Archives / 2004 / June
  • New VisualBlogger Build (2412) Available

    Addressing some of Matt's issues with the last B3 build, I've updated the download. Anyone who was using the 2407 build, just use the same download link to download the updated zip file. Fixed in this build:

    • Exit button on the 'File' menu was not wired up. This has been fixed.
    • Fonts dropdown was not wired up. This has been fixed, and now pulls from all the installed fonts on the system.
    • Font size dropdown was not wired up. This has been fixed.
    • Blog config dialog has new tooltip with instructions on how to add a blog. 

    Future releases will not be called "betas". Due to the nature of the process I'm using, they'll be called "milestones" from here on out.

    I've also started on M4 already. I wasn't going to yet, but I couldn't help myself. FYI, the sideways 'Submit' button is already gone, and that marks the disappearance of the sideways text buttons from all builds. Toolbars docked to the side will be in the compact version, but they will not contain text.

    That's it. If you have any issues, please let me know.


  • Irresponsible 'Journalism'

    I'm really pissed off. This comes as news to probably about 3 people, but this time, I have good reason. It's about 11am Europe time and the announcements are all up on the MSDN home page, so I'm finally able to talk about this without breaking all my NDAs (I'm currently under 7 different Microsoft NDAs).

    Late last week, I got an e-mail  This e-mail was the same e-mail that went out to every Alpha tester, and stated very specifically that we were still under NDA until June 29, 2004. So I was fairly surprised to see information popping up on the web less than an hour after receiving the e-mail, telling me about Whidbey Beta 1, Yukon Beta 2, and the new Express SKUs of Visual Studio 2005. I had known about the Express stuff for quite some time, having spent a lot of time with the Usability team for Visual Web Developer.

    Now, it was pretty easy to deduce from the VSData Team's post that Whibey/Yukon were going to be wrapped on the 29th. Anyone spending enough time reading the post instead of complaining about it figured it out quickly. But nothing was mentioned anywhere about the Express SKUs. It was a secret Microsoft really wanted to keep until today, and I'm pretty sure was the secret Scoble mentioned here.

    Here's where my anger comes in. Someone leaked the contents of the e-mail to Mary Jo Foley. As nice as she is, she has a huge mouth. But, it's her job to, so that's ok. That's not my concern. As soon as she had the info, eWeek had their scoop. Then the web did it's thing, and everyone knew about it.

    I wanna know who leaked it. It's really not fair that guys like me have to keep quiet to stay in Microsoft's good graces, while some schmuck gets to break all the rules and get away with it. If Microsoft stops being as open because if this kind of thing, and they stop telling us NDA-minders about the good stuff because of it, I'm REALLY gonna be pissed.

    Not cool. Not cool at all. I hope someone gets punished for it. Otherwise, what is the point of an NDA if they are not enforced?


  • VisualBlogger 2004 Beta 3 Released

    Just posted the latest public build of VisualBlogger 2004. Lots of changes are packed into this build, and I'll post a changelog later today. I've already updated the home page with new information and screenshots, and I'll be adding more screenshots over the next few days.

    Outside of fixing any major issues, this is the last major revision for a while. We're shifting development over to our next product release, ScrollingGrid 2.0. So if you find anything that breaks, let me know.

    Oh yeah. I'm working on a list of known issues for this release, but until then, an important note. Don't use keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl+C) while in HTML View. The HTML edit control that we're using will throw an unhandled exception. I'm trying to figure out why it's intercepting the keystrokes before the application itself does, but I'll track it down for the next build.


  • More VisualBlogger 2004 Beta 3 Screenshots

    Matt wanted me to post some screenshot of the new Options dialog for VisualBlogger 2004. You'll find this new dialog under "Tools | Options" in the new ToolMenu. I like this method a lot better. It organizes the settings into categories, and is much more scalable. If I need to add more settings, I can just add another node in the TreeView, and its' corresponding panel.

    Options: Changing the environment settings

    Options: Using the Windows Media Player 9 Blogging Plugin

    Options: Blogging through a proxy

    As I said before, I'm going to rework the User's Guide (the application is much more intuitive now, so I shouldn't have to do much), and get it released ASAP. I don't want to set a specific date, because I'll never make it on time. But it's almost done.

    Matt, what do you think?


