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April 2006 - Posts

The good and bad of Microsoft
I was thinking today about Microsoft, and what it means to me specifically. Oddly enough, I have no stake in the company, but it has a stake in me since I buy its products and its products have largely been the reason for my financial success.

First off, Microsoft has done a lot of things right. The Xbox 360 is the crown jewel of the empire right now, and it demonstrates that careful thinking and passion can create something truly great. I don't think you'll find a single person who owns one that will say it sucks. It's easily the most impressive piece of consumer electronics I've ever owned.

Then there's Visual Studio and ASP.NET. It took a few years to get there, but the 2005/2006 products are everything I've ever wanted in a development platform (well, as long as you don't count the embarrassing state of the Web unit testing that I bitch about frequently).

But on the dark side of things, they've been stumbling around. Windows Vista has become a nightmare with the constant slipping ship dates. As a recent convert and believer in OS X, Vista is a much needed step in the right direction, but it feels as if it will never ship. Seeing as how the OS (and Office) are what really pay the bills, it's not comforting to see this downward spiral.

Then there's the mess in marketing. It started with the over-use of ".NET" on every product name, and it just keeps getting worse. Who the hell knows what they're even about anymore. It's so hard to understand as a consumer why Microsoft exists, and why it's good for me. It's not easy as a business customer either.

It's funny though how there's such a stark contrast between the good and bad. The company is just so damn big. I hope they can get those smart people in the right places to save the parts that have been such a disaster.
Posted: Apr 24 2006, 11:15 AM by Jeff | with 13 comment(s)
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Providers, POP Forums and testing hell
First of all, I have to mention that Scott posted info about the release of source code for Membership, Profile and other provider stuff. I haven't yet looked, but how cool is that?

Speaking of which, I had a volleyball coaching trip to Baltimore last weekend. Instead of going out and tearing it up, I locked myself in my room when I wasn't coaching and worked on POP Forums code. I finally have configuration and membership 100% coded and tested, both with the business classes and the data access classes. That doesn't sound like much, but considering that's the newer ASP.NET v2 stuff that didn't exist before, I feel like the rest will be a lot easier to deal with.

Of course, that wouldn't have taken so long if it weren't for the incredible nonsense that shipped in Visual Studio Team System for Developers. Yeah, I'm talking about, "You can do ASP.NET unit testing... sort of. OK, actually you need to hack around getting it to run through IIS, and then manually attach the debugger to it. Letting you click 'run tests with debugger' and starting the dev server and attaching it was too logical and convenient."

I can't even tell you how annoyed I am by that whole situation, and I just don't understand how anyone could have allowed it to ship like that. ASP.NET unit testing works like a champ, until you have to debug it. It's a total joke.
Posted: Apr 17 2006, 09:56 AM by Jeff | with no comments
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What BootCamp really means
John Gruber wrote what I think is the most common sense analysis on what the release of BootCamp for the Mac really means. I agree with everything he said. Apple certainly doesn't compete with Microsoft, they compete with hardware OEM's. The simple financial snapshot of Apple makes this very clear.

I don't know if I'm typical, but I bought a MacBook Pro the day they announced BootCamp. I needed a good laptop, I love OS X, I wanted to edit video with Final Cut Pro, and of course, I need to make a living using Visual Studio. The machine does all of these things, and it does the Windows stuff faster than any other machine I've ever owned. To say I love that little box would be an understatement.

Sadly, the more time I spend in OS X, the more I realize how much Windows really blows. It's not just that it's somewhat visually offensive, it's just that years of compatibility requirements make Windows more complex instead of more simple. The registry is a mess that "rots." Support code libraries get everywhere, and you never know what's safe to get rid of (DLL hell). Admittedly, if we could move to a 100% .NET world, along side of WPF, we could all sleep easier, but that's just never going to happen.

For example, I had to uninstall something on my Mac. I dragged it out of the Applications folder into the trash. I found its support files (preferences and such) in the Library folder, and ditched that too. Gone. No trace of the app anywhere. Even the most simple app on Windows can't uninstall that quickly or cleanly. It's ridiculous.

I'm not suggesting that the Mac is perfect. I can't get my Bit Torrent client to work, for example, but in the big picture that's not that big of a deal. But overall, I'm enjoying using the computer as both a tool and a lifestyle device, something that isn't as easy in Windows. But I can still write my ASP.NET applications on my Mac, and I've never had a machine that ran Visual Studio, SQL Server and Photoshop so well. I love it.

I can't be a 100% switcher, but for life outside of writing code, I'm there.
Posted: Apr 12 2006, 10:30 AM by Jeff | with 2 comment(s)
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More MacBook fun
Last night I realized that my Windows partition on the MacBook really didn't need to be more than 20 gigs, so I started over since I didn't do much to install various applications. I had a weird thing where pci.sys disappeared, no idea how, so I had to do a repair install, which wasted about 45 minutes.

Avid Xpress Pro HD, not surprisingly, wouldn't edit HD. I could see stills, but it wouldn't let me scrub through the video. Not that it matters I guess, since Final Cut is in the mail, but it's almost like I'm glad because I can move on. On the plus side in Windows, Visual Studio 2005 and Photoshop absolutely scream. In fact, reading some of the benchmarks that are starting to appear, the MacBook out performs most Windows laptops period, even with similar configurations. Well done, Apple.

