Articles from September 2006

Giving AJAX a Shot

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:22 AM :: 1265 Views :: .NET, Development :: Digg it!

One of the things I've been meaning to try out for quite some time is the ASP.NET AJAX Mobile-ready link (aka Atlas) framework. There are 3 parts to this framework, but only two that I need to be concerned about when doing ASP.NET development. The 3 parts are the client-side library, which is available for any server-side platform; the main ASP.NET controls, which enable AJAX capabilities; and, the extra ASP.NET controls that provide specialized functionality. You can get more info on these from Scott Guthrie's Mobile-ready link weblog entry, "Atlas" 1.0 Naming and Roadmap Mobile-ready link. I did start to play with AJAX before the ASP.NET AJAX framework was available, but I never commited enough time to actually focus on it. Since then, the one reason I've hesitated the most on it was because I really wanted to see some wiz-bang beautiful feature that I couldn't live without. Granted, the main purpose of AJAX is not to enhance the user interface (UI), but to enhance the user experience (UX). Nonetheless, I wanted something I could show users, who are more impressed by the explicit combination of UI and UX -- by definition, UX implicitly includes UI, but that isn't always the main focus of UX enhancements. What I was really waiting for was something I didn't realize existed: the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit Mobile-ready link. If you haven't checked it out, this is a must-see that will really convince you that it's time to give ASP.NET AJAX a shot. Beyond this, I was uterly suprised at the amount of work I needed to do in order to AJAX-enable my application. There are 3 very simple steps: (1) add a reference to the ASP.NET AJAX assemblies; (2) add an instance of the <atlas:ScriptManager /> control to your page; and, (3) surround the controls you want to be AJAX-enabled in an <atlas:UpdatePanel></atlas:UpdatePanel> control. All very easy and with a quick turn-around to see results.

Now, as I mentioned, I wanted to see more than this in my AJAX efforts. I was talking to a co-worker about what I'd like to create in a demo I was working on, but didn't have to time to invest. That's when he introduced me to the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit. When I gave that a look, I was gleefully surprised. I'm not sure why I didn't know about this sooner. If I would have, I'd have definitely played with it earlier. I admit, these controls don't add capabilities to your web application, but they do save you time and effort in making your app perform and look better.

I've used this ASP.NET AJAX in a demo app and a very small Media Center management app I worked on for someone and have been extremely impressed. I plan on doing a little work for a local football league Mobile-ready link in the coming weeks, too, and ASP.NET AJAX will definitely be part of my arsenal. I honestly can't see doing things differently. I'm a very big UX geek, so anything I can do to make the application look and feel better, I'm all about it. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to post on the Media Center and football stats projects I'm working on.


Effect of Dynamic Interfaces on Accessibility

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:24 AM :: 988 Views :: Development, Technology :: Digg it!

Wallace McClure Mobile-ready link recently posted a comment on the fact that AJAX actually inhibits accessibility Mobile-ready link. I can say that I personally never even thought about this, as I'm sure most developers haven't. I typically work with government customers, but as of yet, Section 508 hasn't been a big issue. Despite that, I still view 100% accessibility as a goal I would like to reach in all of my projects. Let's face it, tho, even in projects where it is a factor, complete compliance is rarely obtained. The recent move towards highly dynamic user experiences makes me wonder why this hasn't come up before. Well, I'm sure it probably has, but the issue hasn't been raised a great deal, from what I've seen. This is definitely something to keep in mind. There are obviously intrusive ways to get around the immediate issue of not knowing when content has been updated (i.e. alert the user that something has changed), but I don't see that becoming the norm. I would be interested in a solution, but will have to wait until it becomes an issue for one of my projects before I investigate more.

If anyone else has any details on this or other accessibility issues/work-arounds, I'd love to hear them.


Vista Security Affects Microsoft Products, Too

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:29 AM :: 928 Views :: .NET, Technology, Microsoft :: Digg it!

I hate chiming in on topics that have already run rampant throughout the dev blogosphere, but I feel like I need to because people are being so negative about the lack of support for Visual Studio (VS) on Vista.

