Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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All entries tagged software development.

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Sep 2008

I’m writing a C# program that acts as a PowerPoint 2007 plugin. On some machines, some calls to the PowerPoint object model throw a COMException with the message RPC_E_SYS_CALL_FAILED. I couldn’t find any specific advice on what to do regarding this error, or how to avoid it. From Googling it looks like something to do with the message queue or Single-Threaded Apartments. Or am I way off?

Example of the error message is: >System call failed. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80010100 (RPC_E_SYS_CALL_FAILED))
>at Microsoft.Office.Interop.PowerPoint._Presentation.get_FullName()

Unfortunately, the problem is occurring on a client’s machine, so I have no easy way to debug it! Should I just retry the calls whenever I get this error?

Any advice to help me resolve this problem would be greatly appreciated!

Aug 2008

Django and Google App Engine


In my continuing quest to become better than everybody else, I spent some time today learning Django (a Python webapp framework) and the Google App Engine. I tried following the tutorials included in the Django Book for a while, but I’ve never taken too well with just typing up examples from a book, so I decided to write something from scratch. I decided to write a simple message board application.

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Barcamp Manila


Upon the prodding of Mikong, I attended the recent Barcamp Manila held in Ortigas last Thursday. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as I’ve never attended any such conference before, and I’ve never been particularly involved with the local developer community, but I said I’d go anyway, I figured it’d probably be fun. The event was held at the Orient Square building at the offices of Exist Global and Morph Labs, who sponsored the event.

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Google Code Jam 2008


I joined this year’s Google Code Jam. It’s part of my characteristic competitiveness and arrogance that I actually imagined I had a chance at winning the contest. No such luck, see my results. I was eliminated in the second online round. That I managed to get there at all was surprising considering the level of difficulty. I’m not really a com-sci guy, so I’m weak with regards to algorithms, I don’t always know what the best approach for particular classes of problems – I usually just brute force it then try to optimize based on my on-the-spot analysis of each problem.

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Jun 2008

Google Treasure Hunt


Google started a treasure hunt about a month ago, releasing four questions (one per week) that covered a range of computational topics. I actually joined the treasure hunt late, the 2nd question was already released by the time I got wind of it. The site says there are prizes to be won for the people who are able to provide complete answers first; I’m not sure what my odds of winning anything are since (a) I joined late and (b) I can only do the questions during the weekends, typically a few days after they are released.

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May 2008

Part 1. Part 2. Moonglove Winnower template is currently live on Roy on Magic. I made several color and formatting changes since the last update. Relatively easy due to the stylesheet. I also had to scrap the CSS hack for implementing equal height columns, it was causing problems with anchors in the URL. I went with a 1-pixel high background image instead. Currently most of the PHP logic/heavy lifting is done in sidebar.

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Part 1 of this series is

[

here]1

.

Creating a WordPress template is harder than I thought. Luckily I’m modifying the default template instead of starting from scratch. The one I’m creating is rather simple but after spending almost 8 hours on it so far, I’m still far away from completing it. I’m guessing the more complicated layouts take more than two weeks of full-time work.

Here’s my current WIP:

[

]2

Changes since the last part:

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Apr 2008

  1. Web design has never been one of my strong points, and it’s something I’d like to improve on.

  2. The Roy on Magic blog has been using the default WordPress Template since forever, and I’ve been trying to find a good WP Template that fits the “Magic the Gathering” theme.

Put the above points together, and I have a new personal project. Just for fun, I’ll log my progress here.

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Mar 2008

Trust and Evil Programmers


Never give out any of your confidential usernames and passwords to programs or services that you do not trust completely. This may be a bit obvious to the more tech-savvy, but everybody has to watch out. Luckily, there are even some programmers who are able to catch the work of evil programmers. Coding Horror has this story about an evil programmer who sold a GMail backup solution that steals your username and password.