What I'm really having the most fun with though is the Mac side of things. For all of the crap Microsoft gets for bundling stuff, the critics fail to mention that the bundled stuff is generally crap.

I started to play with iPhoto, and imported about 750 photos. It has camera raw support right out of the box, and does some light editing. And as Jobs said, it really is "like butter" in terms of quickly scanning through the library. I love the way it organizes to, a la iTunes with albums instead of physical folders. I may actually make this my dedicated repository for photos.

I played with iMovie and iDVD as well. Windows Movie Maker is a joke by comparison, and there is no Windows DVD maker. PhotoBooth is mostly useless, but it sure is neat. There are so many cool things right out of the box that an average person can do with a Mac that you just can't do in Windows.

Alex suggested a great IM client that I played with a bit last night. I'm really digging that even more than Trillian on Windows. Burning stuff is faster and more straight forward. Front Row is a very neat app, and I suspect I'll use it in the hotel (with remote) on my travel the next few weeks.

More than anything, it's just so much more responsive than any computer I've ever used. I mean, the thing boots in a dozen seconds after POST (to OS X, Windows takes longer).

I'm still happy to report that no Dell or HP with similar specs costs less, so all of the haters, take note. This is much better hardware, it costs less (for now) and you can run OS X. Did I mention the power connector is the coolest thing ever?
Posted: Apr 07 2006, 01:29 PM by Jeff | with 3 comment(s)
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First touch in MacBook Pro

With the release of BootCamp yesterday, Apple removed the last objection I had to owning a Mac, so I bought a MacBook Pro at the local Apple store. Ouch. Can you say purchase regret? This should be the last thing I need to buy for my video/film empire, along with Final Cut Studio, which is shipping by FedEx.

Being able to run Windows solves several problems. The hardware is so strong on the MacBook that I can finally run apps like Visual Studio and Photoshop with a level of performance that is acceptable. The first laptop I ever bought was a Sony for $2,500 back in 1999, and it never let me down. In early 2003 I bought an HP that was totally inadequate. Early last year I bought a Dell that was extremely inexpensive, and great for Web browsing and Office, but not so good for the "real" stuff I do. So I priced a new Dell against the same specs as the Apple, and the Apple was actually less expensive (not to mention sexier, and it runs OS X, which the Dell would not). So I guess I'll put the Dell on eBay.

The most important problem solved is that I can finally edit HD. I'll probably need an external drive when it gets serious, but that's fine. I did some tests and it runs 1080p at full frame rate, no problem, in Windows and OS X. Wow.

Last night I installed some things on the OS X side like Firefox and such, and then installed Windows and Visual Studio 2005. Aside from a Blue Screen of Death after the driver install (awesome!) it generally went pretty smoothly.

Anyone want to buy a 1.6 GHz Pentium M with wireless, 1680x1050 15" screen, 60 gig hard drive? It really is a pretty sweet setup, just not an HD video editing setup.

Posted: Apr 06 2006, 02:22 PM by Jeff | with 3 comment(s)
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More thoughts on Windows running on a Mac

I was reading some of the comments with the C-Net News.com story about the Mac app that will let you run Windows. Lots of goofy ass comments that I think miss the mark.

Who is this really for? I think it's mostly directed toward people in the market for a laptop that want something with balls, and also want/need something that OS X can offer that Windows doesn't (in my case, that's the video applications). I think it will sell some hardware for sure. People make the argument about price, but I just priced out a Dell with similar hardware to the 2 GHz Macbook (same size hard drive, same CPU, etc.), and the Macbook was $100 less at academic pricing, and it's clearly a nicer machine (about $100 more with standard pricing). That's a fairly compelling argument to buy the Mac.

The biggest and most relevant speculation is that the next version of OS X will be able to run Windows virtually, and that makes sense. It's Virtual PC with none of the performance issues.

What's the bigger picture for Apple? They've been able to prove that people will pay a little more for better hardware if there's a compelling value proposition. The iPod (which simply works) proves this. Computers are a little more tricky, with the cheap commodity junk that Dell and HP sell though. I don't think they can achieve a dominant position, but they can increase market share among people that need a powerful computer. When you factor in the ability to run Windows, you remove one of the last barriers to entry.

It will be very interesting to see what develops.

Posted: Apr 05 2006, 12:00 PM by Jeff | with no comments
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Windows developers that are Mac fans, rejoice!
Yes my friends... we can finally run Windows on a new Mac, and it looks really easy...

http://www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/

I love the jabs they take. "Running Windows on a Mac is still running Windows." :)
Posted: Apr 05 2006, 09:33 AM by Jeff | with 3 comment(s)
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Post conference indifference
Now that Mix06 is becoming a distant memory, I have to admit that a lot of the excitement I felt there has gone away. The reason isn't what you'd expect though... it's that I got sick the very next weekend. For four days I had a ridiculous fever, coughing etc., a combination of a respiratory and sinus infections. It sucked. I blamed the Venetian Casino Funk (seriously, do you have to allow smoking in non-casino areas?) and Continental Airlines Sealed Aluminum Can Funk. I'm sure that's where I got it.

But I do want to write code. And I want to shoot video. I want to get my shit together. But it's so hard when your body is struggling to just catch up.

I need a week off in the worst way.
Posted: Apr 04 2006, 02:33 PM by Jeff | with no comments
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