Gruber on OS's

Ack!John Gruber: "Hardware and software both matter, and Apple's history shows that there's a good argument to be made for developing integrated hardware and software. But if you asked me which matters more, I wouldn't hesitate to say software. All things considered I'd much prefer a PC running Mac OS X to a Mac running Windows." - Very interesting. There was a time, not so long ago, when you could essentially buy a "PC" running Mac OS, but Steve Jobs killed that off when he returned. Much to the benefit of Apple. It is kind of weird to see a Mac die hard make a statement like that.

I'd still like to see the Mac OS X UI and services on top of Microsoft's NT Kernel, which has a bad reputation because of decisions made to support legacy behaviors. Anyway, the NT Kernel is a very good OS Kernel. It would be interesting to see other UI looks on top of it, and yes, that is possible.

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Your mileage may vary

PCR: "One of the things that people say an awful lot about the Apple Mac is that the OS is fantastic, that it's very graphical and easy to use. What we've tried to do with Windows 7 - whether it's traditional format or in a touch format - is create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics. We've significantly improved the graphical user interface, but it's built on that very stable core Vista technology, which is far more stable than the current Mac platform, for instance." - I will always claim the Kernel of Windows is solid, I have for years, and I honestly believe it. Is it more stable than the Mac? I do doubt that.

I do find it interesting they point out they're trying to make the experience more Mac like. That can't hurt them. The Mac is still my favorite platform, with Windows holding at second place.

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On Windows 7 Upgrades

Robert X. Cringely: "Here's another piece of evidence aiming in the same direction: have you actually done a Windows 7 upgrade? Mine took seven hours! It shouldn't have to take that long unless part of the goal was simply to discourage upgrading. Snow Leopard took me 20 minutes to upgrade, but then Apple has no OEMs to please (this is key) and makes lots of money on upgrades even at $49.95."

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Vista Registration Tip

Ok, so after installing Vista for the first time last month I didn't register it, I had 30-days, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right?

So, I'd changed the IP address on the box, shut down, moved the machine to a different location and network, fired it back up... and I need to register it NOW of it's not going to work for be. No problem, I'll finally get around to registering it, but wait, I can't get a network connection, DOH!

So, if that happens to you, here's how to get around it.

1) Select "Run with reduced functionality" option (I don't remember the exact wording.)
2) Once up and running select Start > Run and type
3) slmgr /rearm

This will give you another 30-days, and allow you to log back in so you can fix your stinking IP address problem, which will in turn allow you to register.

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Windows 7 Graphics Performance

Engineering Windows 7: "Many have experienced scenarios where an application, or Windows itself, stops responding momentarily. This is type of a performance issue that can be impacted significantly by the performance of graphics in the PC. We categorize these as desktop responsiveness issues. Improving responsiveness, both in real terms and by avoiding non-responsive moments, is one of the key ways that performance is improved in the system. It is also hard to measure." - While I love my Mac, and wish I could write code for it daily, I make my living writing software for Windows and Linux. Windows 7 looks promising considering we have need to display live, and recorded, video from multiple sources, and do it quickly. In the security world folks demand, and expect, great performance. A 500 millisecond(1/2 a second) delay from the time the image is grabbed until it arrives at the display is TOO slow, now imagine having to do that for 16 streams simultaneously. Graphics performance is so important, even at the UI level, which is why these particular changes will be so welcome. For video we lean on the GPU, but the user interface relies on good old Windows GDI. Let's hope it works!

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Breaking on a memory allocation

I keep forgetting to write this down, so it's going on the good ole weblog for searching later.

If you have your code setup to do heap allocation tracking, _CTRDBG_LEAK_CHECK_DF and you'd like to break on a specific allocation, here's what you do once you've started debugging.

Add the following to the watch window.


Set the value to the allocation you'd like to break on. Now, if you're using the multi-threaded DLL runtime you'll have to provide a better context to the debugger. Like this.


So, if I'd like to see who allocated a hunk of memory, they were the 1000th caller, and they didn't free said memory, set the value to 1000, and the debugger will stop on allocation 1000.

