23 Mar 2011

Pepper: A Visual Studio Settings Synchronisation & Backup Extension

pepperscreenshotPepper is a new free extension for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 that I have created to solve a major pain which I am calling SLM (setting lifecycle management Smile with tongue out). The problem is that settings inside Visual Studio are vast & complex, and configuring your IDE is a labour of love, taking years of fine grain tweaks. I can personally trace back my settings to sometime in 2005 and have been tweaking and fiddling ever since.

Once when I moved jobs I forgot to copy my settings and VS felt broken until an ex-co worker was able to get a backup of my old laptop restored and sent me the file. Wouldn’t it be great to have a backup system in the cloud? Say on Azure?

This brings about another interesting scenario, what if I have multiple machines? Can I backup on one machine and restore on another? Giving me a synchronisation system for Visual Studio settings?

Pepper does exactly that, it automates the export/import of settings and allows you to place them in a SQL Azure database!

This is the first release, and while it has had some beta testing it is not perfect so please, if you give it a go and it fails, let us know in the discussions.

Pepper is available in the Visual Studio Gallery, which means you can install it and keep it up to date inside Visual Studio too!

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17 Mar 2011

Visual Studio Recent Settings

When you use the import settings option inside Visual Studio, you may notice a long list of settings Recent Files with no way to clear them out.

If you do want to clear this out, you can do this by going to the following registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\10.0\Profile\BrowseFiles

Note this is completely unsupported, but I have done it without any issues.

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07 Mar 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - On learning

MVP Summit is over for 2011 for me, in less than a few hours I board a plane and start the ~23 hour trip home. This was an awesome trip filled with learning both about Microsoft but also personally and the experiences had here rate among some of the best in my life:

  • Being able to attend a special dinner with various Microsoft technical fellows and vice presidents was amazing. My hero, Anders Hejlsberg was there and so were many other geek rock stars (Hanselman, The Gu and so on). What inspired me is the humility they all have. The whole dinner was amazing.
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  • Shooting real guns for the first time was ridiculously fun and I thank Martin, Mike & Chris for offering me that unique experience.
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  • Then heading to the snow (the real stuff this time, not the ice version Canada gave me) and snow boarding. I even threw snow balls!
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  • In South Africa we drink a piss we call beer and don’t think much about it – but here in America they do care. They have hundreds of micro breweries and so many technical terms for the beer. It is just staggering! It is also a lot of fun to go and sit in a brewery and drink the freshest of the fresh beer Smile
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  • Then the Museum of Flight was just geek paradise for someone like me who loves the idea of flying (I do not think of 23 hours in economy class as flying) and space. Even the 4d simulator where you can go inverted and upside down was awesome. I even found time to be President of America for a few seconds.
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  • But most amazing was the new friends I made and the old friends I met up with. It was just awesome in every aspect, but especial mention must go to Rudi Grobler, who left SA with me, shared rooms, and did all the awesome things above (except the special dinner, next year he will be there) and Rein Hillman who put me & Rudi up at his house, opened his family and shuttled us ALL round Seattle.
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Oh, and if you wanted to know how many Dr Pepper I consumed – 17, excluding how many I can get on the planes Winking smile

07 Mar 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - Memories of Microsoft

As I sit on the couch of the place I have called home for the last 5 or so days with my bags packed, Rudi trying to cheat at chess and the children of the house going to bed, it is insane to think that it was almost 2 weeks ago I was in South Africa trying to find enough clothes to bring and now it is over Disappointed smile

The first rule of being a MVP is don’t talk about fight club NDA material and unfortunately a lot of amazing (and even some boring) news we learnt this week was NDA.

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So what can I share with you?

  • Microsoft is listening – I have mentioned this before but the sheer volume of input sources to Microsoft is staggering. Some of those sources don’t always have good things to say, but Microsoft does factor that in and it is important. If you want Microsoft to change, tell them – just don’t insult them when you do.
  • Microsoft is a business – It is there to make a profit. So when it pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into research, you can expect it wants a ROI. Being this is a technology blog, what does that mean? WATCH MICROSOFT RESEARCH.
  • MVP’s are smart – I have said before that being a MVP is an award for community work but it is not until you sit in a room with some of them you realise how smart they are, and how well they can shoot:28022011559

To everyone from Microsoft who made this week special and for trusting us with information on project double rainbow unicorn*, thank you for all of it – it has been AMAZING!  Smile


* If you have no sense of humour, project double rainbow unicorn is a joke – no such project exists or at least none I know of.

28 Feb 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - It's cold

What I learnt at MVP Summit today?

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It’s COLD, really, really cold. It’s raining and windy, which makes it colder.

