Tap My Mind

A Blog by Scott Isaacs

Month: February 2008 (Page 1 of 2)

The Importance of Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling

So how important do you think correct grammar, punctuation and spelling are in the following situations?

  • Business e-mails
  • Personal e-mails
  • Instant messages
  • Blog posts
  • Twitter tweets
  • Online forum posts
  • Text messages
  • Writing code

I used to be terrible at punctuation and grammar when online.  Not because I didn’t know the rules, but because it took too much effort.  I started back in the last half of the 1990s when I started instant messaging and e-mailing lots of people (friends and family).  When I “grew up” and got a real job, I found that this carried over into a lot of my work e-mails as well.  I had enough sense to send “correct” e-mails to customers and clients, but I didn’t seem to find it important for internal messages.

Let me first say that I am sure that almost every post, e-mail, IM and tweet have one or more errors, but somewhere along the way, I’ve changed.  Now, in all but the shortest, three word e-mail responses to close friends or family I make the extra effort to try to clean it up, even if the other person doesn’t do the same.  Even in 95+% of my text messages I try to spell words out, add apostrophes and punctuate.  Even in my code I’ve found that I am better about things — better variable names, more consistent capitalization, more complete sentences in my comments, etc.

I don’t know why I changed on this.  Maybe because I started dealing with more and more customers and got used to it.  Maybe it was the English class I had to take when I finally finished my B.S. program in 2002.  Maybe it was the four years I spent in the interactive department and a newspaper.  Maybe it’s because I thought it would make me cooler (I need all the help I can get).

Anyway, now I have a little dilemma.  Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters.  It’s sometimes hard to put a well constructed sentence together in 140 characters.  Of my whopping 28 tweets so far, only 4 or 5 fail my tests.  Of the rest, most are complete sentences and some are partial sentences similar to news headlines.

There’s no real point to this post.  It was just something I noticed about myself and wondered what thoughts other people have about this.

A Christmas Shopping Story

Charlie Reading So Charlize and I were out Christmas shopping for Kelly a couple months ago.  We went to Barnes and Noble to see if there were any good books for Mommy.  We entered the store on the second floor through the kids section, so I grabbed a book for Charlie to read while I was shopping.

Charlie Reading While walking through the store, we got lots of looks.  I guess people have never seen a (then) 15 month old reading in her stroller.  What do they expect her to do in a bookstore?  Just sit there?  Well, apparently, the book was too elementary for her because, as you can see from the pictures, she finished it in a hurry.  She even read it 2 or 3 times.

Well, I was browsing the books and saw one that interested me, even though I was supposed to be shopping for my wife.  I stopped the stroller on the side of that aisle and took a quick look at the book.  (I don’t even remember what it was anymore.)  Since Charlie had already read her book 3 times now (maybe even 4 by this point), she started looking around and found one that looked particularly interesting to her.  She leaned forward in her stroller and grabbed this one off the shelf by herself.  Seriously.  She almost dropped it, but when I saw what she was doing I helped her out.

Charlie Reading The book she picked?  Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World’s Top Bloggers.  I’m not sure what interested her most: the interview with Mary Jo Foley or the one with Robert Scoble.  In either case, she really seemed to be attached to this one and had no interest in me putting it back on the shelf for her.

Charlie's BooksShe read this book for a while, but never finished it.  I think it was physically just too heavy for her little hands.  Either that or she got frustrated reading about The Unofficial Apple Weblog.  Eventually, we left it with the first book on a table in the coffee shop after drinking a venti something-or-other and a bottle of Fiji water.  I’m thinking I should add it to her Amazon wish list.

I know I will undoubtedly miss many moments in her life, but I want to keep that to a minimum.  When possible, Kelly and I try to capture as many things on camera as we can so that we always remember those moments that we don’t miss.  And so we can share them with family and friends who don’t get to see her very often.  Thank God for camera phones.

New Things I Want To Learn

Over the last 18 months or so, Microsoft has been releasing things faster than I am able to keep up.  Work keeps me really busy, and when I get home, I really haven’t been in the mood to write any code or really learn anything.  That said, there are a number of new things that I would like to get my head around.  The things I am most interested in at the moment are:

  • ASP.NET MVC
  • Silverlight 2.0
  • ASP.NET AJAX — I expect this one to be relatively easy once I get to it.

