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In my spare time, I've been working on an open source project management tool called Scrumr.  Scrumr is a lightweight app for managing sprints per Scrum methodology.  You can find out more about the project at http://codeplex.com/scrumr/

In the meantime, we need your help.  Please go to http://communitycodingcontest.org/ and vote for Scrumr.  We need the tools to make better software.  Voting is open until October 15, 2008.

Thanks!

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Registration is now open for the Pittsburgh launch of Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008.  The launch is April 14 at the Westin Convention Center--additional details as they become available.

The date seems to have changed--I recall is being April 4 last week, so make sure you schedule the right day to be out of the office.

Register at http://www.heroshappenhere.com/.

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A little birdie just told me Pittsburgh Code Camp 2008 is confirmed for April 12 at Pitt's Sennott Square (Department of Computer Science).  Watch the Pgh .NET website for more information.

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My latest ASP Alliance article has been published:

Easy SQL to XML with LINQ and Visual Basic 2008

In this article, I demonstrate how to create an XML file from a SQL Server 2005 database using LINQ. He provides a detailed explanation of the relevant steps with the help of source code and screenshots captured from Visual Basic 2008 Express Edition. At the end of the article, he also gives a few references where you can learn more regarding the techniques involved with LINQ.

If you're looking for a super quick intro to using Linq to SQL and Linq to XML using Visual Basic, this might be what you're looking for.  I've added links to a couple other useful references, too.

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We've been working with some offsite contractors who needed  good documentation of our databases and DTS packages.  After looking around at several available programs, we settled on dtsdoc and dbdesc, both of which I think are great.  So, my latest article has been published on ASP Alliance:

Review: dtsdoc and dbdesc

I am a fan of simple tools which work well and save me a lot of time. Two of my "new best friends" are Logica2's sister programs dtsdoc, which documents SQL Server DTS packages, and dbdesc, which documents SQL Server schemas. The documentation is complete and generated quickly, and both programs have found a lasting place in my SQL Server toolkit.

 

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Crystal Reports XI EncyclopediaHot off the presses and into my hands comes Brian Bischof's Crystal Reports Encyclopedia Volume 1: Professional XI Reports.  Brian's first book was an invaluable help in my work with Crystal Reports .NET, and this book looks to be just as good.  Many of these chapters were available online for free at www.crystalreportsbook.com

After his first book caught on, and CR X was released, Business Objects hired Brian to consult on features and improvements for CR XI.  Th efeedback he received from the developer community, plus hi sown experience, helped shape Crystal Reports XI.  In addition, Brian has insight into Crystal Reports XI like no other author has.  If you're using Crystal Reports XI, this is a must-have for you.

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In the beginning, Community Credit was fun.  Make some blog posts, answer some forum questions, and get a geeky prize (don't judge me, swag whores).  After a while, some folks figured out how to game the system a little, and some seriously major participants also signed up.  Not sure how some of these people got all those points.  It wasn't fun, because you couldn't even come close.

Recently, David has made some changes.  Some of the top contributors were promoted to the Hall of Fame, point values have been changed, and a negative curve is applied to winners for two months.  Suddenly, stupid prizes are readily available again.  I'm awaiting my 10th place from July.  Woot!

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Friends Cindy Closkey and Mike Woychek are back in the saddle with another awesome opportunity to learn about blogging, podcasting and marketing in the "new media".  Sadly, I'll be on my way to Hilton Head Island this weekend.  But don't let that be an excuse not to attend--it will still be a great event.

In case you haven't heard, PodCamp Pittsburgh is coming back for a SECOND great year!

WHAT: PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 (or PCPGH2)
WHEN: August 18-19, 2007@ 9 AM - 5 PM
WHERE:
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh (420 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15219)
COST: FREE!

UPDATED! The session schedule is open! Please visit the website to view the schedule or add your own if you want to conduct a session and share your knowledge!

Meet social media creators -- and fellow viewers / listeners / readers!

Exchange tips, build contacts and launch new ideas!

Learn how to integrate (or improve) podcasting, blogging and social networking into YOUR
business!

Questions? Sponsorships? Registration?

For more information, please visit our website:

http://podcamppittsburgh.com

You can also add us at Twitter: http://twitter.com/pcpgh

Looking forward to seeing everyone in August!

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On Friday at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, Wikia, the Web 2.0 community builder behind Wikipedia, gave the world an update on its progress toward building a new search platform based on open-source software and human collaboration.
...
Wikia executives said that by combining Grub with the power of a wiki to form social consensus, the Wikia search project has taken the next major step toward a future in which search is open and transparent.  

Full article at http://www.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=13200C4Q51SO&nl=2; more story at http://www.linuxinsider.com/edpick/58567.html.

At first blush, this sounds like a great idea!  But, where human input is allowed--especially when from anonymous sources--one must watch for agenda-driven results, rather than relevance-driven results.  We see this already with Google-bombing, Digg-ing, and even on Wikipedia itself.   Part of the death knell of DMOZ was ego-driven editors keeping rivals from the listings.  The directory was wildly incomplete, and its utility was limited and eventually surpassed by Google's* search abilities and completeness.

For politicians, their entries in Wikipedia are a constant tug-of-war between their supporters (or their staff) and those who oppose the politician.  Usually, the truth is somewhere in the middle, but depending on the moment you read Wikipedia, are you getting the full story?

User reviews have also become targets of "black-hat" techniques.  Recently here in Pittsburgh, someone rated six flower shops with almost identical comments (now removed) and 1-2 stars.  There was obvious malicious intent, possibly from a competitor.  The reviewer could not show she had ever been a customer from any of the shops she reviewed, which is why the reviews were promptly removed when pointed out to the review service.

