October 2009

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

by Joey deVilla on October 12, 2009

Comic featuring a man standing in an office on a desk with his pants pulled down, holding up a monitor and yelling "Thank you, internet!"

It’s the second Monday in October, which means it’s Canadian Thanksgiving (or in French, Jour de l’Action de grâce)! I’d like to wish you a safe and happy holiday and remind you to think of what you’re thankful for.

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A Flash Developer’s Take on Silverlight

by Joey deVilla on October 9, 2009

Victorias Secret Fashion Show and Microsoft Silverlight

In LABS, the blog of the creative agency Big Spaceship, Jamie Kosoy tells all about his experiences building the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show site in Silverlight.

He started the project with no small amount of trepidation:

I walked in with the same sort of attitude that I believe is prevelant across the industry at the moment — Silverlight is an inferior platform, that we were working with a Flash wananbe and that this would be to the project’s detriment. Why use Silverlight when I can already know Flash so well? It does the same things as Flash anyway, right?

Now that the project has concluded and the site has been delivered, he has this to say:

So now that the project is launched, I’m feeling reflective. And I have to say: Silverlight is a worthy competitor to Flash. It is a lot of fun to build in. I recommend it. I think there are times when it’ll be faster to build certain things in Silverlight than Flash and vice versa, and it is a matter of learning where the strengths and weaknesses are for each.

There were some things that frustrated me, but overall I found Visual Studio to be a great environment to learn to code in, C# was an extremely easy language to learn and most importantly of all the Silverlight player to be really flexible to the stress we put it under. Our team noted several times that we especially like Silverlight’s animation capabilities — we felt like we had far more "control" over what was happening on the screen than in Flash.

He makes a list of his observations, a notable one of which is that he feels that Silverlight is a better videoplayer solution than Flash. There are more, both positive and negative, and they’re covered in the article, titled Thoughts on Silverlight.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Walter Mossberg’s Review of Windows 7

by Joey deVilla on October 8, 2009

walter mossberg windows 7

In case you hadn’t yet heard, Walter Mossberg, head tech journo for the Wall Street Journal gave Windows 7 a positive review. His bottom line:

Windows 7 is a very good, versatile operating system that should help Microsoft bury the memory of Vista and make PC users happy.

You can either read his article, or if you prefer, watch his video review:

As I’ve said before, I’ve been working exclusively in Windows 7 since late last year, first with the beta, then the release candidate and now on the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) version. I’ve used it for all sorts of things, such as:

  • Development, with Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server, but also Ruby/Rails, PHP and MySQL.
  • Writing TPS reports with Microsoft Office
  • A lot of blogging using Microsoft Live Writer for creating blog posts and Adobe Fireworks CS3 for the graphics
  • Gaming, particularly Far Cry 2, Grand Theft Auto IV and for kicks, good ol’ Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  • and some music stuff with FL Studio and Ableton Live

…and they’ve worked quite well, even with the beta version. I’ve talked to people who got their hands on the beta and RC versions and their experience has by and large been the same: it works with the software, and the user experience it provides is quite enjoyable.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Here are some photos I took at Monday’s Windows 7 media event showing off the latest Windows 7-compatible computers from six vendors:

The participating vendors were:

  • Dell
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Lenovo
  • LG
  • Sony
  • Toshiba

The whole day was a non-stop demo from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with journalists both mainstream and tech, associated with an organization or independent, print and television, streaming in constantly to get a look at Windows 7 in action on all sorts of hardware. I was there as the "Microsoft Guy" to answer questions about Windows 7 in general; the vendors each sent a rep to talk up their specific hardware.

innerspace I did some demos that will find their way to television soon: one demo for CTV News which should air next week. I also did a demo for the Space channel’s always-entertaining Ajay Fry which will be appearing on Space’s show InnerSPACE (formerly known as The Circuit) tonight at 11 p.m. (Eastern); it’ll repeat tomorrow at noon (Eastern). Alas, there is no accordion playing, but I think I did a pretty good demo of some of the cool multi-touch possibilities with Windows 7. I don’t know if you’ll be watching it, but I certainly will!

My thanks to our friends at High Road Communications and the vendors for making the event both a success and very enjoyable.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection and The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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Airport Signage and the Tab Control

by Joey deVilla on October 7, 2009

While flying home from TechDays Vancouver, something on the sign pointing the way to the gates caught my eye. Note the screen on the right:

Gate signs at Vancouver airport, featuring a multilingual LCD sign using a tab control

Here’s a closer look:

Close-up of the LCD sign featuring the multilingual tab control

LOLcat: "I see what you did there"

It’s an interesting use for a tab control. The content of each tab page is the same, but each one shows that content in a different language: Japanese, Korean and Hindi (I have no idea why there’s no Chinese; there are lots of Chinese visitors at Vancouver airport). The sign cycles through each tab page, displaying each one for about 10 seconds before switching to the next one.

Is it an appropriate use for a tab control? My guess is that user interface/user experience types (Qixing, if you’re reading this, feel free to chime in) would say “no”. I say “no”, myself. It’s based mostly on a gut feeling, but a little thinking provides me with some rationale, which includes:

  • There’s so little information on each tab. The purpose of a tab control is to break down a large or complex set of controls into more manageable groups, which in the world of  .NET controls are called ”tab pages”. The current tab page, which shows something in Hindi, has no more than a line of tex,t, and the same is true for the Japanese and Korean tabs. They could’ve shown all three languages on a single screen.
  • Tab controls imply interactivity. The tabs in a tab control are for all intents and purposes buttons. Buttons imply interactivity: you click them and something happens. The same is true for tabs: you click a tab and its tab page becomes the frontmost one. These tabs aren’t clickable at all; they’re just being used to show you what languages the sign uses. Using a tab control in this fashion seems like using a button as a label. It gets the job done, but it is the best way?

What do you think? Feel free to opine in the comments.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Trouble, Incorporated

by Joey deVilla on October 6, 2009

One of the features at the TechDays cross-country conference is the “Ask the Experts” booth, which is staffed all day by speakers (when they aren’t speaking, naturally) and other local tech experts. They’re there to answer attendee questions about Microsoft tools and technologies, tech trends, the industry in general, the local job scene and so on.

While riffling through the photos I shot over the past couple of weeks, I found these ones I took when I passed the “Ask the Experts” booth at TechDays Toronto and saw the trio of Sean Kearney, Steve Syfuhs and Mitch Garvis. I took one look at them, said “Uh-oh, Trouble Incorporated!”, and snapped these pics. I thought you might enjoy them:

Sean Kearney, Steve Syfuhs and Mitch Garvis

Sean Kearney, Steve Syfuhs and Mitch Garvis

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Slice of Life: Where I am Today

by Joey deVilla on October 5, 2009

I’m working out of the building known as “The Richmond” today, participating in a showcase of Windows 7-ready hardware for the media. As of this writing, I’ve done demos of Windows 7 on an HP TouchSmart computer hooked to a Sony Bravia TV equipped with DLNA for a number of journos for various media outlets including ITWorld Canada, Butterscotch and Space.

Joey devilla, standing beside a "Windows 7: Welcome!" sign

We’re all in suite 104, which is a loft-ish split-level space where Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, Sony and Toshiba have set up tables to show of their Windows 7-compatible wares. I’m perched near the door, doing demos of Windows 7 features, while the hardware guys are showing off their machines

the richmond

I’ve been here since 8 in the morning, and the journos will be visiting continuously all day until about 5:30 or so. Most nerds find this sort of dog-and-pony activity excruciating, but I find schmoozing tech and consumer press energizing, so I’m having a blast.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection and The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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