Archive for October, 2009

Windows Fabulous is released today!

October 22, 2009

Back in August, Windows 7 (which I refer to as Windows Fabulous) came out on MSDN for BizSpark customers. Since I’m head of engineering at our company, I figured I should download it and install it, to, um, evaluate it. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I should try it out and make sure our product would work on it, yeah, and make sure everything would be fine. Absolutely. I didn’t install it just because I thought it would be really cool. No, sirree. (Okay, maybe a little.) (Okay, okay, maybe more than a little. I’m a geek; what do you want?)

Since I work on my computers, I bought new hard drives for both of them, just in case I had any problems and needed to revert. (A little paranoia never hurts. Plus, hard drives are cheap.) For my laptop, I bought the awesome Seagate Momentus 7200.4 drive, a 500GB 7200RPM SATA drive. In fact, I bought a second one and an enclosure, and made my own pocket drive too. (Every single packaged pocket drive on the market is 5400 rpm. As Nero Wolfe would say, “Pfui.”)

Then I installed Windows Fabulous, plus all of the rest of my software (more on that later). (Thank God I keep a list, complete with serial numbers). It took about 20 minutes to install Windows Fabulous, and 2 days to install everything else.

So I’ve been running Windows 7 for about two months now (since it came out on MSDN for BizSpark customers, of which my company is one), and I have to say, it’s the best thing since sliced pickle chips. There are plenty of articles showing what people like about it, and I’d have to say my favorite feature is the glass.

Let’s say you have 4 Visual Studio instances open. If you hover over Visual studio in the task bar, it shows thumbnails of the instances. If you hover over one of the thumbnails, it turns everything else to glass, and shows that one window on the screen. If you click on the thumbnail, it makes that window active and brings it up in front, without closing the rest of the windows.

This has made it a lot easier than Alt-Tab ever did to find the window I’m looking at. This also means I can hover over the Outlook icon in my taskbar and see if I have any new e-mail I need to address, and if not, just go back to what I was doing, without ever changing focus to Outlook. As someone who always has a lot of instances of VS and IE open, among other things, it’s hugely helpful.

I’m finding the jumplists helpful too, but I had to figure out how to re-enable the Recents folder on the start menu. Jumplists are great, but if I open a PPT file, and only open it once, it doesn’t show up in the frequently-used programs list and show a jumplist.

If you don’t have Windows 7, run out and get it. You’ll love it. I’ll blog about installing development software and order of precedence next. And then I’ll talk about incompatible software that doesn’t support Windows 7, and how NOT to treat your customers.

SVCC done, on to Fresno

October 4, 2009

The talk at the Silicon Valley Code Camp went great yesterday. Only a few people showed up, but they were people who really wanted more information about ClickOnce. I had spent a lot of time creating samples for deploying data, and completing an article for Microsoft about certificates expiring along with the code samples for that in both C# and VB, and they chose certificates (we only had an hour).

We talked about bugs features in various areas of ClickOnce, and then talked about “The Certificate Problem”. They found the trick of clicking the OK button on the uninstall very clever, but I must profess it was not my idea nor my code. I did place a reference to the original author in the code, because I always believe in giving credit where credit is due.

I’m going to give the whole talk at the East Bay .NET User Group meeting on October 14th, so if you want to know more, and you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, come check it out!

I ran into Gustavo Cavalcanti who runs the Central .NET Users Group in Fresno at SVCC, and I had to admit I had not written all of the content for my talk out there yet (it’s in 4 days). He wasn’t concerned; he said I was fairly entertaining the last time I went out there, so he figured it would be fine whatever I wanted to talk about. 🙂

In Fresno, I’ll be talking about using Visual Studio Tools for Office. I wanted to mess around with Outlook Add-Ins, and we write what we’re most interested in, so I wrote one that let me send images with a hyperlink for a GoldMail embedded in the image. This was on my own time, and it kind of got out of hand, as these things do when developers write code for themselves, and turned out to be pretty full-featured.

I added a group to the Ribbon, and added controls to it, then added a new command bar to the main Outlook window, messing around with dropdown menus and buttons and links. I tossed in a configuration form and then discovered a way to render html e-mail in Outlook if you’re sneaky (which I am). GoldMail liked my add-in so much, they asked and I consented to release it as a full-blown feature (coming soon!). So this is what I will start my demo in Fresno with.

For the rest of the talk, I’m going to draw inspiration (thinly disguised as code samples) from the excellent new VSTO book by Eric Carter and Eric Lippert, Visual Studio Tools for Office 2007. I haven’t decided what’s most interesting, but like the looks of databinding Excel to a SQLServer database, Smart Tags, Outlook Form Regions, and Application-level add-ins. I’ll figure it out today.

If you’re interested in VSTO, and Fresno is too far, come see me talk about it at the San Francisco .NET Users Group meeting on November 18th. VSTO is pretty cool.

Early morning surprises

October 1, 2009
I woke up earlier than intended this morning, and before going back to sleep pulled my iPhone out of the drawer and checked my e-mail. I know this sounds compulsive, but I frequently work until 2 a.m. or later, so I generally sleep a little later. Many in the company start work before I do (okay, most in the company start work before I do), so I check to make sure there is no emergency that requires me to get up “early”. Ok, yes, this is compulsive, but I can’t help myself.

I saw an e-mail from the MVP Lead who had requested information from me when I was nominated earlier this year by my friend Beth Massi. Beth had told me she thought the awards were handed out in January, so I just figured the MVP Lead was asking for more information. I squinted and tried to read the e-mail (have you ever tried to read e-mail on an iPhone? It’s really tiny, and I wasn’t cognizant enough to do the un-pinch-y-finger-move to make it bigger). I thought the e-mail said I had been awarded an MVP award.

I figured I was delusional, being a little sleep-deprived this week preparing for my talks and still trying to work my usual number of hours, so I put on my glasses and tried again, and it still said I had been awarded an MVP award. So I took the glasses off, cleaned them on my shirt, put them back on, and it still said I had been awarded an MVP award. So I called Beth.

Having been awake for about 60 seconds, I wasn’t terribly coherent, but Beth finally figured out what I was trying to tell her. She was very happy for me. After that e-mail, how could I possibly go back to sleep?

This was a surprise to me. I knew I had been nominated, but wasn’t sure it would happen because my expertise is in such a niche area (ClickOnce Deployment, in case you didn’t get that from the Blog title), and I wasn’t sure I was worthy. And apparently I was wrong about January.

I feel very honored and am grateful to my friend Beth Massi for nominating me. In fact, she blogged about me today, and it made me feel a little teary-eyed. It’s really nice to be appreciated.

I’ve made a GoldMail explaining why I got an MVP Award, and explaining the benefits and fun I’m going to have, including next year’s MVP Summit (Geekfest!!). I will continue blogging about ClickOnce (new features in 4.0 coming soon!!) and evangelizing and answering questions in the MSDN Forums. Hope you enjoy the GoldMail!

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