I've been using Launchy for several months and I love it. Honestly, I haven't run into anything that I don't like about it or that I'd change. After seeing a bit of traffic around a few other tools, tho, I decided to give another one a chance to see what the competition is like. I doubt that I'll try too many because I hate going thru the install-test-uninstall process. Personally, I'm a screenshot whore. When I look at new tools, I want to see screenshots or demos that show me what I'm getting into. I'm also big on user experience, so anything I use needs to be pretty. Don't get me wrong, function is important, too, but having a good form and function balance is what keeps people faithful.
With that said, I decided to try SlickRun. My first impression was to uninstall it. Well, actually, my very first was to not even try installing it because there weren't any screenshots that gave me an idea of what it looked like. Granted, it's not all that complicated, but I still like to see something before installing a utility. After I bit the bullet and installed it, tho, I was pretty disgusted. The damn thing is just plain ugly. But, since others are praising it, I figure I'll give it a try for a while.
Regarding the capabilities, I have to say that I do like the "magic word" concept. Initially, I was worried that you would be forced to specify all of your words, but luckily it recognizes apps, too. It also supports URLs, which is kind of nice. Those are probably the only two features that'll keep it installed, tho. Given those, now I want a feature to allow me to do what Firefox does with bookmarks: Specify a keyword for a URL and pass a parameter to it. For instance, if I type live michael flanakin, I'll be sent to Live.com with a search criteria of michael flanakin. I love that feature in Firefox.
Anyway, I'll give SlickRun a chance for a while. If only it could look like Launchy...
After creating a new mobile application in Visual Studio 2005 and running it in the debugger, you receive an error message that is similar to the following:
Unable to start program '%CSIDL_PROGRAM_FILES%\MyMobileApp\MyMobileApp.exe'.
The system cannot find the file specified.
Honestly, I'm not even sure what the problem is. I searched and searched and never really found an answer that worked. There were only a very small handful of topics I could find relating to the subject. If someone knows what the problem is, please let me know.
Well, this might be an obvious one, but oh well... When I first started with this project, I was using the basic VS 2005 install, which provided support for Pocket PC 2003 and SmartPhone 2003. I knew I needed Windows Mobile 5.0, but wasn't too concerned with this. After not finding a solution to my problem, I decided to download the Windows Mobile 5.0 Developer Resource Kit. Installing this and the Pocket PC 5.0 SDK which comes with it solved my problems. I created a new project and everything worked beautifully.
Also of note: If you have an MSDN subscription, you can download the kit there.
- Applies to: Visual Studio 2005
Ok, now here's something ridiculous. There's a security-based debate going on between Microsoft and a few partners around some of the security features in Vista. Symantec, the larger of the two mentioned in the article, is complaining because it doesn't have low-level kernel access like it did in previous versions of Windows. Now, isn't that just too bad? I have nothing against Symantec, but it seems awfully stupid that a security company would complain about security features in the OS. As a fiscal company, sure it sucks; but they make money by helping users protect themselves. How dare Microsoft try to better the OS by protecting users from malware!? The fact that Symantec (and others) would complain about a security feature that protects users against malware speaks to their real agenda.
This topic is honestly nothing new. There are a few features that have been on the books to be included in Windows for quite some time, but have been pushed back time after time because people were worried that they'd break apps. Well, kudos to the Windows team for sucking it up and opting security over compatibility. That's what Trustworthy Computing (TwC) is all about!
As we all know, Windows has grown bit by bit, byte by byte over the past few decades. As with every system, when it grows so much, we tend to see problems arise in the overall architecture. With Windows, the most notable is probably security; however, if you were on the other end, my guess is that you'd see growing difficulties around integrating new features and expanding upon the current feature-set. Anyone who's maintained a legacy system knows what that's like. It can get pretty bad. Fortunately, things started to change for Windows a few years back. Ever since the invent of .NET, Microsoft has had a vision of modularizing the Windows architecture. Granted, this is simply my opinion based on what I've seen and heard over the years, but now it seems that Gartner is backing me up on it. Nice to see they finally decided to get with the program The only difference is that I've seen a change in direction on Microsoft's part and it seems that Gartner hasn't.
