Chatting today amongst the EvNet team

Aug 29

10:20 AM

Duncan M.

source code formatting checked in

Duncan M.

http://localhost/posts/Sampy/PAX-Day-3-In-…

Aug 29

10:25 AM

Duncan M.

sourcecodeFF

Duncan M.

sourcecodeIE

Duncan M.

I started out with overflow-x:auto … which would add a scroll bar (at least in FF3), but then I went with white-space:pre-wrap; … but IE doesn’t like that 🙂

Aug 29

10:55 AM

Duncan M.

Nathan, can you send me the link to those pre-wrap alternates?

Aug 29

11:00 AM

nathan h.

http://users.tkk.fi/~tkarvine/pre-wrap-css…

Aug 29

11:05 AM

Duncan M.

thanks

Aug 29

2:35 PM

Duncan M.

I wonder if we should consider using this site to create/embed polls? http://www.polldaddy.com

Aug 29

2:45 PM

Erik P.

I’ve noticed a lot of people starting to use js includes and other stuff for polls, comments, ratings, etc.

Duncan M.

yep

Erik P.

For us, I think it’s a matter of integration. Is it something we care to tightly integrate into our system to do custom queries and views things like that or is it something we just want to throw in? For polls, not sure which way is better. What do you think?

Duncan M.

I’m interested in the http://disqus.com/ comment system as well … but not for our core sites

Duncan M.

For polls, I don’t think we’d want to do anything with the data that is user specific

Aug 29

2:50 PM

Duncan M.

I think they really just want to put it up on the site, gets lots of interaction (including non registered users) and then discuss the results

Aug 29

2:50 PM

Erik P.

Then I think those external things is a good idea. 🙂

Erik P.

is = are

Duncan M.

the ideal type of intergration I could picture with something like polldaddy.com would be to associate a discussion with it somehow (like making it an entry) so that we could show the poll on the home page (sidebar?) and then have a ‘click to discuss’ option

Duncan M.

this could be manual even, just create a forum thread about the poll, embed the poll in that thread *and* on the home page, and then put a link below the poll on the home page to the thread

Marvel Digital Comics, not perfect, but worth the money!

A month or so ago, I went looking to see if there was any way to read back issues of Marvel Comics online… and discovered a complete site around providing exactly that service. With a subscription to the digital comics section, you can view any issue of any series that is available on their online catalog; I sat down a couple of nights ago and read through issues 1 to 100 of Ultimate Spiderman for example.

Marvel Digital Comics - Windows Internet Explorer (2)

The viewing experience (it appears to be based around some customized version of Adobe’s PDF reader) is acceptable to me, although it sometimes renders text out in odd fonts (obviously not the ones used in the original printed version) and its coolest feature ‘Smart Panels’, that lets you view the comic one panel at a time, instead of one or two pages across your screen, sometimes shows you a view that has cut off parts of the various bits of dialog. So far, the best experience for me has been viewing two pages at a time on a large wide screen monitor like my laptop’s 1920 x 1200 screen. The text is all readable, the rest of the art doesn’t look too cruddy from scaling, and I don’t run into the various bugs of the ‘Smart Panels’ system… and this is the closest in size and format to reading an actual comic, so it works out on many levels!

MARVEL DIGITAL COMICS - Mozilla Firefox

I’ve been reading a bunch of comics nearly each and every night… from ones that I read as a kid (like old issues of the X-Men, probably the only series where I had a ton of issues… well, other than owning the full run of ROM: Spaceknight and the Micronauts!) to all the new ones that I have never read at all (the Ultimates, Secret War, the Civil War series, M-Day, etc…)

The one major flaw with this system though, and this didn’t stop me from buying a year’s subscription but it might be a deal-killer to you, is that there are often gaps in a series you are trying to read. That 1-100 of Ultimate Spiderman that I mentioned earlier, well it is actually issues 1-3, 6-7, 14-15, 19-23, 31-34… and so on. Storylines stop right in the middle, then pick up so far ahead that it can drive you crazy! I’d like to hope that they are working on fixing this, but the cynical part of my mind wonders if it is on purpose, to encourage you to buy the print version of the comics… I hope that isn’t the case, it would really lower my opinion of Marvel 🙁

If you love Marvel comics you should check this out… maybe you’ll love it enough to pay for it, or maybe not… but I think it definitely worth a look.

