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when vista came out, clearly one of the biggest pain points to end users was user account control (UAC).  this is the feature that requires authorization to run certain applications which would require elevated privileges...most notable being installations.  osx, of course, has had this feature for a while.  osx requires the user to authorize elevated changes like changing account information or other system settings, as well as installations.  osx differs slightly in that once you authorize in certain areas (like sys prefs) it remains 'unlocked' until you lock it again explicitly or other actions do.

another thing that vista (and actually xp sp2) introduced was protecting users from downloaded files.  if you downloaded a file and then tried to use/execute it, vista would prompt you that you downloaded the file and should be cautious, etc.  a good feature IMO.  after prepping my clean pave of leopard i downloaded a few of my apps and when launching one saw this:

looks like leopard implemented a similar feature.  it is good to see security taking a priority in updates to operating systems.  sometimes they are annoyances (i actually think this one is in vista and in leopard), but i get it, to the 'lay user' software developers have an obligation to do their best to protect the system, user and networks while at the same time balancing that with proper user experience.  i've seen other leopard security improvements as well that catch up to some of the introduced features in vista...good to see it taking a front seat, or at least i think so.

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well, it's been over 12 hours since leopard was available to the masses and the early reviews seem to be in.

yawn.

i just got my discs and will be updating my machines soon to see (i'm going to try to update one and clean install the other).  but i'm reading the reviews and they aren't promising.

dave winer says the upgrade process went fine, but he seems left with wondering what did he upgrade too? he says:

Net-net, my first impression of Leopard is that it isn't a big deal one way or the other.

interesting.  i thought this was supposed to be apple's biggest os ever.  i'm sure to some it will be.  when i look at the 'over 300 features' i laugh a bit.  since when do we call fixes and critical updates features that count toward a benefit to upgrade?  i see some key updates in leopard.  spaces, time machine, some UI glitz (transparencies and new dock features), etc.  but are those core enough to make it that much better?  ichat backgrounds...do those improve your daily experience with leopard?

and what is with the blue screen of death on leopard?!?!? i thought that was trademarked by microsoft?  i love the comment that at least steve jobs could have picked a different shade of azure or someting ;-) -- if more of these BSOD reports come in, wikipedia will have to change the definition of BSOD!

i'm doing a little wayne's world flashbacking in my head about all the vista reviews of how the UI improvements were crap if that is all that was included in vista.  flip3d, yawn, etc., etc. -- so there is some of that happening with leopard.  maybe the geniuses of user design/experience should have been more public with their beta to get feedback?

matt neuburg has a write-up that caught my eye as rather than just pointing out general statements he articulates on some of the key 'features' and what he sees the problems are.  i think his points are valid and does make me wonder about the user experience design elements that went into some of the things he's pointing out.

it also gets me wondering about what i just paid for.  did i just pay for a service pack?  sure, spaces and some things are new, but are those incremental improvements?  when i look at the 300 improvements i seem to see some service pack-y things rather than features:

    • Descriptive Error Messages
    • Dashboard -- are these new improvements or just new widgets?
    • Improved full-screen interface
    • Video quality improvements
    • improved iCal interface (not a new version, just 'improved')

you get where i'm going with this.  it somewhat bothers me as a msft employee a bit that leopard (OSX - 10.5) is considered a 'new operating system' when really it is an incremental improvement over tiger (10.4).  really, i think i just paid for a service pack.  apple has always said that microsoft took 5 years to update their operating system, but at the same time has considered 'dot' releases to OSX as major upgrades.  by that definition, what is XP, XP SP1, XP SP2, etc. -- those are 'dot' releases providing improvements and incremental updates.  c'mon apple, fess up that leopard is a service pack with some glitz.  it's okay to admit it, people will still by it.

i'm starting my upgrade/install now and will see how it goes.  i'm jaded by some reviews already but they seem to hit features that i use, so if i'm negatively affected, i'll be upset.  what is funny is that leopard seems to enable the ability to go back to different modes, but it involves terminal commands.  at least windows gives users UI options to toggle to their preferred settings.

another fair review from macworld themselves states "...in reality the changes are a mixed bag"

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thanks to for prodding me about updating the msdn search sidebar gadget.  i had found this issue as well myself when i realized it wasn't working anymore.  well, it was because msdn went through a redesign and their urls changed...so much for scraping :-)

well, i updated mine and i'm sure is swamped and may not have a chance to update his (and i didn't want to redist his code, but here's what i did).

on mine you can just download the new one here: MSDN Search Sidebar Gadget

when i say "mine" it is just a basic typical gadget.  nikhil's was written using his which is fantastically awesome.  he also has some UI updates.  which one is better?  they both yield the same result...i actually use nikhils because his UI is better...i'm merely updating mine here for the masses (same download link).

on to nikhil's changes required.  if you want to just update the currently installed one, go to C:\Users\<youruserid>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets and look for the installation point.  on my machine it is called "MSDNSearch.gadget" and open that folder.  in there you will find an MSDNGadget.js file.  go to line 26 and change:

http://search.msdn.microsoft.com/search/data.ashx?&query={0}

to

http://search.msdn.microsoft.com/search/Feed.aspx?query={0}&feed=rss

boom, then you are done.  if you want to modify the script# project, then open the MSDNSearch.cs file and make the same change to the SearchUrlFormat private string on line 13.  then you can recompile and all is well.

hope this helps...and thanks for the nudge mike!