This explains a lot about Microsoft & Seattle:

  • Lot’s of micro breweries – cause beer helps with the cold
  • Lot’s of coding – cause it’s too cold to go outside
  • Lot’s of awesome friends – cause nothing rocks like chatting to a friend at a fire in Starbucks
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27 Feb 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - Touring with the local

Day 2 of Summit has been a blast as Rudi Grobler (friend of The show) and I, spent the day seeing a different side of Seattle and surrounding as we were shepherded about by Rein Hillman, a local to these parts. Having a local with a car makes a huge difference – you eat and see things that no tour guide will ever tell you. Like:

  • The best Tereyaki: Yummy Tereyaki
  • The biggest geek shop: Fry’s
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  • Some awesome board game shop
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  • A few of the local bars – most were closed though, so no planning on our side.

All in all, a lot of fun and food Smile 

In the evening we headed down to Kent and the ShoWare Center to watch ICE HOCKEY! Which is an insane sport where I do not understand a thing that happened except goals – rest was just too fast and complex for my brain. I wish I had half the skills and reflexes those guys have.

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Time to hit the pillow, tomorrow is all starts and I need my energy!

26 Feb 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - 3 Minutes & 23 hours

It is amazing how much can change in 3 minutes, this was the learning from the 1st day of MVP Summit 2011. I arrived in Seattle with Rudi Grobler for MVP summit after 23 hours of travelling which is frankly just ridiculous.

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During that time I did a lot of thinking and reading (thank god for my Kindle) but shortly after arriving in a VERY cold Seattle I had my first 3 minute mind change. I walked out the lovely SEATAC airport and saw SNOW! I get like a kid with snow, but within 3 minutes the cold was just too much and the appeal of the snow wore off Smile

One of things we did was head to the awesome Microsoft Store – this place is just fantastic. They have so much in there but so little feels like a store. It really feels like a place to go an experiment and play with Microsoft tech: There is Kinect stations, Microsoft Surfaces, tablets & laptops running Windows 7 and a variety of Windows Phone 7 devices.

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The 3 minute lesson here if from the store people – having super friendly and knowledgeable really means that it is so much better and easier to buy there. I hope that this fantastic learning in the consumer space is the start of something more at Microsoft.

Finally we hit a place called The Parlor for some beer & pool and run into a Microsoft Team (WinSE – suspect is second edition, since they had a service pack 1 disk "SE" = Sustained Engineering), just guessing but I think it was their ship party.

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After some pool, where Rudi kicked my ass until another friend Rein Hillman arrived (which is when I fought back fantastically) we left and I had my final 3 minute lesson: Walking with your hands in your pockets, cause it is cold, means you need to using something else to stop your fall and your face doesn’t work well.

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Update: Thanks to Chris Johnson to tell me what SE meant.
24 Jan 2011

Source Code Management for the Individual SharePoint Developer

imageWith SharePoint 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 the ability to be a productive developer was key and there is tight out-of-the-box integration and this means that it is easy for SharePoint developers to put code into source control easily. Hilton Giesnow covers this brilliantly in a video he has: http://bit.ly/g71Gnb

Imagine a number of dedicated SharePoint developers, they may have an enterprise ALM solution like TFS and on their own machines have SharePoint 2010 Developer and VS2010 installed and life is good – but what about the individual, or ad-hoc, developer?

The problem for him is that installing SharePoint 2010 is a resource hog and you may not want it running all the time (what Hilton nicely calls the 9 to 12 development) and what about if you switching between projects, how do you switch SharePoint? The solution I found, is to have a virtual machine (VM) for SharePoint with the dev tools installed and do all work on the VM. This is great because the overhead is only there when you need it and you can easily switch between different virtual environments. The downside: source code management.

Sure you can hook up the VM to the network and manage code using the source control as you are used too, but this isn’t always easy or possible, so what else you can do? I had this problem recently where the source control is on one domain and my development was another domain. I choose to use the Mercurial Distributed Version Control System (DVCS) and I thought I would share this experience with you.image

DVCS differs from “traditional” source control like TFS or SubVersion which has a client/server model where each developer is a client talking to a central server, however in DVCS every developer is their own server and does pushes/pulls (think like a sync) between other developers.

What this enables is a very lightweight set of tools installed along side SharePoint and the developer tools on the VM. At the end of each day I could run Mercurial on my machine and pull the source control down to my own machine. This meant the VM had the code and my “real” machine had the code. Then this code could easily be checked into the corporate source control system creating another backup and ensuring compliance with source management policies!

This has been a very exciting project and this configuration really made the management of the source code very smooth.

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