Nope, this is not a commentary on my employer, just a review of the last movie I saw.  Netflix continues to be an easy way to get our movies.  With our terrible weather on Sunday, a movie was the perfect distraction.  I’ve been pretty lucky and enjoyed almost everything we’ve watched lately.  Blood Diamond was a pretty exciting tale of the civil war and illegal diamond trade in 1990’s Sierra Leone.  I don’t think this specific story is true but the overall background story is true and pretty upsetting.  These rebels are crazy.  They kill and/or torture innocent civilians.  They kidnap, then brainwash men (mostly young men) and hook them on drugs in order to “convert” them to their way of thinking.  The official army is corrupt (at least the group in this movie) too so the whole situation is pretty bad and it is never really clear who the “good guys” are in some scenes.  Leonardo DiCaprio has another good role here and I think he does a nice job with this complex character.  One of those gritty bad side with a decent heart underneath it all. I am not a fan of Titanic but I liked him in Catch Me If You Can.  Djimon Hounsou put in a great performance as a local fishermen who gets kidnapped and forced to work in the diamond mine which ends up driving the whole plot.  I recognized his face but didn’t know his name.  I looked him up on IMDB, he has been in a lot of stuff but I think this is probably his biggest role.  His character has a lot of emotion and rage which he delivers well.  He is the true hero in the movie, doing anything and everything to rescue his family.  Jennifer Connelly is in there too.  I guess they needed a love interest to bring out Leo’s character’s softer side.  The story is confusing in the beginning but if you stick with it, it makes sense.  Be prepared for a lot of violence.  And the ladies will look at their diamond rings in a whole new way.

Hopefully you have noticed that I changed the style for my blog.  Hopefully you like the results.  I am finding that after the change things aren’t always showing up right.  That has something to do with the way browsers cache web pages.  If things look weird (or don’t appear) it may be due to a conflict with the “old” page that your browser has saved.  You may need to clear your browser’s cache but I think the pages in the cache will expire in time and it will fix itself.  I’m not 100% sure about that.


Why Change?  I recently discovered that my blog seemed to be missing a few features.  For example, there were no trackback links available and I didn’t like the category cloud.  I was using a nice theme named Kubrick that I found out on John Forsythe’s site.  I don’t know John but his site/blog has a lot of good information about dasBlog on it!  I liked the Kubrick theme because it was nice and clean with better colors.  But the default theme “DasBlog” seemed to have more “features” so I wanted to change back.  The problem is that I added my avatar (the caricature of me) to the  Kubrick theme.  I don’t think the standard themes support avatars, although I don’t know why.  So anyway, I needed to revise the dasBlog theme to include a place for my avatar and while I was at it, I changed a few other little things and created my own theme.  It was a good lesson in how dasBlog themes and macros work. 


All in all it is not that difficult to modify this stuff.  Of course, it helps if you are good at CSS.  Unfortunately, I am not.  So I had to cheat a bit.  I hope you like it.  It will probably change again as I find out about more available features.


If you have any issues viewing my blog now, I would REALLY like to know.  Please comment on this post if possible or contact me via email.

I am planning to install Vista on my home PC.  While I am really excited about it, I keep hearing about “little problems” that people are having and it is making me nervous.  My friend Jeff had a post on his blog about the problem he had – he couldn’t hook up his Cannon Powershot camera to his computer because there were no drivers for Vista.  He found a work around for the time being and it is no big deal.  But it makes me wonder, if I have a bunch of these little problems, will it all add up to be a big problem for me?


An actual “large” concern of mine is that I occasionally support an app created with Visual Studio 2003.  I have no plans to convert this application to work with 2005.  But Vista doesn’t support VS2003.  Again, I can work around this by setting up a Virtual PC with Windows XP and VS2003 but you know that is a pain.


Stay tuned, when I install Vista I’ll be blogging about the experience.  Hopefully the features will out-way the issues!

Peter Laudati has a good post on his blog about the Microsoft on-line mapping service.  I really agree with the point he makes.  I don’t know what the mapping service is really called but you can check it out here.  I’ve used this service before.  If you haven’t used it, it is Microsoft’s answer to MapQuest or Google Maps.  The product is pretty slick and the aerial photos on it may be the best on the web.  And it has some great 3D features.  But I am not going to debate the pros and cons of one mapping service vs another.  The biggest problem with the Microsoft service is the name.  The website says “Live Search” at the top and “Microsoft Virtual Earth” at the bottom.  And the URL is any of the many url’s that you used to find the site. So which is it?  And what does Live Search mean?  How would I know that has anything to do with maps?  Plus they changed the name a bunch of times including local.live.com (or was it live.local.com?  Who can remember?) and maps.msn.com, etc.  You would think a monster company like Microsoft would have a better idea of how to brand products properly.  No one has to wonder what “Google Maps” or “MapQuest” means. 