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Feb 2008

MTG Autocard WordPress Plugin


I had been planning to do this for a while: it’s my first WordPress Plugin! Over at Roy on Magic, I often have to write out decklists and such, so I wanted to have an autocard feature similar to the one used at MTGSalvation. After a quick five-minute search I couldn’t figure out how they did it, so I just wrote the plugin myself. Actual effort was around 3.5 hours, most of it struggling with PHP and Regular Expressions.

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Jan 2008

Job Hunting for Programmers


No, I’m not job hunting. But other people are, apparently. I got a comment on an old post I made about my job hunting days. Not only that, but the guy IM’d me asking to talk (I put my yahoo id on this site somewhere me). It’s a bit strange, but I figured, why not? What I got from listening to him was that he was just extremely frustrated at how difficult it is to find a good job, so he was looking for people who had gone through similar experiences.

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Oct 2007

How to Solve Technical Problems


One of the qualities that I think make a really good software developer is the ability to solve difficult technical problems. Unless you’re the sort of software developer who just sells the same piece of software over and over again, at some point in time you’ll to need to find out how to implement some feature you’ve never tried before. Or you’ll hit a problem that’s not documented in any official docs and you need that critical functionality.

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Aug 2007

Announcing PyMTG


I couldn’t sleep, so obviously, I had to start a new personal project. PyMTG I was inspired after forum-browsing lead me to look at existing MTG open-source software. I’ve been thinking of starting a true-blue personal software project for a while now, and the idea of PyMTG appeals to me for several reasons: (a) It’s related to one of my current hobbies (b) Allows me to become familiar with a new language (Python)

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Jul 2007

Rich Internet Applications


Most of the time, my work involves mostly run-of-the-mill information management systems. Lately however, I’ve been asked to look into some new tech, and that got me interested in what’s called Rich Internet Applications (RIAs for short). The primary platform for RIAs is Flash, which apparently is already owned by Adobe and Macromedia is no more. Yeah, I never really paid attention to Flash, like most people I assumed it was only for making amusing movies and annoying ads.

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Jun 2006

My Job, Such As It Is


Nice post on Salary Averages Comparison over at the Pinoy Tech Blog. It got me thinking about my own job. I work at a foreign-based software development company that caters to clients outside the country. These days, I work mostly on JSP-based web projects. My starting salary, three and a half years ago, was higher than the average presented in this graph. Obviously, I’m earning a lot more than that now.

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May 2006

Developer Assessment


I always have a hard time assessing fellow developers. For one thing, I’m never sure whether it’s fair to apply to other people the same internal standard I have for myself. Some people might say, “of course it’s fair to expect as much from other people as yourself!”, but the fact is that I’m not even sure if I expect too much from myself. I may like to project and arrogant and prideful exterior, but I’m extremely self-critical.

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So I was at work, and one of the HK guys asks me if we can have a themed button for the file input control in one of our screens. So, I’m all “alpha geek” and stuff, and I go: “No we can’t. We can’t style the ‘Browse’ button directly, and IE will throw an Access Denied error on submit if we invoke the click() method using Javascript.” But HK guy replies: “Gee, I wonder how GMail does it then.

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Jan 2006

Yeah, I haven’t been posting lately. I still have a lot of thoughts running around my head, and often throughout the day I find myself thinking, “I should post an entry about this.” But at the end of the day, I’m tired and I’m exhausted from thinking about two hundred different issues and juggling twenty different priorities, so I don’t post about it. I note it somewhere and sooner or later it becomes irrelevant and I forget why I wanted to post it in the first place.

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Dec 2005

Random Java Programs


So, my brother needed to present 20 java programs for school. He didn’t have to make them himself, he said. Just to print them out and submit them. (What kind of ridiculous compsci teacher asks for hardcopies of source instead of softcopies?) Anyway, I said, sure. I’ll make some, it’ll be easy. After all, trivial programs shouldn’t take me more than 5 minutes each right? It was true, each one didn’t take long.

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Sep 2005

Sorry about the title. I couldn’t find any succinct way to put it. Anyway, yeah. I’m supposed to be trying to get a phone. People have been harassing me for years about the fact that I don’t have a phone. Since my vacation is already half-wasted already, I figure I’d go online and get some info on what phone I’d buy. Now, bear with me a bit, I’m really stupid when it comes to phones, since I’ve practically never owned one.

