This blog has, IMO, some great resources. Unfortunately, some of those resources are becoming less relevant. I'm still blogging, learning tech and helping others...please find me at my new home on

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reboots are Boring…


If my computer goes to sleep while I have my USB VGA adapter plugged in it often blue screens and I’m stuck waiting for a reboot. This is the third time I forgot to disconnect before walking away from my computer.

DARN YOU, 64 bit OSes!

From what I understand the adapter sails fine on 32 bit operating systems.  No matter…I’ve been running my laptop on Windows 7 now for over two weeks and plan to upgrade my workstation when I get back from Cyclebetes.

The adapter is a Diamond BVU-160.  It does not play nicely with Vista 64bit.

My Algorithm for the Next 12 Days

int distancePerDay = 140;
for (int i = 0; i < 13; i++)

I will be travelling with the Cyclebetes National Team for over 4,000 kms as I take part in the Biggest Bike Relay in the World.

You can check out Cyclebetes web site here.

If you’d like to help fund a cure for Juvenile Diabetes, please donate and sponsor me online here.

You can also follow me on my cycling blog: Cyclebetes - Canadian James.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Crash Course in ASP.Net MVC Programming

This is the first chapter of the ASP.Net MVC book co-authored by a number of deep-trench programmers, managers and community voices.

The first chapter is free online. If you’ve done anything interesting in MVC using ASP.Net, there won’t be too much new for you there, but it’s a great start if you’ve taken the dive and found yourself asking things about URL routing (also called URL rewriting) and wondering how it works in ASP.Net.

It’s no short chapter, weighing in at nearly 200 pages, and it walks through most of the basics in getting a ‘NerdDinner’ site up and running.  Bing it.

Seriously?  Did I just say “Bing it?”

Can you ever have too much video display real estate?

No, sir, you cannot.

HPIM0401 Stitch

Things of note:

  • Mandatory Skynet coffee mug
  • 63,000,000 pixels of desktop space
  • Two operating systems
  • Two mice
  • Two cell phones
  • Picture of two kids
  • Picture of my wife and I when we were still ‘kids’
  • GPS reader in USB dongle format.  Woot!Thanks Mike!
  • Chocolate cupcake with heart-killing frosting.  Mmm. Thanks Cheryl!

Visual Studio 2010 Toolbox

I’ve been flipping through Visual Studio 2010 for the last little while and I think I’ve come across something that would be really useful.  This isn’t an original idea, by far, but one that would bring a more modern take to the good old toolbox.

Here’s what you might see when you start up a new project in 2010:

toolbox selections in Visual Studio 2010

Pay no mind to the drawing errors on those expanders; I think this is a display bug in Visual Studio 2010 when you’re using a bigger font in your visual settings in Windows 7.

Beyond the stretchy plus sign, there is a fairly good categorical breakdown of all the controls types in Visual Studio.

What’s missing?  Search. Check out what they’ve been doing in Adobe After Effects for eons. 

With the contains filter up at the top, you are easily able to narrow down to effects (in this window), project items or elements on a composition timeline.

Take that one step further, now: what if I could type in “panel”, and any control that had “panel” in the name or the description tags would appear.  This would certainly helpful, especially if there was a “related items” filtered list as well.  So, I search for panel and see FlowLayoutPanel and Panel, but I would also see – under ‘related items’ – SplitContainer, TabControl etc.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where did .Add go?

I decided to make the very powerful shift from Linq to SQL to the Entity Framework for a spike solution I am working on.  I had been exploring it for some time but hadn’t really gotten into a nuts-and-bolts project with it.

Everything is an entity.  If you’ve worked with ORMs before you’ll get this concept easily.  A collection of entities is called an entity set.

Some entities are related to other entities; as in, each order has a customer related to it, and each customer has zero or more orders related to it.

You create an instance of your data context and then you have access to all your entity sets.

I had expected, because of other familiar frameworks that I would be able to do context.Orders.Add(newOrder), but this is not the case.

Multiple entity sets can be created with the same base entity type.  So, if you have an order entity, you can have an entity set for ActiveOrders and one for ClosedOrders (etc.). 

I haven’t had a chance to dig too far into the full reasons, but this did result in a change to some of the context naming, positioning and structure of the base classes.

So, where did the Add method go?  It’s still there, it just doesn’t live in the context entity sets.  The context now has strongly typed methods (which are also strongly named) that allow you to add that one base entity to whichever entity set you need.  The new name is context.AddToEntitySetName.

Also, if you have related entities you can still do the old customer.Orders.Add(order) call.

I realize there are complications but, and again, without having gotten too far into it, I would like to know why the entity set – which is strongly typed – can’t have it’s own add method too?

Friday, August 14, 2009

I Also Do Artwork

Along my development duties I’ve also worn the hat of Creative Designer and Web Developer, which, combined with my photographic hobbies, has allowed me to keep current with the toolsets out there for graphics.

