Thursday, May 5, 2011

Install Eclipse Plugins – The Easy Way

Install Eclipse Plugins – The Easy Way

Eclipse as of today is the industry’s major non-Microsoft software tool platform. The number of companiesadopting this platform is a testimonial of the platform’s success.
(Check my previous post for more on the history of Eclipse IDE)
Eclipse has a well-designed, and extensible architecture. What is valuable about Eclipse is that it provides an open source platform for creating an extensible integrated development environment. This platform allows anyone to build tools that integrate seamlessly with the environment and other tools.
The key to the seamless integration of tools with Eclipse is the plug-in. With the exception of a small run-time kernel, everythiPublish Postng in Eclipse is a plug-in. This means that a plug-in you develop integrates with Eclipse in exactly the same way as other plug-ins.
Any new person who is introduced to Eclipse in concerned with one important question : How to Install Eclipse Plugins ?
There are lot of useful, high quality third party plugins available and all theplugin installation instructions specify at most 2 ways to install Eclipse Plugins
Normal Ways of Installing Eclipse Plugin
I will take the Eclipse Webtools Plugin to describe the 2 “normal” ways of installing Eclipse Plugins. In the next section I will show how the same can be done in a “easy” way.
This is how the Eclipse SDK folder structure looks like:
After extracting the Webtools package you have this folder hierarchy:
One of the common method of installing is to copy the contents of the “features” into the “features” folder of eclipse, and do the same with the “plugins” folder.
The other way of installing, which Eclipse also recommends is via the Update Manager.
You can choose the components you wish to install, choose the dependent plugins etc. In this process, generally you select the default installation location specified by the wizard.
The advantage with this approach is that when you select a component you are also made aware of the dependent plugins that needs to be installed. For e.g. If I select Web Tools, I am also told to select/install GEF
The disadvantage with this approach is that it never works well in a low bandwidth environment. I have struggled so many times to install via update manager, somewhere its gets stuck and I am left with a partially installed, corrupted environment.
The Easy Way
Now for the “Easy” way of installing Eclipse Plugins. Very few people are aware of this concept and Eclipse somehow doesn’t seem to document this approach anywhere.
This method uses the concept of “Links”. Here is the step by step procedure. (In the explanation I have used the installation of Webtools as the example)
1. Create a folder named links inside the eclipse folder (See Picture below)
2. Create a new file inside this folder and name it as say Note that the file name can be any valid string, but the extension has to be link.
3. Assuming that I have copied the Web tools into D:\thirdparty as shown below,
the contents of has to be this:
Points to Note:
  • The string should always start with “path=” keyword.
  • The path should point to a directory which has a “eclipse” folder which in turn has “features” and “plugins” as sub-folders
  • It is recommended to use forward slash ‘/’ in the path (If you want use Backslash, see that you use the escape character i.e. in Windows it should be “\”)
  • The file extension should end with “link
  • The file (i.e in our example) should exist in the “links” folder.
  • It is recommended to create link files only for big plugins/applications. For small plugins you can create just one link file, say and copy all the small plugins to the path referred by this link.
Restart Eclipse and now all the plugins and feature descriptions should beread from the path referred by the “link” files.
Eclipse has a lot of top level and technology projects. To experiment with these projects, the “links” concept comes to the rescue. You can extract the plugin to a “thirdparty” (or a folder of your choice) and just link it within the eclipse installation. My current configuration looks like this:
Eclipse Projects/Third Party Plugins
Corresponding Link files
The “Copy” approach just bloats the eclipse installation and you cannot remove/uninstall the plugin easily. With links approach, you can just remove the “link” file and the plugin is uninstalled !!
The same links directory can be used in another eclipse installation. For e.g. if you are working with Milestone or different version of Eclipse, you can just copy the links folder (containing .link files) and the plugins are installed.
It is very easy to manage different versions of a plugin. If a new version doesn’t work, reverting back to a previous version is pretty easy.
Also, if you use the update feature in Eclipse, you can choose one of the above folders as the installation directory.
This approach seems to work fine in both windows and linux. I am not sure why this approach is not documented in Eclipse. I found out about this when I was using the trial version of RAD (Rational Application Developer). It was used primarily to manage product extensions. I believe the same concept can be used to manage plugins (Install/Uninstall).
Using Dropins to install Eclipse plugins
One of the problems with the above “link” approach is the plugin dependency resolution. This has to be take care of manually by the plugin installer. If the install is done via the UI, it manage to find and install all the dependencies.
Staring from Eclipse 3.4, Eclipse SDK has a new provisioning system called Equinox/p2.
p2 supports the notion of watched directories and this directory a user or a script can drop “files”. Eclipse platform ships with one such default watched directory called dropins
The dropins folder is configured to be scanned during startup, and for changes to be immediately applied to the running system. Thus the dropins folder can be used much like the plugins directory was used in the past.
A subtle twist on old behavior here is that plug-ins and features added to the dropins folder are properly installed into the system rather than being forced in. This means p2 has an opportunity to confirm that the new plug-in doesn’t conflict with other installed plug-ins, and it can even go out and fetch any missing prerequisites of the newly dropped in plug-ins.
This also means you can later use the GUI to install extra functionality that depends on the plug-ins in the dropins folder, since p2 knows about them and can reason about their dependencies. In other words, new plug-ins installed via the dropins folder behave exactly like plug-ins installed via the user interface.
Supported dropin formats:
1. You can just drop the plugin jar in the dropins folder
2. You can also drop in the traditional Eclipse application or extension layout directly in the dropins folder
3. You can add an additional layer of folders immediately below the dropins folder that contain traditional Eclipse extensions
4. Or you can add link files as in the Eclipse links folder
Hope this post was useful, if you had any problems using this approach, do leave a comment with the problem description.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The World’s Facebook Relationships Visualized

