May 2007 Archives
If you were able to take a look at the Microsoft Calculator accessory running on, say, Microsoft Windows 3.1 and then take a look at the Calculator on XP or Vista, the most striking thing would be how little it has changed over the years (over a decade). Microsoft does have a free PowerToy, however, that you might want to use instead of the included Calculator.
Audacity 1.3.3 Beta
Audacity 1.3.3 Beta was released recently (May 18). This premiere multi-platform Open Source audio editor/recorder adds a surprising number of new features for a minor-point beta-update (1.3.2 beta to 1.3.3 beta). Mac OS X users will be happy to find that they can now import Quicktime files. There’s a new AutoDuck features that I’m guessing podcasters will find useful. But, there really are too many new features to list here. Check out the Beta release notes to see the descriptions for the many new features.
Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier 3.1 Beta
…was released on May 21 and is described on its website as something that…
Recovers files from disks with physical damage. Allows you to copy files from disks with problems such as bad sectors, scratches or that just give errors when reading data. The program will attempt to recover every readable piece of a file and put the pieces together. Using this method most types of files can be made useable even if some parts were not recoverable in the end.
Mozy: 2GB Free Storage
BigNerd commented on the post about PC World’s 101 free stuff that the…
…service didn’t look like a free service. I haven’t signed up for it. But, I took a quick look at their site and it looks like they have a free 2GB storage service with 50GB available for $4.95/month. It looks like they have client software specific for Windows and Mac OS X.
ReversiFlex 1.1.0 (game)
ReversiFlex 1.1.0 is an Open Source game for Microsoft Windows. Its SourceForge project summary reads as: A Reversi or Othello variation allowing customized boards. You can adjust the board size, place walls and set starting positions.. I believe it requires .Net Framework 2.0 (since was written using Visual Basic.NET).
Ilium PassBuilder: Password Creator
I know Ilium Software as a company that creates great software for Windows Mobile devices (Pocket PC & Smartphone). So, I was surprised to note that they have a nice Windows freeware called…
…that generates passwords for you. Its simple interface lets you define a couple of parameters that makes sure the password fits your needs by letting you define allowable characters and setting memory aid levels (how “word-like” a generated password looks).
Much of the criticism of the new Microsoft Surface computing table is misguided, for one simple reason: It’s intended to be used in commercial settings, not at home. Why, after all, would you want one of these things in your living room?
Bill Gates had a dream: A PC On Every Desktop.
Today that dream evolves,
Microsoft calls it “surface computing.” The technologies inside it are fairly mundane, but it has taken the company more than five years to develop the applications that make it useful. And, setting the company up as probably the most unexpected entrant into the furniture business in a long time, Microsoft will build the whole thing, from the software to the table itself.
Its goal is to make computing so intuitive that it becomes as simple to use as furniture. Microsoft Surface changes the way we interact with computers in the same way ATMs changed how we get money from a bank.
These machines, with 30-inch table displays, will cost $5,000 to $10,000 at first and compete with ordinary electronic kiosks, said Pete Thompson, general manager of the Microsoft surface computing group. Four key partners will launch products in hotels, casinos and retail stores as early as November.
Well, I knew this was bound to happen as soon as I heard Microsoft changed the names of the Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone to Professional Edition and Standard Edition. It not only confuses the ordinary customer, it also confuses technology journalists. Take a look at page 22 in the May 2007 issue of PC World. The half-page article is titled: Windows Mobile 6: New E-Mail Options. Read the sentence (about half-way through): And now you can edit data in an Excel spreadsheet (you still can’t create formulas or new spreadsheets though). Um, what? Yep, we have one confused tech journalist here. So, if you hear/read this repeated somewhere, please try to spread the correct information back down the path (I’ll try to track down the writer’s email address and do the same). The Pocket PC/Phone Edition has had the ability to edit Word and Excel documents (though translation was required until Windows Mobile 5) since, hmm, the Pocket PC 2000 days. Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition devices (Pocket PC Phone Edition) can still create and edit Word and Excel documents in their native formats (though not all functions are supported). The Smartphone (now called Standard Edition) never had any Microsoft-provided Word or Excel viewing capabilities at all up to and including Windows Mobile 5 Smartphones. Some vendors supplied third party tools to view documents, but Microsoft never provided the capability for the Smartphone. However, as I mentioned in a previous blog item, Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition (Smartphone) does allow editing Word and Excel documents. Next, you Excel Mobile for Standard Edition (Smartphone) does let you enter functions in a cell. It doesn’t provide an function list, but you can type it in yourself ( e.g., =SUM(A1:A3) ). Finally, yes, for some odd reason, Excel Mobile and Word Mobile do not let you create new documents on a Smartphone (let’s drop the Standard Edition stuff). However, there is a simple workaround. Just think about it for a moment and it will come to you :-)
ActiveSync vs. Hibernate & ActiveSync vs. Poke in the Eye
If you think I rant about ActiveSync, check out my friend Ed Hansberry’s blog item on PocketPCThoughts.com titled… Windows Mobile Device Center Poked Me In The Eye …where he describes a particularly painful encounter with ActiveSync the Next Generation (aka Windows Mobile Device Center - WMDC) which deleted as he says: …about 90% of my files from both the PC and device, so there were really no files to be found. Ouch! In my effort to conserve energy and reduce my personal carbon footprint, I’ve been using Hibernate with both Windows XP and Windows Vista for the past two months or so (you can check out my new GreenTechies blog if you are interested in such things… One of my slogans is: You don’t need to believe in global warming to want to save money :-) And, guess what piece of software seems to get particularly confused by Hibernating a system? [In my best Mr. Rogers’ voice] You are right… I knew you could guess that… I don’t use my Vista PC to sync regularly with a Windows Mobile device (just for testing). So, I don’t really see it over there yet. But, Windows XP + Hibernate + ActiveSync 4.5 doesn’t paint a pretty picture. If you know how to stablize ActiveSync on a hibernating PC, please let me know.
Windows Mobile 6 T-Mobile Dash Bluetooth ActiveSync Video Demo
I could never get my T-Mobile SDA Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone to work with ActiveSync over a wireless Bluetooth connection. There was nothing wrong with the old Belkin USB Bluetooth adapter on my desktop or ActiveSync since other Windows Mobile devices could sync with it over Bluetooth. Fortunately, my new T-Mobile Dash with the Windows Mobile 6 upgrade doesn’t suffer from this problem. The new WM6 communications center has an ActiveSync button (unlike WM5’s comm center) to make the whole process of wireless syncing Bluetooth a bit easier. I recorded a brief video (1 minute 28 seconds) this evening to give you an idea of what the Bluetooth ActiveSync process looks like. You can find the YouTube link to the video below… Video: Windows Mobile 6 T-Mobile Dash Bluetooth ActiveSync Demo
Windows Mobile 6 Word Mobile Looks Surprisingly Good!
