Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Big Ten: 1, Pac-10: 0

Intrigue abounded last week as, in an attempt to preempt the Big Ten's much publicized expansion plans, the Pac-10 accepted the University of Colorado into league membership. This was expected to be the first domino to fall, setting off a chain reaction that would forever alter the landscape of college Football. Indeed, within a few days the University of Nebraska had joined the Big Ten and Boise State had moved to the Mounain West Conference. By Friday afternoon, it appeared that the Big XII was on the brink of Armageddon.

Perhaps bigger news than the demise of the Big XII, especially for those on the West Coast and those in Big Ten country (such as me), was what would be coming next: the "Pac-16" superconference. Pac-10 commish Larry Scott, in a swift and shrewd move, was set to one-up the Big Ten's expansion by adding up to five additional teams including elite programs in the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and others. The Big Ten's addition of a historical superpower who appear poised to return to their former glory, not to mention the addition of a much-desired conference championship game, would be completely overshadowed by the creation of what would truly be a juggernaut of a conference. Those sneaky west coasters!

However, further moves were put on indefinite hold today as the Big XII effectively circled the wagons and managed to keep the remaining ten members together. This is bad news for the Pac-10 and great news for the Big Ten: the former's expansion has stalled with the addition of a very mediocre team which adds nothing to conference prestige, and the latter has added a solid team and will be able to silence critics who complain about its teams not having as difficult a path to bowl season now that a championship game will be installed following the 2010 season. Not only that, but the Big Ten will finally no longer award shared conference titles, which is something I have never liked very much.

To summarize: Big Ten: 1, Pac-10: 0.

The non-BCS Mountain West Conference has come out of this looking good as well. That group, which already included several formidable teams in BYU, Utah, and TCU, now also includes Boise State, the plucky giant-killers. Some are saying that this will help them to finally become an automatic-qualifying BCS conference, which would help to quell some of the perennial controversy surrounding very strong teams from "mid-major" non-BCS conferences, such as Boise State and Utah over the past few seasons.

Now we just need to figure out what these conferences should be called. Pretty much everyone has been making fun of the Big Ten since it added its eleventh team--what will happen now that we have 11 teams in the Pac-10, 10 teams in the Big XII, and 12 teams in the Big Ten?

This first round of madness has left the Big Ten in a great position, helped to bolster the MWC, and given the Pac-10 another Arizona Wildcats team. I like how things have played out so far. Until the next round of conference shuffling, which appears not to be on the horizon for now, let's hope Jim Delaney can stay ahead of the game.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Using .jnlp files in Ubuntu 10.04

After a rocky upgrade to Ubuntu 10.04, I encountered my first issue with my out-of-the-box experience using the new release of Ubuntu. In order to attend virtual class sessions through an online course at a local university in which I am currently enrolled, I use a Java application (specifically, one built on the Elluminate platform). Accessing the class involves me downloading and running a .jnlp file using the installed JRE.

When I attempted to log in to class tonight, however, I was unable to do so. When I ran the jnlp file, the interface attempted to load, then crashed. The command line output was:

Exception in thread "Elluminate Live!" java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: Could not initialize class com.elluminate.util.UtilDebug
    at com.elluminate.util.I18nText.getResourceList(I18nText.java:523)
    at com.elluminate.util.I18nText.(I18nText.java:52)
    at com.elluminate.util.I18n.(I18n.java:57)
    at com.elluminate.platform.Platform.(Platform.java:39)
    at com.elluminate.compatibility.CThread.(CThread.java:15)
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke0(Native Method)
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(NativeMethodAccessorImpl.java:57)
    at sun.reflect.DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.invoke(DelegatingMethodAccessorImpl.java:43)
    at java.lang.reflect.Method.invoke(Method.java:616)
    at net.sourceforge.jnlp.Launcher.launchApplication(Launcher.java:454)
    at net.sourceforge.jnlp.Launcher$TgThread.run(Launcher.java:731)

The issue, I discovered after browsing launchpad for a few minutes, is known to come up with the OpenJDK JRE, which is the default JRE for Ubuntu beginning with this new release, and .jnlp files. At this time, there are multiple open bugs on launchpad regarding the same or similar issues, so I did not bother filing another.

Luckily, this can be worked around by installing the non-free Sun JRE. Here is what I did:

First, I followed the instructions here for installing Sun's JRE from the Ubuntu partner repository. However, these instructions are incomplete as there are no steps to configure which JRE is the system default. This is simple and can be accomplished by running the following command in the terminal:

sudo update-alternatives --config javaws

...and following the on-screen instructions. Once I did that, fortunately, I was able to access my course session jnlp file again with no issues.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Firefox 3.6

Every so often, I am surprised when a new version of software I use lands. Last Thursday, I received one such surprise in the form of Firefox 3.6. Normally I follow development news closely enough that it seems like release will never come; however this one slipped beneath my radar. When the browser notified me that the new version had landed, I had no choice but to immediately install it and begin geeking out over new features and performance improvements.

I was most pleased about the huge improvements in JS performance. This is particularly important at work, where I use an XP box that is decidedly less than cutting edge in terms of horsepower. Because I do most of my work in Firefox, improvements in speed are a boon to my productivity.

A comparison two runs through the Sun Spider test on my work PC are below (Spoiler alert: 173% improvement!):

Run 1 (FF 3.5)  Run 2 (FF 3.6)