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May 2007 Blog Posts

Windows Live Writer Beta 2

Microsoft just announced the release of Windows Live Writer Beta 2.

Among the new features:

  • Table editing
  • Improved image and link editing
  • Automatic sync of offline and online version of posts
  • new look and feel
  • customization API for blogging engine to customize some aspect of the WLW sidebar

After this post I'll be downloading the new release, and write more about my impressions. (I hope all my plugins keep on working with the new release)

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Multi-touch surface computer by Microsoft

There has been a rumor around in the last days that Microsoft would have announced a "top-secret" new product at midnight: a new MP3 player? NO. A new gaming console? No.

They released a multi-touch surface computer.

Priced between 5.000 and 10.000 USD may not be your next kitchen top or dining table, but it will be probably seen in bar, restaurant, as smart sales table in shops and much more.

You can have a look at some pictures and demo video on gizmodo.com and a more detailed explanation on popularmechanics.com.

Based on Jeff Han's multi-touch interface, they added some proximity sensors so that they can understand when a digital camera or a mobile phone is on the table, and eventually start a wi-fi connection between the table and the device.

CodeClimber is now on Subtext 1.9.5

Even if took longer then expected (probably Telecom NZ uses hamsters or cats to move data), the upgrade is complete, and now CodeClimber is running on Subtext 1.9.5.

The most important upgrades are:

Now that my blog is up-to-date I can work more on the project whose codename is "Red Moon"

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Scheduled update tomorrow night (NZST)

Tomorrow night, Monday May 28th, from 11pm NZST I'll update my blog to the latest version of Subtext (version 1.9.5). The site may be unreachable or you may notice some issues during the upgrade.

Times around the world:

  • New Zealand (NZST): May 28th, 11:00 PM
  • India (IST): May 28th, 4:30 PM
  • Italy (CEST): May 28th, 1:00 PM
  • New York (EDT): May 28th, 7:00 AM
  • Los Angeles (PDT): May 28th, 4:00 AM

For times in other countries of the world: timeanddate.com

CCNET Monitor 0.9: now with Force Build

UPDATE: the latest version of the CC.NET Monitor Gadget for Vista Sidebar is v0.9.5: read more about it in 0.9.5 release notes.


Since many people asked for it, I just released a new version of the CruiseControl.NET Monitoring Gadget for Vista Sidebar adding the most requested feature: the Force Build button.

Now, in the undocked view, you can see a nice orange button on the right. Push that button to force a build for the project and the button will turn gray, meaning that the project is checking for updated or is already building.

This the list of changes:

You can download the new version from Google Code, or from Windows Live Gallery (before downloading make sure that the version is 0.9)

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Released FeedDemon 2.5

Today FeedDemon 2.5 has been released.

Here are the top 5 new features:

    1. Synchronized news bins with shared RSS feeds - share a FeedDemon "news bin" (similar to a link blog) as an RSS feed so that others may subscribe to it. Simply copy a post from any feed into a shared news bin, and everyone subscribed to that news bin's feed will get a copy of it. You can also drag-and-drop FeedDemon browser tabs - or even hyperlinks from an external browser - into a news bin to share those links.
    2. Vastly improved offline support - including the ability to prefetch links and images in all unread items for offline reading.
    3. Completely rewritten "Popular Topics" - view the most popular topics in all the feeds you're subscribed to, alongside the topics that are popular with all NewsGator subscribers.
    4. Embedded video support - video objects embedded in feed items can now be securely viewed inside FeedDemon.
    5. "Who's linking here?" - with a single click, find out who in the blogosphere is linking to a specific post in your subscriptions.

For the complete release notes: FeedDemon 2.5 Release Notes

And you have FeedDemon 2.x, this is a free upgrade.

Now I'm downloading it

Four life changing gadgets

Scott Hanselman started this "meme" a few days ago, then Nic jumped in, so why not joining and tell you my 4 life changing gadgets?

They both agree on GPS, iPod and DVR being their life changing gadgets: I don't have a TV (nor a DVR), and only watch movies or a few TV series, and I use GPS only when going trekking or doing mountaineering, so I cannot say that a DVR and the GPS are among my life changing gadgets.