Handy, big time handy.

Article on MSDN with more details, How to: Set Breakpoints on a Memory Allocation Number.

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MacWorld: "In the past year, running Mac OS X or Linux as your default OS has been made easier by the capability to run Windows in a virtual machine, giving you access to both Windows-only applications and Web sites that rely on Microsoft's Internet Explorer-only ActiveX technology. But in a business environment, switching to a Mac or Linux PC may not be quite as easy." - I've been running exclusively on a Mac for quite a while now. I use VMWare as my Windows development environment host and it's mostly worked for me. I'm sold on Mac now. It would be so hard to go back to a PC with Windows as a daily driver, but I supposed I could do it. I work with Linux as well but I'm not a very proficient Linux guy, that's ok, we have Linux gear heads all over the place. But I digress.

For me the choice is now clear, it's Mac.

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Cocoa on Windows?

The Unofficial Apple Weblog: "Cocotron is a potentially exciting open-source project that 'aims to implement a cross-platform Objective-C API similar to that described by Apple Inc.'s Cocoa documentation.' What this means is that, in principle, Cocotron would allow an OS X Cocoa app written in Xcode to be easily cross-compiled for other OSes, particularly Windows." - This is pretty interesting. The question is, will Mac developers feel the need to go to Windows? There are a lot of Grandaddy applications on the Mac that are written in C/C++ because they run on multiple platforms, like Photoshop and even Apple's very own iTunes. Those applications use Carbon and Carbon isn't moving into 64-bit land, which is causing grief for folks like Adobe with gigantor codebases written against it. Would it be in Apple's best interest to contribute to Cocotron so they have a viable framework to get their own applications like iTunes fully Cocoa?

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Engadget: "Microsoft is expected to be handing out pre-betas of Windows 7 to devs at WinHEC and PDC soon, and it looks like it's settled on an official name for its next-gen OS -- ahem, Windows 7." - It's about darned time they went back to using version numbers, I never liked the year model naming and the goofy, meaningless, names like XP and Vista needed to go. I like the idea.

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Posted by Rob at 10:08 AM | 2 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

XP SP-3 suckage

I installed Windows XP SP3 yesterday only to discover they've removed something I use every day. It's a little thing, but why they'd remove it is beyond me. I'm talking about the Address Bar. You know the one you can show down in the Task Bar that allows you to type a drive, directory, network share, or URL and it pops open Explorer to let you browse. Like I said, little, but why remove it?

Ah, according to this TechNet post, they had to remove it due to legal restrictions.

It's been there for how long, and now there are legal issues related to it?

I don't think this will make me upgrade to Vista guys. In the end I only use Windows XP as a development tool, it allows me to do my job, but it's no longer my platform, or OS, of choice.

Mac OS X is my OS of choice today. I need to get a job writing code for the iPhone, or OS X. Smile, life is good!

UPDATE: I've found a replacement to the Address Bar, it's called MuvEnum Address Bar, and it's free. I'll try this for a while and see how it goes.

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Interesting Sinofsky comment

Engineering Windows 7: "In fact as I type this I received sequential emails one saying “[N]obody cares about touch screen nonsense” and the other saying “[Win7 needs] more advanced/robust ‘touch’ features”. When you just get unstructured and unsolicited input you see these opposites quite a bit. I’m sure folks are noticing this on the blog comments as well." - The real hidden nugget in that comment? If memory serves, Sinofsky hated the tablet from day one and since he ran the Office unit he didn't care to add great table support to the Office apps. Visio could've been the premier application for the tablet but it wasn't allowed to be. That's ok, business decisions and all, but now Apple has entered the market. Touch is in, and Apple will perfect it, while Microsoft allows it to possibly die on the vine.

Strange, isn't it? It's not always the leader into the market that wins, it's the guy that can bring it home in the hearts and minds of users.

