Monday, 26 June 2006
Hugh (hughtrain, cartoons on a business card) MacLeod has written an interesting set of "instructions" on how to be more creative. Many of these directly contradict each other... that's because there's more than one way to be creative. I actually found the summary points more helpful than the more detailed explanations further down the page. But either way, it's a good way to get yourself thinking about thinking. Then later you can relax and not think, and good ideas will come to you. Or at least that's how it works for me.
Sunday, 25 June 2006
Jan Tielens points out a big relief in the next version of SharePoint: setting up alerts for someone other than yourself. I faced this need many times and adapted one of the many web part samples available online to allow administrators to set up alerts for other users.
Little things like this are going to dramatically reduce the number of web parts I have to write. And I like that!
Saturday, 24 June 2006
The Visual C++ team all gathered together over the last week to hold a "slow chat" with the CodeGuru community. Users posted questions, the team answered them, and conversations ensued. Some of the interesting questions I spotted (it's all still there for you to read through at your leisure):
- Why have the keyword abstract? Isn't the presence/absence of a pure virtual function enough? Or a private virtual destructor, that would force someone to implement a derived class?
- What do I gain and lose by compiling my old native app with VC 2005?
- Will MFC gain classes that wrap Vista-specific functionality?
- What language does Microsoft use most?
Lots of straight talk from Brandon, Ayman, Tarek, Jon, Steve, and others from the Visual C++ team. Take your time and read it all.
Friday, 23 June 2006
Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) is a bit of a funny creature. It needs to adapt with each release of Office, and also with each release of Visual Studio. The next version is code named Cypress and it works with either Visual Studio 2005 or with Orcas, and with Office 2007. Charles Sterling blogged the announcement just before TechEd:
Cypress will include the following functionality and release at about the same time as Office 2007:
· Application-level add-ins for the most popular Office applications including Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, InfoPath and Visio. This is currently the #1 most requested feature for VSTO – safe loading, unloading, and management of managed add-ins. I’m thrilled that we’re going to be able to provide this functionality to developers much earlier than anticipated.
· Office key feature support: programming model and runtime support for Ribbon, Custom Task Panes, and Outlook forms regions. Office’s new UI contains exciting extensibility opportunities and Cypress will enable VSTO’s simple coding experiences like IntelliSense.
· Maintainability and compatibility are core principles for the VSTO team and Cypress will also ensure that your applications built on Office 2003 with VSTO 2005 continue to run with Office 2007.
Cypress is an add-on and is incremental. It is not, itself a complete Visual Studio product release. Anyone who has a licensed version of Visual Studio 2005 will be eligible to download Cypress for free. However, I want to be clear that Cypress is not a super-set of all the VSTO 2005 functionality that was made available for Office 2003 replicated for Office 2007. As promised, Excel Workbook and Word Document project support for Office 2007 will come on-line in VSTO “Orcas”, and be made available in upcoming “Orcas” CTPs. Also look for the exciting new VSTO “Orcas” functionality, such as the visual designers for the Ribbon and Custom Task Panes, and Outlook in these “Orcas” CTPs.
There's a Channel 9 video in which KD Hallman and Eric Carter discuss features and goals of Cypress and beyond that's a pretty good starting point.
If you can stand the endless rounds of public betas, CTPs, and trying to work out which versions need each other or conflict with each other, you can have a lot of fun this summer!
Thursday, 22 June 2006
One of the huge holes in the current version of SharePoint is workflow. If you have a document that starts out as a draft, and then the author decides it's ready to be approved, and then someone approves it and it goes to a more public status, that's workflow. And it's not supported in the SharePoint (either WSS or SPS) you can "buy" today. (WSS is free with Windows Server 2003, so I put "buy" in quotes.)
This hole is going to be fixed in the next version of SharePoint. The team has a blog and has posted a quick summary of what workflow will be like and just how much will come to you "out of the box." Check this list:
To help people get started with scenarios like these, we’ve taken some common processes we’ve seen in our research and built those workflows into SharePoint Server 2007 out-of-the-box for people to use without IT involvement.These out-of-the-box workflows include:
- Approval: Routes a document for approval. Approvers can approve or reject the document, reassign the approval task, or request changes to the document.