  1. Cellphone: a friend of mine in Italy wrote a post about why the cellphone changed his life (in Italian), and I totally agree with him: you can send an sms and the recipient will receive it immediately, you can call your friend anytime during the day, not only when they are (and you are) at home, and also made the life easier for teenagers: if they want to speak to the "loved one" they just dial the number, and he/she will answer: when I was a teenager I had to dial her "land-line" number, hoping she would answer the phone and not her father (or mother).
  2. Laptop and wi-fi: Now I'm in NZ, and I have the exact same programs, data, and settings I had when I was in Italy last year. It would have not been possible with a desktop PC. And I can read my emails, or chat with my friends or work on Subtext both from my desk, on the living room, in the garden, laying on the couch. That improved my life a lot.
  3. iPod Nano: I can listen to my music while telecommuting, or while running, or while on the plane. I can take my favorite songs when going trekking, or sleeping in alpine huts before (or after) an hard day of climbing. I can listen to my music on the earphones, then jump in the car, connect it to my car radio, arrive at home, plug it into my loudspeakers: all from the same playlist and from the same device. I know, I was doing almost the same things back in the '80s with a Walkman, but an iPod is 1/10th the size, 1/10th the weight, and contains at least 100 times the number of songs
  4. Vespa: Not a tech gadget, but I never owned a motorbike, and moving around Milano with a Vespa gave me back at least 2 hours of life a day: it takes me only 10 minutes instead of 40 minutes to go to work, I don't have to struggle to find a parking, I can go in the no-car areas in the center of the city. So, after work I can go shopping and go for the usual happy hour: something that I couldn't do with the car or with public transports.
    Even when it snows.

And what about you? Which are your 4 life-changing gadgets?

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Remember to set UpdatePanel's UpdateMode to Conditional

Since the cool thing about the ASP.NET Ajax UpdatePanel is that its contents are updated asynchronously when an event that would normally generate a postback is raised inside, one would think that this is its default behavior.

But it's not: the UpdateMode property of the UpdatePanel has 2 possible values:

  • Always
  • Conditional

and the default value is Always.

When set to Always, the UpdatePanel is updated on every postback raised from anywhere in the page, so from controls inside the panel, inside other panels or just on the page.

When set to Conditional, the UpdatePanel will be updated only on postback originated by controls inside the panel or from the triggers specified.

So, if you have multiple update panels and you don't want to update all of them to be updated every time, you have to set the UpdateMode to Conditional:

<asp:UpdatePanel ID="UpdatePanel1" 
                  UpdateMode="Conditional"
                  runat="server">

I spent all the day trying to understand why it took so long to refresh a small area with only a few labels, and it was because I didn't set the UpdateMode to Conditional.

I don't understand why the default is Always and not Conditional, but not that I know, it's not a big deal: just have to remember to always set the UpdateMode.

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8 things the Linux community doesn't get about the average computer user

I just found two interesting articles by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes on the ZDNET Hardware blog:

The second article is a follow-up of the first one, triggered by the tons of comments from people in the Linux community still going on not understanding.

The author tries to answer the following question:

Why is it that the average computer user still chooses to spend hundreds of dollars on Windows or Mac when there are countless Linux alternatives that they could download, install and make use of completely free of charge?

And based on his experience with a lot of average users in the last 10 years and on his experience with Linux distros he gives the following 8 answers (actually, 5 + 3):

  1. On the whole, users aren’t all that dissatisfied with Windows: the average user uses his PC everyday without many problems
  2. Too many distros: people have problem choosing between Vista Home Basic or Home Premium, how can the average user choose between 36 different flavors of Linux?
    "Choosing a suitable Linux distro is a bit like the uninitiated making a trip to Starbucks and expecting to be able to order a plain simple cup of coffee – you quickly realize that life isn’t that simple and you need to step out of the queue and do a lot of learning before you walk up to the counter again."
  3. People want certainty that hardware and software will work: "Anyone making the leap from Windows to Linux has to start from scratch with regards to applications. ... Having to come up with an alternative for every application you use is a big job."
  4. As far as most people are concerned, the command line has gone the way of the dinosaur: It gives us more power, look at Windows PowerShell, but are you sure the average user needs it? Maybe it's cool for the sys-admin when maintaining a server environment, but the average doesn't even know it exists.
  5. Linux is still too geeky: I think here they are improving, Ubuntu desktop is less geeky than KDE or Gnome a few years ago, and look at the Beryl desktop... is amazing!!! But I'm not an average user, and I don't think that my friend which is a lawyer and has to write contracts or papers will find it useful.
  6. The Mac effect: People that want to think different are getting a Mac, which is based on Unix, but all the complexity is hidden behind the sexy GUI and closed hw Apple built around it.
  7. Who provides the free tech support?: Everybody knows someone “being good with computers” in the Windows world. With Mac, it can be more tricky, but with Linux, I really doubt that the average Jane accountant has in her group of friends someone "good with Linux".
  8. Chill out, it’s just an operating system!: The Linux community is full of Fanboys that takes too seriously this OS thing, and are perceived as aggressive and too much with a RTFM approach to questions. And this turns people off.

