Articles from November 2007

Should I Get a MacBook?

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:23 PM :: 1620 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

I've complained about laptops and stated how much I want Microsoft to sell its own hardware. That's not happening any time soon, so as I discussed future plans with a friend, the idea of a laptop instead of a desktop came up. For what I need, that's perfectly fine. The only question is, what laptop would work best? Lenovo is the best I've had hands-on experience with, but I can't help but recognize its faults, which don't seem to be changing anytime soon. So, who has the best hardware? Supposedly Apple does. After speaking to someone who has one, he's confirmed that it's the best hardware he's had. He hasn't used a Lenovo, so he wasn't able to make that comparison, tho. Either way, you never know until you give it a shot, so I decided to entertain the idea of buying the Apple hardware. Let's face it, you want to run the best OS on the best hardware, right? Vista on an Apple laptop.

I have three problems with this, tho. First off, I hate the idea of giving Apple money for an OS I won't ever use. Second, I don't like the idea of walking around with the big Apple on my laptop. Of course, I guess it's no different from having the Dell or ThinkPad logo. Nonetheless, it'd be nice to replace that with a Windows logo. Finally, I have to have a right-click. I can't imagine a computing experience without the ability to right-click. I quickly found out the Ctrl-Click and two-fingers-on-the-touchpad-Click, which might work. I do have to say this is much more complicated than just adding the extra freakin' button. As I understand it, the argument for one button was simplicity. You tell me where the simplicity in a two- and three-finger click is. Anyway, I can get past the first two relatively easy and figure the third is just the price you pay. There's something a lot more important to me: the keyboard. You probably already saw that coming.

When I first looked at the Apple keyboard, I thought, "Wow, that's a tiny keyboard with huge keys... and what's up with all the wasted space!?" I thought my 17" Dell Inspiron had wasted space, this thing looked to be almost twice as bad. You'd think a company that gets so much kudos on thoughtful design would think about utilizing wasted space for, I don't know, a number pad!? HP is the only vendor I've seen with number pads, and that means a lot to me. Sure, it may not be on every laptop, but if it fits, give it to me! This isn't anything new, considering most vendors have this issue, but it's made worse by the immense amount of wasted space on the laptop. The next thing I noticed was the lack of Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys. Well, actually, these are on the same physical keys as the regular arrows. Not exactly sure how these work, but that seems off to me. Honestly, tho, I think I could get used to that fairly easily, since it makes sense. I don't mind dual-purpose keys. Let's see... aside from the aforementioned keys, there are no Print Screen, Num Lock, Pause, Insert, or Delete keys. I'd like to think there's a replacement shortcut for the Print Screen and I can easily live without the next three, but as a developer and fairly proficient touch-typer, I use the Delete key a lot. I don't know, maybe you can use Shift-Backspace to delete. Well, since I'm on the subject, Mac's label the standard Backspace key as "Delete". Not a big deal, really, but there's definitely a difference in the functionality. I then noticed the fact that there were two Enter keys. What's up with that!? I still don't know. Later, after getting a chance to look at a few pictures online, I realized the modifier keys are jacked up, just like almost every other vendor out there. What should be Ctrl, Fn, Win/Cmd, Alt is Fn, Ctrl, Alt, Cmd. This is aggravating enough on the Lenovo where there's only two keys off; I can't imagine dealing with them all out of place.

I think that about covers it, which brings me back to my earlier idea of keyboard replacement vendors. I haven't made a decision about whether or not to buy the laptop, but it's not looking good. Either way, I'm in no rush and didn't plan on doing it anytime soon, anyway. People probably think I'm crazy about being so anal with the keyboard, but let's face it, it's what we interact with the most on the computer. My hands are on the keyboard a lot more than the mouse... maybe that's because I talk too damn much in these posts


Windows "7" Wish List

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:32 AM :: 1839 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Predictions :: Digg it!

A supposed wish list of features for Windows "7" has been brought to light. I can neihter confirm nor deny the list, but I do think it's worth sharing. The key features in this list I'm interested in are the multi-monitor taskbar, virtual desktop, and CD/DVD image support, reopen closed tabs in IE, and integrated IE instances.

I'm not sure how much can be done to improve the taskbar for multiple monitors besides having the option to span both, which I don't like, but it'd be interesting to see. On the other hand, there are rumors that "7" (or maybe "7"+1, whether that be 7.1 or 8.0) will include a new UI, which doesn't include the start menu or taskbar. This is what I'd truly like to see; and, given the potential removal of the taskbar, the question of multi-monitor improvements comes up once again. Of course, this new UI might be built around that concept, so maybe it won't be an issue. With any major UI change, however, there are some supportability challenges Microsoft will face. Look at Office 2007 and how much ruckus came with that. Luckily, the change was well-accepted in the end. This is a gamble, tho.

A virtual desktop would be absolutely awesome. I just hope it's better than Microsoft's last foray into the virtual desktop space -- a power toy for XP, which was simply horrible. My current virtual desktop app has been commercialized, so it'd be nice to see something built into the OS.