First, let me explain the situation for those that don't know. Apparently, Microsoft's past 3 development environments are being considered "incompatible" with Windows Vista. That's a pretty simplistic answer, which is exactly why there's been so much hubub in the dev community. Obviously, developers are among the top Vista pre-release users, so this would obviously be a concern. The problem is, people aren't seeing the big picture, what the real problem is, and what this really means.

The real problem Mobile-ready link lies within the fact that some of the advanced features, like advanced debugging, are the ones that are causing the problems. These problems are directly related to the new security features in Vista, which change the way memory is managed, for instance. Just like I said when Symantec was griping about Vista's security features locking out competitors Mobile-ready link, the very same features are also causing compatibility issues with Microsoft's own software. I knew this would come up eventually, it was just a matter of what product and when. Hopefully, this will help arm the battle against those who would rather loosen security to fatten wallets Mobile-ready link.

Since I've been on Vista, I've done all my dev work in Virtual PC, so this hasn't affected me. Although, given the features that are problematic, I don't think it would affect me that much. There are plans for a service pack of some sort (after VS 2005 SP1) that will be specific to Vista and hopefully fix all of the issues there are with VS -- at least, the latest release. There are no plans to update VS 2003 -- as there shouldn't be, in my opinion.

One thing that everyone needs to realize is that Vista and Visual Studio are two very big products. If Microsoft is going to commit to supporting different release combinations, they have to be able to do so 100%. There is a ton of money that goes into supporting these products and it just doesn't make sense from a financial standpoint to support something that you know will be problematic. There's a work-around and it's actually a nice one, in my opinion. Only the official release will truly show us how this will affect everyone on the larger scale, tho.


Apple Against "Podcasting"

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:20 PM :: 999 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
I knew it was only a matter of time before this Mobile-ready link would happen. Just like Google and the countless before them, Apple is worried about losing their trademark. Honestly, they have a right to be, so I can't blame them. I briefly mentioned my thoughts against the term podcast in a post on a different topic Mobile-ready link, but I could honestly care less about Apple's trademark.Google is attempting to skirt the issue by playing on the capitalization of the word in the context as a verb. I don't think Apple will be able to play that same game, but we'll see. Actually, I'm surprised Google is getting away with that. Perhaps time will tell another story.

The Incredible Dancing Web Browser

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:05 AM :: 1025 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
I just installed Firefox 1.5 on Vista RC1 and a funny thing happened... most websites I visit are bouncing up and down. Well, actually, this didn't start until I changed the display a tiny bit. By default, Firefox comes with 3 toolbars -- the menu, navigation/address/search, and bookmarks. Since I'm all about minimizing space, I move the Bookmarks Toolbar Items to the right of the menu so its flush against the Activity Indicator. The second I moved this, the "Thanks for installing Firefox" page started bouncing up and down. The main window stays still, but the page contents, scrollbars, and page icon in the address bar all bounce about 3 pixels. It's kind of funny, until it gets annoying... which is fairly quickly. Try it out for yourself.

Living the Brand

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:01 AM :: 1322 Views :: Technology, Other :: Digg it!

One thing you pick up when you start with any company is to not use competing companies’ products -- after all, you're giving the "enemy" money. With Microsoft, this is seemingly amplified because the company covers so many areas. And, if you find a field that Microsoft isn’t in now, you can put money on the fact that it’s only a matter of time... assuming it’s a worthwhile field. The best example has to be the Zune Mobile-ready link media player, which is most notably an iPod competitor. It seems like the hardest for most people to get over is the Google switch; although iPod is also another one that's been coming up. From what I've seen, there aren't too many Mac users, but I'm sure they're out there. Interally, people refer to this as "drinking the kool-aid," which is probably a trademark infringement, but oh well. I guess that's exactly what my post is about: genericizing, or globalizing, brands.

