# 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]