Monday, April 30, 2007

Looking for Work? Consider Coming Onboard with Quick!

Quick Solutions, the company I work for, is looking for sharp, passionate folks in a number of areas.  We’ve got openings for .NET, Java, and BizTalk developers, and we’re also looking for good project managers, business analysts, and quality assurance/tester folks.

Quick has two sides of the company: a terrific staffing side and the solutions group which I’m part of. 

Quick’s staffing model is a lot different than other staffing companies I’ve been around: Quick is dead serious about their folks keeping their skills honed, and they back that up with dedicated mentors and ongoing training.  Quick is very serious about keeping folks productively employed and off the bench, and they’ve got a great process to ensure that’s the norm.

The solutions group does amazing work in a number of cool areas and is involved with technologies including SharePoint 2007, Windows Communication Foundation, SliverLight, ASP.NET, and a passle of other cutting-edge cool things.  Yes, we still do our share of older legacy development, but we’re serious about putting new things to use where they make business sense.

Quick’s full of amazingly smart folks (James, Arnulfo, Monish, Alexi, of course Brian, and a passle of others too)  who are great at what they do, and Quick is an amazing supporter of the development community in the region.  They’re deeply connected with the .NET crowd and have done amazing things in the Java and Ruby communities as well.

I jumped at the opportunity to move to Quick when the chance came up earlier this month.  I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of doors open to me over the last year or so, but Quick was the one I’ve long wanted to go through.  Everything I’ve seen in the last three weeks has backed that up: carefully chosen folks who are great at teamwork and who are very passionate about what they do.

It’s a great place to work!  Drop me a line via the link on my sidebar if you’re interested.  We’d love to talk with you!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Vista Screen Rotation on Laptop

My new Dell D820 laptop freaked out the other day when I hooked up an external monitor to it: the display on both monitors went in to portrait mode.  Portrait mode’s awfully nice on my tablet PC when I am writing notes and the such, but it’s quite a hassle on my laptop because I have to tilt my head 90 degrees to the left and the dual monitor display is a little odd since it’s to the left and not under the laptop.

It took me a bit of poking around, but I finally found the solution.  Vista, even on a non-tablet PC, has a Tablet PC section under control panel.  Head there and you’ll find screen rotation settings where you’re able to pop the display back to landscape. 

In my case the second monitor remained in portrait, so I had to head over to the Mobility Center and have the Display section re-detect the external display.

After a couple annoying flickers everything was back to normal, and it’s remained so for a couple days.

What a relief!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Book Review: Windows Forms 2.0 Programming

Windows Forms 2.0 Programming, by Chrfis Sells and Michael Weinhardt.  Addison Wesley.  ISBN 0-321-26796-6

Windows Presentation Foundation has been released and we will all immediately stop doing WinForms development and move to the latest and greatest technology.  Right.  WPF may take over the world — but not right now.  Plenty of folks will still be doing Windows Forms development for some time.  Ergo, this book is a great resource to have on the shelf.

The writing style’s clean, clear, and concise, and the examples all show the right level of detail.  Graphics throughout the book are good, and there’s even a full-color section in the middle of the book to show off how nice various WinForms displays can look.  (Although I should note some of the figures there aren’t particularly interesting.)  A very handy “New” marker in the margins highlights features and functionality new to the .NET 2.0 framework — a great benefit for folks experienced in 1.1 development who are looking for quick exposure to what’s new in 2.0.

The book’s content is terrific and extremely useful.  There’s a solid introduction which hits all the important fundamentals of WinForms development and also hits the right features you’ll need in Visual Studio.  There’s awfully good coverage on basics such as form lifecycle, MDI basics, data validation, and why/how properties are important in WinForms development.

The authors do a very solid job laying out other important concepts like data binding and validation.  There’s also a great amount of background on localization through the entire book, and I found the chapter on resources particularly informative.  The bits on components and custom controls were also a very good read.

Overall it’s a solid book and very useful for folks still working in WinForms development.  (That would include me…)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Because You Should Never Break The Build

Automated builds are great.  Automated builds with status indicators like CruiseControl.NET’s dashboard are better yet since you get a quick visual indication that something’s gone seriously wrong.

Best of all?  A bunny which complains with remarks like “The build is still broken.  Get your act together, people!” or complains “This sucks” when there’s an exception.

I wonder if I can tie this in with the Team Systems server we’re running on now…

(Via Ben Carey)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

IE Search Provider for .NET Geeks

I heard Dan Appleman on DotNetRocks talk about a great thing: Google custom search.  Dan’s an amazing brain and he’s worked out a killer resource for .NET geeks:

This site uses Google’s custom search functionality to limit search crawls to a specified list of sites.  In this case,’s search list is a bunch of sites specifically chosen by Appleman because of their high-quality content.  It’s awfully cool to get a search source hand-picked by someone like Appleman.

Along those lines, one of Internet Explorer 7’s coolest features, IMO, is the ability to chose and load different search providers.  You can even create new providers — like using

Here are the main steps on how to do this.  First, start IE 7, then pull down the menu by the search field.