Additionally, I might be picking up the following over the next couple months at the office:

  • Compact Framework development (2.0 or 3.5, not sure yet)
  • WCF — This one is something I should have picked up right away when it came out.  It could make a big difference in some of the projects I have at work, but the task list has been too long so I’ve been finding other simpler (read: familiar) ways.

At the moment, I’m not looking to become an expert at any one of these topics.  I just want to get familiar enough with them to know the basics, as well as know where to go when I don’t know something.

For the personal list, I think I will start with MVC.  I plan to spend some time poking around www.asp.net as well as watching videos from Scott Hanselman — unless someone has some better suggestions for getting started, that is.

Three Years Of Mind Tapping Gooeyness

So I’ve been writing on this site for just over three years now, and this post is #230.  I really enjoy it and wish that I had more things to say and more time to say them.  That said, I’ve got a few goals for the blog for the upcoming year.  In order:

  1. Write more technical posts
  2. Write more community-focused posts
  3. Write more personal posts
  4. Less blogging about blogging

I’d really like to get up to around a dozen posts per month, but I won’t be too disappointed it stays in the 1-2 per week range.

I also have a goal of becoming more active on other social sites, starting with Twitter.  I’ve twittered about 20 things in the last week.  I have to say that using a desktop client (I’m using twhirl right now, but will try any suggestions) is SO much easier than using the Twitter website.  I’ve also been connecting with more people I know on Plaxo and LinkedIn.  I’ve been using Plaxo for a few years now, long before the whole Pulse networking thing.  I really like how it keeps my contacts and calendar in sync across computers.

I have a Facebook and MySpace account, but still can’t seem to really get interested in those.  I also can’t seem to get into the whole del.icio.us thing — I just don’t bookmark that much stuff, and when I do I use Google bookmarks from the toolbar (that’s really the whole reason I have the Google toolbar these days).  Maybe if I saw someone using del.icio.us in person, I would be inspired.  Maybe not.

So anyway, enough blogging about blogging.  Thanks for reading.

VS2008 DVDs From InstallFest

If you attended a VS2008 InstallFest in the last couple months and registered your trial copy of VS2008, you have probably received the final media in the mail in the last day or two (or probably will in the next day or two).  Someone sent me a note today asking about activated the installed trial version with the "real" software key.  He (and I) thought that it would be done from within the VS2008 IDE.

We were wrong.  In case anyone else is missing it like we were, this tip is for you.  You have to actually run the installer on the new disc.  Choose the option to "modify or uninstall" and after the installer finally loads, click next and you’ll see a handful of choices, including one to add a license key.  Copy the key from the disc jacket and you’re all set.

Looking For Virtualization Info and Advice

For two unrelated projects I am looking into server virtualization.  Both are for production systems and are not developer or consumer focused.  Most of the conversations I’ve had about VMs so far have been in the context of software development and software testing, but I know there are many people out there that have successfully virtualized their production server environment.  In talking about this with the people I’d be working on these projects with, here is a list of pros and cons we came up with based on what we’ve heard or read here and there — none of us are VM experts.

Pros

  • Can setup so that data is on one drive and OS/apps are on another, with each virtual drive being a separate VHD (virtual Hard Disk) file.  With that, we can easily backup the data drive separate from the OS/app drive, and in the event of a major problem, we can restore one without the other.  This can also be done with physical hardware, but we do not have access to the physical hardware.
  • Can create multiple virtual servers.  For example, we can put e-mail on its own server, SQL Server on its own, and web on its own.  We can then run all three VMs on a single physical machine.  If we tax the limits of the physical machine, moving one of the virtual machines to another physical is a simple file copy (for the most part).
  • Backups and restores of entire servers or disks are file copies.
  • If we have two physical servers we can schedule regular backs from one to the other and in the event of one physical server going bad, we can turn on all the VMs on a single physical server while repairing/replacing the first physical server.  Things would run more slowly, but at least they would be up.
  • We can test in other environments, such as Linux/Apache/Mono in a virtual server without having to have new hardware.
  • A problem with one virtual server will not affect the other servers.
  • Adding more servers is easy.  Make a copy of one and change a few settings.