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Posted by Rob at 11:13 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Windows seven weblog

Engineering Windows 7: "Welcome to our first post on a new blog from Microsoft—the Engineering Windows 7 blog, or E7 for short. E7 is hosted by the two senior engineering managers for the Windows 7 product, Jon DeVaan and Steven Sinofsky. Jon and Steven, along with members of the engineering team will post, comment, and participate in this blog" - I'm not sure there's time to include any feedback from this weblog for Windows Seven? If there's any talk of a new OS I'd start with the Windows NT Kernel and build from there, new API's, new shell. Maybe managed? Yes, it'll take years, if they decided to do it. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Apple proved it could be done and OS-X is elegant and powerful. They also managed to prove you could hide great power under a beautiful UI. The Linux crowd could learn something from that.

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Strange behavior, a fix

Watch out! It's a blog fly!I've figured out my problem from last night, so I thought I'd share with everybody, just in case you run across it.

First off here's my configuration, it plays heavily into the problem.

1) MacBook Pro
2) VMWare Fusion
3) Windows XP, running in VM
4) Shared fold on Mac for source code
5) Visual Studio 2008
6) Trolltech Qt

The big cluprit, the shared folder on the Mac. For some strange reason Visual Studio will lose its' brain after a while and can no longer write to .IDB/.PDB files on the HPFS volume. There's a lot going on in there, so it could be anything causing the problem. Anywho, to fix my problem I made sure all intermediate and binary files are being written to my XP volume, not the shared drive. It was easy to fix because we use environment variables to direct Visual Studio to the root of our codebases and where to write intermediate and finished binary files, there was one little problem. We auto generate our Visual Studio project files using a program, from Trolltech, called qmake. It's part of Qt, and is quite handy, but in this case it requires a small 'fix' to get around this problem.

By default qmake sets C/C++ > Output Files > Program Database File Name to '.', which in my case would write the .IDB/.PDB files to the shared Mac volume, which causes the strange behavior. No worries! We have the source code to qmake, so you need to make the following change to 'fix' this problem.

Open the file msvc_vcproj.cpp from \Qt\4.4.0\qmake\generators\win32, in the method initCompilerTool(), line 988 in Qt 4.4.0.

Change this...
conf.compiler.ProgramDataBaseFileName = ".\\" ;
To this...
conf.compiler.ProgramDataBaseFileName = placement;
Rebuild qmake, and run qmake over your project files. That should help.

The real fix is this, do not build to your shared Mac drive, there's some sort of caching/permissions problem with it.

Oh, here's the original problem.
fatal error C1090: PDB API call failed, error code '23' : '(
And all you Open Source zealots, please don't point out we have the code. We paid for it, and if they were shipping a binary only version they wouldn't have hard coded these settings. They would've been configurable, so I wouldn't have had to touch the code.

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Check your facts please

Microsoft Cash Cow.Have Mac will Blog [via James Robertson]: "For all OS X’s excellence, it should be remembered that OS X is a good deal younger than Vista, with the Mach microkernel sitting under BSD and a coherent interface layer sitting above it. Windows has archaelogical layers of software buried under the covers, because Microsoft chose to provide a great deal of backward compatibility." - That statement is only partially correct. NT began life in 1989, Mach in 1985. The NT Kernel is newer. As to the backward compatibility layers on top of an otherwise excellent kernel, well, he's right there.

If Microsoft were to create a new OS they should start with the NT Kernel and go from there. Microsoft could survive creation of a new OS, just as Apple did, and they can be heroes on the other side. Keep the Win32 API's in the OS as a compatibility layer, just as Apple has Carbon, and introduce the "new" way to do things, slowly turning developers to it, with a conversion deadline of a number of years, say ten. If you remember back to the initial release of NT it included two shells, Windows and the OS/2 shell. Yes, you could put a new UI on top of NT. I used to know the complete details, but my old brain is failing me at the moment.

In a nutshell Microsoft could strap the .NET runtime up on top of the NT Kernel, as the new API, just as Apple did with Cocoa, and move toward a much easier development model. Of course that's a big oversimplification of the real work, but they could do it.

There's no doubt Windows is carrying around old baggage, but the OS as a whole is not a complete loss as folks would lead you to believe.

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Apple gets it

Microsoft should take a page from Apple's playbook, streamline the OS, go work on the guts, forget adding features, in fact it might be a good idea to remove a few!