Before I really get to the point, tho, let me say a few things. First and foremost, I am by no means saying that Microsoft is forcing or wishes to force its employees (or anyone, for that matter) to use their products/services. Honestly, it all comes down to economics and "living the brand." When people see you, a company representative -- whether you like it or not -- using a competitor's product/service, you're telling them that your company just doesn't cut it and isn't good enough. In other words, you don't buy Company X, so why should they? Next thing you know, your friends and family start to drift away from Company X, and then their friends and family, and then their friends and family... You get the idea. It's the pyramid scheme. I'm not saying you need to profess the wonderful goodness of Company X's products/services, but don't drive existing and potential customers away. You may think that one person's pittance isn't going to affect the market, but the ripple effect will change things over time; especially when you and others around you continually share your negative thoughts/feelings. If you feel something is so bad, take it back to the people in charge and try to get it fixed. Help better Company X. If you're an employee, you have stock in the company.

Recently, a friend asked me how long it took me to stop using Google and switch to Live search Mobile-ready link. I told him, "The first time I saw the numbers." Google makes money on ever search, whether you click a link or not. Given the number of searches I do in a day, I would basically contribute an upwards of $1000 to the Google fund a day -- yes, I do a LOT of searching. Granted, it's not always that much and the weekends are typically a little lower, but you get the idea. Taking weekends out of the picture completely and considering that I've been using Google for about 7 years, I've basically given the company around $1,820,000. How much have you given them? Google was a great search engine, I'll give you that; but now that Live is here, I see no difference and experience no problems. Plus, I'd rather give that $1.8M to a company that I'll see direct benefits from -- in pay, stock, and other benefits.

I'll be the first to say that Microsoft, along with every company, has its faults. The products aren't all the best of the best; however, across the board, Microsoft is always in the upper eschelon. There may be slow starts, but new products/services typically get there in style. One of the best examples is SharePoint Mobile-ready link. SharePoint started out rocky with a very hard-to-use initial version that was pretty much a waste of time to try to use -- ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea. The second release was 10-fold better, making it truly viable for enterprise consumption. This upcoming release takes that last upgrade and blows it out of the water. SharePoint is now positioned to be a driving force in the web arena. I expect to see the number of public SharePoint sites growing relatively exponentially over the next few years.

Ok, enough running my mouth (err, fingers); time to get to the point... globalizing brands. One thing that we've started to do is use brand names instead of product names. This happens more often than you might think, tho. Heck, I just did it when I said, "drinking the kool-aid." Perhaps we should change that? Think about it, when's the last time you said, "tissue paper"? You don't. You say Kleenex, don't you? I bet some (propbably younger generations) don't even realize that it's a brand. It doesn't stop there, either: Yo-Yo and Xerox, for instance. Nowadays, people are starting to say, "Google it!" Well, Google doesn't even like that idea that this is happening -- the company is worried about losing its trademark. That's not the problem I have, tho. The problem I have is when you work for a Google competitor, yet you publicly reference Google as if it were the best choice. Case and point, a recent YouTube submission from a Microsoft employee Mobile-ready link. Within the video, there's a reference to "googling" something. This shouldn't be happening... seriously.

Onto my next big gripe... As I mentioned, Google Search and Apple iPod are probably the 2 biggest internal competition problems at Microsoft. The problem I have with iPod is almost the same as with Google: genercizing the brand name. This is probably more prevalent in the tech community, but within the few years, the concept of podcasts has permiated the web. Basically, this is just a sound recording you can consume with any media device, with an emphasis on mobile devicecs, of course. Now, I don't have a problem with the idea; but, again, live the brand! If you work for a competitor, don't call it a podcast. We need a new name. I'm not saying it should be zunecast, but lets not popularize iPods any more than they already are. When you break it down, it's just steaming media, which is nothing new, so why the new name?

Now I feel better that I've gotten that off my chest. There's so much more to living the brand, but there's no way I can teach you its importance in one post. Hmm... maybe you could Live it Mobile-ready link or I could create a zunecast ;-) But, seriously, this really has nothing to do with Microsoft. This is something you should do with any company you work for. This is how companies succeed. If you don't believe in the company you're working for, why are you there? The concept is common sense to me, but some people just don't get it. For instance -- and just to pull a quick punch on one company that I absolutely despise -- why would any self-respecting IT guy (or gal) work for AOL? I have no idea. Within the tech community, AOL is "internet for dummies" and probably one of the world's largest junk mail senders. Working for the company just seems like tech suicide.

