Articles from Tools/Utilities

My First IE8 Post

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:23 PM :: 1762 Views :: Technology, Open Source/Standards, Tools/Utilities :: Digg it!

IE8 Beta

I just downloaded IE8 and have to say I'm liking it so far. I was pretty concerned that it was going to be a horrid experience, but it hasn't been. Of course, the next thing I did in this self-centered world of ours was check my website. Being built on DotNetNuke, which is notorious for non-standard HTML, I was concerned. I was happy to see no problems. I'm sure there will be some, but at least I'm looking good so far. I guess all that work I did trying to keep tables out of my design was well worth it.

My only real disappointment has been the fact that web slices have to be explicitly coded into web content. For some reason, I was thinking we could simply select a portion of the age and tell IE to create a web slice from it. I guess not. Maybe I was just thinking of Dapper.

Best Command Line Environment

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:45 AM :: 2126 Views :: .NET, Tools/Utilities, En Español, PowerShell :: Digg it!
Windows PowerShell

Is PowerShell the best command line environment out there? Looking at a comparison of computer shells, I'm thinking it is. I'm sure others would disagree, but the facts are there. There are about 3-5 runners up, but the one feature which puts PowerShell over the top, in my mind, is the use of .NET objects in the pipeline.

La Mejor Línea de Comando

En Español

¿Es PowerShell la mejor línea de comando? Después de mirar una comparación sobre cáscaras de las computadoras, pienso que es. La otra gente discrepará probablemente, pero los hechos están allí. Hay 3 a 5 cáscaras segundarias, pero la característica que PowerShell el mejor es el uso de objetos de .NET en la tubería.

2-Minute Intro to PowerShell

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:22 AM :: 1230 Views :: Tools/Utilities, PowerShell :: Digg it!

Windows PowerShell

As I've been working with PowerShell more and more, I keep picking up small tidbits I'd like to share. Arguably, I'd have learned a lot of them much sooner if would've picked up a book or something, but I look at this as a language I'll just pick up over time and don't really want to dedicate the time to a book... at least not at this point. So, I've decided to start throwing out a few PowerShell tips. I'd like to do a tip of the day, but I don't know if I'll come up with that many. We'll see. For this first post, I guess I should give a very brief overview of what PowerShell is and a few of the basic concepts behind it.

PowerShell is Microsoft's command line replacement. If you've ever done any time on the command line -- yes, I phrase it that way on purpose -- then you know it can be a pain. Not only is it painful, like any "good" prison, it's very limiting... another prison-like attribute. Another aspect I believe PowerShell is trying to attack is Windows shell scripting with VBScript or a similar language. I've used VBScript a few times for UI automation and I have to say, it's not much better than the traditional command line. The bottom line is that PowerShell is a powerful scripting environment for Windows.

So here are the basics: cmdlets, aliases, functions, and the pipeline. Cmdlets are commands. Go figure. If you want to do something, it all comes down to the commands you have available to you. To get a list of commands, type Get-Command. From there, you can figure out what's possible. If you have any questions about how to use them, type Get-Help [cmdlet]. Aliases are exactly what they sound like, aliases for cmdlets. This is one of the great things about PowerShell because it allows people to adopt PowerShell much easier. For instance, dir and ls are both aliases for the Get-ChildItem cmdlet, which is great for DOS and Linux/Unix users, respectively. Notably, the parameters are still PowerShell parameters and not the same as what's in DOS or the *nix systems. Functions are like a gateway drug to true PowerShell productivity. Think of functions as small scripts -- once again, go figure. Lastly, the pipeline is a concept that one command, whether that be a cmdlet or function, can send its output to another command via the pipeline. This is done by using the pipe ("|") character. For instance, to sort a list of folder contents by size, you pipe the contents to one that will sort the items it receives: Get-ChildItem | Sort-Object Length. Pretty simple. The key here, and true power of PowerShell, is the fact that PowerShell acts on .NET objects. This is a first. All other command line environments are pure text and piping content from one command to another is simply sending text down the pipe. Being built on .NET, PowerShell gives us an unprecedented amount of control and flexibility in our scripting.

To give you an idea of Microsoft's dedication to PowerShell, there's an internal mandate that all system administration tools must be built on PowerShell by 2009. The latest Exchange, Active Directory, and System Center releases have already made the switch and SQL Server 2008 is well its way, too.

I'll leave the intro here. In coming posts, I'll dig a little deeper into new features that I find. I'd like this to ultimately turn out to be a developers' guide to PowerShell, but that's more lofty a goal than I'm ready to sign up for. We'll see how things progress.

Google Chart API

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:12 AM :: 1856 Views :: Development, Technology, Tools/Utilities, En Español :: Digg it!

This is old news, but it's still worth mentioning. Google has always been known for its simplicity, which is one thing I wish Microsoft would learn, and the announcement they made back in December is no different. Surprisingly, I haven't seen much adoption of the service, but Google's new chart API looks pretty nice. The fact that you can build charts with relatively simple URLs is pretty nice. Admittedly, maximizing SQL Server Reporting Services is a much richer experience with much more options, but this API is still nice for smaller scale needs. If you haven't already, check it out. There are still some kinks that need to be worked out and parts that are harder to grasp than is really necessary, but they have made a huge improvement on something that just about every developer could use.