When you go back to the beginnings of Windows Server 2003, you'll see that the plan was to incrementally release portions of Windows one at a time. My guess is that the far-reaching goals of Longhorn caused Microsoft to scale back on their plans. I expect things to change, tho. I've been a big proponent of rewriting Windows along with its many internal components. Honestly, there are probably a lot of Microsoft products that could use a ground-up rewrite. I think we'll see it in time. Plans are already being put together for the next client version of Windows. I suspect we'll see more parts of Windows be built on .NET technologies. Eventually, "native" development will be the wrapper on top of .NET. That might be a hard thing to picture, but it's definitely possible. .NET would have to change and would most definitely need some performance improvements, but that's all possible.
Currently, I'm looking into different storage options. The latest USB memory sticks are up to 4 GB for around $100. I like them because of their size, but I just think they're a waste of money because, as time goes on, they'll become somewhat useless. I have a 64 MB stick that I got in 2002 or 03 that's pretty much pointless. So, in trying to come up with something that'll be a little more flexible and cost effective, I come to hard drives and enclosures. With these, I have two choices: laptop or full-size hard drives. The problem is, with around $75, I can get 80 or 250 GB, respectively. No question, right? Well, let's not forget that my plan is to bring this with me everywhere. Adding one piece after another to your mobile pack gets pretty heavy. I noticed this pretty quickly after picking up a top-of-the-line Inspiron (that is still flame-free, I might add).
Actually, while I'm on the topic, I have to say that my Dell Inspiron 9300 runs better and cooler than my Toshiba Protege M400. The Toshiba's a tablet, but it sucks and it's hot as all get-out. If it's your money, save it! Get a tablet, yes, but not this one.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, hard drives... So, the question is, what's the weight difference between the two? I haven't really looked into that, yet, but I will. One of the things I like about the laptop drive is that I can organize content on each one. Let's say I have a library of hard drives. If I need to work on a BizTalk solution, i can grab my BizTalk drive that has virtual machines from random BizTalk projects I've worked on. Same thing goes for SharePoint and any other tool or technology I may work on. That seems very useful to me. I'm all about finding the best way to manage information; especially, as I consolidate 4 machines and bring in 7 years of work backups into the picture. Trying to organize all of this information so I have the right level of access when I need it can be a pain. Someone's gotta do it, tho... This is when I need an intern. Damn... Any takers? No? Oh well, it was worth a shot.
If anyone has any experience or insight in dealing with additional storage space, please share your experience. Let me know what you're thinking about doing, what you did do and how it turned out, or why you avoided the situation all-together. I'm interested. I want to make a decision fairly soon, but the chances are that I'll mix it up a little and end up getting a little of both.
I'm not even going to get into the specifics of this post on Google's lock-in mousetrap
. Let me say that I completely understand the war tactics that Microsoft took in the past and that Google's taking now. Only the strong survive, right? Well, there's a completely different strategy between the two companies right now and one thing's changed in the world since the days when Microsoft was playing these games: Microsoft. A lot of things were learned by companies as they watched Microsoft make business decisions that may not have been completely ethical, but earned them a place in every home. Good, bad, or indifferent, it's in the past. Google's trying to take that same approach now, but a lot of things have changed, so I don't think it'll work as well. Sure, Google has a very strong backing, but it won't go down the same way. I see Google being a strong competitor in the next few years, but it seems like more of a 5 year plan, whereas Microsoft has a 20 year plan. I can't and won't speak for either company, tho; I'm simply stating my opinions based on what I've seen and continue to see going on for both companies. It'll be interesting to see how things pan out, but unless Google gets out of their unspoken lock-in target, they won't last.
A recent New York Times article
discusses the affects of IT mobility on our lives, specifically, the use of laptops in bed. The article centers around the idea that, as devices get smaller and smaller, it becomes easier and easier to bring them with you around the house and into bed. As any tech-addict will know, this can cause problems within a relationship. I don't game, so I'm lucky on that front; but I am a work-aholic. I've been against laptops because of their price and upgradability, but after a time of not being around my desktop, I needed to find a compromise to spend time with my girlfriend and get some work done. The laptop is a great solution for me. We watch a lot of movies, so I can get work done while enjoying a movie. I love it. Besides, I'm always multitasking anyway, so it's just natural. I think the problem that others may have is when they don't know when to step away from the computer (or whatever it is) when their significant other asks for a moment or two. That simple act can mean the world. Anyway, I don't want to get into the philosopy of a work-life balances and relationships, but I thought the article was interesting.