In my opinion, this is not the first similar mistake Microsoft has made.  I am a happy C# developer and I love .Net, but I hate the name!  .Net???  What were they thinking?  What does that mean?


There is definitely a lesson to be learned here.  I hate to say it but no matter how great are code is, without good marketing guys we are screwed!

Philly.Net hosted its second Center City meeting on April 11 at Structured Hosting.  Just like the last meeting in NJ, we had a capacity crowd again.  I think these new meetings/venues are a success!  If you missed the meeting (or if you need some details) here is my synopsis.  Thanks again to Dani and Mike for setting it up.

And don’t forget our next meeting is April 18 at SEI in Oaks, Pa.  See the Philly.Net site for more details.

 

Note:  I’ll add the slides and content to this post as soon as I get them from the presenters.

 

Presenter:  Jason Beres, Infragistics

Topic:  Understanding ASP.NET AJAX and the AJAX Control Toolkit

Jason is the Chief Technical Evangelist for Infragistics.  If you are doing .Net development, you probably have heard about Infragistics’ popular control packages for Windows and web development.  In his presentation, Jason shared some of his expertise on ASP.Net AJAX.  He described the new framework (previously known as ATLAS) which provides infrastructure, javascript libraries, and server controls.  The coolest part (in my opinion) is that you don’t need to write any javascript to do it.  Check out  www.asp.net for all sorts of info, tutorials, downloads, etc.  AJAX enabling a web site allows for, among other things, asynchronous communication for partial postbacks between the browser and the server.  This means that you can provide a much richer UI on the web.  Jason also recommends checking out the ASP.Net 2.0 Ajax Futures CTP as well as the Ajax Control Toolkit (the toolkit is open source) which both include a bunch of controls that are not included in the original download.  He demo’d the popular UpdatePanel which is the control that instantly “ajaxifies” (sorry, that’s my word, not his) any controls that get put in the panel.  Instant AJAX, you’ve gotta love that!  He also showed us how to use samples included in the ASP.Net Ajax Control Toolkit such as the Accordion, AlwaysVisibleControl, Collapsible Panel, DragPanel, DropShadow and ModalPopup.  This is very cool stuff.  I have been using AJAX for a while as well and I recommend it highly.  It is a great way to make a better web UI.

   

Jason and Infragistics were kind enough to provide 3 licenses for Infragistics Net Advantage (I think this is valued at $995, sweet!) as door prizes.  Thanks Jason! 

 

 

Presenter:  Walt Ritscher, ScandiaSoft

Topic:  WPF — Microsoft’s Magnificent New Graphics Engine

Walt was in town from Washington State for a few days and offered to stop by and do a presentation for us.  Check out his blog WPF Wonderland to learn all about Windows Presentation Foundation.  The stuff he showed off is not easy to put into words but the demo’s were very cool.  Here is my attempt at summarizing what he talked about.  Sorry Walt if I’ve I’m not accurate.  I learned a lot tonight, even if I can’t explain it correctly!

 

With WPF we will have the ability to create applications that look drastically and dramatically different then before.  He listed some of the benefits and concepts of WPF:  The Compositing Engine, Graphics Processor Unit, Drawing (animations are faster), DWM-Desktop Windows Manager (with Vista, applications don’t render the graphics, the DWM does it for them).  With WPF you have only 1 windows handle, no refreshes, no paint events, and you can layer controls.  You get much better graphics (faster, vector based drawing, opacity masking).  WPF provides a model for templates and styles so that all controls are now style-able, sort of like CSS for windows.  He showed us how to use XamlPad (download it here) to quickly and easily create controls with features that would have been difficult or impossible up until now.  He even created a button with a checkbox inside it! 

Another topic he covered is WPF/E.  I think The “E” stands for “everywhere”, so in this case we can apply WPF to the web.  He showed off come cool demos including some found at Channel 9.

He ended a few cool demos including  how to create a “cloth” (this can’t be explained, it had to be seen) with text and a 3-D scatter chart in WPF.  This presentations had lots of “oohs” and “ahhs”.

This was a great presentation and one thing is clear, we all have a lot of learning to do!

 

Meeting Sponsor:  Thanks for the pizza!  

Additional Door Prizes courtesy of:  and Microsoft