I had to rush out of my office early this afternoon after completing a 6 page memorandum draft. I didn’t want to use a USB thumbdrive or a take the notebook with me. So, I just emailed it to myself after saving the file to Word 97-2003 format (from Word 2007). The document does not have any unusual formatting (e.g., embedded images). But, I did use a Word 2007 theme (Header 1 is a large font in blue, etc.). So, I was quite surprised how good the document looked on my T-Mobile Dash. The edge wrapping was well done, the titles and text looked good and was easy to read on the phone’s screen. I kind of wish there was an option to view it at, say, 33% size to fit more on the screen. But, the 50% size view was reasonable to use. If you haven’t tried viewing a “real” Word document on your Windows Mobile 6 phone, try it out. You might be pleasantly surprised like I was.
Google Calendar for Mobile Devices
Google Calendar for mobile devicesGoogle announced a mobile device friendly version of Google Calendar today… Calendar for Mobile Devices I gave it a quick try on my T-Mobile Dash by adding an event. The agenda view (list of events) is the only view available on a mobile device. I went to the regular PC to flesh out the information (I could type faster there). Adding the address for an event lets you use the mobile version of Google Maps from a link on the event. Microsoft Pocket Streets used to integrate with Contacts on Windows Mobile devices. But, now that it is gone, I guess that this Google feature could be handy (unless you are out of tower range :-) . You can find Google Calendar at: calendar.google.com
Windows Mobile 6 Pocket PC
I’ve got Windows Mobile 6 on a Pocket PC to compare with a Smartphone (or Professional and Standard Editions if you prefer). Word Mobile and Excel Mobile have obvious advantages on the larger Pocket PC format factor with a touchscreen. But, it is amazing how much nicer some features like word completion look on a Smartphone vs. a Pocket PC. You would think the more mature (from an editing perspective) Pocket PC would have the advantage. But, that is not the case from my point of view. Despite this, though, entering information in Word Mobile or Excel Mobile on the Pocket PC is still a much better and easier experience overall. And, ack, ack, ack, when is Microsoft going to bring the good ol’ calculator for the Pocket PC out of the 20th century and into this one? It looks awful and out of place compared to the rest of the Pocket PC and downright archaic compared to the small but reasonably effective UI they added for the Smartphone’s WM6 calculator.
Small Smartphone Excel Mobile Display Glitch
Windows Mobile 6 Excel Mobile for Smartphone Find Screen GlitchI found a minor display error in Excel Mobile running on a Windows Mobile 6 T-Mobile Dash (Smartphone; AKA Standard Edition). The “Look in:” selection box in the “Find” window is not completely displayed. It is still usable since I can see enough of the option to figure out what the choices are. But, it would be nice to see the whole thing. I suspect we’ll see a few more of these screen form format glitches as time goes by. The variety of resolutions and screen orientations (landscape or portrait) is bound to mess up some applications on the Pocket (Classic or Professional Edition) and Smartphone (Standard Edition). Excel Mobile is probably a double whammy case since the Office Mobile components are seeing their first appearance on the Smartphone starting with Windows Mobile 6 and most people (including developers) probably think of the Smartphone as having a portrait oriented screen.
I haven’t gotten into Second Life and the other various virtual worlds on the web. So, I decided to take a quick look at…
Grisoft AVG Free Edition Out: Avast!4 (free) & NOD32 (pay) in on Windows Vista PCs for Anti-Virus Work
I gave Grisoft AVG Free Edition a test run lasting a couple of months on one of my Vista PCs. But, it just wasn’t working out. It had some kind of weird interaction with Vista’s own security mechanisms that kept creating a condition where an alternate display window of some kind was created where the virus update process kept getting stuck.
This is a bit of stretch given my criteria for mentioning products on this site. But, given the buzz around it and the widening of their beta program in the past week or so, tonight’s item is:
SSL-Explorer 0.2.13: VPN Alternative
SSL Explorer 0.2.13 is a Java-based Open Source multiplatform application that lets you access resources behind an Intranet firewall through a secure web browser SSL (https) connection. The difference between using this product and a VPN is that no client side software or configuration other than a web browser is needed.
Free Windows Vista Wallpaper Photos from the Photographer (Hamash Darwish)
Whatever you might think of Microsoft Windows Vista (and I’ll go on record saying I like it), you have to admit that the wallpaper photographs that come with it are amazingly beautiful. Microsoft commissioned photographers to provide those photos. And, of course, not all the photos taken by the photographers were actually shipped with Vista. As you might imagine, even the rejects are pretty good. One of the photographers has made his unused photos available for free.
Notepad++ 4.1.1 Released (but crashing when I try to save a file)
OK, I didn’t take the night off after all… ^_^ I just noticed that Notepad++ 4.1.1 was released today. I use this editor all the time. So, I downloaded and installed it right away. But,umm, it crashes every time I have tried to save a file so far. So, I might fall back to an older build if I can’t figure out what is going on with this release on my PC.
PC World Article: 101 Freebies
I picked up the May issue of PC World because its cover screamed Best Free Stuff. After reading Preston Gralla’s article…
…I considered taking it easy for the next 101 days by just blogging one item at a time from his article ;-) … ^-^ … But, nah, I’ll just take a breather this evening and send you over to the link above to feast in free stuff for Microsoft Windows.
Virtual CloneDrive 184.108.40.206
Wow, what a lifesaver (or at least an annoyance reducer)! I uninstalled Microsoft Office 2007 Beta-2 from my Windows Vista PC a few weeks ago but did not get around to installing the Office 2007 production version until this weekend. Unfortunately, my Office 2007 installation CD generated a weird error. So, I downloaded and installed the freeware…
Mashup fans: You don’t need to know how to write a line of code if you want to create your own, customized mashup. You can use the beta of Microsoft’s new Popfly site, to build them by simply dragging building blocks onto a page and connecting them.
TITLE DISCLAIMER: Are you really all that surprised? Come on now… ;-)
So, as I was saying… Courtesy of Peter Fisk, the Dynamic Language Runtime has “awl’ gawn ind grow’d uptawn uhs”, adding yet another choice to the list of current and future languages available to the web hacking masses,
Ruby? Check. (or at very least, soon to be “Check.”)
JScript? Dynamic VB? Smalltalk?
Check. Check. and…
Above is a test of the “virtual desktop” running inside a Firefox browser. To test it in your browser, you must have the Silverlight 1.1 runtime installed.
The “virtual desktop” running in Silverlight is progressing. Windows are now resizable and can be positioned by dragging the header. Open workspace windows by clicking on the desktop background.
“Yeah,” you find yourself asking with a twinge of doubt and an eagerness to find fault in pretty much anything you can’t claim a part in bringing to fruition, “but does it run cross-platform?”
I’d say we can make that a “Check!”
SWEET! Thanks (again!), Peter!
[Editorial note: It is actually a MacBookPro 17, as is pointed out in a friendly comment below]
Here’s what it is like to buy your first Mac.
1. The number of purchase decisions are far fewer
2. It arrives in a beautiful box. You slip it out of the box, set the instructions aside as unnecessary, plug it in, turn it on. The machine is very beautiful. It asks you your name. The fonts are very beautiful.
Then it works.
Mac people laugh at you if you buy a book about how to use it; the culture is; use it, poke around.
Parallels lets you run XP and/or Vista on your Mac in a window or full screen; it is one of the easiest, fastest and nicest VM software packages I’ve seen.
I plugged my 500Gig external hard disk into the mac, formatted it and it worked (3 minutes). I plugged my two button optical wireless mouse in, worked great. I plugged my monitor from my Dell laptop in, worked instantly. I plugged my network in, worked perfectly, instantly and with zero setup.
