Monday, May 22, 2006

My next certification

I started pursuing Microsoft certification back around 1996. I knew a great deal about MS-Access and I wanted to have something to show for it. After spending $$$ on exam review books I finally sat for the Microsoft Access exam in 1998 and aced it within 45 minutes. That year MS decided that completing any exam would earn the MCP, Microsoft Certified Professional credential, and I was on the certification track.

Over the next few years I completed the exams for VB 6 desktop, VB 6 distributed, and the Solution Architectures which then earned the MCSD, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer.

When .NET appeared, I purchased the MCSD for .NET self-study kit and sat for the new version of Solution Architectures, one of the five new exams. So far so good.

My studies were interrupted when I found a tremendous opportunity to work on converting an MS-Access app to a Visual C# project that also used SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services. I picked up the "Learn C# in 24 Hours" book and really got into it. I also purchased every available book on Reporting Services, as I needed to be the de facto expert in that area. That project lasted over two years.

In the meantime, MS marched on with the 2003 and then the 2005 versions of Visual Studio, and broke things wide open with new certification tracks to incorporate the latest technologies. Therein lies the problem - to pursue the MCSD for .NET, which although still a valid cert would not include the latest technology; or one of the new certs like MCTS or MCPD?

My conclusion - follow the data, because at the core of any application, data is data (deep, eh?) So I decided to pursue the new MCTS, Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist, and my first coursework will be for the 70-431 Implementing and Maintaining SQL Server 2005 exam. I recently discovered MS E-Learning as a tremendous tool; I've already completed Course 2939: Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2005, and look forward to the other eight courses that are *free* through November.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

IE7 Beta 2 - strike three, you're out!

IE7 Beta 2 has a handy feature that can be, at times, extremely irritating.

The browser allows opening pages in tabs, very nice; when you close IE7 it will ask you if you want to open those same pages & tabs next time, also very nice BUT if you hide the options (or click 'don't ask any more') and just click Close, then next time you open IE it will only load your same stale home page just like IE6; it forgets what you had set up previously. Grrrr.

It sure would be nice if you could pre-set several tabs with a certain default page being loaded into each one. If browser designers ever actually observed people using IE to perform "work" then they would see how common it is to want to open the same set of pages every time you start your workday -- for example, your corporate web site, intranet page, web mail client, RSS feeds, along with any web-based apps you might use. I understand that MS has a whole department that studies work processes, too bad they don't venture out in the real world.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Beta this, beta that

Everything seems to be pre-release software lately. The Microsoft Anti-Spyware got a new name but it's still not RTM; both Yahoo and Google have their cute little web mail clients, in perpetual beta.

Not as imaginary as vaporware, but still lacking, these betas indicate that nobody seems to be in charge "over there" at these software houses. Maybe you could call it cloudware, as everybody's in a cloud not sure of what to do next.

This is a bad direction to go - release a beta version that almost works all the way, then - just let it sit there, collect feedback from the guinea pigs (sorry, I mean the users). This might be a case of unrequited scope creep - it's supposed to do something, but it doesn't do it yet; instead of somebody speaking up and saying "that feature isn't going to make it in this version" they just let it stay in beta.

Let's take the new Yahoo mail beta. I have a Yahoo Plus account, and do I appreciate the features & benefits. When the new (ajax-powered) beta came out, I tried it & liked it a lot; I'm out in the field quite a bit, so I need a decent web mail client. But one feature in particular, the Move button, gaily proclaims "coming soon!" but guess what - the Move feature worked in the old version.

What's more, as I tried more machines, I found that the new beta requires either Windows 2000/XP or Mac OSX - which means that Win 95/98/Me and Linux users are out in the cold.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Portable Apps - the Next Big Thing

When Microsoft released the original version of Visual Studio .NET it promised (among other things) easy deployment, and the avoidance of "dll hell", since all pertinent files and supporting bits would reside in a single folder structure that would allow "XCOPY deployment" much like the old days of DOS. No more would the installer infest the registry with all sorts of obscure entries (potentially to be overwritten and corrupted by the next installer).

That concept has yet to truly hit the mainstream, but the open source community is well on its way to making it a reality, their own way.

I had my doubts, reading about these "non-installed" apps that were designed to run from a USB thumb drive, from virtually any PC. Guess what - they really work. Browse over to or for a sampling of what's possible.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

IE7 Beta 2 - take two

Continuing my IE7 trials. The tabbed browsing and zoom feature, though different from the way Opera introduced those features (many years ago) are cool ideas that will take a bit of getting used to. I need to spend some time with the Options, but there's lots of 'em to discover.

By the way, this blog can be consumed as an RSS feed -but- you need a reader compatible with the so-called "atom.xml" feed format - guess what - IE7 has it. For that and all the rest, I'm tempted to update my WinXP machines *as soon as* IE7 goes RTM.

If you happen to be using an RSS-compatible browser, try these links:

this section was updated May 7th:
...unfortunately IE 6 does not support it. Turns out that Firefox does support it - when you navigate to this site, you'll see the RSS icon at the right edge of the address bar. Just click on it, and you'll see the "Add Live Bookmark" dialog, click OK to add to the Bookmarks Toolbar. (If it's not visible, look under View ~ Toolbars ~ Bookmarks Toolbar.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2

IE7 promises an improved browsing experience with tabbed pages, phishing filters, enhanced security and so on, so I thought I would give it a test drive on my eval edition of Win 2003 Server.

First of all, the new interface takes some getting used to. By default, the address bar is now at the very top of the screen, and the toolbar buttons you're used to seeing are jammed at the far right edge.

My browsing experience was less than spectacular. I should point out that my Win 2003 (with SP1) machine has the default enhanced security to begin with. For my first visit to Yahoo! mail, IE7 kept telling me that it was blocking ActiveX or scripting or whatever, but without giving specifics that would allow me to adjust the settings to make it work. As a last resort, I went into the IE Security options and added * to my Trusted Sites which is obviously not a good idea.

The last straw was when I attempted to switch to the Yahoo! mail beta - and it ignored me, imagine that. You can click all you want, but it will not switch over to the new version.