Having the ability to mount a CD/DVD image will be nice. Microsoft had a Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel application (mentioned here), but it wasn't as integrated as I'd have liked. Oh, and it only works in Windows XP. If you're interested in this functionality in Windows Vista, check out MagicDisc.

There are a number of IE features in the list, too, like reopening closed tabs, which I currently have with IE7Pro; and, allowing you to drag tabs from one browser instance to another. I'm somewhat concerned with/interested in how session state will be managed in this scenario, since new tabs in the same IE instance are currently working with the same server session. I don't think I'd group these into the Windows "7" wishlist, tho, because I expect IE8 to be released before Windows "7." I'm expecting us to start hearing about betas in 2008 with an early 2009 release. Granted, I have no basis for that timeline, but a 2008 release date seems a bit too soon, given the lack of information we've seen. Either way, IE8 will be an exciting release. I'm expecting some game-changing features.

There were also a few features for Windows Mail and Calendar mentioned. I wonder how much Microsoft will be putting into these products. Currently, Microsoft has four actively supported desktop mail/calendar clients: Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail/Calendar, and Windows Live Mail. Obviously, Outlook Express has been deprecated. I have a feeling Windows Mail will be deprecated, as well. The only thing stopping that, in my mind, is potential legal problems. I see Windows Mail and Calendar as apps necessary for the Windows Vista release. With the Windows Live suite, there's no reason to keep them around.


Open Document Foundation Down and Out

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:35 PM :: 1500 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

Within the past month, the Open Document Foundation officially declared it would no longer support the Open Document Format (ODF). I had my speculations about the reasoning behind this move, but I can't say I would've guessed the foundation would close its doors. Of course, that was before the W3C knocked its own contender who the Open Document Foundation has chosen as its next poster-child, Compound Document Format (CDF), down a few pegs. That may sound a bit harsh, but apparently, W3C's Chris Lilley stated, "CDF... was not created to be, and isn't suitable for use, as an office format." There's nothing really wrong with this, but it definitely took the wind out of the foundation's sails. So much so, that there doesn't seem to have been any public announcement of the end of the foundation. All we know is the official website (broken link) has been taken down.

So, what will this mean for ODF? Who knows. It would've been nice to have seen the foundation approach Microsoft regarding Open XML, but that obviously didn't happen -- surprise, surprise. ODF won't simply go away. Sun and IBM are pushing it with pretty big budgets, hoping it'll grow the dying Open Office initiative. There have been some speculations noting that this could be the early stages of ODF's slow death, but I don't think it'll go so easily. I guess the astonishing thing is that the foundation just called it quits on the effort they supposedly felt so strongly about. If they really felt so strongly, I imagine they'd have worked a little harder to find a viable solution, even if it was to back Microsoft.


Live Documents

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:20 PM :: 1061 Views :: Technology, Microsoft :: Digg it!

The co-founder of the Microsoft-acquired Hotmail web-based email system is apparently working on a new service, Live Documents. As you could possibly guess, the service allows web-based sharing and editing of documents, specifically, Office documents. This will include Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents.This will compete with Office Live service Microsoft has been pushing for a couple years, now. Of course, what Office Live is missing is the online editing capability. I imagine we'll see that at some point, but it'll probably be a while before Microsoft truly embraces the web for what it is. Microsoft's official position with web vs. Windows has always aggravated me. Perhaps it's time for a change; out with the old, in with the new. Not sure if the existing new meat will do that or not. We'll have to see how the next year goes. What really gets me about this particular service is the name. I don't imagine Microsoft will just sit back while this company banks on the use of the "Live" franchise. With both Windows Live and Office Live, I think Microsoft has a pretty good claim here. Especially when you consider this is specifically about Office. Microsoft will push Office Live and users will happen across Live Documents, thinking they're one and the same. Obviously, that's not the case.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the competition. I don't expect much out of Google Docs, so this will hit a little closer to home. I want someone to push Microsoft. Like I said, I think they've made some stupid decisions in the web vs. Windows war and Microsoft obviously has a lot to learn.


If Microsoft Designed Gmail

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:33 PM :: 1287 Views :: Technology, Microsoft :: Digg it!

After reading the title for What If Gmail Had Been Designed by Microsoft?, I was happy to see someone acknowledging something Microsoft usually does a good job on: design. Then, as the web page loaded, I thought about how disappointed I've been with "Windows Live" Hotmail. I put quotes around Windows Live because it just doesn't feel like Live to me. I have a picture in my mind of what Live means and Hotmail is definitely not it. As much as I hate to admit it, the article is spot on. While I think the Gmail UI is visually crap, there are other features which make it very nice. I haven't timed the apps, but I feel like performance is one of those benefits. I guess my biggest gripe about Google is UI. They offer a good feel with no look. Microsoft, on the other hand, typically delivers a very good look, but lacks the feel. Microsoft doesn't get ad-based revenue and that's obvious with Hotmail. Microsoft also doesn't seem to get productivity. Google does a good job at both of these things. Part of the problem Microsoft has, in my mind, is that it tries to support everyone. Google has focused on one set of users, which makes life a bit easier for them. Of course, I do think there's a happy medium, but neither company seems to be able to find it.


