Recently in Cool stuff Category


Very cool talk by Steve Yegge, available in video or transcribed form. I particularly enjoyed tooling part:

Moving right back along to our simple dynamic languages, the lesson is: it's not actually harder to build these tools [for dynamic languages]. It's different. And nobody's done the work yet, although people are starting to. And actually IntelliJ is a company with this IDEA [IDE], and they... my friends show off the JavaScript tool, you know, and it's like, man! They should do one for Python, and they should do one for every single dynamic language out there, because they kick butt at it. I'm sure they did all this stuff and more than I'm talking about here.

I'd add couple more modern IDE tools supporting dynamic languages: NetBeans (Javascript/Ruby) and Visual Studio 2008(Javascript, IronPython via IronPython Studio). But Steve is completely right - this is just the beginning.

Amazon Context Links

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Amazon has launched Context Links Beta program. The idea is that you insert a little Amazon script into your pages and when the page is open in a browser the script identifies words and phrases it thinks are relevant and makes them links to whatever Amazon products.

I enabled the script on my blog's frontpage (pinky double underlined links) to see how relevant it is and here are the results:

  1. "WHATWG" - Designing with Web Standards (2nd Edition) by Jeffrey Zeldman
  2. "Google Apps" - "Google Maps Hacks" by Rich Gibson
  3. "Google Reader" - Google for Dummies by Brad Hill
  4. "Fuck Windows" - "Death is a Window by E.C. Blount
  5. "The Pragmatic Programmer's" - Der Pragmatische Programmierer. by Andrew Hunt

Well, sure there are lots of opportunities for improving relevance, but still not bad at all for beta

Microsoft-free Daily Grind

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If you like the "Daily Grind" by Mike Gunderloy you might like its Microsoft-free version "Quick Links" at the "A fresh Cup" site ("Notes from a recovering Microsoft addict") too. Worth subscribing anyway.

The Coolest XML Project Contest

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I completely forgot that I still have one Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite with MSDN Premium Subscription gift card to give away. And it expires 12/31! Oh boy, what do I do now??? So for the next 2 weeks I'll be holding the "The Coolest XML Project Contest".

XML Notepad 2006 goes 2007

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Just couple of months after XML Notepad 2006 release Microsoft ships another version,  now called XML Notepad 2007. They even went and edited the article "XML Notepad 2006 Design" to be "XML Notepad 2007 Design". Cool.

XML Notepad 2006 was released on the 1st September 2006, and 2 months later it had 175,000 downloads! So it looks like this little utility has found a useful place in your toolkit which is exactly what we were hoping. Thanks for all the great feedback and bug reports; many of which have been incorporated and fixed in this new version. While this is mostly a bug fix release (like fixing the install on Vista!) there are also a few new features thrown in just for fun.

New in this version:

  • Added keyboard accelerators for find again (F3) and reverse find (SHIFT+F3).
  • Added support for loading IXmlBuilder and IXmlEditor implementations from different assemblies using new vs:assembly attribute.
  • Made source code localizable by moving all error messages and dialog strings to .resx files.
  • Added a default XSL transform.
  • New icons, a play on the Vista "Notepad" icons.

XML Notepad 2006 2007 is a tree view based XML editor, and it's not in my tool list because I can't work with XML editor which won't show me XML source, but then I'm XML geek and I feel more comfortable seeing angle brackets than tree view, while I'm sure lots of people will love it. Give it a try anyway.

I only wonder why all this stuff isn't in Visual Studio? Why is that Microsoft XML team can afford playing with another XML editor while Visual Studio XML Editor still sucks having no XML diff, no XPath search, no refactoring, no decent XSLT editor nor XML Schema designer?

If you are up to Microsoft certification you might be interested in this new offer from Microsoft called Exam Insurance:

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Really sounds like a win-win situation.

The offer expires May 2007 and is available exclusively through Microsoft Certified Partners for Learning Solutions.

Learning Ruby

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Man is driven to create; I know I really love to create things. And while I’m not good at painting, drawing, or music, I can write software.

I believe that the purpose of life is, at least in part, to be happy. Based on this belief, Ruby is designed to make programming not only easy, but also fun. It allows you to concentrate on the creative side of programming, with less stress.