So, the moral of the story is: don't do drugs and "drink the artificially flavored soft drink concentrate beverage."


Frequent Traveler Tips

By Michael Flanakin @ 10:50 PM :: 1113 Views :: Other :: Digg it!
I wanted to save/share some travel tips Mobile-ready link Eric Johnson Mobile-ready link posted. I thought they were pretty good. While I don't travel that much with the customers I typically work for in DC, the chance is always there. Check it out and share your own, if you have any.

Here We Go Again: EU vs Vista

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:01 PM :: 1273 Views :: Technology, Microsoft :: Digg it!

Now Adobe is joining the EU fight against Microsoft for the deployment of Vista. Adobe, along with Symantec, is attempting to coerce the European Union (EU) into not allowing Vista to ship. Both have two separate reasons. While Symantec's argument is old news, Adobe is new to the argument.

Apparently, Adobe is worried about maintaining its PDF marketshare. I'm not sure what side Adobe is arguing, tho. It looks like the argument could be that Vista is supposed to have PDF reading and writing software; but unless that is new to post-RC1 builds, this is wrong. Whether or not the PDF reading/writing argument is there, I do know Adobe has an issue with the included support for XPS documents. XPS is an "open" format that separates content from formatting. If you're curious about it, get a hold of one and rename it to .zip. This is what I mean by "open." I'm not sure if there is a published standard for it or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if one does come out. Back to the Adobe argument, tho, I honestly don't think there's an XPS document writer built into Vista, either. There is a reader, tho: IE7. I think this is ingenious; especially, when you compare it to Acrobat Reader, one of the slowest loading pieces of cra... I mean, software on my machine. And, given that all it does is display documents, that just makes it worse. Anyway, I can understand Adobe's argument about its inclusion, but they're picking the wrong fight. With no capability in Vista to write either document format, half the argument is bogus. Office does have this capability, but as far as I've seen, Vista doesn't. Adobe seems to be confusing the two. And, as far as reading the formats is concerned, the XPS reader will be available in any OS that supports IE7 -- I don't know if it'll be back-ported to IE6 or not. So, this means the issue isn't in Vista alone, but the IE bits of XP, Vista, and any other IE7-supported version of Windows. Thus rebutting Adobe's argument against Vista. Sure, they may have a valid argument, but not in the arena they're raising the issue. They're grasping for straws, just like Symantec.

Now, back to Symantec. I touched on this before and nothing's changed. I do have to point out one quote from Symantec, tho. Apparently, Cris Paden, of Symantec voices the companies opinion that Microsoft's change in the underlying operating system is to prevent security software companies from protecting systems against security threats. I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. The reason Vista's underbelly has changed is to stop hackers. Perhaps Paden is saying that Symantec is synonymous with hacker. Hmm... If that's the case, Paden is right.


Vista ReadyBoost

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:20 AM :: 990 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

I found out about ReadyBoost in an April post by Tom Archer. I have to say that the concept is absolutely outstanding. I love the fact that I can up my machine’s performance within seconds. This will be more significant by leaps and bounds when you can do the same on [semi-]public machines, too. Image being on a slow computer at a library, school, or even at the office. Typically, there's not much you can do besides grin and bear it. Now that we have, or will have, ReadyBoost, that can change. There's only one problem...

I'm typically working on a laptop -- I have 2 top-end laptops and I'm "supposed" to get another. While I can still use a USB drive to speed up my system, I don't like having all the extra tidbits to plug into the laptop every time I move from place to place. The whole point of a laptop is that you can pack it up in seconds and leave. It's bad enough that I have to roll up the cord, which is rather annoying. I'm not about to sign up to unplug 20 different things from the machine, too. Ok, so it's not really that many, but each thing you do have to setup/tear-down just adds to wasted time. I'm a huge efficiency geek, so I'm always up for anything that'll make my life easier, faster, and better. 5-10 seconds here and there might not seem like much, but it all adds up. I'm not going to get into justifying it. We all know it's wasted time, it's whether you care about that time at the end of the day (or year or decade or ...). Anyway, on with my suggestion...