Anonymous human collaboration has opened up an entire new industry known as "reputation management".  The mere existance of such an industry puts the lie to the idea that harnessing human collaboration is superior to cold mathematics.  I'd much rather have the scatter from mathematics than a single train of thought provided by the most active linkers/diggers/editors.

*Yes, I'm aware Google has human editors tweak search results, but I'm not sure to what extent, and from what Matt Cutts has implied, it's mainly to cull spammy and malicious results or confirm algorithms.

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In my continuous quest for The Perfect RSS Aggregator, I've tried a number of options, including Thunderbird, NewsGator, Google Reader and RSS Bandit.  I've lately been testing FeedGhost, and have been very pleased thus far.

Upon installation, a three-step installer gets you started very easily with the reading style, importing OPML and choosing a theme.  When the app starts, you're trated to a gorgeous interface.  Even on Windows XP, the application carries a Vista look.  Screenshots are available from their website at http://www.feedghost.com/Promo/Screenshots.aspx.  Instead of a menu, FeedGhost uses a ribbon-like interface.  I am partial to the Outlook-style interface, but the application can also be used in the Google Reader "river of news" style.

After installing at work, FeedGhost imported the OPML from RSS Bandit flawlessly, and started checking for posts.  FeedGator is fairly fast--considerably faster than Thunderbird, but not quite as fast as RSS Bandit (still the fastest RSS aggregator I've found).

FeedGhost supports tagging of posts, and the creating of "link blogs" (similar to del.icio.us) which can be shared.  During the trial period, synchronization is available and automatic.  I installed FeedGhost at home, and after the wizard, it instantly synchronized my feeds from their server, as well as the posts I had not deleted, and began checking for updates.  Overall, it was seamless, painless and quick to have everything I left from work appear at home.  And that's a lot of what I'm looking for in an aggregator.

Once the trial period has ended, there's a $20 annual fee for continued use of some of the features (such as synchronization and support for more than 20 feeds).

Three improvements I'd like to see are:

1) Speed.  Reed Ghost is fast, but RSS Bandit is so much faster.

2) Mobile reader (mentioned as an upcoming feature)

3) The ability to take posts off-line, for reading on a plane for instance, and to sync up again when reconnected.  Double bonus if I can sync the off-line feeds to my Treo 700w.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased, almost enough to switch from RSS Bandit and pay the annual subscription for the sync capabilities.

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My company recently purchased a new Kodak EasyShare camera for one of our warehouses.  There's a lifespan of approx. 2 years for anything electronic on a loading dock, and the previous camera was called to its heavenly reward.  Or run over by a forklift--there's some uncertainty there.

EasyShare cameras can be mounted via USB connection, and operate pretty much as a USB drive, or you can install the EasyShare software for some added functionality.  I was disappointed in Kodak when the installation committed three cardinal sins of software installs:

1) Slow.  It took nearly 10 minutes to install, and required a reboot.

2) Unwanted icons on the desktop without asking.  I'm not so picky about the program icon on my desktop without being asked, but I'd prefer being asked.  One of the two icons was QuickTime, which is notorious for this (as well as one in the Quick Launch bar, but these are a beef with Apple, not Kodak).  The third was an icon to download and install FireFox.  WTF?  Unrelated software and shortcut clutter.  Stop that!  Leave my desktop alone--I have it just how I want it.

3) The last one is unpardonable.  An un-cancellable wizard, not for configuration, but for information gathering.  Kodak wants to know where you bought your camera, but "gift" isn't an option ("other" is).  But the worst is a setup for Kodak's EasyShare Gallery, which sounds like a photo-sharing site.  The three options are presented below.  To paraphrase, "I have an account", "I want an account", or "I want an account later".  There's no "Thanks but no thanks" option.  And that is unconsionable.

I finished the wizard, and promptly uninstalled the software.

My advice--avoid EasyShare software until Kodak repents.  The cameras are good, but don't install the software.

Easy Share Wizard

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Mark your calendars--the launch date for Visual Studio 2008 (Orcas), SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn) has been announced.

February 27, 2008.

In LA, but expect regional events as well, probably filled with free goodies as before.

More story at http://www.sqlmag.com/Article/ArticleID/96591/sql_server_96591.html.

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My buddy Shaun Eutsey had his first ASP Alliance article published today:

CodeSnip: Taming the Page Flash Beast in ASP.NET 2.0

Since SmartPageNavigation has gone to the wayside, there has been no real, non-AJAX way of eliminating the flash when a postback occurs. This code snippet will explain how to eliminate the page flash without using AJAX.

Congrats Shaun!

Read the full article at http://aspalliance.com/1232_CodeSnip_Taming_the_Page_Flash_Beast_in_ASPNET_20.

 

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The flippin' awesome Ankh Subversion plug-in for Visual Studio has its 1.0 Final release the other day.  Official post at http://arildf.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!E99F8B43533149B0!221.entry.  Download from http://ankhsvn.tigris.org/servlets/ProjectDocumentList?folderID=7315, you want the 2727-Final build (list isn't in order).

Congrats and thanks to Arild for a great tool.

(hat tip: Daily Grind 1064)

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The folks at ASP.NET have posted a new By The Community, For the Community poll.  Choices are pretty good--an e-commerce extension to the Small Business Starter Kit, an events calendar, AJAX popup calendar, an image gallery control, or a DB-driven menu with roles.  So far, the menu is way in the lead.

Vote at http://asp.net/default.aspx?tabindex=6&tabid=50.

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