Tony Testa posted on September 21, 2007 00:00

Scott Hanselman has been putting together a great list for the past 2 or 3 years of some of the best tools for developers/power users in his opinion.  Its a pretty comprehensive list and I suggest you take a look at it.  I consider myself pretty up on the latest tools around but there were a few on his list that i didn't know about and definitely will check out.

Some of my personal favorites from the list are:

Notepad++ 
I find myself using this more and more.  I used to be a TextPad man, then i switched to UltraEdit (both great products by the way). but for the price of FREE, you can't beat Notepad++.  It does everything I need from a text editor.

Lutz's Reflector (obviously)
I don't think i really need to elaborate on this one.  If your not using it, you sure as hell should be.  Its not an every day tool, but its EXTREMELY valuable when your working on a project that has no source code available, just DLL's.

Firebug
This is a GREAT browser addin for firefox.  If your doing ANY sort of web development, you need this addin.  There are WAY too many features to list, but it lets you modify CSS on the fly on a page and see the results, its got better Javascript debugging, HTML inspector....its got a LOT more!.  I havent' used this one much, but it is definitely one that I see myself coming back to more and more.

Process Explorer
This is basically Task Manager on steriods.  Gives you a wealth of knowledge about the Proc's running on your machine as well as the DLL's that are being used.  It also can tell what folders/files the process is accessing.  Really great tool made by SysInternals.

A few noteable tools i found on the list that I haven't used before but I will be sure to look into more:

FolderShare
This is a tool i've been meaning to checkout for awhile.  It basically helps you to keep mutliple computers sync'd up.  I can really use something like this to help keep my work laptop files backed up on my raid array.

vOptimizer
Its apparently a virtual machine optimizer that can greatly reduce the file size of your virtual hard drives.  I know recently this would have come into hand on a project where I was forced to use a 15+gig virtual and didn't have enough disk space to put it on my laptop (and my external hard drive had just died)

FileHelpers
I've read about this tool and stumbled upon it before but never actually used it.  It is a .NET library that lets you work with text files in a strongly typed manner.  Its also FREE, which is a great price.  I know a lot of times as developers we're forced to read in text files, so I think this library might come in handy on a project where your forced to use text files a great deal.  It is certainly a tool I might try to make a small example on use about.

SlickRun
This sounds like a pretty cool tool.  It is a floating command line utility which lets you easily open apps with just a few keystrokes.  The real benefit here is that it helps to keep your hands on the keyboard and off that mouse!

I incourage you to check some of these out if you haven't already.


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Tony Testa posted on September 21, 2007 00:00

In going with my posting about trying to start back up my personal MySCORM open source project, it jogged my memory about a blog posting I read awhile back.

(Also i realized i've been posting links to a lot of OTHER peoples writings, postings, etc.  I going to try to really make an effort to start posting some of my own demos/examples based on some of the tools/tips/projects i've been blogging about)

Over at Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood was giving $5000 and MS was matching his $5000 to an open source .NET project in an effort to help promote the open source community as well as .NET (which doesn't have a strong presence in the open source community).  The posting itself and the money isn't really whats I find interesting, it is the comments to the posting by readers that I think contains a BUNCH of great open source projects.  I encourage you to take a look through the comments and seeing if any of these projects might help you out, no sense in reinventing the wheel.

Here are a few I feel are worth looking into:

ITextSharp - its a PDF generator

SubSonic - a GREAT DAL/OR Mapper

ZedGraph - a 2d graphing library

Umbraco - CMS that runs on MS SQL

Cuyahoga - Another CMS built on .NET 2.0

#ziplib - a zipping library (i've used this before and it worked great, really came in handy and was easy to use)


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Tony Testa posted on September 19, 2007 00:00

With my sudden burst of motivation lately I decided I should try to revive my little pet project i've dubbed MySCORM.  Here is a bit of info about it.

What is SCORM?
The Sharable Content Object Reference Model defines a specific way of constructing Learning Management Systems and training content so that they work well with other SCORM conformant systems

Now that description is great and all, but it really doesn't explain what SCORM is to people who don't know about it.  SCORM is a standard for eLearning content that was developed to help aid in consistency across Learning Management Systems.  An example of this eLearning content would be Microsoft eLearning courses.  A user signs up to take the course.  The user then takes the course at their own pace.  During the course, data is collected about the users experience while taking the course, such as where they left off, answers to questions, etc.  The SCORM standard is used so that developers can create systems to play/record this content in their custom learning management systems.  Essentially an eLearning content creator can create their learning module and adhere to the SCORM standard and feel confident that their eLearning will work in any Learning Management System that is SCORM compliant.

Why would I pick this to work on?  At a previous employeer I was tasked with making our custom learning management system SCORM compliant.  To this day i'm not 100% happy with my implementation of it, so since then I've been wanting to prove to myself that I can make a quality SCORM compliant system.  I originally coded it in ASP/VBScript (I had no say in that matter) but wanted to code it in .NET because it offers a MUCH better platform for creating a SCORM compliant module, plus I use .NET everyday.  Another big reason for this project is because there really isn't a decent open-source SCORM compliant system made in .NET out there today, most are Java or PHP.

Goals for the project

My ultimate goal for this project is to create a SCORM 1.2/2004 compliant module that can be easily added into existing systems with little to no modifications needed.  This is a lofty goal but I think that its not completely out of reach.  I'll try to update this post later when I organize my thoughts/goals for the project.

Also, I created a project for it up on codeplex that i'll be updating, check it out here


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Tony Testa posted on September 19, 2007 00:00
I stumbled onto this today while doing my daily rounds of the .NET sites.  Microsoft has a new product that just released a CTP called "Astoria". 

Here is a description from the "Astoria" website :
"Astoria is a project in the Data Programmability team at Microsoft that explores how to provide infrastructure and tools for exposing and consuming data in the web. Astoria can create data services that are exposed in a natural way to the web, over HTTP and using URIs to refer to pieces of data; these data services can be consumed by AJAX front-ends, Silverlight-enabled web pages, desktop applications and more. At this time we’re making available two experimental elements of project Astoria: the Microsoft Codename Astoria toolkit and the Microsoft Codename Astoria online service."

From what I can gather this technology will really fit well with SOA by exposing the data as a service.  In addition it seems like this will help make consuming data through AJAX easier.  You could essentially create the data service for your customer data for example and have it available to all your WebApps and desktop apps in your organization.  This way with all your apps your not essentially creating a data access layer for each app, instead you would just consume this data service.

Check out the Project Astoria Team blog here
Also check out a sandbox they've created to showcase the technology as well as let you create your own data services to play  with.  The encarta sample is kind of cool and gives a good example of how your could use this technology.

When i finally get around to it and create a .NET 3.0/3.5 sandbox for myself, i'll certainly give this a try.

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Disclaimer
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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