Archive for October, 2007
One operation I do a lot in Visual Studio is "Compare". I got tired of having to find the current file in Solution Explorer (yup, I don’t have the Track Active Item in Solution Explorer option turned on because it bothers me more than helps me!), right click on it, and then click Compare.
I decided to create a keyboard shortcut for it (I’ve assigned Ctrl+’+C, that is "control+single_quote+C"). That takes me directly to the Compare dialog, comparing the current local file against the latest version on the server.
See snapshot below for the steps to set that up:
I’d love to hear if you have other shortcuts like that set to something you use all the time. There’s probably a lot out there on something that I haven’t thought about yet.
This one is blog worthy: I’m in Windows Explorer in Vista. I need to map the current folder to a drive. In Windows XP there used to be a "Map Drive" button up on the toolbar. I can’t seem to see anything like that in Vista:
On a quick google search, I follow this post that explains how to get to the "map drive" feature. Essentially, what we have to do is to hit Alt, which causes the classic menu to show up:
…and then we can find the "Map Network Drive…" option under Tools:
that is… hmmmm… what can I say without hurt somebody else’s feeling really bad… Ouch!
How the heck is a regular user supposed to find out about something like that?? Granted, a regular user probably wouldn’t be looking for such option, but they are likely to look for things like Edit-Copy and things like that…
Up to Vista we were all used to the Progress Bar control; the thing used to mean "hey, I’m still doing something, and this is how much I still have left to do.". Of course, that didn’t work out that well. I mean, how many times have you seen an operation where the progress goes from 0% to 95% in a few seconds, and then the last 5% takes forever to finish?
Well, now in Vista we have the fancy "marquee" progress control, which looks good, but it is pretty much useless. The thing indicates it is doing something, but we still have absolutely no idea of how much it’s been accomplished and how much is left.
I’m receiving a 5Mb file through MSN Messenger, and after the file is done downloading, I got this message from OneCare (it always seems like this thing is "downloading and updating" its components):
It took 10 minutes until the thing finished its job and I was finally able to open the files. It was enough time for me to type this post, go grab some water, sit back, and watch the fancy green bar going from left to right on the marquee progress control. Argh…
I’ve been having a hard time following blogs. I like podcasts because I can listen to them while I’m doing other things, but I can’t do that with blogs (some might argue I could use a text-to-speech software of some sort, but I’m not sure that would work on posts that have source code, images, and stuff like that. I don’t know… haven’t really looked into that yet).
Currently I subscribe to a dozen blogs or so. They’re all related to software development (haven’t had a chance to go look for blogs related to other areas of interest).
One problem I have is to find the aggregator that works best for me. A few years ago, I’d just go read posts on the browser, by going to the blog’s website. Of course this just doesn’t work well. At some point I got a trial version of Newsgator. I liked it because it integrated in Outlook. However, I wasn’t following blogs that much, so I didn’t feel like purchasing that tool.
Eventually I got into Onfolio, mostly because of its capabilities of storing webpages and other things offline, which I can then share with others, and can also take it on trips so that I can read it on the plane or places where I’m not online. OnFolio has a blog reader, so I decided I might as well use it. And so I did for a little while (probably about a year). I had two problems with it, though: one is that it wasn’t integrated with Outlook (it works as an add-on for Internet Explorer); the other is that I didn’t know a way to easily synchronize both my laptop and desktop computers so that I’d have the information available on both.
When I migrated to Outlook 2007 I saw there was an aggregator built into the product. I decided to give it a try. This was cool, because I could setup my feed subscriptions, and since this stuff got stored in our Exchange server, it was automatically available on every machine where I have Outlook set up. It was also cool because I’d set up a special folder where I’d move interesting messages to it, and then sync up that folder with my PocketPC, so that I could read them on the small device, which comes in handy when I’m bored in certain places.
I’ve used it for a few months, but gave up on it. There problems were: A, I kept seeing posts getting duplicated (actually not only duplicated: it just kept downloading the same posts over and over again), and it’d also keep downloading posts that I had already deleted (I’m not a "keeper"; I use the delete key more often than not).
Oh, there was another core problem with Outlook 2007: we have a bunch of private blogs at the company, and they require Windows credentials. I could never get this to work. Sometimes, if I opened the feed through Internet Explorer, authenticated, and then opened Outlook, it’d download the feeds. However, this wasn’t consistent; sometimes it’d work, something it wouldn’t.
I was then told that FeedDemon was a great aggregator, and decided to give it a try. It does seem like a great product, but it isn’t integrated with Outlook, so that was a deal breaker for me.