The State of IE and Firefox

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:29 PM :: 1749 Views :: Technology, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

Maybe it's just me, but I keep waiting to see some major reason to switch back to Firefox and it just isn't happening. I picked it up pretty quickly at about 0.7.something and fell in love. Well, maybe it was more lust. I still go back and forth between the Firefox and IE, but that's more about getting things to work in both major browsers. Since IE7 was released, it's been my default; and, after looking at Firefox 3 Beta 1, that won't be changing anytime soon. There are only a small handful of features in Firefox I feel really out-step IE and I find most of those in add-ons. Honestly, there's only one feature I miss. Well, it's not really a feature, but the actual architecture. Firefox reminds me of two other very successful applications, Visual Studio and Eclipse. Why? Because all three are biult on extensibility. All three are merely skeletons to be built upon. Everything you get when you download/buy these apps is an extension that was merely packaged with it on the install. If IE had such a framework, I'd argue that it was better than Firefox. The lack of this framework is why I believe Firefox is so successful... aside from great timing given Microsoft's lack of improving IE. A lot of good work went into IE7, but it's not enough. IE8 is fairly hush-hush and, while I have a few ideas of what will be added, I don't think we're going to see a change in the underlying architecture. From what I've heard, there's a potential for a small revolution, but that all depends on implementation, of course. If you ask me, tho, I'd like to see a complete rewrite for IE9. I don't think that's necessarily out of the question, either. There are some good things we could see out of it. Anyway, what I really started this post for was how disappointed I am in Firefox 3. Aside from the architecture, Firefox doesn't bring anything revolutionary to the table and I'm still waiting for more. One day we'll see something big. The question is, who will push it out first and when? I have a feeling that'll be IE.


Intellisense in SQL Server Management Studio 2008

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:43 PM :: 10011 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

Looks like SQL Server Management Studio 2008 will finally include intellisense. It's about time. I have to admit I haven't been keeping on top of the SQL Server 2008 release, so I don't know much about what new features are included. All I know about is support for geospatial datatypes. Part of this is probably the lack of interest the community seems to have. Maybe it's just me.

SQL Server Management Studio 2008


YouTube Going HD

By Michael Flanakin @ 7:55 PM :: 1222 Views :: Technology, Predictions :: Digg it!

Looks like YouTube is planning on switching to HD quality videos. I'm curious how they plan on attacking this. Currently, the site uses Flash, which isn't capable of supporting HD quality videos. They could go with direct file streaming, but the concern there is portability across platforms. What's left? Silverlight. Do I really think this will happen? No. Let's face it, Google isn't a big supporter of Microsoft. Of course, if Silverlight was implemented, that'd be a huge win for Microsoft. Google won't let that happen, tho. I'm thinking they'll probably stick with Flash and just deal with a less-than-HD experience.


Use Cases are Requirements

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:08 PM :: 1383 Views :: Development, Patterns & Practices, Requirements :: Digg it!

In preparation for my cert upgrade -- did I mention how much I hate certs? -- I'm skimming thru some of the self-paced training books. For the most part, the books have all been decent. I'm not big on books, tho, so don't take my word for it. I do have one complaint, tho. I open the Designing and Developing Web-Based Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework book and don't even get 10 pages in before I find a blatant fallacy. With the 5 names on the cover, I'm not sure who's to blame, but I'm inclined to put it on all of their shoulders, as co-authors. What's the problem? I quote, "Use cases and requirements are not the same thing." What!? You've gotta be kidding me, right? What is a use case if not a requirement? What, are shall statements the only way to define requirements? A use case is a requirement -- a functional requirement. Let me defer to Wikipedia: "A use case is a technique used in software and systems engineering to capture the functional requirements of a system."

The book continues by stating that "a use case is a Unified Modeling Language (UML) model meant to describe a set of user steps that accomplish a task." To clarify, a use case has nothing to do with UML. UML is simply a "language" used to visually explain a concept. While there is a use case diagram within UML, all that does is visually depict system use cases and their relationships with each other as well as system actors. You don't need a use case diagram to have a use case; it's just helpful when visualizing the aforementioned interdependencies. Perhaps more useful than the use case diagram, tho, is the activity diagram. An activity diagram visualizes the steps of the use case and, if desired, can also specify who performs those steps. I'd argue that having a visual representation can greatly simplify requirements for all parties involved. Despite the fact that these things might be helpful when documenting your use cases, they are not required. Back to the comment, tho, I will say the latter part is completely right.