I like Linux, I think it's good to have the Beryl desktop, or the power of the command line, or the freedom to choose which application to run, but, as I said before, I'm NOT an average user, as probably 98% of the readers of my blog.

The average users doesn't want to spend nights playing with computers (to get them going).

Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie in a song named Every OS Sucks they say:

...

Now there's lih-nux or lie-nux,
I don't know how you say it,
or how you install it, or use it, or play it,
or where you download it, or what programs run,
but lih-nux, or lie-nux, don't look like much fun.

However you say it, it's getting great press,
though how it survives is anyone's guess,
If you ask me, it's a great big mess,
for elitist, nerdy shmucks
.

"It's free!" they say, if you can get it to run,
the Geeks say, "Hey, that's half the fun!"
Yeah, but I got a girlfriend, and things to get done,
the Linux OS SUCKS.
(I'm sorry to say it, but it does.)

...

PS: no accountants have been harmed in the creation of this post.

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Subtext and LOST

Spoiler Warning: if you are into LOST and you didn't see episode 3x20 don't go on reading the post...

Today Phil commit a change to Subtext with the following comment:

> Log Message:
> -----------
> Added some notes in SubtextMembershipProvider for Jacob.

Does this mean that the Subtext team is a member of the Dharma as well? Or maybe Phil  has a special connection with Jacob? Maybe I can ask him some questions about the Island smile_regular

Where are the Microsoft fanboys?

Looking at Digg page on Microsoft I just found an interesting article written on One Microsoft Way, the column about Microsoft on ArsTechnica.

The article, titled  "A good question: Where ARE the Microsoft fanboys?" is an answer to another article written on Information Week a few days before: Why Doesn't Microsoft Have A Cult Religion?

Fanboy:

A person who is completely loyal to a game or company regardless of if they suck or not.
[urbandictionary]

Fanboy is a term used to describe an individual ... who is utterly devoted to a single fannish subject, or to a single point of view within that subject, often to the point where it is considered an obsession. Fanboys remain loyal to their particular obsession, disregarding any factors that differ from their point of view. Fanboys are also typically aggressive and hateful towards the opposing brand or competition of their obsession regardless of its merits or achievements.
[Wikipedia]

Cult Religion:

In religion and sociology, a cult is a term designating a cohesive group of people ... devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding culture or society considers to be outside the mainstream. Its status may come about either due to its novel belief system, its idiosyncratic practices, its perceived harmful effects on members, or because its perceived opposition to the interests of the mainstream culture.
...
In common usage "cult" has a negative connotation and is generally applied to a group by opponents for a variety of reasons.
[Wikipedia]

1 a system of religious worship directed towards a particular figure or object.
2 a small religious group regarded as strange or as imposing excessive control over members.
3 something popular or fashionable among a particular section of society.
[Oxford Dictionary]

My question is: since these words both have a negative connotation, is it such a problem that Microsoft doesn't have fanboys?
Is it good for a company to have followers that scream and shout excited for everything that comes out? or maybe it's better to have users that can see problems, raise an hand, and signal the problem (like it happened with Linq2Entities and DLinq)?

He is right, Microsoft doesn't have fanboys among the general PC user: I think my mother, my brother don't have the knowledge to be a fan of any technology as long it allows them to send email, play games, browse the Internet and doesn't require a BA in Computer Science to install or make it run.

Linux, Java have fanboys among the users because their users are also developers or into IT at some degree, and, as MS developer are, they are excited about the technologies they use to accomplish their jobs, but in my opinion Microsoft developer are a bit less fannish... which, IMHO, its not that bad.

What do you think? Is it good or bad not to have MS fanboys?

PS: emphasis in the citations added by me.

Simone's BrainDump

The guys at Mindscape just started a series of video blog posts: BrainDump. Every now and then they will be interviewing a member of the .NET development community in New Zealand.

Last week they knocked at my door, and I was very pleased to be part of the first episode of their BrainDump, speaking about my involvement with Subtext and my last project, the CCNET monitor gadget for Vista.