You’ll land at the search provider creation page.  Note the area for creating your own provider. (Boxed in the fancy curved-corner box.  Ooooohhh.)

Open up a new tab in IE, navigate to and enter ‘TEST’ in the search box.

Click the Search button, then nab the URL from the search results page and paste that back in the box on the Add Search Providers page.

Name the provider, click Install and you’ll be asked if you really want to add the provider. (Because, like, clicking “Install” wasn’t definitive enough…)

You’re now rewarded with IE displaying your shiny new provider as the default one.

Now you’re defaulting to searching .NET-related content from the best brains around.  How sweet is this? 

Flickr Uploader

The Flicker Uploader is a great tool for getting stuff up to Flicker.  Unfortunately, I always forget where the heck it is when I repave a system, and Google never seems to find it.

Ergo, I’m blogging the location of the Flickr Uploader for posterity (and ease of me finding it again…)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Book Review: Information Dashboard Design

Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few.  Publisher: O’Reilly.

I’ve been poking through this book for the last several months as I’ve been starting to get my head around KPI and dashboard capabilities in SharePoint Server 2007.  The book’s a great bit on figuring out the best ways to concisely display critical summary information on a single screen for an at-a-glance overview.

The book’s broken out into solid chapters covering dashboard history/background, uses, design mistakes, and the value of simplicity in dashboard content.  The style of the book is clear, and it’s concise and well-written.  There’s also great use of color which is terrific because so much of dashboards is about helping give quick visual impacts via smart use of colors.

The intro chapter gives a lot of examples of dashboards, but I found it disappointing in that it doesn’t really lay out clear opinions on whether the author liked or disliked the boards.  That weakness is limited to the first chapter, though, because the rest of the book does a great job of laying out problematic dashboards and talking about the fundamental issues behind those problems.  Few hits a lot of common things like making dashboards which require scrolling to hit all the parts of a dashboard, or fragmenting dashboard content into multiple screens accessed through tabs.

Few’s writing style is very clear, and he’s got great insight into many details about what makes a good dashboard — small details like prefering bar charts over pie charts in all but a few cases, or ensuring that you’re setting the proper context for visual information.

I’m definitely not a great visual design guy, so this book’s been a great help to me in thinking about how to best represent critical data.  Frankly, I think the book’s a great aid in helping figure out not just dashboards, but how to best represent any critical information in a clear fashion.

Catching Up On Old Book Reviews

I’ve missed reviewing several books I’ve gotten a lot of good use out of over the last year.  Here are bits and pieces on four good ones.  I haven’t completely read through all of them; however, I’ve gotten enough out of them to feel comfortable with scratching out a few remarks on each.

Deploying .NET Applications: Learning MSBuild and Click Once by Sayed Y. Hashimi and Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi.  Publisher: Apress.

I picked this one up as I was working on the MSBuild article for Windows Developer Power Tools.  The book’s concise and hits a number of good points on MSBuild, Team Foundation Server/Team Build, and ClickOnce.  I really didn’t spend a lot of time in the TFS or ClickOnce pottions — I was busy using the MSBuild parts to try and get my head around that particular technology.

The coverage of MSBuild includes some comparisions to NAnt and a number of the make variants. (barf)  There’s a good example walk-through of MSBuild and a nice bit on writing custom tasks for MSBuild.  While the MSBuild parts are well-written, the explanations really didn’t click for me, but that’s probably due to my serious bias in favor of NAnt and my background with Ant.  I had a tough time getting past those biases and grokking any advantage of MSBuild over NAnt.

Overall I think the book would be useful, it just didn’t quite click with me.  That said, I’m looking forward to revisiting this book as I dive in to TFS and Team Build starting next week.  I’ll also be using this book for the SmartClient bits.

Microsoft Windows Communication Foundation Hands On! (Beta Edition) by Craig McMurtry, Marc Mercuri, and Nigel Waitling. Publisher: Sams.

This book was out well before the RTM of WCF and I’m amazed at how great a job the authors did being so far in the lead of the wave of WCF books.  The entire book is really a set of explanatory articles walking readers through introductory topics, general knowledge, and deep dives into specific areas of WCF.

The writing style is clear and to the point, and the exercises are great for demonstrating the specific bits they’re talking about.  The authors managed to keep all the code examples up to date via constant update releases on a companion website.

There’s also a bonus chapter covering InfoCard, its background, and how it ties in with WCF and some nice example code.

(This is also one of the very few useful books I’ve found from Sams.  I generally dislike their offerings, but this one’s a winner.)

Programming ASP.NET, 3rd ed. by Jesse Liberty and Dan Hurwitz.  Publisher: O’Reilly.

This is a massive work covering a broad range of topics for ASP.NET.  I found Fritz Onion’s book on ASP.NET a better work for the basics of ASP.NET such as page lifecycle and state; however, this book walks though a great number of detailed discussion on basic and advanced controls.

There’s also solid chapters on tracing/debugging/error handling, and validation, plus other chapters on user controls, web services, and a number of other topics.

I’ve used this book mostly for occasional reference — I do very little ASP.NET development, so it’s been a boon when I’ve needed a good example to point me in the right direction.