- Collect Feedback: Routes a document for review. Reviewers can provide feedback, which is compiled and sent to the document owner when the workflow has completed.
- Collect Signatures: Gathers signatures needed to complete an Office document. This workflow can be started only from within an Office client.
- Disposition Approval: Manages document expiration and retention by allowing participants to decide whether to retain or delete expired documents.
- Group Approval: Similar to the Approval workflow, but uses a designated document library and offers a personalized view of the approval process(es) in which a user is participating. This workflow provides a hierarchical organization chart from which to select the approvers and allows the approvers to use a stamp control instead of a signature. This solution was designed specifically for East Asian Markets.
- Translation Management: Manages document translation by creating copies of the document to be translated and assigning translation tasks to translators.
- Issue Tracking: Manages the issue tracking process by creating tasks for Active issues assigned to users who own to a given issue. When the task related to an issue is complete hence resolving the issue, the creator of the issue is assigned a review task so that the issue can be closed.
Think about what you will be able to take care of with this! Do you want the beta? Of course you do. And there's a whole new Enterprise Content Management blog to talk about all of this in greater detail, too.
Wednesday, 21 June 2006
There is growing awareness that making software takes a lot more than just making code. Certainly being a developer is much more than being a coder. But as someone who runs a consulting business, I certainly know that for me and for my people to make great code for our clients, we need support from non developers. This isn't just about testing and UI design and documentation either. It's about calling the courier, getting a new mouse when yours dies, making sure there's cold Coke in the fridge all the time, and plenty of paper in the printer. Sure, developers can do all that stuff... but they make more code, bill more hours, and give better advice and mentoring when they don't have to do that stuff. In fact, Joel Spolsky says about 80% of your payroll, in a software development company, should go to people who don't actually develop software. Yikes! Our "overhead" is nowhere near that here at Gregcons, but we do have folks on staff who never ever write code of any sort. It's important to remember what a vital role everyone in a small company plays, whether we bill for their time or not.
Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Poking around on ZoomIn, I see what it thinks about my company:
The bio stuff is a little out of date, but ok. But wait a minute... apparently over $10 million dollars a year, and almost 330 people, are headed to somewhere in California on a regular basis, instead of here in the lovely Ontario countryside. Can I get a redirect?
Monday, 19 June 2006
This year at Tech Ed USA, the booths had slightly different badge scanning hardware than at past shows. Instead of removing your badge from the holder to be swiped, the boothies could just swipe a bar code on the front. This was used not just at booths, but also for session attendance. Here you see Canada's Technology Triangle guy himself, Dave Totzke, being swiped before my Friday talk:
I know at other TechEds they have used RFID in the badges, and then when you go to do evals you can choose from the sessions you actually attended: makes it easier for attendees and gets an accurate count of attendance. I don't know if session attendance and evals were linked here because I hardly attended any sessions at all. In fact, for those I did attend, I arrived with the speaker before the badge swipers so I never got swiped. I know looking at my own evals they told me how many evals were submitted but not how many people were in the room.
Knowing how many people actually attend sessions and comparing it to how many indicated they would in the scheduling tool helps to put talks into the right rooms... it's as awkward to talk to a cavernously empty room as to a busting-at-the-seams-full one. So I like this. But then, I liked the RFID chip, and I've been told it would never be accepted in North America.
BTW, little piece of language-specific trivia: apparently C++ talks get way more "didn't put it in the schedule" attendees than other languages. Is it because all languages get the same number of spontaneous dropins, and all the C++ folks who planned to attend follow through? Is it because C++ people don't like to use the scheduler? Who knows? I'm just happy that while the number of C++ talks may be less than in previous years, I'm still not in the smallest room.
Sunday, 18 June 2006
Another entry from the VC++ team. This one covers many of the IDE changes I showed in my recent Tech Ed talk. One of the questions that arose in that talk was "why does Visual Studio sometimes appear to freeze when I open a dialog?" Boris Jabes has an answer that explains to me why it's more likely to happen when I'm working in native code.
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