Watch the video here:

BrainDump #1 - Simone Chiaretta
(EDIT: they removed the silverlight player, so here is a link to YouTube)

Now I understand how Phil Haack felt when he was interviewed at Mix07.
Being interviewed is not easy at all: you make plans of what you want to say, but as soon as the recording light turns red you forget everything. I apologize to Steve for mentioning Scott Hanselman instead of him... but fortunately I corrected myself immediately.
And also to Phil for placing him in Las Vegas instead of Los Angeles... but you were just got back from Las Vegas when I was interviewed.

How to make a Gmail-like loading indicator with ASP.NET Ajax

At the moment I'm working on making a web application we just developed more user friendly and more appealing to the end users.

The application uses a few ASP.NET Ajax controls so I was pretty surprised when the customer sent me an email saying that he liked all the dynamic loading and the fact that he could reorder "things" using drag&drop and saving them without waiting the page to reload, but it took him a while to understand was going on. The first time he clicked the button, and since nothing happened, he thought that something was going wrong, so he kept clicking on the button, an yet nothing happening.

The problem was that since all the Ajax interactions happen behind the scenes asynchronously, the user doesn't understand what's going on: sometimes the user doesn't need to know what's going on (like when you are just reloading some data), but when he presses a button he needs to know that he did the right thing and that something is happening. With the "old style" ASP.NET a postback would have been initiated, so it was obvious that something was happening, but how to do it using Ajax?

That is pretty easy to accomplish with ASP.NET: just drop in an UpdateProgress control and it will be displayed when an Ajax postback happens.

But, as default behavior, the UpdateProgress is displayed in the position where it is added to the page, so, if your page is longer than a scroll page, the indicator could not be visible: it has to be positioned relative to the browser window and not relative the html document.
At first I looked at how to hook into the script that displays the div in order to change the position via script, but while chatting with Daniela (which is an UIX and web designer) she said: "Why don't you just use the fixed positioning CSS attribute?"

And she was right, much easier than hooking into ASP.NET Ajax scripts. I definitely need to improve my CSS knowledge smile_regular.

Step 1 - Add an UpdateProgress control to the page

First thing you have to add an UpdateProgress to your ASP.NET page.

<asp:UpdateProgress ID="UpdateProgress1" runat="server"
                     DynamicLayout="false">
    <ProgressTemplate>
        <img src="Images/ajax-loader.gif" /> Loading ...
    </ProgressTemplate>
</asp:UpdateProgress>

You can put this code anywhere inside the page, but I suggest you put it at the end. I didn't specify any AssociatedUpdatePanelID because I want the loading indicator to appear for all the UpdatePanel I have on the page: if you want it only for some of them you have to set it.

Step 2 - Add CSS

 #UpdateProgress1 {
   background-color:#CF4342;
   color:#fff;
   top:0px;
   right:0px;
   position:fixed;
 }

#UpdateProgress1 img {
   vertical-align:middle;
   margin:2px;
 }

The trick is to set the position attribute to fixed: it will make the top and right dimensions relative to the browser window and not to its original position (as with relative) or to containing element (as with absolute).
This CSS will put the indicator on the top right corner of the window, as the Gmail indicator.

Step 3 - Add an activity indicator image

But we can do it even better then gmail, we could add a nice animated activity indicator. Last year ScottGu recommended a few websites to download some indicators from, and I really liked www.ajaxload.info. This site dynamically generate an activity indicator for you, with the type and colors you prefer.

This is the animated gif I created to fit nicely into my UpdateProgress control:

And this is how the final Gmail-like loading indicator looks like:

Loading ...

Download the code sample

UPDATE: I changed the CSS after Lorenzo comment adding a few pixel around the image and vertically aligning the text

UPDATE2:Laurent Duveau wrote a nice post on how to make it work with IE6, using the AlwaysVisibleControl that is inside the AJAX Control Toolkit: http://weblogs.asp.net/lduveau/archive/2007/05/25/ajax-loading-indicator-like-gmail.aspx

kick it on DotNetKicks.com

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Akismet and the trackback spam

I started this blog back in last December, so I didn't bother about the spam problem at the beginning.

But last month I started getting a lot of trackback spam, some days even 30-40 per day: I guess this is the new way of blog spam since comments are being filtered by all the CAPTCHA controls or other dictionary based comment filters.

I decided to give Akismet a try: and in the first week after I enabled Akismet I have no more spam on my blog. All the trackbacks are being checked against the Akismet web service and eventually marked as spam.

Their stats say that 95% of all comments are spam: I didn't experienced that number of spam comments and trackbacks, but probably it depends on the topic and audience of the blog, and also, probably their stats are a bit biased because their service is used by blogger with problems with spam.

