Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dual Monitors -- Whoopee!

I splurged and bought myself a Samsung SyncMaster 730B 17” LCD monitor last week.  It was about $250 after a $50 rebate.  I’ve got it paired up with my nearly five-year old Dell Trinitron CRT monitor.  The comparison is horrific.  I had no idea how bad off my Dell had gotten after a few years.

I’ll have to try and knock out a couple extra articles for VisualStudioHacks.com this month in order to build up a slush fund to replace the Dell and run two Samsungs at the same time.

The Waterfall Approach is BACK!

Via On Be(com)ing Agile’s blog: The Waterfall 2006 conference.  Be sure to take a good look at the amazing lineup of topics for this conference, including “Avoiding the Seven Pitfalls of Lean by Mary Poppendieck” and “Pair Managing: Two Managers per Programmer by Jim Highsmith.”  I’d love to attend Ron Jeffries’s keynote: “Extreme Programming Uninstalled.”

Looks to be a great conference!

Make sure you note the conference’s date on the left sidebar and keep that day free on your calendar.

The Joys of IE's CSS "Support"


I’ve redone the look of the Dayton .NET Developers Group’s website, thanks to inspiration from Lee Sledge, the son of our group’s treasurer.  I never claimed to have any graphic skills, and it showed.  Lee’s concept is a lot cleaner — but I needed to move it from table-based layout to CSS.

Shiny when you’re working with Firefox, sucky when you’re dealing with IE.

Good fixes I found on the net:

Also, watch for elements bouncing out of IE’s display when heights aren’t large enough.  Firefox deals with it nicely, IE craps out.

Boy, am I glad I don’t have to deal with this on a daily basis!

Looking for Palm Syncing Software

I’ve used Documents To Go from DataViz for a number of years now, starting when I purchased my Palm 500 five years ago.  I recently had to purchase a new copy of DtG to support my Palm Treo 650 because my older version wouldn’t run on the new OS.  Note that DataViz wouldn’t give me an update price; I had to pay full ticket.

DtG’s latest version appears to be a piece of junk, at least as it relates to my Treo.  I’ve never been able to get PowerPoint slides synced, and DtG occasionally freaks out and loses all links to files loaded on my phone.

I’ve had an open support ticket with them for nearly four weeks now and it’s been an absolutely crappy experience.  Regurgitation of FAQ items, repitition of already asked questions, and two gaps of over a week with no response from DataViz’s support folks.

I am at the point where I’m considering dumping this piece of junk software and moving to something else.  Does anyone out there have any suggestions on alternative document syncing software? 

My minimum requirements:

  • Support Windows XP
  • Support Office 2003
  • Support syncing and editing of PowerPoint, Excel, and Word

Drop me a note in the comments section, or contact me directly via the contact link on the right sidebar.  Your feedback would be greatly appreciated!

(I’ve purposely left out any links to DataViz.  Find them yourselves if you think it important.  Grumble.)

Interesting Comments on Microsoft's Security

Dana Epp has an interesting line of thoughts on Microsoft’s security mindset/initiatives, prompted by some grousing at nCircle’s blogs

I’m a bit neutral about Microsoft’s security stance.  They’ve done some really stupid things in the past, but it’s absolutely not OK to simply regurgitate old crap about them without acknowledging the significant sea change in their culture and products over the last couple years.

Take a look at Dana’s ten points and see what you think.

(Or if you want a completely different take on security at Microsoft, go see the rantings of tinfoil master Steve Gibson [who I used to respect for his product Spinrite] and then follow up with the response from Stephen Toulouse.)

CoolCommands Updated

Gaston Milano just dropped me a note letting me know that his CoolCommands add-in for Visual Studio has been updated.  You can find the updated packate here.  His note was prompted by my article on CoolCommands at VisualStudioHacks.com several months ago.

Check out the updated version.  I haven’t, but the older version was great stuff!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Screencasts Now on Visual Studio Hacks

James had the great idea to do screencasts at VisualStudioHacks.com.  His first one is on CodeKeep, Dave Donaldson’s terrific snippet management system.

Check the ‘casts and the new forums (fora?) at VisualStudioHacks.com.  James has really moved his site forward in a great direction, and I’m not just saying that because I write regular articles there!

Need a Better Snippet?

… then check out Dave Donaldson’s CodeKeep.  Access snippets from over 5500 folks via a browsable website.  Better yet, install Dave’s shiny new plugins for VS2005 and VS2003 and you’ll be able to manage your snippets within VS’s IDE.

Terrific stuff.

