# Saturday, 08 July 2017

I spent much of the spring working on this course, and am delighted to see it live!

Visual Studio 2017: Essentials to the Power User is 7 hours of good stuff you need if you're a Visual Studio user. My emphasis is on keeping you happy and productive by getting the tool to help you and showing you neat features you probably didn't know about. If you open that link in a new tab, you can play the course overview (a 2 minute "trailer") and look at the table of contents. I've done versions of this course for older Visual Studios and I get comments like "It's as though I have a whole new IDE" and "I've been using Visual Studio for years and you showed me things I didn't know, and I'm glad I do now."

I think debugging in general is not taught enough, so I'm happy to have 2 whole modules on it here - not on philosophy of debugging or how to narrow down a bug, but just on how to operate the machinery of Visual Studio's debugger. There's lots of it. Plus, if you have Ultimate, there's another half a module on "Historical Debugging", IntelliTrace. I also spend quite a lot of time on how to find your way around a large codebase with the various searching, finding, navigating and exploring capabilities that have evolved over time.

Here's a quick topic summary:

I really enjoyed writing this course and hope you enjoy watching it. If you need a free trial, look over to the right on this page for the grey rectangle that says Author and click for a 10 day trial.

Kate

Saturday, 08 July 2017 10:40:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Friday, 29 April 2016

I've started a C++ column in Visual Studio Magazine. I'm sure you've read plenty of C++ columns in your time - I sure have! I wanted this one to be a little different. So, here's what I've decided to do. For each column, I choose a guidelines from the C++ Core Guidelines, and then explain it. But the twist is that I'm not going through the guidelines from top to bottom - I'm picking guidelines whose explanations require a little language knowledge.

The first column just sets the stage and explains what I'm doing, and gives you a link to the Guidelines. The second, Don't Cast Away Const, explains the guideline, but also the consequences of const-correctness, a typical situation where you might find it hard to stay const-correct when you make a performance tweak to a running system, and the correct use of the mutable keyword. Not bad for explaining a four-word guideline!

I have a number of columns already written and plans to write more. Please check them out and spread the word!

Kate

Friday, 29 April 2016 17:17:26 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 07 December 2015

The first keynote at CppCon this year was Bjarne Stroustrup (who invented the C++ language) announcing the C++ Core Guidelines. They are on Github and once he announced them, as Herb Sutter reported in the second keynote the very next day, they quickly became a trending topic across all languages. Here is a description of the guidelines from there:

The C++ Core Guidelines are a collaborative effort led by Bjarne Stroustrup, much like the C++ language itself. They are the result of many person-years of discussion and design across a number of organizations. Their design encourages general applicability and broad adoption but they can be freely copied and modified to meet your organization's needs.

The aim of the guidelines is to help people to use modern C++ effectively. By "modern C++" we mean C++11 and C++14 (and soon C++17). In other words, what would you like your code to look like in 5 years' time, given that you can start now? In 10 years' time?

The guidelines are focused on relatively higher-level issues, such as interfaces, resource management, memory management, and concurrency. Such rules affect application architecture and library design. Following the rules will lead to code that is statically type safe, has no resource leaks, and catches many more programming logic errors than is common in code today. And it will run fast - you can afford to do things right.

To me, these guidelines are the key to getting across my fundamental message that C++ does not have to be hard, scary, complicated, or dangerous. The language may still say “it’s your foot!” but the guidelines, and the tools they can drive, are quite the opposite.

You probably know that Visual Studio has a static analyser built in. (You should, anyway, I’ve blogged about it.) It will catch things like this:

    int* p = nullptr;
    *p = 10;   

But it doesn’t mind things like this:

    int arr[10];        
    int* p2 = arr;

Two lines, two violations of the guidelines – I’m not initializing any of the elements of arr, and then I am using its address as a regular old pointer. Now, there’s nothing wrong with regular old pointers – some people have got quite a hate on for them with the rise of genuinely smart pointers, but pointers are fine. Using pointers to control lifetime isn’t fine, because it’s impossibly difficult. But pointers themselves are fine. What’s not fine here is the “decay” of an array into a pointer – folks from other languages don’t expect that at all, and some marvelous bugs have hidden behind this simple bit of helpfulness from the compiler. So there’s a guideline that says don’t do that. Specifically:

(I’m giving you a picture of code because if you want to copy and paste you should go to the live, always updated, guidelines on github.)

This guideline is part of a “profile” – a particular set of rules that are designed to be enforced and that are supported by tools. Well, when I say tools I might be overstating the case a little. There’s just one tool at the moment, but that could be enough!

This tool, C++ Core Checker, is on the NuGet Gallery. You don’t have to get it from there though. You get it, and use it, from inside Visual Studio 2015. Any version will do. If you don’t use Visual Studio normally, just get and install the Community Edition, which is free and is ok to use for commercial purposes, from https://www.visualstudio.com/ . (Need the fine print? if you’re using it as a person, you can do whatever you like. If you work for a company with less than 250 PCs and less than a million dollars US in revenue, again you and up to 4 of your coworkers can use it for whatever you like. If you work for an “enterprise” company then any and all of the employees can still use it for learning purposes or to work on open source.) Note that Visual C++ isn’t part of the Typical install, so you’ll need to choose Custom and select Visual C++:

So once you have Community Edition or some edition of Visual Studio, make a console application and put in the two bad lines of code. Build it and then also run static analysis on it (On the Analyze menu, choose Run Code Analysis, On Solution.) You won’t get any warnings or errors. That’s your pre-guidelines life. You’re doing something inappropriate and nobody is telling you.

Now, add the checker to your solution. This is solution-by-solution, not a change to how Visual Studio does static analysis. On the Tools menu, choose NuGet Package Manager, Package Manager Console. In the console window that appears, type Install-Package Microsoft.CppCoreCheck and press enter. You will see output like this:

Attempting to gather dependencies information for package 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck.14.0.23107.2' with respect to project 'ConsoleApplication1', targeting 'native,Version=v0.0'
Attempting to resolve dependencies for package 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck.14.0.23107.2' with DependencyBehavior 'Lowest'
Resolving actions to install package 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck.14.0.23107.2'
Resolved actions to install package 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck.14.0.23107.2'
Adding package 'Microsoft.Gsl.0.0.1' to folder 'c:\users\kate\documents\visual studio 2015\Projects\ConsoleApplication1\packages'
Added package 'Microsoft.Gsl.0.0.1' to folder 'c:\users\kate\documents\visual studio 2015\Projects\ConsoleApplication1\packages'
Added package 'Microsoft.Gsl.0.0.1' to 'packages.config'
Successfully installed 'Microsoft.Gsl 0.0.1' to ConsoleApplication1
Adding package 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck.14.0.23107.2' to folder 'c:\users\kate\documents\visual studio 2015\Projects\ConsoleApplication1\packages'
Added package 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck.14.0.23107.2' to folder 'c:\users\kate\documents\visual studio 2015\Projects\ConsoleApplication1\packages'
Added package 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck.14.0.23107.2' to 'packages.config'
Successfully installed 'Microsoft.CppCoreCheck 14.0.23107.2' to ConsoleApplication1
PM>

This changes your project settings so that analysis runs this Core Checker for you. Repeat the analysis step and this time the new tool will run and you will get output like this:
------ Rebuild All started: Project: ConsoleApplication1, Configuration: Debug Win32 ------
  stdafx.cpp
  ConsoleApplication1.cpp
  ConsoleApplication1.vcxproj -> c:\users\kate\documents\visual studio 2015\Projects\ConsoleApplication1\Debug\ConsoleApplication1.exe
c:\users\kate\documents\visual studio 2015\projects\consoleapplication1\consoleapplication1\consoleapplication1.cpp(9): warning C26494: Variable 'arr' is uninitialized. Always initialize an object. (type.5: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=620421)
c:\users\kate\documents\visual studio 2015\projects\consoleapplication1\consoleapplication1\consoleapplication1.cpp(10): warning C26485: Expression 'arr': No array to pointer decay. (bounds.3: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkID=620415)
========== Rebuild All: 1 succeeded, 0 failed, 0 skipped ==========

Where it says "type.5" and there's a link, that's to the specific rule in the "type" profile that this code breaks. And where it says "bounds.3", the same - I showed a picture of bounds.3 up above.

Isn’t that great? Come on, it’s great! The tool will add more rules as we move through 2016. I’m going to have a lot more to say about the Guidelines as well. But this is a great place to start.Why not point it at some of your own code and see what happens?

Kate

Monday, 07 December 2015 13:54:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 26 November 2015

If you have an MSDN subscription, you know that it provides a number of benefits besides software licenses - you get Azure hours, you can use Visual Studio Online, and so on. Those are well worth the price of the subscription. But it also gives you access to a number of Pluralsight courses, completely free. If you have a Professional Subscription, you get access to 30 courses, and if you have an Enterprise subscription, you get access to 45 courses.  (You want one of the over 4500 other courses? You'll need a full subscription, but you can buy that at 30% off, which helps.)

And yes, my latest course, Visual Studio 2015: Essentials to the Power-User is one of the ones you'll get access to. So go, check it out!

Kate

Thursday, 26 November 2015 13:29:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 09 November 2015

I have a new Pluralsight course on Visual Studio called Visual Studio 2015: Essentials to the Power-User. It starts at the beginning, so if you're new to Visual Studio it will help you get started, but carries on "to 11" as it were, covering things many everyday users of Visual Studio don't know. Here are the modules, each with their length:

  1. Getting Started (42:08)
  2. Projects and Solutions (13:23)
  3. Namespaces, Folders, and Files(27:03)
  4. Understanding and Personalizing Visual Studio UI Components (26:57)
  5. Exploring Relationships in Your Code(36:41)
  6. Using Search and Find Effectively(28:15)
  7. Letting Visual Studio Help You (46:28)
  8. Basic Debugging Features (24:04)
  9. Additional Debugging Features (44:30)
  10. Working with Designers (39:37)
  11. Useful Extensions (39:54)
  12. IntelliTrace and Code Map (25:57)

If you don't have a Pluralsight subscription, click the Author link over on the right hand side of this blog - click Subscribe, then Start 10-Day trial. That should give you a good idea of how valuable the subscriptions can be. (My company buys subscriptions for my staff, and I use my free author one all the time. It's a great way to learn a new technology.)

My main goal in this course was to have Visual Studio make sense to the learner. There are so many ways to do any action that sometimes when you learn something it seems pointless, and you quickly get tired of learning an endless parade of similar features. I worked hard to put these into an order that would lead naturally through the capabilities of the tool, and put things in context. If you watch all 12 modules, you'll know more Visual Studio than most developers - and you'll have a productivity boost to show for it that should be pretty impressive! Please do give it a try.

Kate

Monday, 09 November 2015 12:18:54 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 11 June 2015

One of the CppCon sponsors, Bloomberg, is running a contest for students in university or college and giving away trips to attend CppCon2015 in September in Bellevue, Washington:

The series of seven weekly challenges will kick off on June 22, 2015, and each week contestants will be provided a different set of problems to solve via Bloomberg’s cloud-based CodeCon platform. Each week’s winner will earn a trip to CppCon in September. The list of seven winners will be announced and notified via email on August 5.

Interested? You should be. CppCon is a great experience for students and one you won't soon forget.

Kate

Thursday, 11 June 2015 15:38:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 13 January 2015

ACCU has announced the schedule for their 2015 conference in Bristol, so I can announce that it includes me!

James and I are adding quite a lot of material, so if you saw this talk at CppCon, you should probably come and see it again at ACCU. Alternatively, you could come to the conferences and watch one of the conflicting talks and take excellent notes, because I really wish I could be at those as well!

I first went to ACCU two years ago, spending my own money for travel and the registration fee. I enjoyed it immensely and learned a lot, so it's a real thrill to be speaking there this year. I can't wait!

Early bird rates last till the end of February. Register as soon as you can, and I'll see you there.

Kate

Tuesday, 13 January 2015 12:48:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 12 January 2015

My friend (and fellow Pluralsight author) Kathleen Dollard is coming to town, and will speak at the East of Toronto .NET User Group on "What's New in C# 6.0".

The next release of Visual Studio includes some major language enhancements that every developer should be aware of. Get up to speed on forthcoming enhancements quickly with this user group meeting from Microsoft MVP and language guru Kathleen Dollard.

Join us at 6pm at the Pickering Central Library! Please register at the Meetup page. See you there!

Kate


Monday, 12 January 2015 18:10:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 24 December 2014

In my Pluralsight course, Using StackOverflow and Other StackExchange Sites, I cover all the things you really need to know to use the sites effectively and get answers to your questions, or a chance to show your skills. In the last module I explain how to help run the sites yourself, and I suppose you don't actually need to know that to use them - but knowing how they're run can help you understand what happens and why, so I included that material. I didn't include things that are really just for fun.

Right now, Winter Bash is on and it's just for fun. I made a quick video to show what it's about - take a look and let me know what you think. I hope to keep adding more "almost-great" items throughout next year.

Kate

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 10:43:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Earlier this year I flew to Utah for the Pluralsight Author Summit. Spending time with such a great collection of my friends and colleagues, and learning more about how to make a great course, was the real reason for the trip, but I got up early one morning to record a Play by Play video with Geoffrey Grosenbach. He has a genuine skill of getting you to demonstrate your own thought processes aloud and I've enjoyed watching other people's Play by Play sessions a lot.

Geoffrey had arranged for some ancient C++ code for me to poke around in. Mike Woodring came through with the sample code from his 1997 book with Aaron Cohen, WIN32 Multithreaded Programming. Seventeen-year old code it may have been, but it turned out not to be quite as ugly as I would have liked. Still, we put it through its paces a little and talked about how I approach this sort of task.

It came out to about 90 minutes overall so if you have a chance to watch it, let me know what you thought!

Kate

Tuesday, 12 August 2014 13:34:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 02 August 2014

It's just around the corner - the largest C++ conference EVER with over one hundred talks!

And two of those talks I'll be doing with James McNellis. We had such a good time presenting together for Microsoft Virtual Academy that we decided to do it again. How do these sound?

Modernizing Legacy C++ Code

C++ is a programming language with a long, storied history spanning over three decades--four if one includes its C ancestry. The C++ language has undergone many changes during that time, compiler technology has advanced substantially, and computers today are very different from the computers of decades past. But despite all of these advances, there's an awful lot of C++ code in use today that looks like it was written in the 1980s. In some cases, the code was written in the 1980s and it's still in use; in other cases, it's recently-written code that just doesn't use modern style.

In this talk, we'll discuss some of the problems with legacy code, and review some practical techniques for applying principles of modern C++ to gradually improve the quality of legacy code and improve maintainability and debuggability. We'll show how some very small changes to code can yield huge benefits.

Making C++ Code Beautiful

Ask a non-C++ developer what they think of C++ and they'll give the language plenty of compliments: powerful, fast, flexible, and "the language for smart people". But along with that you are likely to hear ugly, complicated, hard to read, and "the language for smart people". Is it possible to write beautiful C++? Not arcanely elegant or wickedly compact, but readable, clear, expressive - beautiful! We say it is, and we want to show you how.

In this session, you'll see how to turn pages of "comic book characters swearing" into code you'll be proud to call your own. By making your code express your intent, using the power of new language and library functionality, and leaving hard-to-read constructs out of your vocabulary, you can give your code a makeover that will stand the test of time.

If you're not registered yet, there's still time! All five days cost $995 and there are one and two day passes available for less. You're going to want to meet and learn from the stars of C++ - check the full session list to read all about it.

Kate

Saturday, 02 August 2014 14:37:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 14 June 2014

My latest Pluralsight course, Introduction to Visual Studio 2013 - Part 2 is live and ready for action. The modules are:

  • Basic Debugging
  • Additional Debugging Features
  • IntelliTrace
  • Working With Designers
  • Extensions

If you haven't watched Part 1, you really should.

What's my next course? I'm trying to decide that at the moment and will let you know when it's underway.

Kate

Saturday, 14 June 2014 16:21:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 May 2014

I've completed my development of my latest Pluralsight course and I'm just waiting for it to go live. Here are the "teaser" images  I posted to Twitter and my public Facebook page as I was developing it:

This was fun to put together and it's nice to get into things so many people don't know. I hope you take a look at it once it's live and learn from it!

Kate

Friday, 23 May 2014 09:38:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Do you think Agile and Enterprise can go together? Are you a senior .NET developer who is looking to lead? If so, a client of mine is looking for you. Their job description includes:

We’ll look to you as a team leader who embraces a solid leadership capacity that has truly valuable impact on our team. In this senior role, you will participate in all aspects of the software development lifecycle including planning, technical design and architecture, construction, documentation, testing and deployment. Additionally, you’ll have a big picture view and the opportunity to play a role in the design.

and they're expecting:

  • Proven and deep experience with different versions of .NET Framework and C#/ASP.NET development
  • Demonstrable experience working on N-tier architectures
  • Solid understanding of the full development life-cycle
  • Knowledge and experience with Agile development methodologies (e.g. XP, Scrum)
  • Champion of agile engineering practices (e.g. TDD, continuous integration, refactoring etc)
  • Good understanding of design patterns and their application
  • Experienced unit testing frameworks
  • Computer Science (or related) degree
  • Knowledge of/experience with Sitecore is an asset
  • Knowledge of/experience with Ektron is an asset
  • Knowledge of/experience with Sharepoint is an asset

Sounds like you? Then get in touch with me and I'll make an introduction.

Kate

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 12:58:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 17 March 2014

Office Lens went live in the Windows Phone Store today. I happened to have a list of things to do on a whiteboard in my office, so I gave it a try. I had already taken a picture of the whiteboard to transcribe but I went back to the board with the app installed to see if I could save some time.

Here's the picture Office Lens took (resized to 400 pixels wide)

Here's how that looked when Office Lens cleaned it up and put it in a OneNote document for me (I copied the picture out of OneNote, cropped it and resized it):

Much nicer - the glare spots are gone and the background is cleaner. The skew that resulted from taking the picture on an angle (a defensive action to keep the glare out of the important parts of the image) is also gone. As is, this can go into an email. If my handwriting was neater, One Note could have tried to extract the text from it. But this is a lovely improvement and Office Lens is free, so why not give it a try?

Kate

Monday, 17 March 2014 11:19:16 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 28 February 2014

I have updated my Visual Studio Pluralsight course for Visual Studio 2013 and Part 1 is now live. It covers features that were newly added in the 2013 release as well as older material (so you don't need to take the 2012 courses before you take this one.) It focuses on how to work Visual Studio rather than on the mechanics of a particular programming language or framework. The demos are all in C# but almost all of it applies to other languages equally well. (As C++ developers know, some things we don't get, but we're used to that.)

A number of people who've been using Visual Studio for years have reported to me that they decided to watch the course just to see what features I felt were worth covering - and then accidentally learned something! Chances are you will, too, so why not watch on double speed and see if something comes up you didn't know before?

Kate

Friday, 28 February 2014 12:49:26 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Channel 9 has all 7 pieces of the MVA Day I did with James McNellis available online now!

We went very fast through this one day introduction. If you'd like a slightly saner pace, please check out my Pluralsight courses, C++ Fundamentals and C++ Fundamentals - Part 2. If you're not a programmer, and you'd like to "begin at the beginning" with C++, try Learn How to Program with C++. There is a free trial for the Pluralsight courses to get you started.

Kate

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 14:44:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 22 November 2013
I've been busy this fall with the release of Visual Studio 2013. One of the things I've been working on is live now: a new Pluralsight course. I focused on new things that matter to C++ developers, whether that's compiler support for language changes (hello, variadic templates!) or IDE changes that were implemented for C++ as well as "the other languages". Here's the description:

The C++ Language and the Standard Library both changed dramatically with the release of C++ 11. Some of these features were not implemented until Visual Studio 2013, and those are presented in this course. You'll learn about variadic templates, improvements in constructing and initializing variables, and rawnstring literals. In addition a number of productivity boosting enhancements in debugging, editing, and using libraries are in this version and you will learn how to take advantage of them.

If you don't have a Pluralsight subscription already, there's a free trial available, so please check it out!

Kate

Friday, 22 November 2013 13:36:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 12 November 2013
A lot of people (a lot) have asked whether the November 19th session (a whirlwind tour of C++ for those who don't know it) will be recorded. I'm happy to confirm that it will be. On the Live Events Page for Microsoft Virtual Academy you will see both future and past events. Here you can register for our session, and about two weeks afterward a link will appear on this page to let you watch the recording.

Please help spread the word to people you know who want to learn C++!

Kate

Tuesday, 12 November 2013 19:53:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 02 October 2013

In yesterday's session, I showed a Windows 8 store app that loads an image and then draws an animated ripple over it.

If you would like to get the code, and more importantly the documentation that explains the code, it's on Codeplex. Mixing and matching a little DirectX into your Windows 8 C++/CX app is remarkably easy, so why not take a quick look?

Kate

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 02:45:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 03 April 2013

As it says on the Bristol GGD website:

Our April dinner is being held on Thursday 11th in conjunction with the ACCU 2013 conference.

The event starts at 7pm for 7.30pm, at the Bristol Marriott Hotel City Centre. A few female IT professionals will talk briefly about themselves and their jobs. There will then be time for discussion and networking.

Read more and register http://girlgeeksataccu2013.eventbrite.co.uk/

I can't wait! I'm delighted to be one of the speakers and I'm looking forward to meeting lots of new people.


All are welcome, whether attending ACCU or not. Men are welcome at all GGD but are asked to come in the company of a woman so that women can experience being the majority.

Kate

Wednesday, 03 April 2013 17:54:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 28 March 2013
The week of April 8th, I'll be in Bristol, UK, attending ACCU. I'm looking forward to it tremendously - there is a great lineup of sessions and I only wish I could have spared the time to stay on for the C++ committee meetings that will follow it. I am, however, making the most of my time in that delightful city. Having enjoyed Guy Smith-Ferrier's presentations in several different locations, including my own East Of Toronto .NET User Group, I can now turn the tables and present at his.

Of course I want to do a C++ talk. But it's not a C++ group. So to be fair, I've decided to do two talks:

First, Use All of Visual Studio to Become a Better Developer

Most developers know how to use Visual Studio to do the basics of being a developer. You can create a solution, add projects to it, edit code, and run it. Easy, right? In this session, I want to show you how to be a better developer by using parts of Visual Studio you might not know about. Save hours of debugging time, move around your code more smoothly and don't lose your place, see what you want to see and find what you need to find. Demos will be in C# with Visual Studio 2012.

Second, C++ in 2013 – Why on earth?

There are so many languages a developer could use today. Yet some developers still use C++. Some developers are learning C++ when they already know C# and other younger languages. This session will show you why that is happening, and why you might want to learn the new C++ yourself. It's nothing like the C++ you remember, and it can be a very useful language for you to know.
Please do register for these, and I hope to see you there!

Kate

Thursday, 28 March 2013 11:55:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 04 January 2013

Over the last few weeks, I've been accumulating links to appearances of mine, and it seems like a good idea to share these.

  • OReilly webcast: This is a reasonably horrible recording (sound quality and video size) of a webcast I did back in August. It shows why C++ AMP is so cool and why you might care about it. I recorded it to promote the book but I'm not very happy with how it turned out. You'll probably do better with the recording of my Tech Ed talk.
  • Pluralsight interview: This is specifically about my Using Visual Studio 2012 course. You can download the audio or read the transcript as you prefer.  My favourite quote from the conversation:
It’s not just like, oh, I saved five seconds. I can go home five seconds earlier today. It’s that you’re less likely to forget what you were doing because you don’t have to put so much time into the mechanics and you just stay in flow. And to me, that’s a ramping up of two or three times the amount of code I can produce when I use everything the tool has to offer.
  • Dot Net Rocks panel at DevIntersection: Here Scott Allen, Michele Leroux Bustamante, Woody Pewitt, and I discuss whatever we feel like, with occasional leading questions from Carl and Richard, and some Canadian whisky too.

Even though I haven't been blogging much, I have been doing a lot, and I hope these links will help you to discover some of it.

Kate

Friday, 04 January 2013 17:58:45 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 20 November 2012

While I was in Nashville as part of the Dot Net Rocks Roadtrip, we recorded an episode of The Tablet Show. The recording is online now and I'll have to give it a listen myself to remember what we talked about - Hilo, for sure, and C++ AMP, and just generally why C++ can be a great choice for tablet development.

Kate

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 13:30:44 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 16 November 2012

Don McCrady, who with Jim Radigan did an inspiring talk on performance at Build this year, has blogged about a proof-of-concept project that adds C++ AMP to CLANG and LLVM using OpenCL underneath instead of using DirectX the way Visual Studio does. This is super cool! As Don says:

When Microsoft announced C++ AMP back in June 2011, we told you that we would release the C++ AMP specification under the Microsoft Community Promise – essentially opening up the specification to allow any C++ compiler implementer to add C++ AMP to their compiler. Shevlin Park serves as an example of the platform portability potential intended by the Community Promise.

Do read Don's post and follow the links to learn more about Shevlin Park. The praise for C++ AMP as a programming model, and the likelihood that multiple compilers will support it, should make you feel all warm and fuzzy about learning it. You might even want to use my book to do so :-)

Kate


Friday, 16 November 2012 13:19:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 02 November 2012

One of the stickers for the badge this year was to attend an 8:30 session. I achieved that by going to Alive with activity: Tiles, notifications, and background tasks which, to be honest, I chose as much to see what Kraig Brockschmidt is doing lately as to learn about tiles and toast. But I'm glad I went, because it was a very good talk.

I've come to Redmond so many times, but I never particularly noticed the colours changing. This week they've been spectacular. I had some meetings in other buildings so I was able to get out of the giant lines at least long enough to take pictures of the giant lines :-)




And yes, it rained, but they were ready for that:




I really like the vibe that came from being on campus. Speakers tended to get up from their desks, jump on a shuttle or walk over, pull on the shirt and talk to us. I really got the sense we were being welcomed into their home.

I also went to Tips for building a Windows Store app using XAML and C++: The Hilo project - how could I not, since I was on the project. Excellent summary of some hard-learned lessons and one you should totally download and watch.

Kate
Friday, 02 November 2012 12:00:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Build this year is less focused on announcing things (though the Windows phone and native C++ material is brand new) and more on drilling down into topics that we've had a year to experiment with and want some deep study on. Most of the speakers are from product teams. What's fun for me is that most of the attendees are very motivated and here to learn.

I'm also enjoying how full the rooms are for C++ sessions. Here's Tarek's Day 1 session:



BTW, that was session 3-000 demonstrating that (a) the sessions are numbered using zero-based indexing and (b) the C++ sessions were first on the list.

And here's the C++ performance talk from right after the keynote this morning:



This room was standing room only. It's possible all the C++ talks were, I don't always sit at the back where I can see whether people are standing back there or not. And you may not be able to tell from the picture but there were plenty of young developers there too.

There was also a nice session on Project Austin which is a lovely reference app showing how to use DirectX in a Windows Store app. You can get the code from Codeplex and take a look at it yourself or just use it to take beautiful notes on a tablet.

Speaking of reference apps, Hilo (which I've written about before) is now an official sample in the SDK and on the Dev Center. There's a Hilo session here at Build too. Within a day or two these links should have recordings and slides for you to download.

Want to know more about C++ at Build? Here's less than two minutes on just that topic. If you can, please watch Herb's talk on Friday. It promises to be exciting!

Kate

Wednesday, 31 October 2012 19:45:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 19 October 2012

Microsoft and Stack Overflow are joining forces on a fun Windows 8 development contest. And since one of the strengths of StackOverlflow is how the community reviews all the content, it only makes sense that there's a serious review component to this contest! And it's not US-only (for once!) so as long as you're over 18 and don't live in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria you're good to go. Well, you need a StackOverflow account, but you needed one of those anyway, right?

Top prize is $5,000 and there are shiny achievements and everything - so get going!

Kate

Friday, 19 October 2012 18:13:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 18 October 2012
I love the fact that big-name speakers are willing to come and speak at the East of Toronto .NET User Group. You don't have to live in a big city (or struggle through big-city traffic on a visit) to keep up to date with the latest technology and meet fellow developers. The latest example:



As the website says:

Beth Massi is a Senior Program Manager on the Visual Studio team at Microsoft. Beth is a community champion for business application developers and has over 15 years of industry experience building business apps. She is a frequent speaker at various software development events and you can find her on a variety of developer sites including MSDN Developer Centers, Channel 9, and her blog http://www.bethmassi.com. Follow her on twitter @BethMassi

And what will she be talking about?

Visual Studio LightSwitch is the easiest way to create modern line of business applications for the enterprise. In this session you will learn how LightSwitch helps you focus your time on what makes your application unique, allowing you to easily implement common business application scenarios—such as integrating multiple data sources, data validation, authentication, and access control. See how LightSwitch in Visual Studio 2012 has embraced OData making it easy to consume as well as create interoperable data services. Then see how LightSwitch makes it easy to deploy these services to the Azure cloud and consume them from other client applications and platforms. You will also see how the LightSwitch team is enabling mobile scenarios making it easy to create HTML5/JavaScript companion clients for modern mobile devices.

When and where?

Event Agenda

TimeTitle
6:30 - 7:00Socialize and refreshments
7:00 - 8:30Presentation

Pickering Central Library Auditorium (2nd floor)

One the Esplanade
Pickering, ON L1V 6K7

Register now - it's a good way to spend a Wednesday night.

Kate
Thursday, 18 October 2012 17:43:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 16 October 2012

I love writing courses for Pluralsight. I can reach a lot of people and I know the production quality will be top notch. My most recent course is Introduction to Visual Studio 2012 Part 1. It's aimed at people who've never used Visual Studio before, but even a seasoned user will learn something from it - just use the cool speedup feature to zip through things that are already familiar, like the difference between a project and a solution. I cover some very nice productivity features and there's sure to be something in there that's new to you.

Another recent Pluralsight development is that the MSDN Subscriber benefit has expanded to cover MSDN subscribers worldwide, not just in the US, and five more courses were added. If you have an MSDN subscription, you can watch all these courses free:

  • Agile Team Practices with Scrum
  • ALM for Developers with Visual Studio 2012
  • ALM with Team Foundation Server 2010
  • ALM with TFS 2012 Fundamentals
  • Building Windows 8 Metro Apps with C# and XAML
  • Building Windows 8 Metro Apps with C++ and XAML
  • C# Fundamentals - Part 1
  • C++ Fundamentals
  • Continuous Integration
  • Developing for Windows 7
  • IntelliTrace
  • Introduction to .NET Debugging using Visual Studio 2010
  • Introduction to Building Windows 8 Applications
  • Introduction to Visual Studio 2010 - Part 1
  • Introduction to Visual Studio 2010 - Part 2
  • Introduction to Visual Studio 2012 - Part 1
  • Introduction to Windows 7 Development
  • Kanban Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Fakes Fundamentals
  • Solution Modeling with UML in Visual Studio 2010
  • Test First Development - Part 1
  • Test First Development - Part 2
  • Web Application Performance and Scalability Testing
  • Windows Azure Diagnostics
  • Windows Phone 7 Basics


The bolded ones are mine. Here's how to sign up - do it by Dec 11th 2012 - and get your one year free access to all these great courses!

Kate


Tuesday, 16 October 2012 13:35:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 15 October 2012

Hilo is a reference project written in C++/CX for Windows 8 by the Patterns and Practices team. I was delighted to be part of this project and think it turned out very well. I use the Hilo codebase to remind myself how to do certain things when writing a Windows Store app in C++ (something I'm in the middle of doing for another project.) The accompanying document is rich in best practices for Windows 8 development, async work, modern C++, unit testing, and more. Now the latest version has been released, updated for Windows 8 RTM.

Hilo itself is a photo viewer. Before you roll your eyes, bear with me. I actually think it's better than the one that ships with Windows 8. It shows you some of your pictures as a sort of overview:

Click on one to interact with it. You can right-click to bring up both the app bar at the bottom and a nice strip-navigation control at the top:

If you want to see something cool, use Cartoon Effect. This leverages C++ AMP to cartoonize the picture. I've shopped this image a little to reduce the width (pulled the appbar in from the edges) but the cartoon work was done by Hilo - and super quickly.

If you have any thoughts of writing Windows Store apps, and C++ is a possibility for you, get over to Codeplex, download the Hilo code and the .chm file, and get reading!

Kate

Monday, 15 October 2012 13:17:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 28 September 2012
I’ve been writing a book, though I swore I wouldn’t write any more books, and it’s finally done! You can buy a Kindle version from Amazon or an e-book directly from O’Reilly today. The paper copies will be ready in about a week and you can order them from O’Reilly or Amazon. The book is published by Microsoft Press, but O’Reilly handles the actual production of the books.