A recent post on Slashdot made me aware of a talk around the idea of purchasing Microsoft and cutting the fat. I have to say that the idea is enticing, but it would never really work that easily. As with any major organization, cutting the fat is always a good thing, but it's a lot harder to do than one might think. The part that I was annoyed with the most with respect to this talk was the idea that the research money was a waste. Microsoft Research does a LOT of good work. As a matter of fact, they're working on a project right now that has already proven to significantly improve on long- and short-term memory loss. I can't go into details about it because I don't think it's public, yet, but feel free to check out the MSR website for more information on this and their other projects. They have some very nice projects that I'm very interested in. Check them out and I'm sure you'll find some that you might be interested in. They don't all have such a large effect on society, but research is all about throwing a bunch of ideas together to see what comes out of it. Some may be life-changing and some may simply save you five minutes when getting ready in the morning. Either way, the research is worth it in the long run.
Now that I went and got off topic, let me just say that you can cut the fat in Microsoft just as you could with any other company; but the truth is that no matter who heads the company, you're going to have to deal with the good and bad. Just watch Sun over the next few years and see how they do. They just went thru a major change, so it'll be something interesting to watch -- especially when you consider their declining value within the marketplace; but that's been going on for years.
I'm sure we've all seen and heard the complaints about how patents supposedly stifle innovation. I'm sorry, but I'm getting sick of it. I completely understand the logic, but it's just wrong. If you truly have something innovative to contribute, all you need to do is work something out with the patent owners to either legally expand upon or at least work with the the existing ideas. The only real debate I can see against patents is that it might force some to be more creative in formulating and publicizing their ideas. If you really have something positive to share, tho, you won't have a problem. You may have to work thru the legal hoops, but that's why patents are there -- to protect intellectual property (IP). One of my biggest pet peves is when people complain about something and don't do anything real to fix it. Has anyone really tried to expand on patents? Sure, you might have to pay some licensing fee, but that's the point. Imagine if you develop some million dollar technology. Are you telling me that you'd rather give it up for free so that others can build ideas off of it? I seriously doubt it. I know I wouldn't. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about sharing ideas and the open source movement where it makes sense, but there's a thin line. If you really want to share your ideas for free, go for it. When it comes between you and a million dollars, tho, I guarrantee you'll take that million. If you really have a problem with the patent process, figure out how to make it better. Just realize that the whole point of patents is to protect IP. If you can't do that, then you're fighting a losing battle. Let's also not forget that some IP protects our lives. Information is key to life and survival. Imagine what would happen if we shared all of our information with our enemies in World War I and II or any battle, large or small, for that matter. I can go on and on with this, so I'll just leave it there... `
Apparently, Microsoft is updating the ribbon interface in Office 2007 because people are complaining about the size of the ribbon. Personally, I love the ribbon. My only problem with it is, as an advanced user, it's sometimes harder to find what I need. That'll all come with change, tho. I accept change pretty easily, when it makes sense, and after using the new interface, I have to say that it does make sense. I do know a small group of people that complained about the size of the ribbon, but they did like the idea. I also remember seeing a comment about how the larger size of the icons makes it easier to click on them, which, after taking a second to think about it, does make a lot of sense. I'm a speed clicker, so I can understand this line of thinking. While I've never had an issue with the 16x16 icons, I have to admit that it makes sense.
Also of note, Jensen Harris took a look at the size and compared it to Office 97. While I would've preferred a comparison to Office 2003, it was still a nice perspective.
Well, a busy day at Slashdot means longer time posting a few comments and opinions for me. This will be one of 7 posts touching on different Slashdot posts. This is the most I've seen on Slashdot that I've actually felt the need to comment on in a while. Here goes...