If you have Subtext, enabling Akismet is pretty easy: just get a personal key (which involves creating an account on worpress.com) and insert it in the comment configuration page of your blog administration.

If you want to add Akismet support into your application there is an opensource Akismet .NET API hosted on CodePlex.

So far I'm pretty happy on how their service works. I wish I could use it also on my Italian blog, on the UGIdotNET blog network, but it's still hosted on .Text, so, no way to add support for Akismet smile_sad

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A Red Moon is rising

No, I'm not referring to Luna Rossa, the Italian sailboat that is taking part in the America's Cup, but to something else... though the name is inspired to the boat.

Stay tuned for more details

This wonderful red moon is from Flickr and is copyright by _____b_____

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What to do when you don't know what to do

Just drive a few kilometers, go to the first beach (or ridge, or lake or river or whatever is a few kilometers from your home), sit down, relax and look at a beautiful view.

Just make sure you didn't sit down next to a bunch of sea weeds, or you'll end up being bitten by the nasty sandfliessmile_regular

The best way to spend the lunch break: running with your iPod

Wellington waterfront is so beautiful and relaxing that you cannot avoid spending most of your spare time wandering along the promenade that surround all the Lambton Harbour. So, when it's not raining or the wind is under 20 knots I spend my lunch break running from my office till the end of Oriental Parade and return.

I think that running is the best way to spend your lunch break: you get fit, you eat less, you have a "real" break from your work stuff and you enjoy the warmest hours of the day outdoor. And now that the sunset is at 5pm, it's also the only way I can run outdoor during weekdays.

What is this map? It's one of the 2 new features introduced on the NikePlus web site in the last month: Map your routes and public profile.

Map your running routes

Now you can draw on a Google map your running routes, you can make them public, and you can share them with you runner friends (here is the map of my lunch break running route). And you can also search for all the routes in a specific city.

Here are 2 screenshots with all the public routes in Wellington and Milano:

 

The only problem is see is that the map is constrained in the 700x 300 area of the main window of NikePlus: this forces to constantly drag the map around to the details. A more standard squared map would have been a better solution.

Public profile

With the intent of increasing the feeling of being inside a community, the other new feature introduced is the public profile. Both in the NikePlus forums and when looking at the competitors in your challenges, you can see a small popup with some information about the user: where he is from, how many kms he ran, his average speed, his latest run and his "power song".

On the left you can see my public profile. My power song is the infamous "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers" by Digital Droo (featuring Steve Ballmer). If you want to put it on you iPod, here is the mp3.

Subtext 1.9.5 "NoName" is released

The QA department just finished testing the version we were working on, so I'm pleased to announce the official release of Subtext 1.9.5, this time with no codename.

New Features

This version adds a lot of new features, bringing Subtext One Step Closer to my ideal blogging platform. The most interesting new features, IMHO, are:

For a complete release notes refer to the official announcement by Phil : Subtext 1.9.5 Release

Download and Install

Download the latest version, unzip it, override all the files you have on the server, reload any page of the blog and follow the instructions.

If you don't believe it's so easy, read the Upgrading instructions on Subtext website.

PS: Since I mentioned the Linkin Park, their new album (Minutes to Midnight) is due (at the time of writing) in 5611 minutes.

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Breaking change in Subtext 1.9.5: update your custom skins

Subtext 1.9.5 is being tested by our QA department and hopefully will be released soon.

One of the new features of the new version is the upgrade of the code scripting library for image display from Lightbox v1 to Lightbox v2, but unfortunately this introduces a breaking change. Lightbox v1 requires only the lightbox.js file, while version 2 requires 2 more libraries in order to work: scriptaculous and prototype.
So if you built a custom skin that uses Lightbox v1 you have to manually update its definition inside the skin.config or skin.user.config in order to make it work with the new version.

Almost 2 months ago I wrote a post on how to add Lightbox v2 to a custom skin, but now that this library is part of the core scripts it's even easier.