 I’ve got a page dedicated to the book with links for you to buy it, get the code, submit errata, and whatever else you might want. (If you think something’s missing, comment here and I’ll try to take care of it.)

Kate
Friday, 28 September 2012 14:50:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 27 September 2012

Two years ago or so, when Visual Studio 2010 launched, the crazy duo of Richard Campbell and Carl Franklin – if you’re a Dot Net Rocks listener, they’re the voices in your head – took their show on the road and drove an RV across the USA holding live Dot Net Rocks evenings pretty much every night for weeks on end. Each city featured a surprise “rockstar” flown in for the occasion. I did St Louis and had a great time. Now they’re doing it again and this time announcing us in advance – I’ll be in Nashville Oct 24th.

Registration is free, and please do register using the big red Register button for your city (I hope to see you in Nashville). You can track them online too and follow the #dnrRoadTrip hashtag on Twitter.

If you’re in Toronto, don’t miss the October 13th Saturday-a-ganza at the Microsoft Canada offices featuring Michele Leroux Bustmante! I know I won’t!

Kate

Thursday, 27 September 2012 14:19:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 26 September 2012

I love writing courses for Pluralsight. I have quite a few and am working on more right now. They like to interview their authors about each course. Here's one about my latest for them. If you’ve done the whole course you won’t learn anything new from the interview, but if you’re curious about writing what we’re now calling Windows Store applications for Windows 8 using C++ and Visual Studio, perhaps this interview will help you decide whether it’s something you want to learn. There’s a transcript as well as an audio link.

Kate

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 14:13:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 25 September 2012

We now have a Windows Phone application in the marketplace. We wrote it for ourselves, to learn the framework and to give us a way to track how we spend our time. The minute we started designing it, we discovered everyone in the company wanted a different way to track. People who do pretty much the same thing all the time (coding, for example) wanted to track project-by-project. People who work on only one project at a time wanted to differentiate between types of work, like meetings or email or writing documents. We decided to make it as simple and flexible as we could. I was inspired by a story of a time tracking technique involving physical objects. You get 5-10 paper cups and write things on the cups like Email, Meetings, and so on. Then you get 32 poker chips, all the same colour. As each 15-minute piece of time goes by, you toss a chip into the cup. It is supposed to help you understand that you very literally “spend” your time. And at the end of the day you can look in the cups and see where your day went.


If you’d like to track your time like this – hit the + button to toss a “15 minute” square into a particular “bucket” or just hit the falling drops button to accumulate time in one bucket until you change tasks – please try our app and let me know how it works for you.

Kate


Tuesday, 25 September 2012 14:11:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 31 May 2012
Recently one of my staff went to a week-long conference - her first. I gave her some tips before she went and it occurred to me that others might like them too. I hope you'll apply them to a trip to Tech Ed or some other conference where you can hear me speak.

First, here are some links to some other good posts on the topic. Here's me a year ago, pointing to John Bristowe's suggestions for going to a big conference. And here's me 18 months ago, pointing to Joey deVilla's suggestions for meeting people and talking to them. And here's a great question (with an answer from me) on Programmers.StackExchange about networking at conferences. (BTW I met the asker of that question in person at Tech Ed, which was great for both of us.) And here's me four years ago with some details on choosing talks to attend.

Now, here's the super condensed version of my advice:
  • Plan your sessions in advance, at least two per timeslot. Carry a paper list of session names and room numbers so if you decide to bail on one, you know exactly where to run to, even if your electronics are out of battery and there's no wifi.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, but not so comfortable that you would feel underdressed when talking to a potential employer or other business contacts. You will walk a LOT so choose those shoes with special care. It will be both stinking hot (outside - many conferences are held in hot places at muggy times) and freezing cold (if you end up right under the AC that is set on stun) so have a layering approach.
  • Bring your own bag so you can tell it apart from everyone else's, and know just where to find things you need. Leave as much as you possibly can in the hotel room, to save your back during all that walking and to minimize what you might lose if there's any kind of bag mishap.
  • Eat at the conference - it's a great time to meet people and this is where I usually bump into people I know.
  • Go to the trade show floor, the community area, and the like multiple times. Serendipity will happen but you have to give it a chance
  • Pack a somewhat larger bag than you need to - there is a lot of swag at Tech Ed and first timers can't resist lining up for TShirts and the like. Don't be that person who stuffs it all in the conference bag and checks a second bag on the way home. For one thing, someone may accidentally pick up your conference bag thinking it is theirs. Your conference bag and all your other swag should fit in your main bag.
  • Pack your days and evenings FULL. Don't you dare watch TV in your hotel room! Go to the labs and try something you always wanted to learn a little more about. Download something that was just released and try it. Go to a party. Write up your notes (or better yet, blog them.) Send your boss late night emails about what a great time you're having and how much you're learning. Watch one of the sessions you didn't get to that day and then figure out if the speaker is likely still at the conference and how you can arrange to find that speaker and say thanks for the talk or ask a question. Fill out the evals for the talks you went to. There is SO MUCH you can do while you're on site, so try very hard to do it all. Make the most of the week, make it intense, and you will get more out of it by fully engaging.
  • Try to do at least a few hours of sightseeing - one afternoon or evening - with some friends if you can. Maybe the attendee party is being held in some iconic location? Go to that. Or there's a restaurant in the town that you've always wanted to eat at? Gather a few folks and arrange something. Twitter is great with the conference hashtag - "who wants to go to XYZ tonight?" - I've done this for going on tours too. Gives you fellow geeks to talk to while you sightsee and strengthens friendships if you go with people you only know professionally. But don't overdo the sightseeing - you're here for the conference, remember.

I hope I see you there! The better prepared you are, the more benefit you will get from the conference!

Kate


Thursday, 31 May 2012 11:24:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 29 May 2012

I've been putting my schedule together for the talks I want to attend at Tech Ed North America and Tech Ed Europe this year. While I wasn't looking, a bunch more C++ content was added.

In Orlando:

Plus some language agnostic sessions that chose to put C++ in their session descriptions, which is a new thing these days.

Now as it happens, Tech Ed North America is sold out, so if you're not registered yet, you have three choices: join the waiting list, watch these sessions online, or get your boss to agree to a slightly larger T&E budget and head to Tech Ed Europe in Amsterdam just two weeks later. There we will have:

  • PRC08, my all day Monday precon: C++ in Visual Studio 11: Modern, Readable, Safe, Fast
  • DEV316, Tuesday at 4:30 pm: Application Lifecycle Management Tools for C++ in Visual Studio 11 by Rong Lu
  • DEV368, Wednesday at 2:45 pm: Visual C++ and the Native Renaissance by Steve Teixeira
  • DEV322, Thursday at 8:30 am: Building Windows 8 Metro style Apps with Visual C++ 11 by Rong Lu
  • DEV367, Thursday at 4:30: Building Windows 8 Metro Style Apps With C++ by Steve Teixeira
  • DEV334, Friday at 1:00 pm: C++ Accelerated Massive Parallelism in Visual C++ 11 by me

(Europe doesn't have direct links to the sessions, but they do allow links to the search for C++.) I'll have to miss Steve's talk because Rong and I are going to Belgium, so that one I'll be watching online. 

One way or another, please attend or watch these sessions. There's a lot of new stuff happening!

Kate

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 17:31:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 28 May 2012
I am having a very lucky year. I've been nominated and accepted as a judge at the Worldwide finals of the Imagine Cup. I love being around students, and everything I've heard about Imagine Cup tells me that the energy, excitement, and creativity is marvelous to be part of. While I'm there, I decided to stay an extra day (July 11th) so I can offer my one-day C++ training to those who can't make it to Tech Ed in Orlando or Amsterdam. Here's what I'll cover:
  • Modern C++ with the Standard Library
  • Application Lifecycle Management for Visual C++ 11
  • Leveraging Lambdas for the PPL and C++ AMP
  • Best practices for C++ developers today

This is not a free session, but the price is even lower than the Tech Ed precons since I don't have travel expenses to get down there and see you all. If you live in Australia, please register and take advantage of this chance to come and learn what's been going on with C++ while you weren't looking! And if you don't, I'd appreciate it if you could spread the word to those who do.

Kate

Monday, 28 May 2012 21:04:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 26 May 2012
This report is well overdue, I know. On April 17th I spoke at the first meeting of the Toronto C++ User Group! The room was PACKED:



And as you can see, there's quite an age range represented. The space was provided by bNotions. It was lovely and airy, and I was thrilled to hear their commitment to community across a variety of technologies:



Once I got started, my challenge was to give the one hour version of this talk, and not the six-hour one I plan to do at my Tech Ed precons in June. Here I am in action (thanks Eran for wandering the room with my camera throughout the talk) explaining the new ranged-based for:




The next meeting will be shared with the North Toronto .NET User Group, covering Windows 8 development in native C++. Yes, the .NET folks want to hear about this, too! I'll see you there June 4th, right?

Kate
Saturday, 26 May 2012 20:36:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 10 May 2012
So much C++ news going on lately. Time to clear my queue:

It's hard to keep up with it all! Especially when I'm on a book deadline :-)

Kate

Thursday, 10 May 2012 22:06:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 26 March 2012

How's this for a renaissance? People are starting C++ user groups!

  • The Jerusalem .NET/C++ User Group will cover both topics. They've had their first meeting already.
  • The Central Ohio C++ User Group has also had its first meeting and will meet monthly.
  • In Austin Texas they're calling it the C++ Meetup and the description sounds a lot like a user group
  • The Belgian C++ User Group has its first meeting in April

It's so much fun to see this excitement springing up. There seem to be two popular topics for first meetings: either "What's new in C++ 11" or "Writing Windows 8 Apps". I think these two things arriving together - the huge language and library improvements (and the unexpected synergy of the language changes and the library changes) with the chance to write for Windows 8 in C++and XAML - is producing much more interest than there used to be.

And now the fun is spreading to Toronto! No, I'm not founding the group - I'm surely not the only C++ developer in Toronto after all. But I am honoured to be speaking at the first event on April 17th right downtown (pretty much Yonge and Bloor.) I'd love to dive deep into C++ AMP, or show how the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 is easier to code for, but I think I should begin at the beginning, so my talk is titled What happened in C++ 11 and why do I care? and has this abstract:

C++, both the language and the libraries that come with every compiler, is defined by an ISO standard. The latest version of the standard, generally known as C++ 11 after its approval last fall, was optimistically called C++0x throughout the multi-year process that led to its adoption. Many of the language changes (new keywords, new punctuation, new rules) and library changes (genuinely smart pointers, threading, and more) have already been implemented by vendors who were following the standards process closely.
In this session Kate will introduce and demonstrate many of the highlights of C++11 including lambdas, auto, shared_ptr, and unique_ptr. These are all supported in Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2010. You can see how to make your code more readable and expressive, easier to update, more correct (less bugs and memory leaks) and faster, not by trading off among those possible constraints but by adopting modern C++ which gives you improvements in all four areas at once. If you’ve been ignoring the Standard Library, for example, you must see how lambdas make all the difference and open a world of productivity to you.
A sneak peek of the next version of Visual Studio will show you even more C++11 goodness.

If you've looked at my Pluralsight courses, you'll know that my biggest challenge is going to be fitting this into an hour plus Q&A. This will be an overview, an overture if you like, and should whet your appetite for the meetings to come!

Please register as soon as you can, please spread the word, and I hope to see you there!

Kate
Monday, 26 March 2012 08:29:02 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 14 March 2012
People keep on releasing interviews with me. If you're willing to listen to them, I'm more than willing to keep on talking. There's remarkably little overlap in all of these.

On The Tablet Show, Richard and Carl (yes, that Richard and Carl) asked me about C++ in this wacky new world of Windows 8. We had the usual freewheeling conversation and covered a lot of ground in 49 minutes.

For PluralSight, Fritz asked me questions about my latest course, and the industry in general. This one's just ten minutes, and there's a transcript if you'd rather read than listen.

Kate

Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:56:58 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 12 March 2012
It's been a week-and-a-bit that the beta of Visual Studio 11 has been out. I'm using it more than Visual Studio 2010 at the moment - in both Windows 7 and Windows 8, and for C++ projects exclusively at the moment. (Say what you will about the C++ Renaissance, but the fraction of my consulting, writing, and coding that is C++ has taken a major uptick in the last  6 or so months.) I'm getting used to the look, and I'm certainly motivated to use more keyboard shortcuts :-)

Herb has a nice blog post that summarizes the C++ features in this release. You can read the details there, I'll just summarize briefly:
  • Complete Standard Library for C++ 11. Especially the async and threads stuff. Standard!
  • Some more language C++ 11 features. Range for is the big one here.
  • C++ AMP. You know I care about this one!
  • The continuation (.then) syntax of PPL, which makes WinRT asynchronicity much more readable.
  • Windows 8 - both C++/CX and WinRL

And there will be more coming, sooner than "Visual Studio 12" whenever that might be. There will be out of band releases with more goodies as they get finished. If you care what gets done (and released) in what order, you can tell the team. I took the survey myself - I care about uniform initialization, defaulted constructors, and then some other bits and pieces at lower priority. Since they aren't just going to gather them all up and release them a few years from now, order matters. Share your opinion, and you're more likely to get what you want.

Monday, 12 March 2012 11:09:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 11 March 2012

Recently the Tech Ed people interviewed me for a profile that is now live. You can read it on their blog. We are all starting to work our way towards being ready for June. The content catalogs are partially public for both Tech Ed North America and Tech Ed Europe. If you search on C++, you'll find more than just my precon, by the way.

North America:

Europe:

Who is giving those talks? Well I am doing the precons in both places - that's official. And I wrote the abstracts for the other two talks, so I'm pretty sure I'm giving those too. I would love to see you there. And if you have colleagues who are coming to Tech Ed who really don't "get" why C++ is different these days, please encourage them to join me for the all-day precon that answers precisely that question.

Kate

Sunday, 11 March 2012 13:48:45 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 10 March 2012

I've been working on another C++ course for Pluralsight to complement the C++ WinRT/Windows 8/Metro course I did as well as the two-part C++ Fundamentals course (part 1, part 2). It's finished and live!

The topics I cover are:

  • Avoid Manual Memory Management
  • Use Lambdas
  • Use Standard Containers
  • Use Standard Algorithms
  • Embrace Move Semantics
  • Follow Style Rules
  • Consider the PImpl Idiom
  • Stop Writing C With Classes

I had a real blast writing this - while I was editing it I could hear my own enjoyment of parts of it. I hope you enjoy it too. A Pluralsight subscription is such a bargain - buy one for the topics you simply MUST learn for work, then use it on your own time to learn all those other things that you think you might benefit from. (I recommend Annual Plus - $500 gets you the sample code and offline viewing, all you can learn for a year.) Whether C++ is "must learn for work" or "I hear it's different know, wonder if it could help me" for you, I hope you find it helpful. Please let me know!

Kate

Saturday, 10 March 2012 14:36:17 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 08 February 2012
I've been excited about C++ AMP since it was first announced back in June. What's C++ AMP? It stands for Accelerated Massive Parallelism and it's about harnessing thousands of cores on accelerators like GPUs. You can speed up some applications by a factor of 10 or more. Not 10%, 10x. And you don't have to learn some C-like language, you get to work in C++. It's done almost entirely with libraries, which means you can use C++ AMP from a variety of applications, including Metro apps for Windows 8.

If you check my Concurrency category you'll see I've been writing code (and words) for months now. I just haven't been putting those words here on my blog. Instead, they're going into a book, for Microsoft Press! Soon, I will have some chapter drafts available for review. If you're interested, I've set up a page with some details, and some links for those who want to learn more.

There's increasing media coverage, including Peter Bright at ars technica and Darryl Taft at eWeek, and last week the spec was released to the public under the Microsoft Community Promise license. This means other compiler vendors can implement C++ AMP in their own compilers, allowing even more developers access to heterogeneous hardware and massive speedups for data parallel calculations. Herb Sutter mentioned it in the Day 2 keynote at GoingNative, the Visual C++ Blog included a link, and Soma blogged about it too.

Dive in! There's a lot to learn. And plenty of samples to play with. I'll post updates here as I go.

Kate

Wednesday, 08 February 2012 20:48:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 07 February 2012

The minute this was announced, I knew I had to go.

Two days of "C++ today and tomorrow" with the bright lights of C++ today? Just try and keep me away! I'm so glad I was there - it was AMAZING and FANTASTIC and just generally wonderful. For me, personally, seeing so many old friends was a big part of it. The C++ team, other C++ MVPs, people I went to university with, and so on. It was also wonderful to see so many young people - including speakers, but also attendees, who were clearly in their 20s (and a few who were obviously in their teens.) After Chandler's talk I told someone "we can retire now: the future of C++ is in good hands." The speakers were not "the usual suspects" at a Microsoft event either. At a panel at the end of the second day, someone asked about C++ and the cloud and one of the answers was to indicate three speakers sitting next to each other: "Microsoft guy, Facebook guy, Google guy. Where isn't C++ in the cloud?" While that was a great cloud answer, I think it also highlights how inclusive this was - it was a C++ conference held at Microsoft, not a Microsoft conference.

Some fun quotes I happened to write down:

  • “if it’s that ugly, it must be good” - Bjarne, on why some newbies imitate horrible code written long ago by their heroes
  • “write C-style code, expect C-style errors” - Bjarne again
  • “we know where bugs hide” – Bjarne (they hide in large tracts of complicated code)
  • "dot dot dot is where the fun begins" - Andrei
  • "real code is not supposed to fit on slides" - Andrei
  • "this is legal" - Andrei (we needed to be reassured since it rarely looked legal)
  • "if you're using new or delete, you're doing it wrong" - Herb (it's true!)

And Chandler's talk was very much a 2012 talk, with lolcat-like interjections and Simpsons references and even a how-agile-is-this update with a picture of Oscar Wilde in reference to Andrei's earlier off-the-cuff description of some template error messages (aka template barf) as being "a small novel by Oscar Wilde." The humour level was very high, much of it self-deprecating - no-one, not even the coiners of the terms, thinks RAII or SFINAE are great names, but what the heck, they're the names we use.

Even the little things here were so well done. Herb opened the conference by dedicating it to Dennis Ritchie, which I found extraordinarily touching and appropriate. He opened day 2 by celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Microsoft C7 which was C++ 1 for them, with Visual C++ appearing in the next release. There on the podium was the two foot long, 44 pound box, with multicoloured plusses all over it, in which it shipped.

And what was inside? A lot of books, and a lot of 3.5" floppies (I took this picture earlier, before the box headed to campus):

There are 5 or 6 floppies in each bag and apparently each bag had a part number of its own.

This conference was far more than a trip down memory lane, of course. It was a two-day Valentine from Microsoft to the C++ community, a demonstration of the "new growth" in modern C++ and the power and capability that is there for those who are prepared to start using the new features, and a chance for all of us to accelerate the learning we have to do. I so hope you were able to be there, or to catch the energy by watching it live and following tweets from those of us who had to share the bon mots and the fun. But if not, the on-demand videos are almost all there now. Here are the links:

Bjarne Stroustrup: C++11 Style

Hans Boehm: Threads and Shared Variables in C++11

Stephan T. Lavavej: STL11 – Magic && Secrets

Andrei Alexandrescu: Variadic Templates are Funadic

Panel: The Importance of Being Native (Bjarne, Andrei, Herb, Hans) 

Herb Sutter: C++11, VC++11 and Beyond

Chandler Carruth: Clang - Defending C++ from Murphy's Million Monkeys

Andrei Alexandrescu: Static If I Had a Hammer

Bjarne Stroustrup and Andrew Sutton: A Concept Design for C++

Panel: Ask Us Anything! (all speakers)

Fair warning: both of Andrei's talks, and the Concepts talk, are hard. This is cool new stuff that we are all learning about. There is no shame in pausing, rewinding, and giving something a second listen. Look, Chandler was running through pitfalls and problems that Clang catches, and showed some code with a problem I couldn't spot. A few minutes later in the Q&A, Bjarne asked him to clarify just what the problem was. Made me feel better!

Chances are you won't be able to watch any of these on fast forward, or skip any of them. So I'm asking you to invest 12 hours of your life to watch all of them. Do it! You won't regret it!

Kate

PS: They gave us shirts (it's all about the shirts for developers) with real code on the back and this on the front:



Highly appropriate. Of course, it's not a comeback for those of us who never left. But still...
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 12:19:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 12 January 2012
Perhaps not a great surprise, but today the precons for Tech Ed North America were announced and mine is there too. It's well described in the previous blog post and I'll be doing the same material at both events. So if Orlando, June 10th works better for you than Amsterdam, June 25th, terrific and I'll see you there! Registration is now open.

Kate

Thursday, 12 January 2012 10:57:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 09 January 2012
Yay! Today I got news that registration is open for Tech Ed 2012 in Amsterdam, and with it confirmation that my preconference has been accepted! This is great news for anyone who loves C++, because it's a C++ all day preconference! The title is C++ in 2012: Modern, Readable, Safe, Fast and here's the abstract:

C++ is gaining momentum as a development language, so whether you’ve never used C++ or stopped using it a decade ago, it may be time to brush up on your skills. With a new standard release providing new keywords and capabilities, C++ is a  featured language for many of the new Microsoft technologies and enables some amazing speed-ups of your application using libraries like PPL and C++ AMP. What’s more, Visual Studio offers tools to native developers that have only been available for managed developers in earlier versions. This all-day session will show you what all the fuss is about and give you the skills you need to understand the advantages of C++ today and how to start applying those benefits to your application.

Now, if you're an experienced and current C++ developer, you may not need to come to this session. But if you were thinking you needed a refresher, here's a great way to get one, and at the same time look at some of the cool new stuff that is available to you once you know C++. If you've never written a line of C++ code in your life, but you're solid in C# or Java so you know the basic syntax (if, while, etc) you should be able to follow this session, though it won't teach you all the fiddly bits of C++ syntax and make you a C++ developer from scratch. It should, however, give you the inspiration you might need to go and learn all that fiddly syntax, and understand why we have it. I am also hoping there will be a number of relevant breakout sessions you'll want to attend after getting a taste of what C++ developers can do, though we have to wait a little longer to find out about those.




I'm still working on the exact content, but my first draft outline looks something like this:
  • Modern C++ with the Standard Library (demo of strings, shared pointers)
  • Application Lifecycle Management for Visual C++ 11
  • Leveraging Lambdas for the PPL and C++ AMP
  • Best practices for C++ developers today

This is 9am - 5pm (all day) the Monday before Tech Ed Europe starts, June 25th. You can register for the precon and Tech Ed now. And tell your friends! I would love to see a TON of registrations to ensure continued C++ content at Tech Eds around the world.

Kate

PS: Yes, I know that Tech Ed US is a few weeks before Tech Ed Europe. You didn't miss the US announcement; you shouldn't have to wait much longer for it though.

Monday, 09 January 2012 20:29:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Work is underway on settling the agenda for Tech Ed, even though it's almost 6 months away. As Brandy explained a week ago or so, it starts with asking "the usual suspects" for session submissions. Tech Ed is a fairly closed conference - the call goes out to MVPs, RDs, some Microsoft employees and previous speakers. (How do you become a new speaker? Do a great job somewhere else first -Tech Ed is not a beginner's conference. The people who get the call for content can propose great speakers who didn't get the call.) Now they've announced the technical tracks, which gives you an idea of what you can expect to see covered. There are no huge surprises here: I'm most interested in Architecture & Practices, Developer Tools, Languages & Frameworks, Windows Client and Windows Phone.

What will be next? Announcing the precons. They've already announced the price: $400 if you're attending Tech Ed, and $500 if you're not. They'll say what the precon topics are in early January. But by then, the super early bird discount will have expired. That discount will save you $300. So registering now is like paying only $100 for the precon!  If you can decide in January or February, when the precons are announced, you'll still save $200, so it's like your precon is half price. Either way, it's a great deal for a full day of deep training on something relevant to the kind of people who come to Tech Ed.

To be clear, I don't know what the precons are going to be. I will blog as soon as I know. But if you think there's a chance that spending a whole day with someone who really knows their stuff on a topic you need to know (especially one you never got around to learning and feel you should) would be worthwhile, then why not make it official, register for Tech Ed, and see what gets announced in January?

Kate




Wednesday, 21 December 2011 17:24:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 15 December 2011
The second part of my C++ Fundamentals course is now live on the Pluralsight site. This one covers:

  • The Standard Library - string, collections, and the like
  • Lambdas - perhaps my favourite C++ 11 feature
  • Exceptions - every C++ developer needs to understand exceptions
  • Understanding Legacy Code - here's where you'll find out how C++ earned its reputation
These four modules build on the material I covered in part 1:

  • Context - to set the stage
  • Tools - Visual Studio and Visual Studio Express
  • Fundamental Types
  • User Defined Types
  • Flow of Control
  • Operators
  • Templates
  • Pointers
  • Pointers, Inheritance, and Polymorphism
One of the things I like best about this material is that char* strings and all the special cases to deal with them don't show up until the last module of part 2. Ditto the kinds of arrays you may have first learned. The kinds of gyrations C-style arrays and C-style strings put C++ programmers through are a large part of why people think C++ is hard. With std::string, std:vector, and other goodies from the Standard Library, C++ really isn't hard. Honestly!

Kate

Thursday, 15 December 2011 16:51:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 01 December 2011

I'm in the middle of writing a number of SUPER COOL things that I will blog about as they finish. But interesting things happen even when I'm too busy to blog, and an interesting one happened today.

You know you should have a Pluralsight subscription, don't you? All the training you can watch (some of it by me) for as little as $29/mo? You can't go wrong. And if you're an MVP, or an RD, or a member of BizSpark, you don't even have to pay that! But if you don't have a free subscription and haven't paid for one yet, taking a free course is a great way to see what all the fuss is about.

Well, starting right now, you can do just that! Pluralsight and the Visual Studio folks are providing my Using Visual Studio course completely free. Just visit the Learn Visual Studio page at Microsoft and use the links. And if you like the course, consider getting a subscription - there are scores more that you will like.

Thursday, 01 December 2011 13:56:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Saturday, 17 September 2011

Oh my goodness. What a week that was!

Here's how I thought I would do my first summary. Links to videos, discussions of sessions I either went to or tried to go to (more on that in a moment) along with my tweets from the ground, as it were.

My first real tweet Tuesday morning (8:37 California time) was announcing that my PluralSight C++ Fundamentals course had gone live. Then the keynote started. Here are my tweets and retweets along with the time into the keynote I said them:

  • 6 minutes: #bldwin totally dominating my stream SS doing a good intro to lean back computing
  • 37 minutes: RT @dseven WinRT API'S are natively built into Windows and built to reflect in different languages - C/C++ and .NET. #bldwin
  • 42 minutes: Starting at 8PM today, Seattle time, you can download all of the code that attendees at BUILD received. t.co/nuTuwga
  • 43 minutes: RT @wkrwk Did anyone notice the UI during the VSE 11 demo is the classic Windows UI? #bldwin
  • 48 minutes: #bldwin VS vNext demo is breaking twitter = no hope of following it all
  • 50 minutes: RT @andrewbrust Expression Blend is still Grey on Black. It could use a little "fast and fluid," frankly. #bldwin
  • 51 minutes: Store menu in VS?? #bldwin #wholenewworld
  • 58 minutes: RT @rhundhausen Desktop (#x86) apps can be listed in the #windows8 store as well #bldwin
  • 61 minutes: RT @ayus :))) RT @timheuer The Red Shirt is dominant even when not present. #bldwin @scottgu
  • 79 minutes, @EdgarSanchez retweeted @rickasaurus asking "I'm interested in hearing more about this new GPU offloading API. Any links? #bldwin" and I answered "Check my blog as the week goes on for GPU stuff"
  • 80 minutes: RT @marypcbuk Sinofsky: that gaming PC looks like ice. Angiulo: more like lava, it converts 700w of power to 4.7 teraflops like 3,500 Cray XMPs #bldwinPlatform for Metro style apps
  • 87 minutes: RT @Pete_Brown Dude just cracked open a laptop on stage and showed the electronics. Can't beat that #bldwin #geek
  • 100 minutes: RT @andrewbrust When will we admit Sinofsky's doing a great job? He's working hard, not just presiding. #bldwin
  • 120 minutes: RT @ronnipedersen If you have an iPad, don't watch the build keynote… It'll make you feel like you have bought a C64 #bldwin
  • 127 minutes: RT @jonbrasted It is a great day to be a Windows developer. #bldwin #trbbuild

The download surprised me, I didn't think it would be ready for people to try on any old hardware. And the hardware demo was very very good. And sure, I was on instant messenger back to the office saying "it's official" when the rumour was finally confirmed that we were getting tablets. But mostly, I really liked what I saw and wanted to know more, which is what keynotes are all about.

After eating something completely unmemorable, I found my way to the overflow room, always a little more casual and a good place to find "the cool kids". I had already met a number of old friends in the huge keynote session and before it, but here were more. I'll just give you the links to the Big Picture sessions. They are all very good.

  • 8 traits of great Metro style apps - a truly excellent session by a presenter who cares deeply about the topic. I tweeted a lot less during this one because it required more active listening.
  • Platform for Metro style apps - another very good session during which I just retweeted some other people's "Hey, this stuff is C++" reactions and a link to the session planner app for the phone, which I used heavily.
By this time people were starting to "get it" (including me) and the excitement level was rising. Here's just what I retweeted:
  • @coridrew #bldWin is really, really, really making me want to //BUILD/ Windows apps #BestConferenceNameEver #WhoKnew
  • @briannoyes Add ref from js project to C++ library - really empasizes this is running native #bldwin
  • +@fignewtron iPad limited in many ways to consumption - Windows 8 is production and consumption on many devices. Sales numbers decide winner. #bldwin
  • @mcakins Wow, the silence from Apple's camp is deafening! Windows rocks once more! Its 1995 all over again! #bldwin

One more session: Tools for building Metro style apps - I was getting tired at this point. It was a lot to take in. People were lined up the length of the convention centre for tablets. I knew there were enough for all of us, so I went back to my room to edit my pointers module for the PluralSight course so it could "tack on" to the end of the published course. While videos rendered, I had a little back and forth on Twitter with people who had noticed how much fun I was having, and others who were playing with their tablets already. I slipped out to pickup the tablet about 7:30 but didn't open it till the module was done. Then:

  • 10:48 pm: got major piece of work done ... yielding to temptation ... tablet here i come #bldwin
  • 10:57 pm: How's that for fast setup? Everything's installed.... Trying visual studio next
  • 11:11 pm: Just wrote a Win8 C++ app on the tablet with touch keyboard. Built and ran first time. #winning
That's right, I didn't even set up the bluetooth keyboard. People cite Visual Studio as an app you couldn't possibly use with touch. I wouldn't want to do it all day, but I did it! Then I played a bit more.

Day 2 started with another whole keynote. C++ was front and centre here. Some tweets:
  • 17 minutes: RT @seesharp 3D graphics debugging at the pixel level in DirectX. Unreal. #bldwin
  • 33 minutes: RT @bgervin killer strategy for MS to help developers make HTML apps for iOS and Android #bldwin
  • 34 minutes: RT @tpdorsey RT @EisenbergEffect […] in C++, you can write your own WinRT library, which when built, can be used by C++, C#, VB and JS.
  • 34 minutes: RT @jmorrill This new COM and C++ version is not _anything_ like what you think it is. From what I can tell so far...effing amazing!!!!
  • 49 minutes: Loved it RT @MichaelDesmond Zander shows off the new image editor in VS11 as he works on a C++ DirectX game.
  • 54 minutes: RT @shycohen Moving a VHD while the machine is running is cool. Moving a live VHD is even cooler! :) Will enable amazing things in the future. #bldwin
  • 82 minutes: most tattoos ever in an MS keynote
  • 95 minutes: RT @seesharp WOAH. Did not expect Steve Ballmer today. Everyone was starting to leave already. Woah! #bldwin
  • 97 minutes: RT @carafone 500,000 downloads of #win8 already! #bldwin
  • 98 minutes: RT @LACanuck And #Win8 was downloaded 500K times in 12 hrs RT @mashable: RIM Has Sold Just 490,000 PlayBooks - on.mash.to/nEu0dU #bldwin
  • 102 minutes: That's what these keynotes were missing! Turns out it's a great time to be a developer. I was worrying, no-one had told me yet #bldwin
  • 105 minutes: I've been paid to program since 1979. Keynotes tell me at least once a year it's a great time to be a developer. And they're right. #bldwin
Then it was time for simultaneous breakouts, and that meant choices. You can search the sessions list as well as I can. The C++ ones are not to be missed. These are happy people who are delighted to tell us what's been going on, and they're proud of it, too. At 3:13 I tweeted "Went quiet because i am massively engaged with C++ content in packed rooms. Small break between sessions to say "wow!" #bldwin #happycamper". The remainder of the afternoon was super confusing. People were jumping to conclusions, correcting each other, having opinions about the death of this that and the other. Because C++/Cx (the language extension you use to call WinRT) looks a lot like C++/CLI, people thought it was managed, but it's not, it's all native code and C++ Metro apps get a perf boost from that. The understanding that something amazing and powerful still has COM at the core began to grow. People were reporting trying to use Windows 8 gestures on their iPads and on nontouch screens, showing that the team has made some very intuitive choices. One tweet of mine I want to repeat: "Big props to Aleš Holeček for joining in the Q&A in the last C++ talk of the day when the questions got really Windows-y. Impressed. #bldwin". Even if you're not a C++ developer, download that session and watch the Q & A.

