Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Origami Experience Pack- more chrome?

The Origami Experience Pack has shipped, I have installed it on my Q1 and played around with it, I don't think I will be using it that much.
To me it seems like chrome without much function.
I have come to love OneNote on the Q1 for note taking, I run it in Portrait mode and switch the note to full screen.
When I tried to run the Experience Pack in portrait I get this:

Now considering Microsoft has been telling developers to build applications that work well in all resolutions and scale functionality accordingly this is an appalling oversight. The Tablet PC and the UMPC ability to switch between landscape and portrait easily is an important function for me.

Will this be fixed?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lunch on the beach

Sometimes life is better than the movies. Today after the Vista Launch event in Sydney I caught up with Jennifer Forsythe, Jennifer flew in from the UK this morning and I decided the best cure for jet lag would be lunch in the Manly Beach House.
We caught the ferry across the Harbour and walked over the Beach House, as you can tell Jennifer enjoyed her lunch :)
Jennifer works with the Microsoft Virtual Earth team in the UK, she looks after the partner program in Europe and Australia / New Zealand. We discussed many of the issues around the Virtual Earth platform, and brainstormed some good potential solutions. I hope that we can get some of these ideas pushed through and delivered.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What do you do when clients don't pay?

I have to say I am in a very lucky situation. I can choose which clients I work with and which I decide are not worth the bother, mostly.
Recently I got involved with a project that involves an end client, I work with and trust, and a vendor of that client.
I worked through the vendor to deliver a project for the client. I have never worked with this vendor before and would probably not have chosen them as a client. I wanted to deliver value for the end client, so I took the project.
I then got in a the sticky situation that the vendor is not paying on time, actually so far it would be correct to say the vendor has not paid me at all.

What should I do?

Not deliver the product to the end client? Is it their fault for hiring a vendor that cannot manage the project and therefore the end client pays the price?

I want to deliver value for the end client and they are a client I enjoy working with directly.
If I don't deliver the project it doesn't help anyone.
If I do deliver the project with out payment that leaves me in a nasty place.

What would you do?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Book Review: The Long Tail

The Long Tail
by Chris Anderson

When this book was first published I avoided it, I thought I knew what it had to say. I had read the articles in Wired and other magazines and listened to podcasts discussing The Long Tail. I figured the book would be a rip-off, trying to capitalize on the phrase de jour. I was wrong. This book is worth reading, it provides some interesting perspectives and more depth to the conversation.

I give this book 7 out of 10

Full review here

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Architecting Gadgets for Online and Offline Work

On Friday 2nd Feb I will presenting at the Auckland .NET user group on Architecting Gadgets for Online and Offline Work

Chris Auld will be presenting on User Access Control for Developers.

Two RDs in one night and pizza, what more could you want?

Dr. Neil's Notes 39

Welcome to Show 39

Look Up And Smile - add your photos to the map
Lunch at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron
Lots of communication with the USA and Europe this week
Windows Vista on UMPC

Knowing Where to hit it
Knowledge - What is it worth?
Knowing where to hit itHow you improving your knowledge of where to hit it?

Happy coding
This podcast was recorded with Castblaster

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Value Of My Knowledge Is Knowing Where to Hit It

It sometimes amazes me the sheer chutzpah of some people. I receive a number of emails every week from developers asking me to help them solve their coding problem, or send them a snippet of code that carries out some function.
It is as if they expect me to do this for free, my most common response to these emails is 'Do you have a budget for this?" Mostly I dont get any more email from that person again.
Now it is one thing when it is some student trying to finish his project, it is even more amazing when it is an employee of a large well known software company (and yes there is more than one company I am thinking of here). It seems that because at some time I did some consulting for a company or that I once built some software they bought I am now a resource for free knowledge.
It gets beyond the point of astounding when their managers followup from the 'budget' question with something like 'this will only take you 2 minutes'
I think it would be interesting to work out what 2 minutes of my time might be worth:
30 years of 'playing' with computers is a lot of experience, I know I have blink response to some aspects of developing software. I know when something is right or wrong. I can smell it. that is a rare skill and worth a big number.
The experience of running software companies and creating software startups is worth some pretty large numbers.
The fact I do not need your 'work' only adds to an already large running total.

It reminds me of the old story about a railroad expert being summoned because a brand-new diesel locomotive would not start, no matter what the engineer did. After a short time studying the situation, the expert gave the locomotive a light tap with a hammer. It started right up. When the railroad received the expert's bill for $1,000, they asked him to itemize it. The reply came:
Hitting the locomotive with hammer: $10
Knowing where to hit it: $990

How much is your knowledge worth?
Are you increasing the value of your knowledge on a regular basis?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Vista on my UMPC

Today I decided to take the plunge and get my Q1 UMPC running Windows Vista. I know it has been done before but what surprised was how simple it was. I headed over to UberTablet's place to borrow a Samsung Q1 DVD drive so I could do it right. when I got home I stuck the Vista DVD in the drive and booted the Q1. It booted from the DVD without issue and started to install the Windows Vista OS. I selected to wipe the mess off the drive and go for a complete fresh installation. The OS went on without a hitch. I then installed Office 2007 and hey presto I am mobile again.

What I have missing is the ability to change screen resolution, so I am stuck on the default 480 x 800 (which is where I leave it mostly anyway).

Monday, January 22, 2007

Submitting Sessions for TechEd - why is it so hard?

In the last couple of weeks I have been asked by a number of different people at Microsoft to submit sessions for TechEd.
At TechEd this year there will be a number of different tracks:

  • Architecture
  • Mobility
  • Business Applications (Microsoft Dynamics)
  • Office System
  • Business Intelligence
  • Security
  • Connected Systems
  • Windows Server Infrastructure
  • Database Development and Administration
  • Web Development & infrastructure
  • Developer Tools & Technologies
  • Windows Client
  • Identity & Access (virtual track)
  • Management & Operations
  • Unified Communications

Each track has a 'secret' code to allow me to make a submission to that track. I started with 2 submissions for the Windows Client track. Now I have some submissions to make for the Architecture and Mobility tracks. the system will not allow this. How could someone present sessions on more than one area?

My profile is now tied to the Windows Client track and I cannot submit sessions for the other tracks. Is there anyone else that has this issue? Am I a freak of nature for wanted to submit sessions in more than one track?

Update: My MVP lead has found someone that can edit the system and asign my submissions to the correct tracks.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Book Review: The Art Of The Start

The Art of The Start
by Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki is a great author. A man that started in diamond sales, has worked for Apple and now runs his own venture capital organization, Guy has seen a few starts in his time. Along with reading this book I recommend trying to see Guy in action on stage. He might not be Steve Jobs, but in his own way Guy is just as good at grabbing the audience attention and holding on to it.

I give this book 9 out of 10

Full review here

Saturday, January 20, 2007

SMS Utils 1.5 Beta Release

I have just posted a BETA release of SMS Utils 1.5.

It should solve some issues, such as running on Windows Vista and the expired phone component that some users have been experiencing in the last couple of weeks.

This version will only work with Windows Mobile 5.0 devices.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Windows SideShow .NET Framework Components 1.0 (Beta)

The beta of the Windows SideShow .NET library is now available for download.
I have presented demos using this technology over the last few months, now you too can get your hands on the Managed API for SideShow and start building SideShow Gadgets.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dr. Neil's Notes 38

Welcome to Show 38

New 1.6 TB RAID storage for backups
SMS Utils is broken :(
MEDC sessions resolved again
Main stream media - what is that then?

Keeping focussed on what you should be doing
Keeping focus through the changes
Let developers do what developers do

Happy coding
This podcast was recorded with Castblaster

Main Stream Media is for who?

I heard today that there have been ads in the media (radio, newspapers, etc..) for the Look Up And Smile website we have been working on.
It is amazing that I just dont have clue what is happening in the main stream media any more. I don't listen to the radio, watch TV (at least I skips ads), read newspapers.
When I think about it I don't believe I have heard or watched an ad for quite some time now.
All my information comes from RSS feeds, podcasts, online media.
Tatham sent me his interpretation of a radio ad he heard:

an ad on 104.1 2day FM last night that went something like this:

Nerdy muffled “space” voice: 5, 4, 3 ...
SFX Random Space Noises (breathing in space, blips, etc)
Bimbo “everything ends with an inflexion” woman: This Australia day we’re going to be celebrating by ...blah blah ... Centennial Park ... blah blah ...
Nerd: 2, 1 ... Look up and smile Sydney.
SFX Camera Click
Bimbo: Check out
SFX Generic Microsofty Sound (kinda like the Intel one)
Bimbo: Powered by Windows Vista

Where do you get your news?
Do you still kill trees to get the news in the morning?
What advertising have you heard in the last few days?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MEDC 2007 sessions resolved - again

After I told you that the sessions had been resolved the last time there have been a number of email threads going and the session titled From Smartphone to Server has been dropped.

I am now presenting the following 3 sessions this year at MEDC:

Windows Live Services on Windows Mobile

The Synchronization Story

Windows Vista Gadgets That Talk to my Mobile Phone

The reason for dropping the From Smartphone to Server session is that my good friend Daniel Moth is doing his session Sharing assets between the .NET Compact Framework and the .NET Framework. Daniel, through his blog posts and sessions he has presented, has taught me a lot of cool ways to build one assembly that runs on all of my computers (from Smartphone to Server!). I am pleased he is presenting this topic as it is super important for mobile developers to realize how they can extend their reach.

I love my life

This morning before heading to the gym I walked along the beach to watch the sunrise.
This is an awesome way to start the day. Today I thought I would take my camera so I could share the beauty with you.

We each choose our life path, if you don't like the path you are on find another one, before it is too late.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Email, Email everywhere

As I have got rather busy in the last few weeks with Look Up And Smile and a couple of other projects I have tended to switch off Outlook for core hours during the day so I can focus on getting work done.
This is a good tactic as productivity rockets. The downside is that my inbox is getting full of unanswered issues. This evening I have hammered through a number of emails and dealt with them.
I know my friend Adam Cogan likes his rules and Rules to Better Email is a popular item in his rule book.
Most of his rules make sense. I would pay more attention if I didn't know that Adam's email is totally out of control. If he cant eat his own dog food then I might not like the taste either.

How do you deal with email?
Do you shut your email application when you have work to do?

Tagged again?

I have just been tagged again, this time by Markus Egger. I have already done this tagging thing. What should I do?

Do I need to give you another 5 things you might not know about me?
Should I say "been there done that' and link to my previous post?

Who invented this game and where are the rules? (So at least I know which rules I am breaking!)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Keeping Focus

As you go through your day how do you keep focus on the things that need to get done?
Yesterday Kris posted an entry on the 'voice' inside her head telling her to do something.
To stay focussed Kris says
"The best way I find to do this is to reset my Goals and have them clearly on display and "in my face"..."

Do you do this?
How do you keep your goals in your face?

I have tried lots of different approaches. I would love to have everything in a digital world but it never seems to work. If I keep my tasks in an application, Outlook, Project, PlanPlus, an Excel spreadsheet or a Google doc they get lost behind the other windows on the screen.
The one solution I always come back to is the whiteboard.
Every morning I write out all the tasks I need to complete that day on the whiteboard. It is then my mission to cross those tasks off and clear the whiteboard. Some days I get all the tasks done early and I will add some more to the whiteboard. On other days I dont finish them all and they roll over to the next day.
The whiteboard is always there, staring at me, telling me what must get done. It helps me stay focussed on the jobs for the day.