Hat tip James Robertson.

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Posted by Rob at 10:36 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

New Touch Windows

BBC: "Microsoft's next operating system will come with multi-touch features as an alternative to the mouse." - It's surface, in a smaller size!

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Posted by Rob at 12:32 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Visual Studio Debugging Tip

Sara Ford: "if you double-click on any error or warning in the output window, you will jump directly to that location in the file (or the closest equivalent)" - Good tip. If you're interested in taking advantage of this sort of functionality in your own code, it's very easy.

Please note, the code below is very simplified, and for demonstration purposes only. You'd want to wrap this is a way that makes sense for your application. ATL and MFC provide this sort of stuff, but you can roll your own.
char buffer[MAX_PATH];
// Yes, I know this is an unsafe CRT call. :-)
sprintf(buffer, "%s(%d): Debug Message\n", __FILE__, __LINE__);
So what does that do? It will dump something similar the following to the Output window...

c:\yoursource\yourfile.cpp(99): Debug Message

Now if you follow Sara's tip it will jump you right to the code that dumped out the message.

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Posted by Rob at 8:10 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Keynote vs. PowerPoint

Macworld: "PowerPoint has caught up to Keynote in many areas and surpassed it in some. But Keynote’s workflow and overall feature set remain superior. Practically speaking, your choice of software probably depends more on the hardware you’ll be using to deliver your presentation (and the software installed on it) than on the features of your authoring program. For that reason, unless Apple releases a Keynote player application for Windows, which isn’t likely, PowerPoint may be a more sensible choice for many speakers." - Interesting wrap up. It looks like Apple has done a great job, as usual, of catching up to the leader, Microsoft in turn has responded. The idea of a Keynote player for Windows isn't such a bad idea, do one for Linux as well to cover all your bases.

The bottom line: Keynote 4.5 mice, PowerPoint 4 mice.

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Posted by Rob at 7:56 AM | 1 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Congratulations Cincom

James Robertson: "We had been holding the release pending Vista Certification for ObjectStudio 8.1; that's done now - I just got this in email via Mark Grinnell, who is the lead for ObjectStudio..." - A very big congrats to all the folks at Cincom.

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Hey Microsoft

The Unofficial Apple Weblog: "Throughout the years, Mac OS X has definitely seen its share of changes. In these 7 years, OS X has been through 6 versions (7 if you include the first public beta version)." - Microsoft should consider releasing an update, not labeled as a Service Pack, every year. Something that improves on the Vista experience, be that performance, or a nice subtle UI improvement. It might make people feel a bit better about Vista given it hasn't been well received.

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Posted by Rob at 1:43 PM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

This sounds like a fun project

Nick Bradbury: "Among the most frequent requests we receive from FeedDemon customers is to enable using Mozilla/Firefox as the embedded browser, and this is something I would love to offer. Unfortunately, I don't see how this is possible." - This is one of those things I'd love to run off and do, but as usual, time is always a problem. I think I'd attempt to write an ActiveX control that implemented the IE interfaces, if at all possible, so you could use the same mechanism to load and use it.

Nick, here's an idea for you, just hire me, and I'll get it to work.

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Posted by Rob at 9:04 AM | 2 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Mac running Windows

The Unofficial Apple Weblog: "Actually, let's not do this. Let's realize that Microsoft is a company and Apple is a company, and while yes, in some fields they are competitors, let's just put the whole Apple vs. PC idea to bed. Guess what: a Mac actually is a PC. It's a very, very well-made PC (in fact, the best made, in this blog's humble opinion)." - Yes, the Macintosh is a great Windows box. Just check out the hardware, who wouldn't want that kind of power behind Windows? And, yes, I'm fairly certain the Linux crowd would be happy with a Mac as well, but I wouldn't want to do that to my Mac, it would be like putting a pig on lipstick. You read that right "Putting a pig(Linux) on lipstick(Mac)."

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Posted by Rob at 9:28 AM | 2 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Photoshop history

John Nack: "On this date in 1990, the first version of Photoshop shipped to the world; exactly five years ago we saw the debut of Photoshop's Camera Raw plug-in; and one year ago today, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 made its official bow." - This was a big day in Adobe's history, on many fronts. Worth a read.