Three Cups of Tea is a great book…

One positive side to being stuck at home for two weeks is that I was able to do a fair bit more reading. For the most part, I read magazines and watched movies, but my wife also brought me the book “Three Cups of Tea” about Greg Mortenson’s work in Pakistan building schools for the children of poor rural areas. Mr. Mortenson, an avid mountain climber, ended up spending time in a small village near the base of K2 in Pakistan, barely making it down alive after a failed attempt to reach the summit. Spending time with those people made quite an affect on him and from that point on he was on a mission to build schools and otherwise help out the people of that area. The book is great reading, dealing with exciting events, perilous adventures and important issues … all taking place in an area of the world that is completely foreign to many of us. Check it out, read more reviews or buy it here “Three Cups of Tea” in paperback from amazon.com.

The new and improved Channel 9 has shipped!

When I joined my current team, it was called the Channel 9 dev team, because Channel 9 was the big site that they had built and was the center of all of their efforts. You certainly wouldn’t have known that from how we spent the last two years though 🙂

We built a whole new code base for a video blog site and launched a new site (Channel 10) on that code, bringing some of the video style of Channel 9 to a new audience. We often discussed, as we shipped out revision after revision of the Channel 10 home page, that our next goal would be to ship out a new version of Channel 9… all moved onto that new code. Things didn’t go according to plan though, and we shipped out VisitMix.com, Channel 8, and TechNet Edge (for IT Pros) before we were really given more than a moment’s peace to start planning out the work to deploy Channel 9 on a new code base.

When it did become time to plan the channel 9 deployment, it turned out that, while the new code base was a major improvement in many ways, the feature gap between what was already available on 9 and what the new code could offer was substantial. Now at least a year and a half had gone by since I joined the Channel 9 dev team, and we could see a long road ahead of us to get the next version of Channel 9 shipped; all the while, new features, bug fixes and UI changes for the other channels kept coming up and mixed priorities from above meant that we still had to devote most of our time to those properties. Finally, at the start of this year (2008), I was asked to start laying out a firm plan that would get Channel 9 v4 (as we took to calling it) shipped. As part of that, we gained a new focus on channel 9 and were able to finally prioritize it above some of the day to day needs of our other properties. We weren’t completely focused on the task, but we finally had the ability to say no to most things that would pull us away from C9… progress began to be made. At the start of May of this year we shipped out a beta version of Channel 9, and by the end of the month (June 2nd to be precise) we did the final switch over, made the DNS change that pointed channel9.msdn.com at a new set of web servers, and v4 was officially launched. Over the next week or so, we were bogged down dealing with a wide variety of bugs that didn’t turn up during our own testing or in the beta, but the site stabilized and is now running fairly well. We still have bugs, but the old site had bugs that had sat for months, so I think we are in pretty good shape. You can see a picture gallery of the various Channel 9 home pages that were envisioned or deployed throughout the past few years, including the new one… and a similar gallery representing the many home pages of Channel 10 that we shipped over the course of just a few months.

 

version 3, C9 when I joined the team (shipped August 2005)

 

new, v4 (June 2, 2008)

 

all in all, I’m very happy with the site we shipped last week and very impressed with the team behind it all… it has been a busy couple of years, but it is nice to have tangible (if you can consider the web tangible) results that you can point at when you are thinking about what you’ve accomplished.

At home, recovering from surgery

It has been a crazy past few months for my health, or at least the appearance of my health.