The kicker was that setting up XP through Parallels on the Mac was faster and an order of magnitude easier than it was on my Dell. Cracked me up; the Mac answered all the questions for me; I just sat back and watched it work.
I hear the Mac folks are afraid that Microsoft is selling Silverlight as cross-platform today but might “walk away”from the Mac at “any moment.” But I just don’t buy it; the Mac is too much fun, and once a lot of Vista and XP users get our hands on it, using Silverlight applications that run both on Vista and on the Mac — well, I wonder if Silverlight won’t eventually sell more Macs than it does Dell machines.
Niftiest program so far: video conferencing through AIM; there is something very nice about seeing the person you’re talking to, for free, with very solid full motion video. Yes, it takes a very big pipe, but FIOS is cheap these days, and the Mac makes it painless.
Meanwhile, the more I program with Silverlight, the more impressed I am.
Is the growing availability of open source, free and third-party tools, as well as the passion of their users, finally getting the attention of .NET developers? Or to ask the question differently, can any .NET developer these days afford to ignore a solution like Rails or a tool like NHibernate?
David Laribee, who blogs frequently on .NET topics, provoked a wide ranging conversation among his peers with his April proposal to put a name to what he and others see as an emerging ethos among .NET developers: ALT.NET (a name that may stir other memories among former usenet denizens). It’s not the tool that’s important, he writes, it’s the solution the tool makes possible, and the ease with which it can be maintained and extended. Here’s his credo:
“What does it mean to be ALT.NET? In short it means:
- You’re the type of developer who uses what works while keeping an eye out for a better way.
- You reach outside the mainstream to adopt the best of any community: Open Source, Agile, Java, Ruby, etc.
- You’re not content with the status quo. Things can always be better expressed, more elegant and simple, more mutable, higher quality, etc.
- You know tools are great, but they only take you so far. It’s the principals and knowledge that really matter. The best tools are those that embed the knowledge and encourage the principals (e.g. Resharper.) “
O’Reilly tried to capture some of the excitement of this movement and the growing array of tools available to Microsoft developers (some from Microsoft itself) in our recently published Windows Developer Power Tools by Jim Holmes and James Avery. But blogger Ayend Rahien warns that ALT.NET should not be construed as an idea that seeks to pit developers against Microsoft:
“The way I see it, this is much more about keeping your head open to new approach[es] and ideas, regardless of where they come from.”
After two days at RailsConf where he got to see first-hand the passion of Ruby on Rails developers, .NET blogger Scott Hanselman wondered aloud in his blog Is Microsoft Losing the Alpha Geeks?, “Why does this need to be Alt.Net? Why is this ‘alternative’?”
“Seems that this should be mainstream and baked in by the tools and “dogma” that comes down from on high. Microsoft needs to make ALT.NET attitudes Mainstream.NET attitudes, through leadership, openness, and a lot more prescriptive guidance.”
In other words, Microsoft should not only encourage the development of alternative tools, but should actively help bring frameworks like Rails to .NET to give those who want to build certain kinds of applications on the .NET platforms the same kinds of experience they can get elsewhere. In fact, he says, Microsoft should spin off an organization specifically dedicated to bringing Ruby and Ruby on Rails to the .NET platform, as Mozilla is for Firefox, and Microsoft should contribute developers to the projects well.
Why? Because, he writes:
“…This isn’t about Microsoft making money on developer tools, but rather about the platform, where the money is made. An open CLR-based implementation of Ruby on Rails would be a great way to introduce Rails into the Windows-based Enterprise, and would encourage more Alpha Geeks to code on Windows.”
American Power Conversion (APC) Mobile Power Pack
I’ve been using the APC UPB10 Mobile Power Pack for three months. It costs around $60 (I bought mine from a local big box store) and can recharge most devices that can be charged from a USB source. The Mobile Power Pack comes with USB cable to recharge itself from either a PC’s USB port or an A/C outlet. However, I had to supply the cables to charge my devices (not a problem). The Mobile Power Pack has a standard sized USB plug at its top. I tested it with a T-Mobile SDA (Windows Mobile Smartphone), i-Mate K-JAM (Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition), and a 5th generation iPod (video). In fact, I recharged all three using the Mobile Power Pack without needing to recharge the Pack itself. The LCD display stripe you see lit up in the photo tells you what the Pack’s charge level is. A fully lit line indicates a fully charged pack.
The unit is small, thin, and light making it perfect for travel. I only wish its own A/C adapter transformer were smaller and had a folding plug. Other than that, this product gets a mobile thumbs up from me.
MobileViews Excel Mobile Quick FAQs
One of the more popular Quick FAQs pages on the old MobileViews.com site was the one for Pocket Excel/Excel Mobile. I went back into my archives to start bringing back the MobileViews Quick FAQs section. You can find a list of Excel functions and other useful information about Pocket Excel (Windows Mobile 2003 2nd Edition and older) and Excel Mobile (Windows Mobile 5 and newer) linked below as well as in the sidebar:
Excel Mobile Quick FAQs
Let me know if you find these Quick FAQs useful.
MobileViews ActiveSync QuickFAQ
I revived another MobileViews QuickFAQ this evening. This time it is…
MobileViews ActiveSync QuickFAQ
Its first paragraph says it all: I hate ActiveSync problems. I bet you do too. This QuickFAQs page is here to help you with your ActiveSync problems so I don’t have to hear about them. &B-) FYI: Windows Vista Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) information coming soon…
T-Mobile Dash Windows Mobile 6 Upgrade
I’m thinking about buying a T-Mobile Dash to replace my current SDA Smartphone (I really don’t like that Standard Edition name :-) . So, I thought I would jot down where the Windows Mobile 6 upgrade is found in a place I could find it quickly: Here :-)
T-Mobile Windows Mobile Upgrade Page
Note that the upgrade for the T-Mobile MDA (Pocket PC Phone Edition) on the same page is not for Windows Mobile 6. That is a feature pack upgrade for Windows Mobile 5 on the MDA.
T-Mobile Dash (Smartphone) with Windows Mobile 6
I have a short term project (more on this after it is completed sometime in July) that requires a Windows Mobile 6 Smartphone (Standard Edition). So, I walked over to the local T-Mobile store during lunch and bought the last remaining Dash in the store. In fact, at first the person handling my potential purchase said they were all out. Fortunately, another sales person heard our conversation and found an Dash box for me to purchase.
If you want to read about what the upgrade process from Windows Mobile 5 to 6 is like, I suggest heading over to my old friend Frank McPherson’s site (PocketPCHow2.com) and reading his blog entry titled:
Upgrading to Windows Mobile 6
He used a Windows Vista PC for his upgrade while I used a Windows XP PC. However, I am very glad I read his blog entry before attempting my own upgrade. He has some very useful information about the quirks of the upgrade process.
First comment about the Dash with Windows Mobile 6: Wow! Having been totally unimpressed with Windows Mobile 6 Beta running on a Pocket PC last year, I am 180 degrees in the other opinion direction on the combo of the Dash and WM6. Having moved from a T-Mobile SDA WM5 Smartphone that I’ve used for a little over a year (and being reasonably satisfied with it), the experience of having a nice usable QWERTY thumb keyboard with the WM6 apps is just great. Setting up email was a breeze with a QWERTY keyboard to enter email addresses, mail server names, and other textual oddities that are a pain on a DTMF-layout numeric keypad.