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Aug 2005

HTML/CSS Trickery


The whole web developer thing was boring me for a while. But last week I got to help on some preliminary webpage design for one of the projects, so my interest in HTML/CSS/Javascript is a bit tweaked. (Hence the slightly updated stylesheet — try changing font sizes now.) Anyway, here’s some HTML/CSS trickery. I’ll add stuff here as I try them out. If you’re using IE, you wouldn’t appreciate it much.

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Jun 2005

Yahoo!


Some comments on the Yahoo webapps. The next/previous links on top of Yahoo mail messages are confusing. I’m not sure if they take me up or down the mail-list. Gmail is better, since it explicitly says “older” and “newer”; With Yahoo, I’m always wrong when I guess. After some experimenting, I figure it out. “Next” and “Previous” are based on the sort order in the list of messages. Since the default is sorted by date descending (newest first), “Next” corresponds to Yahoo’s “older” by default.

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May 2005

CSS-Based Design


A while back, inspired by the CSS Zen Garden, I modified my Blogger template to use entirely CSS-based design. That is, I can know update the layout instantly simply by replacing the stylesheet file used by template (like now!) The new layout uses up a wider screen space, but I think it’s neat. The lighter colors are easier on my tired, computer-strained eyes. Hopefully, this new CSS-based design allows me to do more experimentation and improve my ability to design web UIs.

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Mar 2005

In Progress, But Sleepy


As it may mention in the page title, I’m currently screwing around with the blogger template, so this blog may look a bit… um… screwy for a while. I’ve been wanting to toy around with Javascript hacks to extend the Blogger template functionality. The first thing I did was add some Javascript that allows you to show/hide individual posts on the page. But actually, I don’t really like it, I’ll remove it later.

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Dec 2004

Excel problem


The Christmas season has been hellacious. Deadlines to catch up with at the start of the next year meant crunch time for most of the past two weeks. So, for my first blog post on my first rest day in a while, I’ll bring home some work. I have a problem with Excel. I’m writing a web app that generates HTML files which are exported to Excel. In most cases, it’s easy, I just follow the template generated by using Excel->File->Save As->HTML

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Oct 2004

Best Software Essays


Joel Spolsky, of Joel on Software, is collecting nominations for the best software related essays of 2004. A lot of them are interesting reads. Reading these essays make me realize that, well, I like being a coder, a programmer and a developer. (These are different things, figure it out :D)
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Sinfest!


I was bored. And I was going through the Sinfest archives. But then I thought, why should I bother going through these comics manually over the net? I’m a programmer, I’ll make a SinfestDownloader! I’ve left it running for about 4 hours now. There’s a lot of Sinfest strips… around 40MB worth have already been downloaded! I wonder if this violates any sort of copyright? … Update: Done in a little over 4.

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Dec 2003

Oct 2003

The First Time I Hated Users


Yesterday, at around 6 PM, as I was winding up the day’s work, we received a request from the user that they wanted some maintenance work done on one of the more obscure programs. And they needed it the next day! And we still had to have a meeting (we had originally scheduled the meeting for 3:00PM but had to keep pushing it due to stuff coming up) I wanted to reach out across the internet and slap whoever made the maintenance request on the head.

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Jan 2003

23 Jan 2003: Working Joe


How’s work you ask? It’s going pretty well actually. Everything’s still easy-peasy for me as I’m undergoing some training and stuff. I’m a bit worried about what happens after the training though, from the looks of it people put in a lot of overtime here. :( The best thing about the job is that I’m learning a lot of stuff. In two weeks I learned SQL, PL/SQL and Delphi. Starting tomorrow I’m gonna be training on Oracle Developer.

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Roy Tang is a:

roytang.net is a personal site, an E/N site, and kind of a commonplace book; I post about a random assortment of topics that interest me including software development, Magic the Gathering, pop culture, gaming, and tech life. This site is perpetually under renovation.