Day 3 started with being turned away from a C++ session, and so going to a different C++ session that was on at the same time. Several people from the C++ team made the trip with me, giving me a chance to tell them how impressive all this was. Meanwhile on mailing lists, people who weren't onsite and were 12 - 24 hours behind as they waited for session videos to go live were echoing the confusion and dismay of yesterday. It was hard to be patient with them. It's going to make sense, I wanted to tell them. Just hang in there! I took a small break from sessions to watch (and help with) the C++ part of Channel 9 Live (I am still waiting for links to the recording, because I couldn't hear everything they said and I want to) and then to Herb's second talk - again the room jammed full and dozens turned away, Don Box (who had earlier reminded us COM is still love) blurting out his admiration for Herb as a speaker and the great content, and the terrific line, "We protect against Murphy, not Machiavelli". What a time to be a C++ developer!

Day 4 kicked off with kind words from Daniel and a chance to hand out paper copies of the whitepaper I recently blogged. I got some quiet time with various smart people who told me their thoughts on all this. I'm still synthesizing it all. I also was downloading videos like a mad thing. I came home with 22 hours of video to watch and since then have grabbed another 15 or so. Some people began to realize they had over-reacted. Some excellent blogs began to appear - Doug Seven, for example, had several sensible things to say.

And then it was time to go. Glenn Ferrie tweeted "Writing C++ in the airport #bldwin #WinRT" and that summed up the week for me. I have a lot of watching, coding, thinking, reading and talking to do so I can establish what all this means. But hey, why not join me? It's a great time to be a developer!

Kate
Saturday, 17 September 2011 16:42:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 15 September 2011
Word is starting to get out about C++ AMP, which appeared out of nowhere at a conference remarkably few Microsoft developers were paying attention to, because it was a hardware conference. There was information available in June, enough to get some of us excited:

I got into this right away and have been playing with code and doing a little writing. This is the kind of technology that changes things more than you might think. By leveraging the GPU, your code might run 10x faster, 50x faster, or even 100x faster. And for you to be able to do that from C++, using familiar C++ constructs, and a debugger and profiler in Visual Studio? That means everyone can do it.

Well, not quite everyone. You do have to learn how to parallelize your algorithms. The syntax of using the GPU (or some other heterogeneous computing resource) is not hard at all. The computer science of knowing your work is data parallel can be hard. But let me show you "not hard". Consider this code to add a pair of one-dimensional array:

void AddArrays(int n, int* pA, int* pB, int* pC)
{
    for (int i=0; i<n; i++) 
    {
            pC[i] = pA[i] + pB[i];
    }
}

Compare that to this:

#include <amp.h>
using namespace concurrency;
 
void AddArrays(int n, int * pA, int * pB, int * pC)
{
    array_view<int,1> a(n, pA);
    array_view<int,1> b(n, pB);
    array_view<int,1> c(n, pC);
 
    parallel_for_each(
        c.grid, 
        [=](index<1> idx) restrict(direct3d)
        {
            c[idx] = a[idx] + b[idx];
        }
     );
}

It's all C++ and it's all pretty readable. And this code runs on the GPU and can be WAY faster (and use less power, meaning your data centre is cheaper or your battery lasts longer) just like that.

Recently Daniel Moth has published ten blog posts drilling into some details. They will help if you've decided to start using AMP and want to know how. But before you do that, you might like to read a little background on why heterogeneous computing matters, what other options you might have for doing it, and why C++ AMP is what you want to use. I've done a small whitepaper on just that and would love you to read it and let me know what you think.

Kate



Thursday, 15 September 2011 09:15:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 13 September 2011
I've been writing a course for Pluralsight that covers the fundamentals of C++ - types, expressions, basic syntax stuff, templates, pointers, polymorphism - and it has gone live! During BUILD access to it is free. It uses Visual C++ Express, so you don't need to buy any tools to follow along. Lots of buzz at BUILD about C++, so if you want to see if it's a language you could use, here's a great way to find out.

I have more material coming on this, and some Windows 8 - specific material. This is just background. If you think you need to get up to speed on C++, here's how to do it. Let me know what you think.

Kate

Tuesday, 13 September 2011 12:41:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [4]
# Monday, 29 August 2011
For a long time now, whenever anyone asks me about support for particular C++0x (oh sorry C++11 :-) ) features in a given compiler, I've sent them to the list Scott Meyers maintains. The format is kind of strange because it's exported from a spreadsheet, but the information is invaluable.  If you'd like to see more compilers covered, try the wiki at apache. Scott does gcc and Microsoft Visual C++; the wiki adds compilers from Intel, IBM, Oracle, and so on. You  might be surprised to see the variations in coverage. Expect new versions to continue to add support as soon as possible.

Kate

Monday, 29 August 2011 16:08:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 27 August 2011
I was poking around on CodeProject looking at some developer interviews (they've started these up again with some interesting subjects, so check the recent links) when I spotted An interview with Microsoft's new Visual C++ .NET community liaison - and in March 2002, nearly a decade ago, that was Herb Sutter. Isn't the Internet a handy attic? Check out some of these quotes:

I hope to make a noticeable mark in the product.

C++ continues to be relevant, dominant, and in widespread and still-growing use. The C++ standard and standardization process also continues to be relevant [...] all the vendors, including Microsoft, are there together actively working on the next-generation C++0x standard whose work is now getting underway.

[...] the best numbers I keep seeing put the global developer community at something like 9.5 million people, and those using C++ at about 3 million of that. That's well ahead of Java in nearly all studies I've seen, by the way, usually by a factor of 1.5-to-1 or 2-to-1. [...] The reports of C++'s demise have been, well, "exaggerated."

C++ developers need power and know how to use it. I've always said you should use the best language for the job, and I've used dozens of languages professionally. Depending on how you count languages, I've probably used a dozen professionally in the past year. People who want to write efficient, tight, fast code often tend to choose C++ because it lets you get the job done with powerful code but without sacrificing efficiency. 

People who want mature, stable compilers and tools often tend to use C++ because it's been around a while and the tools and libraries are plentiful and solid. Commercial client-side application development with more than a few screens, most kinds of server-based software, and most kinds of libraries are all done more often with C++ than with other languages, according to the best numbers I've seen and according to my own experience as a developer and as a consultant who shows up at other developers' shops.

Nine and a half years later, I see nothing but good stuff there. I hope all my interviews stand up as well (though I already know they wouldn't) and I'm impressed at the ability to set a goal and meet it. What will the next decade bring?

Kate

Saturday, 27 August 2011 15:53:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 25 August 2011
The cone of silence that descended this summer is starting to fray a little. The Visual C++ Team Blog has an entry talking about Productivity features in the IDE. They're willing to talk about:
  • Semantic colorization - this is actually as much font face as it is colour, but anyway function parameters look different from locals, constants you #define'd look different from everything else, and so on.
  • Reference Highlighting - you've seen this in other languages I'm sure - when the cursor is in a variable name, other places in the code with that same variable name are highlighted for you. It can be very helpful.
  • Replacement Solution Explorer - I'm a huge Pro Power Tools fan, and if you've used Solution Navigator, you won't be surprised when you meet the new Solution Explorer. Combination Solution Explorer and Class View is the best way to explain it to a C++ developer.
  • Aggressive IntelliSense - something else you may be familiar with from other languages. I like it.
  • Snippets - oh, yeah!
Apparently there's still plenty more to come! Looking forward to it.

Thursday, 25 August 2011 15:43:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 23 August 2011
C++ is a great language for writing applications that will run on a number of platforms. There are compilers for many different platforms, and some powerful libraries you can use. Still, in the end your code needs to talk to the operating system, and that means that most cross platform applications have at least a few little corners where platform-specific code lives. The challenge is how to ensure that your Windows code runs on Windows, your Linux code runs on Linux, etc, without maintaining a number of different branches or hand-merging and splitting every time you deploy.

Being C++, an unspoken requirement in solving this problem is "be as fast as possible". Putting everything through a library and paying for extra indirection, looking up something that cannot change once the program has started executing, is not as fast as possible. You also want developer convenience and productivity. If you support five platforms, and something is the same on four and different on one, copying that code around for the four that are the same is not a productive way to behave. You would like a default behaviour, and then special code for special cases.

Michael Tedder has an intriguing approach using templates. As he says:

Instead of declaring a base interface class with virtual functions then deriving each platform with a different implementation, we declare a class with one template parameter — a platform ID — then specialize it to provide a different implementation for each platform.  The template class is then typedef‘d to expose the specialization for the platform ID being compiled to the application, allowing the implementation to be used without any virtual functions and also allow for inlining of functions as well.

He has some pretty convincing armwaving about using this not for just Windows/Linux/Android but for any hardware differences even on the same operating system - like what kind of graphics architecture you have or anything else that can't change at runtime. It's a good example of how the power of templates makes things possible that would always incur a runtime cost in any other language, or a significant burden on a developer to move code around building custom versions of an application. Worth a read!

Kate

Tuesday, 23 August 2011 14:55:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 21 August 2011
Here's an interesting project I came across:




The game is Mastermind, which many people already know. What caught my attention is that it's done in C++ and XAML. To quote Tyler Whitney's blog post,

The Mastermind code sample demonstrates how to create a simple Silverlight storyboard in Expression Blend 3, and then provide the code for the state transitions in Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. You can also see how to create brushes programmatically and how to add a title bar to a Silverlight-based app.

The code is on the Microsoft Code Gallery (only Microsoft Employees can publish there) and Tyler has been updating the article over the summer. Nice way to see how to combine two technologies some people would never thought have combining.

Kate
Sunday, 21 August 2011 14:41:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 19 August 2011
I have talked about plenty of C++0x (soon to be known as C++11 or just plain C++) features over the last little while. Here's a nice summary by Danny Kalev of the top features and why they matter. He covers lambdas, auto, the new ways to initialize instances (which hasn't been covered much elsewhere and contribute a lot to readability), suppressing default versions of functions (like constructors for example) or specifically requesting them (how cool is that?), nullptr (which I love because it eliminates a late night drinking argument about "what if someone #defined NULL to 3, would your code still work?", and rvalue references -- and those are just the language changes! His library coverage is super terse, but there are links in it if something (*cough* shared pointer *cough*) catches your attention.

There's no reason for a C++ developer to ignore C++11. This is big stuff, and reading these "what's new" lists from a variety of different people is essential for getting perspective on the changes. So read Danny's list!

Kate

Friday, 19 August 2011 13:51:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Everyone knows that C++ is the language to use when speed matters. That's just a known fact. So here's a question: if you solved the same problem in both C++ and C#, using the generally available languages (the Standard Library for C++, the .NET Base Class Libraries for C#) and you didn't happen to know which parts of those libraries weren't implemented very efficiently, just wrote your apps -- which would come out faster and by how much?

Think you know? Of course, the answer is "it depends". Debug or Release builds? Laptop or handheld device? Whose implementation of the .NET Framework are you going to use - Microsoft or Mono? What chip are you running on? Oh, and to what extent are you deliberately setting C++ options that emphasize runtime speed? Also, did you choose an algorithm with a lot of generics or templates? C++ has a huge perf advantage there, but lots of benchmarks don't use generics or templates since they are solving one specific problem.

An article on CodeProject leapt into all of this feet-first and did some measuring. Along the way, "Qwertie" proved a universal rule of the internet: nothing will get you the answers you seek faster than posting the wrong answer. Want to know the exact date Bewitched switched Darrens? Find a place that discusses old TV shows and post your belief that there was only one, or that there were seven, or whatever, and people will correct you while the ads are still loading on their copies of the page. When Qwertie posted the first version of the benchmarking article, commenters were quick to say "but you made this mistake, and that mistake, and forgot this other thing" all of which led to a much better article.

Definitely worth a read. It gets you thinking about the things that truly affect performance. Absent-mindedly deploying a Debug build is going to cost you far more performance than your language choice ever will. Using a library in a performance-sensitive situation without understanding whether the library is high-performing or not will too. It's chock full of graphs like this one:




Don't read it to find out the answer to "is C++ faster than C#?" - we already know that. Read it to find out how to make your applications faster.

Kate
Wednesday, 17 August 2011 16:59:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 15 August 2011
Months ago, I tweeted "Once you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail" with a link to an interesting article about the times you shouldn't use System.DateTime.Now - sure, you know how to use it, but it's not always the right tool for the job. Keyvan Nayyeri provides a number of alternatives for .NET developers who want to know when something happened, or how long something took. Definitely worth a read.

Then just weeks after that, Susan Ibach gave the SQL side of the story with a blog post about avoiding the DATETIME type if you're using SQL 2008. I saw the headline and thought "what? what else would I keep a date or a time in?". The answer is, either something smaller or something with more precision. Makes sense.

Goes to show, just because you've heard of System.DateTime in .NET or DATETIME in SQL doesn't mean there's no other way to solve your problem. Keep learning!

Kate

Monday, 15 August 2011 16:19:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 13 August 2011
When I provide links from this blog, I don't shorten them. When I get a link in an email, I always hover over it to see where it leads, in case it's a phishing email. But when someone emails you a shortened link, or tweets a shortened link, how do you know where it leads? It might be a phishing link. Or it might just be that cat video you've seen too many times already.

Years ago, Joshua Long wrote up a summary of how to see where a shortened link goes before you click it, and he's been updating it pretty regularly. He covers TinyURL, bit.ly and its relatives like on.fb.me, goo.gl, is.gd, and many I've never heard of. There's even a site you can paste a shortened link and get back what it redirects to. Not all links will be worth this treatment, but many will. It's nice to have a summary of how to check them before you follow them.

Kate

Saturday, 13 August 2011 13:56:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 11 August 2011
I'm pleased to see that Kenny Kerr is writing his C++ column for MSDN again. He's also blogging again and in a recent entry, he provides some really plain-spoken advice to people looking for guidance:

  • "You can of course still use MFC but I do not recommend it as modern C++ can do a better job of supporting the Windows developer."
  • "You should never again use auto_ptr for anything."
So there! I agree with these, especially the auto_ptr one. It was an attempt at a smart pointer that just wasn't smart enough. We have shared_ptr and unique_ptr now and they work in collections and are truly smart pointers. Use them and stop typing delete in your code entirely.

As for MFC, it does fill a need and I certainly wouldn't scrap a working MFC app just because the library is getting old (the facelift a few releases ago helped) but if I was starting a brand new application from File, New Project I would need a good reason to use MFC as my UI framework.

Kate

Thursday, 11 August 2011 13:29:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 09 August 2011

People often ask me what Visual Studio Ultimate offers that other versions do not. There's a handy chart on the Microsoft site:

The only problem is, if you don't know what "Architecture and Modeling" includes, it's easy to think there's probably nothing useful in there. So I was pleased to see a blog post by Susan Ibach from Microsoft Canada showing how easy it is to generate a sequence diagram from code, and how that can help you understand code you've inherited from a predecessor. That's one of the diagramming tools included in Visual Studio Ultimate.

Right click in some code, select Generate Sequence Diagram, set some options (does getting a property count? What about calls to methods of String or other .NET Framework classes?) and presto, you have a sequence diagram.




This sort of thing can save you a tremendous amount of time, and that means it can save your organization money. That's why some people buy Visual Studio Ultimate, after all. Having access to a tool like this is one of the ways I can "hit the ground running" when I join a project. If you need to do the same, make sure you're not ignoring a capability you already have.

Kate
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 13:14:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3]
# Sunday, 07 August 2011

Like a lot of people, I got started on Facebook one way, but now I use it another. And like a lot of people, I haven't quite "cleaned up" from my original start. My rule these days is very clear - Facebook friends are actual friends. People I know and like. In fact, my rule is that we should have shared a meal - ideally a meal and some wine - to be friends on Facebook. If we worked together, or presented at the same conference, and we actually enjoy each other's company, chances are we went for dinner, or lunch, or a beer, at some point. It's a handy rule that makes my decision process easy. I get friend requests all the time from people I don't know, and I just ignore them.

With that audience, my Facebook posts can be pretty personal. What my kids are up to. Pictures of my family and my holidays. Details about travel plans, including whole-family trips that leave my house empty. Sure, I know that what you put on Facebook can be forwarded and shared elsewhere. But I know who I'm sharing with and I trust them to have my best interests at heart. I don't connect my Twitter statuses (which I know are public) to my Facebook ones (which are more private and less frequent) or vice versa.

What I've set up, for people who use Facebook as a news hub, is a public page. Here I post when I'm speaking somewhere, or when a video or article is published. If you "like" this page, my announcements will end up in your news feed. So if you added me on Facebook and never heard back, use the public page instead. I don't post links to all my blog entries there, because I figure you can always subscribe to this RSS. I don't post anything personal either, so if you don't actually care where I'm spending my holidays, you might want to like that page even if we're already Facebook friends.

Kate

Sunday, 07 August 2011 12:50:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 05 August 2011
It's worth explaining a few things about me and Twitter. First, I'm @gregcons. There is someone with @KateGregory but it's not me, and whoever it is has never tweeted. I follow several hundred people and several hundred people follow me.  I don't "follow back" when people follow me, unless I happen to recognize the name when Twitter emails me about it. I look at the tweets of people who retweet me or @ me (or who people I follow retweet, or who people I follow are in @ conversations with) and if the tweets look interesting, I follow for at least a while.

I tweet a mixture of personal ephemera (wow, what beautiful weather we're having today), personal stalker-bait (I'm at place x with person y, hey whoever sure was great seeing you today, wow my child just did thing x in place y), and actual technical stuff. The technical stuff might be my own blog entries, my own material being published (a PluralSight course, a Channel 9 interview, a TechEd talk) or a link to someone else's blog entry/interview/talk that I think is interesting. If you want only the technical stuff, my public Facebook feed (more on that in an upcoming post) is a better choice.

I unfollow people for a variety of reasons. People who post a great volume of tweets that are in a language I can't read, or are about things that don't matter to me, just clutter up the stream, so I will unfollow. It's not a value judgement and it's not about the ratio of useful to non useful, just the volume of non useful. (Non useful includes what your cat just did, what airport you just left or arrived at (a few close friends excepted), what you are eating/drinking unless it's inspirationally yummy, coded/veiled potshots at your coworkers, and updates on your car repair or the planning of your wedding.) Since there's a lot of overlap among the people who care about the same stuff as me, I find that when these people post something useful, ten of my friends retweet it anyway, so I won't miss it. People who just post the same thing over and over because they read somewhere that Twitter is ephemeral and people might miss your announcement at 8am so you should do it again and noon and again at 5pm and so on I will usually unfollow also. I don't keep track of who is unfollowing me and I'm not offended if I realize someone has - we all use these things differently and one person may unfollow for too much personal stuff and another may unfollow for not enough personal stuff or not different enough from my other feeds.

I mostly use MetroTwit. This lets me have search columns on myself, my @mentions, and whatever topic I'm interested in according to the news of the day or the event I'm attending. I have a Twitter client on my Windows Phone and A Quick Tweet by Scott Cate as well - it loads super fast because it's for sending tweets, not reading them. I also use the web page from time to time. I always check email before Twitter, so it's not a great way to get hold of me in a hurry.

I don't blog my tweets. I often tweet my blog posts. If something deserves to stick around for a while, I may quickly tweet it, then later write up a blog post about it. Other than that, there's little overlap.

Twitter has turned out to be hugely valuable to me. I find out about breaking news faster than Google News, I hear technical rumours and announcements there first, and I keep in touch with technical friends the world over, as well as my own neighbourhood and my family. I've started my day with smiles from jokes or from just seeing what people I care about are up to, and I've kicked off business conversations, too. It's part of my work rhythm now and it's pretty much the only place I put personal stuff these days. If you're not part of it, consider giving it a try for a week and see what changes for you.

Kate

Friday, 05 August 2011 10:55:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 03 August 2011
Here's an article in a pretty mainstream publication - the Economist - that explains why concurrency matters. I used to say "the future is concurrent" but that was then; this is now and it's the present that's concurrent. As the article says,

What was once an obscure academic problem—finding ways to make it easy to write software that can take full advantage of the power of parallel processing—is rapidly becoming a problem for the whole industry. Unless it is solved, notes David Smith of Gartner, a market-research firm, there will be a growing divide between computers’ theoretical and actual performance.

I'll have some more concurrency material over the next little while in this space. Things continue to change pretty rapidly. If you haven't been thinking about concurrency, now's a pretty good time to start.

Kate


Wednesday, 03 August 2011 12:12:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 01 August 2011
I consider myself a pretty skilled debugger, and reasonably familiar with the things you can do in Visual Studio (My Visual Studio course Part 1 and Part 2, for example.) Conditional breakpoints, tracepoints in C++ and in C#, breakpoints that only break every 10th time they're reached, customizing the data tip that shows when hovering over one of your own types, making data tips transparent, and plenty more have all been covered here in the blog over the years. But I still come across things I didn't know before, or didn't try before.

Take this blog post by "Daan-Nijs" about the abilities of the watch window. I knew the first one, but the rest are new to me:

  • Changing a value in the watch window
  • Changing a type in the watch window
  • Inspecting an array in the watch window
Then there's re-running or skipping code by dragging the instruction pointer - I only knew I could right click somewhere and say Set Next Instruction. Finally he includes a reminder of how to enable Edit and Continue. All this is for C++, but you're welcome to give some of the techniques a try in other languages and see what happens. Being a faster and more productive debugger will rocket you up the overall productivity leagues like nothing else.

Kate

Monday, 01 August 2011 11:57:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 29 July 2011

Since Tech Ed came and went during my blogging hiatus, I didn't get around to providing links to some of the sessions you might want to see. It's time to correct that omission:

There were other sessions I attended, including a great interactive session that was not recorded called "C++ Renaissance at Microsoft: How the C++ Developers Can Get Involved" with plenty of conversation between Microsoft people and native developers. You might want to do a little searching on the main Tech Ed Video site to see what interests you.

Kate

Friday, 29 July 2011 17:51:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Today saw the release of the first episode (naturally, Episode 0) of GoingNative on Channel 9. As the introduction says:

GoingNative is a new, monthly show on C9 dedicated to native development and native developers, with an emphasis on modern C++.

You know there's been a lot of talk about the C++ Renaissance. I'm happy to see that phrase get picked up, and I've got another one for you: Modern C++. Or as some folks like to say "not your father's C++". If you think C++ means manual memory management, strings as arrays of characters and a strange cast of global functions, and longing for a library or framework that might rival what .NET has to offer, then you haven't been keeping up with C++. The good news is that it won't take you long to catch up - shared_ptr and unique_ptr, the Standard Library, lambdas and other Modern C++ goodies are easy for both managed developers and longtime native developers to learn.

In Episode 0, Charles Torre (longtime C++ friend) and Diego Dagum (C++ Community lead, blogger, and Tweeter) lay some groundwork and, of course, show code. It's always about the code, right? Then, they ask you to get involved. Whether you're someone who wants to learn about C++, or someone who wants to make sure something about C++ gets taught to others, speak up! And yes, that includes topics on non-Microsoft platforms. Email C9GoingNative - they're using hotmail - or on twitter, follow or talk to @C9GoingNative. (There's a Facebook group, too - whatever way you like to interact is welcome.)

But wait, did that sound like a whole episode? Nope, they grab the camera and head over to see Ale Contenti - one of my favourite team members and one I've done interviews and sessions with before. His talk gets technical fast, which is one of the things I like about him! I too have a soft spot for 6502 assembler :-) and find template meta-programming a bit of a write-only technique. I, too, like "the power the language gives you to make the language bigger with libraries" and think that's part of the appeal of C++ for me. Well, that and the power and performance and control, of course. Are there downsides? Well, there's what Joni Mitchell called "the crazy you get from too much choice" - C++ gives you many ways to do everything, according to your circumstances, and having to decide how to do it, or having to connect two components that made different choices about something as simple as how to represent a string, can be frustating. As well, it's great to be in control, but that does mean that nobody is looking after you. If you're inexperienced (and sometimes, even when you're not) you can make dangerous choices and, as we like to say, shoot your foot off. Security holes and vulnerabilities are important and C++ will let you write bad code, so you need to be aware of best practices. Both Ale and Diego address these points, and you can expect to see more of that in time to come - especially if you ask for it!

Looking forward to next month's show already,

Kate

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 19:55:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 25 July 2011
So, how cool is this? Guy Smith-Ferrier is going to speak at the East of Toronto .NET User Group meeting in August. Why? Because he's the kind of community-oriented person who takes time out of a transatlantic family vacation to speak at a user group, that's why. And his topic sounds like science fiction, but it's real:

Mind Control Your Computer In C#

No really. This isn’t some clever session title. I’m really talking about controlling your computer with your mind. I’m not making this stuff up. This is real. Today. You put on a headset, you use a C# SDK and you control your computer with your thoughts. Yes, you are reading this right – you mind control your computer. It is a reality and it is possible today. Once you’ve gotten over your disbelief consider the applications. Applications for the physically impaired alone are a whole revolution. Not to mention the possibilities for gaming. Want to be shocked and amazed ? Come and see this session.

The meeting is set for August 24th at the Whitby main library. There's something awry with the website at the moment, and everyone who's talented enough to do anything about it is on vacation, leaving only me, but trust me, we're having a meeting and it's going to be a doozy. Guy is a great speaker - he even wrote and recorded a series of videos on how to be a great presenter. He speaks at TechEd and runs events in the UK. And it's our tremendous luck that he'll be in our neighbourhood this summer so make sure you join us to see this session!

Kate

Monday, 25 July 2011 17:38:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 23 July 2011
So, you're a C++ programmer? You've written a Windows app or two in your time? Let me propose a little challenge to you. Write one. Only start with File, New and don't let Visual Studio generate any code for you. Write each line of it. Then explain it. No MFC, No ATL. That's what was asked of me a while back, and the result is a six-paper series that has finally arrived on MSDN.

I have to say I really enjoyed the simplicity of the smallest Windows program possible. I also enjoyed making it better, which included making it more of a C++ program and less of a C one. I also covered a little Direct2D, a little COM, and a little "here's some other stuff you're going to want to read." If it's been ages since you wrote a Windows program in C++, or wrote one that wasn't all covered in barnacles from frameworks and libraries you might not want to rely on for simple things, I really suggest you give this series a read - it won't take long and you can use Visual C++ Express if you like - the first chapter includes links and instructions for getting all the tools you need. Better still, if you've never written a Windows in C++, why not give it a try and let me know what you think?

Kate

ps: Never blog that you're not blogging. Never blog about why you're not blogging, no-one cares. Just blog. Right?

Saturday, 23 July 2011 00:39:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [4]
# Saturday, 02 April 2011

Here's yet another C++ team member on Channel 9. Boris starts out reviewing some "old days" things including the Intellisense background I pointed to recently. He explains in more detail why it's so hard to be the C++ team, needing to build an IDE for a language they can't control and that is used by such widely different people. I love that Boris appears to have framed and hung on his office wall someone's comment on a blog post. If you ever wondered whether what you type can make a difference, there's your answer.

With the history and reminiscing out of the way, Boris warms to a topic I haven't heard on Channel 9 before (though I have been hearing it in person) and that's the importance of C++ and specifically the Microsoft toolset, Visual C++, to the games industry. He also talks about how the games industry can be important to all the other developers as well, which I find intriguing. Definitely worth watching and not a rehash of the other C++ videos you may have seen lately.

Kate

Saturday, 02 April 2011 11:07:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Thursday, 31 March 2011
You go to Tech Ed to learn about technology - developer tools, sysadmin tools, platforms like SharePoint or Windows Phone. But there's more to your work than the nuts and bolts of how to solve a technical problem. Do you use social media effectively? What would an effective use of Twitter or Facebook look like, anyway? Are jobs shifting because of technology? How important is cross-platform development? How important are new platforms? How do you react to big changes in your technical world and direct your own career?

Well, there's a Tech Ed precon Sunday evening that covers that exact topic. And look who's involved: Stephen Rose (Windows Community Manager), Zeus Kerravala (Distinguished Research Fellow and Senior VP, Yankee Group), Richard Campbell (Co-founder of Strangeloop Networks, co-host of .NET Rocks!, host of RunAsRadio, Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Regional Director), Michael Otey (Senior Technical Director for Penton Media’s IT & developer publications, author of SQL Server Developer’s Guide series from Osborne-McGraw-Hill), Tim Huckaby (Microsoft Regional Director, Founder of InterKnowlogy), Michele Leroux Bustamante (Chief Architect with iDesign, Microsoft Regional Director, Microsoft MVP, author of Learning WCF (O’Reilly)), Jennifer Marsman (Principal Developer Evangelist for Microsoft, Central Region), Tara Walker (Microsoft Academic Developer Evangelist), Sean Deuby (Technical Director, Penton Media’s Windows IT Pro Magazine, Microsoft MVP), Paul Thurrott (Senior Industry Analyst, Penton Media’s Windows IT Pro and Supersite for Windows; author of Windows Phone Secrets), John Willis (VP of Training & Services, Opscode), Laura Hunter (Principal Technology Architect for Microsoft IT’s Identity & Access Management team), Yung Chou (Microsoft Senior IT Pro Evangelist, East Region) and Barbara Yamauchi (Microsoft IT program manager for developer tools and IT lifecycle management). Wow! And this is an interactive panel discussion, so you can help to shape the conversation.

There is a small fee ($99) and you have to arrive Sunday afternoon so you'll be able to attend. But it looks like a heck of an evening! Glad to see so many RDs and MVPs on that list.

Kate

Thursday, 31 March 2011 07:50:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 29 March 2011
The fourth of my Windows 7 development screencasts - Trigger Started Services - has been published. It uses the recipe (also recently published on Code Gallery) to simplify writing a service in managed code that starts only when it is notified by the operating system of a particular trigger. In my screencast I use the example of a USB device being plugged in. There are plenty of other triggers you could use. Adopting a trigger-started approach makes your service:
  • easier to write and install. No sleeping, looping, having a config file to say how long to sleep for, etc.
  • use less CPU when there's nothing to do
  • respond more quickly when there's something to do. It's not in the middle of sleeping for 10 minutes or 2 hours -- it is started the moment the trigger happens.
It's a win all around and if you have a service you should take a look at the available triggers and see if you can convert yours.

Kate

Tuesday, 29 March 2011 07:31:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Sunday, 27 March 2011
The screencasts for restart and recovery in native and managed code went live before the associated recipe was published. Now the recipe is on Code Gallery ready for you to use. As it says there:

This recipe provides guidance and an easy way to start using these great features in your application, removing any complication of how and where to store your application data.

What’s in the box?

This Restart and Recovery recipe includes:

  • Complete source code of the recipe and its samples
  • Managed .NET assembly
  • C++ header and class files to be included in your C++ application.
  • C#, and C++ test applications
  • Documentation
Give it a try, please!

Kate

Sunday, 27 March 2011 07:21:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 25 March 2011
Charles was busy during MVP summit! In addition to interviewing me, he sat a number of MVPs down to talk about C++, being an MVP, and the like. They're from all over the world and they have widely different jobs, but you can see how much they love this stuff. And please notice -- they span a wide age range, too. The stereotype of C++ as the language for the grey haired developers is just a myth. If you wonder why anyone still uses C++, and why it's going to be very good for this industry that there are still C++ experts around, watching these videos will be an eyeopener.

By the way, Alon is also an RD.