Here’s an ad I just finished the artwork for.  We’re moving away from our ‘corporate’ look and a little more towards ‘fun’.  This will be run in rotation with another ad I crafted for the next eight weeks.

I threw the ad together because I loved how it had nothing to do with the internet.  Strawberries?  LOL.  The thing is, though, when you’ve flipping through the newspaper and seeing a 1/4 page ad with strawberries, I think you look.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Cocktail – Apple Tries to Revive the Album

Apple is working on their next every-consumer-must-have-device much to the chagrin of anyone, well…of anyone.  This time, as rumour’s been for the last few months, the fruity company is working on iPhone’s big little brother: the iNetbook.  Or iProd. Or, iSomethingFlashy.

Apparently it’s going to come in like an iPod touch, but with a 10” screen, and like some other netbooks it may be tethered to a data plan from a wireless carrier.  That’s so that you can subsidize your purchase with a three year commitment, likely adding at least $1000 in user fees to what might amount to an already $800 device.

The ‘big’ feature that Apple is leaking is Cocktail.  This is apparently a co-op from Apple and the big four labels that will revive sales and possibly give you features with your music.  Cocktail will be an application that allows music companies to bundle extra junk with music that you purchase in what we old folk used to call an ‘album’.  It will be like CD liners and maybe videos and some level of interactivity.

Why Cocktail Will Work

I’m not an Apple fanboy, but I certainly know a few.  For anyone who can justify buying YetAnotherAppleProduct they are likely going to drink the Koolaid and tell you how wonderful Cocktail is as well.

There will be some coolness to the app.  You have to give Apple credit and admit that they do have very good design, very good product depth and reasonable value. Though they certainly aren’t the best at any of those things, they have proven to be the best marketing machine consumers have ever had to face.  Apple is the King of Perceived Obsolescence.

Interactivity won’t be enough, though, and if the Mac boys come to the table with just a page-turning app plagued with downloadable movie clips from the band warming up this will suck.  If they pull it off, however, it will be a rich experience worth sitting down with a couple of friends.  There will be a community aspect to it so that I can share the album with a friend over WiFi if we are sitting close enough so that we can experience the features at the same time, or even lead or follow someone through that experience.

Hi-resolution, explorable art will also be a deal-maker.  Imagine loaded, three-dimensional scenes, scenes that shift or alter themselves slightly with every song you play off the album. Imagine art that is loaded and accessible through touch with everything from back story for the current song to mini-games to hidden content only available when certain tracks are listened to.

Yes, Cocktail could be quite the experience.

Why Cocktail Will Fail

Ahh….but that all comes at a cost, and there’s no guarantee that it will actually pay off.  I might might buy one or two of these deals before it gets old.  And if you’re talking about something that is as interactive as I would like it to be, we’re talking about significant production costs.  Hollywood is feeling the effects of hard times in multiple ways: not only are consumers spending less on entertainment these days, but many of them are already getting it for free.  How will they justify producing these things if they know it will only be a matter of time before someone figures out how to break the protection off a Cocktail album and seed a torrent?

Back in late ‘90s I was barely 20 years old and still trying to grow facial hair.  I was getting fairly critical of the music industry and had observed the rise of blank media: the CD-R disc.  Most computers were shipping with a burner or had it as an option.  The music companies were still trying to sell me 12 tracks when I wanted two, but they still made me pay for the crappy ones.

I scrubbed big label music from my budget and told the big four to eff-off (not sure they ever heard me, but I was young and thought I was making a difference). I started buying indie music and music from smaller labels.  I vowed that I would not every purchase music again until I could buy the track I wanted for a dollar.

It would be years before music services were legally available in Canada, and even then, with a limited library.

Ranting aside, there are some qualities of an album that I miss.  There used to be a time when an album was a big deal.  There was a simple pleasure in saving up some cash from your first job, walking down to the music store and musing over the vinyl, tapes and those new-fangled CDs.  You’d bring your new purchase home and listen to the snapping as you tore off the plastic and anticipated that new-music smell.  Sometimes your favourite band would use a funky paper, or a unique packaging technique, or they had some tactile feature stamped into the printed paper that you could feel, you could actually feel it.  Some bands would give you the lyrics, others still would write out chord progressions.  It was awesome.  I have friends who would spend hours reading every liner note while trying not to de-crease any of the folds in the booklets. I used to listen to the album straight-through, at least once.  It was a true multimedia experience.

Cocktail has nothing on that.  Instead of saving up cash kids will use mom or dad’s credit card.  There is no ‘unwrap’ process, only BUY NOW!!!  You don’t pick up packages I’m willing to bet that, at best, it will be a tiring format with cookie-cutter features that everyone buys once to try it out.

Kinda like a Pet Rock.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I’m In

Sometimes I’m glad to go to work on Saturdays.  Checked my inbox and…