Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trolltech Qt Integration with Eclipse IDE

I just read the announcement on the Trolltech Labs blog about how you will soon be able to develop Qt C++ applications using Eclipse development environment. To me, this is quite welcome news, since in the past I was somewhat dependent upon using Microsoft's Visual Studio environment to play around with Qt/C++ under Microsoft Windows - and, this approach seemed plagued with incompatibilities arising from Visual Studio (I was using Visual Studio 2005 with Service Pack 1 - which didn't work at all with Qt unless you applied a special MS "hotfix" to cure a bug MS introduced with SP1). The bottom line is, I hated having to rely on a non-free MS application/IDE to build C++/Qt apps under Windows. Well, that time is now (or soon) over.

Trolltech has released (or, pre-released) the Qt Eclipse Integration Download already. Some of the features already included (quoted from Trolltech's site) are:
  • Wizards for creating new Qt projects, and importing existing Qt projects
  • Graphical editor for the project files (.pro) used by the Qt cross-platform makefile generator qmake
  • Integrated Qt Designer GUI layout and forms editor
  • Integrated Qt resource editor
  • Integrated Qt reference documentation
Seems to me like the start of a really great combination of free software. Trolltech licenses Qt under a dual-license strategy (see their site for details) where you can use their technology for free if developing open-source/non-commercial applications, and you can purchase their technology if you want to create commercial applications.

The Qt cross-platform widget set and development framework (now at version 4.3) is quite powerful. I recently downloaded their free / open-source version, and compiled and evaluated some of their demonstration applications, and they were nothing short of amazing. The whole cross-platform thing (Linux, Apple OS-X, Windows) really has me interested. I've traditionally built software that runs only on Windows, but I am more and more considering making the shift to supporting Linux and OS-X when I develop applications. Sure, there will be a learning curve, but I think it will be worth it. And, with this new Eclipse IDE integration, I am more psyched than ever about giving this a go!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

GNU / Linux derivations visual diagram

I came across this very nice image showing the lineage of various GNU / Linux distributions over the past 15 years (since 1992). It's rather amazing how many flavors of the operating systems now exist, and what all the specialty distros are all about.

One could perhaps argue that having a couple hundred distinct distributions is a bit much, and that Linux could evolve faster if some of these disparate projects could just find a way to come together and focus their talents on a single solution. But, alas, that is not going to happen from the looks of things.

Surely some of these "specialty" Linux / GNU derivations fit a particular need - like being small enough to run optimally from a USB-Drive or such. But, I still have to wonder why even that type of need can not be just a matter of flipping a few configuration "switches" on a larger aggregated distribution, where by means of toggling a few parameters, you could create a USB-optimized-linux from the same root-OS that you would otherwise install on your desktop.

Well, at least that graphic obviates the argument about whether Linux development is active - certainly there are plenty of people working on the operating system and software to run under it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rampant Anabolic Steroid Abuse

When the details of pro wrestler Chris Benoit's anabolic steroid "prescriptions" came out recently, it only confirmed what I have assumed to be true of most of these pro wrestlers (and perhaps some other athletes) that have bodies that appear to defy the laws of nature. I just read this CNN Article about Benoit's excessive steroid purchases, and some of the excess (like there is a "normal" level of anabolic steroid use?) mentioned include:
  • "Dr. Phil Astin prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Chris Benoit every three to four weeks between May 2006 and May 2007, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent said in an affidavit filed Friday and made public Monday."
  • "The [Benoit] boy had old needle marks in his arms, Ballard has said. He said he had been told the parents considered him undersized and had given him growth hormones."
  • "[Benoit's doctor] Astin had written prescriptions for about 1 million doses of controlled substances over the past two years, including "significant quantities" of injectable testosterone cypionate, an anabolic steroid, according to the criminal complaint."
Gee, do you really think Benoit is the only professional wrestler or athlete that has a friend that happens to be a doctor willing to write "prescriptions" for anabolic steroids? I think not. It'll be interesting to see who else shares Benoit's doctor as a friend who is willing to help them get huge! I can guarantee that the bulk of these super-size (nearly freakish-size) ultra-muscular people have at one time or another abused steroids.

I have always been into weight-lifting, especially during my college years and the following 10 years or more. In all that time, I constantly pushed more and more weight, and gained substantial strength, but, the one thing I never gained much of was size. Sure, I can get toned and muscular, but nothing like these guys whose muscles look like balloons. No matter how much I lifted, I just could not put on much more than 10 or 20 pounds of muscle over my body's normal non-workout size. And, all of the weight-lifting I ever did was done "clean" - meaning, without any chemical / steroidal enhancement.

I am sure some people have a physical predisposition to being able to amass extra muscle better than others, but not to the extent of these pro wrestlers and such. During my college years, quite a few of the guys in the weight room who were physically substantially larger than me were abusing steroids. I have known friends and acquaintances that made incredible physical-mass gains using anabolic steroids, and who most likely never would have put on such size without them. Some of these people even tried to encourage me to join them in their steroid use - but, fortunately, my common sense prevailed and I avoided the temptation for fast gains completely.

Because of my exposure to people that were using anabolic steroids, as well as my exposure to others who lifted and body-built "clean", I find it quite easy to look at people and within moments determine with reasonable certainty whether or not they are, or have been, using steroids. There is a norm for humans that can quickly be exceeded when one is using chemicals to gain a physical advantage, and that norm (or the non conformance to such a norm) can usually be detected with even minimal observation. Given that, I tell you, nearly everyone in the WWE appears to be using Anabolic Steroids on a regular basis! And, somehow the news of Benoit's abuse is "surprising" or unexpected?

I really think it is time someone took this abuse seriously. The DEA should easily be able to obtain records of every doctor that is prescribing anabolic steroids. I am a firm believer in doctor-patient confidentiality, and the DEA need not know who the end-recipients of such drugs are in order to detect patterns of abuse. There must be some sort of "baseline" level of truly justifiable and medically-required anabolic steroid prescriptions (I guess), and if a doctor exceed that level, there is probably a good reason to dig deeper.

Screening and testing of wrestlers and athletes is a joke too - whether "independent labs" are involved or not. Fact is, I'll bet the "independent" labs still have a vested interest in maintaining clients, and as such, make sure that results are as they need to be (by casually looking the other way as a certain person substitutes their urine-sample, or whatever else needs to be done). If the labs aren't in on allowing abuse to continue, then they are just plain clueless to all the tricks that are used to pass tests. One way or the other, something needs to change, and testing and enforcement needs to be consistent, accurate, and meaningful.

Whether these people (like Benoit) have a "prescription" for the anabolic steroids or not should also not matter. It seems rather apparent that the sole reason for such a prescription in this case is to become huge and/or strong, which certainly is not justification. If it is, then anyone that wants anabolics / testosterone should be able to walk into their doctor's office and say "I want steroids, as I want to get huge!" and have a prescription with few additional questions or obstacles.

Bottom line: either enforce existing laws against anabolic steroid use (by all persons - including "pros" and famous people), or get rid of the laws altogether since they appear to not apply to a certain group of people. Either way, I think we can at least all stop acting surprised when we hear about someone that has abused steroids, as I can almost guarantee the Benoit case is nothing too uncommon.