Kate

Friday, 25 March 2011 07:15:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 23 March 2011
As you may have noticed the C++ team is really stepping up the communication lately. There have been hours of Channel 9 videos (I pointed you to some good ones) and Diego has been blogging a lot. Recently he did a long post (with references!) on Intellisense in C++/CLI - why it wasn't in Visual Studio 2010, why it didn't sneak in with SP1, and so on. Here's a level of transparency you just don't see these days:

...we simply underestimated the amount of work it would take to implement C++/CLI in this codebase, and we couldn’t change our plans by the time we realized it. ... In the end it was one of those hard cuts you have to make when dealing with the real world resource and schedule constraints. It turned out that the work was also too much work to fit into SP1. As soon as we wrapped up VS 2010, we started work on C++/CLI IntelliSense, but it wasn’t ready in time for SP1. We realize this wasn’t what you wanted to happen and an explanation doesn’t help you get your work done if you are affected by this, but we want you to know the truth.

Wow. Makes perfect sense and is actually a nicer reason than "we think you don't matter". Yet so few teams will hold their hands up and say this. It happens. It happens to every one of us pretty darn regularly. Kudos to the C++ team for not pretending it was all part of a plan from the beginning to leave it out. And do read the blog to understand just how much they were taking on.

Kate


Wednesday, 23 March 2011 07:04:54 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 21 March 2011
If you listen to .NET-related podcasts, you've probably come across the Pluralcast before. David Starr talks to a wide variety of people and the passion shows, along with the skills. Last year I appeared on the 'cast myself, talking about Visual Studio extensions. Now I'll be doing a small appearance regularly - still talking about Visual Studio and some helpful extensions or whatever else I want to share. There have been three of these so far:

  • #36 - main guest is Scott Allen
  • #37 - main guest is Craig Shoemaker
  • #38 - main guest is Liam McLennan
I hope you enjoy the whole episodes, and learn a little something from them.

Kate

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:31:08 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 19 March 2011
I'm on Channel 9 a lot right now - partly because some things are getting published that were done a long time ago, and partly because being on campus for the MVP Summit makes it convenient to be interviewed. I love talking to Charles because he really cares about the answers to the questions he asks. So we talked for half an hour about what it means to be an MVP, what C++ is useful for, what I like about C++0x, and that sort of thing. Since Charles started things off by mentioning previous conversations, let me toss in some links to those too - here's the Barcelona conversation (backstory here)and on the couch with the C++ guys (shorter backstory.) You can watch my hair change colour if you watch those oldest-to-newest. Diego was also nice enough to blog about this interview, too, as was John Bristowe of Microsoft Canada.

Thanks for the chat, Charles!

Kate

Saturday, 19 March 2011 19:51:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 15 March 2011

You know I blog here a lot about Windows 7 goodies including taskbar integration. One of the questions I get pretty often is how to use tasks to communicate with the running app, such as changing your status, sending a new email, that sort of thing. I mentioned in an aside on another post that this requires launching some other application that communicates with the first instance.

If you'd like to do that, it just got a little easier with the release of a "recipe" from Microsoft that packages up this concept and lets you use it with very little extra code. As it says on the Code Gallery page for the recipe:

This Taskbar Single Instance Recipe allows developers to easily develop applications that use "Messenger Like" tasks that change the state of the currently running instance, allowing it to react to incoming state-change notifications and act accordingly.

This Recipe includes:

  • Native (C++) and managed (.NET) Source code for the Single Instance library
  • Well documented native (C++) and managed (.NET) samples
  • Documentation

To compile and run the recipe and samples the following items are required:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
  • Windows 7 – Note that only the samples require Windows 7. 

Yes, this recipe is actually two recipes - one native and one managed, and comes with whitepapers explaining how it's done. I mentioned this in my Tech Ed Europe talk on Advanced Windows 7 development and it's finally released for you to use! Enjoy!

Kate

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 19:18:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 13 March 2011

Whenever new stuff appears in the Microsoft universe, native C++ developers can get to it first. That's because they can easily call Windows APIs or COM interfaces or however it's implemented. Managed developers need to wait until the new stuff gets added to the .NET Framework or to a particular managed technology, like WPF. Take taskbar integration, for example: adding tasks and destinations, getting a progress bar or icon overlay on your taskbar icon, and so on. From the very beginning you could interact with the taskbar from native code by making Windows API calls. The Code Pack is a popular managed wrapper from Microsoft that enables those interactions from managed code such as Windows Forms applications. In the early days of Windows 7, WPF developers also used the Code Pack - but now those capabilities are in WPF itself.

Does that mean that native developers get nothing new? On release day they gain the ability to call those APIs and that's that? Of course not. Native developers use frameworks and libraries to build their applications, and those frameworks and libraries in many cases are wrappers for Windows functionality. One of those is MFC and you should know that MFC has support for Windows 7 functionality.

If that's news to you, then watch my screencast on Channel 9 in which I cover jumplists and overlays with lots of demos. It's just one or two lines of code for each of these. Users expect their apps to behave like this. MFC makes it simple.

Kate

Sunday, 13 March 2011 18:58:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 11 March 2011

Writing samples and demos is tough. You want them to do more than say "Hello World" or draw a red square, but you want them to be simple enough that people can see the "new stuff" you're demoing (WPF, or Windows 7 taskbar integration) or multi-touch) in amongst the real business logic. It would be neat if they did something actually useful, because then you might keep it around on your machine and use it, but most things that are useful are too big to be demos.

Well here's a sample that lands in the sweet spot: Tasks.Show. You put in your tasks, things from your ToDo list, along with time estimates, and it keeps track of them and shows them to you. I like this view:

It uses touch to let you flick tasks into categories, and has taskbar integration to let you open a specific category, add a task, and so on. All the source code is available so you can see how it's done - it is a demo, after all. You can get more details and screen shots on the Windows Team Blog. Check it out!

Kate

Friday, 11 March 2011 10:31:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 05 March 2011

The pace of C++-relevant video releases on Channel 9 sure feels like it's increased. I watched a few recently (I download them and then watch them in my copious free time) and they happen to fit well with some links I've been carrying around for a while, meaning to share.

Let's start with Herb Sutter talking with Erik Meijer about C++ and whatever else they felt like talking about. The resulting Channel 9 video is a must-watch, and for once I didn't crank it to 1.5x or 2x speed as I usually do with video interviews. When they get into the part about deriving future<T> from T, you might want to pause it and go read Thomas Petchel's post on automatic type deduction. And during the lambdas-and-closures part, let me recommend a quite old post by Eric Lippert and a followup to it that discusses how these things work for C# and how it's a little different in C++.

Then another two-smart-people talk, with Mohsen Agsen and Craig Symonds. It's great to get the high-level perspective of the value of C++ to any software firm. I love that phrase, dark matter, and you may have heard it from me before. After you've watched that one, you need to go immediately to Tony Goodhew's interview where he puts some numbers out that will drop your jaw.

I know, I'm asking for like 2 hours of your life. Even if you don't develop in C++ any more, you should watch these three videos. You really should. Call it industry research if you like. And if you wish you knew a C++ developer, you do :-)

Kate

Saturday, 05 March 2011 11:49:44 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 03 March 2011
The PDC was a little different last year. It was held on the Microsoft Campus, meaning that only a thousand people could attend, when usually it's 5 times that. But it featured an amazing player that opened the whole conference up to the world. I was one of the 100,000 (yes, 100,000!) who watched online. If you are interested in some of the technical details, there's been a whitepaper released. You can read about it on the Windows Azure Team Blog. Makes sense, since Azure was a big part of the solution.

Kate

Thursday, 03 March 2011 11:41:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 01 March 2011
Are you doing Scrum? Do you use TFS? Then you should check out Urban Turtle. Brian Harry did (yes, that Brian Harry) and he really liked it - his blog post makes a great introduction. It gives you rich visibility onto your project and lets you work with it your own way. You can download a 30 day free trial to see if there is a good fit with the way your team fits and works.

If you like it, let me give you a tip. If you go to DevTeach in Montreal (which is so worth your while to attend on its own) you will get a 5-user license of Urban Turtle, which means you're effectively going to DevTeach for half price. And you can hear me speak on Windows 7 development, too.

Kate

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 22:55:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 27 February 2011
Here's an interesting blog post. Say you use MFC and are wondering whether anything was added to it in a particular release. What tool would you use for that? How about CppDepend? If you've never used it, seeing how it provides the illustrations for this post should show you the appeal of it. Either way, you're going to learn something.

Kate

Sunday, 27 February 2011 22:11:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 25 February 2011
Pete Brown is a WPF guy and I've learned a lot from him. Now I get to watch him learn. Recently he wanted to write an add-in for IE and he decided to do it in C++. You can see how he struggled through it and get some tips of your own in the detailed post he wrote about the experience. I agree with the commenter who said you should only run Visual Studio as admin when you know you're going to do a step (like registration) that requires elevation, and you should run non-elevated the rest of the time, and the one who tweaked the string code to take advantage of being in C++. If you have some tweaks of your own, stop by and add a comment.

Kate

Friday, 25 February 2011 18:20:58 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 23 February 2011
People talk a lot about work/life balance. There really is no such thing. They never deserve 50/50 which is what balance implies. But I read an interesting point in this summary of (and link to) a TED talk: over what period of time do you want to achieve some ratio of "work" and "life"? Every day? Most people prefer their weekends to have more "life" than "work". Over every individual week? I think we all would like to have weeks of vacation with no work at all, and most of us accept the occasional "crunch week" with more work than is comfortable. Over a 50 year period? That's not realistic at all. Think about that a bit. Then watch the video.

Kate

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 18:10:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 21 February 2011
If you've been to a developer event this century, or if you spend any time on Channel 9, you've probably seen Beth Massi. I read an interesting interview with her by Carla Fair-Wright where she talks about what Microsoft is like, advises young women, and plugs LightSwitch. Did you think she was the I-was-programming-in-BASIC-when-I-was-8 type? Well now you know.

Kate

PS: the whole series is worth a read.

Monday, 21 February 2011 18:03:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 19 February 2011

Imagine an app that you have running under Windows 7 as a desktop app. Now as much as you are enjoying the Windows 7 features it uses, you know there is some functionality there you could offer to people another way. Do you have to just start over to make it into a phone app? What if you want it in a browser? If you write the desktop part in WPF, will that be something you can use when you create the Silverlight code for the browser or phone apps? Well, check this mission statement:

Our goal was to enable seamless and easy sharing of decks among users across different computers. The idea was simple, upload the deck to the cloud, and let the user send a message to whomever the user wants to share the deck with. That message will include a link for the receiving party to click on to launch a web browser and run a Silverlight application that can “play” the shared deck. The Silverlight application dynamically downloads the shared deck and displays that single deck just as it would be displayed on the WPF application. At this point the user can launch any of the 3 games: Learning, Matching, or Memory, with the same user experience as the WPF application.

Sounds like just what you might like to do in some of your apps, doesn't it? Oh yeah, and would you like the code? And a blog post explaining the code? And a video on Channel 9?

Happy to help!

Kate

Saturday, 19 February 2011 17:53:09 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 17 February 2011
One of the marks of true expertise and skill is making something very difficult look easy and effortless. It can take a long time and a lot of work to give the impression that something is natural and everyday for you. It takes even more work and practice to make something look spontaneous and unrehearsed. This is as true of giving a technical presentation as it is of playing a sport or a musical instrument, dancing, singing, or cooking. Oddly, some people seem to think that presenters are all "just naturals" who don't practice, rehearse, or plan.

There are two problems with thinking that. The first (and the smaller one) is that it doesn't give enough credit to the hours of work that goes into producing that "off the cuff" presentation you so enjoyed. The second (and by far the bigger one) is that it leads you to think that you couldn't be a presenter. And that would be a loss. Presenting, even in the smallest of contexts, makes you better at whatever you're presenting about. If you do a presentation on Windows Phone development or Visual Studio Extensibility or the like, you will know that subject better when the presentation is over. It also generally helps your career, gives you a chance to meet people and help them, and if you're lucky will also get you a chance to travel to marvelous places and meet even more people.

One of the terrific people I've been able to meet thanks to the speaking I've done is Guy Smith-Ferrier. He's really good. He's always been generous with slides and downloads on his website, and he really knows his stuff. And now he's made a series of videos to show anyone - really, anyone! - just what it takes to be a presenter. He covers a number of things I've never seen in talks of this kind, like choosing your topic wisely. They total a little over 2 hours and are well worth your time if you're thinking of trying presenting or (more likely) you wish you could and think you can't. You can watch them on the UGSS site or download them if you prefer (search for speaker.)

Once you've watched these, you will understand what it seems the great speakers just "happen" to be doing. And you can do those things too. You can be a presenter if you want - it's no harder than learning to code. Guy's straightforward way of laying down the truths behind great presentations will take you where you want to go.

Kate


Thursday, 17 February 2011 02:14:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Did you watch the whole "Introduction to STL" series on Channel 9? As I said when part 10 appeared, there is no universe in which this series is really introductory. So when I tell you that Stephan has now started an advanced series, you need to take it seriously. Here's how Charles entices and warns us:

This series, Advanced STL, will cover the gory details of the STL's implementation -> you will therefore need to be versed in the basics of STL, competent in C++ (of course), and able to pay attention! Stephan is a great teacher and we are so happy to have him on Channel 9, and C9 is the only place you'll find this level of technical detail regarding the internals of the STL. There are no books. There are no websites. This is Stephan taking us into what is uncharted territory for most of us, even those with a more advanced STL skill set.

Me, I'm enticed. And I'm watching. You should be too. (But watch the first ten first, or the minute you start to feel lost.)

Kate

Tuesday, 15 February 2011 20:52:02 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 13 February 2011

I've written about "banned APIs" before - let's start with this link and if you read it, it has a link to a previous post, and go on and follow that link and it has a link to a previous post and so on and so on. To summarize, there are three ways to ensure you are not using banned APIs in your C++ app:

  • You can use the extension I blogged about. It highlights places in code you're editing or typing that calls a potentially unsafe function. That's great if you're typing fresh code,not so great if you just inherited a million lines of C++ and aren't sure if it's vulnerable to buffer overflow attacks.
  • You can compile with /W4, and deal with all the C4996 warnings (and use code analysis or code review or generally find the places that someone has suppressed that warning.)
  • You can include banned.h, which controls whether these unsafe functions are marked deprecated or not
None of that has changed. What I wanted to point out was a recent blog entry from the SDL team alerting us that banned.h has been updated, and I also spotted a video on TechNet (why a developer-focused thing is there I don't know) that shows it in action. If you write C++ code, you should be using one or more of these techniques.

Kate
Sunday, 13 February 2011 20:44:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 11 February 2011
If you're a Canadian and you've been thinking of playing around with the Windows Phone Developer Tools, now would be a great time to get started. Microsoft Canada is running something they call the Great Canadian Apportunity, and the grand prize is $10,000. There are plenty of other prizes, too - Xboxen, Kinects, passes to Mesh and more. Joey has some of the details on his blog, and you can check out the main site to get started!




It's on till April 30th. You must be a resident of Canada and over 18 (younger developers need parental permission), not work for Microsoft etc.

Kate
Friday, 11 February 2011 11:57:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 09 February 2011
At the end of January, the busy bees at All-in-One (OK, they're not bees, they're Microsoft engineers) released even more samples including Azure, setting a hotkey that Windows will route to your app even if it doesn't have focus, detecting if the machine has been locked (with Windows+L) or unlocked, downloading multiple files with ftp, and many more. As always these are in VB, C#, and almost all of them are also in native C++.

In fact, there are just so darn many samples right now that it's getting harder to find the one you want. What a great problem to have! So they've released a sample browser to help you search and browse and generally get your hands on the code that will solve your problem and move you on to the next part of your day.

What are you waiting for? Go get it!

Kate

Wednesday, 09 February 2011 11:41:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 07 February 2011
The architectural tools in Visual Studio Ultimate are fantastic. Often, people think they're just for for managed code, though. Not so! Here's a page on MSDN that shows how you can use Layer Validation to validate your architecture. You'll need the Modelling and Feature Pack and parts are a little fiddly, but it can be done!




No reason to assume the architecture tools are not for C++ developers, too.

Kate
Monday, 07 February 2011 11:08:49 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 05 February 2011
Adding concurrency to an existing application can be remarkably simple. I have a demo where I change a for loop to a parallel for and -poof!- the app gets faster. The hard part of that demo is knowing that a given loop is ok to parallelize, that it doesn't matter what order things are done in as long as they all get done once. And, of course, knowing that the loop in question is responsible for your execution time. Making the right decision is the hard part - typing the code is easy.

With that in mind, you need advice about choosing your structures and algorithms. Here are some handy things that may help you. On the native parallel programming blog they will help you choose your parallel sort. And on the VC++ blog, it's all about the parallel containers. If you're going to write parallel code (and let's face it, eventually you will) you need to read this sort of thing.

Kate

Saturday, 05 February 2011 10:42:30 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 03 February 2011
Here's a useful blog entry from Nish that shows how simple it can be to handle what at first seems an intractable problem - how to get an unmanaged array into a managed array. The marshaller doesn't know the size of the array, but as long as you pass the length as a parameter, you can create the array yourself and copy the contents over. Not hard at all, once you know.

Kate

Thursday, 03 February 2011 10:25:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 01 February 2011

Like a lot of folks, I have a Windows Phone and I enjoy it a lot. I've filled it up with (free) games and they pass the time quickly when I have to wait in line or otherwise have an empty minute or two. C++ MVP Marius Bancila had the same experience, but unlike me he responded by writing a version of the game in MFC so he could play it on his own PC as well as on a phone.

You can get the source from his blog post, and another post and its comments (mostly in Romanian - Bing Translate is your friend there) have a nice discussion of performance issues. After all, whenever two or more C++ programmers gather together, someone is going to have an opinion about performance. Take a look for yourself!

Kate

Tuesday, 01 February 2011 18:45:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Sunday, 30 January 2011
There are some really amazing WPF applications out there, and many of them are extraordinarily beautiful. I am not very good at making beautiful applications, though the WPF themes help avoid the "grey boxes on a grey background" look I usually achieve. Now if you want to develop an application that presents a whole new paradigm, there should be someone on your team who really "gets" user experience and how colours work together and so on. But what if you just want to make the same sort of apps you've always made, using the latest technology instead of something a little older? You want to think the way you thought when you were doing Windows Forms, for example, and use the same tools, but end up with a WPF application or a Silverlight application.

Well, Pete Brown has an interesting blog post speaking directly to this kind of developer. He makes the case that for these kinds of applications, you don't need to add a designer to the team. Plenty of screenshots to support his theory - see what you think. I think I agree, myself. Because the post was last year, there's lots of interesting conversation happening in the comments, too, so be sure to read those while you're there.

Kate

Sunday, 30 January 2011 18:48:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Friday, 28 January 2011

Despite this rather famous xkcd comic, most developers would rather spend as little time compiling as possible:

But most of us how no clue why a build takes as long as it does, or how to make a project build faster. I mean sure a Clean and then a Rebuild will take longer than an incremental build. But beyond that, which is quicker - a debug build or a release build? Debug puts more information in, but it doesn't optimize - which wins? Does it make a difference if you keep Visual Studio up all day or if you close and re-open it from time to time? Are there options you can set that make your builds faster? All this and more is covered in remarkable detail in a new blog post from the Visual C++ team. You need to read it.

Kate

Friday, 28 January 2011 18:36:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Not everyone knows that the Windows SDK includes a C++ compiler and linker that you can use if you don't have Visual Studio installed. Of course, Visual Studio Express is free, and you could use that to compile and link C++ apps. The advantage of using the tools that come with the SDK is that you don't have to install and configure a lot of stuff to get started. On a new machine that may appeal to you.

Gus Class has posted a super-quick 3 minute video that shows how to compile one of the SDK samples using only the tools that come with it. I just wanted to elaborate on one thing. The SDK installs, by default, under Program Files. As you probably know UAC prevents applications from writing to any folder under Program Files unless the application is elevated. That's why Gus launches an elevated command prompt in this video. If you don't want to elevate your command prompt, you'll need to move the sample folders and adjust your path accordingly.

Three minutes. Worth a watch. It's always good to have some tricks up your sleeve on a new machine.

Kate

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 18:25:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 24 January 2011

Recently the East of Toronto .NET User Group had a Windows Phone 7 presentation (by Atley Hunter) that was very well done, and well attended. (He's blogged about it and included some helpful links, so you should be sure to read his post too.) You would never have known it was his first presentation - he was calm and confident and knew what he was talking about.

At the meeting I met Ashish Kaila, who is working on a toolkit for WPF developers and a Windows Phone 7 library. He showed me the docking panes and some other fun functionality.

To me this is a huge benefit of user group meetings: in addition to the presentations, usually as good as any you would see at a paying conference, you also can meet fellow attendees. I hadn't heard of these tools before, and they could save you a lot of time and effort. The next best thing to coming to meetings, I suppose, is reading blog posts about meetings. Here's where you can learn more about Ashish and his products:

If you're not going to your local user group meetings, why on earth not? We don't bite, honestly, and you have so much to learn and gain from being there. See you next time!

Kate

Monday, 24 January 2011 18:17:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 22 January 2011
The revisions to the C++ standard, headed to producing a new C++ standard which is still nicknamed C++0x, are proceeding at their stately pace, and will for months yet. But since a number of compilers are supporting more and more of the functionality and syntax, which are pretty much locked down now, we can adopt much of it today. (I don't know why some people are running around claiming that because the standard isn't released yet, no-one should be using any of it, but when you bump into such people, you can send them to me.)

I came across an interview with Bjarne Stroustrup, the father of C++, at CodeGuru. If you're wondering why the standard is so far behind schedule, what the very first C++ developer thinks about the very newest C++ developers (undergrad students), and how risk feels to a standards committee, then you will enjoy reading this, as I did. The lambda syntax on the first page isn't quite right, but you can fix that up if you need to. There are plenty of lambda examples here in my blog.

Give it a read!

Kate

Saturday, 22 January 2011 10:52:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 20 January 2011
One of the things C++ developers have had for ages is a way to see a function's return value in the debugger, even if it isn't kept in a local variable. For example, see tip 29 in this list of Visual C++ tips for VC++ 6.0 - a product released 12 or 13 years ago! Managed developers would like this ability, too. Jared Parsons, from Technical Strategy Incubation, points to a set of requests, and explains why it appears that VB has it already. (And you thought VB6 legacy support wasn't going to help you!)

Take a look and see what you think. Would it be worth the possible performance hit?

Kate

Thursday, 20 January 2011 10:28:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 18 January 2011
I don't think I ever linked to this Tech Ed Europe talk. Ale Contenti talked about Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) features for C++ developers. Now it's featured on the Visual C++ Blog. There are useful links in the comments, also.



I saw the talk live and I liked how personal Ale made it. If you wonder whether any large C++ projects rely on Team Foundation Server, you could hardly have a nicer example than this one!

Kate
Tuesday, 18 January 2011 10:10:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 16 January 2011
The SQL Server MCM certification is pretty darn serious. In order to be a Microsoft Certified Master, you really need to know your stuff. As Microsoft describes it:

Individuals interested in pursuing a Microsoft Certified Master on SQL Server 2008 certification typically have five or more years of hands-on SQL Server experience in mission-critical environments, with competencies that include:

  • Designing and implementing high-performance, scalable, and secure enterprise environments

  • Troubleshooting the most challenging SQL Server issues

  • Managing multiple instances of SQL Server, including the use of a variety of features and tasks, with a thorough understanding of SQL Server design and architecture.

  • A thorough understanding of SQL Server core engine components and dependencies, such as online transaction processing (OLTP), high availability, disaster recovery, performance tuning and optimization, the SQL Server operating system (SQLOS), the storage engine, the relational engine, security, manageability, and data distribution.

It's the highest level of certification and perhaps 1% of IT Pros can achieve it. Even if you don't want to go for the certification and sit the exams, you might like to improve your knowledge. So 40 hours of free training videos are bound to help, aren't they? The clever folks at SQLskills have put some together, and provided a handy page of links. See how much you can improve your SQL abilities and understanding.

Kate

Sunday, 16 January 2011 09:56:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 14 January 2011
It's a trope of horror movies that bad things happen in the basement. You don't go down there to see why the other people who went down there aren't back yet, and you don't go down there alone. Jan Miksovsky extends the software-as-building metaphor to talk about the scary-basement part of most apps. What I like about the post is that he's not just complaining, "some parts of the app are a real pain to change" but he's also aware of the good part of it, the foundation aspects. Well worth a read!

Kate

Friday, 14 January 2011 09:41:34 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Since midsummer I've been watching the "STL on STL" series accumulate on Channel 9. The lectures appeared as "part 1 of n", "part 2 of n" and so on until, in the bleak midwinter, part 10 of 10 appeared, so they must be done. Here are some links to them all:

There really isn't any universe in which the material this series covers can be called Introductory. When Stephan has finished introducing you to the STL, you will know an awful lot. And in this century, knowing the STL is a vital part of being a C++ developer. Many developers are scared of it: they think it's difficult and complicated. And to be honest, it can be. There's an awful lot going on and there is a lot to learn. Watching these videos, you can see how much Stephan LIKES this material, likes this library, and he's clearly not scared of it or trying to impress you with how difficult it is. He wants you to know all this. And if you follow along (and even do the homework!) you will catapult yourself forward in your STL knowledge and abilities. Take the time to do it, you won't regret it.

Kate

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 09:33:08 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 10 January 2011

The Visual C++ team, in addition to tweeting and blogging regularly, is now accumulating a week's worth of links and stories at a time and publishing them at paper.li. If you don't compulsively check in to the C++ world every day, it can be a great way to stay in touch. Even if you do, you might discover a source you're weren't checking before. It's a little less obtrusive than other ways of sharing links, I think. Check out the C++ Weekly and the team blog post introducing it.

Kate

Monday, 10 January 2011 08:44:04 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 08 January 2011
The voting is open at the Tech Ed site for you to express your preferences on possible sessions. My experience indicates that submissions not shown here can still end up being sessions, and certainly not all submissions shown here will be accepted, but obviously a strong interest from the public in a session will increase its chances of acceptance. With that in mind I thought I'd show you the results of a few searches.

First, C++:

These have orange plusses on them because I've added them to my preferences. You'll see a grey square you can click to add them to yours.

Next, Windows 7 development. Let's try Code Pack:

And finally the intersection of WPF and Windows 7 searches (I had to crop the shot by hand, there's no handy search that returns just these):


If you want to be sure that Tech Ed USA offers sessions you'd like to attend, the power is in your hands. (Disclaimer: some - but not all - of the submissions I am showing you here are my own.) Make your feelings known. And see you in Atlanta (I hope) in May!

Kate
Saturday, 08 January 2011 10:14:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 06 January 2011
Here's a super neat tip from Mike Ormond - he shows how to track reviews for a Windows Phone 7 app. My guess is you would mostly want to track your own apps, or possibly the competition. You use a free app that tracks reviews, of course. Written by Sergei Golubev, a former Microsoft employee, it fills an important niche and if you wrote an app and put it in the marketplace, you want this app. And it will apparently only be free for a limited time, so don't dawdle!

Kate

Thursday, 06 January 2011 20:52:58 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 04 January 2011
Ok, perhaps it's not news that a keynote is fundamentally different from a breakout. But many keynotes look just like breakouts - the way the slides are written, for example - and many keynotes leave a lot of attendees unsatisfied. A meme began to rise among presenters that "bullets are bad" and "bullets can kill you". I agree completely for keynotes. I don't agree for breakouts, and I've been to breakouts with the pictures of kittens and the single emotionally loaded word and then a picture of a tree and just hated them. But the a-ha! for me is the simple statement: a keynote is not a breakout.

It just makes the whole anti-bullet / pro-bullet thing click for me. The keynote can be full of pictures and super simple words, because it's a keynote. The breakout can still have slides with bullets, tables, charts etc because it's a breakout. Of course the deck for a keynote is not of value without the presenter. It's a keynote. This works for me. Major credit to me "getting" this goes to (of course) Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen. His post on how dramatically Bill Gates has changed his keynote style - slides, posture, tone, and more -- really lit a light bulb in my head about keynotes and breakouts, whether that was the intention or not. The post itself is highly informative and if you ever speak in from of an audience, you should read it and look at the pictures. These two are from 2005 and 2010 and I think they show you quite a difference:



So, a keynote is a not a breakout (something Bill clearly gets now) and a breakout is a not a keynote. Meaning the kitten content of my talks isn't likely to increase until someone invites me to keynote for them :-).

Kate
Tuesday, 04 January 2011 20:36:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 31 December 2010
I was lucky enough to be part of a spirited email discussion recently on the topic of exceptions. And luckier still that Diego Dagum, the new C++ Community PM, has summarized it on the VC team blog. You should enjoy reading the "best practices" we worked our way around to, like:
Most MVPs agreed that, despite not being illegal in C++, throwing primitive types like int, long, etc., or similarly Windows-based ones like HRESULT, etc. is a coding horror as inabilities to catch those in the proper place will make the application crash with a hard post-investigation to determine where they are being originated.

Of course, we ended up talking about checked exceptions, one of the things I really hated about Java personally, and RAII which is a critical way of thinking if there are exceptions flying around your app. STL joins in with a comment that could be worth gold to someone dealing with SEH:

I strongly recommend AGAINST using the /EHa compiler option. Either /EHs or /EHsc should ALWAYS be used, with /EHsc being preferable (it's faster because it assumes that extern "C" functions won't emit exceptions - while technically permitted by the Standard, sane code should never attempt to do such a thing, so giving up that ability is worth the performance gain).

And I am sure the comments will continue to grow and the conversation continue. This is how we all get better, by discussing and sharing and occasionally defending our practices. It's a must-read.

Kate

Friday, 31 December 2010 20:01:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Visual Studio 2010 comes with a whole pile of project templates (C# WPF project, that sort of thing) and snippets. They get you started on new projects and save you a lot of time. But if you're a StyleCop user, they can frustrate you, because the code they generate for you can generate plenty of warnings.

The solution: new versions of these snippets and templates that are StyleCop-compliant. Plenty of XML comments, nothing left to default, generally nice code. Doug Holland has a blog post on this with plenty of examples and links. Take a look!

Kate

Wednesday, 29 December 2010 19:54:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 27 December 2010

I'm a big fan of Visual Studio 2010 extensibility; I've given talks at various places about extending Visual Studio yourself and using the gallery to find great extensions. I recommend specific extensions as part of other talks and there are many I can't live without. I came across a fun list by Terje Sandstrom of the extensions they like to use at Inmeta. I completely agree about Pro Power Tools, but I would also add Presentation Zoom and Code Snippet Designer. By the way, the All in One Code Framework is also listed on the gallery. It's just a link over to the CodePlex site, but it's a way to find it if you missed one of the zillion links from my blog.

If you're using Visual Studio 2010 and you're not taking a little time to explore the gallery and tweak the way your copy works, you're missing a chance to be more productive and to enjoy Visual Studio more. Take a look!

Kate

Monday, 27 December 2010 19:49:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 25 December 2010

A while back, I blogged about an empty jumplist for Windows Explorer and how I fixed it. I've come across another no-jumplist issue, this time in a blog post by Rick Strahl. This app never gets a jumplist, and can't be pinned to the taskbar or start menu either. Believe it or not, the reason is the executable name. I've seen all sorts of people running into issues with UAC elevation being triggered by certain executable names, but this is the first I've heard of the jumplist being taken away because of it.

Rick looked into it, found the documentation, even found the Registry key and the list of "magic" words in your executable name (Documentation;Help;Install;More Info;Readme;Read me;Read First;Setup;Support;What's New;Remove) that cause the problem. Nice work! Your options, if you find yourself here, are to rename your exe, or (if, like Rick, you have a lot of stuff depending on that name thanks to COM etc) to change the Registry key so that whatever string you're using isn't the problem.

Kate

Saturday, 25 December 2010 19:40:06 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 23 December 2010
It's the time of year where people set themselves goals - for the whole of 2011, for the next few months, or just in general. And you can read a lot about SMART goals and how great they are. Opinions vary on exactly what the letters stand for but I'll go with Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. So if I'm giving you a performance review and I say "you should be more helpful", that is not a SMART goal because we can't measure your helpiness and it's also not terribly specific and I haven't given you any kind of time frame for improvement. If you're not helpier tomorrow, have you failed your goal? What about next week? Next month? How long do you have to get more helpful? If I say "you should fill out your timesheet more often" it's still not a SMART goal because it's vague and doesn't have a time element and so on. I can make it a SMART goal by saying something like this: "over the next 6 weeks, at least 5 weeks' timesheets will be completed by 10am of the next Monday morning." The relevance will have to come into play when I explain to you that late timesheets delay our billing of clients and mess up our cash flow. (Or whatever; we actually don't use timesheets here, but that's not the point.)