First up to bat is yet another gripe about Microsoft and patents. I have to say that I'm getting very annoyed with the patent issue. This patent covers a method for the self-regulating social networks (i.e. MySpace and YouTube). The post was pretty negative, but I honestly don't see any harm in the patent. If you don't like it, don't use any system that utilizes it. Plain and simple. I'm not going to get into the patent issue, yet, there's more to come. All I really have to say is that, with all the time wasted to spam and the like, I see this as a good thing. Honestly, if I could track down who sent me an unsolicited email and reduce their bandwidth, I would. Wouldn't you?
Well, I just had to let everyone know how much of an effect I have on IT economics... Since I started with Microsoft in early July, Microsoft has been on an up-turn and Google has been dropping. Coincidence? I think not!
Watch, now that I've said that and jinxed Microsoft, they'll both pull a 180
I just started my job under 2 months ago. One of the things I was very happy about when leaving my old job was getting rid of all that spam. I'd had that email address for a month short of 7 years. Being as vocal as I've been in those years can sign you up for a lot of junk email. Of course, I've learned a bit about spam since then and have tried to minimize the publicity of my email addresses, but nevertheless, they still get out. For instance, Microsoft survives on a ton of email distro lists (DLs). I have to admit that I was pretty surprised by this. When you look at the community, you don't see too many of those floating around. You'll see forum after forum, but not too many of them have DLs tied to them or on their own. It's something you'll see more in the open source world. While it has nothing to do with DLs, I personally view them as being archaic. I have absolutely no basis for this, it's just been my opinion for some strange reason. I seem to have more and more of those quirky no-reason opinions lately *smirk* Either way, like I said, I haven't even been here 2 months and I'm already getting spam. Actually, 2 days after I signed up for my first DL, I fell victim to the spam god -- or demon, as the case may be. This, and most of the ones to follow were going to DL and not me individually. However, it seems as tho I have been hit by the first one personally. This means that either someone is publishing the DL emails and/or list participants. Luckily, the emails are all replicated (check out the Campus website (internal only)), so I'll just be unsub-ing from each and every one of them. It's a pitty, because I know they can be valuable, but I'm not going to get into this spam game again. It's absolutely horrible. Microsoft really needs to realign their DLs, but I doubt that'll ever happen.
By Michael Flanakin
@ 4:22 PM
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Get your clickers ready, the August CTP of Visual Studio "Orcas" is just around the corner... It's available for internal testing, now.
I just got put on a project that has to do a proof of concept for what is essentially a search engine for users. Imagine, if you will, a people search that will pull together information from AIM, Yahoo! IM, Live Messenger, ICQ, the phone book, and who knows what else. As far as I see it, this specific project has three main concerns: (1) the data we have access to; (2) the data sources we can connect to; and, (3) the "Wow!" factor. The first two are the easy ones, in my opinion -- we've all been doing that for years. The last one's the kicker. What's behind the scenes is what's being proposed, but the person we're briefing to doesn't care about that part, they want to know what the user is going to see and how it will benefit them.
So, with (1) and (2) out of the way, I'm looking for a few wiz-bang ideas on the hottest of the hot user experience (UX) designs in the search arena. I want something that will make someone walking by the room do a double-, no, a triple-take. Not only that, I want something the customer will say, "I need that!" Not just, "I want something like that," but, "I need that!" We all know there's a line between wants and needs, but I want to play that as much as possible.
Now, the first thing that comes to mind when bleeding edge cool UX stuff comes up is Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Well, that's nice, but I really need an idea to spin off of. I keep bouncing back to some of the cool computer systems you see in movies that never really exist. Like, the ones that flip thru millions of photos or fingerprints when searching for someone. That's just not feasible, when you consider the amount of time it'd take to load the images, if they're even available. I do have to say I like that idea, tho. Another thought was a play off of their location, but I don't think that's going to be all that relevant for this search. It's more of a community-type search. For instance, using the IM example above, you might look for someone who has SharePoint or BizTalk experience, so you'll want to know their background and skill sets.
