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Did I mention I’m going to MIX?  Will I see you there?  I could imagine that some have tight travel budgets, training budgets shrunk, yada, yada.  I’m telling you…if you are a Microsoft developer in the web and WPF space, you need to be at MIX09.  In an effort to help there are a bunch of ways to reduce some costs…here’s some:

I figured, why can't I have some fun as well?  I asked on Twitter for some suggestions and god a few good ideas.  Here’s my ideas: play a game or draw some pictures.

Option 1 – design a Line Rider map for MIX

One of my favorite Silverlight game implementations that requires some artistic skills is Line Rider.  So here’s the skinny:

Create a Line Rider map for MIX.  The map must include elements of the MIX09 art work (logo or current art) as well as some Las Vegas bling.  You could do a Las Vegas strip scene with some famous landmarks, making Bosch (the Line Rider character) cruise around the New York, New York rollercoaster, up the Paris tower, etc., etc.  Get creative.  Here’s some inspiration: Jagged Peak Adventure.

Post a link to a video of your track as a comment on this blog post prepending the subject with [Line Rider].  I’ll pick the winner Monday, 23 Feb 2009.  This gives you a while to do it, but at the same time plan accordingly for a trip to Vegas if you win :-).  This free pass is ONLY for registration so you still have to get yourself to Las Vegas plus any lodging you’d require.

Option 2 – Visualize Some Data with Silverlight

One of the MIX lab projects is Descry.  This is a project in data visualization.  It isn’t a toolkit that you can automatically apply to any data, but a lab project to take an approach on developing infographics which represent different ways to look at data.  So your task would be to get inspiration from Descry and create a data visualization in Silverlight using public data of some sort.  This could be something depressing like the unemployment rates over time in correlation to Presidential administrations or housing market values across your region.  Or it could be something even more interesting like perhaps the visualization of a Porshce design since the automaker’s inception, something with stock data (not a stock chart), etc.  Whatever.  You define it.  But use real information, nothing made up and name the source of your information!

Post a link to your Silverlight project as a comment on this blog post prepending the subject with [Descry].  I’ll also pick the winner of this one on Monday, 23 Feb 2009 by end of day. 

Option 3 – Create a new preloader

Inspired by similar thoughts that Page wrote recently which I agree on, I’m adding another option.  Create a new default preloader for Silverlight apps.  Use some wicked vectors, create an interesting animation.  Get inspired by other designers.  The goal would be to make it generic enough for anyone to use, but also creative.  That’s only a guide though…get crazy on this one.

Post a link to your running preloader as a comment on this blog post prepending the subject with [Preloader].

For both all of these please be sure to use a REAL email address in the comment form – it isn’t made public but will get to me…I need a way to contact you.  If you have questions, leave them here or ping me on Twitter as well!

Have fun and good luck!

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From time to time I’ve gotten a few inquiries as to what platform my blog is, what tools do I use, etc.  After a recent trip to Redmond and visiting with the Live Writer team, I got another inquiry while talking with a customer.  I thought I’d just spit out my thoughts.

First, my platform.  Yes there are many platforms out there for blogging.  Probably the most popular are Wordpress and Blogspot.  I think those are popular because you can get up and running for free and have it hosted.  My wife and her friends mostly use Blogspot for that reason.  Only a little customization is allowed, but skilled people can get creative.  For us propeller heads though, we don’t like hosted solutions :-).  I started a long while back on the .TEXT platform.  When Scott Watermasysk had started working with Telligent and Community Server, the .TEXT project was at a bit of a stand-still for growth.  A few picked up the project source code, forked it and created Subtext, which is the platform I now use.  Subtext has a good developer ecosystem around it and led by Phil Haack, there are constant improvements being discussed on the developer list.  It has served me well since I made the move and I’ve contributed features/fixes myself to make it better for me to use!  I’ve tinkered with Graffiti CMS, but for now, Subtext is my comfort zone and has given me no reason to leave.  There are a few things in the overall engine that are a bit dated, but heck the team is all volunteers and open source, so I’m not holding that against anyone.

As for tools, I’ve come to love Windows Live Writer.  Honestly, if you are a blogger and don’t use Writer, I have to ask why.  Seriously…even if you are the casual blogger.  I’ve heard my wife’s friends complain about formatting pictures in Blogspot…then they see Writer and love it!  When I first started blogging I would use the web site and my blog engine.  But quite honestly that is limiting to very basic posting information.  It doesn’t make authoring easy.  I initially started using BlogJet in the early days.  Honestly, it’s a good tool and I happily paid for it.  Probably my only reason for switching to Live Writer was because of the programming model.  As a developer I wanted to be able to customize it and take advantage of other customizations from others.  I remember getting word that Live Writer was available internally.  I took a look at it. 

The moment I downloaded it and installed it I knew we were going to be on to something.  But there were glaring holes.  That being said, I was a responsible beta user and gave feedback…very blunt feedback.  I remember within a week being invited on a phone call with the team to help them understand my feedback.  It was GREAT!  I told them that as-is they shouldn’t release…there were too many holes and releasing without a few key features would be detrimental to future releases.  Quickly I was introduced to some APIs and we talked through certain scenarios.  A few we agreed at the time couldn’t be core, and I volunteered some time to look at building some plugins with their help.  That was the birth of a few of my tools (Tag4Writer and Flickr4Writer).  Tag4Writer was a stop-gap until the Tags feature could get into the next release (which the functionality has and much better).  Flickr4Writer was a great learning experience in client development as well as working with a great team.  I’ve constantly stayed close to the feedback loop with the team to make it a better product.  To date, there is no better authoring product for me than Live Writer.