Cons

  • Takes up more disk space as there are multiple copies of OS and some apps — installed for each VM.
  • I would guess that running all three VMs (from the example above) on a single real machine would be less performant that running the three services directly on the real server.
  • Multiple licenses to OS/apps are needed.  Multiple licenses = more $$$.

Questions

So based on what I have here so far, I have a few questions for my readers.

  • What pros and cons have I missed?  What pros and cons have I listed, but are incorrect, or have significant caveats?
  • Can anyone provide any real world advice, info or data that would help us determine if, how and what we should virtualize?
  • Are there some services that should not be virtualized?  POP3 e-mail?  Exchange Server?  SQL Server?  IIS?  If so, why and under what conditions?  Is it OK sometimes, but not in certain cases?
  • How much does the load on one VM affect the host?  What about the other VMs?
  • What about the host server?  Minimum hardware specs?  Recommended hardware specs?  How do I calculate what I need?  Do I simply add the specs of the VMs to calculate the specs of the host?
  • Microsoft Virtual Server?  VMWare Server?

If you have anything to add, please leave a comment here or contact me here or reply on Twitter.  I know there is a ton of info out there, but since this is not my area of expertise, I’d prefer to hear from someone I know who knows — even if what they share is simply their approval/disapproval of another source of information.

Thanks.

My Secret Recipe

Tonight, I had Charlie* to myself while Mommy is at work.  I made her dinner around 6PM or so, and then let her go play while I was making myself something to eat.  She’s almost 18 months now, and she plays really well by herself.  It’s neat to see her start to play with little dolls and her doll house.  I even saw her take a "sip" from her little tea set tonight.

Anyway, as I was saying, after feeding her, I made myself some dinner: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with Fried Hot Dogs.  Basically, you make the mac and cheese just like the box says, and in another skillet, you fry up some diced hot dog pieces.  When the mac is done, mix in the hot dogs.

Well, Charlie found her way into the kitchen while I was cooking and she seemed to want some more food.  She’s been eating a lot lately so she is probably growing.  So before I mixed the hot dogs in, I scooped out a little mac and put it in a separate bowl.  I let her keep running around, but she would keep coming back every few seconds for another bite.  Evidently macaroni and cheese is one of her favorites.

She’s also learning to talk right now and is just starting to pick up new words.  We’ve been stuck on "Mama", "Daddy", "uh oh", "good girl" and "what’s that" for what seems like forever, but the last week or so she’s been learning new words.  So I thought I would try to teach her to say macaroni.

Four syllables is too much for an 18 month old.

So I decided to go with just "mac".  Each time she would come for another bite (I almost typed byte right there… what a geek), I would say, "Charlie, say ‘mac’."

Each time, she said, "Cookie".  Guess what she’s been having as a snack the last couple days.

So anyway, I thought I would share my special recipe for any other dads that need to make a quick easy dinner for their kids.

Ingredients

1 pkg. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
1/4 cup Milk
4 tbsp. Butter
2 Hot dogs

Directions

Boil enough water to cover the noodles.  After water comes to a boil, add noodles and turn the heat down so that it doesn’t boil over.  Dads like to cook on high, but trust me and my experience, scrubbing burned water off of the stove takes a lot longer than the extra minute or so you get for cooking on high.  While the water and noodles are boiling, cut two hot dogs into small pieces, roughly 1/4" cube.  After the noodles have boiled for a while (about 7 or 8 minutes), strain them and return them to the pot.  Add butter (for best results, cut the butter into smaller chunks first), the milk and the powdered cheese stuff.  Stir well.  Scoop a small amount out for your toddler.  Then stir in the cooked hot dogs.  Be sure to drop a couple on the floor for the dogs (optional, only recommended if you have dogs).  Makes a daddy-sized serving and a Charlie-sized serving.

That’s it.  I’ve made this meal a number of times since I moved out almost 15 years ago, so, yes, I typed it from memory.