There are probably a thousand and one ideas out there, but I want something that will be big. I probably won't even come close, but it's exciting to have the chance to come up with something like this. I'm always a big fan of "what's next" in various areas; especially, when you have the chance to realize the seemingly impossible visual interfaces in the movies. Unfortunately, I have a 3 week deadline to have a final draft demo and another week to work out last minute fixes. That doesn't give me a whole lot of time to learn WPF, so I may not even go that route, but I'll definitely see how feasible it is. For now, the search is on. If anyone has any ideas, let me know! I'll definitely give props and try to feed as much back on the final product as I can.
Here's a list of free Microsoft tools and utilities
. I can't remember where I got the link from, but thought it was a pretty good list, so I wanted to share it. I've been asked for the link to a few of these tools by several people, so I figured I'd go ahead and share it.
I'm not going to go over all the keyboard shortcuts I know, but I did want to put one out there that I just learned about: Windows-Break. The Windows-Break combination will bring up the My Computer properties dialog. Nothing life-changing, but I'm a productivity geek. Anything that'll help me do my job faster is good. Enjoy!
While catching up on some old weblog posts, something triggered a thought. As I mentioned before
, Balmer promised to keep product groups pumping out releases. Specifically, he said there would be no more 5 year gaps between releases. There wasn't much said beyond that, so what will really change is still up in the air. My guess is that we'll get more info on this a few months after the Vista release or, worse yet, after the Longhorn release. To get to the point, my worry is that all these CTPs and betas are going to be included in that promise. If they are, not much will change from today. Granted, a lot of things have changed over the years, so it's better, but my hope is that we'd see official major version releases every year or two. Two years is more likely, but every year would be nice; especially when you consider the move to service-based licensing. My biggest fear is that there might be a staggered approach to releases. Microsoft has a lot of products to release. There could be product releases every 3-6 months for different products to make it seem like they're very busy, but that could still keep them at 3 year individual product cycles. Not quite ideal, but it would seemingly bring the gap between releases down. The only thing about that approach that doesn't directly match what they've been doing in the past, which is try to release products in groups (i.e. Windows Vista and Office 2007, VS 2005 and SQL Server 2005). I guess we'll see what happens within the next year. Vista should be in stores in January, so hopefully we'll see something a little more firm come out after that.
By Michael Flanakin
@ 12:32 PM
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Ok, I keep getting more and more agravated with this person that is heading the "training" I'm at this week. I won't say what training it is because I don't really want to call the person out, but she is so fake!!! I can't stand it!!! I feel like she's a cheesy car salesman (or, sales person) or a bad actress. I can't believe I'm going to have to put up with a week of this. Phew... At least I got that out. I feel better, now. Well, not really, but what can you do?
Just like everybody nowadays, I have a big list of weblogs that I try to keep up with. I've gone thru quite a few tools that will manage these weblogs and none have lived up to Bloglines.com. Granted, there are a number of things I'd add or change, but all-in-all, it's a great tool. I know a lot of people use client tools to track weblogs, but that just doesn't seem feasible for me. The main reason is because I work on so many computers that it just doesn't make sense. I'd have to manage too many copied lists. This is ultimately why I migrated my list to Bloglines.
I recently purchased a smart phone and knew I would have to deal with this same issue of getting access to my weblogs online. Well, nothing to fret, Bloglines supports mobile access!!! This may not be news to some, but I'm very excited about it. Having access to weblogs from my phone will allow me to keep up a lot better and lessen my current paper trail -- I sometimes print out back-logged posts that I'm interested in reading, but don't have the time.
Slightly off topic, if anyone knows of good online tools to manage weblog subscriptions, let me know! I'm always up for checking out new tools.
Working for Microsoft, I have a few machines and at least one more coming to me. What I call my "show" laptop is a tablet, studded up with all the latest and greatest Microsoft tools. Well, almost, I haven't installed Vista, yet, but that'll happen pretty soon. I really like the tablet, but I just don't see myself ever developing on it, which leads me to my dev laptop. If you know me, you know I'm a proponent of open source and I have a handful of open source tools I use constantly. Firefox is one of them. I've admitted before that it took me a while to give IE7 a chance, but even after that, I still don't see it giving me what Firefox does when it comes to web development.
