November 2007 - Posts

Visual Studio 2008 and ASP.NET 3.5 Released
19 November 07 01:23 PM | Scott Mitchell

In case you haven't heard, Microsoft released Visual Studio 2008 and ASP.NET 3.5 today. The Standard, Professional, and Team Systems versions of Visual Studio 2008 are available for download to MSDN Subscribers. For those without an MSDN Subscription, you can download the free Visual Web Developer 2008 or, if you prefer using Notepad or some other IDE, you can download just the .NET Framework version 3.5 runtime.

Scott Guthrie has a great rundown of the new features in Visual Studio and ASP.NET 3.5. Paul Andrew recently blogged about a downloadable poster of commonly used types and namespaced in .NET 3.5, which is worth checking out. And there are a slew of ASP.NET 3.5-specific videos now up on www.asp.net.

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December's Toolbox Column Online
15 November 07 01:41 PM | Scott Mitchell

My Toolbox column in the December 2007 issue of MSDN Magazine is avaiable online. The December issue examines three products:

  • DotNetLiveHelp - a Web- and Desktop-based application that adds 'live chat' functionality to your website, allowing visitors to 'speak' one-on-one with a customer service rep.
  • Instant VB / Instant C# - tools for converting code from VB to C#, or vice-a-versa. Includes tools for coverting entire projects from one language to another and includes an assortment of conversion options.
  • UltraMon - Windows has long supported multiple monitor configurations, but the Windows Desktop has not evolved to handle multi-monitor solutions. UltraMon is a lightweight window management tool designed specifically to enhance the user experience when using multiple monitors.

This month's issue reviewed Eric and Elisabeth Freeman's Head First Design Patterns. Here is an excerpt from the review:

At any bookstore, you'll find rows of books on design patterns. Design patterns are general, high-level solutions used by software architects to solve common software design problems. The problem is that most books on design patterns stodgily enumerate key patterns, dryly explaining when and how each is to be used.

A notable exception is Head First Design Patterns by Eric and Elisabeth Freeman (O'Reilly, 2004), which covers all of the essential design patterns in an entertaining manner. It dispenses with pages of boring text and replaces it with humor-filled lists, questions and answer sections, a variety of diagrams, and heavily annotated code snippets. Gone too are the canonical examples. Instead of using employee or product-related examples, Head First Design Patterns illustrates how and when to use a particular design patterns through silly applications involving pizza, ducks, chocolate, and gumball machines.

After writing this issue of Toolbox I took a three month hiatus, in part to reduce my commitments during my summer of travel. During this time the column was authored by James Avery. So the January-March 2008 issues will be written by James, and I'm picking the column back up starting with the April 2008 issue.

As always, if you have any suggestions for products or books to review for the Toolbox column, please send them into toolsmm@microsoft.com.

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Anachronisms in Technology-Related Terminology
09 November 07 09:59 AM | Scott Mitchell

Ever notice how many computer terms and jingo harkens back to technologies or concepts from yesteryear? Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • CC - we use the term CC (short for carbon copy) in regards to email today, but the term originates from replicating a typed document... on paper... using a piece of carbon paper.
  • Cut and paste - today Cut means Ctrl+X and paste means Ctrl+V, but there used to be a time when cut meant getting out the scissors and paste meant cracking open the bottle of glue, as typed documents were edited by literally cutting out one paragraph and pasting it elsewhere.
  • Line feed, carriage return - in text files you enter a line break using the ol' line feed, carriage return ASCII characters. vbCrLf in VB, or \r\n for those who prefer semicolons. This terminology dates back to typewriters, where a line feed advanced the cyllinder one line and a carriage return returned the typing carriage back to home position.
  • Ring - a term used when discussing phone calls - 'I'll give you a ring around six.' There was a time when telephones actually had metallic bells in them that would literally ring. Even when the bell was replaced by electronic speakers, most telephones still made a ringing sound when one called. But with cell phones and custom ring tones it's likely that this term will die off sooner than later.

What's interesting is how these antequated terms sort of melded into the modern lexicon and how the terms themselves lose their historical context. Of course it shouldn't be surprising, seeing that most technology is just an improved or smaller or flashier version of yesterday's, and laguage is thought of and defined in terms of one's own context, not the context of their elders.

What other anachronisms in technology-related terminology can you think of?

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4GuysFromRolla.com Abstractly Represented via Stick Figure Drawings on Explodingdog.com!
08 November 07 01:53 PM | Scott Mitchell

I have long been a fan of Sam Brown's stick figure art, which is on display at his website, explodingdog.com (RSS). So much so that I have purchased an explodingdog t-shirt in the past as well as two of his books. Sam has an interesting way of taking a title and expressing it visually in a way that carries a lot of different meanings. Some of his drawings make you smile (i like pie, math is fun, why is the water bill 48 dollars?), others make you reflect on life (it will lead to hell, we grew apart, you must go on without me), but most are silly and not very memorable (that's the critic in me speaking).

What's really cool is that Sam allows guests to his site to submit a title and, if the mood strikes him, he will craft one of his drawings using your title as the impetus for his artistic creation. I've emailed titles in the past, but sadly none have sparked the muse.

Today I received an email from ASP.NET Forums poster Jungalist, who's avatar is a great explodingdog drawing. In a previous post I had helped Jungalist with a problem and commented on my similar appreciation of explodingdog. This prompted Jungalist to submit a few 4Guys-related titles to Sam Brown and, lo and behold, one was accepted. I give you the offiicial 4GuysFromRolla.com artwork, courtesy of Sam Brown and Jungalist:

Those Four Guys Helped Me a Lot

Neat.

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