Sunday, December 19, 2004

NDoc looking better

Just came across this: Popular .NET code documentation generator, NDoc 1.3 has been released. It spots an overhauled HTML Help 2 documenter, new code commenting tags, additional attributes support, custom tags, enhanced UI, better performance, and improved output consistency with MSDN topics.

With the new preliminary tag, now we can have the following default message appearing in the docs:

[This is preliminary documentation and subject to change.]

...much like those appearing in the beta MSDN docs of VS 2005. Too bad though, support for .NET framework 2.0 is lacking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Free .NET reporting tool

I was browsing around for free .NET components and stumbled upon this reporting tool. The tool is called StimulReports.Net and comes with a free edition. The product includes a report designer with royalty-free managed runtime engine. It supports ADO.NET data sources and the it uses an XML-based report format. The free edition comprises 10 components and has limited reporting capabilities -- probably just good enough for simple Windows Forms reporting requirements. (Update: The free edition is no more available.)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A wet afternoon at Tower 2

Spent the afternoon at the MIND meeting. The main talk of the day was about Paladin, a homegrown .NET object persistence framework, presented by Microsoft MVP and the author herself, Serena Yeoh.

Paladin offers O/R mapping, enterprise services transactional support, forward engineering, stored proc support, and the codegen wizard looks pretty sophisticated. Here's a goody: It's free!

Broaching on the subject of object persistence frameworks, it's too bad that Microsoft's ObjectSpaces is still not ready for prime time. It won't be ready till the release of WinFS. The bad news is that WinFS won't even make it into the initial release of Longhorn. :-( Not surprisingly, we're seeing a trend of such third-party/homegrown frameworks cropping up to fill the void. Some are free and some not.

Prior to watching Paladin in action today, WilsonORMapper by Paul Wilson is one such framework that I've keenly looked at so far -- primarily because the APIs resemble those of ObjectSpaces. It offers support for a wide range of databases and uses simple XML-file-based mapping configuration (instead of custom attributes).

Friday, December 10, 2004

When it is time to don the presenter's hat, ...

One video clip interests me during my regular visit to Channel 9. Don Box, well known (or notorious) for his highly-rated presentations reveals his presentation secrets. It's quite obvious he's not a big fan of Powerpoint. ;-) Anyway, here are some of his pointers for an attention-grabbing techie presentation:

  • Focus on the goal of giving a talk e.g. changing the thought-process of the listener.
  • Do something that gets and holds the listeners' attention. Whether you give a talk from a bathtub or have a flamenco band to harmonize with you, find a style that works for you.
  • Less is more. Use the minimum amount of code to convey an idea e.g. Use Hello World type examples. More people will have a chance of relating to it. Likewise, speaking less gives more too as listening is a taxing task.
  • Don't confuse concepts and facts. Facts shouldn't show up in a talk. In a talk, facts blur the truth. Feed concepts to your audience.
  • Use legible font. On Windows, use at least 14-point font.
  • Default highlighting in Visual Studio is not suitable for presentation. Change highlighting color to something contrasting on projection.
  • Take advantage of modulation. Modulation controls attention. Modulate the speed of talk. To emphasize a point, speak slower. Also, modulate pitch and intensity. e.g. for contrast, switch to speaking quietly.
  • If things go wrong, like failed demos, use the situation as some pedagogical device and use it to your advantage.
  • Don't cramp till 4am in the morning preparing for a talk. Better be restful and alert for a talk.
  • Powerpoint is a means to an end, not an end to itself. Meaning: Powerpoint is an aid, not the talk.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Can Thunderbird fly?

Having been an Outlook Express (OE) user for years, I'm tempted to look into alternatives. Although I have big brother Outlook installed on my PC, I've not made the switch because I rather have something simple, lightweight, and snappy to use. (I only use Outlook for synchronizing certain info stored on my PDA.)

Hence, I decided to take a look at Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 e-mail client today. Installation was a breeze. I did an import of my OE inbox (though only partially) and it worked as it should. One of the things I long for in OE is the 3-column layout as found in Outlook 2003. Thunderbird offers such a layout but it's not exactly the same. Outlook 2003 offers a better view of the message list pane in 3-column mode.

Images in some HTML messages are not loaded. This is a good privacy measure and there's an option to turn on the images. Thunderbird is a tad bit slower at loading individual messages compared to OE. This is probably due to Thunderbird having to do more work in the background to provide a more secure environment. Thunderbird features an adaptive junk mail filter which I haven't had the chance to thoroughly test out yet. Application loading is also slower than OE. There's also color-coding of message headers for different message categories (like in Outlook). Oh yes, Thunderbird offers Print Preview which OE doesn't. There's also an integrated RSS reader and newsgroup reader -- pretty cool.

Well, my impressions are good for a version 1 product. Though it didn't really fly, it definitely felt more secure. Best of all, it's free! On whether I'm making a switch from OE, I think I'll have to play with Thunderbird a little more. We'll see. ;-)

Friday, December 03, 2004

Back to blogging!

It's been a while since I last blogged (November 2003 to be exact). I intend to retrace some of the past interesting events and blog them here by backdating the posts. Why return to blogging? I don't know. Maybe blogging is becoming a cultural thing.

"Blog was the most common word visitors to Merriam Webster's online site sought a definition for throughout 2004."
Even Microsoft has entered the blogging arena through MSN Spaces ( Here's my blog space at MSN Spaces: I think I still like it here at Blogger -- the large fonts seem easier on the eyes. Maybe age is catching up :-P