  • Beta 3 Wraps

    I just finished the coding cycle for VisualBlogger 2004 Beta 3. I posted some screenshots a few days ago, and I'm getting ready to post a few more soon. The goal of this cycle was to make the UI more usable while not intruducing any functionality regressions. This entailed several goals:

    • Changing the main interface to a stand-alone MDI design.
    • Make the whole UI accessible via keyboard.
    • Bringing the forms inline with standard Windows design practices.
    • Rewriting the internals to streamline how the UI interacts with the Entry objects.
    • Fix the saving process to work more like Microsoft Word.
    • Redesign the Blog Configuration form to be more intuitive.
    • Finalize the Provider Model design to allow provider properties to be declared along with the providers themselves.
    • Redesign the Options dialog to be able to handle more settings.
    • Add proxy support to all blog providers.

    That work has been completed, and I very much like where it's at. In addition to having the most formatting options, VisualBlogger is now the only blog tool to support editing multiple entries at once. To that end, the next build will have some other features to enhance this capability. You should also see performance slightly improved, as it is now only loading forms as it needs them.

    Earlier, Matt lamented that VisualBlogger was moving away from it's Visual Studio .NET add-in roots. Fear not, this is just one of several ways the tool will manifest itself. The UI that was in previous build will still be the UI that's used in application-hosted scenarios. All of the other UI enhancements will remain, but we have to make certain usability sacrifices to work in the cramped spaces of the IDE. More on that later.

    All I have left in this revision is to basically rewrite the whole User's Guide. Gonna try to wrap that up in the next day or so, for a launch very soon. This guide should not be as long as the last one, because most of the work configuring each blog engine has been done for you.

    Well, that's it for me this evening. Oh wait, it's morning. Oh well. Off to bed for me. I guess I should leave you a screenshot. Is it sad that this is how I spend my weekends? Wait, don't answer that.


  • The Skype Blog

    Betcha thought this entry was going to talk about Skype getting a blog. Didn't mean to get your hopes up. They don't have one, and they need one. Why? Well, for starters, because I want to know when new builds get released. They launched a new version a few days ago that contains hooks for soon-to-be-released Skype-to-Phone service called SkypeOut. Good to see that they're actually looking to make money on this cool service. I'd pay for it.

    Hey Skype guys: Get a blog!


  • WinForms PropertyGrid

    I'm probably the last person on earth that didn't know that you could use the PropertyGrid in WinForms apps. Well, I found out today, and I'm liking it so far. It doesn't show up by default in the Toolbox, but you can add it with the "Add Items" dialog.

    So did you know that you can bind the PropertyGrid to an object? Further, it works exactly the same way that VS design-time support works. This means that you can decorate your objects with attributes from the System.ComponentModel namespace, and they will affect how the properties are displayed inside the grid. Don't want a property to show up? Well <ComponentModel.Browsable(False)> is for you. Want it to display neat little tips in the help space at the bottom? Use the Description attribute.

    I can't wait to play with this some more.


  • Design Concept for VisualBlogger 2004 Beta 3

    I keep getting all this flak that my UI design skills suck. My only response thus far has been... "DUH!" So I've been working on some new UI, the first of which I showed off last week. I call it the "sexification" of VisualBlogger (sexification being a word I just made up meaning "to make sexy.") My CEO keeps telling me that I should stop using the word "sexy" in relation to software. I told him that if a computer program was 1/10th as sexy as a woman, more people would be happier using their computers.

    So, colorful metaphors and software-related innuendo aside, here's a screenshot of where I'm at so far.

    The tabs along the top represent different blog posts, even though they currently say "DockControl1", etc. It should have much more of a Word-like feel too it. I'm now using Tim Dawson's (man is he awesome or what?) SandDock control, which allows me to combine a OneNote feel for documents with a decidedly VS.NET feel on the right. The Post Options and ScratchPad can now be unpinned and hidden on the right, giving you lots of blogging space. And, the ScratchPad can fly out from where it is docked, serving two purposes. 1) It eliminates a bug in which switching from the HTML view to the ScratchPad to the Design view looses the changes from the HTML view, and 2) It makes the ScratchPad much more usable for blog note taking. On yeah, and it can be docked anywhere on the form.

    I'm still playing around with it, but it's already growing on me. A lot. I still need to figure out how you would choose blogs and categories from this UI, and how to handle the MDI situation with the spaghetti code that the old form was using. I should get a handle on all that over the next few days.

