The last few weeks have been pretty interesting for me. I wrapped up my first project involving Exchange Web Services, a system that taps into our support staff’s incoming e-mail and strips the attachments from them (if they meet certain criteria), puts them in a network storage area, and then edits the e-mail to provide a link to the files. This will allow us to comply with customer requirements regarding how we handle their data. I am also becoming more and more convinced that Silverlight is a winner. Finally, we are getting closer to really integrating Team Foundation Server into our development process, above and beyond just checking code into source control.

Bad Flash detection scripts floating around

For the last few weeks, I noticed that many sites (including YouTube, surprisingly) had a hard time detecting Flash on my PC. I couldn’t figure it out; I looked for failing JavaScript, tried adding the sites to Trusted Sites, and so on to no avail. I kept uninstalling and reinstalling Flash. I just could not figure it out.

I did some searching, and it turns out that many Flash detection scripts (including one that Adobe suggests) look at the last digit of the Flash version. No problem, right? Sure, until Flash 10 came out, and now these sites think the user has Flash 0 installed. If you are detecting Flash on your site, check this right now and fix it if you have a similar problem.

Is GPL the new BSD license?

Jeremy Allison, one of the top Samba folks, has an interesting post on ZDNet about the relationship between software licenses and cloud computing. In a nutshell, there is concern that cloud computing systems do not trigger the “redistribution” clause of the GPL, and therefore, cloud computing vendors are not releasing the source code to their modified systems. I think this is a very real concern for the GPL folks. First of all, GPL is designed to have a variant of Midas’ touch: Everything it touches also turns to GPL. The second problem is that one of the major attractions of open source is that anyone can see what it is doing; make sure the right security measures are there, see what is happening to their data, and so on. Cloud computing already lacks transparency and not showing the source is part of that.

I am not a big fan of the GPL, but I am a big fan of the BSD license. It simply is more in-line with my personal politics and beliefs around making money writing software. That said, I do think that it is rather upsetting that people are sidestepping the GPL like this. A few years ago, I realized that the Google empire is built on its customizations to GPLed software that will never see the light of day, and it got me rather steamed. It’s as if the HOV lane laws considered insects “occupants,” so drivers started riding in the HOV lane with two crickets in a jar.

The IT job market continues to flounder

About six months ago, I still felt very positive about the market for IT professionals. One of the reasons why I don’t cover the topic very often is because I would much rather write about more positive subjects and things that you and me can actually change. Nevertheless, the reality is the IT job market is getting more depressing. I was hoping that what I was seeing in the job market was simply a local phenomenon (there are a lot of people looking for a job where I live, which is near Charlotte, NC, where Bank of America and Wachovia are headquartered). Over the last few months, a significant portion of the IT pros I know have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, but it looks like this is not confined to a particular part of the country. If you have been laid off recently, you might want to check out Construx’s offer for free training.

Study highlights skill shortage

What is so insane about the current job market is that companies are cutting staff and hiring wizards in the “latest and greatest,” and they wonder why their existing systems are falling apart. A new study highlights the skills that IT managers feel their departments lack; the contrast to the skills they are actually hiring for is interesting. The gap suggests that, in the near future, the folks who stayed focused on the fundamentals instead of chasing the latest crazes may luck out. (The study was funded by Micro Focus, so keep that in mind when reading it and evaluating its contents.) After reading the study, you might find it interesting to check out my post 10 skills developers will need in the next five years.

“The Perfect 3-Column Liquid Layout” is no lie

Matthew James Taylor is giving away the code to a few wickedly awesome Web layouts. My favorite is “The Perfect 3-Column Liquid Layout.” It truly is perfect. It fills my entire 1900 x 1200 24″ monitor without making any parts hard to read. It also scales beautifully on a smaller window, without forcing anything to look odd. He has a number of other great layouts available. When I finally get the chance to redesign my personal Web site, I’m using this layout.

15 items to check before deploying a Web site

Chip Camden pointed me to this excellent list of things to do before deploying a Web site. I consider most of these “duh” items, but it is still good to have them laid out in a simple list with a solid explanation of why each one matters. Pin the bullet point list to your wall and print the full version for your boss.

$75,000 cash and a potential contract for Xbox 360 development

From Chris Eargle comes news that Microsoft has opened the Dream-Build-Play 2009 Challenge. This is a contest for people to build Xbox 360 games using XNA Game Studio. There is $75,000 in cash prizes, and a contract to become an Xbox Live publisher. So far, the results to my latest poll indicate that the dream field for many of you would be video game programming, so get crackin’ on this challenge!

New Java and database optimization tools from Embarcadero

I am stunned at how well Embarcadero seems to be merging its product lines with the acquired CodeGear products. Embarcadero just announced two new optimizers: one for Java (J Optimizer) and one for databases (DB Optimizer). This kind of linked release is a good example of seeing the two sides of that company march in lockstep.

Excelsior providers Java native code compiler

If you’re looking to turn your Java application into Java code, Excelsior offers a Java native code compiler named JET. By compiling to native code (JET can produce Windows and Linux compatible output), applications start faster (no need to fire up the JVM), it makes it much harder to reverse engineer, and it makes the deployed size much smaller since the JRE is not needed.

Note: Applications that rely upon reflection may not be able to benefit from JET.

Micro Focus’ Data Express 4.0 lets you generate test data from real data and maintain security

Something that has always driven me nuts is trying to test an application with “real-world” data. The problem is you can’t always just dump the production database into the test environment, particularly when working with third-party workers (like an offshore team) or when the production data contains private data. At the same time, you can’t make a three row table of “Lorem ipsum” and expect it to really test your application well. Micro Focus’ Data Express addresses this very need and allows you to generate consistent, real-world data for your application to chew on in test environments. The company just released version 4. If you are working on an application that really needs testing in the data areas (and more apps are like this now), you will want to check this tool out.

Make your Silverlight/WPF apps more responsive with asynchronous processing

MSDN has a good, basic tutorial on using BackgroundWorker to allow your application’s UI to be more responsive. By performing lengthy operations in the background, it allows you to update the interface and not resort to hourglassing the cursor to prevent problems. I’ve been using BackgroundWorker for years in WinForms apps, and I consider it a must know technique.

Aleri offers real-time risk management framework

Aleri, makers of Complex Event Processing software, has announced a new framework that is designed to allow the real-time processing of risk management information for the financial sector. I suspect some companies would have liked a tool, say, three years ago.

Silverlight themes relieve developers of design duties

Programmers are often asked to make things look good. Unfortunately, if programmers were experts in visual design, they would be graphic artists, sculptors, and such. Microsoft has released a set of Silverlight themes that gives you some variety in your UIs look and feel. Sure, it’s still cookie cutter, but now you have a wider selection to choose from.

Speaking of Silverlight (which I do a lot of lately)…

I swear, I think I talk more about Silverlight than anything else lately, and I don’t even use it. Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Page Brooks (of the Pee Dee Area .NET User Group) talk about Silverlight. If you are interested in Silverlight and he will be speaking in your area, I highly recommend it. He seems to be floating around the South Carolina/North Carolina/Georgia area with his presentations. Also, his blog is loaded with great Silverlight information.


Disclosure of Justin’s industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.


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