After a few friends got Altoids tin-sized digital cameras about 4 or 5 years ago, I finally went out and got one. I love it. I would bring it with me just about everywhere. Because of this, I would have a lot of pictures to copy onto my computer using the built-in SD reader in my laptop. Now, with my Treo, which also has an SD slot, I'm using it even more. It's great. My 2 laptops, 2 cameras, and smartphone all use SD. I just got a 4 GB SD card to make things that much better. Now, I just wish ReadyBoost would work with my SD card/slot. The idea is seemingly capable -- well, Vista acknowledges that it's possible with the slot, but I don't know if any SD card will support it. That's all I want: SD ReadyBoost. Give me that and I'll be happy... for a little bit, anyway. This ReadyBoost FAQ did shed a little light on the topic, but I'm not about to go buy every SD card out there and have to ship them all back when they don't work as fast as I need them to for ReadyBoost. I guess the hunt is on...


CSS in IE 6 vs 7

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:30 AM :: 1048 Views :: Development, Technology :: Digg it!

I just ran into my first IE 6 vs 7 CSS issue. This is probably the first only because this is the first time I've started a project with IE6 and switched to IE7 mid-stream. Oh well, here goes nothing...

Turns out the problem just looked a lot worse than it really was. I had nested DIV tags to lessen my use of tables and I set the background image on each of them to be fixed. This seemingly forced the background image to start at the left edge of the page, which I didn't want, since the DIV was moved to the right about 150px. After removing the fixed style (background-image:url(...) no-repeat fixed;), everything worked just fine. I was surprised. The layout seemed to be worse off than just that, but I guess it was just the images that were messed up, not really the format. 


LSU @ Auburn, Saturday

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:28 AM :: 1268 Views :: LSU :: Digg it!

In what will be the biggest game for both teams thus-far into the season -- and arguably the most important non-championship game for both teams overall -- LSU will be meeting Auburn with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Admittedly, last year had its ups and downs, but I'm hoping that LSU has pulled itself together enough for this game. I would've rathered seen another game or two before this one, but it'll be exciting nonetheless. Auburn really hasn't had such a hot start this year, if you ask me, but I honestly don't follow that many teams. All I really care about watching is LSU and occasionally checking out how the competition's doing. So far, LSU has let 2 field goals slip by and Auburn has allowed 2 touchdowns. The 2 touchdowns against Auburn were by Washington State, but as I mentioned, I don't know much (read: anything) about them, so I couldn't accurately compare them to LSU's games.

I think this year is going to be all about settling querterback problems for LSU. Last year caused a lot of problems because the team kept bouncing between QBs. I'm pretty sure we'll see some of the same thing this year, but my hopes are that it will be more structured. JaMarcus Russell seems to have a bit more experience than Matt Flynn, but I think Flynn has more potential. They're both juniors this year, so I'm not sure if Flynn will get the chance he needs to really prove himself beyond a doubt -- at least relative to Russell. Beyond these two, I can't forget to mention the new guy on the block: Ryan Perrilloux. I've heard some good stuff about this kid. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see his 2 plays against Louisiana-Lafayette (wasn't on national TV), but I'm sure he'll get another chance in the near future -- just maybe not the Auburn game.

The game this weekend will be a good one. As far as SEC goes, this is a pretty big deal. These two teams are pretty big in the SEC West and both have impressive historical stats. I think LSU has a bit more to prove with a few questionable games last year and the relatively new coach, but I have faith. We'll see how it goes on Saturday...


EU Ignorance Supports Hackers, Malware

By Michael Flanakin @ 12:42 PM :: 6588 Views :: Technology, Microsoft :: Digg it!