Threat Modelling Blog

Part of my gig at last week’s DevGroup meeting covered threat modelling.  It’s a difficult, arcane, involved process which you really need to be smart on if you’re dealing with critical information.  Check out Microsoft’s new addition to the Blogosphere: the Threat Modelling Blog.

[Via Robert Hurlbut's .NET Blog]

Four Things Meme

OK, generally I detest these kinds of things, but James tagged me so here goes.

Four Jobs I’ve Had…

  • Field hand
  • Photo studio darkroom tech
  • Wine retail clerk
  • Airborne Radar Technician on one of these

Four movies I can watch over and over…

  • Lord of the Rings
  • Serenity
  • Holiday Inn
  • Madagascar (hey, I’ve got a five year old daughter)

Four TV shows I love to watch…  (Weirdness disclaimer: I only watch one regular show due to absolutely no time for TV.  My TV watching is usually once a week catching a single episode of a DVD series at 11:00pm.)

  • Firefly
  • Grey’s Anatomy (the only regular show I watch…)
  • UFO
  • Battlestar Galactica (the new, not the old!)

Four places I’ve been on vacation…

  • Tiers, Italy
  • Alsace, France
  • Krackow, Poland
  • Echo Lake, California

Four favorite dishes

  • Liver paté at the Winds Cafe
  • Frog legs at Le Beurheisel in Strassbourg, France
  • Master sauce ribs at my place
  • My wife’s waffles or pancakes on Sunday mornings with my family

Four websites I visit daily:

Four places I’d rather be

  • Asleep (I take care of two kids and work from home.  Go figure.)
  • Hiking in the Südtirol
  • Wine touring in Alsace or the Mosel
  • Eating clam dip with my family on the porch at our cabin on Echo Lake in the Sierra Nevadas near Lake Tahoe.

Four bloggers I’m tagging (the only four I know who might be even remotely reading my blog!)

Tips for Crusing With An Infant

Our family took a Disney cruise in December, 2004, when Zeke was only three months old.  We hadn’t planned things that way, but several emergencies required rescheduling the cruise.  Twice.  Ugh.

I was looking through our Passporter Guide To Disney Cruises and found a sheet with notes on having a good cruise with an infant.  OK, so it’s 14 months late, but here are some things scratched out for posterity in case somebody out there is googling around for tips on taking an infant on a cruise.

Strollers.  By all means take one when you’ve got an infant.  It’s a critical piece of equipment which we used for any number of, uh, uses:

  • Naps.  (For Zeke, not us).  Recline that thing, put a couple blankets over the hood and let that tyke sleep.
  • At dining tables.  Zeke was too small to sit in a high chair, so the stroller served as a great place to park him during mealtimes.
  • Beach machine.  We dragged the stroller out onto the beach which wasn’t that much of a pain.  It gave us a place to let Zeke snooze while we played.
  • One big con: elevators aboard ship.  The center elevators were always packed.  Use the fore/aft lifts if you’re wheeling your stroller around.
  • Tip: store the stroller in the split bathroom in your stateroom.  Great out of the way spot.

Pack ‘n Play / Crib. Ask for a crib/Pack ‘n Play when you make your reservations.  Also specifically ask for sheets.  One would think…  Also, be careful if you have your own blankets because we had one go missing during sheet changing day.  Stowe your personal baby blankets each morning to avoid that.

Rice Cereal.  Zeke was still too young for pureed vegetables, so we took scads of rice cereal and a few Tupperware (tm) bowls to feed him.

Baby Sling.  We got a Baby Bjorn when Lydia was born and have gotten terrific use out of it with both kids.  The BB is compact and easily fits in a suitcase with all the tons of other baby gear.  Vital for shipboard carrying of a not-so-little infant.

Onboard Nursery.  The staff at the nursery was just terrific — the first time we’d left Zeke at any form of daycare, so my wife was a bit nervous at first.  Do some careful scheduling of daycare so you can hit Palo’s for a great meal or just get a bit of quality time with your mate.


Job Security

Dave Thomas over at PracticalProgrammer.com has an absolutely terrific slideshow on keeing your job as the global economy changes. 

Think you’re safe because overseas developers cut crappy code and don’t have any processes in place?  Take a look at the eye-opening slides on the percentages of companies certified as CMM level 3 and 5.  Think you’re safe because overseas programmers aren’t as smart as you and don’t keep up with the latest technology?  Re-evaluate your position. Back when I was writing frequently on NHibernate, my sitemeter.com global map showed the majority of queries on “nhibernate” and the like coming from India, Indonesia, and other places where “poor-quality, backwards developers” hang out.  Get a grip, baby!

