Saturday, April 14, 2007

This and that...

So, I just noted that I have been posting a lot of stuff with quite a lot of information. It's high time I posted something that should interest nobody -
  • After the accident en-route Paris that featured a Renault smash itself into my car waiting at a traffic signal at a high speed, with me watch the inevitable happen in the rear-view mirror, I see that I have developed a sudden anxiety when cars come up close.
  • During the second day of my stay in Switzerland, I noticed the motor-warning lights come on. Being more the hands-on mechanic that trusts the sound of the Engine more than the car electronics, I decided that my motor was healthy and brought my car 350 kms back home without calling the emergency service. It turned out that I was right. A small animal had the cable of the temperature sensor for the Diesel Particle Filter for dinner and left my over-sensitive motor worrying about it. A replacement to the DPF temperature sensor was done, and all is fine again.
  • On a more positive note, the vacation in Switzerland was good also because I finally mustered the courage to rent a bicycle and do a long country ride. This was my first time with a bicycle in three years after the previous attempt had shattered my knee and left me on the operating table.
Hmm... This was too boring - right? Okay... After my meet with Microsoft in Seattle, I visited White Sands in New Mexico with Raghu... The sands are unbelievably white as salt!

White Sands at New Mexico

But the drive from Texas (where we started) to New Mexico was quite like being in a Nintendo game where the landscape over a few hundred miles seemed to be like a 100 mts of Scenery repeating over and over again. We saw a thousand oil wells (a lot more than that actually) on the flat Texan landscape and more than once did we wonder about the US requirement to import oil.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vacations in Switzerland...

Its been 4 years of living 200 kms away from Switzerland. It's been 4 years of traveling about almost everywhere, save for this place. Finally, having seen most of West Europe, I decide to explore the jewel sitting in my backyard during the Easter Weekend.

I drive over to Lucerne... And experience some of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen...

Photo taken at Mount Titlis, 10000 ft above Sea Level

I'll let these photos speak the 10000 words.

MVP Summit 2007 - A Footnote

It was an enriching experience to meet software experts from around the world as well as professionals from Microsoft that make the company go round. Among these were members from the technical community - Codeguru - that I help moderate in addition to contributing technically.

In this happy photo below, you see Codeguru MVPs that this event help bring together...

Left to Right: John Cz, Bradley Jones, Marius Bancila, Guido Stercken Sorrenti, me and Arjay Hawco

The Summit had more to offer than just technical meetings. It was also about parties, and a lot of fun...

Guido and me playing Table Soccer against formidable rivals from France. The round went to Germany.

More photos and stories can be found on Codeguru, in this thread.

En route to Seattle Airport for my return flight, I got to spend some quality time with fellow MVP David Ching at Seattle Airport. It is strange how people from two different cultures, from two different parts of the world can meet at a conference and find so much in common!

Among the Microsoft-techies I interacted with were Steve Teixeira and Ayman Shoukry from the Visual Studio Team whom I had previously met at Microsoft TechEd 2006 in Barcelona. The non-techies (yet, as elite!) were Candice Pedersen, Karen Young, Paulette Suddarth and Sean O'Driscoll from the US, Mohammed Seedat from South Africa, Evelyn Ruf and Florian Eichinger from Germany - all belonging to the MVP Award Programme.

I hope to meet some of these again during the MVP Open Day in Munich on the 11th of May!

Visual Studio pain points presented at the MVP Summit...

Speed of the build -

I had to point out how Visual Studio eats up precious minutes of my life when I press F5 on an already built project going through all-dependent projects again, checking for changes to verify if they need to be built again! Surely, Visual Studio can make use of intelligent techniques where it is notified of source-code changes outside the editor!

Proposed COM Component Registration in HKCU with Orcas -

The story goes this way - everybody wants their application to run with plain user privileges on Vista. Visual Studio is no exception to this rule. Problem is that when you build a COM / ActiveX component on Visual Studio,
it registers the component as a part of the post-build process. This registration installs keys in HKCR. HKCR is mapped to HKLM\Software\Classes and one cannot write to this key without having Administrative Privileges. So, the Orcas team proposes registration in HKCU (HKEY_CURRENT_USER) instead.

This would normally be fine save for the fact that -
  • Software that uses COM components would need to be installed on a per-user basis on a Workstation.
  • If keys are written to HKCU, the user with no administrative privileges would have write privileges on it - and can potentially damage the deployment.
As a result, software deployment and maintenance expenses would escalate.

MVPs were unanimous that this change would cause deployment issues. I have escalated this problem with the Visual Studio management and we are discussing possible solutions.

Lets see how things work out!

The future of C++ Programming with Visual Studio Codename Orcas

The MVP Summit also involved many good up-close sessions with the technical people from the Visuai Studio / Visual C++ team. This was Microsoft's way of getting feedback from people like me who are in close sync with the development community about pain points of the past, and features that newer versions of Visual Studio (Orcas, for now) will come up with.

One of the most important aspects about Orcas is the continued investment and commitment that Microsoft seems to display with respect to supporting and improving the C++ language features.

Here are some details related to enhancement towards programming in Managed C++ (the .NET version of traditional C++ language) -
  • STL will come with a managed version for those that would like to use STL containers in Managed C++
  • These STL containers will allow for easy conversions / interchange between STL Container types and .NET Types. For example - a std::map returned from C++ code can be received as an IDictionary object in C#.
  • Marshalling support will be extended via new templates that allow for ease of managing unmanaged memory in MC++ applications.
Unmanaged C++ will eventually feature -
  • A cooler version of MFC that will support VISTA like User Interface (yes, using MFC would not necessarily mean that you'd be stuck with Win 95 style controls!), and wrapper classes that supply more usable buttons et al.
  • There would be support for Vista UAC - if you have build C++ applications that need UAC elevation in VISTA using current versions of Visual Studio, then you know how painful it is to create and embed that manifest, for the moment.
  • Faster builds
  • Refactoring features (like intelligent Find / Replace that you see when programming in C#)
  • Squiggles for C++ code (akin to those squiggly-underlines you see when you type a syntactically incorrect line of code in C#).
  • Issues like Modules and Concurrency issues for Multi-Core / -Processor platforms were considered important.
The discussions were all very involving and throughly interesting. The days featured exhaustive sessions and the evenings featured parties that were just as good!