I know the EU has its heart in the right place, but its ignorance may end up forcing Microsoft to remove security features (1, 2), which would in-turn support hackers, malware providers, and the like. The argument is that Microsoft isn’t playing fair by disallowing access to low-level capabilities, which are accessible in current versions. The thought is that Microsoft can use these features, but vendors can’t. This is a misconception. Windows may be able to use these features, but don’t expect other Microsoft products to be able to access them (i.e. Office). Microsoft apps live by the same rules as vendor apps. So the anti-competitive claim is absolutely bogus. The EU seems like a schoolyard bully -- if you pay, they’ll keep coming back for more. I honestly think someone on the board has stock in Microsoft competitors and is simply trying to make their stock go down as much as possible. Is there a such thing as anti-stock? If not, I’m sure the EU will be the first to come up with it -- or fine Microsoft for not having it.

Ultimately, if this does go thru, I think Microsoft will simply have a less secure version of Windows Vista to comply with the regulation. At least that's what happened last time when there was an issue with bundling Windows Media Player (Windows XP N was born). So, keep your eyes out for Windows Vista EU (Extra Unsecure) :-P Honestly, Microsoft won't release anything it considers unsecure -- yeah, yeah, you may be laughing, but Microsoft puts a great deal of effort into making apps secure. I could see there being options to turn off some features, while others will be required. Beyond that, there are some things that can't be options because they are core to the system. To get around it, Microsoft may have to create a few API calls to tunnel thru the security. This would have to have minimal distribution and would have to be protected quite heavily. If in use, it would definitely open up the system to being compromised. All we can do is hope that the EU doesn't make such a moronic move. Personally, knowing the difference, I'd rather purchase the more secure version. I can't see the EU banning the use of one version and not another, but you never know.


Fair Tax

By Michael Flanakin @ 9:57 AM :: 1065 Views :: Other :: Digg it!

I typically like to keep my posts technical, but Chris Breisch pointed out a description of Fair Tax on Wikipedia and I just had to share it. If for nothing else than to keep track of it for sharing in the future. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not all that big on politics. I'm always up for a debate and can argue my side to a certain extent, but I just don't try to keep up with politics that much. The idea of Fair Tax is one of those topics. For those new to the idea, basically, it says that we should abolish all taxes (and ultimately the IRS) and instead have a universal 23% inclusive sales tax -- by inclusive, I mean what is now $100 + tax would then be $100 after tax. What this means is that you wouldn't have all of that money taken out of your paychecks. Instead, your taxes would be paid for by what you spend. This means that, if you don't spend money, you don't get taxed... well, almost. Granted, this is just my personal view of it after skimming the description, so I may be way off. I would love to hear from people who've actually studied the concept before. I honestly think it would work out rather well. Yes, we'd pay more for our stuff because of taxes, but we'd be getting paid more for the work we do, which would more than even out. I know that I, personally, would be gaining a LOT of money that's going to the government, now.

Here's another point to think about: tourists. Typically, tourists will come to the US and purchase goods and services, which will be taxed, depending on the location. Now, let's just think about how many tourists we have coming into the country every day and how much money they spend. I have no idea what those numbers are (and don't really feel like digging for them), so let's just say 100,000 people come to the US and spend $50 a day for 5 days. Now, let's assume sales tax is 9% in the region they're visiting, which is probably a good average. Currently, this would be $25m in business earnings and $2.25m in taxes. With Fair Tax, that would be $19.25m in business earnings and $5.75m in taxes. This more than doubles the earned taxes, which goes to making our lives safer and better. Of course, we all know that every business would raise their prices to cover the money they'd lose, so the current $50/day would probably have to be about $65/day, which would result in the $25.025m and $7.475m in taxes. It just keeps getting better. I'm sorry, but I'd live with the 2-3x sales tax hike for more money in my pocket. To know how it'd affect you, you really need to know and understand your spending habits, tho.

I'm not going to get into it any more. If anyone knows of any good research into this topic, I'd be interested to see it. I really think the concept is pretty good.