More on the Dash with Windows Mobile 6 over the next few days. Stay tuned…
Control Windows Media Center using a Windows Mobile 5 Device
Microsoft’s Coding4Fun site has an interesting coding project item titled…
Control Windows Media Center using a Windows Mobile 5 Device
It has examples using both Visual Basic.NET as well as Visual C# to remote control a Windows Media Center PC.
Windows Mobile 6 Office Mobile for Smartphone (Standard Edition)
Shortly after Windows Mobile 6 was announced I was under the impression that Office Mobile components for the Smartphone (AKA, Standard Edition) were document readers (read-only). It turns out that I was wrong. But, there are a couple of interesting quirks to deal with.
First, as far as I can tell, there isn’t any way to create a new document (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) on the Smartphone itself. You can, however, edit a document brought over from a PC.
Second, as you may have read on the news-oriented mobile tech websites, you cannot work with files in the various Office 2007 formats (the ones that end in X like DOCX, XLSX, PPTX). You can, however, save files from Office 2007 to what Microsoft calls the 97-2003 file format that should be able to be used on by Office Mobile in Windows Mobile 6. And, the latest version of Dataviz’s Documents to Go features the ability to work with Office 2007 file formats (I haven’t tried this myself to verify this).
Fresh off the IPyPress (AKA The IronPython Development List) the ever so resilient IPyHackmasterFoo (which, to provide a comparison, Grandmaster Flash is to hip hop as IPyHackmasterFoo is to IronPython hacking :D) himself (AKA Seo Sanghyeon) has the following piece of information to bring to the WorldWideWebHacking masses,
This is the sixth release of IronPython Community Edition (IPCE).
I’m sure everyone has heard about Microsoft’s patent-infringement claim against Linux and other Free and Open Source (FOSS) software, as described in Roger Parloff’s 14 May article in CNNMoney.com, Microsoft takes on the free world: “Microsoft claims that free software like Linux, which runs a big chunk of corporate America, violates 235 of its patents. It wants royalties from distributors and users. Users like you, maybe.”
Various commentators include Andrew Updegrove, Elizabeth Montalbano (InfoWorld), Sun’s CEO and President Jonathan Schwartz, and Groklaw, the latter quoting Eben Moglen, legal counsel to the Free Software Foundation.
Meanwhile, Christian Einfeldt (Producer, The Digital Tipping Point) started a “Sue me first, Microsoft” campaign, which quickly became known at Digg (and probably other sites; it’s hard to keep up), causing such a rush on his server that it crashed.
So here I am inside of #conary confessing my guilt in regards to having built
4 5 completely unusable rPath EC2 images yet having no way to delete them (and therefore costing rPath storage fees to keep the images hosted on S3) when Tybstar brings to my attention that the fact that because it is so mind numbingly inexpensive to store data on S3, at present time the feature to enable the ability to delete an EC2 image from S3 is a lower priority because the cost of storing data on S3 means that there are higher priority features that take its place. (Update: Thus is the nature of effective project management: A constant balancing act of prioritizing feature development.)
Of course there are those of you who are now going to claim that S3 just stole your job to which my response would be: “No, S3 didn’t just steal your job. *YOU* just need to open a book and learn a more attractive set of hacking skills!” But, as usual, I digress…
To make a long story that much more painfully longer… The conversation led to me suggesting that because rPath was so bleeding edge it must be difficult to find folks who have the ability to pick up the ball and run with it w/o requirement of six months of training (thus is the world of technology… If it didn’t change, there would be no such thing ;-), which led to Tybstar suggesting that at the moment they’ve been pretty lucky, which led to me suggesting that, given the attractive business model and overall coolness factor of rPath, this made sense, which led to this little golden nugget of (apparently) exclusive info…
The first Ignite Boston will be on Thursday, May 31, from 6 to 10pm at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. From 6-7pm, mingle and talk tech with your fellow FOOs, alpha geeks, and techies from the greater Boston area. Join a MAKE challenge team and participate in building bridges (how much weight can your bridge–made from less than 1K popsicle sticks–support?) After that, we’ll have a special keynote address from author Scott Berkun (The Myths of Innovation; The Art of Project Management) kicking off our Ignite night. Then, onto guest speakers who’ll catch you up on the cool, new, innovative stuff going on in technology today. Don’t blink or you’ll miss their lightning-fast, five-minute presentations. During intermissions, get a cold beer and chat with speakers, sponsors, and O’Reilly’s own editors. Join us Thursday, May 31, for a fun, energetic evening of talking, learning, making, collaborating (and drinking!).
Check out the events and activities of our Ignite events on the West Coast.
Ignite is a user-generated event. If you’re interested in speaking, then
submit a proposal for consideration.
- Be between 5 and 10 minutes
- Be on an innovative topic (no sales pitches, please!)
- Be viewable on a PC [a MacBook Pro with Powerpoint and Keynote, and PDF] with standard AV equipment
… Microsoft backed adding ODF, the document file format used widely in open-source alternatives to Microsoft Office, to a list of business standards.
Microsoft also said it will support Office 2007’s default document file format, Open XML, for the list maintained by The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as well, according to a press statement.
The company said it supports ODF (Open Document Format for XML) because businesses want choice and interoperability for software they deploy. ANSI recommends business best practices, standards and guidelines to a range of industries in the United States.
An interesting note from Andy Updegrove at the bottom of the first page of the same linked article,
To its credit, Microsoft voted for ODF when it came before the ISO (International Organization for Standards), while IBM cast the only negative vote for Open XML when it was up for approval by standards organization Ecma International, Updegrove added.
Of course, just prior to this he states,
… by supporting ODF as an ANSI standard, Microsoft is “making it appear it is rising above the squabble to do the right thing.” Instead, he thinks the move serves as a challenge to vocal ODF supporters to support approval of Open XML as a global standard when a final vote for the draft specification comes before the ISO.
So let me get this straight,
I was kind of shocked when I noticed that I haven’t yet mention the premiere Open Source virus scanner for Windows:
It is derived from the Open Source ClamAV project and adds windows specific features such as a simple installer, scanning scheduler, and Microsoft Outlook add-in.
Vista Laptop Battery Saver
Vista Laptop Battery Saver is, according to the author’s blog entry, an itch that needed to be scratched (like many Open Source projects). Its sole function is to turn off Windows Vista’s Aero Glass interface when a notebook is using battery power. The assumption is that this reduces the faster battery drain people using Vista notebooks have been complaining about.
K-Lite Codec Pack 3.01
Last year I needed to reformat my PC as part of general house cleaning (Microsoft ActiveSync went bonky and would not work after several attempts to remove, reinstall, etc.). Since I had to reformat the hard drive anyway, I decided to move from XP Home Edition to XP Media Center Edition. The upgrade went well and the freshly installed ActiveSync worked again (or at least as well as one can expect this ill behaved software to work).
A slightly belated “happy second birthday” to the OpenDocument Format. The OpenDocument v1.0 specification was approved as an OASIS Standard on 1 May 2005.