I'm not sure how the authors came to these misguided conclusions. Honestly, I question how much they've even used use cases. The term "requirement" is so ambiguous, there's no way to say what does or doesn't qualify. As a matter of fact, any demand of a system can be considered a requirement. Some people may define a requirement as, "the system must have accept usernames of up to 20 characters," while others might define the requirement at a higher level by saying, "the system shall require users to login." Which is correct? Neither. Both. It's all about perception. Use cases are a bit more grounded in reality. A use case for this scenario would define the login process. Within the use case, each of these requirements would be listed to ensure developers know exactly what they are required to implement to satisfy user needs. This is the value of a good use case -- it defines the contract you, as a developer, are signing up for and will be tested against. In some cases, business rules will need to be extracted and referenced from multiple use cases. For instance, password complexity requirements might be managed separately for simplicity, manageability, or purely because they are used or referenced elsewhere.

While I'm on the details of business rules, another problem I had with this section of the book was that it suggested you should avoid adding too much detail to use cases. While I completely agree, the tone of the section gave me the impression the authors were suggesting you avoid most detail. Granted, I may have received the wrong impression, but either way, it didn't do use cases justice. I'd argue use cases should be detailed to whatever level is required to explicate user needs for developers. Use cases should never describe the implementation -- well, unless there are specific implementation details that must be adhered to; however, even then I'd be hesitant to do so. I'd rather leave implementation constraints for the architecture document; but I digress. The level of detail you add to your use cases is going to depend very heavily on the team you're working with and the relationships of team members; especially, those between the business analysts and development staff.

I could go on about this, but I think I've said enough. I'm astounded at how many people don't get requirements, but then again, after working with so many people and projects, I shouldn't be. I am by no means an expert, but I could definitely teach these authors a thing or two about requirements management. Whatever you do, please avoid these discussions in these books and perhaps any other books on the subject by the authors in question.


NCAAF Coming to a Close

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:29 AM :: 1189 Views :: LSU :: Digg it!

Sitting in front of the last game of the regular season, LSU is #1 and Kansas is #2. I mentioned before that I'm completely surprised at Kansas' comeuppance this year. I haven't been watching the team over the years and now I'm wondering if this has been building up or just a singular great run. Either way, the definitive game of the season will undoubtedly be Kansas vs. #4 Missouri. I don't mean to lessen the value of the LSU vs. Arkansas game, but I expect, win or lose, LSU and #9 Georgia will be meeting, once again, for the SEC championship. I guess the only thing left is #3 West Virginia. Maybe I'm just biased because I'm from Louisiana and went to high school in Kansas, but I have no idea why West Virginia is even up here. I'm looking at the teams they've played and I'm not impressed. If this team gets past the conference championship, I'll be surprised. Beyond that, I'd put money on the fact that they don't make it out of the BCS bowl alive.


.NET-Java Interop via JMS and WCF/BizTalk

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:39 PM :: 1730 Views :: .NET, Java, Development, Tools/Utilities :: Digg it!
Well, there's one more way to connect Java and .NET systems, now: Java Message Service (JMS). For the uninitiated, JMS is similar to Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) on the .NET side only not quite as simple to implement or complex in its operation. JMS did come first, however, and was undoubtedly reviewed during the initial design phases for WCF. Either way, JNBridge has built JMS adapters to communicate with .NET and with BizTalk. As a matter of fact, the .NET adapter was built with WCF, which should work very well with .NET apps willing to upgrade to .NET 3.0. It'll also be good when BizTalk finally makes use of .NET 3.0. I haven't heard anything definite, but I'm assuming that'll be in the next major release. That release should also include support for Windows Workflow Foundation (WF).

MapQuest Resorting to Blog Spam?

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:59 PM :: 1225 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

Ever since Google Maps came on the scene, MapQuest has been slowly losing ground. What used to be the place to go for directions is now the last place I'd go. With Live Maps and even Yahoo Maps, there's just no room for MapQuest. Perhaps if some time and money would've been invested in the service to keep it ahead of the game, it'd probably still be on top. But, it's probably too late, now. So, what's a company to do? Ooh, ooh; I got it! Blog spam! I find it odd that MapQuest would do such a thing, but I have to wonder what some third party would gain from it. I haven't investigated this any, but the span came from user mapquest with an email address of map@mail.com and IP address of 91.124.202.61. All the comment said was, "Hello." I don't see how people get value out of this, but whatever. I don't care enough to track this down, but if someone is interested, feel free.

Update (11/16/2007): I just got another one from 91.124.18.14.


Adobe Moving Apps to the Web

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:54 AM :: 915 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
Looks like Adobe's moving to the web. This is an initiative we've been seeing a lot over the years, but this is perhaps the first time we've seen such a major desktop application consider the migration... at least publicly. I'm definitely one to say you can do just about anything on the web you can do on the desktop, but Photoshop might be pushing the limits. With Flash and Silverlight, tho, maybe that's not as far off as I'm thinking. We have yet to see a truly powerful app written for the web, which is why I'm intrigued by the announcement. It's no secret I'm not a fan of Adobe and don't think Adobe builds quality into their apps, so it's probably given that I'd hate to see Adobe be the first to build a complex, high performance interactive web app; but maybe that'll spur Microsoft to do more. I know there's at least some initiative to get Office apps online, but I have to say those aren't very big feats. Well, not the core essentials, anyway. There are some pretty big feature sets included in Word and Powerpoint. Who will be the first to build a major interactive web app, tho?