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i had a great time at the day i attended at the portland code camp!  i'm sorry for those who couldn't make it, you missed out!  we also had a great time at the kennedy school afterwards on saturday (an old elementary school transformed into a bar, restaurant, movie theater, hotel, etc. -- very cool, all the insides of the school left in tact).

i delivered 3 presentations at the saturday session of code camp: virtual earth, sidebar gadgets and popfly.  first and foremost, thank you for those that attended my sessions (i apologize for the room changes again), i hope you learned at least one thing new...even if it was small.

as promised, i said i'd post my code/etc. after the sessions, so...

a lap around virtual earth

of all the , i really enjoy the most.  i'm not sure why, maybe it's the interactiveness (is that a word) of it...whatever it is, it makes me feel all fuzzy inside and i find myself trying to inject maps into everything i do...not really, but sometimes.  the code that i demonstrated in the session is included in the zip file below...both the web application code as well as the winform code we didn't get a chance to dig deeper into.  additionally, the slides are included (all 5 of them), and i'm sure 4 of them are not helpful, but included them for the resources slide mainly.  as i mentioned, for virtual earth, the #1 resource for virtual earth development is the in my opinion.

i hope i made it clear that virtual earth is something that can be leveraged in any application, not just asp.net or windows forms application.  because of the nature of the api, it can be used on any platform: .net, php, jsp, jsf, rails, plain-ol-html, whatever.  one thing that was also announced at the mix conference was the licensing terms of the live services platform.  the licenses have changed, making them very attractive for everyone to consume and confident to the app builder that there is stability behind the platform.  virtual earth is free (free as in read the license) to use in applications that are public facing...it really is a great platform and with the licensing makes it more attractive than some competitors...take a look.

i also briefly mentioned a provider framework i had monkeyed with a while back for geocode providers.  it is currently hosted on the gotdotnet platform (which is planned to be phased out), but there is a link on my blog describing it...see it here if you are interested.

i also demonstrated two applications that i participated in that make use of this technology in addition to asp.net ajax and the asp.net ajax control toolkit.  here they are here:

-- a new phenomena spreading like wildfire across the country...or it should.  allow me to explain the concept a little bit.  similar to nerd dinners (which those in portland should be familiar with), this was started by a group of entrepreneurs who met weekly for lunch to talk about small biz stuff, etc.  they decided it was good to involve the greater technical community.  now, once a week (on wednesdays), a bunch of geeks meet at a place for lunch and chat.  there aren't any presentations, nobody brings their laptops (not that you couldn't), no "topic" exists, it is simply a chance to socialize a bit more, and talk...a novel concept i know.  i've met a lot of new people this way and recommend you do it in your area -- lunch usually works better for most as well ... it likely isn't taking personal time away.  the site link above is a sample site only (not real data) to demonstrate technical stuff -- stay tuned for the official site where you can search/add your own lunch for your community area.

okay, rant over -- the techlunch site uses asp.net ajax and the control toolkit, virtual earth (v5), sql 2005 proximity searching, etc.  one thing i failed to demonstrate in that sample was that as you move the map around, it is responding to events to start showing you relevant data to the map view.  for example, if you search on 85281, you'll see some lunch points...but if you scroll the map north, you'll start to see a few more appear...showing relevant point information as it comes into a view that makes sense to the user.

-- a prototype that i build for the area where i live to search publically available sex offender information.  this mashup makes use of virtual earth (version 4), custom pushpins/hovers, sql server 2005 and proximity searching, my geocode provider for asp.net (geocode information provided by yahoo apis), asp.net ajax for web service communication and json object parsing.  you can use 85242 as a sample zip code

presentation materials: VE-PDX.zip

developing sidebar gadgets

i'm also attaching my slides here (again, all few of them, none of which helpful but the resources).  in the session we didn't really create one from scratch (but i hope it was still informative in the sporadic nature :-)), so there wasn't a chance of walking through some of the gadget-specific javascript api's.  allow me to take a moment and give you an example, maybe a lame one, but one nonetheless.  first, install my gadget template for visual studio, then create a new gadget (remember the tip, create it in the <user>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets folder and let's call it "ContactEmitter.gadget" (remember to include .gadget for easy debugging).  once you've done that, change nothing, but go into en-US\gadget.html and put this line of code after the javascript where it is setting the settingsUI line (which is line 7 in the template):