Talking with some co-workers, I ended up taking a quick look at Google reader, but didn’t like it that much because it’s browser-based (and apparently it also doesn’t work with our internal blogs). Another co-worker pointed me out to IntraVnews, which I’ve installed and have now being using for a few weeks. So far, so good. This is what I’m liking about it:
- It integrates well with Outlook 2007
- It works with our secured internal blogs
- I’ve set a folder under my Exchange account, and set the subscriptions on my desktop computer, which keeps downloading the posts. Then, with my laptop, I easily get everything just my syncing up Outlook (I don’t care about downloading the posts when I’m using my laptop; I just want to have posts available to read when I’m offline).
- It’s free! (even though, if this product continues to work out well for me, it’s the kind of thing I don’t mind paying 30 bucks for).
Windows Sidebar Feed Headlines Gadget
One thing I tried for a moment but ditched almost right away is the Feed Headlines gadget available on the Windows Vista Sidebar. That thing is useless for me. First, because it’s distracting. When I’m getting work done I don’t want to be seeing any headlines popping up. Heck, I even turn off the little "you got new email" bubble thing in Outlook 2007. Again, trying to get rid of little distractions like that. Second, I see two or three lines on the headline… how would that be useful? It’s like "Congress approves…", or "LINQ allows you…". That’s one gadget I won’t be using.
Now I’m working on catching up on the unread posts of my current subscriptions. As soon as I get there (I think I may be able to in a couple more days), I’ll probably consider subscribing to a few more blogs. As long as I can be productive managing and following blogs, this is definitely something I want to do (there’s just too much good information to let it go by unnoticed…).
Many times I’ve given up on the idea of posting about something because I though: "hmm… why should I post about that? People may think it was a stupid post, because everybody should know about this or the other…". At Alt.net I heard others expressing the same feeling.
I read some posts out there that are so insightful and in-depth that makes me think why post anything when there’s already a lot of great material posted by others.
I think I was looking at this from the wrong perspective.
For one thing, every once in a while I see one of my guru bloggers post about some little thing that I’ve known for years, and I’m like "hmmm, dang… I should have posted about that".
Another thing is the discoverability of the information. For instance, people that come to my blog are usually people who…
- …have seen me presenting at conferences or user groups, or
- …have read my articles, or
- …are my clients, or
- …come from the Visual FoxPro community, and knew me from there
All these people may not know about some of the great bloggers out there that I follow, or may not see the relevance of some of the information available out there, or it can even be that the information is presented in such a way that’s not easy for people to grasp, so I think it’s a good idea for me to aggregate some of this information, with links, comments, etc., and present it to my readers in the way I see fit (I mean, I may be able to find some way to make it a little easier for others to understand something important posted by other bloggers).
And last but not least, I can always come back to my own blog to search for things I may not know off the top of my head all the time.
So the bottom line here is: blog away! A simple post of yours pointing to somebody else’s post with a little comment as to why you think it is important may be very helpful for your readers.
A few weeks back I blogged about Alt.Net in Austin. I had said I’d be posting other entries with more specific thoughts about things I got from there. So here’s one…
The first session I got to attend to was the one where people discussed mostly how to motivate developers (such as 501 developers) so to get them more passionate about their job; usually people who are passionate about what they do are much more productive and produce code of much better quality (besides being fun to work with).
When I do my presentations or training gigs, I always get good feedback from people saying they enjoy me speaking because they can tell I’m very passionate about what I’m talking about. Usually not only I enjoy the topic I’m presenting on, but I also cannot let go the great feeling of having learned about something that some people may find complicated to grasp, and make others understand it.
I was glad to hear that a bunch of other people have been hosting brown bag meetings at their companies. I’ve blogged about that not long ago. I really like brown bag meetings. These meeting are not at all about people trying to show off; it is actually all about being so excited about something you’ve learned that you can’t help but let other people know about it. It is also about being frustrated with something that you’ve been struggling with and you want to run it by others that may be able to help you. Of course, the latter is a good exercise for putting all your pride aside and say "hey, I’m stuck! I have no idea what the heck I have to do to fix or implement this.".
Now, if a person can’t get excited about anything to a point of feeling like sharing it with others, what can I say… maybe the person should go work with something else. Because I usually have so much fun doing my job, I really can’t relate well to somebody who works out of obligation. That’d bore me to death, and I just can’t do it. At every situation where I would wake up and hate the fact that I had to go to work, I’d just make one out of the two obvious (at least to me) choices: A, try to change something, B, change jobs.
On the other hand, if somebody doesn’t ever get frustrated with things that the person can’t figure out, wow! I mean, does such person exist? With the myriad of new tools, technologies, techniques, etc., it’s is just impossible for somebody to know anything.
I’m always thinking of ideas as to how I could get people more passionate about the job we do, but of course it does take a lot of perseverance to actually implement and move forward with some of the ideas and insist on it, analyzing what works and what doesn’t, etc.