That being said, here’s my complete tools for blogging:

  • Subtext – my blog engine
  • Windows Live Writer (WLW) – authoring tool
  • Flickr4Writer – a plugin for WLW that enables browsing and insertion of pictures from Flickr and also has BlogThis support
  • S3Browser - a plugin that enables insertion/upload of bits to Amazon S3 storage.  I wrote this along with tremendous help from Aaron Lerch.  This enables me to keep my images/files stored on a reliable network and reduce overall bandwidth usage.
  • Leo Vildosa’s Code Snippet plugin – another plugin for WLW which enables me to insert formatted code snippets.  I know people have their favorites (and there are a lot of them) – this one is mine.
  • Dynamic Templates – a WLW plugin from one of the developers of Writer that enables you to provide your own “macros” within the plugin, helpful in a lot of cases
  • Creative Commons footer – a WLW plugin to append a Creative Commons note to every post without having to think about it.
  • Twitter Notify plugin: a WLW plugin to automatically update Twitter after posting
  • Templates: every blog should be as unique as you can make it.  Some of us are more skilled in design than others.  I’m not one of them.  I get my inspiration from others.  Wordpress has the best ecosystem of templates…learn from them.  There are a few sites that advertise templates like wpSnap.com and others.  Also look at SmashingMagazine.com always, they have some great stuff they find/provide with liberal licensing.

As you can see, my tools completely revolve around Live Writer.  There is only one instance where I can’t use it to do what I need: Enclosures – and I’ve been providing the team feedback around this feature to hopefully get it into their next release. 

For Mac Users: No, there isn’t a version of Writer for Mac :-(.  I’ve heard a lot of people on Mac say they keep a Windows virtual image around just for using Live Writer…wow.  There are some other tools (ecto and Mars Edit) but I haven’t used them extensively to know if they are good or not.  I know they don’t provide the suite of tools that I use so I don’t even bother exploring for now.

I’ve made a lot of investment in making Writer+Subtext an easy authoring setup for me and it has paid off in productivity savings.  Hopefully you have a set of tools on your own as well that keep you productive!

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RIApalooza logo

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to attend the RIApalooza event in Chicago in a few weeks (31 MAY).  What is RIApalooza?

RIApalooza promises a platform agnostic and "PowerPoint-Free" zone, which means we are going to forgo the boring marketing pitches in favor of talking technology. RIApalooza is about creating Rich Internet Applications; how to go about building them and what is being built.  source: riapalooza.com

I love the PPT-free zone aspect of it.  I loving having the maximum time to show some real working code, answer questions and see what everyone is working on.  I’ve decided to team up with a great designer, Corrina, where we will demonstrate some fun things.  It should be a great time.  I don’t want to give too much away, so if you are in the area, you should absolutely come.  You can register on the site, so be sure to do so.  I’ll be coming in on Friday and might need to do some fine tune prepping but would love to meet as many folks as possible at the meet-n-greet on Friday night.  Follow me on Twitter if you’d like and hopefully I’ll be able to post where the fun is happening.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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The Code Trip LogoWow, it's been a few months now since I thought about doing a road trip talking about the next wave of technologies.  I originally thought it would be the "Silvertour" but we've now actually made it happen.  I can tell you that the behind the scenes of this has been a long process.  It seems so simple and I can hear the people now saying 'why was it so hard, c'mon you are Microsoft and have zillions of dollars.'  Sure, maybe that is true about a big company, but that's also the point.  We are a company of companies and thus we still have budgets.  For me, that's been the biggest challenge wrangling in budgets, efforts, desires, balancing other goals, etc.  It's been a long process.

But it's on baby.  The Code Trip is coming...like in a few days literally.  We thought small (budgets) and wanted to go the RV route.  Well, for various reasons (stop by an event and we can chat), we got a friggin tour bus.  And in fact it's the tour bus coming off the Styx tour.  How crazy is that?  Here's a preview of what we'll be cruising around the western U.S. in:

The Code Trip Bus

So we're off...leaving from MIX on Thursday, March 6 (stop by the blogzone to help send us off).  Our schedule is up on the site and will be continuously updated.  The site will be evolving after MIX announcements :-).  We're excited to head out.  We know we've forgotten things probably.  Heck, it will be a great time and we look forward to seeing you all on the road.  Visit the site, subscribe to the main feed, follow us for real-time updates on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.  We'll be having contest announcements TODAY as well so you'll want to make sure you follow all those links as we'll announce some contest in certain areas.

From MIX we'll be hitting these cities first:

Please join us in person if you can, but follow us on line to view our daily log podcasts and code samples we'll be putting up.  See you on the road!

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i'm twittering some of my thoughts on the firestarter event.  also as people are answering questions i'm trying to provide direct pointers...so if you are interested, follow me on twitter.

also the event is being filmed so subscribe to my blog for updates on when that information is available.