Blog is Still Alive, Although on Life Support

I couldn’t blame anyone for thinking that this blog is dead. However, it’s not. I could come up with scores of excuses as to why I haven’t posted anything, but that won’t serve any valuable purpose.

Rather, I’d like to write something about the subjects I can post about, namely

  • The betas of Windows Vista and Office 2007.
    I’ve installed them both, and I am gradually learning the differences and the exciting new features. Many pundits always claim that upgrades such as these have very little to offer in terms of business value. While I believe that they often make good points, I also think that for true “Information Workers” (I don’t like that term very much…), the differences between Office 95 and Office 2007 are certainly significant. I am using such a big timespan to illustrate that over an 11-year period, there are significant advances in software. If each individual upgrade didn’t provide benefits, where did these combined advances come from? Office 2007’s new user interface is radically different. My first experiences with it are positive. I’ve been used many of the advanced features of Outlook and Word (Excel somewhat less) for many years now. Naturally, I was apprehensive about this new interface. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find the commands I was looking for anymore. Good news on that front: everything is right where I would expect it to be. The first time using a command, it might take perhaps a second or two, but the new interface grows on me quickly. Whether or not novice users will now actually be able to find and use the advanced features more easily remains to be seen. I suspect that they might.
  • Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005
    They have been available for several months now, of course. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I’ve been developing applications using Visual Studio 2005 for quite some time. Visual Studio is not without its problems (Service Pack, please…), but I believe that Microsoft is committed to fixing some of the problems they introduced (witness thereof the new Web Application Project and Web Deployment Project templates).
  • Atlas
    I don’t buy into the Web 2.0 etc. hype. But, AJAX does offer benefits. I’ve been developing an application that requires a form to be completed in a number of steps; and within each step, the web server has to provide more data based on user selections. While regular ASP.NET can handle that just fine, refreshing entire (complex!) web pages versus just a few of the elements on them is very different. The user experience is enhanced significantly by allowing a page to be partially refreshed. Speed is one factor. I know the form inside out, and I can complete it in about 60 seconds with AJAX. It takes over 2 minutes if AJAX is not enabled. The difference: the web server response time. I don’t recommend site designs that do not ever navigate to a new web page, because there are certainly many issues with that approach, including manageability and accessibility.
  • VoIP
    I recently switched to Voice over IP at home and in the office. I am impressed with the quality, the features and the price. However, using cable modem connections at both locations highlights one important point: Using QoS (Quality of Service) is absolutely necessary. Backups at the office are done over the Internet to a remote site, and these uploads take up most/all of the available uplink bandwidth. Having a phone conversation at the same time is impossible without bandwidth management.

I hope to be writing about these subjects more soon.

Sven Aelterman.

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