Damn it is cold here today. Thank god for left over turkey because were it not for my cup of warm turkey soup I might have packed up and followed my dear old dad to Florida. Burrr.
No, I'm not kidding. If I even think about thinking about Microsoft's license options for another second, my head will explode. Figuring out what license you need is about the most painful thing I've ever been though (and am still going though for that matter).
Is it a CAL? A TS-CAL? Is that a User CAL, Device CAL, User TS-CAL, or Device TS-CAL? Is that a CAL and a TS-CAL that you need? OK then, is it a FPP, Open Business License, Select Open Business License, or FPP Open Select Selective OEM System Builder Excalibur-Is-Cool License? Hello? Sir? Would you like a napkin that gray matter?
There is one thing about those forums that drive me nuts (and a big reason why no one uses them), you cannot search them. And by that I mean, the search always returns nothing. At least I assume when I search for “ink” I would get something (right now I get nothing).
Julia talked about it, so has Peter, and recently Dumkey chimed in as well. What we're all talking about of course is developing applications that target the Tablet PC platform. More specifically, the surprisingly sparse resources available to those of us who want to do so. While the hardware has made quite a splash, the software community is still struggling to find a footing.
There are a number of obvious reasons why the Tablet PC is so tempting to develop for. They are cool, but it is more that just the "new toy" factor at work here. There are any number of solid business reasons to target the platform as well:
Low Learning Curve. I, and a number of others, have found that almost anyone can learn to use the Tablet is a matter of minutes. For folks who use a computer every day, this isn't surprising; they are very similar in operation after all. But what is socking was how well the computer-illiterate and technology-adverse are able to operate it (and even love doing so). One of the important things to remember is that for all of our technological advances in the last 30 years, the bottleneck for the average user still remains the keyboard. By removing the keyboard Microsoft has removed a substantial bottleneck.
Fast User Acceptance. A few months ago I took a tablet home to test our. My wife, who has a completely irrational hate all modern technology, started using it and fell in love with it. Rather than the usual "when will this thing be out of my house" I got "do you really have to give this back". I've told this story to many developers and almost everyone one of them have had received similar reactions.
Extreme Portability. Portability has been somewhat of a holy grail in the computer industry for a while now. The Tablet PC represents a significant step closer to grabbing that grail. While laptops help bring our desktop with us, it still requires (despite to it's name) a desk to sit at. The Pocket PC made the leap to working while standing, but the small screen and limited input options has pretty much limited its use to isolated tasks. The Tablet PC however gives the user all of the power of a laptop with the portability of the palmtop. No, it isn't perfect; but it is a great improvement.
High "Buzz" Value. When it comes to financing or selling technology solutions, nothing is more important than "buzz". And no, I'm not talking about hype. Hype is the ugly beast that invades the executive offices at Large Company X and suddenly forces development to being integrating Product Y for no legitimate reason. Buzz on the other hand is quite different. Buzz is what happens when a new product seems to build a massive audience without anyone noticing it is happening (the Blackberry is a good example). Buzz is the sound of synapses firing as someone thinks of every conceivable use for a product.
I've experienced Buzz first hand when I demonstrated the Tablet PC to some of my customers. They simply lit up at the sight of me using it and you could feel the "Buzz" in the air. At this particular demonstration I showed a Pocket PC with a Barcode scanner, a PC with three 20" LCD screens, an HP laptop with a 17" screen, and previewed the next major release of our software. I answered questions for an hour and only 2 of them were not about the Tablet PC. That my friends is Buzz at its finest.
So there is a lot interest in these devices. People that own them, love them. And yet, even after a full year of availability, there is very little development support for them. And without a solid developer support system in place there will be very little ISV support. We simply cannot afford to put in the R&D necessary on our own.
It is somewhat confusing that 2 years prior to release we have an MSDN Development Center for Longhorn. But we still don't have one for the Tablet PC. Sure, they have Tablet PC Developer. But I'm pretty sure there are Y2K bug sites out there less devoid of life than that place. So all we are left with is the SDK (albeit a decent one).
To be fair, I have only minor issues with the current SDK. The current SDK ships with 2 controls for developers to use; InkPaint & InkEdit. They work, but only in the most limited scope imaginable. InkEdit in particular is cute but completely impractical. When entering information in ink it either converts it to text or it leaves it as ink. Most of our users express the desire to keep the ink as ink. The only issue is that it immediately shrinks that ink to the same size as the current font. When you ink a smiley face, it is a smiley face. But when you shrink it to 8.75pt font it is unrecognizable scribble. And it just isn't what the end-user expects to have happen.