When I got back to my hotel, I wanted to send a few emails out. Being too lazy to drag out my tablet and dreading the idea of using IE6, I figured I'd give Outlook Web Access (OWA) 12 (part of Exchange 2007) a try in Firefox. Well, my jaw about hit the floor when everything came up. If any of you have tried OWA 11 on Firefox, you know how ugly it is. Beyond that, there is random functionality which doesn't even work, if I remember correctly. Well, so far, OWA 12 is working beautifully. I love it!!! I'm glad to see the product teams standardizing their tools. With everything that goes into OWA, this is a huge step in the right direction. Congrats!!!!!
I was sitting on the plane today on my way to Seattle and I started fiddling with the monitor that was in the headrest of the seat in front of me. The first thing I thought was interesting was the map of where we were and how far we had to go. Now, this is nothing new and what I'm about to delve into isn't anything world-changing, but I thought it was interesting and I'd be interested in throwing something together just as a proof of concept.
Everywhere I go, no matter what I'm doing, I take notice to the processes people implement in their daily lives. In particular, I focus in on bottlenecks and areas where there could be user experience (Ux) and performance benefits. The possibilities are endless and the solutions vary a lot. One of the biggest bottlenecks is person-to-person (P2P) interfaces. These are also the most problematic. Well, to be exact, any user-facing interface is expected to be problematic -- if you've ever done use case estimation, you should already have acknowledged this -- so, of course P2P is a double-whammy. In most cases, when I see this, I think of how nice it'd be to simply input my request within a system of some sort and have everything start working from there. Of course, this is going to require users to be a bit more tech savvy, but it'd be well worth the results -- given some ramp-up time, of course.
As I mentioned, this isn't new by any means. Look at retail stores. I've noticed automated POS machines at Wal Mart and Home Depot. I love these. I think they could use for a better Ux, but all-in-all, the concept is great. Imagine those times your server didn't refill your drink or get your check back to you fast enough. We've all had this happen. Now, imagine if you went to the same restaurant and there was an electronic menu that you simply select the items you want; bluetooth-style cups would alert the server when they're low on fluid or, better yet, detect that the consistency of the drink has changed too much to denote a watered-down beverage, which should be replaced altogether; and, when you're ready to go, you simply check out thru a small machine on the table that would send everything to a back-office server for processing and print or email a reciept to you. I think I'm in love!!
Well, I'm getting off topic. My original idea was to enable that airplane map with Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to give the user an interactive interface which is much more feature rich. Combine that with a service to call the destination airport to gather follow-on flight information or even request help if you either need to get to a gate faster or are disabled. We already have radio and TV, why not have web and email? If I had web access, I'd be in heaven on a plane. With a small monitor, I may be limited on space, but I'd be so much more happy than having to deal with pulling out my laptop and trying to work in such cramped spaces -- especially when the person in front of you leans back (which I hate with a passion -- it's so inconsiterate). You get the idea. The list goes on and on. I can just imagine an interface that would allow users to seemingly fly thru the interfaces and select one feature after another to make the experience much more enjoyable. Heck, this would probably take your mind off the fact that you're so uncomfortable.
For now, this'll just have to be my little pipe dream. If there are any airlines or even train stations that might be interested in a concept like this, let me know. Perhaps we can work out a deal with Microsoft Consulting Services.
As you can probably tell, if you're familiar with the module, I use Ventrian Systems' News Articles module for my weblog. I really like what the module has to offer and, with the latest release, I can now work on something I've been putting off for a long, long time: replacing the default table-based layout with a div-based layout. I finished the initial run-thru and simply need to test it against the many scenarios to make sure I covered all the bases. I am much more happy with this div-based layout because it's a lot easier to modify from the CSS, which means I can simply add some special code in each portal's CSS file to customize it for that particular instance. It's such a beautiful thing! If anyone's interested, I'm willing to share this code. If enough interest is sparked, I'll donate it to Ventrian, assuming the interest is there.
Now, I need to finish working on my skins and containers for the site. I've been putting that off for a while, too. And, with my recent MSDN subscription, I don't know if I'll be getting to it anytime in the very near future!