Java on Vista

By Michael Flanakin @ 10:43 PM :: 1302 Views :: Java, Technology :: Digg it!
I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone out there, but you can expect any Java-based tools and utilities to downgrade your Vista experience. Of course, I'm currently running Java SE 5.0, so the 6.0 beta may provide better support. We'll see in time. Of course, websites run on Java servers won't affect your experience, but if you ever get one of those pesky applets, you'll notice your screen will blink a few times as it removes the Aero Glass look and feel along with some of its features (i.e. the 3D task switcher). No need to fret, tho -- you'll be able to do all the work you did before... it just won't look as pretty. I have a feeling there won't be too many upset Java developers because they typically don't care for such frills. However, I can guarrantee you that end users who will be ooh-ing and aah-ing at the nifty UI will not like the fact that Java is dragging Windows down. Hmm... now that's an interesting topic. Perhaps I'll save that one for another day :-P

Vista-Ready Hardware

By Michael Flanakin @ 2:29 PM :: 1038 Views :: Technology, Predictions :: Digg it!

I have to admit that I'm not one to keep up with hardware advances. I know a lot of gamers keep up with the video cards, for instance, to better support the latest games. I just haven't ever cared about all that. As long as I have something strong enough to create the software I need, I'm happy. Obviously, Vista is going to change the overall landscape of hardware in the everyday household -- well, as is spreads it will, anyway. Due to this, I think one thing we'll see as we get closer to the official release, is the idea of a Vista-ready hardware rating.

Anyone who's played with Vista or read about the vast level of graphics utilized will know about the experience rating. You can read a little about it here (which includes this screenshot). Note that this review is from very early March and a lot has changed since then, but the idea is the same. Basically, each hardware component is analyzed to determine how much it can support. This analysis results in a numeric rating, which is ultimately used to determine what software can be run and at what level.

I expect to see this start popping up on computer and component manufacturers' websites and boxes in the next 3 months. I've alerady seen Vista-ready stickers on a few laptops, but it hasn't really permeated the overall scene, yet. What I expect to see is pre-calculated experience ratings for every piece of hardware so consumers will know within seconds how to build the most "ready" system. This way, you can buy a system that can support exactly what you need it to. You'll know before you buy a computer or hardware component exactly what rating it has and how it will affect your score. For instance, I have an old video card which was rated 1.9. If I upgraded that to a 5.1-rated card, my overall score would jump up significantly. And, if this is what I'm looking for and I don't know a whole lot about hardware, I can simply look for a card that's rated at the level I'm interested in. Not really the best way to hardware shop, but it'll give consumers something to really make a base their needs on.

Anyway, I think it'll be something to pop up in the near future and I think it will definitely change the way people are looking at their computer purchases. I wouldn't be surprised if the idea caught on to other tech gadgets.


Upcoming Versions of .NET

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:43 AM :: 1007 Views :: .NET, Predictions :: Digg it!

This is something I've wanted to post about for quite some time. Seeing all the whining and complaining behind the decision to rename WinFX to .NET 3.0 just drives me crazy. Maybe I'm just part of a small group that actually realizes this, but I was never surprised by this. Honestly, I expected it. I assumed that everyone did. Did you people really think that .NET was some simplified dev platform that wouldn't be expanded upon that much? I may be reaching pretty far on this one, but I see .NET becoming core to the entire operating system. I've said it before and I'll say it again: in time, I see Win32 being a wrapper to .NET instead of vice-versa, which is how it works, now. I see Windows components being built directly on .NET and .NET being built (by Microsoft) at an even lower level than it is, now. Doing this would advance .NET to a level above and beyond (well, actually below, if you want to get technical) C++. If done right, this could also usher in a new era of .NET-based operating systems. Could you imagine a .NET Linux distribution? I can. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I can see it happening. For all of the frustrations people seem to have over the naming of future versions of WinFX, Atlas, LINQ, and the myriad of other tidbits related to .NET, I just don't see the benefit in the argument against .NET 3.0 and/or "3.5" (not the official version number). This is part of the problem of the blogosphere. With so much information-flow, society as a whole -- well, the dev community, anyway -- can't handle it. We may be smart individually (some of us, anyway); but as a whole, we're completely moronic. This is no different than any other group.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it, yet, check out this Channel 9 video that discusses the current and upcoming releases of .NET and the related technologies. Atlas isn't mentioned, but you can expect to see some news about its release coming out within the next month. For now, just know that it's well on its way to being ready for prime-time use.