Microsoft's New Open Source Licenses

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:36 PM :: 966 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!
A month late, but still newsworthy, Microsoft's Reciprocal and Public Licenses, Ms-RL (via OSI) and Ms-PL (via OSI), have both been approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). If neither of these sound familiar to you, you're probably more familiar with the Reference and Permissive Licenses. The Microsoft Reference License is Microsoft's most restrictive license and is what was chosen when .NET went open source. So, where did these two come from? Well, they were renamed. Originally, these were submitted as the Microsoft Community and Permissive Licenses. I remember noting some debate on the name of the Permissive License, so I imagine the same debate forced a rename of the former. I think the name changes were good -- they seem more direct and explanatory. I know some things were questioned, but don't honestly know how much changed about the licenses. Perhaps my favorite thing about these licenses, including the Microsoft Reference License, is their brevity. Too many licenses are over-complicated *cough, cough* GPLv3 *cough, cough* ;-)

Upgraded to DNN 4.7

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:40 AM :: 1208 Views :: DotNetNuke :: Digg it!

Well, I said I wanted to upgrade DNN, so I did it. I'm now on 4.7. I got in one of those moods this morning and just wanted to attack it. I'm glad it's done. The 4.7 upgrade was odd because there was a lot of cleanup, it seems. I'm definitely glad to see it. If all projects had the same cleanup efforts, the world would be a better place, don't you think? This one wasn't huge, but it was nice to see.


Upgraded to DNN 4.5.5

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:14 PM :: 1437 Views :: DotNetNuke :: Digg it!

Just wanted to make a quick status update. I just upgraded my server from DotNetNuke (DNN) 4.0.3 to 4.5.5. I've been slacking over the past year and it's well past time to upgrade. I guess not working on DNN on a daily basis has caused me to neglect the site. I still need to finish the complete upgrade to 4.7, but wanted to make a smaller jump, first. I'm excited to dig into the new features. The biggest thing I gain from this jump was the use of FCK Editor instead of Free TextBox, which I've learned to abhor. So far, so good!


Slow Network Access, Duplicate IPs in VMs

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:14 PM :: 850 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
Just wanted to share a quick tidbit of info that's caused me some pain over the past 8 months. I setup a developer VM and started passing it out to team members. I noticed the VM was responding very slowly at times, which didn't make a lot of sense because it worked fine in my initial tests. For the past month or so, everything was running smoothly, but it started happening again recently. The biggest problem I noticed was we'd occasionally notice big get-latest operations freezing. This was aggravating, but I didn't know where to start. By chance, I was working with someone else and needed to test against their VM. Low and behold, we had the same IP address. I eventually tracked this down to the MAC address, which was also the same. Admittedly, I'm still somewhat new to virtualization, but this surprised me a lot. I imagined Virtual PC would auto-generate new MAC addresses when the VM starts, but I guess it makes sense not to, since some people are doing physical-to-virtual (P2V) migrations and/or need to move VMs around where they may need to remain the same. Either way, it was aggravating. How did this happen? I copied the VMC file when I handed out the VHD to developers. Actually, it's because I started with a VMC file created in Virtual Server and reused it in Virtual PC. Virtual Server allows you to choose static or dynamic MAC address creation and, obviously, I wasn't paying attention to that choice. When I reused the VMC file, Virtual PC read the static setting and kept the same MAC address. Since I fixed the problem, I haven't noticed the slow down, but the jury's still out on whether it fixed the problem or not. I'm pretty confident, tho -- conflicting MAC addresses is definitely going to cause networking issues.

Back on Top

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:46 AM :: 1368 Views :: LSU :: Digg it!
Looks like LSU's back on top. While I missed the last game, I have to admit the team hasn't been playing at a #1 level. Despite that, I am glad to see them up there. We'll see how the next two weeks pan out, tho. The next game against Ole Miss is a gimme, so I'm just hoping the Tigers don't get cocky. Arkansas can be a tough game, so they'll need to be on the ball to hold that #1 standing. I think the bigger question is how Oregon and Kansas will do. Kansas isn't really a football team, so I'm surprised to see them at 10-0. Their big game will be with Missouri in two weeks. Of course, the last game of the season is always a big one. This is where we'll see the most movement, I imagine. It should be exciting!

File Names for Generic Classes

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:34 AM :: 1471 Views :: .NET, Java, Development, Patterns & Practices :: Digg it!