A skin definition using Lightbox v1 looks like this:

<SkinTemplate ... >
  <Scripts>
    ...    
    <Script Src="~/scripts/lightbox.js" />
    ...
  </Scripts>
  <Styles>
    ...
    <Style href="~/scripts/lightbox.css" />
    ...
  </Styles>
</SkinTemplate>

To migrate to Ligthbox v2 you have to include the following 2 script definitions inside the <Script> tag:

<Script Src="~/scripts/prototype.js" />
<Script Src="~/scripts/scriptaculous.js?load=effects" />

The final skin definition should be like that one:

<SkinTemplate ... >
  <Scripts>
    ...
    <Script Src="~/scripts/prototype.js" />
    <Script Src="~/scripts/scriptaculous.js?load=effects" />
    <Script Src="~/scripts/lightbox.js" />
    ...
  </Scripts>
  <Styles>
    ...
    <Style href="~/scripts/lightbox.css" media="screen" />
    ...
  </Styles>
</SkinTemplate>

Hope this helps smoothing the migration process to the new version of Subtext 1.9.5. If you need assistance, just contact me or write a comment to this post.

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No comment needed

As usual a video is worth 1000 words... in that case, it's worth 1000000000 words

 

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Google Analytics releases new UI

Today Google announced the new version of its statistics package: Analytics.

The new UI introduces a new dashboard, new fancy graphs with the possibility to compare trends over a period of time, customizable dashboard and email and PDF reports.

Current users will be migrated to the interface during next month.

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iTunes causing VS to throw LoaderLock exception

Today I started getting a strange exception every time I try to enter a character in a textbox:

LoaderLock detected
Attempting managed execution inside OS Loader lock. Do not attempt to run managed code inside a DllMain or image initialization function since doing so can cause the application to hang.

But I was just typing a character in a test application with only a textbox, not doing anything so exotic.

After banging my head against the wall for a few hours I found on MSDN forum a strange compatibility issue between Visual Studio 2005 and iTunes 7.1: LoaderLock detected, only when iTunes running...

Microsoft did a research on the issue and here is the result:

We are sorry that you are experiencing problems when running iTunes 7.1 and VS 2005. Here is the results of our research:

We noticed that iTunesKeyboardCompatibility.dll is causing the LoaderLock MDA to fire. The most likely reason is that the DLL entry point for this DLL is doing some non-trivial work which causes managed code to run. There are serious limits on what a DLL can do in the DLL entry point (i.e. DllMain()). For more information, you can refer to http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms682583.aspx.

This will need to be resolved by iTunes.

So only two possible solutions:

  1. move to WinAmp, or install iTunes 6.x
  2. disable the LoaderLock MDA from the Debug>Exception>Managed Debugging Assistant

Since I listen to music while working, I think I'll disable the MDA smile_regular

Actually the problem happens only when the iTunesHelper process is running, not with the main iTunes process.

Windows Live Writer vNext

At the beginning of March the WLW team posted some screenshots of the next version of Windows Live Writer: New Version Of Windows Live Writer, with Screenshots

The new UI was like all the Windows Live tools, with a new window to add images and other changes to the core plugins.

And it also have the possibility to add tables.

Today I found a post on <edit>, that linked an exclusive image of a more recent screenshot of WLW.

As you can see they removed the Window Live look&feel, and reorganized a bit the menu and panels around the UI.

Looks like a promising next version: too bad I'd have to find something new when I'll move to the Mac OSX later in October smile_regular

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Silverlight interesting resources

Just stumbled upon 2 interesting resources on Silverlight

Silverlight Mindmap

Ian Blackburn, developed a mindmap to help developers find their way through the huge amount of information that are available online.

There 2 versions available online:

ScottGu's MIX recap

Scott was the main speaker at the MIX keynote last Monday: a lot of things were announced.

In his last post he recaps all the announcements made during the mix, and provide links to useful external resources

I wish there were at least 28 hours per day to be able to cope with all then information available.

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Which Star Wars personality am I?

Following David Silverlight's suggestion I just took the The Ultimate Star Wars Personality Test, and it turned out that I am:

CC.NET Monitor screencast

This weekend I decided to try Camtasia to record a screencast to show you how my CC.NET monitoring gadget looks like before you decide to install it on your Vista computer. But also to show people that don't have Vista what they are missing.

The screencast shows how to add the gadget to the sidebar, how to configure it to monitor 2 different build servers choosing only the projects you are interested in and how it looks like both in the docked and undocked view.

This is my first screencast, and also the first time I record my voice, so, please, don't be too hard with the comments.

Just a few comments on Camtasia:

  • it has the possibility to add a voice narration after you recorded the video (and it's how I did to record this screencast)
  • nice zooming effects, allow you to focus only on the important part of the screen when you need it
  • Title clips
  • transitions between the clips

Next time I do a screencast I'll try speaking during the recording of the demo, not after as I did for this one: maybe the speech will sound more fluid that it is now.