This is what the world looks like, according to the Facebook social graph.
Facebook Intern Paul Butler was interested in the locations of friendships, so he decided to create a visualization of Facebook connections around the globe. How local are our friends? Where are the highest concentration of friendships? How do political and geological boundaries affect them?
Butler started by using a sample of 10 million friend pairs, correlated them with their current cities and then mapped that data using the longitude and latitude of each city.
That was the easy part. Creating the right effect to show connecting relationships between thousands of cities proved to be a challenge. Butler wrote a fascinating Facebook note explaining some of the challenges he faced creating his visualization:
“I began exploring it in R, an open-source statistics environment. As a sanity check, I plotted points at some of the latitude and longitude coordinates. To my relief, what I saw was roughly an outline of the world. Next I erased the dots and plotted lines between the points. After a few minutes of rendering, a big white blob appeared in the center of the map. Some of the outer edges of the blob vaguely resembled the continents, but it was clear that I had too much data to get interesting results just by drawing lines. I thought that making the lines semi-transparent would do the trick, but I quickly realized that my graphing environment couldn’t handle enough shades of color for it to work the way I wanted.
Instead I found a way to simulate the effect I wanted. I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others. I used a color ramp from black to blue to white, with each line’s color depending on its weight. I also transformed some of the lines to wrap around the image, rather than spanning more than halfway around the world.”
With a few more tweaks, he eventually came up with the amazing visualization you see here. At first glance, it provides some expected data — the U.S. has the highest concentration of Facebook friendships, and Africa has the lowest concentration. While most of Russia and Antarctica are nowhere to be found, the rest of the world is easily identifiable.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I was on the way to palakkad with manoj,a friend of mine. A call came to his E63, i was about to see the home screen when it was ringing., I was bit amused to see the details in the home screen. it showed the callers recent facebook twitter updates ,foursquare check ins along with his network provider and location. As soon as he hung up with that call i inquired him regarding the app .. Thats SOCIALLY, You can download socially from Nokia's OVI store or if you are using any other mobile phone other than nokia check out in the internet...

Its a really cool application, the concept is so good but its still not ready for the market...
Its missing some essential features as far as i'm concerned. 
The another interesting thing that i found in that app was four square. Though i have heard that name somewhere, i have never used it.. today i created a four square log in and checked in couple of places. its really great.. i din't expect like i can find many places checked in around me using foursquare. I also added some tips to some places through four square . 
When i searched in the net about this tool, i found plenty of apps like autocheckin,stumble!to, using their apis to provide various services. they will take your location from google latitude,your phone etc and even from nike shoe sensors[i dont know what they mean about this]....You can find lot of unexplored places around you with this tool.. can see the tips posted by others in that place,,,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Testing the blog feed

I just tested this blog feed(rsS) in my mobile 5230... its working kewl...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Testing Facebook API's

hey i just got some facebook scripts from developer site.. like to use it over here.... contribute if you have some interesting stuffs....

Like API

The twitter 1.