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Posted by Rob at 9:17 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Proof of concept

Tom Distler: "The videos are displayed using WPF MediaElement objects, and passing in a URL with our custom protocol type and the id of the camera to connect to. The great thing about WPF is that we get all the scaling, reflection, and overlays you see above for free. Another one of our UI guys (Nick) did a demo with live video playing on a 3D cube that can be rotated by the mouse. I will post a screen shot when I get one." - Yes, this week-and-a-half proof of concept was a great deal of fun. Now we need to get the go ahead to do it for real. I must say Tom's DirectShow knowledge has been a breath of fresh air, he's a great addition to the Endura team.

Nick, Brent, and Abe; thanks for creating some compelling demos. A picture is worth a thousand words. The demos are a heck of a lot better than Tom and I showing people a fully constructed graph in GraphEdit that would display grey video.

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Posted by Rob at 10:37 AM | 4 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

SQL Express Life Saver

Note to self: osql is a life saver.

2> GO
1> USE databasename
2> GO
1> EXEC sp_grantdbaccess 'MACHINENAME\ACCOUNT'
2> GO
1> exit

Helpful links:

ASP.Net Forums
MSDN Forums

Microsoft TechNet

These three links just saved me!

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Posted by Rob at 2:33 PM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

It's a short term fix

PC World [via James Robertson]: "According to accounts published last month, XP SP3 will feature more than 1,000 hot fixes and patches that have been issued in the past three years, as well as at least four new features, some of which will be ports of Vista tools." - The Windows codebase will move forward, they can't turn back now. The idea that they'll port some Vista tools back to XP seems reasonable. They'll get more time to bugfix Vista and get folks using XP acquainted with Vista features. It's a short term fix. When Vista is solid they'll shut the door on XP.

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Posted by Rob at 11:50 AM | 1 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

WPF, Win32, and DirectX

MSDN: "Attempting to render WPF pixels over Win32 leads to undesirable results, and is disallowed as much as possible through the interoperation APIs." - Must read this.

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Posted by Rob at 10:41 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

WordPress on Server Core

Dennis Chung: "Wow. Take Windows Server 2008 Server Core + PHP + IIS7 + MySQL + WordPress, mix them together, will they blend well and work out as a nice concoction? Matty challenged me to this blend, and guess what, we have a powerful cocktail to offer after all!"

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Posted by Rob at 9:55 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.


Just out of curiosity, who is licensing VBA these days? Anyone?

As a long time Visio developer I loved VBA, yep I'm not afraid to say that. I think the Visio team did a top notch job integrating the environment into Visio as well as delivering a well planned and executed object model for use by third parties; thank you Tom Booster, Mike Frederick, and David Cole for all your hard work to bring scripting Visio to the masses.

Anywho, I'm still a fan of scripting inside applications. There are a lot of really nice things being done daily using VBA and there's a need for an environment that can live within your application. The VBA environment was second to none. I liked the editor and the debugger and the ability to open any type library and hook into other components is very useful.

The question is, are there better solutions available? I want something that gives me a full IDE; editor, debugger, and runtime all sucked into my application. Do others exist I should be investigating? They don't necessarily have to be targeted at the average Joe, maybe targeted at the "casual" developer. I'd like to have something that would allow, let's say, an integrator to customize my application via this built in scripting engine.

I know Lua is out there, but I don't think it has an IDE?
I know Python is a good option, again what about an IDE?
Last I checked Ruby wasn't so great a solution, maybe that changed, but what about an IDE?
There's been talk of being able to integrate Smalltalk with applications, but I don't know what the timeline is for that, or if it's truly going to happen.

Please, I know there are readers out there with great knowledge of scripting solutions. I'm looking for the next VBA like experience. Total integration of tools and runtime.


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Posted by Rob at 4:08 PM | 2 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Vista help?