One of the things mentioned at this session at Alt.Net is that a person who acts like a catalyst should not put all of the effort into doing everything alone. Such approach does not scale well. There’s only so much an individual can do by him of herself. A better approach would be to plant this seed onto others, so that they also become catalyst type of people, and that way, the fire spreads out much quicker and stronger.
It’s like many years ago, when I received my first MVP award. I remember some people on the community saying something like "wow, so now that you’re an MVP, what’s next?". My reply to that was: "I’ll continue working with the community, and one of my goals is to help others become MVPs". This same mentality has been always something I try to bring into the companies I work for. Some people joined the ride along the way and still thank me for all the help (even after all these years), and some people couldn’t care less. I’m okay with that. As long as I can get one person to carry the torch on I’m happy. It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve made a difference in somebody else’s life; it doesn’t matter how big or small that difference was. :)
Bottom line is: are you having fun with your job? If so, get others contaminated with it. If not, see if there’s anything you could do to change the situation. If you don’t even feel like proposing and pursuing changes, consider going back to square one and finding something else to do with your life. Maybe you have other talents that’d be best used if you had fun using it.
So, there’s a bunch of posts out there of people trying out this TypeQuick website, which has a little 3-minute test that measures your speed and accuracy while typing.
I’ve always thought I typed relatively fast and accurate, so I decided to take a shot at the test. Here are the results:
432 keystrokes/min… hmmm, that’s about 12.2 keystrokes/sec. Not too bad. It’s amazing that some people can do a lot more than that. It’s also cool that I only got 11 errors out of 532 keystrokes; that gives me a pretty good accuracy of 95.8%. I can live with that (but I think I’ll be taking the test a few more times just to see if I can get a little better at it).
The other thing that’s interesting, at least in my case, is that I got those results typing a text in English, which is not my primary language. Interesting how the brain adjusts accordingly. I probably wouldn’t do as good if the text was in Portuguese, though, since nowadays I hardly ever type anything in Portuguese (not to mention that Portuguese uses accent marks, so I’m not sure whether they’d count *shift* as an extra keystroke to get the accent marks).
Anyways, it’s Friday, I’m pretty tired, and can’t get much more productive work done, so I decided just to take this test for fun, and take off.
The Code Focus magazine on Visual Studio Extensibility (VSX) has been released, and I’ve got an article published on it: Creating and Distributing Packages with the Visual Studio SDK. Check it out.
Last weekend I drove up to Austin for the Alt.Net conference. It was well worth the trip. It had been many years since the last time I went to a conference where I would not be a speaker. I’ve signed up for this conference because of the proposed "open space" format, where the attendees were the ones managing what sessions they wanted to see, and each session was pretty much an open-ended discussion. There weren’t sessions where the speaker would walk through a typical presentation, showing drag-and-grop operations on a cool new product. Instead, a topic would be proposed, the topic’s proponent would throw in a few words to get the session going, and anybody could contribute to the discussion, with questions, opinions, etc.
What attracted me to this conference was the amount of brain power that was going to be there. A number of bloggers and people whose opinion I value were going to be there, so I figured maybe I could learn something through osmosis.
Different from regular conferences, where the speaker usually walks the attendees through a specific problem, and then shows how to address the problem, at Alt.net a session may end without a clear solution or recommendation being identified. And this is good because it stimulates the attendees to think and discuss through scenarios of the real world, instead of being taken through one of the possible solutions, which is usually a lot biased by the speaker’s personal experience and point-of-view. Hearing different scenarios, solutions, and questions from people coming from very different background is refreshing because it teaches you to think a lot more out of the box.
I’ll be posting some other entries with some thoughts based on some notes I’ve made for myself while I was there. These are things that stuck the most to my brain, so I’m blogging about it even for my own sake so that I don’t forget about it (I’ve made notes in my PocketPC, and I lost the notes after having to put the device through a hard reset…).
I’m definitely looking forward to other editions of Alt.net! By the way, even though some people had the idea that the conference would have an "anti-Microsoft" feel to it, it wasn’t like that at all. Actually, there was a big number of Microsoft employees there, including Scott Guthrie, who showed the new MVC framework for .NET first-hand at this conference. Very cool!
If you just do a quick search on the web you’re going to find a lot of blog posts from other people who attended the conference, so make sure you do that to get more details about it (different people absorbed different ideas, so it’s good to get different point of views out there).
Hey, just got an email from Microsoft to let me know that I’ve received the Microsoft MVP Award for 2008! It is refreshing to know that there’s somebody paying attention to the work I do with the community, mostly doing presentations at conferences and user groups. The reward sure keeps me motivated to keep doing it.
This is the 7th year in a row that I receive the award. Last year I though it had been my 5th year, but it was actually the 6th. Man, time sure flies by.