# Saturday, November 25, 2006

Here's a little oddity I happened across. It's a patent application:

The present invention provides a system and/or method that facilitates expanding keywords within an existing computer programming language by employing a whitespace keyword containing embedded whitespace. A whitespace component can receive code, and create a whitespace keyword based at least upon a successive comparison of adjacent tokens. The whitespace component creates a whitespace keyword by replacing more than one token with a single token containing embedded whitespace. Moreover, the whitespace component can utilize a lexical analyzer to group code into tokens and a parser component to parse the code.

This actually makes sense to me (assuming you accept that the idea of software patents in general makes sense.) It was a huge leap to take a language like C++, where keywords are separated by spaces, and extend it to become a language where some of the keywords actually contain spaces. After all, so many of us already have words like ref and value as variable names: the only way for C++/CLI to work is the conceptual leap that says "ref isn't the keyword, ref class is the keyword." If you wonder how that's actually done... read the patent application.


Saturday, November 25, 2006 2:54:42 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Friday, November 24, 2006

There are quite a few products, generally older products, that aren't going to be supported on Vista and probably aren't going to work on Vista. One of the not supported announcements that seems to be catching people by surprise is about SQL Server 2000 and it's free sibling, MSDE. They seem to have run afoul of UAC, which really does require you to change your application.

If you are using SQL Server 2000, you should upgrade to 2005 anyway: it has a lot of improvements for you. But MSDE users don't generally even realize they are using a database: they're using an application that uses a database. Whoever made that application needs to tweak their install so it uses SQL Express (which is just as free as MSDE ever was, and doesn't have a governor) instead. And if that's you, learn about Vista development while you're at it in case your application ends up needing changes too.


Friday, November 24, 2006 2:24:51 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Thursday, November 23, 2006

Has someone sent you a .docx file yet? That's the Word 2007 file format.  (The new Excel format is .xlsx, the new Powerpoint is .pptx, and so on.) The first time I tried to open one with Word 2003, I got a helpful dialog offering to get and install the converter for me, and I did, and now I can move the files back and forth around my network without concern. But a few people have mentioned to me that they didn't get this helpful dialog. You can hand-download and install the converter from the Office preview site. Make sure you are up to date on Office Service Packs... there are links from the download page. And though the converter says it's for the Technical Refresh 2, it has worked fine for me on files created with earlier betas.


Thursday, November 23, 2006 2:02:09 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I don't have a tag cloud on this blog yet because I haven't figured out how to do it with dasblog. But I think they're cool when I see them on other people's blogs. I came across a site that uses the cloud approach (larger fonts mean more occurrences) to report on word frequency in US presidential speeches. It's really neat to see Constitution fade over time, while economy or economic stays always there, and new words rise up. Play with the slider a little. I wonder what other bodies of text you could apply tag clouds to? I wonder what all the powerpoints on this laptop would produce?


Wednesday, November 22, 2006 1:43:56 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When Microsoft discovers a bug in a product, whether it's Windows, Visual Studio, or some other product, they typically fix it. And once that fix is tested and working, the question becomes how to deploy it. Sure, you can put the corrected code into the next version of the product, but that might be years away. There are service packs, but they are pretty far apart, and for good reason. So the first deployment vehicle is the hotfix or QFE (Quick Fix Engineering.) These are typically available only from support and only after you've convinced support you're facing the problem that the hotfix takes care of. (At least, that's the theory. Since a hotfix is a single file, people can and do share them although I suspect you're not supposed to.)

Now there's a new pilot program underway where some hotfixes are being made public, so that you don't have to wait for a service pack. Of course you should approach this with caution, but it can make investigating those hard problems a little smoother. At the moment I see seven hotfixes there: three are for Visual C++.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006 12:56:15 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Monday, November 20, 2006

Ed Bott has published some advanced tips for Vista. My favourite? Master the Quick Launch bar, including the Add to Quick Launch context menu item and (I didn't know this) keyboard shortcuts for the items in the Quick Launch. More reasons piling up why I want to move this laptop to Vista ... not much longer!


Monday, November 20, 2006 12:24:17 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Sunday, November 19, 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.


Sunday, November 19, 2006 7:58:15 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Saturday, November 18, 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.


Saturday, November 18, 2006 7:40:13 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #