Browster

I came across a story about this nifty little plug-in just this morning in MIT Technology Review.  While the story was about companies trying to change the way people browse the web, Browster was the technology that interested me the most.  You install a plug-in that lets you hover over a link to preview its contents instead of having to click the link.  If

you want to change the way you browse the web, definitely give this a try.  It could be a long while before you ever have to use the “Back” button again.

Windows Vista: The Incredible Shrinking OS

According to this article, Windows Vista is losing yet another feature.  Reading further, PC-to-PC Sync doesn’t sound like much of a feature, since it only works between machines running Vista that have the same user account.  But add it to the removal of WinFS, Monad scripting shell, and other bits, and the remainder is an OS that requires more hardware resources (for a prettier GUI, whoopee!) without any discernable improvement in areas like performance or functionality.

Since Vista will probably be behind what Apple users now get with Mac OS X Tiger (not to mention Leopard when that finally comes out), perhaps Microsoft should quit kidding themselves.  A Windows XP Service Pack 3 release this year might help make up for Vista being so late.  Then they can target the Leopard feature-set so that they’re actually releasing something competitive in 2008.

RSS Publishing

It shouldn’t be a big deal at all with apps like Community Server 2.0 or WordPress available, but budget and/or personnel constraints often conspire against us using either one. So lately, we’ve spent more time (and money, but salaries apparently don’t count) putting together custom applications to generate RSS feeds.

I always check to see if a solution to my problem already exists before building my own, so when it came time to develop the MethResources.gov RSS feed, I simply reused the example from this article by Scott Mitchell. Behind the ONDCP podcast (I did the database work, a colleague did the rest) is a classic ASP application with the most basic admin functionality.

To cut down on this sort of one-off RSS app building, I’ve been hunting around for any bits of code or fully-formed toolkits that could be reused easily. The latest interesting bit of code I came across is the ASP.NET 2.0 RSS Toolkit. It’s from a Microsoft employee, and most comments I’ve read on it have been positive. Of course, when I tried to get the samples to work, I had all kinds of problems. The solution was to create a new website project (with location = “File System”) , browse to the samples directory of the toolkit, and open the existing website. Once I did this, and added RssToolkit.dll to the GAC, all six scenarios worked perfectly.  The two examples I tried from Scott Guthrie’s blog entry on the toolkit worked also.

The only things I haven’t found in this toolkit so far are support for enclosures and an easy way to syndicate a database.

Dad wants an MP3 player, but not an iPod :-(

Since I own 2 iPods (the 2GB nano that came with my new Passat, and a 20GB I bought myself), I hope to dissuade him from a non-Apple music player purchase.

He wants something to use during his workouts, and he wants a radio tuner.  He’s put off by the cost Apple’s music player offerings.  I haven’t looked at the Apple Store website in awhile, so I completely missed the re-pricing of the iPod shuffle.  The 512MB one is just $69, while the 1GB is $99.  While this doesn’t solve his desire for a radio tuner, it should meet his price.

Looking around for competitors to the iPod shuffle, I came across Dell’s DJ Ditty. It’s small and light, and manages to integrate an FM tuner.  It’s $84, $15 more than the iPod shuffle of the same capacity (512MB).  You’d also have to use MusicMatch Jukebox instead of iTunes.

Searching through PC Magazine revealed another option: the Samsung Yepp YP-T5. It’s an old review, but this player includes a screen, an FM tuner, and voice recording for under $60.  The catch: it only has 256MB of space for music.  Samsung has similarly sized (i.e. larger) offerings to the iPod shuffle that cost around $100.  None of the ones I’ve seen offers more capacity than the 1GB shuffle, and some offer less capacity at a higher price.

I’ll keep hoping he goes with an iPod instead of something else.  So far I’m underwhelmed by the iPod’s competition.

ASP.NET Calendar Customization

My latest assignment is to help redesign this website into a true blog for the office of the drug czar. We’re using Community Server 2.0, and one of our requirements is to customize the calendar. Since the CS 2.0 calendar is a wrapper around the stock .NET framework one, I put together a Word document to explain the customization process to the graphic designers who are actually responsible for the look-and-feel of the calendar. My hope is that they’ll understand it well enough to reduce my workload when it comes time to implement this.

The document applies pretty well to calendar customization in general for ASP.NET 1.1 projects.

I created an RTF version and an HTML version of the content as well.