Thomas’s gist?  Pull yourself together, create a plan, educate yourself, and don’t rely on the government or companies to take care of you.  (You shouldn’t have been in the first place, but that’s just my libertarian-leaning bias.)

Good stuff.  Read the whole thing.

(Via Coding Horror)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Great iCalendar Plugin for Outlook

I’m using the terrific-looking Basecamp for collaboration for a really, REALLY cool project I’m starting work on.  (Details later once I get a contract actually in hand.)  One of Basecamp’s nifty features is an iCalendar feed, which lets you track milestones by subscribing to a feed.

The only hitch is that Outlook doesn’t support iCalendar subscriptions (which have been around for years but won’t get wrapped in until Office 12).  However, some smart folks tossed together RemoteCalendars on SourceForge which is a COM plugin enabling iCalendar subscriptions.  There are versions for .NET 2.0 and 1.1 Frameworks.  I had no luck with the 2.0 version, but there’s a workaround version for 1.1 here.

This is way slick because I can automatically update my Outlook from my Basecamp, then get all those milestones on my Treo 650.  I’m lovin’ it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Security Training Modules from Keith Brown

Keith Brown blogs about some interesting-sounding security training modules he created which are now available at Microsoft’s Patterns and Practices. 

Don’t know who Brown is?  Go check out his amazing book The .NET Developer's Guide to Windows Security which is freely available via a Wiki.  Look over the Wiki, and if you find it useful then be sure to spend some $$ and support both Addison-Wesley, the publisher who let him put the content out for free, and Brown himself.

[Via Keith Brown]


Check out the great note on very sucky icons over at Coding Horror.  His shot of Word with all its toolbars turned on is pretty funny.  Be sure to follow the link to the blog post on the new Office 12 ribbons.  I haven’t looked at this concept, so I’m not sure whether I like it or not, but at least it’s some form of change.

My Speaking Gig at Dayton

Last night I gave a talk on “Intro to Security” at the Dayton .NET Developers Group.  The talk went well and folks seemed genuinely happy with my mix of content — mostly talking with some diving into example code.

An intro security talk is really, really tough to lay out!  There’s so much to talk about, and how do you decide to filter down to what you can reasonably cover in 90 minutes?  I ended up being pretty happy with my mix, but I did get some good feedback for fine-tuning the presentation for future gigs.

I also used a mix of styles from Lessig, Hardt, and Takahasi.  My audience seemed pretty happy with the format, and several were happy not to have oodles of lousy bullet points tossed their way.  So I got that going for me.

You can find my slide deck and example code here.  There’s a lot of extra content slides in the deck which were hidden for last night’s gig.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hate My Blog? Use Net Disaster to Blow It Up

Finally, something useful on the Internet, because all the tech blogs I’ve gotten answers from really aren’t all that useful…

Check out NetDisaster.com if you have some free time and want to shoot paint balls at your favorite blog.  I also thought the “Bloody Gun” was interesting…

(Via Scobleizer)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Back In The Saddle Again...

I’m back from the trip I mentioned last week, exhausted but quite happy.  Loads of work, loads of quiet time to reflect, loads of fun times with folks I met on the trip (both on my team as well as folks on St. Martin).

You can see the photos I took at my Flickr site here.  There are a whole lot of photos just of the streets in Marigot, the city we stayed in — that’s because I badly want my kids to understand how fortunate we are here in the US.  The shed in our back yard is leaky, mouldy, and squirrel-infested, but it’s better than many of the shacks the Haitian escapees live in.  (And it’s tough to imagine the conditions they left in Haiti…)

I’m fortunate things worked out in where Pam could take a week off work to take my place as caregiver for our kids.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to go on another trip, but wow, what a great experience this one was!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Offline For The Next Week

I am leaving tomorrow morning, dark and early, for a week’s trip to St. Martin on a mission with my church.  I’ll be working hard building pews and finishing up odds and ends at a newly-built Nazarene church in Marigot on the French side.  (“’Working hard?’ Yeah, right.  Dude, you’re in St. Martin.”)

Heading off on a mission to submerse myself in working for others is something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time but never could.  Things fell together, and here I am, packing up my bags for this trip.  I think the week will be fantastic for many, many reasons.

See y’all on the flip side!

More ReSharper 2.0 Goodness

Small things in life make a great difference.  The block highlighting in Version 2.0 of ReSharper for Visual Studio 2005 is something that I find really sweet.  It’s a small thing, but visually it makes a big difference for me.