For about 30-something years now, I’ve had problems with my tonsils. This has included one or more bouts per year of tonsillitis, quite a few cases of strep throat and a ton of colds that just seem to end up hitting me as sore throats and lasting way longer than it seems like they should. All standard symptoms of someone who needs their tonsils removed, which is what various doctors have been telling me and my parents for the past 30-something years 🙂

When I still lived at home, and this decision wasn’t up to me, it turns out that my grandfather (who was a pediatrician) disagreed with how quickly most doctors would removed tonsils, so whenever a doctor would suggest that I have mine out he would suggest that we just wait and see if the problem went away on its own. The problem of the moment would always go away, even if it was due to come back in a few months, so we kept that cycle up for many years. Eventually, I became an adult and it became my problem… and it wasn’t long before I ended up noticing the pattern of illness hitting my throat and headed into see a doctor. Canadian healthcare is great if you need something and if you don’t have the money to pay for it, but that benefit produces a system that is generally short on resources. When you go into a Canadian doctor, in my experience, with something that isn’t absolutely necessary (even if it would be a good idea in the long run) then they are likely to suggest you not bother with the procedure, that you try a prescription instead or just waiting it out. That lack of enthusiasm, combined with my own lack of confidence about what I needed, led to many more years without my tonsils being removed. Over the past few years in the US medical system though, I’ve had so many different doctors look at my throat and straight-out tell me that my tonsils really need to come out, that I finally decided to do it. I made the appointment and on Tuesday of this week, they were removed. Now I’m stuck at home, recovering, with a very sore throat and some great prescription pain killers…

What makes this whole experience a bit confusing to my co-workers is that I’ve also been going through a completely different and unrelated medical problem at the same time. For reasons that aren’t completely understood, the hair on my head has started to fall out… rapidly and in big patches. This is a medical condition known as alopecia areata, essentially partial hair loss. This isn’t a sign of any underlying health problems, but it sure looks like it is… and people don’t really seem to believe you when you tell them that it is just a weird type of hair loss and that it isn’t anything to worry about. Combine that problem, which eventually led to just shaving my whole head to avoid looking all patchy, with scheduling some time off for some upcoming surgery and people start looking at you like you aren’t going to make it through the summer.

Fun stuff… but in both cases it is temporary and I’m happily recovering… maybe I’ll even manage to have my hair grown back in over the next few months.

Sunburned at a Chess Tournament

Well, this certainly isn’t something that happens all that often, but after spending all day at a chess tournament (at Wellington Elementary in Woodinville) on Saturday, I ended up with a sunburn on my face and arms! It turned out to be a really nice day, which was good, since the waiting area for parents and kids (where the parents spend up about 6 to 7 hours, and the kids spend all the time between matches) was outside. Never seen that before, and it was cold and wet enough when we arrived that I was pretty unimpressed with the idea. In the end though, it was very sunny out there … and it certainly gave Connor a lot of fresh air between his matches (which were inside the school gym).

Another chess tournament this weekend, last one before the state championship

ChessGame A new father-son activity for Connor and me has been to go to chess tournaments, spending a few Saturdays throughout the year in some school gym. Starting last year, we started to play chess at home and he enjoyed it so much that we decided to enter into the Shelton View Elementary school’s chess tournament in the Kindergarten category. He did well and had a lot of fun, so it has become the hobby of choice around our house. The best thing about taking him to a tournament is that you can’t really tell from his face whether he has won or lost when he comes out of a match, he always seems to be enjoying himself regardless of the outcome. Tomorrow’s tournament is the last one before the state competition (which he qualified for and we decided to attend as well, since it is in Redmond this year), so I expect a lot more first-time tournament players will be attending in the hope of winning 3 out of their 5 games and qualifying for state.

Sidebar Gadgets for Channel 9, Channel 8 and more

We recently had Donovan West (LiveGadgets.net) build us a set of sidebar gadgets for Windows Vista. These gadgets use the RSS feeds from each site and let you see all of our new content as it gets posted, then (using Silverlight) you can even play our videos right there on your desktop.

The Gadget in its open state

 

You can check out the gadgets (for Channel 9, Mix, C8, Edge, and on10.net) by clicking on the appropriate image below:

Channel 9 Gadget Channel 10 Gadget for on10.net TechNet Edge Gadget Mix Online (visitmix.com) gadget Channel 8 (channel8.msdn.com) gadget

Using my Xbox Live data service?

If you’ve written an app, private or public, using my data feed of Xbox live info I’d really appreciate it if you’d let me know. This isn’t a required ‘sign-up’, but I want to start to keep track so that I could possibly create a page listing all the sites using it, and it may also be useful to be able to contact folks if I need to make a change or take the service down for an hour or so. Just comment on this post, or drop me a line at duncanma@microsoft.com.