(The OpenDocument v1.1 specification was approved as OASIS Standard on 2 February 2007.)
This came in from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.
The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) conference is a program of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI) and is co-presented with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), happening October 17-20, in Orlando, Florida.
The online scholarship application for Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is now available. Scholarships will cover conference registration (which includes most meals), lodging, and an upper limit for airfare based on the geographic region of the applicant.
I’ve been using the beta of Microsoft’s Windows Home Server, and I’m a fan. But Microsoft is making one big mistake with it: It won’t sell the software to people like you and me. It’ll only go to systems makers. Microsoft is missing a big opportunity here.
Mono 1.2.4 has been released. This release was branched from our development tree in April 20 and includes various important bug fixes that were done during the testing period.
Mono 1.2.4 is the first release where ASP.NET 2 is considered complete (with the exception of WebParts that are still missing). We are shipping the tool “installvst” that helps developers install the www.asp.net starter kits on Unix.
Other hihglights include: 1,000 new APIs implemented (based on the Moma reports), shared memory can now be disabled, major asp.net performance boost, the beginning of C# 3.0, the new Mono.DataConvert class, many 2.0 Windows.Forms improvements (ToolStrip support), Metafiles (WMF and EMF) supported in System.Drawing, start of 3.5 APIs (System.Core), COM support for Callable Wrappers, the 2.0 Socket API, a Solaris/amd64 port and VB can now be used with ASP.NET.
See the release notes for more details about the new features.
Microsoft SyncToy + Windows Mobile = No Luck
Microsoft updated their SyncToy PowerToy to version 1.4 last November. But, I only got around to trying it this evening. SyncToy’s function is to synchronize files in two different folders. One obvious use is to sync files from a digital camera’s storage card to a PC’s hard disk. Another, one would think (at least I did),would be to sync from a Smartphone’s or Pocket PC’s. Unfortunately, SyncToy can’t see beyond the Mobile Devices folder of a synced Windows Mobile device during the Folder Pairing process. So, you can’t use it with a Pocket PC or Smartphone synced with the PC. Too bad. Perhaps, the company that wrote SyncToy and the company that designed Windows Mobile should talk to each other. Oh wait, never mind…
Yahoo! oneSearch Mobile
Yahoo! seems to be trying to provide more than one way for us to use their services from a mobile device. The client software for Yahoo! Go provides an attractive interface but was very slow on my Pocket PC and wasted too much screen real estate IMHO. Recently, it looks like they took the content from wap.oa.yahoo.com mobile web portal and moved it to…
This mobile web portal has the same lightweight and lightning fast mostly-text interface from the wap design and added the oneSearch feature that provides a mixed result page that reminds me of Google’s SearchMash site. oneSearch returns results categorized as Web (all of the web), Mobile Web (results of pages that look good on a mobile device), and Web Images.
Migrate Your Windows Live RSS Feeds to Ilium NewsBreak
Remember all the ugliness a few weeks ago when some people lost their Google RSS feeds because of some glitch on Google’s servers? Interestingly enough, if you use Microsoft’s Windows Live web page as your RSS feed collector, you can avoid this by using a somewhat hard to find Live feature. And, as a side benefit, this procedure lets you migrate all your Windows Live RSS feeds to Ilium’s NewsBreak RSS/Podcast feed reader for Windows Mobile Pocket PCs and Smartphones.
Here’s what you can do.
- Start Windows Live and, if needed, login to your personal page
- Click on the Add stuff link near the top left of the page
- Click on the Advanced tab
- Take a look at the last line of the box that just opened up. Find the line that reads Click here to export your feed subscriptions to OPML.
- Click on the word here in that line
- A new window or tab will open up at this point and show you the OPML XML code containing all of the feeds in all of your Windows Live page tabs.
- Click File
- Click Save As
- Save the OPML XML code to a file on your PC
Assuming you have Ilium Software’s NewsBreak 2.0 installed on your Pocket PC or Smartphone, sync your device with your PC. Then, copy the OPML file you created using the steps above over to your Windows Mobile device. Now, start up NewsBreak and use its New Channel Wizard to import the OPML file. NewsBreak doesn’t have a check all option in this wizard. So, if you have a lot of feeds in Windows Live like me, it might take a little while to check off all the feeds for NewsBreak to use. But, this is not too painful. You might want to use NewsBreak’s option to store the feed data on your storage card after this. But, otherwise, that’s it. You not only have a backup of your Windows Live RSS feed collection, you also have a portable version on your Windows Mobile device.
Tumblr.com is Mobile Format Friendly
Tumblr is a free web tumblog (sort of a minimalist blog format) service that lets you quickly post text, links, photos, videos and other data. I just noticed the other day that it also provide a mobile device display friendly format. Just add a /mobile after a tumblog’s URL. You can see the mobile display version of my tumblog, for example, at:
Do you Twitter? It seems like everyone is either Twitter-ing or Jaiku-ing these days. And, those who aren’t, seem to be life-casting. But, sharing your life via text seems a lot cheaper and easier to do than videocasting your life. The one exception may be those who chose to use Twitter via SMS and found a large text messaging bill the next month (unless they had unlimited SMS service, of course).
Twitter has a new mobile browser friendly site at…
…that lets the rest of us (assuming a decent mobile data service bandwidth) twitter on the go using a mobile device with a web browser.
BusinessWeek’s Mobile Experiments
BusinessWeek appears to be trying out two different approaches to providing content to mobile devices. Their original Handheld Edition (right side of image) found at http://pda.businessweek.com/ has a simple clean interface that provides a lot of textual content per click (think Google). Their newer dot-mobi site found at http://www.businessweek.mobi/ looks somewhat graphically richer (think Yahoo or MSN) but provides much less textual content per click. You need to make a lot of clicks and endure download pauses to read a whole article. Essentially we have form-over-content (the dot-mobi site) vs. content-over-form (the PDA site). I hope BusinessWeek maintains both presentation options since it is pretty certain that both will appeal to different types of readers. We can only hope other content producers follow BusinessWeek’s lead in experimenting with mobile content presentation.
The Camera Phone Book: Comments on the Advice from This Book
The USA Weekend insert in my local paper has an interesting full page article title How to make the most of your camera phone that gets its information from the new book The Camera Phone Book: How to Shoot Like a Pro, Print, Store, Display, Send Images, Make a Short Film by CNet’s Aimee Baldridge and and National Geographic photographer Robert Clark. I haven’t read this book. But, based on the co-authors’ credentials, I’ll guess it is a pretty good book. I do have some issues and additional advice for the tips extracted from the book in the USA Weekend article though. I’ll go through the two lists of advice from the main article and its sidebar.
Mac OS X can read and write drives formatted using FAT and FAT32. And, it can read (but not write) drives formatted using NTFS. However, Microsoft Windows cannot read Apple’s HFS+ disk format. Fortunately, there is a free Open Source utility that can help you out with that problem…
Contactify: Email Without the Address
Contactify’s slogan is It’s Email, Without the Address. Here’s how it work. You sign up with them by providing them an email address (yep, leap of faith here). Then, you create a unique password for their system. It provides you with a unique Connectify contact number (5 characters in my case) and URL. You need to wait a few minutes to get an activation email from them. Copy and paste the link from the email into a browser to activate your account.