What I need, and most users want, it to be able to insert ink just like they do in Microsoft Word today. And by that I mean the ability to draw on my RTF control and have it display that ink exactly as it was originally entered. If I could have an RTF editor that gave me real support for ink, I would be replacing every single RTF editor in my application today.
So if anyone out there knows of some solid 3rd party controls for Ink, please send them my way. I'm going to try and get an comprehensive list of Tablet PC options together to post on this site.
So there you are reading some documentation, every so lightly tapping you pen against your forehead. You are in the zone when suddenly you realize:
- That pen is a Sharpie.
- The cover for said Sharpie is on the desk in front of you.
- Your forehead now resembles a Rorschach Ink Blot.
Sometimes life is complicated....
Robert Scoble mentioned an article by Tom McCune today titled "Five Myths About 'Wronghorn'" earlier today. I think Robert was correct in speculating that Mr. McCune was not in attendance at the PDC. His take on what Longhorn means seems about as misguided as any I've heard in recent months.
His statement that purchasing Longhorn isn't a worthwhile investment because you are paying for features you might not use is poor at best. And when he states "It's like going for a fully loaded SUV when only one person will be driving the vehicle to the train station. A Ford Focus would do, but you're force to buy a Lincoln Navigator" makes we wonder if he has been to the train station lately. It is full of vehicles designed for off-road and heavy-hauling being driven by a decidedly on-road, light-hauling, class of driver. Unless you really believe that fellow in the $3,000 Armani suite spends his off time hauling boulders up Mt. Washington.
Not only is his articles laced with misconceptions and inept observations, it also contains a number of factually incorrect statements. My favorite is that "Each version [of Visual Studio .NET] has a new framework that cannot be used with previous versions.". Really Tom? You sure could have fooled me. The fact is that the .NET framework is fully backwards compatible with only a few minor exceptions (and none I could not workaround in 15 minutes).
There seem to be two classes of the anti-Microsoft crowd. Those who simply don't like or can't use the solutions offered by Microsoft and therefore choose a different platform. And those who so desperately hate Microsoft that they grab hold of any argument they can in a futile attempt to prove they are correct. These are the same people who continue to use Windows 95 as the bases of every argument against Microsoft even though it is almost a decade old.
So yeah, maybe I should be driving the Ford Focus. But I just can't seem to get past the awful breaking system in he Model A. Ford just doesn't understand brakes. And have you seen that Fairmont pile of crap?
Anyway, time to hop into my Lincoln Navigator and get going; I've got a train to catch.
Saw the latest Matrix... yep... sure did...
On the up side; Gorge Lucas can now rest easy knowing that someone else now holds the title for biggest let down in modern sci-fi.
Now if you don't mind, I'm going to go scrub my eyeballs.
Every once and a while I'm reminded why I respect Red Hat. I'm not a Linux fan but these guys are least “get it”.
As reported by ActiveWin today, Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said recently that “Linux needs to mature further before home users will get a positive experience from the operating system“ and that home users “should choose Windows instead”.
It sure is refreshing to hear someone from the Linux side of the fence finally admit that my Grandmother isn't going to get anything out of having a Linux box at home.
Novell goes out and purchases SuSE Linux.
On the upside for Microsoft, maybe Novell can do for SuSE what it did for WordPerfect. ;-)
Eric Sink has written up a few reasons for using source code control in a “team of one”. But something he wrote bothered me. He stated more than once that “for a solo developer, source control actually isn't all that compelling”. But I think it is just as compelling as for a team of 1 as it is for 100. It is just easier to implement.
I've been working on a commercial software package for the last 8 years. I've also been the only full-time developer in the company over that same period. The product (shameless plug) is quite large are covers a vast number of business processes. And if it wasn't for good source code control, I would never have been able to do my job.
Julia Lerman pointed out to Eric, “source control is usually explained as a way of keeping developers from stepping on each others' toes”. But the truth is that your own toes are much closer to each other than your neighboring developer's. I've done more damage to my own code than anyone else ever could. The simple fact is that as the only developer on the project, I have that much more going on in my head. This leads to a lot more mental errors over the life of a project. And source control protects me from myself as much as it does from others.
To be clear, I don't disagree with Eric's reasons for single user source control (he nailed them all I think). I just feel they substantially more compelling that he (and many others) seem to. As I see it, if you are working on commercial software and not using source code control then you are taking a very unnecessary risk.
SourceGear has released a single user version of their Vault product for $49. This makes Vault an absolutely fantastic solution for solo developers. At a few hundred bucks for Vault, I would have stuck with CVS for my personal projects. But for $49? Hell, even this cheap bastard can swing that.
UPDATE: It doesn't seem to have hit their website fully, but I've hear that will be fixed shortly.