    Alright, it's feedback time. Is this better than the old UI? Should I try a few other things instead? Please give me your feedback, cause I want to wrap up Beta 3 this week.


  • Windows XP Service Pack 2 - RC2 Issues

    Alright. I just spent like 3 hours downloading, burning, and installing the latest Release Candidate from the WindowsBeta site. From what I hear, the rest of you will get access to RC2 later today. Anyways, so I'm running the latest build, and I have good news and bad news. First, the good news. RC2 can be installed over RC1 without issue. I was worried about this, because I was expecting to have to uninstall RC1 first.

    Now, the bad news. The Windows Firewall still blows. First off, on my computer, it doesn't block anything. When I open Trillian, and it prompts me to allow access, all my Trillian accounts still sign on, even when I haven't answered the prompt yet. Second, when I do get the prompt, I still get the same lame-ass choices:

    • Keep Blocking
    • Unblock
    • Ask Me Later

    WTF is "Ask Me Later"? Does it block the program and then it will ask you again, or does it unblock the program for this session, and will ask you again next time? Upon opening up the help file, it says that "AML" keeps the program blocked. Now, am I the only one that thinks there needs to be an option that says "Unblock but ask me next time?" I mean, it only took like 5 years for MS to put that into the ActiveX installer for IE. Am I gonna have to wait that long for it here too? I mean, there ARE scenarios where I want to let a program connect once in a while, but not all the time. Why make it a 9-click process to make that happen?

    Come on guys, I mean, it's cool and all, but for all the "easy security" stuff you guys are trying to do, you're making users think too much. Please fix this before the final RTM.


  • First Look at VisualBlogger 2004 Beta 3

    Lots of people have been complaining at how poor the design of the Blog Configuration dialog for VisualBlogger 2004 is. For the record, I hated it too, it was just in there because it was quick-and-dirty. Well, I just finished the redesign, and posted a screenshot over on my other blog. I'd love your feedback, tell me what you think.


  • Welcome to Atom.NET

    I have a great deal of respect for Sam Ruby and the work he is doing with Atom. But his C# Atom client is convoluted and a pain to work with. David Stewart, a Microsoft empoyee on the Windows Mobile Devices group, came up with a class library that works with Atom in an intelligent way, using web requests instead of Web Service proxies. Best of all, he has the source code and samples as well. If you're working with Atom at all, this is a must have.


  • Windows Media Player 10 Technical Beta Review

    Today Microsoft released the Windows Media Player 10 Technical Beta. I got my first sneek peek at it during the MVP Summit in April. Jim Allchin was really excited about it. Now I can finally discuss why. After you install it (link at the bottom of the page) you'll be asked to restart your computer. When you launch it after restarting, you'll be greated with this:

    First off, they got rid of those retarded buttons down the side. This was Microsoft's stab at "task-based workflow". It sucked, and was always confusing. Now, there are a few simple tabs at the top. The new interface is also a really nice translucent blue, which is very easy on the eyes. The first thing I did was click on the "Library" tab, because that's where I spend the most time. That screenshot is below:

    Notice the new three-paned layout. Microsoft REALLY likes three paned views. Almost as much as they like three-letter acronyms. Isn't it ironic that the acronym for "three-letter acronym" is itself a three-letter acronym? Anyways, in the leftmost pane, you'll see a new option that says "My TV". That's right. WMP10 will sync with MCE2005 and the Portable Media Centers to help manage all your digital media recordings across every device. On the right pane, you have syncing and burning capabilities right from the library. One click and you're done.

    Another cool thing I thought I should note (dunno if WMP9 had it or not) is that when you right-click the title bar when it's NOT in normal window mode, and you get a contect menu with the standard menu items. I thought that was pretty nifty.

    Finally, Microsoft did some work with usability, and noticed that WMP9 was really crappy when it came to resizing the window. Well, WMP10 resizes smartly, and as you can see, even resizes to a very compact mode. This isn't a skin, this is me grabbing the corner resize handle and making it as small as possible. Oh yeah, and this screenshot is actual size. The only problem is, you can't set it to be "always on top" in this mode. Bummer. They need to make this a skin then so that I can do that.

    Well, that about does it for my quick tour. Check it out, it's really cool.


  • Whitehorse in the May CTP?

    Anyone know how to access the application designer in the May CTP bits? It seems to have changed since the March bits, and I can't find it at all. I need to finish a diagram for a client, and I wanted to use it instead of Visio. Any ideas?