Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Exporting/Importing Settings in Visual Studio 2005 - Part 2

As a follow-up to my February 5th post....

I must be getting a little slower with age, but I eventually realized that the reason the Visual Studio 2005 installation on my tablet PC was so different from the one on my desktop was because it was the Standard Edition, versus Professional on the desktop. According to this chart, the Standard Edition features "Simplified menu options and defaults". I guess that's what I was running up against. Well, since importing the settings from my Professional installation, the Standard edition has been "transformed" with most of the menu and toolbar options that were previously unavailable. It's solved all of my issues, at least. Seems like another instance of Microsoft simply hiding functionality instead of eliminating it for lower versions. I just stumbled upon a way of unlocking it, I suppose.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Interesting Free Software from Microsoft

Here is a list of a few interesting pieces of development-related software from Microsoft in no particular order. Each is either free or at least has a free version available.

  • Microsoft Robotics Studio - "The Microsoft Robotics Studio is a Windows-based environment for academic, hobbyist and commercial developers to easily create robotics applications across a wide variety of hardware."
  • ASP.NET AJAX (formerly ATLAS) - "ASP.NET AJAX is a free framework for quickly creating a new generation of more efficient, more interactive and highly-personalized Web experiences that work across all the most popular browsers."
  • Microsoft CodePlex (think SourceForge for .NET) - "CodePlex is Microsoft's open source project hosting web site. You can use CodePlex to create new projects to share with the world, join others who have already started their own projects, or use the applications on this site and provide feedback."
  • XNA Game Studio Express - "The XNA team is proud to announce the availability of the 1.0 release of XNA Game Studio Express and the XNA Framework, aimed at helping students and hobbyists build games for Windows and the Xbox 360. This release supports both Windows game development and Xbox 360 development (subscription to the XNA Creators Club is required in order to run XNA-based games on the Xbox 360)"
  • Microsoft Expression - "Expression Studio, a key component of Microsoft's strategy for improving the user experience delivered by applications, provides designers with an end-to-end tools platform that boosts collaboration with developers in the delivery of next-generation user experiences for the Web, Windows Vista™ applications and beyond."

Monday, February 5, 2007

Exporting/Importing Settings in Visual Studio 2005

OK, so maybe I'm cheating with this post by referencing ScottGu's Blog, but I just love it when you do a web search and find exactly what you are looking for.

I was getting annoyed with the fact that my toolbars and other settings were different on my tablet PC than my work PC. Even more annoying was trying to figure out exactly where the settings were to change them. Add to that the fact that my tablet was using one setting to assume a default location for all projects and wouldn't allow me to specify different folders for each.... As an aside, I realize that it's really my fault and not my PCs. :) But if anybody asks, the computer did it!

Anyway, at this link, you will find Scott's tips on setting up, exporting, and importing custom profiles for the Visual Studio 2005 IDE. Over time, I had forgotten all the changes I had made to my work PC to get it to a point where I was happy. Simply exporting the settings and importing them into my tablet saved me quite a bit of time. Thanks, Scott!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

One Note 2007 / Adobe Reader 8 Bug

So, I recently finished installing Office 2007 Ultimate on my desktop and tablet. Very nice piece of software so far. I spent a few hours configuring One Note 2007. I use it for taking notes and scanning/organizing/searching technical articles, recipes, and projects from woodworking magazines. I should say that I use One Note 2007 for this. Prior to this version, it's capabilities were a lot more limited, and I was struggling with ScanSoft PaperPort 11 for my scanning/organizing needs. At any rate, I'm not writing this to give a review of Office. Instead, I would like to point out a bug that I found that may help others out there.

One Note 2007 has the ability to import various different types of documents. There are several ways, but I like to simply drag the document into a page in One Note and select the "Insert the file as printout so I can add notes to it" option. The result is that you get a "printed" copy of the document on the page in One Note. Then, you can scribble notes, full-text index it, etc. Behind the scenes, it appears that One Note actually launches the program it knows can read the file (e.g. Adobe Reader for PDFs) and then simply prints using a special driver that results in the file going into One Note. The bug I found was with Version 8 of Adobe Reader. I tried various things to get it to work. It seemed like it was printing, but the document never showed up in One Note. Then, I happened to go into my office and saw that there was a stack of paper in the printer outfeed, all copies of the same thing. Apparently, the PDF was going to the printer instead of One Note. I had an older version of Acrobat (6.0.1) on a different PC that was working just fine, so I ended up just uninstalling 8 and installing 6. Everything worked just fine after that. Other than simply reading PDF files, I don't use Adobe Reader for anything else. So, I wasn't deriving much benefit from 8 over 6 anyways. You can download older versions of Acrobat from Adobe's website.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Whole-house video distribution on a budget

So, I finally "perfected" my distribution system for TV in my house, and I thought that my findings might be useful for others. The general idea is that I wanted to get the signal from two Dish Network DVRs and an HD OTA antenna to every TV in the house. This way, I could install an HDTV on any outlet I wished and also watch shows recorded on either DVR in any room. Any room with a TV, that is. Obviously, there are fancier ways to achieve this, but I wanted to keep it cheap.

I've had Dish Network for quite a while and always took advantage of the fact that control over tuner 2 on their modern receivers can be set to respond to radio frequency. Technically, you can set it up for tuner 1 as well. The general idea is that you can send the signal from tuner 2 to a remote TV and still control the receiver via RF without having to install an IR-forwarding system. So, the key was to figure out how I could combine the signal from both receivers and my HD OTA antenna. Then, I found this 3x8 distribution amplifier. It takes in 3 signals, amplifies all of them, and outputs 8 signals. Plus, it has the bandwidth to handle HD. This was enough to feed all of the TVs in my house. I left the amplifier for the OTA antenna in place as it is required to get a quality signal and added a second, one-input/one-output amplifier for the long run up to the attic for the TVs on the second story.

Since the OTA antenna picks up both analog and digital signals, I had to find channels for the signal from the Dish Netowork receivers with little interference. In the end, I opted for 63 and 69. Unfortunately, the signal degrades faster over the coaxial cable runs as the channels get higher, but anything lower had too much interference from the OTA channels. So, any TV in the house can watch Dish DVR 1 on channel 63 and DVR 2 on channel 69. Those with ATSC tuners can also watch the HD channels from the antenna. No HD feed from the one Dish DVR that does HD, but I can at least watch HD recordings down-sampled to SD. To watch HD from that receiver, I just use the primary TV hooked to tuner 1 via HDMI.

To make it easy to remember, I set the remote code for the receiver on channel 63 to 3 and that for the other on channel 69 to 9. By simply changing the remote code on the UHF Pro remote, I can control either receiver. Add a UHF Pro remote from ebay for each TV around the house, and you can watch whatever you like, wherever you like.

All-in-all, everything works quite well. The only major negative (depending upon your perspective) is that it leads to upgrading your other TVs to HD TVs. If you've got the signal coming out of every port in the house, why not have a TV there that can display it in all its HD glory! :)