I can cook other stuff, though, too.  Things that don’t come from a box even.  Things that aren’t written on a recipe card.  Things that other people have told me were tasty enough to eat again.  The problem with that is two-fold:

  1. I’m alone tonight and don’t want to make that much food.
  2. I really don’t want to clean up after making one of those meals.

Maybe if I get inspired I’ll share another recipe sometime.

So anyway, try Scott’s Famous Mac and Cheese and Fried Hot Dogs sometime and share it with your kid.  They’ll love it and you’ll only have two pans to clean.

* Yes, she has her own website.  It’s full of photos for friends and family.  You have to register to see the photos, but feel free if you wish.  Kelly just wanted to be able to make it harder for the weirdos to see the pics.

New Milwaukee ALT.NET Group

If you were at the last WI .NET Users Group meeting, you already know, but for those that weren’t, there is a Milwaukee chapter of the ALT.NET User Group forming.  Dan Miser is heading things up and the first meeting is Weds, March 5.  Details are here.

If you’ve been following the movement, and are interested, you should definitely try to make it to the meeting and get involved.  The format of the meetings will probably be different than our normal WI .NET UG meetings.  From Dan’s blog post: "be prepared to be engaged, discuss, and share (bring your laptop to showcase code and/or slides)".

Dan and I got to talk a little after the last UG meeting, and we had a few ideas about collaboration between the two groups.  I’m looking forward to talking to him some more and getting some joint meetings and/or coordinated topics setup.

Wednesdays are tough for me, but I’m going to try to make it.  Please spread the word, and be sure to sign up for the meeting so Dan knows how many to expect.

Seeking Twitter Client Suggestions

Who uses Twitter?  Please send me suggestions for what clients you use and what you like and don’t like.  There’s lots of info out there, but would prefer to hear from people I know.

I’ve tried Twitter a couple times, and have posted a total of three tweets, one of which was today.  If I can make it easy enough for my lazy butt to do it, I’m planning to be more active.

Same as always, leave a comment on this page or contact me with your suggestions and/or thoughts.

Deeper in .NET 2008 Registration Open!

I’m very happy to announce that registration for Deeper in .NET 2008 is now open.  You can visit the site now to get the latest info and register to attend.

Lots of the info is still in the works, but there is definitely some good info out there now.  In addition to all of the info about our sponsors (we have six so far!) we’ve announced three of the speakers that will be coming to Milwaukee on April 5 for Deeper in .NET 2008 (DiDN).

We’re very happy to have Jason Beres from Infragistics returning to Milwaukee.  Jason has been at all but one of our Deeper in .NET conferences and has spoken for us more than just about any other single speaker (that’s one of those unverified statistics, but it seems to be about right).

Also, joining us this year courtesy of INETA is Mark Miller from Developer Express.  I’ve never experienced the pleasure of seeing Mark present myself, but everyone I speak to tells me that I’ve been missing out.  His presentation is sure to keep you entertained and informed.

Our third speaker for Deeper in .NET 2008 is Richard Campbell.  You may know of Richard from his company Strangeloop Networks, or perhaps you’ve heard him as co-host on .NET Rocks!  I spoke with Richard on the phone the other day and he sounds just as excited about coming to Milwaukee as we are to have him.

More speakers, the schedule, and the details of the different sessions will be posted in the upcoming weeks, so please keep checking back on the site for the latest info.  I’ll also try to post updates on my site as more details are finalized.

I mentioned earlier that we have six sponsors signed up so far.  We’re very thankful to New Resources Consulting (Platinum), Edgenet (Platinum), Centare Group (Gold), Stratagem (Gold), Compuware (Gold), and Exacta Corporation (Silver) for getting involved and supporting the group.  Without them there wouldn’t be a conference this year.

We still need more sponsors, though, to make DiDN a huge success, so if your company is interested, please have them contact me and visit our sponsors page for more info.

So sign up today and start telling everyone you know about Deeper in .NET.  If you blog, blog about it and trackback here or send me a link.  Tell your co-workers, family and neighbors.  I’m very excited about DiDN and it’s coming up soon on April 5 (just over 7 weeks away)!

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