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El Titulo en Español

En Español

Ésta es noticias viejas, pero vale el mencionar. Google se conoce para la simplicidad, cuál es algo yo desee que Microsoft aprendiera, y el anuncio que hicieron en Diciembre no es diferente. Asombrosamente, no veo mucho adopción del servicio, pero la nueva API de gráfico de Google parece bastante bueno. El hecho que crea gráficos con un URL simple es mucho bueno. Yo admito que SQL Server Reporting Services es una experiencia más rica con mucho más opciones, pero este API es bueno para las necesidades pequeñas. Si no tiene, lea sobre él. Todavía hay algunas torceduras que necesidad de ser fijado y piezas que son más duras de agarrar que realmente necesarias, pero tienen crear un servicio que es una mejora enorme que los todos desarrollos podría utilizar.

SkyDrive's Official Release

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:18 AM :: 2076 Views :: Microsoft, Tools/Utilities, En Español :: Digg it!

Windows Live SkyDrive

I looked at Windows Live SkyDrive a while ago and, while it has a nice UI, it wasn't quite enough. One of my complaints was the measly 500 MB of storage. Well, with the official release of the service, we now have 5 GB of storage, which seems to be standard nowadays. I was actually hoping for more integration between SkyDrive, Hotmail, and Spaces, but that hasn't panned out, yet. I was glad to see there's a bulk upload utility included. This was perhaps the main reason I hadn't uploaded the majority of my content. Now that it's there, I'm going to start uploading some graphic files I use for development. I don't think SkyDrive is ready to be central to my life, yet, but it's on its way. Integration with FolderShare is probably the next step, if you ask me. With that, I'd definitely start using it more. Of course, I've seen a preview of the next version of FolderShare and that doesn't seem to be an option. Of course, the update is very minimal, so I'm not sure how complete it is. The same team manages FolderShare and SkyDrive, so integration is going to happen without a doubt; it's just the time in which that's going to happen that's the real question. Speaking of questions, there's also a new service on the horizon (no pun intended, for those in the know). I don't have details, but it looks like a promising sync service with lofty, yet realistic goals. I can't wait to hear more.

Lanzamiento Oficial de SkyDrive

En Español

Repasé Windows Live SkyDrive hace un rato y, mientras que es bonito, no era absolutamente bastante. Una de mis quejas era el 500 MB de almacenaje. Con el lanzamiento oficial, tenemos 5 GB. Esperaba más integración entre SkyDrive, Hotmail, y Spaces, pero eso no ha sucedido. Me gusto la utilidad de carga masiva. Ésta es la razón principal que no carga mi contenido. Ahora, voy a iniciar la carga de gráficos. No creo que SkyDrive está acabado, todavía, pero está mejor. Integración con FolderShare es probablemente el paso siguiente. Comenzaría definitivamente a usarlo más con eso. Ha utilizado una versión preliminar de la siguiente versión de FolderShare y no tiene la integración. Parece la verión es muy mínimo, tan no creo que haya finalizado. El mismo equipo desarrollo ambos, tan integración va definitivamente a suceder; pero no conocemos cuando. Mientras que estoy en el tema, Microsoft está trabajando en un nuevo servicio de la sinc. No tengo detalles, pero parece agradable. No puedo esperar para oír más.

Fighting with Arguments

By Michael Flanakin @ 2:37 PM :: 1190 Views :: Development, Tools/Utilities :: Digg it!

Since I first had a chance to really get into it, PowerShell has been great. For the first time, I have a real issue, tho. PowerShell handles arguments differently than cmd.exe. Specifically, the difference is the colon (:). In cmd.exe, arguments are split by spaces; but in PowerShell, the colon translates into a new argument. For instance, myapp.exe -arg1 -arg2:abc translates to { "-arg1", "-arg2:abc" } in cmd.exe, but { "-arg1", "-arg2:", "abc" } in PowerShell. Sure, we can code around this; but why should we?

The Power to Esc[ape]

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:52 AM :: 1426 Views :: Development, Tools/Utilities, User Experience :: Digg it!

Given my new venture, I have to complain about something... small tools/utilities that don't close when I hit Esc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everything needs to close on Esc, but there is a lot that could. Take, for instance, the vast number of utility windows in Windows... wait, no, let me revise that... How about every control panel applet (or whatever you call them). Ok, sure, a lot of them are dialog-based and close as you'd expect when Esc is pressed. Let's look at the Windows Update window in Vista, tho. Since it's based on Windows Explorer, Esc doesn't close it. There's no OK/Cancel button; no buttons at all. So why would it hurt to support Esc? Perhaps this is simply an oversite, but it's one that way too common. I can name a dozen places like this in Windows, but I'll spare you the agony. Microsoft isn't the only culprit, tho. All I ask is that developers think about their users a little more. Is there any way you can shave one keystroke, one mouse move, or even a transition from the keyboard to the mouse. All these things add up to big points in the user experience arena.

.NET-Java Interop via JMS and WCF/BizTalk

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:39 PM :: 1865 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).

TFS Offline Capabilities

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:48 AM :: 1204 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.

Microsoft Gunning for Google Gears?

By Michael Flanakin @ 8:02 AM :: 1802 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.