Apple Playing with Patents

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:41 AM :: 1099 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!
Well, I guess it's Apple's turn to play the patent infringement game. This isn't the only one, tho. It seems as tho the iPod has already impeded on and settled another patent infringement issue. Not being a fan of the iPod, I'd get a huge laugh if there was another scare like the Blackberry incident a while back (a patent infringement could've put the company out of business, which would've renered every device useless).

Stand-Alone Radar Detector Reads License Plates

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:32 AM :: 1513 Views :: Other :: Digg it!

I'm sure we've all seen the stand-alone radar detectors that show the speed limit and what how fast you're actually going. Well, it seems as tho someone got the bright idea to show drivers' license plate numbers, too, in an effort to further personalize and shame drivers. I can only imagine what'll come next... Show a picture of the driver? Show the driver's name? Heck, if you really wanna get 'em, show the driver's driver's license picture. It's all just a matter of time...

Radar showing license plate number


Microsoft File Transfer Manager on Windows Vista

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:20 AM :: 2383 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

Just wondering if anyone else is having issues with Microsoft File Transfer Manager (FTM) on Windows Vista. First off, it seems to run slower, but this could just be me. Second, it keeps dropping connections. I'll walk off and when I get back, the status says, "Trying to connect..." This status seems to never change back, so I'm assuming Vista is doing something to cut the connection. This is all on a laptop, so I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the laptop going into a low power mode. The machine isn't sleeping, so I don't think that's it, but I'm not really sure.

For the time being, I've set the program to run under XPSP2 compat mode. Hopefully, this will fix the issue. So far, tho, I haven't seen anything on the web about this app. Anyone not familiar with setting this up can do the following:

  1. Open FTM
  2. Open Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc)
  3. Switch to Processes Tab
  4. Right click the TransferMgr.exe process and select Properties
  5. Switch to Compatibility tab
  6. Check "Run this program..." and select the Windows version to run under

One additional side note, that I'm sure most of you know about: Vista comes with an app compat tool to allow you to set the compat mode to run under. When I tried to setup FTM, it failed, so that's why I chose to use the Task Manager method.

For a little background, FTM is a download manager used to obtain software via software assurance and MSDN sites. I'm not sure, but I'd guess other services (i.e. TechNet) use FTM, as well.


A Tidbit on Sun and Java

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:59 PM :: 1104 Views :: .NET, Java, Development, Technology, Predictions :: Digg it!

For the past month or so, I've been watching quarterly stock percentage changes for a few top tech companies and I've noticed that Sun went down a good bit, but then jumped up pretty quickly, too. Sun made the largest jump by far in the past month. Interesting...

On a side and perhaps related note, Java is moving towards supporting more languages. Java 6 is currently in beta 2 and has added some support for JavaScript, but plans for Java 7 include adding support for even more languages, one of those being Visual Basic. Now, this isn't all that surprising. A few years back, Sun started a program to try and get VB developers over to their side and this seems like more of the same. Don't get me wrong, I think the move is probably a good one, but I don't know how much it'll help. It all depends on the strategy they'll put behind the move. This is where they've failed in the past. From what I understand, they won't plan on supporting a specific Microsoft-released version of VB, but instead support some "popular" features of VB.NET. What that means is really up in the air, but it'll be interesting to see how things play out. The best move Sun could make with respect to VB would probably be to support VB6 to try to bring some of those "estranged" developers to the Java world. Then again, I can't imagine that this would be an easy task.

There are a lot of mixed emotions about the changes in the next two versions. Those looking for multi-language support are excited about the changes; however, the traditional Java developers who have been supporting Java-only systems for a while aren't very interested in the upcoming versions. I believe everyone sees some good in the move, but the question seems to be: How much will this actually affect the Java ecosystem? I can see the potential of the ideas, but I seriously don't think it'll change the Java market enough to effect .NET. Sun is simply attempting to capitalize on the big shift back to dynamic languages. We'll see...