What do you use and how do you make sure you stay focussed?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Book Review: The Starbucks Experience

The Starbucks Experience
by Joseph A. Michelli

Starbucks is a fascinating company. They have ‘taken over the world’ with coffee shops in over 35 countries. Starbucks is obviously about a lot more than simply selling coffee. There are lots of companies that sell coffee and yet they never get as big or successful as Starbucks. This book explains 5 principles that Starbucks works with to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
A short easy to read book, with plenty of insight into the facets of a company that makes a difference to so many people around the world.

I give this book 8 out of 10

Full review here

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dr. Neil's Notes 37

Welcome to Show 37

Look Up And Smile went live on Monday morning
Castblaster beta 0.8 is available - it rocks - loving it
What headset do I use for this and Skype? USB Logitech

Breaking down work items
eXtreme .NET
An aligned team
How long does a job take?

Happy coding
This podcast was recorded with Castblaster

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thoughts on MacWorld Keynote

I awoke early this morning to watch the recording of Steve Jobs give the MacWorld keynote. Steve is one of the best technology evangelists and speakers ever. He has his timing right, his demos look slick (even when things don’t go exactly as planned), his ability to tell a good story and be a friend to the audience is simply amazing.
He also does a fantastic job of making me want a product. I fell into this trap last year when I bought iLife and discovered how much of it was 'demoware'. Now I look at the Apple TV and iPhone and wonder how well they really function.

I was disappointed the last time when I bought the iLife package, but I also love my G4 Powerbook (yes I know it is so last century!)

Another thing that disappointed me with the iPhone presentation was the comparison of the iPhone with the existing Smartphone technologies. In my opinion the iPhone is not a Smartphone at all, it is a PDA Phone. Multi touch is a great innovation to bring into this marketplace but touch is nothing new in the PDA phone space.

After the keynote was over I went down to the beach to watch the sun rise. Funny how doing that can put everything into perspective. The world is beautiful and the iPhone or Zune or whatever the latest gadget is might look great but in the end it cant match the feeling of watching the sun rise with sand between your toes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

SMS Utils - it works on my machines

I have recieved a few emails in the last week regarding my SMS Utils software having expired.
While I enjoy using SMS Utils most days I havent used it much in the last month. I use it much more when I am on the road.
SMS Utils is a free product and my motivation to move fast to find the problem has been thwarted by clients paying me money to solve their issues first.
Finally last night I sat down and started up SMS Utils. It worked fine. Um...
I thought. I wonder if I have some special version I started work on and never delivered?
So I uninstalled it from my machine (Windows XP) and downloaded the public version. I ran it and it works fine, very strange.
If you are having issues with SMS Utils please will you send me information regarding which version you are running, what operating system you have on your PC, which operating system is running on your phone and what the model of your phone is. That might help me resolve this issue.

SMS Utils does not run yet on Windows Vista and I am hoping to have a Vista version out in the next few months.

Castblaster 0.8 now available for download

As a follow on to the last post, the latest version of Castblaster is now available for download.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Castblaster Mike does it again!

Castblaster Mike has been hard at work in his laboratory and today he sent me (and Hugo) an email regarding the latest tweaks to castblaster, the podcasting software. He has made it UMPC friendly! The best thing is he is following best practices and building a single program that will scale accordingly on the different screen sizes.

You can hear him do a test on his brand new UMPC.

I am looking forward to getting my hands on the new version.

Thanks Mike!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Look Up And Smile

Even when I am working on the project and know when it is going live, Frank manages to blog about it before I can!

Look Up And Smile is one of the projects that has kept me busy in the last couple of weeks. The ViaWindowsLive team has been working on building the map page and the gadget.

Australia Day is a big public holiday to celebrate the diversity of Australia, maybe one day the country will even offically "Say Sorry".

