A Few Short Takes

I did say I was going to go a little dark when I took the new job didn’t I? Things have been hectic – my brother’s getting married in just under two weeks and I’m working on getting my part of my new project’s Business Requirements Document (otherwise known as the BRD) done before I leave on vacation. The BRD process is fairly odd for this project – for one, the project team is writing it instead of the business unit. Given that we’re building infrastructure, many of the “business” elements of the BRD are not particularly appropriate. But we’re muddling thru. In a meeting with my boss’s boss’s boss last week, he stressed the need for delivering incremental value. In other words, the need for using an agile process which is cool as far as I’m concerned.

I have a couple of longer posts coming, but here are a few short takes for a Monday morning:

Windows Live Writer

Everyone seems gaga over the new tool, so I downloaded it. Pretty cool. I’m writing this post using it. Typically, I write my posts in FrontPageSharePoint Designer and paste them into the dasBlog web editing interface – I’m pretty particular about the HTML that ends up on my blog. So far, Writer seems up for the job. And I love the Web Layout editing mode. Does have some bugs and missing features. For example, it has spell check, but not background spell check. And as Scott pointed out the category list is totally broken when you have a lot of categories. Writer has an SDK, and one of the examples they suggest building with it is “Tags from tagging services”. I’d like to have a simple text box where I could enter categories as tags, and have it automatically create any categories that aren’t already on my site. I’ve already got a side coding project going, but I’m almost done so maybe I’ll take that up next.

XNA Game Studio

I was researching some Xbox stuff for a customer several months ago and got wind of this plan. I can’t wait to see it running. I recently picked up Frank Luna’sIntro to 3d Game Programming: A Shader Approach based on Dave’s recommendation. I figure most, if not all, the source code will be obsolete in the XNA Framework world, but the concepts are spot on so it’s been a good read.

One aspect of this announcement that I haven’t seen talked about yet is the impact on the mod community. Many games today ship with an SDK – here are examples for Dungeon Siege, Half-Life 2 and Doom 3. Of course, the idea is that modder’s get a popular game and industrial-strength game engine to build on for almost no cost and the game publisher expands the value of their game – any mods require the original game to play. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could mod Halo 3? And combined with Live Anywhere, the possibilities are enormous. I can’t wait to see how this evolves.

New Machine & Vista

For the first time in my nearly 8 year MSFT career, I have a desktop machine. And it’s a nice one – a Dell Precision 690 workstation. 2x dual Xenon CPU, 2x 160GB SCSI Hard Drives, dual link DVI outputs for driving twin widescreen monitors – dual is very big on this machine. Pretty much the only skimpy part of this machine is the RAM – only 2GB. But I’m not running x64 (yet) so that’s not a huge deal (yet).

Of course, such a screaming machine runs the latest Vista build. I’m also running it on my laptop – with Aero Glass even, thanks to this driver. The combo of latest Vista build + latest Office build is pretty sweet.

With new machines and new operating systems, I’ve been spending significant time installing. The Dell box turned out to be a real pain as it only has the SCSI drives which are not standard on the WinXP install disk. I’m dual booting XP/Vista on both machines, but I had to create a custom slipstreamed XP install disk to get my Dell workstation up and running (Vista installed without any extra work). But now I’ve got the baseline install imaged – thanks to BootIt NG which I’ve spoken highly of before – I shouldn’t ever have to do that again.