Cass McNutt: "Given that last caveat, I've been thinking about either moving in more fully to Vista, or downgrading to Windows XP altogether. If I knew it could be clean, it would be an absolute no-brainer: I'd punt Vista in a heartbeat, because XP just works, and that's all I really want the darned thing to do. I'm obviously not alone in this." - Another possible downgrade to Windows XP in the works. Also, Cass, I can see how you're underwhelmed with your Mac G4 experience, the Intel Macs are amazing. In fact, they're also the best hardware to run Vista on.

Like I said in your earlier post. I don't give up a thing to run XP and Ubuntu in VMWare Fusion. I've been able to do everything I want to do, so you don't have to give up those Windows apps you rely on daily. Of course you need to do what's right for you and a lot of Windows folks have a sort of culture shock when they move into the Mac world. Yes, it does work differently than your Windows machine, but that the best thing about it.

The hardest thing to get used to, for me, are the keyboard shortcuts. I still do the wrong thing on occasion. Beyond that, it's been an eye opening experience. I won't go back to using Windows daily unless I have to. I will continue to develop Windows applications because it's something I know how to do, but if I could find a Macintosh application to develop that would allow me to make a living I'd be all over it. Yes, the experience has been that good.

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Posted by Rob at 8:52 AM | 3 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

DirectShow Weblog

Mike Wasson writes about DirectShow and related technologies, nice source of information. Thanks Mike, subscribed.

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Posted by Rob at 12:33 PM | 1 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Wanted DirectShow resources

Yes, that's right. I'll take any tricks and tips I can find related to creating and inserting objects into DirectShow's filter graph.


Some for later...

DirectShow: CoreMedia Technology...

Windows Media Developer Center

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Posted by Rob at 5:04 PM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Why aren't you running Vista?

The other day the VP of our little software division came into my office while I was building some code, in Windows, I'd just added some functionality to on the Linux side of my universe; making sure I didn't break anything, and he says "I'm surprised you're not running Vista?" to which I replied "I have a Mac, I don't need Vista."

The reply seemed to satisfy him.

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Posted by Rob at 12:23 PM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

20 Open Source Windows Apps

Technology Bites: "Here i will list some of the open source or free programs as alternatives to windows commercial programs." - There are a few in there worth looking at; Programmer's Notepad, Inkscape, Juice, and Scribus.

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Posted by Rob at 3:15 PM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Django on Windows

Import This: "Back in April 2006, I wrote a HOWTO for installing Django on Windows (link). Since that time, that guide has become quite popular and linked from various places. Unfortunately some of the information in it has become outdated and so it was time to update it." - Ya know, I'm a bit surprised Django doesn't support MS-SQL Server? Anywho, this is something worth reading if you plan on working in a Windows environment.

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Posted by Rob at 8:42 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.

Windows losing ground with developers?

The Server Side.NET: "Microsoft is not dead, and it is not dying. Rather, the company's decline in market share is a runny nose." - I can definitely see this happening with the focus clearly on web based stuff. If you're doing client side applications Windows is pretty hard to beat, unless you're doing Mac applications, but the server side has a ton of dynamic language support with frameworks that allow folks to be highly productive and it's all free; Ruby + Rails, Python + Django, etc... On Windows we have those two plus we have ASP.NET and [insert your favorite .NET language here], but is that really an advantage? In short No. The real answer is Yes and No. For me it would be easier to use ASP.NET and C# because I already have experience with ASP.NET and C# is super easy to transition to because of my C/C++ background. Sure I could pickup Ruby and/or Python, but I'd need a bit of time to become as proficient with it as I am with C/C++. Who knows in the end it may be well worth my time to be a Ruby/Python dude, only time will tell.

Hey, have you looked at C#'s upcoming LINQ implementation? Check out Scott Guthrie's series on LINQ; Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. It's going to make life more productive for the C# developer, that for sure.

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Posted by Rob at 8:22 AM | 0 comments | Click here for a permalink to this entry.


Rob Fahrni has been a Software Developer for 20 years. He's developed DOS, Windows, Linux, iPhone, and Palm based applications in C, C++, Objective-C/Cocoa, C#/ASP.Net, and, yes, even BASIC...
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