Before any of you geeks complain about the size of the images on the web site, I can only say that the design and graphics on the site was the responsibilty of MRM Worldwide, I asked them to optimize the images, multiple times. They dont seem to have a blog. we know what that means, don't we ;) ?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Naked Conversations - book review

Time to catch up with my book reviews!

Naked Conversations
by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

After several false starts I finally started blogging in seriousness after having lunch with Robert Scoble in 2003. I am fairly sure Robert didn’t try and sell me the wonders of blogging, in fact I think during that lunch I did most of the talking (no surprises there!) Returning to my office I felt the need to start a blog and post entries. If blogging is contagious, then Scoble is the number one carrier!

I give this book seven out of ten.

Full review here

Saturday, January 06, 2007

MEDC 2007 sessions resolved

After several emails which made me more confused, then less confused and now happy, I can announce that this year at MEDC I will be presenting the following sessions:

From Smartphone to Server, building 1 assembly that runs on all my computers.

The Synchronization Story: Building Windows Mobile applications that work with Windows Vista Sync Center

Windows Vista Gadgets That Talk to my Mobile Phone

Friday, January 05, 2007

Dr. Neil's Notes 36

Welcome to Show 36

Happy New Year!
Google blog updated
Hectic time with project deadlines

Aligning teams that are geographically distributed
McCarthy webcast

OneNote and Google Docs.

Happy coding
This podcast was recorded with Castblaster

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Session at MEDC USA

This morning I open my inbox to find a few emails regarding the sessions I proposed for MEDC in Las Vegas this year.
I opened the first email it read:
Congratulations! Your MEDC 2007 session suggestion, "Windows Vista Gadgets That Talk to my Mobile Phone," has been accepted.

Yay! How cool that will be a great session, my brain is already racing through some of the demos I want to do in this session.

I opened the next email, it read:
Thank you for your MEDC 2007 session submission titled: "Windows Vista Gadgets that talk to my Mobile Phone.."
Your session was reviewed by the MEDC 2007 Track Owner Committee, amongst a record number of 330 submissions. Unfortunately we were unable to accommodate this session submission in the MEDC 2007 conference

Interesting, so I get to present the session that has an upper case T in the word Talk but not the other one?
Now I am confused. Hopefully a glitch in the system that will be worked out in the next 24 hours.
I will keep you posted as to whether or not I am presenting this session at MEDC 2007.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bland and boring user experience

I am currently reading The Starbucks Experience, a book explaining the core Starbucks practices for creating an extraordinary customer experience. In chapter 1 the author explains how Starbucks partners (employees) go the extra mile to create an amazing experience for their customers.
It occurs to me that we should all strive to do this with our software products. So many software and web experiences are bland and boring. By making the extra effort to create extraordinary experiences for our users we can help take our software to a new level.
My work in the past with fantastic interaction designers such as Tricky and Tim Brooke helps me to realise that the potential is huge to go beyond the norm.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The meme continues...

Hugo "UberTablet" has passed the meme on to me.
So here are 5 things you might not know about me:

1. I am a Pisces

2. I love motorbikes and have owned, ridden into the ground and then sold 9 motorbikes ranging from 125cc to 1000cc

3. I have not been clean shaven since the age of 22. I can't be bothered with all that every morning, think of the time I have saved in my life to do something more interesting :)

4. I have not been employed full time (had a real job) since 1992. I have owned my own companies and employed other people. I currently provide consulting on a freelance basis.

5. I have been to Burning Man. It is a blast, full of freaks and friends (some of them both).

I pass the meme on to the other 2 RDs in Australia
Adam Cogan
Greg Low

previous editor on TechTalkBlogs
Mitch Denny

and ViaVirtualEarth friends
Tatham Oddie
John O'Brien

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2007, another year, another set of possiblities.

The start of a new year is a good time to set your sites on new targets and goals.

What goals do you have for 2007?

Create your own heaven in 2007 :)