Are we all CI addicted?

Yesterday, after a few weeks not working on Subtext main trunk (busy with the CC.NET Monitor and the testing of the soon-to-be-released 1.9.5 version) I updated my local working folder from the SVN repository.

And as soon as I opened the solution I got errors saying that a project was missing. I removed the project in my local solution, and then VS complained that some file were added to some projects, but were missing on the disk: somebody in the team probably added a new solution and a few files to the project, but only committed the project files, but not the actual code files... an error that also happened to me a few times.

Unfortunately our build server died a few weeks ago, so nobody knew that the build was broken, and nobody fixed it.

Now we all got used to see a red light when something goes wrong that working without a CI process seems to be almost impossible.

I was wondering, how was it possible to work on big teams on big projects without a well defined Continuous Integration process? Or maybe we are all CI addicts and we cannot work with a build server anymore?

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CruiseControl.NET Monitoring Gadget for Vista Sidebar 0.8

UPDATE: The latest version of CC.NET Monitor for Vista Sidebar is v0.9.5: read more about it on the CC.NET Monitor for Vista Sidebar v0.9.5 release notes.


A few days ago I announced the beta phase for version 0.8 of my CC.NET Monitoring gadget, and now I think it's ready for the release.

Project opensourced on Google Code

I also created to host the project on Google Code, so now I've a central repository to store the source code, the files released, the documentation and also a small issue tracking system.

I already added 2 pages on the project wiki:

And I also added the 3 enhancements I've been asked for:

Version 0.8 Released

To have a look at the detailed release notes please read my CC.NET Monitor for Vista vNext post, or you can have a look at the screencast that shows how to add and configure the gadget.

And you can download the latest version from the Google Code project page: ccnetmonitor-0.8.gadget

Please reports any bug or feature request on the new issue tracking page on the Google Code project site

What's next?

As said a few paragraphs above, I'm already working on the new features, and version 0.9 will probably add:

  • force build button
  • automatic scrolling

If you want to be informed about next release, subscribe to my RSS feed.

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The correct pronunciation of my name is...

My colleagues at work still don't pronounce my name correctly, Phil in the interview pronounced it better (and given the fact that I never told him how to pronounce it, that's good), but not quite right, Steve is also wondering how to pronounce it, and a lot of guys in the .NET community here in Wellington mispronounce it.

So I decided to help everybody pronounce it properly: listen to me pronouncing my own name.

The user is the 4th tier of any application

Are you an architect or developer and do you think the user experience is not something you should care about? Well, you are wrong.

I was listening to an interesting series of podcasts from ARCast with Ron Jacobs on why an architect should care about the User Experience, and how to do it.

I think the reason why an architect should care about the end user experience is all in the title of this post. If you look at any enterprise application, split in tiers (usually 3 tiers), with interfaces between them, you have to think at the end user as 4th tier of your application, with the UI being the interface between the presentation layer and the user brain. So, an architect should put in that User Experience design the same effort he puts designing the structure of a database, or the business logic interface that exposes all the possible operation to the presentation layer.

He also brings some examples of what is a bad user experience, and how a poorly designed user interface can decide the success or the failure of the application: no matter if the application does what it is supposed to do, if the end user cannot find a way to use it, or takes a lot of time to perform an operation, it's unusable and will be a failure.

Unfortunately the shows are not grouped together, but spread along the schedule, so here is the collection of all of them. Simon Guest explains his ideas on UX and how he approaches that problem with his own framework:

I also found interesting the interviews Ron Jacobs did at the SPARK UX summit this January:

And a few more other interesting audio shows:

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NHibernate 1.2 is stable

Sergey Koshcheyev, project leader of NHibernate, just announced the release to the world of NHibernate 1.2.

NHibernate 1.2 has been in beta testing for the last half year. Today it is officially marked stable, production-ready, and supported. What are the most compelling new features and why should you upgrade?

Just a brief overview of the new features:

  • there is a commercial support: I guess that the lack of that is one of the things that scares "traditional" IT managers the most
  • Native support of generics
  • Support for Stored Procedures
  • SysCache2: a second level cache provider based on the ASP.NET cache
  • Support of SQL Server 2005 specific features like the new paging system
  • Added support for SQL Server CE

For more details: NHibernate 1.2 is here!

