs and themes and what not... UGH, please make it stop! The only reason I use that iGoogle site is so I can get a quick link to my gmail inbox and a quick wikipedia search box. Please Google, return to blissful simplicity! Let Microsoft bumble around with their bloated search home page, if you don't I'll be forced to switch to live.com, which doesn't quite have the quality search results but it loads up as a homepage much faster. I don't want a million javascript widgets that drag and expand and move and crap all over my homepage! I want it to load quickly and provide me an opportunity to get where I want in a few clicks.

I feel like an old man complaining like this :) Anyway, I do have some great news to report for NBusiness (other than that damn SDK error). I have rudimentary intellisense and syntax hilighting working, I have the ability to add a reference to NBusiness through the ".net" tab of add a reference dialog and I have nested .cs files based on the names of the files (notice the expanded Company.es file in the solution explorer. I haven't quite figured out how to hook up the icons to the filetypes however. It seems to be pretty tricky, lot's of registry keys that are very strange. There are plenty of things left to resolve but hopefully I'll get a usable beta up on codeplex this weekend. Here are some screens:


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