I'm pretty big on the practice of naming a file after the class it contains. And, yes, I follow the one class per file practice. Ever since .NET 2.0, tho, generics have thrown a kink in the system. We can't have file names with angle brackets (< and >). So, what is the best practice for naming generic class files? Java has the same problem -- perhaps more so since their file names have to be the same as their classes (a restriction I wish .NET had). I haven't touched Java since before generics were introduced, so I'm not sure how it implements that. I'd be interested in seeing, tho. I may have to give that a look at some point. Until then, I started using brackets ([ and ]) to represent generic class file names. For instance, I created a model-view-presenter (MVP) class that extends Control with a signature of Control<TView,TPresenter> and a filename of Control[TView,TPresenter]. That works, of course, but I'm wondering if there's a better way.

On a side, but perhaps related note, GhostDoc will document a generic class/member by HTML encoding the angle brackets; however, Resharper replaces them with curly braces ({ and }). I'm curious as to which is the "right" approach. If it's the latter or both, I might opt to name files with curly braces rather than brackets.


TFS Offline Capabilities

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:48 AM :: 1110 Views :: Development, Predictions, Tools/Utilities :: Digg it!
I love TFS for everything it provides, but one of my top aggravations is its horrible support for disconnected users *grumble, grumble* Subversion was better *grumble, grumble* I saw something that made me put 2 and 2 together, tho. Will TFS be introducing better disconnected support a la Microsoft Sync Framework? It's too late to tie this into the TFS 2008 release, which is coming out at the end of November, so I'd say we should definitely see something in Visual Studio "Rosario," which I'm expecting to see in early 2009, at the latest. Of course, this is something I imagine they'll want to get out to people a lot sooner, so I'm actually leaning more towards the possibility of a power tool. The TFS team has done a good job of getting power tools out. It'll be very nice to have the current tools integrated into the core platform, but I still look forward to what else is coming down the road. I don't know about you, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one. Despite the fact that I think this was a horrible oversight on the TFS team's behalf, better late than never.

Windows "7" MinWin

By Michael Flanakin @ 2:08 PM :: 1212 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

I've talked about Server Core coming in Windows Server 2008. Well, Windows "7" is introducing an even more minimalistic concept, MinWin. While there isn't much out there about MinWin, I ran into a very brief demo of it. Apparently, MinWin runs with 25 MB of disk space and 40 MB of RAM. Wow! When's the last time Windows could do that!? Server Core is a step in that direction, but still requires 1.5 GB of disk space. Of course, there's a lot more in Server Core than MinWin. In the demo I got a quick glimpse of, there were no graphics, which led to an ASCII art boot screen I had to smirk at. Take a look...

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Copyright 1985-2007 Microsoft Corporation

 


Microsoft Gunning for Google Gears?

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:02 AM :: 1599 Views :: .NET, Development, Microsoft, Predictions, Tools/Utilities :: Digg it!
Microsoft recently announced the Microsoft Sync Framework, which keeps disconnected users connected. Those familiar with it might wonder how this relates to Google Gears. There is a key difference, however; Gears is a browser plug-in, while the Sync Framework is, well, a framework. Don't get me wrong, this is a step in the right direction, but Google definitely showed Microsoft up on this one. I imagine we might see something from Microsoft in the way of a browser plug-in, but that's not Microsoft's typical style. Actually, I'd put my money on sync integration built into Silverlight 1.1. Coding in .NET and built-in sync? Silverlight's sounding better and better. Eat your heart out Flash.

UI Police will be Armed

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:50 AM :: 1160 Views :: User Experience :: Digg it!

UI police will be armed

By Brian Morelli
Iowa City Press-Citizen

We could only be so lucky


Windows "7": UX, Consumers, and the S+S Vision

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:30 AM :: 2207 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Predictions, User Experience :: Digg it!

Anyone who knows about the history of Microsoft knows the company works best when challenged. While I can't imagine many reasons people would question XP vs. Vista, nobody can argue Microsoft has made a lot of stupid mistakes with this release. I foresee a change with Windows "7," tho. I'm expecting Windows "7" to be more focused on user experience and consumerisms than some of the previous releases. If not "7," then the follow-on release. Why? Because Apple is picking up steam.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Apple gets user interface design. Microsoft needs to take this to heart a bit more and strive to innovate on how users interact with the OS. I see this being the key differentiator in years to come. We've grown accustomed to the same old thing and I think we think there has to be a better way. I'm not saying today's computing experience is flawed. I merely think there's probably a better way to make the computer act like we do and predict our actions more than it does today... which is none. Microsoft started with Office 2007, so now it's time to do it with Windows.

