Sunday, 19 November 2006
XPS is a new document format. Office 2007 uses it, and your applications can use it too. Under the hood, an XPS document is just a zip file of many XML files and some binary resources (such as images.) The Microsoft XPS page says:
Microsoft has integrated XPS-based technologies into the 2007 Microsoft Office system and the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system, but XPS itself is platform independent, openly published, and available royalty-free. Microsoft is using XPS to bring additional document value to its customers, its partners, and the computing industry.
Since XPS documents describe layout and rendering as well as just content, you can think of them a lot like PDF files. As a result they're likely to show up on web sites or to be emailed to you. If you haven't yet moved up to Vista/Office 2007/IE7 you may not know what to do with them.
The solution is a free XPS viewer. It's up to you whether you want it integrated into IE6 -- I got the standalone viewer from the XPS Essentials. Took only a minute or so to download and install, and I didn't even have to reboot. Get it and be one of the cool kids again.
Saturday, 18 November 2006
Microsoft's Developer Division is really taking this transparency thing seriously. First it opened much of the spec for Orcas, the next version of Visual Studio, to the MVPs, and now it's opening it to the public. Seriously! And not only that, but they're asking you how you feel about these features:
Which features do you think are important? Are we making the wrong assumptions about how you will use Visual Studio and .NET? Are we forgetting about your scenario?
This page lists specifications for Visual Studio and .NET "Orcas". These specifications document the new features you will find in CTP's and provide an opportunity for you to give feedback. Please remember, some features specified below may be cut and others may be significantly altered. We'd love your feedback to help us with this decision process. Your feedback will be delivered into our bug database and shared with the feature team. The team will use your feedback to develop the specification or make improvements to future releases of Visual Studio.
So how important is STL/CLR to you? Or friend templates? Read the specs and scenarios, try them out in the September CTP, then speak up!
There are two things you should know about these documents. First, they can be quite large. The STL/CLR one is 38 pages. Second, they're XPS. On my Vista development machine, with IE7 and Office 2007, I just click to read them. On my XP machine with IE6 and Office 2003, it's not so seamless. Time to get me an XPS document viewer for the laptop.
Friday, 17 November 2006
Microsoft Canada is running a contest. Nominate a developer (or team of developers) who is making software that makes a difference. Subscribe to the MSDN Flash (you should anyway) to make yourself an eligible nominator. Like the nomination form says:
Judges are seeking nominations that present an innovative solution that
- defines how Microsoft technology (e.g. Visual Studio® development system, Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005, Windows Vista™ operating system) played a role in making the solution possible;
- not only helps your business, charity, or community but could help other businesses, charities or communities; and
- has had a positive impact on a business or within the community.
And when I say "judges", I mean me, Mark Relph and Barnaby Jeans of Microsoft Canada, Stephen Ibaraki and Barry Gervin. Come on, impress us! Nominations are online-only.
And prizes? Of course there are prizes. Like actual cash money for the winning developer, the winning team, and their favourite charities. Not to mention a trip to Toronto (hotel and a plane ticket if you need it) to receive your prize. So what's stopping you? Heck, with a deadline of April 12th, you still have time to write the application and then enter! (Be sure to read the rules about telling the nominees you're nominating them, dealing with applications that use some third party code, and so on.)
Thursday, 16 November 2006
The nice folks at Microsoft Denmark have uploaded most of the materials from my recent talk. Thanks to Nikolaj for the link. All of this is in Danish but I suspect most of you will figure it out... my materials are in English once you get them. Højere produktivitet will soon be yours!
Wednesday, 15 November 2006
The nice folks at O'Reilly, who make very good geeky books, have a fun little quiz going on. They show you a code snippet and you guess what book it's from. This is usually (but not always) a matter of guessing what the language is, and that's harder than you might think at first. There's a little timer counting down so the longer you take to make up your mind, the less points you get. Here's a really easy example:
<p>Here is a paragraph.
<p>And here is another.
Is that from:
- Gaming Hacks
- Learning XML, 2nd Edition
- GNU Emacs Pocket Reference
- HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, 4th Edition
Trust me, most of them are much harder
Tuesday, 14 November 2006
The recording of our panel at Tech Ed Developers Europe is now available at the .NET Rocks site. "Kate Gregory, Stephen Forte, and Roy Osherove join Richard Campbell and Carl Franklin on stage at TechEd Europe in Barcelona for this discussion about Agile methodologies." We enjoyed doing the show, the folks who were there in person asked plenty of questions, and I hope you enjoy listening to it.
Monday, 13 November 2006
Apparently a lot of people come to me for their physics experiment information, so I have an update. The pitchdrop experiment is listed as one of the longest running experiments ever. It surely must be one of the slowest.
Pitch, like glass, is a very very thick liquid that can be shattered and that most people think of as a solid. This experiment has been measuring its viscosity by timing the drops... they fall about once every 8 or 9 years. There have been 8 so far, most recently in November 2000, and no-one has ever seen one fall - that is, separate from the funnel. There's a webcam pointed at it, but it should be a while yet before you need to start monitoring it.
Sunday, 12 November 2006
Data tips are really cool. It's fun to drill down into containers and complex objects and really see what's going on:
So imagine you're in the debugger. You've expanded all this stuff, and you really understand what's in mapVectString now. It has two entries, each is a vector of strings, and you're looking at entry #1 and it has three strings, and you have a good mental picture of the object. Nice. So when I'm debugging, my next step is to say to myself what the code is going to do, given what the object holds. I know most of us do that -- we solve the bug before control even reaches the bad line. But there's one problem... these delightful data tips are covering up the code!
Now, you could move your mouse off the tips, let them fade, read the code, and bring them back again, but that isn't exactly fun or efficient. So try this instead. Press Ctrl. Nothing else, just press Ctrl by itself.
See that? the data tips go almost (but not completely) transparent. Let go of Ctrl and they come back! I bet the first time you try this you will press and release Ctrl a bunch of times with a silly grin on your face. I know I did. Enjoy! BTW, it appears to be Visual-Studio-wide so feel free to apply this tip to your VB and C# programming also.
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