So OK, we have this concept. And it seems like a pretty good one. After all, if you write it like that, we can come back after 6 weeks (or whatever) and say "pass" or "fail". But let's look at the timesheet-laggard above. Let's say that person misses week 1 and week 2, then goes flawless after that. Still fail? If you feel that way, then as soon as the laggard misses week 2, why keep trying? You've blown the goal, right?

Then there's the matter of the consequences of blowing the goal. Am I going to fire you for messing up my invoicing and causing cash flow headaches and just generally not caring about the business? (I might.) But if you have a goal to pass a particular cert, and you fail it, is anyone going to fire you? Or you have a personal goal to run some distance under some time and you don't get to that time, will you give up running?

Here's I. M. Wright on why having a dozen year-long SMART goals is just wrong - they take so long to write, if people meet 11 out of 12 they can still have a fail of a year, they're all about you when you're actually part of a team, and so on. Since they're unavoidable at some companies, he has some suggestions how to have 4 or 5 really good ones. He also doesn't like SMART for stretch goals, and I agree. Christophe is more about how things change over an entire year, so the goal is probably not relevant by the time limit. The top answer to this StackOverflow question says they're not good for developers, period.

In answering this StackOverflow question I realized something. SMART goals are good for "shape up or else" goals, put on a person by someone else, that allow just a few weeks to achieve something really, well, specific, measurable, and relevant. Do your timesheets. Come to work on time. Include a decent comment when you check in your work. They're really not good for "be a better person", "lose weight", "make more money", or even "get a paid acting job". You just need a different way to express and measure progress on those kind of goals. If you're setting a goal for yourself, unless you think you're correcting a deficiency and have consequences lined up for failure, don't make it a SMART goal.

Kate

Thursday, 23 December 2010 16:48:30 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 21 December 2010
According to Darryl Taft, the top languages for next year (and this may surprise you) are going to be Java, C, and C++. You're probably all ready to disagree, but understand the criteria:

... the workhorse languages such as C and C++ continue to remain at the top end of the software development landscape in terms of language use and job potential (despite growing more slowly and even decreasing, according to some sources). Moreover, this list is not intended to highlight the hot, hip new languages on the horizon, but to focus on where programmers can go to look for work.

There's a large body of work being done in languages that are not new, or hot, or trendy, but that have been around for long enough to develop a body of developers and libraries that enable getting things done. The volume of code that will not be ported to new and exciting languages, and will be maintained in its current language for years and decades, will always outweigh the volume of code that is being written from scratch right now or being ported. If you want a job, knowing an "old workhorse" language is a good thing.

Darryl profiles 18 languages in all: Java, C, C++, C#, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, VB, Python, Ruby, Objective-C, ActionScript, Groovy, Go, Scala, Erlang, Clojure, and F#. That is an awful lot of curly brackets, a very high placement for Objective-C given that it really does only one thing, and a fair dose of hot/new/trendy once you get past the top ten. Worth a read!

Kate


Tuesday, 21 December 2010 13:50:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 19 December 2010
Many people really don't understand where P/Invoke signatures come from, or what they mean. They head over to pinvoke.net, which - don't get me wrong - is a hugely important resource, and then blindly paste in whatever they find and try compiling and running their code. Or they use the superbly helpful P/Invoke Interop Assistant. Again, paste, build, run, works on my machine.

This is a great way to start. The problem is assuming that once one run worked, you're done. You need to read and understand the P/Invoke signature you are using. Especially when you are passing in a pointer, or getting a pointer back, you must know who owns that memory and who will clean it up. Are you handing it over to the native code to manage? Is there a risk your managed code will clean it up before the native code is done with it? Is there a risk the native code will clean it up, and then later the managed code will also try to clean it up? Don't think these things don't happen, they most certainly do.

Here's an example: a long running intermittent bug that was caused by a P/Invoke declaration that said the managed side would clean up, but that should have said the native side would (since the native side did.) And here's a nice summary of ways to make sure that native resources (like handles) aren't cleaned up too soon by the managed side. Sorry, but you need to understand this stuff in order to interop successfully. That's where the phrase "head spinning interop" came from, after all.

Don't like it? Don't want to learn it? Then use an interop library like the Code Pack that takes care of those sorts of things for you and exposes an entirely managed interface. Have to learn it whether you want to or not? Consider using the Code Pack as a reference for how to do interop properly. The full source code is available, and nicely commented too.

Kate

Sunday, 19 December 2010 12:10:28 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 17 December 2010
It's over 200 pages long, and over four years old, but I just heard about it recently. A long, dense discussion of whether certain C++ features (templates, namespaces, RTTI, etc) have a performance cost, and how to write code that incurs as little performance cost as possible. Its official name: ISO/IEC TR 18015:2006(E)  Technical Report on C++ Performance. In addition to runtime performance, it also touches on compile slowness, the "brittle base class" problem, and the different performance characteristics of various STL collections and algorithms. If you care about the speed of your C++ code, you should read this, even if some of it is already familiar to you.

I'd like to give some kind of "Restrained Understatement" award to this sentence:

Template meta-programming  and  expression  templates  are  not  techniques  for novice programmers, but an advanced practitioner can use them to good effect.
To be clear about where these authors are placing the "advanced" bar, I don't use meta-programming, I consider it too advanced for me. And I have 20+ years of C++!

The whole report is platform independent (though embedded systems are discussed separately) and compiler independent, too. I wish it were updated for C++0x, but I guess that will have to wait until C++0x is settled :-). There's a 14 page bibliography, and you would do well to read many of them, though my source for the link winkily pointed out another possible paper. That one is old enough to get a driver's license, but I think you might enjoy reading it anyway. As the introduction begins:

It is important to understand how your programming language is implemented. Such knowledge dispels the fear and wonder of “What on earth is the compiler doing here?”; imparts confidence to use the new features; and provides insight when debugging and learning other language features. It also gives a feel for the relative costs of different coding choices that is necessary to write the most efficient code day to day.
It's only 23 pages long, and concludes:
... we have considered many of the significant C++ run-time implementation issues. We see that some wonderful language features are almost free, and others can incur significant overhead. These implementation mechanisms are applied quietly for you, behind the curtains, so to speak, and it is often hard to tell what a piece of code costs when looking at it in isolation. The frugal coder is well advised to study the generated native code from time to time and question whether use of this or that particularly cool language feature is worth its overhead.
Good advice, in 1994 or 2010.

Kate

Friday, 17 December 2010 11:34:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Those hardworking elves at the All in One Code Framework keep releasing more samples. They've added some ASP.NET samples (including a very interesting "get location from IP address" one) and some Windows 7 shell extensions, specifically a preview handler. Ah, the good old .recipe file type - an old friend of mine. But as always the samples are going to save you hours and hours of time.

Here's an index to all the samples for you to explore. You might be a little astonished if you haven't checked it out before, they have:
Slowly but surely the samples are accumulating to live up to the name. This should be the first place you look when you want to take on a new task. Generally speaking, everything is available in native C++, C#, and VB (the exceptions are things you can't do in native C++, like ASP.NET) with the language included in the sample name (look at CppWin7TriggerStartService, CSWin7TriggerStartService, and VBWin7TriggerStartService for example.) And remember, if you don't see what you want - you can ask for it!

Kate

Wednesday, 15 December 2010 10:57:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 13 December 2010
At the moment these are announced in the USA only. A full day of client development training for Windows 7, including IE9 and SL OOB. They say:

We will look at application compatibility and transitioning your applications to Windows 7, integrating with the Windows taskbar, developing for IE9, utilizing the cool functionality in the Sensors and Location Platform so that your application better responds to its current environment, leveraging the multitouch capabilities (especially in kiosk scenarios), and creating Silverlight 4 out of browser applications. This event is a unique opportunity, partnering classroom learning with hands-on-labs and leveraging experts to advise you so we can help you “win” with Windows 7.

You bring your own laptop with VS 2010, the Code Pack, the Windows 7 Training Kit, IE9, and Silverlight 4 installed (there are links on the bootcamp page) and do the labs as you go. The training is all free and you'll get hands on experience right while you're there. (It doesn't say so, but my guess is this is all managed code and that the labs are in both C# and VB.)

And if there isn't one near you, you can help arrange one! It's all packaged as an event-in-a-box so all you need is a trainer who'll agree to deliver it and a room to hold it in. But check the dates and locations first -- there are over a dozen sessions scheduled already, so perhaps there's one near you.

Kate

Monday, 13 December 2010 10:40:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 09 December 2010

Herb Sutter has blogged a "trip report" (except he didn't travel, but anyway) about the November meeting of the C++ Standards Committee. In it, he tells us:

Things are going well and we are on track to complete the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) for the C++0x standard after the Madrid meeting in March. If that happens and that ballot succeeds, the C++0x standard will be published in 2011.

There are still decisions being made, and I have to say I like the way they're going. I think contextual keywords are wicked smart, and that if compilers can understand them, developers sure can. Compare Herb's two examples:


class [[base_check]] Derived : public Base {
public:
virtual void f [[override]] ();
virtual double g [[final]] ( int );
virtual void h [[hiding]] ();
};
class Derived explicit : public Base {
public:
virtual void f () override;
virtual double g( int ) final;
virtual void h() new;
};

Contextual keywords make the second option possible, and I think it's much better. You can also read about noexcept and the whole exception-checking backstory, as well as rules for generating move constructors and move assignment operators. It's all good.

Kate

Thursday, 09 December 2010 13:24:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 07 December 2010
Windows 7 developers have tons of cool stuff at their (our) fingertips. There's taskbar integration, the new sensors and location platform, access to devices, and more. Silverlight developers, on the other hand, have so far not been able to get to all of that. Well, now you can! The Native Extensions for Microsoft Silverlight leverages the ability of Silverlight to do COM integration, and puts COM Automation around a collection of Windows 7 functionality so that Silverlight developers can use it. How cool is that?

Because it's on the Code Gallery, you know it's from Microsoft. The first release, Dec 2nd, covers:
  • Windows Sensor API - Integrate sensors:  Accelerometers, Light sensors, compasses, gyroscopes etc. 
  • Microsoft Speech API - Text to Speech (Speech Synthesis) and Speech to Text (Speech Recognition) 
  • Windows Portable Devices API - Enumerate and access content from connected portable devices (cameras, phones, music players, scanners etc.) 
  • Windows 7 Taskbar Integration - Jump lists, overlay icons, overlay progress display, Thumbnail toolbars etc. 
  • Webcam Local Encoding and Window Capture - Encode webcam capture into mp4 (H.264/AAC-LC) media - Capture user interface interaction as video 
  • Window Message Interception - Intercept and act on Window messages sent to the Silverlight OOB host window

This certainly gives Silverlight developers some interesting options! There are some samples that come with the library to show you what you can do, too. You might also be interested in Maor David's blog entry about the library.

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 12:33:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 05 December 2010
I finally caught up some of my PDC-watching and really enjoyed this Herb Sutter talk on C++0x lambdas. I'm well known to be a huge lambda fan. Herb made this talk enjoyable for me by bringing his personality to the table. He showed aspects of C++ that are not exactly elegant, and how using lambdas can make some much neater code possible. Sure, lambdas are "just" syntactic sugar, but they add up to a new way of thinking about writing applications in C++. Well worth watching.

One warning though - I generally download videos and watch them at 1.5 or double speed. I highly doubt you want to do that with this talk - it's dense!

Kate

Sunday, 05 December 2010 11:59:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 03 December 2010
Kenny Kerr is back in Canada and back writing about C++. Like a lot of us these days, he's looking at a stripped-down, more modern way to write Windows applications in C++ - no MFC, no ATL, no WTL. Plenty of STL and new C++0x features. I like it! Here's the first installment - stay tuned for the rest of them!

Kate

Friday, 03 December 2010 11:53:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 01 December 2010
Lately there's been quite a lot of interest on programmers.se about interview questions, and specifically the "coding at the whiteboard" part of the interview. It came up in a discussion of FizzBuzz, in one about "testing" your whiteboard code, and in one about question 11 of the Joel test.

I ask candidates to code at the whiteboard. I ask an intensely simple question, because I am mostly testing for things other than the actual code the person writes. I know, however, that there are places that actually want you to tackle reasonably challenging problems. I came across this blog entry by Diego Dagum (who edits The Architecture Journal, writes architecture columns, and is committed to native C++big time) that walks you through a C++ whiteboard problem that is decidedly non-trivial. What I found interesting is that he starts his "thinking aloud" the same way I would, but then when I would start writing something that worked for valid input, he first started to set out examples of invalid input. And when he wrote the code, it starts by rejecting various categories of invalid input before processing anything. It's cool to see someone thinking differently from me.

One thing really struck me. He spends over a page on the signature of his method - why he called it rtoi, why it returns an unsigned int, why its argument is const, whether it should take a  unicode string or not, why an STL string and not a char*. See how much these problems reveal about a person? That kind of care and precision is not something you can discover by asking a person "how important is it to you that a method signature is chosen with care? Can you give me some examples of naming methods you have done?" Coding in a job interview is about so much more than syntax. Are you prepared for the whiteboard?

Kate

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 21:59:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 29 November 2010
People love Apple hardware. They pay dearly for it because they love it so much. And apparently, the paying continues after the hardware is bought. This report says that Windows Phone 7 Apps cost, on average, half what iPhone apps do. You could argue that the higher price means that the platform is more popular, or the apps are better - but old-school Windows Mobile was higher than iPhone, so any explanation needs to be a little more complex than a quick fanboi reaction would be.

So far I haven't installed any paid apps on my Windows Phone. I've got a motley collection of free games, Twitter, a not-very-good Messenger client that I can get by with, and of course a flashlight and a level :-). I love the way it syncs with my Outlook mail and calendar, and I'm getting used to the Zune software for syncing videos and pictures. I've had a number of pleasant surprises and no unpleasant ones, which is itself a surprise, because I am real a control freak when it comes to syncing. Getting on Wi-Fi is dreamily easy - I actually have no SIM in this phone, and use it on Wi-Fi only, and that's turning out to be quite workable, believe it or not.

Kate

Monday, 29 November 2010 14:28:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Saturday, 27 November 2010
People say you can't get unit test support from Visual Studio for native code. That's not strictly true. Your tests will need to be managed code, but that doesn't mean the code you're testing needs to be.

As I hope you know, it's super easy to call native C++ code from C++/CLI - include the header, link to the lib. So here's the deal. Make yourself a lib that holds all the code you want to test. This can be completely native code, no problem. Build your UI (or your web services layer or your service or server or whatnot, I don't mean by UI an actual interface that a user clicks and types to, I just mean the part of your app that consumes your business logic) in native code if you like. Or in managed code, that's cool too. Then create a C++/CLI test project that includes the header for the logic, and links to the lib. There you go.

For the gory details including precisely what menu items to select and how to set up the project, John Socha-Leialoha has you covered. I love his conclusion:

After so many years writing in C#, I never thought I would enjoy C++ programming again. I was wrong. Using TDD to write C++ code is almost as nice as writing C# code, and I’m really enjoying the experience.

Kate

Saturday, 27 November 2010 14:20:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 25 November 2010
You know I just love jumplists. Probably my favourite app to have a jumplist is Windows Explorer. After all for Word, PowerPoint, Visual Studio and so on, there is a MRU list on the file menu or the like. But getting to folders I've used recently is super important to me.

That's why I kind of freaked out when the jumplist for my Windows Explorer disappeared.



I tried rebooting my laptop (something I do less than once a week.) No help. I caught up on updates. No help. So I started searching. And I found two articles, one about a jumplist that is slow to load itself, and other other about an "orphaned" item that couldn't be removed from a jumplist. That one helped me realize the likely cause of my problem - although I hadn't pinned a mapped folder, I had mapped a drive at a client site, and now that drive wasn't accessible any more, which is perhaps why the jumplist wasn't loading.

But anyway, what to do? Based on what I read in those two articles, I navigated to %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\AutomaticDestinations (that's exactly what I typed into the Run box, it figures out %APPDATA% for you.) There I saw a whole pile of apps with a strange extension, a little reminiscent of the files that hold the details for libraries:



If you open any of these files in Notepad, you'll see that amongst all kinds of unintelligible strings are paths to files you've dealt with recently. What's more, you can kind of guess which app each file is for by looking at those paths - one file will have a bunch of .pptx files mentioned in it, while another will have a bunch of .xlsx files.  Now, which one is Windows Explorer?

Well, both articles said the same name: 1b4dd67f29cb1962.automaticDestinations-ms.I had a file called that, and when I browsed in Windows Explorer to another folder, the timestamp on that file changed. It seemed quite sure that it was for Windows Explorer on my machine too. So, I deleted it, as the articles suggested. Now I still had no jumplist, but when I then browsed to another folder, I had a jumplist with one item in it. From then on life was back to normal.

Something to know if you get a stuck jumplist someday.

Kate
Thursday, 25 November 2010 13:42:06 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 21 November 2010

Opinions seem to vary a little on the birthday of Windows. Charles Petzold says the files are dated November 15th, 1985. Ray Ozzie says it's the 20th. ComputerWorld says the 20th also.

Whatever you think the date should be, you really need to read the article by Charles. He did a keynote "selling" Windows 1.0 (a product almost none of us used) as a solution to the problems of the day:

Will it spoil the gentle humour throughout the piece, written 5 years ago, if I show you the output of his demo? I think not:



He concludes:

And that is Windows, and I don’t know about you, but after this event is over, I’m going home and writing me some Windows apps.

I'm with you, man.

Kate
Sunday, 21 November 2010 16:57:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 19 November 2010
One of my track chairs at Tech Ed Europe was Christian Binder. Christian always makes sure there is C++ content at Tech Ed Europe and this year he sat down with Ale Contenti to talk about Microsoft's commitment to C++, which is stronger than ever right now. You might be a little surprised to hear C++ called "the innovation language" but c'mon - if a new API is added to Windows, you can just use it right away from C++, but from some other languages you might have to wait for something to be released that will help you, right?

Christian blogged about the interview in German, but the interview itself is in English. Worth a listen!

Kate

Friday, 19 November 2010 16:48:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 17 November 2010
I like to say "If you have a Windows application, it should be a Windows 7 application." By that I mean that you should take advantage of some of the features Windows 7 offers to your apps, and you should give the user the experiences they are coming to expect on Windows 7. You should have a sensible and usable jumplist. If you have a progress bar, you should add ONE WHOLE LINE OF CODE to your app so that progress bar is also overlayed on the taskbar. You should toss your intrusive message boxes and toasts and system tray balloons and use taskbar icon overlays on Windows 7, because that's how users expect to be notified about non emergencies. You should take advantage of restart and recovery, and of being notified about events like going on battery or AC power, or coming online or offline, instead of expensively polling for them. I've written a lot of blog posts and given a lot of presentations on how to do some of those things.

Now, someone is offering you a reward for putting those capabilities into your Windows applications. You can be featured on CNET Downloads if you just submit an application that uses at least one of the 13 features they identify. If your app is ready to go, submit it today! If not, why not?

Kate

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 16:43:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 15 November 2010

Wondering what's next in Silverlight? Want to become a Silverlight developer? Want to become a better Silverlight developer? Then you should watch the Silverlight Firestarter on Dec 2nd.

Now there are three ways you can watch this event:

  • In person, in Redmond. Register.
  • Online, wherever you like. Register.
  • Online, with the company of fellow programmers to discuss what you're seeing. I think this is better than online by yourself, so I'm excited that the East of Toronto .NET Users Group is hosting a local Firestarter. Register.

What are they covering? Just about everything:

  • The future of Silverlight
  • Data Binding Strategies with Silverlight and WP7
  • Building Compelling Apps with WCF using REST and LINQ
  • Building Feature Rich Business Apps Today with RIA Services
  • MVVM: Why and How? Tips and Patterns using MVVM and Service Patterns with Silverlight and WP7
  • Tips and Tricks for a Great Installation Experience
  • Tune Your Application: Profiling and Performance Tips 
  • Performance Tips for Silverlight Windows Phone 7

It's running 11:30am - 7:30 pm in Ajax on Thursday Dec 2nd, so you'll need to arrange time off work. Considering all you'll learn about Silverlight, it's well worth the time. Be there!

Kate

Monday, 15 November 2010 12:11:28 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 13 November 2010

Wow, these things get up there fast! My sessions were very well received and I had such a great time doing them! In the order I delivered them, they are:

  • Women In Technology Panel - Claudia Woods, Freena Eijffinger, Paula Januszkiewicz, and Rhonda Layfield joined me to take questions from the audience and talk about what was on everyone's mind. There's really no video - just the title slide for the whole hour. Please listen!
  • The Windows API Code Pack: Add Windows 7 Features to Your Application - This one includes screen capture so you can follow along in the demos. You can also download the powerpoints from this page, and as I mention in the talk, the demo code is the samples that come with the Code Pack.
  • Modern Programming with C++0x in Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 - I had a great time delivering this talk even though it was the first time I delivered this version of it. The attendees responded by putting the talk in the top ten for the whole conference - thankyou! It, too captures the screen and slides, and you can download the powerpoints.
  • Advanced Programming Patterns for Windows 7 - Another talk I was doing for the first time and I enjoyed it too. If you'd like the sample code, stay tuned - I will blog when the recipes are released. The slides are with the video of the screen and slides.

If you came in person, thank you! If you couldn't be there, please watch the videos and leave me a comment. Speaking on technical topics really is the most fun you can have standing up, and I can't do it without audiences.

Kate

Saturday, 13 November 2010 08:41:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 11 November 2010
Pluralsight has some great offers for user group leaders that you should really know about. Even if you don't lead a group, make sure your leader knows, because some of these offers are for members. They're offering to send swag, subscriptions, and speakers (oh yes, that could include me, it sure couldn't hurt to ask, right?) to groups. What's more, unemployed user group members can have a free one-month subscription to the Pluralsight On-Demand! library - a fantastic all-you-can-eat way to get your skills modernized and get you back working again.

I wrote Windows 7 and Visual Studio Extensions courses for the library, and am working on plans for my next one. These are great people who really want everyone to learn as much as humanly possible, and work hard to make that happen. Take them up on this offer and you won't regret it!

Kate

Thursday, 11 November 2010 08:20:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 09 November 2010
BizSpark is an amazing program. Startups (companies under 3 years old with revenue under a million dollars a year) that are making software can have full access to Microsoft developer tools (yes, MSDN Ultimate for every developer in the company) for FREE. There is a $100 exit fee, but it costs you nothing to get started. We are a Network Partner and have sponsored a number of our mentoring clients into the program.



Well now some firms are seeing the end of that three-year membership ahead of them and wondering, what's next? Soma has announced a truly generous offer. Graduates from the program can have that exit fee (nominal as it was) waived, and can keep and continue to use all the software they acquired while in the program. For some, this will be all they need to keep on making great software with those tools. But some will want newer versions as they are released, or will want the Windows Azure subscriptions that come with an MSDN subscription. So for the (very low) price of about $1000 per developer, they can continue their subscriptions for another two years. That will take care of developer tools like Visual Studio. As well, they can buy Microsoft Software Assurance at half price, if they need production licenses of Windows or SQL Server.

If your startup has been in business three years, and you've been paying people and renting an office all that time, I'm sure these prices look delightfully affordable to you. If you've been hesitating about joining BizSpark because you weren't sure what would happen after the three years, well now you know, so don't hold back! For those who are eligible it really is the best deal in town.

Kate
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 08:13:33 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 07 November 2010
Let's say you've written a great client (that is, not web) application. Perhaps you've added some specific features to make it great on Windows 7. Certainly you've made sure it runs on Windows 7. Or perhaps on Windows Server 2008 R2. Or maybe your app runs on Windows Azure, or Windows Phone 7. Good work! You put time and effort into confirming that your app fits your chosen platform. Now, would you like to be able to prove it with a suite of automated tests and a logo that shows you passed them? Of course you would.

So head on over to Microsoft Platform Ready and take a look around. You'll find training resources to help you build applications that target Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Azure. You can test your app and get logos like Powered by Windows Azure and Works with Windows Server 2008 R2.You can even showcase your application in a marketplace, and take advantage of special offers like extended trials of developer tools from various partners.

This is an obvious step for anyone building a client application, on any part of the Microsoft platform. Investigate, join, reap the rewards :-).

Kate

Sunday, 07 November 2010 07:57:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 01 November 2010

Here's something that happens to me a lot. I'm working on a project that is mostly Technology A, but I need a little Technology B. I want a sample or two to show me what it can do. I search the web, but often find mostly things written by people who don't know what they're doing and are posting their (possibly flawed) code into question-and-answer forums. I search MSDN, but often the newest technologies don't have their samples yet. I also remember to check if the All-in-One Framework people (I blogged about their coding standards document earlier) have anything. And if I still get nowhere I start asking people I know if they have one.

Well, now those helpful folks at All-in-One are kicking it up a notch. And remember, they cover all technologies and languages related to Microsoft tools. (Want to know more about them? Here's a fun video.)

And this goes back to one of my earliest blog posts - what you want may be what I need to give. Imagine it's your job to decide what samples to write. How are you ever going to find out what developers out in the big wide world want samples of? You could come up with a great idea and then find out people already had all the samples they needed for that. So that person wants ideas for samples. And here you are needing a sample. See how that works?

Just visit the wiki page and follow their instructions. It's a tad more complex than "shoot me an email and tell me what you need" and for good reason. Give it a whirl if there's something you need!

Kate

Monday, 01 November 2010 10:40:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 30 October 2010
Think you can write a TFS client for Windows Phone 7? Think you can do it by the end of November? Would you like a free MSDN subscription with Visual Studio Ultimate worth about $15,000 Canadian? Then you need to read Barry Gervin's post where he offers you not just that, but several (probably more valuable) introductions and blog mentions.

Now, you don't need to write all of Team Explorer. Barry suggests build status, dashboards, work item editing, and of course connecting to what the phone knows about People on the team. And he wants to hear from those who are trying, so he can help make it happen.

Interested? Plan your code, email Barry, write your code, and in the end email him the code and maybe a video demo by November 30th. Easy, right?

Kate

Saturday, 30 October 2010 11:13:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 28 October 2010
Thanks to the Markham .NET Users Group for passing along this job opportunity. The full description is in a Word document on the user group website. Here are some things that jumped out at me:
  • The company is big enough to have an IT department who will support you
  • They use a variety of Microsoft technologies including some reasonably new stuff like Workflow
  • You should have experience doing web and database development with Microsoft tools
  • They have Windows applications too, and need you to know about concurrency and threading
  • They want you to gather requirements and to train end users as well as write code, so you need to be well rounded and enjoy a variety of types of work
My guess is they are not a software development house but a manufacturing company. These jobs can be very rewarding because you get more responsibility more quickly, but on the other hand there may not be a career track to senior dev, architect, manager of devs etc because there aren't that many developers in the building.

It's nice to see they want to hire two developers. You know you won't be a team of one, anyway! If you're interested, please follow the instructions on the user group web site, which is to send an email to a specific email address with specific information in the subject line. Emailing me or commenting on this post won't help, sorry.

Kate


Thursday, 28 October 2010 11:06:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 26 October 2010

If you search for my name in the Tech Ed Europe session list, you'll see four sessions. But I've only blogged about three: Modern C++, Windows 7 Development with Code Pack, and Advanced Windows 7 Development. Now it's time to talk about the fourth, the Women in Technology Panel. I've been asked to run it this year, which is a big honour for me and one I'm pleased to take on. I have found four great panelists who are not all the same age, don't all live in the same place, and don't all do the same kinds of work. I hope that makes the conversation useful to a wide variety of attendees.

Here's the abstract:

If you're a woman in technology, or if you care about the topic (fathers of daughters, this is your cue) then come to the Women in Technology gathering at end-of-day Tuesday. Our panelists Claudia Woods, Freena Eijffinger, Kate Gregory, Paula Januszkiewicz, and Rhonda Layfield span a variety of ages, geographies, and technical interests, and we want to hear from you. What are the issues in your working life? How can companies attract and retain a diversity of technical staff, including women of all ages? Is work/life balance a myth? How can you find your strengths and your friends in this field? Bring your business cards and get ready to meet some of the other women who have come to Tech Ed, as attendees, speakers, or staff. Let's share experiences and advice, support each other, and learn from each other.

Does that sound good? It does to me. And here's a special invitation. It starts at 6, as you can see online. But the panelists will all be there at 5:30 along with some refreshments. So please, come a little early and mingle, then we'll do the full-on panel thing at 6, but we'll have started to get to know each other already by then. See you there!

Kate

ps: I really do mean it when I say men welcome.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 16:00:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 24 October 2010
Hilo, the reference application project from the C++ team that doesn't use MFC or the .NET Framework, is back with another sample. You've seen nice graphics in the way photos are treated, a ribbon UI, and now you can see social media integration with Flickr uploads, touch support, and Windows 7 jumplist support. And remember, all the code is available for you to explore and learn from.



Take a look and see what you think. If you want to know how to build a modern UI and a modern set of functionalities (like web services) then this is the reference application for you.

Kate
Sunday, 24 October 2010 14:23:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 22 October 2010
The wheels of the standards committee, I have said more than once, do grind slowly, but exceedingly fine. Apologies to probably Longfellow, though I might be mistaken. Anyway, progress continues on the next version of the standard and there are some details still to settle. Anthony Williams has written a nice summary of the October Mailing (in preparation for a November Meeting) along with some helpful links. He points out that generating move constructors (as compilers do today for copy constructors), as required by the Final Committee Draft (FCD) could break some existing code, so discussions are planned on restricting (or dropping) this implicit generation. I  like knowing that people are putting this level of thought into language changes instead of just issuing a Breaking Changes list and expecting me to go edit my code accordingly.

He also highlights situations where people are deliberately throwing exceptions from a destructor (gasp! I know!) and their working code will break unless they change it say they intend to throw exceptions from their destructor. You would think that this was a tiny population of people, and that marking their code in this way is no big deal, but C++ philosophy is that working code with defined behaviour should continue to be working code with defined behaviour in the latest version of the language. As you can see, that can really be a challenge sometimes.

If you're a C++ person, I challenge you to read the papers Anthony links to. If you can't understand a word of them, you're missing a lot of what C++ is these days. While talk of "implicit invariants", rvalues, and a "throwing move" may take some effort to decipher, I think it's worthwhile. C++ is a language in which performance and correctness are both paramount. That's why the developers are expected to manage lifetimes themselves, explicitly state whether they want shallow or deep copies, and so on. Template libraries simplify much of this (shared_ptr and unique_ptr are the death knell for the characters d-e-l-e-t-e in my code) but understanding those lifetime issues, understanding rvalues and lvalues, understanding when temporaries are created and deleted are all fundamental to being a C++ developer. Understanding those things lets you write better C++ code than you otherwise would. I know there are other languages in which your understanding doesn't matter because it is always done the same way. I also know that the control offered by C++ enables performance gains in specific situations where the developer knows better. These things can both be true at once, and can make other languages a better fit for certain developers or for certain business problems. They are also what makes C++ a better fit for some developers and some business problems. But if you don't have those understandings, if you don't want to control your application at that level, then why are you using C++? Use something simpler that can't be controlled the way C++ can.

For those who are using C++ "on purpose", who are "unrepentant" as I say in other of my talks, knowing the language at this level is key to being good at it. Would you say that "Implicit Move Must Go" or not?

Kate


Friday, 22 October 2010 13:52:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I've been pretty active lately on StackOverflow, a question-and-answer site where people ask "what does this error message mean and I how can I make it go away?" for a variety of languages, platforms, and business purposes. There are a number of brilliant features on StackOverflow including voting on both questions and answers, and closing questions that are off topic for the site. This means less junk to wade through and a bit more confidence that any particular answer is actually going to be helpful.

One of the reasons questions get closed on StackOverflow is because they don't have an answer. There's a category of nasty questions of the form "Have you stopped [bad thing] yet?" that have no answer. If you never [bad thing]'ed in your life, then you obviously haven't stopped. Yet answering "no" implies you continue to [bad thing]. Answering "yes" implies you [bad thing]'ed for some time, but have no stopped. Either way, it's bad. So I knew the question "Should LINQ be avoided because it's slow?" was going to be closed. And sure enough, it was. But not before some really excellent answers and comments accrued to it. Like these:

  • I would not avoid code because it only executes 250 million cycles a second instead of around 750 million, unless that kind of throughput is an actual business case. Also, chances are that the data comes from something that is a lot slower than this code anyway (a database, disk, ...). Go for what seems most convenient and optimize where it matters.
  • Slow is irrelevant to your customers, your management and your stakeholders. Not fast enough is extremely relevant. Never measure how fast something is; that tells you nothing that you can use to base a business decision on. Measure how close to being acceptable to the customer it is. If it is acceptable then stop spending money on making it faster; it's already good enough.