RogueScanner: Detect Rogue Network Devices
The last time I looked at…
…a year or two ago, it was a freeware utility with interesting features but limited functionality. It could detect devices on a network but could not save or print the data. I haven’t looked at this latest version. However, since it is now an Open Source application, I guess some enterprising developer could add those features if they are not already present in this new version.
Crystal Clear Icon Set Free to Use Under Creative Commons License
Here’s one I read about on Digg.com a few days ago…
…is a set of well designed icons freely available under a Creative Commons license. As the owner of a somewhat drab pair of websites myself, I always admire the design skills of others and wish I could at least figure out a way to use those great looking Crystal Clear icons effectively here and on my MobileViews.com site :-)
GanttProject 2.0.4: Project Scheduling and Management Charts
GanttProject is an Open Source multi-platform (Linux, Mac OS X, Windows) project scheduling and management tool based on Gantt charts. Version 2.0.4 was released on March 6, 2007. It can import/export from/to Microsoft Project (not sure which versions). It can also make use of WebDAV for web-based group work.
Microsoft formally released its new Web-based email service,Windows Live Hotmail, and while it improves over previous Microsoft Web-based mail, it’s still not as good as Gmail.
The richness of the .NET platform has just got that much richer,
We are pleased to announce the release of a new Beta (version 0.7) of the Gardens Point Ruby.NET compiler. Since the last release we have added support for debugging (by generating pdb files) and have created a Visual Studio integration package allowing users to edit, build, execute and debug Ruby programs within Visual Studio 2005. This includes syntax colouring, error highlighting, brace matching, hidden regions, Ruby.NET projects, project properties, project templates and project item templates. Ruby.NET projects (.rbproj) enable multiple Ruby source files to be compiled into a single .NET assembly.
As we have not yet registered our Visual Studio integration package with Microsoft, to use it you will need to preinstall the Visual Studio 2005 SDK version 4.0. For those without Visual Studio or the SDK, you can still use Ruby.NET from the command line as previously. We now have two front-ends to our compiler. One called RubyCompiler.exe takes similar command line arguments to the C# compiler and can be used to compile multiple Ruby source files into a single assembly. Our other front-end, called Ruby.exe takes approximately the same command line arguments as the C Ruby interpreter and transparently compiles, loads and executes a Ruby source file without writing any assemblies to disk.
In addition to Visual Studio integration, we have continued extending and fixing bugs in the compiler and our implementation of Ruby’s builtin classes and modules. Still no performance optimizations or support for interop with other .NET languages. We will have support for interop in our next release.
Nice! A list of acknowledgments found at the bottom of the same page linked to above follows. To each of you involved with bringing this project and release into fruition: Thanks!
The 72-hour conversation known as MIX 07 is over, and I’m home again, with a real lawn that’s filled with unplanned violets and dandelions and neighbors who are still asleep when I step outside to pick up the morning paper.
What’s the right Las Vegas image to press into service as metaphor for this “game changing” event, as Ray Ozzie and many bloggers have called MIX 07? The mouse colored hills and flats that give way to the flashing lights of Las Vegas Boulevard (aka “the Strip”) as you descend into McCarren Airport? The piles of chips changing hands at the Venetian’s roulette tables 24/7? The nearly full moon above MIX party-goers on the Roof of the Pure Nightclub at Caesar’s Palace on Tuesday night? The electronic din and the crowds milling about the Treasure Island casino at 2:30 a.m. as I headed for the airport shuttle Thursday morning?
Any of the above would do. But for me, the memory that stands out is a human one: the near standing ovation the 4000 conference attendees gave Scott Guthrie, General Manager of the group responsible for ASP.NET 2.0, ASP.NET AJAX, and now Silverlight, when he walked onstage at the Monday keynote to take the audience through the major announcements of the day.
Over the past few years, Scott has emerged as one of the most prolific and accessible of Microsoft’s bloggers, even as his responsibilities have increased. Like many of my peers, I often find myself going first to his site for a concise technical synopsis whenever a major announcement is made. You could sense a genuine warmth in the applause (and cheers, even) which took several moments to abate. What did it mean ? It struck me as both an appreciation for Scott as a person and for the steady stream of new frameworks and tools the UI Frameworks and Tools team he leads has released to the Microsoft developer community as the web has evolved.
The real star of MIX 07, of course, is the Silverlight 1.1 Alpha (formerly known as “Codename WPF/E”), a new version of Microsoft’s cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering so-called Rich
- a refactored version of the .NET CLR, with memory management, garbage collection, managed exception handling, and just-in-time compiler and execution engine;
- a subset of the .NET base class library, including the type system, collections, IO, support for isolated storage, regular expression engine, reflection, and so on;
- a feature-rich presentation framework, as you would expect; but it’s worth noting that while Silverlight 1.1 will support custom controls, early versions do not include a ready-to-use control library
- a data framework, including LINQ and XML support; and
- a communications framework that ultimately will include support for web services, Atom/RSS and more.
You program a Silverlight application with either C# or Visual Basic, or with one of the dynamic languages announced at MIX. IronPython, IronRuby JScript (a new ECMA 3.0 compliant version), or VBx (Visual Basic 10, which will include new dynamic programming features).
To get yourself up to speed on what all the excitement’s about, I’d start first with the Scott Guthrie interview on Channel 9 and then take a look at the SilverLight Architecture article on MSDN , a good overview of what’s included. Check out the handy visual it provides showing the differences between the Silverlight 1.0 and 1.1 packages. Also, check out the great Microsoft Silverlight 1.1 Developer Reference poster, which maps the collection of technologies and products lined up to support the new platform.
If you want to see slides and demos, there are some excellent developer breakout sessions posted at the MIX 07 site including (sorry, no direct links available):
- DEV 07 and DEV 22: Building Silverlight Applications Using .NET (Parts 1 and 2)
- DEV10: Extending the Browser Programming Model with Silverlight
To see the complete list of developer sessions, go to the MIX 07 sessions page, select “MIX07″ as the conference, “Breakout” as the session type, and “Developer” as the track type.
Finally, don’t forget to check out the new O’Reilly Short Cut, Getting Started with Silverlight, by Microsoft MVP and Silverlight insider Shawn Wildermuth.
In a MIX session that he led with Matt Gibbs (co-author of the O’Reilly ASP.NET AJAX UpDate Panel Short Cut and member of of the ASP.NET AJAX team ), Jeff Prosise, a Wintellect co-founder and consultant, said we would all remember MIX 07 as a revolutionary moment, the time “when the way we program the web changed.” We’ll have to leave that judgment to the future, but in bringing a new programming model to the table, Microsoft has at least broadened the web development game for everyone, regardless of your current platform of choice. And for Microsoft developers, Silverlight brings more than a measure of salvation, validating their investment in .NET technologies and tools and opening a way forward for them to lead the revolution as applications move from the traditonal Windows desktop to the web.
Configure Pocket PC Word Completion Your Way
A Windows Mobile Pocket PC feature that has always impressed me is Word Completion. It can help you get around the relatively slowness of pecking or writing in the SIP (Soft Input Panel) with a stylus or typing on a physical QWERTY keyboard by suggesting and auto-completing complete words.