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nBlogr, NZ-made blogging engine

I just came back home from a very intersting meeting of the Wellington user group:
Ivan Porto Carrero (as you can guess by the name, he is not a kiwi, but comes from the land of beer, Belgium) spoke about his blogging engine: nBlogr

It's a blogging engine built using castle, base4.net and prototype. It's still in an early alpha phase but given the simplicity and the extensibility of the code and architecture I saw at the presentations, I think it can become a good .NET blogging engine in the future, if Ivan goes one builiding and maintaing it.

If you want to know more, read the post he made about tonight presentation, with link to the powerpoint presentation, and a brief step-by-step guide on how have nblogr running on your computer.

He is also looking for help, so, if you want to experiment with all that alternative non standard way of builing web app with the .NET framework, if you want to learn boo, and if you want to work with a smart guy, please contact him: I'd really love to contribute, but I'm already doing soo many things after work (Subtext, watching the Americas Cup,CC.NET Monitor, studying for the MCPD, working on a WLW plugin, rockclimbing indoor) that I don't have time to work on it.

Sorry about that Ivan.

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CC.NET Monitor for Vista vNext

UPDATE: version 0.8 released: read more on CruiseControl.NET Monitoring Gadget for Vista Sidebar 0.8

Two weeks ago I released the first version of my CC.NET Monitor Gadget for Vista Sidebar, and I received a lot of feedbacks on what I should put into the next version of the gadget: the possibility to choose which projects to display, an automatic scrolling of the list of projects, a button to force the build on the server, a global indicator to be able to see at a glance if any of the projects are failing.

So during the last weeks I worked on these feature requests, and in a few days I'm going to release the next version (0.8) of my CC.NET Monitor.

Here are some teaser of the features I implemented into the next version:

  • new tab style settings page
  • ability to monitor more than one CC.NET dashboard
  • possibility to choose which project to display for each server
  • added a license page (which is the new BSD license, as stated in my copyright and licensing policy)
  • added an icon at the bottom of both docked and undocked view with a global status: it's green if all the projects are building correctly, it's red if at least one of them is failing
  • removed the strings with the current activity and replaced the sleeping text with that icon:

     

I'm finishing the debugging of the gadget and I'm hopefully releasing the gadget in a few days, so, stay tuned.

UPDATE: version 0.8 released: read more on CruiseControl.NET Monitoring Gadget for Vista Sidebar 0.8

PS: If you want to help with the debugging, please contact me with the contact page or writing a comment here.

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Phil Haack interviewed on OpenSource

Phil Haack has been inverviewed by Tim Heuer for his new TimCast podcast.

Phil explains why he started working on Subtext, and what his feelings are about the open source community on the Microsoft Platform.

I'm very proud of having been mentioned by him during the interview, you know (!), he even said my name "almost" correctly. Thank you for that Phil.

Here is the announcement of the interview, and here you can download the mp3 interview

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More Silverlight bits

I usually don't like to write posts that contains only links to other posts, but with all that MIX07 information overload I'm doing it here as reminder for myself, hoping you will find it useful as well:

UPDATE: The poster is now downloadable from Brad's blog, so I removed it from my blog

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Nic... see you sometimes, somewhere

Nic, an active .NET blogger and developer is leaving Wellington, after his company decided to "to axe 40 jobs in capital" (no, this is not really true, as Nic himself explain).

So he is going to Madison and then taking a sabbatical year (or 2 or 3 or 4 or forever).

I'm a bit sad about that, since Nic is the one that hosted me in his house when I arrived in Wellington back in January, helped me discovering Wellington, helped me when I had problems with my laptop and had to reinstall it, and convinced me to move to a Mac as soon as I get back to Italy. And, most of all, is the only "real" friend I met here in Wellington so far.

So, Nic, as Desmond of LOST used to say: "See you in another lifetime"... or more simply, see you when, during your sabbatical year, you decide to spend a few days in the hot, dump, polluted and wonderful Milano (or, depending on the season, can also be cold or rainy or covered with snow... but always dump and polluted and still wonderful).

Cheers

MIX07 Announcements

MIX07 started yesterday and, as I forecasted, there has been a lot announcements during the keynote.

Today I opened my feedreader and I was flooded by almost 30-40 posts reporting the news coming from the MIX.

A bit of information overload, isn't it?

I cannot watch 2,5 hours of keynote video here at work, so I've to wait to get back to home tonight, so I've to try and understand the announcements reading other people blogs.

A brief recap, mainly to clear up my mind than to report again the same things you can find around the blogsphere:

Seems to be a lot of things going on for the Microsoft implementation of WEB 2.0

Being mainly a web oriented developer, I'm pretty excited about all this things...

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