Yukihiro Matsumoto, inventor of Ruby

I just started learning Ruby and I already feel it might be the language I love (well, after XSLT of course).

 Remember this famous Mars face? So recently NASA found another one, here in the Earth, in Australia actually. They call it "Ghostly Face In South Australian Desert". I first though it's about upside-down face that reminds Dali paintings, but no. Can you see a ghost face here? That's really stupid, but still cool picture. Btw, if you are not yet subscribed to the NASA Earth Observatory you might want. They publish some really cool pictures every week.

Free Brainbench Certification

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Hmmm, community-driven MSDN documentation... tempting.
Microsoft has launched the MSDN Wiki Beta - sort of a wrapper around MSDN documentation site, which adds "Community Content section" to the bottom of each MSDN page. Anybody can contribute any content to that section. Here is my test contribution to the "XslCompiledTransform Class" page. Basically such community-driven documentation could be awesome. MSDN documentation is huge and usually the subject you desperately need happens to be covered scarcely or even in a cryptic way. Microsoft admits they are just unable to cover all topics. Sadly but fact. So at least they can provide a centralized way for the community to contribute. One big question though is community content quality - somebody have to moderte all that stuff otherwise it's gonna be filled with spam and lame questions in just a week.

As many other Microsoft MVPs I've been given 3 "Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite with MSDN Premium Subscriptions" redemption cards to share. So now I'm having hard time looking for smart ideas how to do so. One card I would give to Kevin Downs, the guy who runs NDoc if he still has no MSDN subscription, but for the rest two I probably would go the way my fellow MVPs went and arrange some sort of contest. XML contest, of course, hmmm. Ummm, any ideas, anyone?

Trying out natural keyboard

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I've never tried working with natural keyboards. Somehow I thought they are kinda unnatural :) Now I want to give it a try, may be this new Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000:

Seems like people love it. It's great to see the latest Microsoft keyboard with standard 2x3 home/end key location set. Damn F Lock button is turned on on reboot, but happily little registry hack by Jason Tsang can fix it.

The only thing I dislike about model 4000 is that nasty cord. It's not wireless! And I hate cords on my desk. Anybody knows if Microsoft plans to release wireless version?

This is surprisingly cool news - Microsoft RSS Team decided to adopt this orange RSS feed icon used in Firefox to be used in IE7 too. The guys from Mozilla happily allowed the usage of the icon. Here is what Jane from Microsoft RSS team writes:

I’m excited to announce that we’re adopting the icon used in Firefox. John and Chris were very enthusiastic about allowing us (and anyone in the community) to use their icon. This isn’t the first time that we’ve worked with the Mozilla team to exchange ideas and encourage consistency between browsers, and we’re sure it won’t be the last.

We’ll be using the icon in the IE7 command bar whenever a page has a feed associated with it, and we’ll also use it in other places in the browser whenever we need a visual to represent RSS and feeds. Look for more details on the look and feel of IE7 when we post the public pre-release build next year.

MSN joins Google, Yahoo and others supporting the TopCoder community - a major league for programming competitions. MSN is sponsoring 8 TopCoder matches and is giving away $40,000 in cash prizes to the TopCoder Community. MSN is also hiring best topcoders.

That's cool. And TopCoder is a great place to exercise your programming and problem solving skills competing online with geeks like you. Try it out.

PDC 2005 videos online

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Microsoft put hundreds of hours PDC 2005 videos online at Here is a list of XML-related and others interesting presentations worthwhile watching IMHO.

"Share customer's pain" video

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I've seen this video at the MVP Summit. Fun, but you know, sometimes I wish something like that was actually deployed. Hey, wait, I'm a developer too... Well, all actions have consequences after all.

Oh, and don't forget "Bill Gates goes to college" too.

What I can't find on the net is a very fun picture of Erik Meijer "unveiling XML literals in VB9 to the world". That's probably still NDA photo :)

Visual Haskell

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I was always sure that's what Haskell desperately needs: Visual Haskell:

Visual Haskell is a complete development environment for Haskell software, based on Microsoft's Visual Studio platform. Visual Haskell integrates with the Visual Studio editor to provide interactive features to aid Haskell development, and it enables the construction of projects consisting of multiple Haskell modules, using the Cabal building/packaging infrastructure.
It's still version 0.0 though.