However, you may not have found it very useful if you left it with its default setting of suggesting a single word after the two letters are entered. You can change these settings by getting to the Word Completion configuration screen:
- Word Completion (tab on Input window)
I find that suggestions after just entering two characters doesn’t provide enough predictive information for word completion. So, I set mine to start suggesting words after entering the first three letters. I also found that a single suggestion doesn’t have a high enough hit rate. So, I have word completion suggest three words instead. These suggestions are displayed in a drop-down menu as seen below. You can use the arrow keys to navigate the list. So, you never need to take your fingers off of the keyboard use the list. Try playing around with the settings until you find one that fits your writing or thumb typing style best. You’ll probably find your Pocket PC becomes much more productive after tinkering with this setting.
Google Calendar SMS Reminders
Google announced a new feature for their Calendar today…
Calendar on the go
You can now have Google Calendar send event reminders to your phone via an SMS message. You can find Google’s documentation here…
Google Calendar Notifications
Here’s a bit of advice before you try this service out. Check what your SMS text message quote is. You might get a surprisingly large bill if you have Google Calendar alert you to every event.
MobiBlogr: Mobile Blog Cient for Windows Mobile
Here’s an interesting free mobile blogging client for Windows Mobile Pocket PCs and Smartphones.
And, yes, it looks like the letter “e” has suffered another casualty here. The actual download is a bit difficult to find. So, here’s a direct link to it.
Just Click the Power Button to Turn on a Windows Mobile Smartphone
Every now and then I read or hear a comment somewhere that you have to “press and hold” a Windows Mobile Smartphone power button to turn it on. While this may be true for some models, it is not true for the Smartphone models I’ve tried over the years. For example, I’ve heard this specifically about the T-Mobile SDA that I use. But, that is not the case for the SDA. If you currently press and hold your Smartphone power button for a long time waiting for it to turn on, try this instead: Press the power button down, let it go, and just wait for a minute. It takes a while, but you should see the power light blink, and then LCD should power up shortly thereafter. Smartphones seem to take forever to start up. So, you still need to be patient regarding that part of the boot process. But, you should not need to press and hold the power button itself for a long time.
Speed Up Windows Mobile By Deleting Its Internet Explorer Cache
Most people name ActiveSync (Windows Mobile Device Center on Windows Vista) as the most annoying aspect of working with a Windows Mobile Pocket PC (Phone Edition) or Smartphone. The second most annoying aspect is Windows Mobile Memory Management (or lack thereof). This of course always brings up the “X” button that doesn’t actually close the application as it does in Windows XP/Vista. It just hides the display and shows you the previously used application or screen. But, I’m not going there today. Instead, I’ll mention something else.
If you use your Windows Mobile Internet Explorer, you may notice your device becoming more and more sluggish overall after a time. Like its desktop counterpart, Windows Mobile IE caches web pages as you surf the web. This cache can grows to take up a couple of megabytes of memory on your system which doesn’t have much memory to begin with. The solution is to pop into Windows Mobile IE’s options menu and delete the cache every now and then. If you use WMIE a lot, you might want to do this at least once day. I tend to empty the cache about once a week.
Duplicate Outlook Contacts and Appointments
Reader M.L. writes: Am using Activesync4.5 and when I re-sync my Moto Q, I get duplicates in my contacts & calendars. There is no info on how to avoid this on the Activesync 4.5 “help & How-to” pages.
First, aargh! I hate it when that happens. And, yes, it happens to me too. Not all duplicates are caused by ActiveSync, but it sure does create its share of Outlook headaches. And, if you live in the US and applied the Windows Mobile Daylight Savings change patch in March, take a look at birthdays in your calendar. Some of them may stretch across two days now.
I tend to be extremely cautious with my PIM data since I’ve been managing this data for over 10 years now (after getting my first Windows CE Handheld PC — an HP 320LX that still works!). So, I backup my Outlook data and then manually remove dups from Outlook before syncing with a Windows Mobile device. However, there are techniques and tools that you may want to evaluate for use. Here are a pair of references that may help.
Sperry Software article: Prevent and Remove Microsoft Outlook Duplicates
Outlook Duplicate Items Remover 1.2
In his blog last week, Mono Project leader Miguel de Icaza explained why implementing WPF has never in the past been a high priority. But Silverlight is another matter, he wrote:
…Unlike WPF [which ]requires people to rewrite their software to take advantage of it, Silverlight is aimed at the Web and it will become a nice complement, a way of spicing up existing web applications without rewriting what already works.
It makes tons of sense for us to start looking at an implementation of Silverlight on Linux with Mono. There is already a XAML loader, it is the perfect excuse to use Antigrain for high-speed graphics and that only leaves the pesky media issue to be solved.
In fact, am kind of happy that Microsoft did not do the port themselves as implementing this sounds incredibly fun and interesting.
Now it’s official. No sooner had MIX 07 attendees left the bright lights of Vegas, than the Mono Silverlight project page went live. It’s called Moonlight.
The announcement is especially interesting given Microsoft’s recent overtures to Novell, the official sponsor of the Mono Project. Though no Microsoft spokeman at MIX 07 ruled out a Linux implementation of the Silverlight CLR, the official response to the question has been that the Company wants to make sure that the 98% of the market represented by Windows and Mac is covered first. In a Channel 9 interview made the week before his keynote at MIX, Scott Guthrie suggested that mobile devices had a higher priority than Linux in the near term because of their enormous reach. But in a panel (”Why Can’t ASP.NET and PHP Just Get Along?”) on the last day of the conference, Brian Goldfarb, manager of Platform Strategy in Scott’s group, said, if I may paraphrase: “In light of our new relationship with Novell, the idea of a Linux implementation of Silverlight is a lot more interesting to us now.”
Stay tuned, as they say.
I’ve learned a lot of things from a lot of people in my life. The following lesson/acquired knowledge came, more than likely unbeknown to him (it was a very casual conversation, so there is no reason he would have thought of it as anything other than a casual conversation), from Mike Champion,
The reason why I am a *HUGE* fan of shared source, non-commercial licensed software is,
- In many cases, the source comes from established software applications with proven commercial success.
- In cases such as this exists a *FANTASTIC* opportunity to learn and understand how something with significant commercial success was created.
- With this knowledge we are better enabled to build better product as a result.
To understand the hacker means to understand that the hacker learns through a hands on approach. I know very few hackers that learned how to hack and hack well inside the confines of a university.
On the other hand, I know *TONS* of hackers who, while they may never again utilize the source of a project they were once a part of, or have in many cases simply learned through reading the source of a project they were never a part of, they are enabled to write better software because of the knowledge they gained as a result.
OSS projects will come and go, but knowledge is King, and will stay with you as long as you continue to maintain and refresh this knowledge.
(IronPython + Smalltalk + Lisp) + (Windows(Browser.IE, Browser.Fx), OSX(Browser.Fx, Browser.Safari)) + Silverlight ==
NOTE: Technically speaking, the title doesn’t perfectly match the above graphic, but as per below, it will soon enough…
Above is a test of IronPython running on a “Virtual Desktop” inside a browser.