C# Cookbook, 2nd ed., by Jay Hilyard & Stephen Teilbet.  Publisher: O’Reilly.

Another book that’s great as the occasional reference.  This is another huge tome and it’s chock full of topics from generics to security to XML.

Each topic is a recipe in a Problem/Solution/Discussion/See Also format.  The solution is a snippet or set of snippets to solve the specific problem and the discussion is s walkthrough of the ins and outs of both the problem and how the solution fits the bill.  Occasionally there’s a good discussion of the pros and cons of solutions.

This isn’t a book for reading cover to cover, but there’s a lot to be learned browsing through the recipes, and you’re sure to get answers on a wide range of topics including solid use of generics, exception handling, I/O, web bits, and networking.  The chapters on security and reflection are particularly useful because they offer up good insights on approaching secure coding correctly and good techniques for dealing with reflection.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bragging on My Brother's Photos

My brother’s about sixty years older than me and has treated me horribly my whole life.  The stories I could tell you would turn your knees to jelly and your hair white.  He got me any my sisters stuck in the neighbor’s potato field decades ago, bounced me around the back of his Bronco durng four-wheeling sessions, and I won’t even go in to the chocolate covered ants he fed me when I was a mere three or so years old.

Actually, he wasn’t completely rotten.  He made me learn how engines worked as part of earning rides on his motorcycle.  He and my Dad were great examples in Scouts as I was growing up, and he taught me no-nonsense safety rules when handling firearms.  Throw in a few other things like being a pillar of honesty and amazing example of hard work’s rewards and you might see that I’ve almost come to forgive him the ant thing after 40 years.  Almost.

One of the things my brother passed on to me was a great interest in photography.  Dan’s been an amazing photographer for a long, long time, and I was always amazed by the magic he made with a camera.  His love of photography was a direct cause of my involvement with yearbook and newspaper photography during junior high and high school, and an ongoing interest in photography in the decades since.

I’ve had a link to my brother’s photos on my sidebar for some time.  My stuff is worthless dreck compared to my brother’s work.  He’s progressed from serious amatuer to semi-pro, and is in the process of cutting back hours from his “real” job to head off and work full-time at something he’s loved for decades. 

Dan’s gotten quite a bit of recognition through a few awards and shows in his hometown of Ventura.  Now he’s gone and gotten himself quite a spread in a wonderful magazine.  You can check out the online version of the magazine in a very, very cool display here.

Amazing stuff, Bro, and I’m proud of you!

(But I’m stll not completely over the ants.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

CodeMash v2.0 Timeframe Feedback

We’re looking for your feedback on when the next CodeMash should be held. CodeMash v1.0 was in January, but that’s sort of risky weather-wise. Moving around to different dates can drastically impact the room prices — the $88 per night rate was pretty fantastic and was a big draw for the venue. We’ve gathered up room rates for a range of dates from early November through March, and we’re looking for feedback from attendees, speakers, and sponsors on when the best timeframe would be. Check out the “Timeframe for Next CodeMash” thread in the CodeMash group on Google. Let us know your $0.02!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Book Review: SharePoint (Building Office 2007 Solutions in C#)

Microsoft SharePoint: Building Office 2007 Solutions in C# 2005

Scot Hillier

ISBN: 1590598091

This book’s a critical resource if you’re doing development on the SharePoint 2007 platform.  The book hits a solid overview of the many features of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) and also gives you good dives into many of those same features.  The book also deals with Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and lays out differences between WSS and MOSS.

Hillier does a great job of covering the gory details of MOSS and hits the pros and cons of each feature.  One example would be the hideous XML you have to hand-generate for working with the Business Data Catalog.  He also does a great job discussing one of my recent pain points: workflow.  Hillier lays out the strengths of the feature (workflow’s power of process automation), then talks about the warts of the feature (design difficulties, numerous issues surrounding SharePoint Designer, etc.).  Hillier is also honest about where MOSS features fall short, such as the note laying Hillier’s preference for the K2 workflow engine over that of native Windows Workflow Foundation on MOSS.

The book is structured in a concise, highly usable fashion.  Hillier discusses topics, then uses clearly written examples to walk you through the topic.  All the examples are implemented in an environment that Hillier focuses an entire chapter on setting up.  That chapter (#2) is one of the book’s gems since it shows you how to get an entire development infrastructure set up and configured using Virtual Server to host three separate machines.

If you’ve already had exposure to MOSS then the book may not have a lot of extras for you.  The dives into each feature aren’t necessarily extremely deep dives, but they are good enough to get you well-versed with the concepts.

Hillier’s book is an absolute must-have if you’re looking to move in to any sort of work on the MOSS platform.


Serenity Voted #1 Sci-Fi Film

SFX magazine polled 3,000 fans on their favorite science fiction movie and found that Serenity beat out Star Wars.

Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan you may enjoy the depth and complexity of Serenity, so it’s well-worth checking out from the library.  You should also take a look at Battlestar Galatica (the “reimagined” version from the SciFi channel), another sci-fi show which has broad appeal due to its great storylines and complex characters.

(Via one of the few useful articles on Slashdot these days.)

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