Usability is one thing, but there's more to the equation. Let's face it, consumers have different needs than enterprises and Microsoft has seemingly put more effort in meeting enterprise needs than those of the consumer. How will Microsoft seek to improve on this? Today, I think the answer to that question is easy: Windows Live. The itch of the consumer is scratched with what comes in Windows Vista, but there's still much to be desired. What's the answer here? The growing suite of Windows Live products, of course. We're starting to see a one-to-one mapping of core Windows apps (i.e. mail and photo management) to Windows Live apps. Coincidence? I think not. Microsoft is treading new territory with the Windows Live suite, tho. It'll be interesting to see how things pan out over the next year or two; especially with the next release of Windows. With or without Windows Live, Windows is what needs to change to keep people from switching. Perhaps the Windows Live suite will replace what's built into Windows, perhaps not. I have to admit I can see that being a possibility. My only concern would be antitrust issues. Then again, most of the Windows Live apps I've used work with other services, as well, so maybe that won't be a problem. I imagine we simply need more of a plugin model or standardized service interfaces to augment that more for other service vendors. Hmm... maybe I'll stick with that. Windows Live being part of Windows just seems to make sense. With this, the software plus services (S+S) vision could almost be fully realized within Windows "7."


WCF Service Throttling

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:39 PM :: 11577 Views :: .NET :: Digg it!

A while ago, I implemented my first WCF service. When I did so, I left out something I knew would come back to haunt me: throttling. Well, to be honest, it's not necessarily that I expected it to "haunt" me, but I knew it was definitely something I would've liked to have looked into more. Unfortunately, so many things had changed at the time and we were on such a short time frame, more changes just didn't make sense. Thanks to Kenny Wolf Syndicated feed, I am now one step closer to that goal -- which is very nice since I didn't have to do any digging  Here's a summary... The ServiceThrottlingBehavior class and, more specifically, the corresponding config element specify 3 settings to control service throttling: MaxConcurrentCalls, MaxConcurrentInstances, and MaxConcurrentSessions.

<behavior name="throttled">
  <serviceThrottling 
    maxConcurrentCalls="10"     // # of messages the host can process (default = 10)
    maxConcurrentInstances="1"  // # of host instances
    maxConcurrentSessions="16"  // # of host sessions (default = 16)
    />
</behavior>

Kenny has a little more info on his site, so check that if you're interested in more details. I'm mainly interested in saving off the details I'll need to look at later. I assumed it would be specified in configuration -- what isn't in the world of WCF? -- but hadn't verified that yet. Thanks again, Kenny!

 


Open Document Foundation Drops ODF

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:06 AM :: 1458 Views :: Technology, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!
Apparently, the Open Document Foundation is dropping the Open Document Format (ODF) in favor of the W3C's Compound Document Format (CDF). There are a number of reasons for this decision with Sun's control over ODF being at the top of the list. I have to say I find this very amusing. Will this signal the begining of the end for ODF? I don't think we can say that just yet, but it's not good, that's for sure. I took a very brief glance at CDF and thought it was an interesting mix of technologies, but I don't know if I really like it. While HTML has worked for us over the years, there has to be a better presentation technology. Sure, XHTML is a slight improvement, but not enough, in my mind. I'm very curious about XAML, but I don't expect to see that supported in browsers anytime soon. Of course, maybe the pain I associate with HTML is the how developers, web designers, and tools [ab]use it. If everyone used the most recent standard and embraced the minimalistic ideals of CSS-based layouts, I probably wouldn't feel so bad about it. I am intrigued by CDF because of my web experience, tho. Given the lack of tooling support at this time, all I see this doing is fragmenting the ODF initiative, which would strengthen the Open XML initiative. Personally, I think there's a need for Open XML when considering ODF; but, I don't know enough about CDF to say whether or not that would suffice.

Microsoft Needs to Sell Hardware

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:42 AM :: 2136 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, User Experience :: Digg it!

I was brought up on the Mac. I switched over to Windows a long time ago because of the power of the platform. For the most part, I haven't looked back. There is one thing that always seems to catch the corner of my eye, tho: user experience. Well, I've seen some pretty bad user experiences coming from Apple, so let me classify a bit more by saying user interface design. Apple does a good job of making things look great and feel pretty good. Microsoft has incrementally tried to fix this, but there's one major stop-gap: hardware. As long as Microsoft depends on 3rd party vendors to develop the hardware Windows lives on, Microsoft will be plagued with poor implementations. For this reason, I really want to see Microsoft start selling hardware; specifically, laptops. I honestly think the desktop market is somewhat stable. Sure, there can probably be some improvements, but with the increasing need for mobility, I'm more interested in laptops. Either way, the need is the same: a new infusion of fresh blood in the hardware industry. I don't want another Dell or HP, tho. I'm looking for one line of laptops tweaked for power users. I want it setup and configured for success. Forget the crap software vendors put on there -- you gotta love that Apple ad, Bloated. For once in my life, I'd like to get something I don't feel the need to format right off the bat. The key to this is very solid hardware. I want it pretty, I want it functional, and I want some out-of-the-box thinking in its design. I've been screaming for this in the back of my mind for over a year, now. There's only one problem... Microsoft.

