Friday, June 23, 2006

What has MSFT done for us lately?

As part of my recent gear swapping, I've had the chance to rebuild a few machines and test-drive some newer MS software.

IE7: If you haven't checked the Beta, I recommend it. The RSS support is pretty slick, there are Tabs (and a cool Quick Tab feature that lets you see all your tabs graphically on one scrollable page) and performance seems snappy.

SQL Server Express: It's free, and the Management Studio tool works against SQL2K databases. Another new interface which I generally like, combining Enterprise Manager w/ Query Analyzer and again, tabs. You won't find a Data Transformation Wizard or access to Profiler in this free version, but it is quite functional for ad-hoc queries, writing sprocs and doing general table maintenance. One complaint; comments are now done with the odd shortcut of Ctrl+K, Ctrl+C -- that is, you have to do both key combinations. Ctrl+Shift+C was strange enough but this is just lame.

OneNote: not new, not even recently updated -- but I *love* this tool. Not just for use on Tablet PCs. In addition to a personal notes I keep client records; one folder per client, one page per day, each issue designated with a checkbox (Ctrl+1). When an issue is solved I can check it off with another Ctrl+1. When it is time to triage I create a note summary. Open issues show up on top, then with a few other Ctrl+# combinations I can assign priorities and severities. Onenote also supports locking a page, a password is required to read / search and the file is encrypted on disk. Another cool feature is creating a shared session. This allows for real-time collaboration on one or more pages in a meeting or even remotely.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Back on the Mac

After the 2001 crash that took out our dotcom (Pacifiq Technologies -- you can still find the old website at I spent a few years doing small gigs. There wasn't a lot of work in Minneapolis for ex-CTO's -- and there were plenty of us around.

So when our house was broken into in 2003 and my 3rd laptop stolen I had no specific reason to buy a WinTel machine. I'd always loved the Macintosh, and had started doing some Linux work -- so I decided to buy a G4. I bought the 1Ghz Powerbook. It was the last model that was made out Titanium.

Loved the machine -- most elegant laptop I've ever worked with. If you've never spent time with one on your lap you've missed out.

I also loved OSX. It was still pretty new at the time, but it sat on Debian and was rock solid. It took awhile to get used to where everything was. I've been on MS machines since DOS 2.0 and I can make any MS OS sing, and there were definately times when I felt lost on the Mac.

I was Mac only for a few years until we moved back to Seattle and I started my contract gig with the Fox team. After a year it was re-starting Alden Anderson -- and of course working in MS software exclusively. So the Mac became mostly a music machine; Itunes, Abelton Live and MAX-MSP.

So last week my Dell 5160 gave up the ghost. Power supply went bad, I'd already fixed it once and new another few hundred $$$ was a bad investment. But before I pulled the trigger on another Dell I thought long and hard about what I used my laptop for these days.

1) Email - Outlook... which is a pig, but is still the only email client that will let you tag a message to be reviewed for follow-up at a specific date/time in the future.
2) Onenote - Invaluable tool for documenting day to day client activity
3) Web browsing - Firefox
4) Remote Desktop
5) VFP
6) SQL Server
7) Visual Studio

Why are VFP, SQL et al so low on the list? I do most of my dev work remotely with RDC, if you've got a good connection it is a superior way to work IMO. Easier version control and much less exposure when the laptop suddenly disappears, again.

So, I decided to dust of the Mac. Installed my recently upgraded 100gb 7200rpm hard drive from the Dell, got the latest OSX release (10.4.6 or Tiger) and installed Virtual PC for the Mac.

Well, I love it. I've got VPC setup with VFP9 and SQL Server and the rest of the MS apps, installed Firefox Mac and other than that I'm using what ships with the OS.

Of course what I'd really like is a NEW Duo-Core Powerbook. With Boot Camp and Parallels it gives me the best of both worlds -- but a sudden $2500 hit on cashflow isn't in the cards, so I'll sit with my 3 year old Powerbook and enjoy working with a work of art on my lap once again.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

TPCI - TIOBE Programming Community Index - VFP #12 and rising!

TPCI - TIOBE Programming Community Index

The death of VB6 has something to do with this IMO, but the VFP community deserves a great deal of credit.