  • So what you're saying is that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Which is fine, if you like making business decisions on the basis of old sayings. I think it is generally a better idea to make business decisions based on informed opinions derived from empirical measurements.
Those last two are by Eric Lippert. Yes, that Eric Lippert. He's answered almost a thousand StackOverflow questions, and he's by no means the only product team member who's answering questions there. In addition, other answers fix a different perf bug in the asker's code (an unnecessary and expensive cast) and provide a wide range of opinions about performance decisions, architecture, choosing technologies and so on.

I love StackOverflow for fixing immediate blocking problems, but don't neglect the possibility of gaining philosophical wisdom from reading an offtopic question or two.

Kate
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 12:55:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 18 October 2010

Jeff Blankenburg has produced a great quantity of blog posts about developing for Windows Phone 7. Now he's supplementing that with an all-in-one resource page that links out to a ton of great material in addition to his own. Oh I know, you might not need to see the TV ads to learn how to develop for the thing, but I appreciate the link anyway. If you're doing phone work, or thinking about it, this list is for you.

Kate

Monday, 18 October 2010 15:58:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 16 October 2010
Jennifer Marsman has built a very nice list of Windows 7 developer resources. Of course, she had me at Code Pack (the very first item she lists as a matter of fact), but she carries on, drilling into both native and managed scenarios, covering libraries, SDKs, training materials, UX guidelines, samples, blogs - even Twitter handles!

There is a LOT of material out there and it's a little bit fragmented. This is a great post to help you find your way around. Remember, if you have a Windows app, it should be a Windows 7 app!

Kate

Saturday, 16 October 2010 13:07:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 14 October 2010
According to Wired, C++ was born October 14th, 1985, with the publication of the first official reference guide by Bjarne Stroustrup. That's 25 years ago! I've still been "working in C++ since before Microsoft had a C++ compiler", as I like to say at the start of any C++ sessions I deliver. While that is a long time, it's not the full 25 years the language has existed - not quite, anyway.

Wired marks the anniversary with an interview with Bjarne. If you're curious about what kind of computer he uses day to day (a small Windows laptop) or what music he likes to listen to, now you can find out. Or this advice for young programmers:

Know your fundamentals (algorithms, data structures, machine architecture, systems) and know several programming languages to the point where you can use them idiomatically.

I'd call that "simple but not easy", as much advice is. C++, of course, is neither simple nor easy, but it is incredibly rewarding to those who take the time to learn it and use it well, and I hope it will continue to do so for at least another 25 years.

Kate

Thursday, 14 October 2010 11:10:13 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 12 October 2010

I'm teaching OO design and UML again this term, and one of the things I emphasize to the class is the dangers of coupling. (Get your mind out of the gutter, I mean classes with dependencies on each other.) It's not about calling methods of each other necessarily; it's more about if-I-change-this-one, I'll-have-to-change-this-one-too. Changes that ripple through a system are expensive and dangerous.

When I am helping clients with interop, they are often surprised to learn how entire applications and libraries can depend on each other without ever calling each other's code. For example, App A writes a record to a database table. Service B checks the table regularly for new records (or records with a 0 in the Handled column, or whatever) and calls a web service (or whatever.) Those applications are now coupled - if a change in one necessitates a change in the format of that table (or its name, etc) then the other must be changed too. Thinking ahead and doing all you can to reduce this kind of coupling is part of the challenge of doing good application integration, even if there are no interop calls in the solution.

And then there's performance. So often left until last, it provides another consideration that you should ideally have in mind all the way along. And as Rico Mariani points out, it also couples applications and libraries you may have thought were independent:

Two subsystems that both (loosely) use 2/3 of the L2 cache are going to use 4/3 of a cache... that’s not good. There may be no lines between them in the architecture diagram but they are going to destroy each others ability to work.

Sound advice as always. Please read the post, and keep one more "don't forget" floating around as you design and architect your systems and solutions.

Kate

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 10:58:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 10 October 2010
This is really fitting, isn't it? You have a product code named Dev10 and released as Visual Studio 2010 (with the tens not related to each other - see my history of Visual Studio and Visual C++ version numbers and release names). And today is 10/10/10 no matter what date format you prefer. So today is a great day to take a quick survey about Visual Studio 2010. Seven questions. I recommend you read them all before you start answering because they are asking about different aspects of the product and you wouldn't want to answer a question about speed with your thoughts about ui features. But it will take almost no time so go and do it.

Kate

Sunday, 10 October 2010 10:34:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 08 October 2010
I've gained a lot of Twitter followers in the last few days, and I'm pretty sure I know why. John Bristowe included me on a list of Canadian Developers that includes a full list of luminaries. I counted 112, and he's included blog links as well as Twitter handles. Most, but not all, are .NET developers. John follows all of them (us), which shows remarkable dedication. Why not take a look and see if there's someone there you'd like to follow too?

Kate

Friday, 08 October 2010 17:43:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 06 October 2010

The Tech Ed Europe Session Catalog has been updated with my third talk. In the order they're happening, I have:

WCL322 - The Windows API Code Pack: Add Windows 7 Features to Your Application

DEV311 - Modern Programming with C++0x in Microsoft Visual C++ 2010

WCL329 - Advanced Programming Patterns for Windows 7

The first two I blogged earlier, but the third is new. Here's the abstract:

Windows 7 development in managed code can be very simple, especially for those using the Windows API Code Pack. But your integration with Windows 7 doesn't have to be limited to simple interactions with the new API. This session goes beyond the simple into aspects of Windows 7 development that have, in the past, been left for you to explore on your own. See how to create a jump list with a task that delivers a command to your application, as Messenger and Outlook do. Explore a simple and powerful recipe for connecting to Restart and Recovery, with minimal effort. Discover how Trigger Started Services can reduce your power footprint, while giving your users better responsiveness. Explore all that Libraries has to offer beyond "File Open", and learn why using a library is a better approach than having a user setting for "save directory."

It's going to be a great week!

Kate

PS: About the fourth item you might see under my name ... stay tuned! :-)

Wednesday, 06 October 2010 17:38:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 04 October 2010

I started paying attention to "app compat" around the time Vista was in beta. It stands for Application Compatibility and refers to all the various techniques for ensuring that an application continues to work when it's moved to a new environment, such as from XP to Vista or to Windows 7. Some of these techniques involve changing the source code of the application and rebuilding it, but others don't. And paradoxically, in order to be good at those no-writing-code techniques it helps if you're really a good developer. It really helps if you have strong skills in areas that the .NET Framework generally hides away or abstracts from you.

There are folks whose job it is to solve app compat problems. It's the kind of job that really appeals to me, where you aren't exactly sure how things are going to go each day when you get up, and you think on your feet and react to what you find. And now there's an opening to be such a person if that interests you. Aaron Margosis writes:

The job is basically to figure out why applications that are important to the customer and that work on earlier versions of Windows (typically running as admin) no longer work on Windows 7, and then to get the apps to work correctly without reducing security posture and (typically) without seeing or touching source code. Don’t worry – we will teach you the tricks.If you enjoy problem solving on the Windows platform, you will love this job.

Interested? Have some experience writing Windows apps in native C++ or C? Know a little about how Windows works? Think that being handed unknown problems and asked to fix them is more fun than a regular job? Then read the blog post and apply!

Kate

Monday, 04 October 2010 17:29:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 02 October 2010
As a Canadian RD, MVP, speaker, and general involved-in-the-developer-community-person, I interact a lot with the nice folks at Microsoft Canada. It's not unusual for Canadians to be transferred to Redmond to work at "the mother ship" and I tend to keep an eye on them in their new roles and watch what they're up to. That's even more likely when they go to an area that interests me, as Mark Relph did in the summer of 2009.

He appeared recently on Dot Net Rocks to talk about developing for Windows and I really enjoyed listening to the episode. I'm not the only one keeping an eye out, obviously, since John Bristowe blogged a nice summary of the episode with helpful links. Be sure to read that, then listen to the episode, then come on back for the links.

Kate

Saturday, 02 October 2010 17:20:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 30 September 2010
By now I'm quite addicted to jumplists. When I want to open a PowerPoint deck or a Word document, and I have another one of those open, I just right-click that instance, spot my document among the recent documents, and click it to open what I want. It frees me from remembering exactly where documents are, or opening folders just to open documents they contain, and I like it a lot. I also like the tasks lists that more and more applications are adding, like these:

But older apps have so much less to offer:

What if you could add tasks to the jumplist of any application, without needing access to the source code? That's what Jumplist Extender does. There's a nice review on How To Geek that demonstrates adding tasks to the calculator that comes with Windows.

Neat, isn't it? Get your own copy and have some fun.

Kate

Thursday, 30 September 2010 16:13:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 28 September 2010

I love this image:

I know this is true because in my role as friends-and-family help desk, I get people to read the error messages and then I repeat whatever they just told me and then they are like "oh, I get it! Thanks! I'm glad I know someone who understands these darn computers!" This works over the phone when I can't even see the message.

Now why am I mentioning this, besides the fact I love this dialog? Because it comes from a lovely blog entry by Chris Jackson on why app compat problems can't be fixed by talking to the user about them. You slave over a lovely dialog with a button which might as well say CLICK HERE TO GET A VERSION THAT DOESN'T HAVE THIS PROBLEM or a checkbox that might as well say CHECK THIS IF YOU DON'T THINK ITS A PROBLEM AND ARE SICK OF BEING REMINDED but instead the user clicks JUST THIS ONCE I WANT TO USE THE OLD ONE BUT BE SURE TO TELL ME ALL THIS AGAIN NEXT TIME. 

Is there a solution? I don't know. But you need to know people are like this.

Kate

Tuesday, 28 September 2010 14:36:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Sunday, 26 September 2010
The high levels of the Pluralsight On-Demand! subscriptions let you download the courses to your mobile device - perfect for learning while you're on a commuter train or bus, or other places away from your laptop. Check this video of a prototype of the experience on a Windows 7 phone. Looks great!

Kate

Sunday, 26 September 2010 16:32:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 24 September 2010
I've mentioned the Pluralsight library many a time. I have three courses in it: Windows 7 development, Extending Visual Studio 2010 without writing code, and Extending Visual Studio 2010 with code. There are a variety of subscription plans available, each with their own benefits. But of all the possible prices you could pay, I'm betting that "free" is the one you would be happiest paying. Am I right?

Well, if you have an MSDN subscription, you can have a month of the Pluralsight library for free. That should give you a great idea of what the courses are like and what you can learn from them. Try it out!

KAte

Friday, 24 September 2010 16:29:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 22 September 2010
I came across this blog post of a farewell email from Philip Su, written as he was leaving Microsoft after twelve years. You might expect that someone leaving a company would have some negative things to say about it, but not Philip. He sounds like a very nice person and one who's done pretty well by being nice. I thoroughly approve. It is full of specific and actionable advice as well as philosophy. I liked "Smart people understand why smart people disagree." and his thoughts on how people rank themselves, and what influences their ranking of others.

Well worth a read.

Kate

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 16:16:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 20 September 2010
This release actually slipped out at the end of August with little fanfare. But you really should check in to it. First, if you're already a Code Pack user, you'll want the update for the bugfixes and related tweaks. If you're one of the people who looks at the source code to this useful library, for example for an interop reference, you're going to find it much improved. One really obvious thing is that all the samples are now happy to convert to VS 2010 which had been an issue for me with 1.0.1.

As well there are three new capabilities: Shell Object Watcher, Preview Handlers, and Thumbnail Handlers. Shell extensions used to be offlimits from managed code because they run in process with either the shell or whatever process launched them (which could be anybody's app that uses the Common File Dialogs) and you were forbidden (but not prevented) from using managed code in that situation. The issue was that if the launching process was already managed code and it had a different CLR loaded, then weird things would happen when your managed code wanted your own CLR. But now that restriction is lifted, so you can write preview handlers (which are out of process, so you were allowed to write them before) and thumbnail handlers (which are in process and therefore were native code only before) for your own file types. The Code Pack makes that pretty simple, all things considered.

Download it, install it, and if you have issues someone is reading and responding on the discussions tab, so please join the conversation.

Kate

Monday, 20 September 2010 13:59:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 18 September 2010
A first glance, a book about social media might seem to be "dancing about architecture." But of course the target audience for the book is people who are not yet fully fluent in social media and it makes perfect sense to talk to such people using a medium in which they are fully fluent. That means book form makes sense.

I was lucky enough to get a preview copy of Working the Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business from Eileen Brown. She and I have been working together and bumping into each other for years, which is why I agreed to read it. But I'm recommending it simply because it's good. It's full of no-nonsense advice and useful anecdotes. Just a few pages in, for example, she says:

If you want to progress in business, don’t wait to be discovered.  Make sure you have a great online profile and a positive brand.  

I'm not saying that no-one has thought of that before. I am saying that clearly stated and useful advice is a good thing, and this book is full of such advice. She clearly tackles this "this is just a fad" crowd, explains about "influencers" (like me) and lays out specific actions steps you can follow to have a good social media experience. This includes how to measure what is happening, which most companies desparately need. She even covers specific sites and tools, guidelines for blogging and Twitter, and how to protect yourself from reputation damage or legal consequences.

It's a good book. If you don't have a social media strategy yet, then reading this one will take you a long way forward. I recommend it to any business wondering about "the twitter". You can pre-order on Amazon now and I suggest you do, though you may want to adjust this link to point to the Amazon nearest you.

Kate

Saturday, 18 September 2010 13:36:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 14 September 2010

I love speaking at DevTeach. It's a must-do conference for a lot of A-list speakers and it's always fun and informative. I've blogged about it a lot already. Now Jean Rene has released the session videos online. So if you didn't get out to see us, you can still watch - how cool is that?

Scroll down the page till you see this:

Click on the title to watch the video, and on the Material link to get the powerpoints. (I recommend you watch these in the reverse order than they are shown - first Lighting Up, then Code Pack. Enjoy!

Kate

Tuesday, 14 September 2010 07:25:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 10 September 2010

Intel and Microsoft are offering free training:

Learn directly from Intel and Microsoft when you attend this free one-day course on parallelism and threading. This is a great opportunity learn about threading your applications for multi-core platforms. This course is targeted for Windows* C++ developers using Microsoft Visual Studio*.

The performance benefits of application parallelism on modern computing platforms will come from threading software. Learn how to develop software that utilizes many cores! Familiarity with threads is helpful, but not required (target is beginning- to intermediate-experience with threads, experts would not benefit as much from this course). 

They are going to cover concepts of parallelism plus instructor-led demos of Intel Parallel Advisor, Microsoft PPL, and Visual Studio 2010.

Sound good? The dates are coming up soon:

  • 20-Sept-2010 Montreal
  • 22-Sept-2010 Chicago
  • 28-Sept-2010 San Francisco
  • 29-Sept-2010 Seattle / Bellevue
Register as soon as you can!

Kate
Friday, 10 September 2010 09:29:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 04 September 2010

Back in July, I mentioned that my Extending Visual Studio course for Pluralsight was live. As I completed the course, it just kept growing and growing, so in the end it became two courses.

Customizing and Extending Visual Studio 2010 Without Code covers macros, snippets, templates, and so on - ways that you type stuff into a file, and thus make Visual Studio behave differently, but don't actually write C# or VB or C++ to make that happen. The modules are:

  • Overview of Visual Studio 2010 Extensibility  
  • Why write extensions for Visual Studio? 
  • Visual Studio Macros 
  • Visual Studio Snippets
  • Getting and installing extensions for Visual Studio  
  • The Visual Studio 2010 SDK
  • Visual Studio Start Page
  • The VSIX Format 
  • Templates
  • Deploying Templates

Customizing and Extending Visual Studio 2010 by Writing Code covers the rest of the story - cases where you actually write and compile code (in this course, the demos are all in C#) and thus make Visual Studio behave differently. The modules are:

  • MEF, The Managed Extensibility Framework  
  • Writing Editor Extensions
  • Testing and deploying editor extensions 
  • Visual Studio Add-Ins  
  • Visual Studio Packages
  • Extending Modeling and Diagramming tools
Together, these courses total 9 hours. Please let me know if they help you!

Kate


Saturday, 04 September 2010 08:23:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Let's say you read the entry about data structure visualizers and in addition to all the STL humour you got excited about being able to control the way the debugger shows your objects as you work at understanding your application at runtime. And then you were sad because you don't do native C++ work and you don't know how you could get the same behaviour in a managed application. Well, have I got a keyword for you - DebuggerDisplay. Don't like that MSDN page about it? Here's another. Quick and easy, at least for simple types with only a few member variables. Give it a whirl. There's a nice example with screen shots at Dev102.

Kate

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 19:19:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 29 August 2010
I somehow missed this John Robbins blog post from back in May. He calls out an excellent presentation on writing data structure visualizers presented at BoostCon 2010. Here's the title slide:



Oh yes, this is a fun talk. I wish I had a recording, but the slides alone are entertaining and useful. I am already planning to put some of this code into practice, and I must find time to check the other talks, too. The links are in John's blog post.

Kate
Sunday, 29 August 2010 17:43:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 27 August 2010
As a new school year starts to roll around I naturally pay a little more attention to articles about undergraduate education. I'm once again teaching a one-term course on Object Oriented Design and UML at Trent University in Peterborough. This is of course just one piece of the curriculum. Trent is an interdisciplinary place and its graduates are expected to understand the concepts that underpin what they're learning. In fact this is what I see as the main difference between those with a university education and those without (though there are exceptions on both sides.) It's one thing to learn, perhaps by rote, the steps required to make a certain kind of application, and it's another to understand what you are doing and why. The latter kind of person generally finds it easier and easier to learn new things, connecting them to things already known, while the former finds it harder and harder as a mass of seemingly-unconnected facts moil around in an overly-crammed head that feels ready to explode.

I approve of valuing concepts over specific how-to's. It's hard work keeping up with the very latest technology when all you're doing is using it. It's even harder when you're also working on concepts and trying to teach. I don't expect a university to teach students how to use a specific user interface framework (MFC, Winforms, WPF, whatever) -- I expect it to teach them user interface concepts, illustrated with some framework the prof happens to know that's generally available. The students can then learn a variety of UI frameworks over their careers. But that doesn't mean I approve of all the ways in which programming as part of undergraduate education varies from programming in real life. Two specific variations I have a problem with are team size and problem size.

In real life, it's rare to work all alone, all the more so when you've only just graduated. Most university computer science grads will join a team of 2-10 developers reporting to a lead of some sort, with various people from QA, user reps, the business people and so on having various positions of semi-authority, semi-teammate in relation to them. Yet undergrads are generally expected to work alone on all projects and never discuss them with anyone until handing them in.

In real life, problems are not well specified, certainly not as tightly as undergrad assignments are. Most importantly, in real life user input is bizarrely ill formed. Users type letters where numbers belong, leave mandatory fields blank, even deliberately construct complicated bad input as part of hacking attempts. Yet most undergrad assignments do little or no input validation or error handling unless those are the point of the assignment. And of course, most undergrad assignments can be completed by an inexperienced programmer working alone a few hours a week (10 at most) in a week or two while most real problems take weeks and months of work by one or more dedicated resources to produce even a preliminary solution.

Trent (and I presume most other universities) addresses these issues with a fourth year course in which a team of students works on a real problem for an outside entity - usually a local firm or charity. They must gather requirements, code, test and implement a solution, and present to their peers and professors a summary of the project. Some students benefit immensely from this, though most take on far too big a challenge and struggle to complete it.

My contribution is to point out to my students where things are being simplified for them, where things would be vastly different in real life. Undergraduate courses simply cannot be the same as on the job training, and I don't want them to be. I want my students to be learning concepts and underpinnings as much as language syntax and how to work particular tools. But I want them to understand that when they start to put all this to use, things will feel very different than they did during class time. An assignment from your boss and an assignment from me are very different. (I've blogged before that in real life, you don't get 7/10, you have to keep doing it until it is right.)

I don't have all the answers. Lots of people muse about this stuff. Here's the inventor of C++ on the same issues. Easy to complain, hard to do anything about it, but we can all do our bit.

Kate

Friday, 27 August 2010 16:45:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 25 August 2010

I mentioned Hilo when it was first released. This is a cool project doing Windows 7 development in native C++ with no frameworks - not MFC, for example - so you can really see just how it is done. It's not just code, it's also a walkthrough of their design thoughts, and explanation of that code.

The next application, Hilo Annotator, is ready. It features a ribbon, it uses the Windows Imaging Component, Direct2D, and so on. While you probably don't need an image annotator, you may find the code useful in your own applications. And remember, this is all native C++ code.

Your best place to start is the Visual C++ Team Blog entry about it. It's rich in links and has a nice screenshot too.

Kate

Wednesday, 25 August 2010 15:38:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 23 August 2010

Have you ever heard of the All-in-One Framework? Well I hadn't. They've been around for about 18 months. Back in February, on their first anniversary, they described themselves like this:

...this initiative [has been] developed by the CodeFx Project Group to an "all-in-one code framework" that includes more than 300 code samples, covers almost all Microsoft development technologies, ranks 18th among 13000 open source projects on CodePlex, received numerous kudos from customers, proved its values in real support incidents, and created a lot of win-win opportunities within the corporation.

It looks like the participants are all Microsoft employees and they're collecting pieces of code for any language and platform that can be used to solve real world problems. On the CodePlex site, they elaborate:

Microsoft All-In-One Code Framework delineates the framework and skeleton of Microsoft development techniques through typical sample codes in three popular programming languages (Visual C#, VB.NET, Visual C++). Each sample is elaborately selected, composed, and documented to demonstrate one frequently-asked, tested or used coding scenario based on our support experience in MSDN newsgroups and forums. If you are a software developer, you can fill the skeleton with blood, muscle and soul. If you are a software tester or a support engineer like us, you may extend the sample codes a little to fit your specific test scenario or refer your customer to this project if the customer's question coincides with what we collected.

For example, they've written a summary of the ways to call native C++ code from managed code. You can find the pieces elsewhere, but having them all together makes it easier for you to compare and contrast. They often blog additions as they are completed.

Now as you can imagine, a big team creating hundreds of samples needs some sort of vision and structure to keep things consistent. That's where the style guide comes in. And now you can download it from CodePlex. It's an 87 page Word document that covers everything you might wonder about, for both native and managed code, including tabs-vs-spaces (no tabs, please), how much to comment (as I blogged recently and not so recently), Hungarian Notation (use it in native code if you must, but it's a relic; do not use it in managed code), smart pointers (yes, but don't bring in all of ATL for them - I look forward to this section being updated for C++0x), the right way to implement IDisposable, and an especially nice section on Interop at the end.

I don't care what language you work in - this is a document you should at least skim. It could settle some arguments at the office, improve your code, and spare you from some horrible bugs. Download it, won't you?

Kate

Monday, 23 August 2010 15:26:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 19 August 2010

Telerik is having an Eastern Canada User Group Tour this fall. Evan Hutnick will visit 6 user groups to speak on Silverlight topics. Here are the details for the East of Toronto event:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Silverlight Development Best Practices

Speaker: Evan Hutnick

Location: Whitby Public Library - Room 1B
405 Dundas Street West, Whitby, ON, L1N 6A1

In this session, we will explore best practices of development with Silverlight. This will include a look at the current toolset (VS2010/Blend) as well as the different options for architecture and data access (to MVVM or not to MVVM, WCF RIA Services or not, etc.), as well as how you can structure your application for intelligent reuse of styles and resources, making it easier to design a large-scale application with a unified look and feel.

Agenda

Time Title
6:30 - 7:00 Socialize and refreshments
7:00 - 9:00 Presentation

See you there!

Kate

Thursday, 19 August 2010 11:06:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 17 August 2010
This is a story you might find hard to believe. A guy's project is cancelled and he's laid off, but he just shows up to his building (without being paid) and keeps working on it. He gets other people to help him and the product actually ships! One of my favourite quotes:

"The secret to programming is not intelligence, though of course that helps. It is not hard work or experience, though they help, too. The secret to programming is having smart friends."

Could this happen today? Almost certainly not. It probably couldn't even happen in another company. Remember the start of all this wasn't the support from former coworkers - that only happened once the product was almost done and the glamour of working unpaid on a feature caught on. The start of this was that a laid-off guy's badge still worked, and then when it finally stopped working he was able to tailgate through the doors every morning. Which leads to my second favourite quote:

"We wanted to release a Windows version as part of Windows 98, but sadly, Microsoft has effective building security."

A fun read and a reminder of how some people felt (and still feel) about creating software.

Kate

Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:46:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Sunday, 15 August 2010
I'm collecting link on Windows Phone 7 topics and now is as good a time as any to blog some of them:
Plenty of material no matter how you prefer to learn. Why not get started?

Kate

Sunday, 15 August 2010 10:01:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 13 August 2010
I'm curious about Windows Phone 7, and I've been playing around a bit with the development tools. So when I read that Joey deVilla was holding another of his semi-regular Coffee and Code sessions in downtown Toronto, and bringing his phone, I made the last minute decision to pop down there and join them. I'm really glad I did.

A steady stream of people stopped by, mostly just to look at the phone, but a few to deploy their code onto it and see it in live action. There were technical conversations, and some less technical, and a general good time. Joey's blogged about it (with pictures) and is looking for folks who think these would be fun where they live. Let him know if you would participate.

Kate

Friday, 13 August 2010 09:45:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 11 August 2010

On August 10th, Udi Dahan came from Haifa, Israel, to Whitby, Ontario, to speak at the East of Toronto .NET Users Group meeting. (Well, OK, he was in Toronto to teach a course.) He was talking about high availability and some architectures that let you keep a system up, for example, even while you're upgrading it. I took a few pictures:

Udi did a great job demonstrating that design up front and thinking about architecture doesn't mean you're not agile. Taking the time to architect something so that it's highly available gives you the freedom to be agile.

Watch for the fall schedule of the East of Toronto group in the next few weeks. And if you're visiting the area and would like to speak, let me know!

Kate

Wednesday, 11 August 2010 11:58:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 09 August 2010

Visual Studio 2010 has pretty cool Windows 7 integration. It gets jumplists right, for example:

But it could do more, and this little add-in adds some fun extras.

Here's a taskbar progress bar overlay during a build:

(If your build results in errors or warnings, you'll also get a taskbar icon overlay when it's done letting  you know about them.)

And here we have handy thumbnail buttons - for build, debug, and start without debugging:

Give it a whirl! You can download it from the gallery, or use Tools, Extension Manager, Online Gallery right in Visual Studio and search for Taskbar.

Kate

Monday, 09 August 2010 09:43:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 03 August 2010
Recently I had a nice chat with David Starr on the Pluralcast about Visual Studio Extensions. This topic is just so much fun. Visual Studio is where most of us live all day, and making it work perfectly for us is incredibly appealing. The introduction of the VSIX format with Visual Studio 2010 takes so much of the deployment pain away and is really changing the landscape of who is willing to write and share handy little things that make Visual Studio a tiny bit different - in a good way.

If you want to find some great extensions, do check out the Visual Studio Gallery or click Tools, Extension Manager and then click Online Gallery. There you can search for Triple Click, Ctrl-Click Go To Definition and many more. You can also look around to see if anyone's implemented your fun idea.

If you'd like to learn how to get in on the fun, please do check my course - I am having such fun writing it and as always learning a few things I never knew as I go. Also check the links David has on the Pluralcast page - they will get you started.

Kate

Tuesday, 03 August 2010 12:06:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 01 August 2010
I've done a lot of training in my day. I really enjoy it - you get immediate satisfaction, as a trainer, from seeing people leave changed by having spent a week with you. It's one of the easiest ways to have a major impact on someone's career and even their life. These days, there's a lot less of it going on. Partly it's because technology has enabled other ways of learning. Partly it's because we're a lot more "fast-paced" - someone who realizes they are missing knowledge will search for it online, ask on StackOverflow, watch a recorded talk or screencast and then carry on, rather than waiting several weeks to be able to go on course. There is still a lot to be said, however, for spending a day or three days or a week with a really smart person who has committed to making you better at something you don't know enough about.

So why would someone who was lucky enough to be "sent on course" by their employer, or who has invested their own time and money on taking a course, waste that opportunity with self defeating behaviours? I don't know, but I know for a fact that it happens. I've had people in my courses who didn't care, who didn't want to learn, who were hostile to the language or tools or methodology I was there to tell them about. Sadder still were the people who did care, wanted to learn, wanted to learn this topic, but still chose to act in a way that prevented it. Back in the day when you couldn't check your email in class (no wireless, and email on phones was rare) it was the folks who burst out into the hall at every coffee break and every lab period to go check their email and voicemail. Often they would say "I read the exercise and I only need 10 minutes for that, so I'll check my messages then come back and do it." My reply was always "if you really only need 10 minutes, do the exercise and then go check your messages." But this group of people can't make the training their top priority even for this one day, this one week. And often, they don't learn much as a result. In person training is probably a bad fit for them, and they might even give it a bad name. Then there's the showoff, the arguer, the "sorry I was zoned out can you say that all over again", and so on.

Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp are still teaching more than I ever did. And now Paul's written up a lovely list of ten things NOT to do when you're on a course. None of it is SQL-specific and it's all good advice. Enjoy.

Kate

Sunday, 01 August 2010 11:58:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 30 July 2010

Oleksandr Krakovetskiy, a Regional Director in Ukraine, has written a cool Bing Maps application that shows you where Regional Directors are located and provides a bit of their bio. It's an interesting supplement to our blog aggregation and event calendar at The Region.

Hover over a star to see someone's name (as in the screenshot) - click it to read their bio and get links to their Twitter, blog, etc. You can zoom out to the whole planet or in to a region that interests you. Nice work, Oleksandr!

Kate

Friday, 30 July 2010 12:07:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Here are some interesting lists. Each of them is fleshed out in a blog post you really should read. I'll give you the lists so you know you want to read them.

First, Ted Neward on 10 Things To Improve Your Development Career:

10: Build a PC.
9: Pick a destination
8: Be a bell curve
7: Learn one new thing every year
6: Practice, practice, practice
5: Turn off the TV
4: Have a life
3: Practice on a cadaver
2: Administer the system
1: Cultivate a peer group

Some of those are metaphors: I'll let Ted explain them.

Then, we have Jim Carroll and How to Get Faster When the World is Faster:

  • build up experiential capital
  • master collaboration and share
  • focus on tactical to strategic transitions
  • fuse generational insight
  • take on anticipatory projects
  • be a farmer
  • displace indecision
  • implement quicker
  • think bold

The advice is aimed at entire companies, but I think it can resonate well with an individual. Again well worth the read.

And then there's John MacIntyre and 11 Personal Programming Assumptions That Were Incorrect.

  1. The customer and user are the same person.
  2. You isolate and kill all bugs without exception.
  3. Writing beautiful software as an act of craftsmanship.
  4. Working 24/7 would be rewarded.
  5. Vendors can be believed.
  6. You are not actually working from the monitor.
  7. That I wasn’t a very good programmer.
  8. You need to / should grok a language or tool before you even start.
  9. You don’t say you know something unless you’ve grok’d it.
  10. Other programmers saw beauty in their work.
  11. The best programmer is recognized.

There's some cynicism in there, but others might call it realism. I suspect most of this you have to learn from experience, but perhaps you recognize a few?

Kate

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 11:48:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 26 July 2010

The latest refresh of the Windows Phone 7 Tools is now available! Combined with Visual Studio 2010 (any edition, you don't need Express any more, though if that's what you have it will work) you can create apps in no time flat and run them on the emulator. I couldn't resist:

If you've ever done a WPF or Silverlight app, you can do Hello World in a matter of minutes. I put the picture in there just so I could say I had edited the XAML beyond putting my own name in an attribute. If you'd like to do some serious work, there are all kinds of training resource links on Yochay's blog. Don Burnett has some interesting thoughts on why Blend gives you power and productivity for Windows Phone 7 development and how there's just nothing like it for iPhone development.

I have some fun ideas I want to try that will take a little more than 5 minutes, so I'll report back on that front soon. I'm going to put my phone posts in my Client Development category, since after all, client development includes devices like phones just as much as it includes pure Windows apps.

Kate

Monday, 26 July 2010 15:16:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Productivity Power Tools is a super cool pack of extensions that will make Visual Studio 2010 tremendous fun, and make you more productive. Now the team has announced a new version. This lets you turn individual tools on and off, so if you love Highlight Current Line and Go To Definition, but hate Align Assignments, you're in luck:

There's also new tools in the pack. Solution Navigator "merges functionality from Solution Explorer, Class View, Object Browser, Call Hierarchy, Navigate To, and Find Symbol References into a single view" according to Adrian Collier, and lets you pin tooltips of information near the place in the code where you use them, pops up previews of image files when you hover over them in the tool pane, and just generally reads your mind to make you a happier and more productive developer.