Microsoft is not a hardware company. Look at the Xbox. Sure, the damn thing sells like candy, but how much of a loss has Microsoft taken because of faulty hardware? Yeah, that's right, a billion. Sure, it's pocket change, but that's money that could be used to innovate on a better platform. If I remember correctly, the Xbox itself (not the games) was a loss for the first few years and only recently saw its first profits -- gee, those didn't last long, did they? I honestly don't follow that market, but it just goes to show how bad Microsoft is at major hardware initiatives. Zune hasn't really proven itself, but there are other factors there. Besides, Zune is built by Toshiba... perhaps one of the worst hardware companies around, which doesn't make me feel any better. Where I'm going with all this, tho, is I don't want Microsoft proper to build this laptop line. I want a subsidiary who's dynamic and flexible. Someone with the resources of big daddy to ensure success, but with the ability to innovate and go to market with more agility -- something the hardware industry sucks at. Of course, maybe this isn't right, but I'd like to see it implemented before arguing one way or another. Take some notes from Apple and Lenovo and pull together a strong team who can build solid computers. Point them to the Windows, Office, Windows Live, and Research groups and let them show the world how Microsoft software was meant to be experienced.

...oh, and for God sakes, give me a good laptop keyboard! :-P


Mac OS X "Leopard" Security Vulnerabilities

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:43 PM :: 993 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
Not even a week after its release, Mac OS X "Leopard" is seeing trojans and less than desirable default settings. This isn't the first time Apple's security ignorance has come to light and I don't imagine it'll be the last. Lately, it seems each major Apple release has had its share of security vulnerabilities. Safari on Windows, iPhone, and now the newest Mac OS X release. It's only a matter of time before the veil has been completely removed. Apple's where Microsoft was back in the early Windows days. Times have changed, tho, and as users move to more insecure platforms, like Mac OS, the malware community will find its new victims. Apple has a lot to learn; they better start quickly. Making stupid decisions like not enabling the firewall by default is going to kill the OS. You think they'd have learned from Microsoft, but apparently they need to make their own mistakes.

MSDN Subscription: November 2007

By Michael Flanakin @ 10:28 AM :: 994 Views :: MSDN Subscriptions :: Digg it!

MSDN

The following consists of the English DVD updates released under the MSDN Premium (Team Suite) subscription level for November 2007.

Servers

  • Disc 4379 / Part X14-13532
    • Microsoft® Office Communications Server 2007 Speech Server (English)

For more information, see the MSDN Subscriptions Index.


The Vista Catch 22

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:55 AM :: 1770 Views :: Technology, Microsoft, Predictions :: Digg it!

I feel like I've been hearing more and more about how Vista is a flop lately. Some even say Microsoft should abandon Vista. I honestly have no idea what these people are talking about. I've switched myself and others on every machine I've had the opportunity to, 7 at last count, and nobody's looked back once. The only valid concern I've heard from people about upgrading is the fact that some hardware/software doesn't work or has problems. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to belittle the value of these things. I'm merely saying this isn't Microsoft's fault. Vista has been no secret. Microsoft is pretty good about letting its partners know what's coming. Heck, over the past 3-5 years, they've been getting better and better about letting us all know what's coming. Granted, all this one-sided effort to prepare vendors for the upgrade doesn't mean much if the vendors choose not to upgrade their software. Speaking of which, I have to say that the vast majority of the upgrade issues come from bad practices, including insecure software design from lazy developers. If you have an app that doesn't work, I'd question how secure it is and possibly the stance and effort the vendor has on and puts into security altogether. The bottom line is there's nothing Microsoft can really do at this point -- it's in the hands of vendors, now. With that, I'm going to say there's a catch 22 for those who've chosen not to upgrade/fix their software. Vendors won't put effort into fixing their products for Vista if users aren't migrating and users won't migrate unless their products are supported. What's everyone to do? Sure, Virtual PC can solve some problems, but not all. Besides, the idea of VPC boggles the minds of most end users, so I wouldn't even try to suggest that.

I have no idea what the right answer is, but it's an interesting problem Microsoft faces. This is a problem they've faced before, but never so drastic. Clearly, this is a key opportunity for other OS vendors to benefit as they offer potential migration paths for those not willing to migrate to Vista, but there's faulty logic there, too. Linux is still not an option for most users; and, Mac is more appealing than it's ever been -- especially with the latest release -- but we're starting to see it gravitate to more of a power user base -- especially with the latest release -- which doesn't make sense for the vast majority of users. On the Mac side, they suggest virtualization to solve any Windows-specific needs, which I'd argue is still too complex for most users.

Just to touch on the "abandon Vista" thought, I will say I think Microsoft should speed up it's plans to migrate off the Win32 platform. Well, let me clarify by saying I don't know if that's actually a plan or not. If it isn't, it should be. I've seen it coming for a while, but that's mostly in vague directions Microsoft has taken with different tools/technologies. I'd like to see a solid effort to dump the crap that's plagued Windows users for years. Not all at once, perhaps, but there needs to be a migration strategy. I think I've made my desires known: I want to see a .NET-based OS. There will be a platform shift, the question is when will it hit?