Welcome to this week’s programming news roundup. As always, we are making some format tweaks to try to find the best way to deliver content to you. This week, we are trying slightly shorter pieces. Let us know what you think.

Portable Python makes it easier to work in Python

For Python folks who switch computers a lot but need access to their development environments, there’s a new project called Portable Python. They just released version 1.1, and it contains everything you need to work on Python on a Windows PC from a USB drive. It includes Web application frameworks, IDEs, and a number of popular libraries. It supports Python 2.5.4, 2.6.1, and 3.0.1.

SharePoint Designer is now free

From Chris Eargle comes news that SharePoint Designer 2007 is now a free download. Those who bought it and have Software Assurance will be able to upgrade to Expression Web.

A few excellent general development tips

Microsoft’s Tess Ferrandez has a collection of various programming tips that show what you can do to help the folks running the systems to deal with your application. Some of them are rather obvious but sadly require frequent repetition (like not sticking huge datasets into the session state); others are less obvious, such as making it easier to deal with XML configuration files.

ASP.NET MVC is now open source

Microsoft’s new ASP.NET MVC framework was one of the most anticipated releases in recent memory. Now, Microsoft is making it open source under the OSI-approved MS-PL license. Way to go Microsoft! Hopefully, this is a sign of “more to come.”

Microsoft solicits feedback on ASP.NET

Do you have complaints about ASP.NET or suggestions on how to improve it, but think that Microsoft doesn’t care? Well, it turns out that they do. Microsoft is actively asking for feedback on ASP.NET. Gentlemen, start your e-mail clients!

The toughest puzzle ever for developers?

Jeff Blankenburg is working on “The Toughest Developer Puzzle Ever”, and you can contribute. As I write this, I am trying to figure out why my answer to #5 is not being accepted.

Micro Focus offers a free, online event

Micro Focus is holding a free, online event May 11 – 13. It looks like Micro Focus is posting up some content in advance and then allowing users to provide feedback on it to shape the actual event, which is a fairly novel idea. There are developer, business manager, and ISV tracks. Since it is a Micro Focus event, expect it to be mainly topics that apply to COBOL shops.

Mono 2.4 and Mono Develop 2.0 are out

Mono 2.4 is now out, with some mostly minor improvements over Mono 2.2. Mono Develop 2 has also been released, and it looks to be a significant improvement.

The ACM: best game in town!

I recently joined the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). I read lots of their stuff, and I really like what they do. More to the point, though, is that an up-level ACM membership includes access to a good selection of books (not the full library) from Safari and Books24x7, which I find to be super useful. While I am not a huge fan of reading long items on my screen, it is a great way to look up tidbits or find out if a book is worth buying. Since the ACM membership cost roughly 50% what a Safari membership costs, this was a no-brainer and made it worth the purchase.

Appcelerator giving out $1,000 in prizes to developers

Appcelerator is holding a contest to anyone developing applications for its Titanium RIA platform. The company is giving out two $500 prizes: one for the highest voted app and one for the most downloaded app. The contest ends on April 20, so get moving!

Win $1,000 for the best Kentico CMS add-on

Kentico CMS recently released version 4.0 and announced a “marketplace,” and to celebrate, they are hosting a contest. The person who writes the best Kentico add-on will win $1,000. Not too bad. I have used Kentico and done a good bit of modifications to it; while I disagreed with some of the design decisions within it (I will only be 100% happy with a CMS I wrote myself, to be honest), it is a solid system.

Software makes sense from raw data

Researchers Hod Lipson and Michael Schmidt have put together a piece of software that can determine “natural laws” directly from raw data. In a nutshell, their software takes the derivatives of all of the variables in the data compared to each other, and then looks for things that remain unchanging throughout the data. While a human is still needed to figure out what the actual equation is, the software highlights the interesting information for the human operator. So far, the software works for simple mechanical systems, but the researchers expect it to be of utility in a wide variety of applications.

Fascinating analysis of the freelance programming market

Softmarket, a freelance development assignment board, has put together a great analysis of the freelance programming market. From the domain name, they are a Romanian company, which explains why it is a little hard to read in places. Nevertheless, the analysis is invaluable to anyone thinking about doing freelance development work.


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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