   1:  function showContacts()
   2:  {
   3:      var colc = System.ContactManager.Contacts;
   4:      var listing = document.getElementById("list");
   5:      listing.innerHTML = "";
   6:      
   7:      for (i=0; i<colc.count; i++)
   8:      {
   9:          listing.innerHTML += colc.item(i).name + "<br/>";  
  10:      }
  11:      
  12:      colc = null;
  13:      listing = null;
  14:  }

then in the "undocked" <div> element add this:

   1:  <div id="list"></div>
   2:  <input type="button" value="iterate" onclick="showContacts();" />

then add the gadget to your sidebar and move to undocked state...<borat_voice>so nice</borat_voice> -- now you have a sample that integrates with the Windows Contacts of Vista (like me, you probably have none in there -- but play around with adding, etc. and click the button again, you'll see it working, trust me) -- if you don't believe me, it should look something like this:

i hope that helps -- take a look at the gadget sources, look at http://gallery.live.com for some more samples...remember CASE ;-)!

presentation materials: Developing Gadgets.zip

microsoft popfly

thanks for sticking around as well for the bonus session.  i am really excited about popfly for a few reasons.  it really demonstrates some of the power of in an application that mixes ajax, html, input controls, animation, etc. in one.  it also enables very rapid mashup creation.  visit the microsoft site for more information and to view some videos if you missed our session (we emulated building twittervision.com in about < 30 seconds -- and as someone pointed out with me talking -- using popfly).  the sdk is also on the site.  thanks to those who requested an invite and i'm promising to do the best i can to distribute (and get more) invites!

a special thanks to the community leaders

the best part of my job is interacting with the technical communities...this is where it is at...people sharing, collaborating, and learning.  the mechanism of user groups, tech talk lunches, nerd dinners, code camps, bar camps, and whatever have, in my opinion, proven very valuable to the communities.  i appreciated those who took the time to help be a part of this code camp (and others) by volunteering, organizing, sponsoring, flying in and presenting, and simply being there.  you are doing a great service to the greater technical community by participating and sharing.  sure, code camps, etc. don't have the massive organizations behind them (and there likely won't be plates in between breaks with snickers and sodas), but that is sorta the point...for the community, by the community.  that is what makes it great.  if you have complaints about community interaction and organization, there is a simple solution to that -- get involved!  if you don't, then i politely ask you to shut your trap -- and i mean that in the nicest way :-)  but seriously, mad props to those who donate their personal times away from friends, family and work to help out for us all -- big ups to you all.

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Welcome LifeHacker visitors!

[UPDATE: More updated information and alternative download links here: Foxit PDF Previewer.]

UPDATE: If you are experiencing problems with 'white page' PDF previewing, it is likely the PDF has scanned images.  See this post for an update on how to fix: Foxit Previewer Update.

in my daily work i spend a majority of my 'computing' time in outlook.  communicating with peers, team members, customers, etc. is mostly done via communication (sad, i know).  a lot of that time it involves sending information attachments back and forth, using office documents, etc.  i've said a lot about how much i love the preview functionality within vista and office 2007.  i even wrote a code preview handler for .cs, .vb, .sql, .js files.

one of the samples in the msdn article by stephen toub was for pdf files...of which i receive a lot.  i don't use adobe reader because i think it is overkill for reading pdf's personally.  the sample, however, relies on having adobe reader installed...which i didn't like.  i started working with the , because i love their reader product.  after some communication with the team at foxit, we started collaborating.

as a result of that collaboration, and i partnered to create the 'foxit pdf preview handler' which you can download for free!  this is a pdf preview handler for outlook 2007 and windows vista.  the current version requires vista, but we are working on a windows xp version for outlook 2007 on winxp.  what this enables you to do is, well...the following:

Foxit PDF Preview Handler

no need for adobe to be installed, etc.  it's fast, it's furious.

there is no official support included for this add-on, but i'm happy to field questions/suggestions myself.  keep in mind, i'm not going to be (nor will they) altering the pdf renderer...that's their product.  if you need pdf rendering capabilities within your application, i highly suggest looking at integrations using their dll and activex sdk's for your applications.  they are a great company with a great team.  it's a global team and they were very responsive throughout our communication.  i really appreciated their willingness to collaborate on something so simple and helpful to the greater community.  please give them a look-over.

why the 'banner' in the pdf render?  well, it's free :-).  that only shows up there as well...won't be in the printed document or anything...i think it is great to give them credit and a simple, small, unobtrusive banner is entirely appropriate.

please download the foxit pdf preview handler and install today!

Alternate Download Links here.

UPDATE (28-MAR-2008): Windows XP only version here.

file: Foxit PDF Preview Handler