I heart MS blogs

by Matt 3. July 2006 18:12

I really like Microsoft blogs. They're a nice way of getting some insider information. I subscribe to a whole bunch of them.

The absurdly prolific Raymond Chen will teach you Programming for Grown Ups (aside: why buy a book that calls you an Idiot?). Jensen Harris will explain how Microsoft are innovating (and yes, I do mean innovating) on the user interface for Office. Larry and Eric have gone a bit quiet lately, but are still worth holding out for (even though Eric's gone a bit highbrow these days). It's nice to see Jeffrey Snover's obvious love for his Powershell (really, they should have left it "msh". Calling it Powershell just gives Slashdot something to laugh at). During one particularly interesting problem with IIS, David Wang became a bit of a hero in my team. And, looking at the comments, you just can't help but feel sorry for the Internet Explorer team.

These blogs are usually full of tips and information that just isn't in the official documentation. Sometimes it should be, other times, it's just how to join the dots to get it all working. They're a gold mine.

But it goes deeper than this. It's a two way thing. It opens Microsoft right up. Got a question? Find the team blog and ask! Post a comment, or use the form and send them an email (don't forget to be polite).

I've been working on a secret squirrel project to write a plugin to Windows Media Player for a certain well known brand of MP3 players, something that's not really been attempted by many people, so there's not a fat lot of information on the web. I got stuck, so fired off an email to Sean Alexander, who confirmed that what I was trying to do should at least be possible (and also wasn't for the faint of heart, but then, I already knew that).

And you never know, it might just have an actual impact on a shipping product.

I've been name-checked by the RSS team as one of a number of people trying to convince them to change the way the integrated RSS reader works in IE7, and they've changed it. (As it turns out, I'm not impressed with the solution. It's a bit all or nothing, and too easy to miss. A more fine grained solution would have pleased me more.)

But the best one is Scott Guthrie's Web Application Projects. A tip-top plugin for Visual Studio 2005, which brings back the sensible, pre-VS2005 web project structure, saving us poor souls who are struggling with the rather hobby-oriented default Web Site Projects. We downloaded and implemented this at work while migrating a rather large (i.e. the whole site) asp.net 1.1 project to 2.0. I particularly liked the way that it used partial classes to split the code you write and the designer generated controls into separate files. There was just one problem - the generated files didn't create XML comments, and we have those turned on, as well as treating warnings as errors. Which means that the plugin is generating code that doesn't compile. Dropped Scott an email via his blog, and bingo! a couple of hours later, I was included on an email trail from MS that showed it would be fixed and included in VS2005 SP1.

Which means that I (i.e, me, personally) am responsible for getting a feature into a shipping MS product. They added it for me. Because I asked them to. That's rather impressive.

Don't all thank me at once.

Of course, it could backfire. You could find yourself getting dissed by Raymond (admittedly, not the first time).


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