This package had me at "Go To Definition" but these additions make it even more of a must have. You can install right from within Visual Studio 2010, too. Choose Tools, Extension Manager. Click Online Gallery. In the search box type Productivity.

When you see this dialog, click Install:

You'll be prompted to restart Visual Studio:

Click Restart Now and wait a sec. And that's all it takes! You really will love it.

Kate

Saturday, 24 July 2010 12:15:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 22 July 2010
Would you like your machine to use up to 25% less power? Are you on XP now? You can see a big improvement by switching to Windows 7. There are some other things you can do too, like changing some drivers, but those are probably a bit difficult for most people. We have a number of machines kicking around the office that we've left on XP because they're really just file and print servers, people don't use them directly very often, so the obvious UI benefits of Windows 7 didn't seem relevant. But lowering the power bill is relevant, right? Or, if you're out and about with your laptop, having the battery last longer is relevant, right?

Here's the blog where I found some numbers ... it's a summary of a longer whitepaper and you should probably read that too.

Kate

Thursday, 22 July 2010 11:55:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 20 July 2010

I mentioned I've been recording videos. That's because I'm doing another Pluralsight course. This one is on Customizing and Extending Visual Studio. About half of it is live already:

  • Overview of Visual Studio 2010 Extensibility
  • Why write extensions for Visual Studio?
  • Visual Studio Macros
  • Visual Studio Snippets
  • Getting and installing extensions for Visual Studio
  • The Visual Studio 2010 SDK
  • Visual Studio Start Page
  • The VSIX Format

There's more to come, of course - I'm about half done. I'm really enjoying this material. You can get your work done a lot faster if you tweak Visual Studio to meet your needs. It doesn't have to cost you money and it doesn't have to cost you much time. Take a look!

Kate

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 10:41:26 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 18 July 2010
Pluralsight On-Demand! now has a second Windows 7 development course. I'm happy to see this - Eric and I co-ordinated while I was doing my course. In the first modules that are online now, he tackles topics that I did not - Restart and Recovery, Task Dialog, and Search. Feel free to use both courses to make yourself a better Windows developer!

Kate

Sunday, 18 July 2010 15:31:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 16 July 2010

I've had a chance to watch a number of the videos from the Windows Summit - an online event to help you with Windows development of all kinds. You can learn more about it and register at the main summit site, or check the lists of sessions for developers. The only trick is that once you've registered, you need to go to a different site to actually watch the sessions. Once you know that (and there is a link on the main site) you're all set.

I've been getting "Windows 7 for Developers" training since before the first public beta, so I had seen a lot of this before. But several sessions were noticeable improvements from the way that material had been covered in the past, and none of them were poorly done, so I recommend this as a way to learn the concepts that are important to anyone writing for Windows 7, and to learn the advantages that Windows 7 can offer to you as a developer and to your users.

I saw three different approaches to code in the sessions I watched:

  • Full on demos with Visual Studio involved
  • Code on the PowerPoint slides, and links to resources that include code demos
  • Mention the name of the API but don't show how to use it
I also saw a mix of native and managed code, with some sessions going all the way to the native side of the spectrum and some all the way to the managed side. Most of the sessions mentioned the Code Pack, of course, and call out a link to it in their resources.

Even if you know all about the taskbar, maybe you could learn about power management, or background services, using sensors, or writing location aware applications? It's really worth taking a look around.

Kate

Friday, 16 July 2010 13:46:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 12 July 2010

There are two services I use not just every day, but many many times a day. One is email and the other is Twitter. Facebook and StackOverflow also get their share of attention, but one thing that sets Twitter apart from Facebook and StackOverflow is the proliferation of clients you can use to access it. You can go to the web page, and do it all in a browser, or you can get any of the many clients available to give you a richer experience. The same is true for email - I can use Outlook or I can use OWA and do it all in a browser.

Recently I found myself facing a full week away from home and the office and with no way to get a VPN although I had great internet access. I could listen to CBC radio and watch Canadian TV but I could not bring my email in Outlook. The first day was ok, but not great. I found myself wanting to email people, and I had to open Outlook to poke around and get their email addresses, then paste them into the OWA new message. It was so different from the usual fast-as-thought process of typing the first letter or two of their names and pressing tab. I also had to delete my own spam, because I don't like server-based spam filters and have been really happy with my client-side spam settings in Outlook. The little preview windows weren't as informative as I wanted, my old appointments weren't showing up, there was no to-do bar, and deleting messages or waiting for the new window when I replied to messages just took too darn long. By day 3 I was about insane. Finally my favourite sysadmin (who I was smart enough to marry almost 30 years ago) got Outlook-over-http working for me and I could go back to normal.

I was utterly astonished at the effect on my mood that not having my client application had on me, and the effect of getting it back. It was very distinct and unmissable. The browser solution just wasn't good enough for me - and OWA is an amazing feat of engineering, with a way richer UI (delete key works, F keys work, etc) than most browser-based solutions. It got me thinking, once my cheerful mood had let me catch up on some outstanding work, about client apps in general. Why do I only use Twitter in a browser? I've tried a whole number of clients but I always end up back in the browser. I think it's because clients have to be well-designed to work well. If they hog resources, jump in your face too much with focus stealing or balloon tips, or insist on being sized a certain way then they don't get a chance to show you their good side. Twitter is pretty young and I don't think we've really had time to winnow the good client features the way we have with email. With that in mind, and believing a good client really will be a better experience, I've decided to try MetroTwit. I've heard really good things about it and I honestly believe that client apps make more sense for these sorts of information feeds. So far, I like it. I get toast for new tweets, a new tweet counter as a taskbar overlay icon, and such a delicate consumption of my CPU and disk activity that I can't tell if it's running or not.

You might also be interested to hear why the developers chose WPF, and what that led to for the team:

over just a couple of months, what we’ve achieved with MetroTwit was simply not possible without WPF considering the few precious midnight hours we put into it on most days. According to the rest of the team (the real developers), apparently I owe much to data-binding which I’ve been told is nothing short of a miracle.

If you have a choice of using a browser or using a client app, which do you choose? Is it always the same or does it vary with the business purpose you use it for? While we don't represent our users exactly, we can still learn from our own personal choices and our emotional reactions to software.

Kate

Monday, 12 July 2010 11:47:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 10 July 2010

I'm not sure when this started, but DevX has a whole area for Visual Studio 2010 articles. They've got handy links to download a trial and a training kit, walkthroughs of creating extensions (a simple blogging one, and adding your own language to the IDE), and lots more. It's a combination of articles, webcasts, and downloads that cover not just Visual Studio but some of the things you can create with it and what's new in related tools. Of course I've seen some of the material before, but that just shows that it's comprehensive. Take a look around!

Kate

Saturday, 10 July 2010 08:31:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 08 July 2010

I'm an optimist. I'm always looking for (and usually finding) the bright side. I think this has served me very well over the years. Recently I read an interesting Fast Company article (an excerpt from a book) that described a problem solving approach based on looking for the bright side - well actually, what they call the bright spot:

Our focus, in times of change, goes instinctively to the problems at hand. What's broken and how do we fix it? This troubleshooting mind-set serves us well -- most of the time. If you run a nuclear power plant and your diagnostics turn up a disturbing signal once per month, you should most certainly obsess about it and fix the problem. And if your child brings home a report card with five As and one F, it makes sense to freak out about the F.

But in times of change, this mind-set will backfire. If we need to make major changes, then (by definition) we don't have a near-spotless report card. A lot of things are probably wrong. The "report card" for our diet, or our marriage, or our business, is full of Cs and Ds and Fs. So if you ask yourself, What's broken and how do I fix it?, you'll simply spin your wheels. You'll spend a lot of time agonizing over issues that are TBU - true but useless.

The article gives a number of examples of not trying to find the major underlying system cause and solve it with huge missions, but instead trying to find a localized success and encouraging it to spread. Interesting concept and well worth a read. How could you apply it to that totally-messed-up project or that new hire who has turned out to be so wrong?

Kate

Thursday, 08 July 2010 08:18:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 06 July 2010
I watched a video the other day from someone whose blog I read and whose presentations and sessions I have enjoyed. I was drawn to it because it said C++ in the title, and it was a really non-C++ person. Oh my. I did manage to last about 12 minutes, until it was pretty clear there really wasn't going to be any C++ content at all. There even was a tiny bit of useful content in those 12 minutes. But it was all mixed in with joking between the hosts, including something that must have been a running inside joke, because they sure were liking it and I didn't get it, snips of music, throwaway lines about "as we all know" when I didn't know what they were talking about but it might have been interesting to explore, and actual interesting things. Plus, the two hosts disagreed a lot, which I suppose was interesting, but impeded my ability to actually learn what one of them was trying to convince me of or explain to me. I couldn't watch to the end of it.

It got me thinking about the number of times I have read people blogging that they don't bother listening to podcasts. The theory goes that podcasts and videos are super quick to produce - just turn on the camera or Camtasia, plug in the mike, press record and off you go. A lot of them are not edited at all. And it shows :-). There are good podcasts (.Net Rocks comes immediately to mind, and not just because I appear on it once or twice a year) and they are the product of significant effort. There is conversation in advance about "what are we going to talk about". There is awareness of how the conversation is going, and genuine work during the conversation to keep it flowing well. And there is editing afterwards. All of this combines to make a higher quality experience for the listener, which is the point, right? You can find a zillion bad podcasts, and the good ones have one thing in common: they are motivated by the experience for the listener, not the ease or fun for the creator. I wish that wasn't so, I wish there was a magic easy way to get your knowledge out there to the community that was quicker than blogging or writing books or teaching courses or traveling to far away places and getting up on stage - but there isn't, they all take work.

I have all this in mind while I'm recording some screencast/tutorial type videos. When I give an actual presentation, I probably say um and ah and you know. I hope I say it less than some folks, but I still expect I say it. I know for a fact I say it when the mike is plugged in. How do I know that? Because right after I hit Stop on the recorder, I hit Edit. And I listen to the whole thing and whenever I hear um and ah and you know, I edit it out. I also edit out the pauses and the messups. I think that's the exchange we make between in person and recorded materials. An in person presentation or session or training is spontaneous and adjustable - you can ask me a question and I can go deeper on that one thing you want to know more about. When it's recorded, you can't interact. But hey, you get a crisper and more polished presentation. You don't have to ever watch a demo fail. Products that in real life take 15 seconds to launch are already launched when the demo starts, or appear to launch in two seconds because I edited out 13 seconds of splash screen.

This means that producing a ten minute video is going to take me way more than ten minutes. First, there's prep time - writing slides, creating starting point demo code, practicing a demo and ensuring that I have a good example that really covers the point I want to make, rehearsing to be sure I can do it crisply, and all of that. When I present at a conference or user group, deliver training, or even just visit a client one on one to show them something, I have to do all that prep. It's often about 3-5:1 - for a one hour talk there will be 3-5 hours of prep - and that's if you know the material cold, it doesn't count learning what's new in product X or learning how to do thing Y. Don't underestimate this effort. Folks who skip it find themselves the bad example in other people's blogs. Then there's rehearsing the whole talk a few times, which I generally don't do for recorded videos but have to do for in person material. What recorded videos need is about 12 minutes to actually record it, with pauses and ums and false starts and all, then 30 minutes or so to play that and edit out the two minutes that don't belong.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I think if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right. And for videos, that means prep beforehand and editing afterwards. Is the medium the message? Well, you can't do the exact same thing in different media (eg in person or video) and expect to deliver the exact same message. Um in person and um in your video carry different messages. Joking with the guy who introduced you at a user group and joking with the guy who introduced you at a 5000 person keynote carry different messages. McLuhan was right.

Kate

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 14:24:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3]
# Sunday, 04 July 2010

About 6 weeks ago I blogged about the technology behind the amazing Olympics experience I had here in Canada watching CTV, and my American neighbours had watching NBC, as well as the Norwegian and French coverage. Now another case study has been released from that work. This one focuses on the way the broadcasters were able to insert ads (to pay for all that glorious coverage) and build highlights packages. As it says in the case study:

NBC teamed with premier technology vendors, led by Microsoft, to cover 4,485 hours of 2010 Winter Olympics events in HD via Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) Smooth Streaming to a video player based on Microsoft Silverlight. In addition to pleasing sports fans, the programming offered an audience of more than 15.8 million unique visitors to the many advertising partners of NBC. The exceptional capability of IIS Smooth Streaming and Silverlight technologies gave technology vendors the tools they needed to deliver midstream ads while providing an engaging experience for Olympics enthusiasts.

I find it interesting that Canada, with one-tenth the population of the USA, consumed double the hours of video. Not per person mind you, but total. We were lucky enough to have a lot more to choose from. As you can see when you look at the unique visitor counts, it is mostly that we each watched a whole lot of Olympics back in the dark winter months. Definitely worth a read to see how it was done and how it will no doubt continue to be done in the future.

Kate

Sunday, 04 July 2010 15:57:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Friday, 02 July 2010
I love demoing restart and recovery. This is the feature that will bring many users to Windows 7 - getting your work back even after the application blows up. Sure, Word saves your document every 20 minutes - but why does it seem I always lose 19 minutes of work? In my simple demo apps, there's a form with one or two controls on it, and one is some text, and when the application blows up I write all the text out, and then on restart I reload it from wherever I wrote it to. It's simple and for most applications it's exactly what you want. But for some applications that approach won't work as well. For example, what if you have an MDI application and the user has 20 or 30 documents open, each with unsaved changes, when the application is terminated? There may not be time to save all those unsaved documents. And then on restart, perhaps the user doesn't want them all restored, or at least not with their real names... it can get complicated.

You are going to need to know your own application and make an intelligent decision about how to handle restart and recovery for your application. But it might help you to know how a certain MDI application near and dear to all our hearts does it ... Visual Studio. Visual Studio does a Word-like autosave every 5 minutes. When the application blows up, it doesn't do anything in particular on the way down. But when it's restarted, it takes a look at the files it has auto recover versions of and asks if you want any of them. You might, you might not, and as the user it's up to you. Zain Naboulsihas a tip-style blog post that explains how it works and how you can control it. Read that for its own sake, since you're probably a Visual Studio user and should be using it as effectively as you can. But also take the opportunity to think about a good design for restart and recovery in your application, which is probably a little more complicated than one text box and one other control.

Kate

Friday, 02 July 2010 20:37:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 30 June 2010

I'm recording some videos again (I'll announce when the project is live) and I'm doing it, as I really like to these days, in a bootable VHD. I've got the environment set up just the way I like it, without messing with my day-to-day setup, and as an extra bonus I avoid the distractions that Outlook, Instant Messenger, Skype, and the Favorites menu in my browser have to offer. When I went to record the first video I realized I had forgotten to install Camtasia in the VHD so I quickly downloaded a trial from www.techsmith.com. I got to work recording my video, editing it, and so on. Then I rendered the video. This can take a few minutes, but I don't complain because I know it's doing a lot of work. But I got a great surprise ... this latest version uses the taskbar progress bar overlay, so that I can put the rendering into the background and work on something else full screen while it renders. I can still see at a glance how it's doing, but I don't have to keep the little progress window on top. It's a really nice touch.

Then as serendipity would have it I spotted this video on Channel 9 that calls out this and other Windows 7 features in TechSmith products. It's only 9 minutes long, so go and watch it. And if you haven't added Windows 7 features to your client apps yet, why not? It really makes a difference.

Kate

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 19:22:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 28 June 2010

With summer finally under way for real it seems like a million years until the fall. But in the world of event organizing, autumn is just around the corner. Session selection for TechDays is in the final stages and I'm looking forward to seeing the completed list. In the meantime, the Early Bird pricing is still in effect.

There will be an event roughly every two weeks from mid September to mid December. In each city (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax) it will be two days, and while most of the sessions will be the same in every city, a new Local Flavours track will vary from location to location - just as the local tech folk vary! You can register now - go ahead! If you have some questions, Damir has answers for you.

Kate

Monday, 28 June 2010 19:22:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 26 June 2010
If you use the Microsoft Visual C++ debugger, the team would like to hear from you. They have a quick (6 questions!) survey they would like you to take. Here's the survey, and the team's post about it, if you'd like to leave them a comment.

Kate

Saturday, 26 June 2010 19:25:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 24 June 2010

Interested in playing with extensions to Visual Studio 2010? You should be, just for the fun and productivity of it. But in case you need extra incentive, how does this sound:

What will you create with Visual Studio 2010?

Enter the Summer of Extension Competition and let the US and Canadian Developer community know! Show your peers what kind of extension you can build for Visual Studio 2010 for your chance to be featured on the ReadWriteWeb website. Other prizes include a one-year MSDN Embedded subscription license (a $1,199 USD value!), an Xbox Elite prize bundle and a Natural Wireless Ergonomic Desktop 700 Keyboard and Mouse. Prizes will be awarded to winners in both countries.

Just create your extension, upload it to the Visual Studio Gallery, and tag it with rww to enter. (ReadWriteWeb and Microsoft are sponsoring the contest.) More details at ReadWriteWeb, where you'll also find some handy resources and links.

Kate

Thursday, 24 June 2010 15:50:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 22 June 2010
The last (at least for now) in my series of articles on Visual Studio Extensions is live on Code Project. This one is on creating your own item and project templates. Like all the articles, it's really a train-the-presenter package designed to help you deliver a talk on this topic at a user group or Code Camp. If you care about the topic and would just appreciate the shortcut of a deck, working demos, and speaker notes that combine to hit a good talk length, then this is just what you need. It's all highly supplemented by videos - of all the demos and in one case of the entire talk. A quick reminder of the 7 articles I have there:
If you would rather learn the material than deliver the session, I suggest you follow the first few steps I recommend in the Introduction for a presenter:
  • If there is a recording of the entire talk, watch it from start to finish.
  • If there are only recordings of the demos, open the slide deck and read the slides to myself, pausing to play the demo videos at the appropriate points in the deck.
  • Read through the speaker notes to see what the author suggests I add to each slide as I present it.
You owe it to yourself to learn about extensions. Honestly, creating an item or project template will save you time the very first time you use it - it's quicker to make an use a template than to copy an old project and hand edit the file, project, and class names. And the astonishing array of free extensions on the Visual Studio Gallery is sure to include something that will save you time and frustration. Give it a whirl!

Kate

Tuesday, 22 June 2010 16:06:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 20 June 2010
The Windows API Code Pack is a wonderful library. It wraps many Windows 7 and Vista features so that you can use them from managed code without learning any interop techniques. I've made extensive use of it in demos, presentations, and training materials. I've also blogged about it extensively, primarily in my Client Development category and Windows 7 category.

Folks who've seen the Code Pack in action tell me they are going to use it in their Windows 7 applications immediately, and they're right to do so. Well now I'd like to do a bit of a headcount. If you have a real application (not a demo written to show how Windows 7 features work or how the Code Pack works) please drop me an email (you can see my domain, right? well my address before the @ is just my first name) and tell me who you are, where you work if you made the app for work, what the app does, and whether it's for sale or for internal use. Plus anything else you want to tell me like the Code Pack saved you weeks of work or got you promoted or helped you win the lottery :-). Unless you specify in the email that you're only telling me this, I will be passing it along to some other people, so keep that in mind. I really want to hear what you're using it for, so please let me know!

Kate

Sunday, 20 June 2010 13:26:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 16 June 2010
I've written about banned APIs before - for security reasons some C Runtime functions like strcpy should not be used, and instead you should use replacements like strcpy_s that perform some checking before trusting the strings they're handed. You might also know that I really like the extension capabilities in Visual Studio 2010.

So how can I resist a Visual Studio extension that gives you wigglies if you use a banned API?


You even get a handy tooltip suggesting replacements. This is a must-install for any C++ developer. You can get zip of the source (you'll need the Visual Studio 2010 SDK to build it) with a prebuilt VSIX in it from the Security Development Lifecycle blog. It doesn't seem to be on the Visual Studio Gallery yet, but it should be! If you haven't met the VSIX format yet, prepare to be pleasantly surprised - it's a self contained one step installation vehicle for a Visual Studio extension. Just double click it and Visual Studio does the rest.

Kate
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 12:03:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 14 June 2010
Metaphors can be dangerous things. Just recently I got into a Twitter conversation with someone who was using the metaphor "it's like leaving your car unlocked, or your front door" - meaning something you would never do and would expect to be dangerous. But in my neck of the woods, that metaphor triggers different neurons, having a meaning more like something you regularly do and would never expect to be a problem. (I not only never lock my car in my or a neighbour's driveway, I also know many people who would leave their keys in their cars in someone else's driveway.) It doesn't really matter whether you think door locking is normal, the point is your metaphor needs to have the same meaning for your audience as it does for you.

For an example of a metaphor landing really badly, check out Scott Berkun's blog post on the "periodic table of visualization techniques." Now unlike Scott (who thinks the periodic table is obscure, complex, and unfondly remembered) I really like the periodic table. I think it carries a tremendous amount of important information in a very compact way, and explains some relationships succinctly. But I think it makes a poor metaphor when trying to discuss all the different ways you can present information visually. Plus, their particular version of it doesn't seem to have any actual periodicity, anything that's the same in each column, anything that's the same in each row, or any reason for the lengths of the rows. Always understand a metaphor before you use it. Otherwise you're working against your own goal - helping someone else understand your point.

Kate

Monday, 14 June 2010 11:52:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 10 June 2010

Another terrific Tech Ed has come to a close. I never really got used to the weather in New Orleans, but I loved the food, I loved that we could walk to just about every dinner or party, and I loved the locals I met. I would have liked a little less walking within the convention centre itself - that building is a mile long and I had to go the whole length and back several times each day!

I have a few pictures from inside for you.

This is the "RD couch" in the community area. Good for hanging out while waiting to be on Channel 9. As you can see, non-RDs were hanging out here too.

The table for the Code Pack was giving away copies of the Code Pack on these slightly bizarre USB keys. I meant to keep one for myself but got carried away handing them out at my session (along with cards for a free trial of the Pluralsight On Demand! library). Also the shot-glass-on-a-string-of-beads is pretty brilliant for New Orleans swag. "Give it a shot!" they say.

This is the room for my C++ talk. That's Juval Lowy, who spoke right before me, up on stage. You can see he did a pretty good job of filling the room, which holds 1000. I got somewhat less than that, but was happy with the turnout and the evals for the C++ talk. Both my talks are available online already, by the way, which is astonishingly quick.

I love the "face time" with Microsoft people (including "my" product teams as well as folks in marketing, developer outreach and education, and so on), with my fellow RDs, MVPs, INETA folks, and speakers of all stripes, and with attendees. Booth duty, where you spend long minutes shifting your weight from foot to foot praying someone will come by, is a bit like of box of chocolates. An eager attendee comes forward, meets your eye, smiles ... for every "can you tell me where to find the blinky Windows 7 pen?" there is a good solid question or expression of interest in my actual technology. I got one question on Wednesday from someone who just wanted to know what booth to go to for it to be answered, only to learn it was this booth and that in fact I was probably the only person in building who could have answered it. I sure liked that one!

Next year, Atlanta:

But I may not have to wait a year for another Tech Ed experience. :-)

Kate

Thursday, 10 June 2010 10:09:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 08 June 2010

Are you interested in developing for Windows 7? I bet you are. I know I am. So perhaps you would like (OK, I'm quite sure you would like) the Windows Summit. It's a virtual event hosted at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-summit/ and it claims of itself:

Windows Summit 2010 is designed for people who engineer and test Windows 7 PCs, devices, and software. Three technical tracks are offered to show how to best use Windows 7 and Internet Explorer, helping you build great solutions and gain a competitive edge.

It's free (you just have to register) and features about a dozen talks in each of three tracks. The Software track will release June 16th, so you can mark your calendars for then and amuse yourself in the meantime with the Device and System tracks. The Software talks will cover multi touch, ribbon, IE9, Windows Error Reporting, sensors and location, power awareness, background activities (that's services and scheduled tasks) and performance. All good stuff.

I'll report back in mid June when I can actually play the sessions and look at the downloads, but it seems to me it's going to be a very good resource.

Kate

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 09:45:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 04 June 2010

Hey, this was such fun at the launch and they're doing it again for Tech Ed!

This time my topic is Women in Technology. I'm with Karen Forster, Lisa Feigenbaum and Jennifer Ritzinger and it's sure to be a very fun half hour. PLEASE tweet us questions to @c9live! I'm on at 4 pm Central on Monday the 7th. Talk to you then!

Kate

Friday, 04 June 2010 20:17:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 02 June 2010
I posted a quick hit on MFC and Windows 7 back in April, mentioning the ribbon and showing you how simple icon overlays and jump lists are. Now Marian Luparu has a nice long article in Visual Studio Magazine. He covers tabbed thumbnails, the ribbon, multi-touch, jump lists, and shell integration for your own thumbnails, preview, and search integration. Then he manages to mention graphics and animation APIs and parallelization. Can't argue with his conclusion:

Overall, Windows 7 is an exciting release for developers. With thousands of new Windows APIs made available to native coders, Windows 7 provides an enhanced experience for desktop applications.Visual Studio 2010 is the IDE of choice to take advantage of the Windows 7 platform. With enhancements in MFC and the ATL and the addition of new IDE Designers and Wizards, Visual C++ 2010 gives you the opportunity to be on the cutting edge in terms of leveraging OS functionality.

Check it out!

Kate



Wednesday, 02 June 2010 14:09:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 31 May 2010

John Bristowe has posted a nice list of tips to get ready for any big conference. I'll let you read the details there, but here's a summary.

  • Have a plan
  • Bring a good backpack (I'll just add, don't use the conference bag during the conference - thousands of people have the identical bag and it's confusing)
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring lots of business cards (yes! You are here to meet people and people are here to meet you! Make it stick)
  • be able to get by on crummy or no wireless
Give yourself time before, during, and after the event. You need to plan and make goals in advance. While you're there, go to talks, be open to serendipity (conversations, extra talks, booth visits) and don't forget to go to dinners and parties for vital face time and relationship building. Then you need to have time to follow up when it's over. This happens once or twice a year for most people. Putting an extra ten or twenty hours into it will make a HUGE difference.

Kate

Monday, 31 May 2010 14:03:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 29 May 2010

It's no secret that I'm not in my twenties. After all, I'm in my fourth decade of being paid to program. (To be fair, you enter that decade as you pass the doing-it-for-30-years mark.) I have gained a lot of experience in all that time, and not all of it is programming experience. I am slowly gaining wisdom and judgment in general. But am I losing things? Am I perhaps closed off to new experiences, or stuck in the mud? Is there anything you can in general conclude about a person because of their age?

I have two problems with that line of thinking. The first is that differences between any two individuals in a group are always larger than the differences between groups. I can easily find two 20-somethings who differ from each other more than either differs from a 30-something or even an 80-something. Women in general may be shorter than men in general, but I'm sure we all know a man who is shorter than most women or a woman who is taller than most men. What you know about the group doesn't necessarily apply to the individual. My second problem is specific to age - some age related effects are actually related to "you went to university in the 70s" or "you learned to code in the age of GUIs" more than to how old you are, others are actually about your life experience, still others your work experience. Two 60-somethings may not have gone to university at the same time as each other or learned to code at the same time as each other. That makes it even harder to generalize based on a single piece of information - when you were born.

A few months back, 'Dave' posted a series of myths about older developers and then debunked them. Do you find yourself believing any of these?

  • Older software developers are more expensive
  • Older software developers are less flexible and less capable of learning new technologies
  • Older software developers are less able to perform the arduous tasks of software development (read: work long, painful hours)
  • Older software developers are less mentally agile
  • Older software developers are more jaded and cynical

My only issue with this list of myths is that it doesn't contain positive ones. It's also a myth that older developers are wiser, more tuned to business issues, better at talking to others, and so on. Some are -- I strongly believe I am -- and it takes a while to get there, but time passing isn't the only thing that brings about that change in a person.

I have to work with people a lot younger than me every day. Perhaps some of them think less of me because of my age at first. I'm pretty confident that doesn't last. If you're not an "older programmer" yet, I hope you aspire to be one someday.

Kate

Saturday, 29 May 2010 13:56:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 27 May 2010

Update: fixed the link. Thanks, Hanako Izumi.

C++0x is finally becoming real to me. I started demoing some C++0x features over a year ago; but now here is Visual C++ 2010 and it's just packed full of goodness. Does it have everything? No. Does any compiler? Good question.

Here is a handy table from the C++ team about what Visual C++ 2010 supports. The MSDN blog redesign seems to have borked the table a little, but the colours should probably be all you need if you know that the last column is VC10. Use View Source if you must know more. Scott Meyers keeps a spreadsheet, and is nice enough to export it out to the public web, covering gcc and VC, with handy links to more details on the features or a substitute (usually something from Boost) you can use if it's not there. He has plenty of helpful links on the cover page, too. There's also a wiki with less detail, but covering more compilers.

If you're wondering about the state of the standard, and whether x is going to end up being A, B, or C, your best bet is to read Herb Sutter's blog. He posted when the Final Committee Draft (FCD) was text-complete, and a pointer to how anyone can comment on it if they wish to.

If you haven't been paying attention, now's the time to catch up!

Kate

Thursday, 27 May 2010 13:39:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 25 May 2010
When I started out in this industry (and I'm in my fourth decade of being paid to program) there was a definite culture of rudeness within it. Smart people weren't just allowed to be rude to not-so-smart people, it was expected. Being rude to others was how you proved you were smart, whether it was with a cutting insult thought up on your feet, or with a cruel proof of just where they had gone wrong. As a group we were especially fond of insulting those who weren't developers with brilliantly disguised insults they couldn't understand, or so the theory went. Who hasn't heard someone refer to "error codes" like PEBCAK or ID-ten-T?

But over the last generation or so I've noticed a switch. I hear the chair, keyboard thing still, but only self-referentially. That is after someone has asked for help, perhaps with a starting position of "I have found a bug in Windows", and then sorted it all out and realized they were doing something wrong, they may say "well it turns out the problem was between the chair and the keyboard after all, eh?". When I interview developers for a job at my firm, I ask about working with non developers (testers, technical writers, users, project managers) and I need to see (not just be told about) respect and interest for those people and those jobs.

Now not everyone feels that way. Meredith Levinson asks if there is a still a place for the "I'm smart, I don't need soft skills" geek pride of old. Commenters point out that speaking truth to power is important, and those who won't be rude sometimes don't do it. David Starr talks about how to tell someone that a thoughtless habit, like always coming late to meetings, is bothering you. I would skip the praise sandwich, but I support the idea of pointing out the consequences of something another person may have thought had none. Interestingly, Susanne Biro points out how people who are actively interested in learning soft or social skills can still be blundering about doing very rude things, apparently unaware.

I think in the end it's not that our industry has changed much. It's that people who are just starting out in it are often a bit rude. OK, sometimes they're very rude. But as they gain technical skill, many of them also gain the ability to take others into account and to work in teams. Those people get promoted. So now, hanging out with decision makers, with people who are allowed to represent their companies in public, with people who get paid to help other people get better, I mostly meet polite and interesting geeks. The rude ones probably still exist -- I just don't run into them very often. Which group would you rather be in?

Kate

Tuesday, 25 May 2010 08:02:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3]
# Sunday, 23 May 2010
I have quoted Albert Einstein here before, but only one quote. Amber Naslund has found 14 nice quotes and connects them to social media issues. I'm sure you could find a way to connect those quotes to what you work on all day, too. I'm going to spend some time thinking about "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted."

Kate

Sunday, 23 May 2010 23:08:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 21 May 2010

The C++ team gave me a heads up about a neat new initiative called Hilo. Here's a quick description:

“Hilo” is a series of articles and sample applications that show how you can leverage the power of Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010, and Visual C++ to build high performance, responsive rich client applications. Hilo provides both source code and the written guidance that will help you design and develop compelling, touch-enabled Windows applications of your own.

The articles are on MSDN - the first is there now - and the code is on Code Gallery.

I like this section from the article:

The rich user experience of Windows 7 is best accessed through a powerful, flexible language, and that means C++: by using C++ you can access the raw power of the APIs for Windows 7. To build the Hilo sample applications, all you need is Visual C++ Express and the Windows SDK for Windows 7, both of which are available as free downloads.

Hilo applications show how to design and develop an application for Windows 7. But while the code showcases the APIs for Windows 7, it is not wedded to any particular application framework. Instead, Hilo implement a lightweight common application layer that directly uses and highlights the APIs rather than obscuring them. This common application layer is used to support all of the Hilo applications. It illustrates the best practices for developing Windows applications, and while it is not complete—it was designed simply to provide the features needed by the Hilo applications—it does show the best practices used in designing re-usable frameworks and can be extended to provide additional features.