I created the “Virtual Desktop” libraries to allow me to create a Smalltalk environment within a browser. As part of my porting Vista Smalltalk to Silverlight, I have modified the desktop to be compliant with any DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime) based language; so it is now possible to run IronPython in workspace windows with Smalltalk-like interaction (”DoIt”, “ShowIt”, etc). This, of course, will also apply to IronRuby, Vbx and JScript.
Once I have an initial Smalltalk compiler working, I will attempt to run everything in Silverlight.
Before I begin, let me say in the interest of full disclosure, that Microsoft paid for my trip to Mix.
In the keynote, and in many of the breakout sessions, Microsoft demonstrated both Silverlight 1.0 (currently in Beta, due out this summer) and Silverlight 1.1 (currently in alpha, no release date announced).
As I see it, Microsoft’s strategy seems to be to release a product that creates media for cross-platform delivery through a browser as their initial offering (the inevitable comparison was to Flash). If this were all they were doing it would be interesting (allowing .net developers to achieve this functionality without learning how to work with Flash) but certainly not revolutionary.
In 1.1 however they add much of the CLR, the ability to program to Silverlight in managed code (e.g., , C# 3 and VB9) and much of WPF (read forms, text, etc.). This is big news, and the demos shown were very impressive. The obvious comparison again is to Flex, putting ORCAS / Visual Studio in a position to compete with Apollo and that was the big buzz.
Microsoft was eager to show that they have a designer product as well (see http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/overview.aspx?key=blend) but I won’t even touch the question of the relative maturity or capabilities of that product vs. what Adobe offers, and never underestimate the ability for the landscape to change in a year in any case.
All of this is Interesting, intriguing but not revolutionary. And, admittedly, that was all they said. Now, let us speculate together.
Google Docs Spreadsheet added basic charting features this month. This is something a lot of people have mentioned as a big missing feature area. I wish it had the option to create the chart in a new window instead of overlaying it on the spreadsheet itself. You can read more about this and other new Google Docs Spreadsheet features on the Official Google Blog item…
How to make a pie
ActiveState Komodo Edit 4.0
VirtualBox Virtualization Engine Now Available for Mac OS X
I already mentioned the Open Source VirtualBox in an earlier blog item. But, that version was only available for Linux and Microsoft Windows. As of April 23, the Mac OS X version became available. It is a virtualization product that lets you run multiple Guest Operating Systems (say Windows or Linux) at the same time that the host (main) OS is running on a single computer. Parallels Desktop for Mac was previously the only production virtualization product available for Mac OS X (VMware Fusion is still in beta).
SpeedFan: Monitor Fan, Voltage, & Temperature in a PC
SpeedFan is a freeware program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips (from its website). The latest version (4.32 released on Feb. 28) runs under Windows Vista’s 32 and 64-bit versions. Note the author’s note that this is for power users. If you use it to tweak your PC’s firmware settings, you are on your own :-)
Scratch: MIT Language for Creating Games, Music, Art, and More
The MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group created the Scratch programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web (description from their website). It is available as freeware for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. A version for Linux is currently being developed according to the note on the download page. You can learn more about working with Scratch on its Informational Page.
A number (all?) of virtualization products from Microsoft, Parallels, and VMware are having problems with recent Linux distro releases such as CentOS 5.0 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux clone) and Ubuntu 7.04. The main visible problem seems to have to do with the X11 windowing software. CentOS 5.0 appears to install correctly but X11 does not display. Instead, you get a text prompt that gets you to the shell. Manually attempting to start X fails too.
Here’s what worked for me though. I installed the older CentOS 4.4 first. Then, I booted from the 5.0 ISO and upgraded the 4.4 system. I’ve tried this twice: Once using Virtual PC 2007 and once using Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 Release Candidate. Both upgrades completed successfully and left me with a functioning X11/Gnome environment. Be sure to run “yum check-update” and “yum -y upgrade” after the upgrade. There are a bunch of components that need to be updated after CentOS 5.0 is up and running.
Ubuntu 7.04 Linux is another story. Although I’ve read reports of people getting this to install and running under Virtual PC 2007, I have not as much luck as them. I was able to get it installed but the X11 login screen was unusable for further work. I even had problems getting Ubuntu to run on a physical computer. I took an old Dell Latitude L400 currently running Ubuntu 6.10, wiped it out, and installed 7.04. However, a long series of kernel error messages is displayed on boot and the system never comes up correctly. It does, however, appear to install and run ok on an old Dell Dimension 4000 desktop PC. It is nowhere near as clean as the upgrade from 6.06LTS to 6.10.
I tried the upgrade path method with Ubuntu by installing 6.06LTS in Virtual PC 2007 first and then upgrading using gksu “update-manager -c” too. That resulted in a bunch of errors related to access issues to Gnome icons and OpenOffice files. Ultimately, the upgrade process appeared to fail and abort with a message about an unstable system. However, Ubuntu does boot into a normal looking X11 login screen. But, as noted in various web bulletin boards, the mouse does not work and you can’t effectively navigate Gnome’s GUI.
Smug Mac lovers who point to Windows vulnerabilities now have something to worry about: A top security researcher claims that Windows Vista is more secure than Mac OS X.
No doubt you’ll be reading a great deal here and elsewhere about Silverlight but the question I’d like to address, or rather, start to address, is why I think this is the technology that “changes everything.”
The key is that with Silverlight you will, eventually, be able to create rich, media-intensive applications that will be delivered on virtually any browser, on any platform, with native performance, using most of the enormous WPF library,in managed space, writing in languages such as c#3 or VB9
The questions you have to ask are…
How soon do we get it all? Clearly this will be coming in pieces.
Once we get it all-whence ASP-NET?
Can developers keep up with all this??
I posted a blog item titled Welcome to the… First Day Vista Updates? on Windows Vista’s first wide-release day (Jan. 30). For some reason, this particular blog item has attracted a number of comments with the same theme. Here are some samples (and, yes, none of these people appear to like to use the shfit key or turn off Caps Lock :-).
ANDREW CORIATY: MY NEW VISTA PREMIUM WILL NOT RUN ANY OF MY PROGRAMS.
Rhine: my vista computer sits in the corner collecting dust because no programs can be used on it
SHARON: I CANNOT LOAD ANY OF MY FAVORITE PROGRAMS
Jayson: none of my programs seem to work with vista
In my response to ANDREW CORIATY, I said, I’m certainly no Microsoft apologist. But, it is extremely unlikely that Windows Vista does not run ANY of your applications. Could you list ALL your applications?
It is certainly true that some software either does not function quite as expected or does not run at all. For myself, I’ve found that Grisoft’s AVG 7.5 Free Edition and the Roxio software bundled with a Dell Latitude D620 do not seem to work right. I also have some HP printer driver issues. I’m sure there are lots of other software that doesn’t run outright or quite-right under Windows Vista. But, I am kind of dubious of ALL of someone’s software collection not running under Windows Vista. So, does anyone (including the four people who posted comments to my Jan. 30 blog) have an example of an everyday PC (not some single purpose PC running Vista) where every single application fails under Windows Vista? Inquiring minds want to know. And, if you have major mission critical applications (say on the order order of “Intuit Quick Books”) that does not work under Vista, post that here as a comment too.