Don Box said "Scheme Is Love", but he forgot to mention that Scheme is actually Love to Lots of Irritating, Silly Parentheses. Haskell my friends is the Real Love.

[Via Lambda the Ultimate]

MVP Summit

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I'll be at the Microsoft MVP Summit in Redmond next week. I'm Microsoft MVP for second year, but that's going to be my first MVP Summit. That should be fun.

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I discovered this weekend and now I know how I'm gonna spend my spare time next decade...

Cool Web hosting news

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Hey, I just noticed that Webhost4Life (web hosting company where I host my sites) greatly increased disk and database space available with their hosting plans - now for the same $10/mo one can get 2Gb of disk space, 2Gb of MS SQL and 2 Gb of MySQL. Hmm, 6 times more, really generous offer. Needless to mention Windows 2003, .NET 1.1, Sharepoint, unlimited traffic, unlimited domains etc etc etc. Sounds like a commercial so I better stop. Still please refer to me when buying web hosting at Webhost4Life, my member ID is "olegt".

Good news for those who missed the opportunity to retake a Microsoft Certificaion exam for free - the Second Shot Offer has been extended through August 2005.

Hey, self-learners, did you know that you can take MIT course online for free? MIT's OpenCourseWare made it possible. That's really cool resource for self education.

[Via Wesner Moise]

Enrolling in an online computer science program can help advance your knowledge.

Erik Meijer, one of designers of Haskell98 and C-omega languages will be presenting an interesting webcast at Tuesday, May 03, 2005 10:00 AM (GMT-08:00):

MSDN Webcast: Language Design: Helping Programmers Program Better (Level 300)
One of the greatest challenges programmers face is translating the concepts in their head into a form that is suitable for a machine to execute. When designing programming languages there is a natural tension between what the machine can do and what a human can comprehend, a tension between program efficiency and programmer productivity. This webcast will discuss various advancements in programming languages geared towards simplifying the development of three-tier distributed and data intensive applications. In particular we will concentrate on ways to bridge the impedance mismatches between objects, relation data, and XML and the importance of dynamism in this trend.

Presenter: Erik Meijer, Technical Lead, Microsoft Corporation
Register here.

After reading this, I bought this:

just to realize the damn fingerprint reader only works with Windows XP and I've got XP only on my laptop. Oh, shit. Can you believe it? Microsoft fingerprint reader doesn't work with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 or Windows 2000. :(

Oh well, still it's an excellent keyboard. I've got also Wireless Desktop Elite keyboard:

and while it looks and feels awesome, I just can't work with it productively. Absence of leds in combination with f#cking F Flock button just kills me, I do use F buttons all the way. Weird buttons configuration - F buttons go in triples, not quadruples, unusual middle sectoin with no home/end buttons - it can be quite disorienting and get you looking at keyboard more than it's needed.

Finally Microsoft Knowledge Base provides RSS feeds. Quite expressive list.

[Via Sergey Simakov]

C-Omega webcast at May 11

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Interesting webcast:

Learn about Cω (C-Omega), an experimental research language from Microsoft Research that extends Microsoft Visual C# with new constructs for relational and semi-structured data access as well as asynchronous concurrency. Cω is a strongly typed, data-oriented programming language that bridges the gap between semi-structured hierarchical data (XML), relational data (SQL), and the .NET Common Type System (CTS). Join this webcast and learn how the language presents a simple and powerful model of concurrency applicable to both multithreaded applications running on a single machine and to the orchestration of asynchronous, event-based applications communicating over a wide area network.
Presenter: Gavin Bierman, Researcher, Microsoft Corporation
Register here.

MSDN upcoming webcasts RSS feed

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For those like me who missed that - finally you can get informed about upcoming MSDN webcasts in the most natural way - via RSS feed!

Nice promotional offer from Microsoft for those interested in Microsoft IT Pro or Developer certification. Register for the offer by May 31, get the promotional code and then take your exam. You you fail, you can use the promotional code to retake the exam for free!

Jerusalem - satellite view

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