You can configure ReSharper to do either this block style or just highlight the bordering braces, but I like this style.

ReSharper 2.0’s Early Access Program has plenty of hitches, but it’s still a terrific product even in Alpha form.  I’m soooo looking forward to the final release when it arrives.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Well, At Least They're Thinking About It

From Dan Fernandez’s blog: Microsoft will be releasing the first service pack for Visual Studio 2003 … In Q2 of 2006.

Check out the new Visual Studio Servicing Site, where you can see timeframes for upcoming service pack releases.  Don’t count on having any of the various bugs in VS2005 fixed before Q3 of 2006.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Another Good Tech Company Blog

Our DevGroup gets great support from telerik (yes, a small “t”), makers of some nifty ASP.NET controls.  I’m just getting into ASP, but I can already see great value in telerik’s packages.  I also think the company has their head screwed on the right way, as evidenced by the various communications I’ve had with them.

More evidence along that line: their company blog.  Lots of interesting stuff there on technology and mindsets involved in creating great code.  telerik has bought off heavily on the AJAX concept, so you can get some good info on that topic there.

(Disclaimers: as noted, telerik supports our DevGroup with giveaway software, and they’ve also provided me a copy of their controls as part of my interraction with them.  I’m not unbiased, but I think my bias is due to their great toolset.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

How Not To Present

Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror has a snide and spot-on post on how not to do presentations.  I have sat through far too many presentations and briefings which hit the majority or all of his rant points.

Do yourself a favor if you’re presenting: be familiar with some of the presentation best practice tips out and around.  Look at great presentations by folks like Hardt or Lessig.  Spend time at Beyond Bullets.  Understand Atwood’s great points.  Grok out the stuff at PresentationZen.

Perhaps most important: think about the bad presentations you’ve been to, and why you thought they sucked — and then do something better.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

January Reading

Here’s a list of things I was reading in January:

Finding Serenity : Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly, various authors.  A really interesting collection of short pieces from llitarary analysis to spoofs.  I love the analytical pieces which discuss everything from Zöe’s place as a warrior woman on the ship to theories (pre-Serenity) on the origins of the Reavers.  Most of the pieces are great, one or two stink, but overall a fun book.

Martha’s Rules, Martha Stewart. I wrote about this already in another post.  A very good, concise read for business owners/entrepreneurs.

Designated Targets, John Birmingham.  A nice second book in the Axis of Time trilogy.  Good sci-fi of the alternate history type.  I very much enjoy the culture clash between the folks from the future and the “contemporaries” of 1942.

Time Management for Sytem Administrators, Limoncelli. Very good book on time management from a sysadmin's perspective. Nice bit on tools to help a sys admin, nice bit on customer service for those pesky users. Nothing earth-shattering if you've already read something like Getting Things Done, but still a good read. And it's short!

Things I referenced off and on in January:

Programming ASP.NET, 4th ed., Liberty.  Very nice intro for me to use as I finally get my feet into ASP.NET.

Core C# and .NET, Perry.  Haven’t looked at this much, but it already answered a couple tough questions for me, so it’s got that going for it.

19 Deadly Sins of Software Security, Howard, et. al.  An absolutely killer book for understanding the worst, common security offenders.  Skimpy on nitty-gritty implementation details, but that’s OK because such is not its focus.  Indespensible for me as I’m working on my security presentation for this month’s DevGroup meeting.

Writing Secure Code, 2nd ed., Howard & LeBlanc.  Whoof.  Now here is a massive tome which gives you impelemtation details missing in 19 Deadly Sins.  A perfect hand-in-hand companion to 19 Deadly Sins.

The .NET Developer’s Guide to Windows Security, Brown.  Very practical cookbook-style of nuts and bolts issues for dealing with developing secure code.  Runs the gamut from not developing using an Admin account to how to use the various Principle objects.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Killer Code Coverage Tool

Jamie Cansdale has done it again with his latest version of TestDriven.NET, his terrific tool which lets you run (and more importantly debug!) unit tests right within Visual Studio.

Now TestDriven.NET includes code coverage metrics via a nifty window with clearly arranged stats:

Code Coverage from TestDriven.NET

Holy smokes, what a killer addition to an already great tool!

Update: Yes, I know those metrics suck and I’m trying to figure out why they show up so poorly.  I may have grabbed a snap from a run where I only executed a portion of tests.

Firefly Resurrection? (Again?)

Interesting siteInteresting site from a group of folks looking to push Firefly into a second season, possibly over digital distribution.  Dunno if it will work, but it’s a neat thought.

(Via Instapundit)

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