Looking forward to reading more!

Kate


Friday, 21 May 2010 22:52:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 17 May 2010

Have you seen this yet? It's a letter from Leonardo da Vinci (yes, that Leonardo da Vinci) to a prospective patron. He lists fully 9 paragraphs of way cool things he can do that are relevant to the warfare of the time (portable bridges, bombing strategies, stone flingers, ways of tunnelling into places and so on) and then mentions:

10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.

Given how well he followed through on those last two (this letter was written before his most famous works) you kind of have to believe all the siege/bombardment stuff too.

The article I've linked to has an image of the actual letter - not in English of course - and some lovely commentary on what makes it a good cover letter. It's not really a resume but it sure is a job-getting device. Apparently the Duke did indeed hire him - as a painter, not a fighter. And if you'd like to see it translated into modern day geekery, I spotted that too.

Kate


Monday, 17 May 2010 17:22:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Saturday, 15 May 2010

I really enjoyed the Winter Olympics this year. I could basically watch 24 hours a day if I wanted, and on a lot of channels. Typically I had a choice of 4 or 5 different broadcasts on the TV, more if I was willing to watch in French, plus all I could possibly ask for (literally every event that was happening) online. In a lot of cases I would have the online up even while I was watching live, because the online gave you details that you would have to wait for the announcers to happen to say - split times, individual stats, who got the assist and so on - and because you could rewind the online and see it again yourself instead of hoping someone else chose to replay it. And if I didn't have the TV on, people could (and did) IM me or visit my desk telling me "you have to see this shot!" and we would find the stream, find the little highlight marker in the timeline, go to that place and watch the cool thing again together. The online experience from CTV was really a big aspect of my enjoyment of the entire Olympics.

Now a case study has been released that talks about the nuts and bolts that made it all so much fun. The headline starts "CTV Streams 6.2 Petabytes of Winter Olympics To over 3.9 Million Visitors" and that alone is astonishing. It was all built with Microsoft technologies, including Silverlight and IIS Smooth Streaming. I like this quote:

Marcovici initially expected most viewers to be interested in a few minutes of highlights and then to move on. Much to his surprise, the average Canadian viewer spent more than an hour watching Winter Olympics video content online every single day.

That means somebody must have watched just a few minutes, because I was well over the one hour mark every day. I think we were even over the one-hour-per-person-in-the-house mark. I also liked the behind the scenes video from Vancouver. It was a nice reminder of the emotions of those weeks, plus it gives props to Vertigo, who built the player.

There are also case studies about the NBC Olympic experience, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company Olympic experience, and the France Televisions experience with the Olympics and other sports. They are all built on the same base and it goes to show that effort put into place for the Olympics could be used for many other events as well. I would love to see elections dealt with this way, so I could see the press conference for my riding even if something else was happening on the "main screen" or so I could rewind a speech or show someone else an amazing moment.

Aren't these interesting times? Staying connected is gaining a whole different meaning.

Kate  

Update: in July another case study was released. Check that one too.

Saturday, 15 May 2010 11:03:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 13 May 2010

Stack Overflow is an amazing resource. It's a place to ask questions and get them answered, but it's a lot more than that. Like any other online community, people get to know each other and some of them start to relax and have fun. In that spirit came the question "What is, in your opinion, the most surprising, weird, strange or really "WTF" language feature you have encountered?" with over two hundred answers. The current highest-voted answer is how C++ is fine with:

10[a]

(for some array a) and it just means the same as

a[10]

I also like the Javascript answer, in which a commenter points out that "111" - -"222" gives 333 and "111" + "222" gives "111222". And another answer I blogged about eighteen months ago. You could spend far too long reading all these and laughing.

Kate

Thursday, 13 May 2010 08:36:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Programming is not one skill - it's a large conglomeration of skills. Some people are not very good programmers because they aren't very good at imagining their way through an algorithm. Others have great ideas and imagination, but it's painful to watch them type and they can't be bothered to learn how to use their tools (editors, etc) so they just take twice as long as everyone else to create the code. Still others are doing fine until their code does something unexpected, and then things fall apart, because they can't figure out what's going on. They step too soon, spend ages stepping through code that couldn't possibly cause the problem, then get impatient and end up skipping right past the problem. Worse, they don't seem to understand the capabilities of the debugger. I've watched people spend over 5 minutes patiently stepping into so that when they reach a particular line, they know how control reached it. Then I show them the Call Stack window and they say "oh".

I've blogged before about conditional breakpoints and tracepoints, hit counts, and so on. There is so much to the Visual Studio debugger that it is very hard to know it all. But the more you know, the better you are. And what's more, being a great debugger has more value than some of the other programming skills, because so much debugging happens at urgent times, is unexpected, and needs to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. The difference in impact between being good and great is very large.

So how to be a better debugger? Partly, it's practice, especially practice with someone who's really good. That person can say "hey, what are you doing? Here's a way easier way to get there!" Even practice alone can motivate you to learn how to do something and get you reading the documentation or searching the web. You could buy a book, if anyone even buys books any more. You could take a debugging course, and spend a day or a week with someone who really knows every speck of this enormous tool. Of course, that costs money, travel time, and so on. Some of you will do it, and benefit from it tremendously.

But ALL of you can benefit from watching John Robbins' latest set of videos on Channel 9. It's in three parts and they total about three and a half hours. It hits the ground running and just doesn't stop. It's all using Visual Studio 2010 but the vast majority of the features he shows are in earlier versions too. I knew a lot of it (even the Go To Find box and the file opening etc) but I learned new things in the first ten minutes and continued to learn new things as they continued - both actual capabilities of the tool and interesting ways of thinking, like using hit counts on a breakpoint not to stop, but just to count how much some code gets run. I wish I could get the slides and code, but I guess some things need to be saved for the folks who actually take the course.

If you're a .NET developer, watch these videos. Now.

Kate

Tuesday, 11 May 2010 08:18:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 09 May 2010

I often carry links around for a while before I use them in a post. I'm not one of those "here's 53 things other people posted yesterday" types, though I read three of them (Jason, Chris, and Alvin) almost every morning. When I think something is interesting, I'll use it eventually. It's unusual for me to accumulate a lot of links from someone I don't know some other way, typically from having worked with them. But that's the state I find myself in now. Brent Ozar is actually a SQL MVP and I've found plenty of helpful information about SQL on his blog. But these three articles really aren't about SQL:

  • Why I Always Bill By The Hour - mostly about keeping a pleasant relationship and avoiding the blame game, plus not doing things for free just to be nice. We have some clients who run a tab and are charged for time spent, while for most we used fixed bids. What I like most about doing fixed bids is being able to decline work that is out of scope. The big problem with charging by the hour is that people expect that means you will do things when they ask you to. While that might seem fine, I assure you there are times it is not.
  • Salary Negotiations During the Interview - pretty much the exact opposite, for people who don't bill at all but work on salary. Can I just say as an honest and nice employer that it makes me mental when people won't say what they want to make? I had a guy tell me he would be ok with anything between $8 and $40 an hour for a summer job (he was in third year of university.) That is no more a range than "on the planet Earth" is a neighbourhood. I generally pay people what they want to be paid, or else don't hire them. So if you tell me the truth, I'm not going to argue you down from your number. I might decide you're not worth that much to me and so decline to hire you. I might hire you and then give you a 30% raise after 2 months (true story). But I sure won't say "really? I will offer you 80% of that." Ever. I think I might be odd though, because many people utterly refuse to tell me what they want to earn if they work for me. So I like that Brent says "If they keep pressing for your salary, don’t give them your current number – give them the number it would take to get you to switch." That works for me.
  • Rock Stars, Normal People, and You - how you can start presenting, writing, and generally becoming a "rock star" in our industry. There is absolutely no secret to this and there are literally hundreds of people who want to help others get good at this stuff. I like this quote: "Doing this stuff took time out of my personal life, but I was determined to make an investment in my career. I didn’t want to have another really crappy job search, bouncing from headhunter to headhunter, having to re-prove that I wasn’t an idiot and that I was worth money." And this one: "you’re still struggling to get a better job, a better speaking slot, or a speaking slot period, right? You think that Other People are the ones who get book offers, or Other People are the ones who get paid to speak. You’re wrong."

Fantastic advice.

Kate

Sunday, 09 May 2010 13:39:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 07 May 2010

Jani Jarvinen (a Finnish C# MVP) wrote a nice article about using sensors with Windows 7. He mixes and matches .NET 4.0 and Code Pack capabilities, and has links to plenty more information. I like the screenshots and the step by step approach. Windows 7 really does make this so much easier than it used to be. He gets you started with both an ambient light detector and some simple location code.

A little more exotic approach comes from "gleat" who has a Code Project article using a Wiimote as the accelerometer. He starts out simple - here's how to download and install the driver - and then goes into writing a client in C#, leveraging Code Pack of course. But then he says hey, were you wondering how to write a driver? and wham! you're hip deep in C++. It's all well explained, though, so if you want to learn more about this, what a terrific way to start.

If all of this is making you wish you had Windows 7 somewhere to play with, but you don't want to buy it, don't have an MSDN subscription, don't qualify for BizSpark etc, then what you need is a free 90 day evaluation of Windows 7, right? I found that link on this handy Doug Turnure blog post from earlier this year that includes some video links I hadn't seen before. Have fun!

Kate

Friday, 07 May 2010 12:14:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 05 May 2010

I was just looking up the session codes for my Tech Ed talks next month (my flight to New Orleans leaves a month today, at about this time actually) and spotted something unexpected:

DEV316 | Modern Programming with C++0x in Microsoft Visual C++ 2010
Session Type: Breakout Session

Track: Developer Tools, Languages & Frameworks
Speaker(s): Kate Gregory
Level: 300 - Advanced
Why wait for the C++ committee to finish the specification when you can enjoy much of the power of C++0x today! C++0x, the next C++ standard, is almost upon us and it contains the most important updates to the language since the mid-90s. It even accepts the existence of multiple threads for the first time in the history of the language. Needless to say, these new features bring more expressiveness and power to the native C++ developer. Visual Studio 2010 has added support for some of these key features in order to enable these modern programming techniques. This session clarifies what features are in Visual C++ 2010 and what is yet to come. It illustrates how new constructs such as lambda expressions enable better use of existing libraries and how your code can be simpler, safer, and faster all at the same time. If you are itching to show off how C++ is one of the coolest languages on the planet, this talk is for you!

WCL316 | The Windows API Code Pack: Add Windows 7 Features to Your Application
Session Type: Breakout Session
Track: Windows Client
Speaker(s): Kate Gregory
Level: 300 - Advanced
Accessing new Windows 7 features is a challenge from managed (.NET) code. The level of interoperability required is out of reach for many developers. The Windows API Code Pack for the Microsoft .NET Framework is a sample library you can use in your own projects today that provides access to new user interface features (taskbar jumplists, libraries, sensor platform, and more) as well as "behind the scenes" features that make your applications more aware and responsive (restart and recovery, power management, and more.) Discover a shortcut to Windows 7 development for Microsoft Visual Basic and Visual C# programmers and get started today.

The first digit carries meaning, but the last two don't. So I don't really know how they both got to be 316. Since I often have trouble remembering my session codes, this should halve the effort for me :-).

Kate

PS: I checked whether the Brian rule still applies. You can too, by just dropping down the "Speaker" box on the session catalog page. I'm happy to report there are 9 Brians and I reached 9 obviously female names (ignoring Alex, Chris etc) while I was still in the C's. Good news, in my opinion!

Wednesday, 05 May 2010 13:54:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 03 May 2010

The Windows API Code Pack is one of my favourite libraries. For Windows 7 features that are not yet in the .NET Framework, it simplifies access from managed code, saving you from learning how to do interop. And it comes with a nice suite of samples that help you to understand how the feature works and how to use it. I've been incorporating Code Pack into a lot of the modules in my Pluralsight Windows 7 tutorial, and using the samples for demos when they're appropriate. In just a little over 5 months, almost 70,000 copies have been downloaded directly:

The thing is, Code Pack is not a product. You can't call for support on it (though there are discussion and issues section on the Code Gallery page, and people really do read them.) There's no guarantee that there will be more versions in the future. But there are plans for at least one more version, and Yochay is looking for your thoughts on it.

If you ever wanted to add a feature to the Code Pack, were looking for some specific Win32 API to be wrapped, or just wanted to pass us some feedback, this is your opportunity. Please send us your feedback or file a bug using the Discussions or Issue Tracker for the Windows API Code Pack.

He also mentions that about the same number of folks have downloaded other vehicles (eg the Windows 7 Training Kit) that deliver a copy of Code Pack. Those are some nice numbers! Anyway, if you haven't tried it yet, please do, and if you have and there's something you want, please chime in!

Kate


Monday, 03 May 2010 14:46:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 01 May 2010

On Thursday night I was the surprise mystery guest for the St Louis installment of the .NET Rocks Roadtrip. What a fun little jaunt that was! We recorded an episode of .NET Rocks, (talking about Windows 7, C++, and educating developers) then Carl and Richard both did very interesting presentations. I had seen parts of Richard's before, but Carl's was all new to me and I will just say if you live in the half of the roadtrip that hasn't happened yet, you really need to make an effort to be there and be part of it!

Here's a blog entry by Nicholas Cloud, and another by Brian Williams, and a picture by fallenprogrammer of us getting set up.

The next morning featured breakfast at Cracker Barrel (an experience) and then a ride to the airport in the RV for me and Kindler Chase, who had joined them in Tulsa, before they headed Chicago-wards. It sure was fun to be part of it!

Kate

Saturday, 01 May 2010 20:22:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 29 April 2010

Would you like to learn more about developing for Windows 7 in C# or VB? My Pluralsight On-Demand! tutorial has just gone live. 9 of the 11 modules are there now and the last two will be shortly.

As the abstract says:

This tutorial is aimed at Windows developers (Windows Forms or WPF) who want to add Windows 7 capabilities to their application. The emphasis is on providing a helpful and efficient user experience by hooking into what Windows 7 has to offer. You do not need to know how to interop to native code or how the Windows 7 features work internally.

The table of contents looks like this:

  • Light Up on Windows 7
  • Windows 7 Jumplists
  • Taskbar Overlays on Windows 7
  • Taskbar Thumbnails on Windows 7
  • Network Awareness on Windows 7
  • Power Awareness on Windows 7
  • Windows 7 Libraries
  • Windows 7 UAC and Manifests
  • Partitioning Administrative Tasks for Windows 7
  • Known Folders for Windows 7 (under development)
  • Scheduled Tasks on Windows 7 (under development)

The course has been a lot of fun to put together. I used the Code Pack to keep the amount of code you write to a minimum. Some of the demos use samples that come with the Code Pack; others use my own code, and you can spot those by the Demos download link.

The content is all subscribers-only, but you can get a Guest Pass to check it out. Also, RDs and MVPs get a free subscription, so if you qualify, this would be a great time to use that. Let me know if there are more topics you'd like to see me cover (after I get this one finished, of course!)

Kate

Thursday, 29 April 2010 08:26:26 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 25 April 2010

Once again Carl and Richard are driving across the country to celebrate a Microsoft launch. This time it's for Visual Studio 2010.

As they say on the roadtrip page:

Carl and Richard are loading up the DotNetMobile (a 30 foot RV) and driving to your town again to show off their favorite bits of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0! Richard talks about Web load testing and Carl talks about Silverlight 4.0 and multimedia.

And to make the night even more fun, we’re going to bring a mystery rock star from the Visual Studio world to the event and interview them for a special .NET Rocks Road Trip show series.

Along the way we’ll be giving away some great prizes, showing off some awesome technology and having a ton of laughs.

So come out to the most fun you can have in a geeky evening – and learn a few things along the way about web load testing and Silverlight 4!

You can track their progress online, too! Looks like a blast.

Kate

Sunday, 25 April 2010 10:12:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 April 2010

I like to introduce myself, in C++ circles, by mentioning I was using C++ before Microsoft had a C++ compiler. It's often interesting to watch people try to handle the concepts behind the sentence - mostly, that for some languages you can buy compilers from more than one vendor. And once upon a time, C++ existed as a language, and Microsoft sold compilers, but it didn't have a C++ one yet. Then eventually (OK, in 1992) the C product Microsoft sold became a C/C++ product (compiler, linker, debugger etc) and then the next year Visual Studio came along and with it Visual C++. And Visual C++ 1 included the Microsoft Foundation Classes 2, so that for a while the version numbers of Visual C++ and MFC were out of sync. Eventually there was a version skip to catch up (there was no Visual Studio 3). For quite a while we all worked with Visual C++ 1.52c and every speck of that version number was significant. So as you can see, the version of a product is not a simple question with one answer.

So, here we are, welcoming Visual Studio 2010. Lots of people called it Dev10 while it was under construction. But was the 10 short for 2010? It was not. It was just 10, as in the number after 9. Visual Studio 2008 was 9, and Visual Studio 2005 was 8. You can see these numbers on the shortcuts to your sln files, by the way:

OK,so VC8 means Visual C++ 2005? Basically. As long as you realize that it doesn't mean version 8 of the compiler. Because the C compiler transitioned into the C/C++ compiler, the version numbers came with it. VC8 includes version 14 of the compiler. Confused yet? If so, you're in good company. Here's a tabular explanation, though it only goes back a decade. You want more details? Wikipedia has them, of course. Me, I am going to enjoy Dev10 and watch for news of Dev11.

Kate

Friday, 23 April 2010 09:08:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 April 2010

One of my pet peeves is software that thinks it's smarter than me. There are times when software does things I wouldn't think of, without asking me, and I find that helpful and I like it. But it can backfire. The worst offender was FrontPage, thankfully now gone. But Outlook has an annoying little habit. It assumes that people who send emails can't really be trusted to format them, so it "fixes" their error for you. In other words, if I send you this plain text email:

Hi,
How are you doing?
Call me when you can.
Kate

Outlook helpfully displays:

Hi, How are you doing? Call me when you can. Kate

Most of the time that's only a petty annoyance. But what about when my code sends:

Monday 1:00
Tuesday 2:30
Wednesday 4:00
Thursday 9:30
Friday 10:00

And you see:

Monday 1:00 Tuesday 2:30 Wednesday 4:00 Thursday 9:30 Friday 10:00

Know what happens then? I do! The user reports a bug that the emails are misformatted. And what's more, when you tell them it's an Outlook issue and send them a screen shot of what to click in Outlook to fix it, they don't thank you. Well, Scott Mitchell has discovered what to do in your code to make Outlook leave your ratsen-fratsen line breaks alone. Just add a space before each newline. Awesome, thanks Scott!

Kate

Wednesday, 21 April 2010 08:49:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Monday, 19 April 2010

I am accumulating Visual Studio 2010 links at quite a pace. Let's have a bunch in this post:

Kate

Monday, 19 April 2010 14:33:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 17 April 2010

When I show off Windows 7 features and talk about how you can add them to your apps, I usually show a "sad trombone" moment featuring Visual Studio 2008, like this:

(I really like jumplists in the start menu, so I thought I would show that in my screenshot instead of the classic right-click-on-the-taskbar jumplist. They're the same.) But this jumplist isn't useful. It isn't all the .sln files I've opened before, or the projects, or anything really except some random bits of XML, icons, schemas, and code files that I dragged in to Visual Studio over the past few months while I had some real solution open.

Now this isn't poor Visual Studio's fault. It was released before Windows 7, before anyone knew that the MRU list kept by the OS itself would be important. As I've explained in presentations before, there's a reason this happens. You see, when you double-click a .docx file, Windows looks up who handles those, launches Word to open the file, and accumulates that file name on the MRU list for Word. Cool. Ditto for .txt and Notepad, etc. But Visual Studio is different, and it's different so that you can have Visual Studio 2005 and 2008 side by side on your machine, and use .sln for the solution file names in both products. You double-click a .sln file and what actually runs is a little launcher that looks inside the .sln file to see if it's a 2005 or 2008 solution and then runs the right Visual Studio and passes the solution to it. Cool. But as a result Windows isn't accumulating what you opened with Visual Studio 2008, it's accumulating what you opened with the little launcher. The jumplist for Visual Studio 2008 therefore contains only things you opened directly with it, and that's not a very useful list.

OK, so I know why. And it's nice to know, btw, that Visual Studio 2010 gets it right. And in my presentations, I usually leave it at that, encouraging you to add the one whole line of code to your app (if you're using Code Pack) so you "don't be that guy".

But wait! What if you want a good jumplist for Visual Studio 2008? Especially if you don't have Visual Studio 2005 installed any more, so you don't care about the whole pick-what-version-to-launch feature? Well, you could try this suggestion from Josh Einstein. I like that he doesn't explain it much and says "If you need more instructions then the hack probably isn’t for you." His instructions, terse as they are, are for 64 bit Windows 7. A commenter supplies the 32 bit version.

I actually haven't tried this yet. Don't want to set my computer on fire or anything :-). But if you feel like living on the edge, give it a whirl!

Kate

Saturday, 17 April 2010 08:22:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Is it a good omen when mornings start out beautiful? I think it might be:

Normally, when I go to a conference, the first day is a little slow. I might go to the keynote, or I might not. If I do, I wander in to the back row 5 minutes before it starts (hey, I'm leaving plenty of seats for the paying attendees) with my coffee in my hand. So reaching the keynote room at 7am, full of pep and vigour, was fun!

I really liked the story the keynote demos told. If you haven't seen it yet, it's available online. The demos start with simple productivity boosts like multi-monitor support, Intellisense for Javascript, and so on, then move to some amazing C++ updates including Windows 7 support (yes, the demo went boom, but if you watch closely you'll see it was just that the app was still running, preventing a successful rebuild.) Then you see "SharePoint F5", a huge pain-saver for anyone, like me, who does SharePoint development. Over a dozen manual steps done for you when you press F5, and you can run SharePoint right on your laptop. But they're not done yet -- here comes an Azure demo with the Windows Phone 7 emulator and a real phone, and then Team Foundation Server and a ton of exciting new Application Lifecycle Management features in Visual Studio including (no kidding) time travel. Wow! I hope you all enjoyed it as much from the seats as I did from backstage.

No sooner was the keynote over than I was headed for the Channel 9 stage to record half an hour of Q&A with Twitter people.

That's available online too. And if you want more, some of the sessions are appearing on Channel 9, too. Not filmed on site, but the content matches. Get your Visual Studio 2010 from MSDN downloads, or if you're not a subscriber you can take the Professional Edition for a test drive.

Kate

Tuesday, 13 April 2010 11:38:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 11 April 2010

I've never been backstage for a big keynote before. There's a lot going on back there. Each demo runs on its own machine, so if one messes up it doesn't hurt the others. There are monitors everywhere showing what's on all the cameras and what's going out as the feed. There's one half for the camera and production people, and one half for the demo people. Here's a glimpse of the demo half:

Crowded, noisy, hot, and people are standing in your way sometimes. Best seat in the house!

Also, I'm just loving the signs throughout the Bellagio. There are all different ones (water, wires, light bulbs etc) but I think this is my favourite:

Watching something launch feels like it wouldn't be exciting, after all how long have I been working with this product? But you know what, it is!

Kate

Sunday, 11 April 2010 11:13:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 09 April 2010

This trip to the launch gets more exciting by the minute! Check this out:

The Channel 9 team will be broadcasting live, unscripted, and 100% interactive from DevConnections 2010 in Las Vegas as part of the Visual Studio 2010 and Silverlight 4 launches.

Join us Monday April 12th, from 8AM (PST) for Bob Muglia's VS2010 Launch keynote then stay tuned for more than seven hours worth of Visual Studio 2010-themed demos, interviews and panel discussions on Channel 9 Live.

. . .

Day 1 Schedule April 12th 2010 (Pacific time)

8:00 AM DevConnections 2010 Day 1 Keynote.

10:00 AM Welcome to VS2010: Doug Handler and Brian Randell with Dan Fernandez.   

10:30 AM Live Q&A with Bob Muglia, President Server & Tools Division with Dan Fernandez.

11:00 AM VS2010: Native Code. Kate Gregory and Richard Campbell with Charles Torre.   

11:30 AM VS2010: Managed Code. Lisa Feigenbaum, Tim Ng Dustin Campbell with Charles Torre.

. . . then some other people, who I love, but I can't paste it all in here. . .

To be part of it, use Twitter with @ch9live somewhere in your message. We'll see it and that's all it takes to join the conversation!

I count 11 Regional Directors (many of whom are also MVPs) on the guest list. What a way to spend the day!

Kate

Friday, 09 April 2010 23:27:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 07 April 2010
A little over five years ago a whole pile of people, inspired by Julie Lerman, got together to raise money for the tsunami relief and recovery in Aceh. (Here are my blog entries from that time.) We raised over $10,000 and perhaps some of you were wondering if we made a difference. Well Stephen Forte, who was a big part of that effort, now lives nearby and he visited them. His update is a lovely way to see what happened as a result of our efforts. It's nice to see that the organization we chose to support is still there and still doing good work. I wish all my donations came with a five year followup like that.

Kate

Wednesday, 07 April 2010 23:20:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 03 April 2010

I've been accumulating a ton of links relevant to Windows 7 development, so let's use some of them up:

Mmmm, I feel much more caught up now.

Kate
Saturday, 03 April 2010 06:12:33 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 01 April 2010
C++ developers generally care a lot about how fast their code runs. In many cases that's the reason they wrote the application in C++. Every release of C++ development tools (compiler, optimizer, linker etc) typically has some effort invested in producing code that runs faster, even if that means the tool itself runs slower. It's tempting to think that the gains would have levelled off by now - after all, C++ has been around for a very long time. But a recent post by Lin Xu of the C++ team shows how you can take you 2008 project and rebuild it in 2010 (using the right options of course) to see up to a 16% speed increase with no code changes by you. Lin also discusses the extent to which this will slow your build process.

Visual Studio 2010 and Visual C++ have a TON of important new features for native developers, which I'll cover shortly. But let's just start with this one - faster applications - for the moment.

Kate

Thursday, 01 April 2010 05:58:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 30 March 2010

It's thirteen days to launch. Yesterday I was able to confirm I will be attending the Las Vegas event. I'm stoked! The speaker line-up is amazing:

In addition to insightful keynotes by Bob Muglia, President, Server and Tools Business and Scott Guthrie, Corporate Vice President, .NET Developer Platform, see key members of the Visual Studio team including Doug Seven, Sean McBreen, Chris Sells and Andy Conrad. Also see favorites from the third-party community including Juval Lowy, Michele Leroux Bustamante, Billy Hollis, Tim Huckaby, Rocky Lhotka, Dan Wahlin, Steven Smith, and Rick Strahl. Listen to a live recording of .NET Rocks! with Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell.

That's 8 RDs in that paragraph. Are we an amazing community or what? There is so much good stuff in this release that I haven't been able to play with it all yet, so I'm really looking forward to having some smart people show me what I need to know quickly.

If you can't be there in person, you'll miss some of the fun, but not all! Code Project is running a Tech Summit so you can "experience the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 launch alongside the Visual Studio team." Live video sessions and even a virtual swag-bag for attendees.

One way or the other, be there!

Kate

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 06:41:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [3]
# Sunday, 28 March 2010
I've mentioned before how Windows 7 Boot-to-VHD makes working with betas so much better for me. In fact just last week I built a new VHD image to do something new with the RC of Visual Studio 2010. It took a few hours off and on, while I was puttering around the house, to install Windows, install Visual Studio, install Office, install the zips of code that someone had sent me to test, install Camtasia, and so on. I didn't begrudge the time, but I was trying to set up something very specific for a test. If you'd just like to play around a bit and see what all the fuss is about, I bet you would like it if someone made a VHD for you and you could just download it and use it.

Well Presto! Brian Keller has done just that. And he hasn't just installed Visual Studio on it, but a whole pile of hands on labs, the sample data and configuration that the labs need, and so on. In fact it's three VHDs depending on your virtualization tool - Hyper-V, Virtual PC 2007, or Windows 7 Virtual PC.

If you're getting excited about the run-up to launch and starting to ask "oh, is there good stuff in this version of Visual Studio?" then this is a really simple way to get yourself closer to seeing for yourself just how much good stuff there is. Have fun!

Kate

Sunday, 28 March 2010 06:34:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 26 March 2010
One of the things I did during my break from blogging was to start creating content for Pluralsight. Is there anyone who hasn't heard of Pluralsight? An amazing group of people who want to help everyone learn how to develop on Microsoft platforms. They offer in-classroom training and also a rapidly growing online collection of videos and tutorials called Pluralsight On-Demand! that lets you learn what you want on the spot. Rather than just "here's a one hour video on topic X" it's all set up with searches and indexes to take you straight to the piece you want when you're in a searchy mood. It's really nicely done.

Pluralsight is a very MVP-positive group (and RD-positive too, though we're rarer) and has more than a few MVPs on the technical and management team. During the MVP Summit they announced that all MVPs and RDs get a free standard subscription to the entire Pluralsight On-Demand! training library. That's a heck of a deal and if you're eligible, you should sign up now.

I have one how-to reference video published at the moment, on taskbar overlays (icons and progress bars) in Windows 7 with Code Pack. There will be more :-)

Kate

Friday, 26 March 2010 09:10:51 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Saturday, 28 November 2009

I've wanted one of these since I saw it on Steve Clayton's blog (twice). And now I have one - lucky me.

One of the reasons I'll use a big mouse (compared to the gosh-that's-tiny notebook style) is the magnify button on the side. Just as I usually don't want to get off the keyboard to use the mouse to, say, save my document, I don't want to get off the mouse and use the keyboard to zoom and stop zooming when I'm presenting. I had a nice Microsoft mouse a few years back but the magnify button wouldn't work with the beta of Vista I was using and I ended up letting someone else use that mouse. So I'm super happy that the magnify button on this mouse works just beautifully with Windows 7.

 

Happy presenter.

Kate

Saturday, 28 November 2009 21:41:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, 26 November 2009

I teach a course at Trent University on Object Oriented Analysis and Design with UML, and have done since the last century. I teach my students how to make decisions about the systems they will some day build, and how to draw diagrams that communicate those decisions to others. We find as often as not that the act of trying to make the diagram leads us through the thought processes that are needed to make good decisions. That brings huge value even if you never show the diagram to anyone else and never update it.

I've never been a big fan of "technical documentation" in the form of a giant binder that some poor person has to keep up to date any time the code changes. If you want to know all the methods of the Employee class, why not use Intellisense or the Object Browser or the like? But that doesn't mean I don't like making those diagrams at the beginning, when they help me to do my thinking. I also make them when I have something to explain, including when I bring a new person onto a project. So how much do I love this quote?

the UML ... was to be a language for visualizing, specifying, constructing, and documenting the artifacts of a software-intensive system—in short, a graphical language to help reason about the design of a system as it unfolds. Most diagrams should be thrown away, but there are a few that should be preserved, and in all, one should only use a graphical notation for those things that cannot easily be reasoned about in code.

It's in an interview I already linked to, but it took Patrick Smacchia to point our those sentences to me. As I wind up the last few weeks of the course, it's nice to know that my position on the point of the diagrams and deliverables is aligned with one of my heroes.

Kate

Thursday, 26 November 2009 20:38:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Pete Brown has a terrific two part series on sensor programming in Windows 7. Part 1 has a link for where to get the board, and fills you in on the new architecture. Lots of helpful links and screenshots here, including one to Pietro Bambrati that includes some changes to the racing game sample to make the accelerometer work and one to his video showing you how to install and test it.

Part 2 starts with this nice summary of your options as a developer:

There are three different ways you can use the accelerometer API. You can, of course, go directly against the COM API and generate your own wrappers and pinvokes. You can use the managed wrappers provided in the SDK, or you can use the Windows API Code Pack which includes support for the sensor API and a number of other Windows 7-specific enhancements. In this case, I decided to use the code pack in concert with WPF 4.

Hard to argue with that! Pete has written an AccelerometerJoystick you can use in any "controller" situation - and be sure to think beyond just games!

Definitely read and watch, and let Pete and Pietro save you some time!

Kate

Tuesday, 24 November 2009 20:12:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Sunday, 22 November 2009

I saw this on Scott Hanselman's blog:

It's three little meters - memory, CPU, and Disk IO. Each has a jump list with the obvious tasks - starting Task Manager, for example. It's really simple to do (read the code yourself) thanks to Code Pack.

What will you do over a weekend with it?

Kate

Sunday, 22 November 2009 19:46:36 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, 20 November 2009