KDiff3: Excellent for Comparing Files and Directories
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This weekend, I had a situation, due to a laptop hard drive failure, where I had two very large directories full of files and subdirectories. Each was a copy of the same directory, but one had my last 4 days of coding in it and the other didn’t. The trick was to find the files I had changed over the course of my last few days of development so I could get them back into the other directory, and then into my source countrol.

So I searched the Internet to see if there was a tool to help me determine the difference in all the files in my directories. I use both Windows and Linux, so I hoped, against the odds that I could find a tool that worked on both.

Thankfully, I found just the tool: KDiff3. I downloaded KDiff3, installed it, and started it up. When the app loads, a small window launches, which lets you select a File or a Directory for the base and for the comparison against the base. You then click ok, and within a few seconds have a list of all differences within the subdirectories. It flags the files that are different and then shows you the differences within the files. You can merge files, choose one or the other side to overwrite, etc. You can also do a three way comparison with three sources.

I was able to use this tool to get my folders in sync and save all my changes. What I thought would be a several hour process was finished in minutes thanks to KDiff3. There are a lot of configuration options that I haven’t tried yet. It looks to be full of features for file and directory comparision and merging.

I highly recommend this tool, and I’ve tried it on Windows XP and Suse 10.0. You can visit the KDiff homepage for more information.

It's Never Been Easier to Create Sequence Diagrams
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This week I had to create a sequence diagram. In the past, I’ve used MagicDraw, my favorite UML tool. However, I do not personally own a license to it, and was only fortunate to use it at a company that did. I have used ArgoUML for Use Case and Activity diagrams, but have not attempted a sequence diagram with it until this week, and found it to be difficult and limited in functionality.

So the search began for an alternative, and I was fortunate to find Sequence. Sequence is a Java GUI, which allows you type in a notation for a sequence diagram and then it creates the diagram as you type. You can save the notation as a text file, and export the diagram as a graphic.

There was a mild learning curve for the notation, but once I learned it, creating the diagram was almost as easy as just thinking about it. In the past, sequence diagrams were always difficult to create, because they were so time consuming if you had to make a correction, like adding a bunch of new classes and method calls at the top of your diagram, which causes you to have to move diagram objects around.

With this tool, you don’t even have to consider what it looks like, or where you place any of the diagram objects, or moving them around if you left something out.
You can download the jar file here, and read back to the beginning of the tool’s history. When you start the GUI, there are several examples under the Help menu to teach you the notation.

Tip for Easier Web Page Layouts
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I don’t usually post much about laying out web pages, but this tip was one I just couldn’t pass on . I can’t wait until the next time I have to layout a web page to use this. The tip is to use a background image, which is a grid. You apply it as the background, and then use it to position all your elements. Take a look over at Smiley Cat, which provides a background image and an example.

Tutorial for JasperReports, iReport, and JFreeChart
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This tutorial discusses building JasperReports in iReport using charts with JFreeChart.

Building Dynamic JasperReports
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If your reporting needs require more dynamic reports, with user control over the elements to be included in the report, developerWorks has an article on Generating XML templates for JasperReports using Rational Application Developer.

JasperReports helps organizations generate affordable business data reports using an XML template. The XML template provides the key report information such as the SQL query, report title, column headers, and database fields. This article discusses how to generate the XML template to allow a user to specify which report columns should be included.

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