Wednesday, September 28, 2005

To .NET 2.0 or to .NOT 2.0

In my spare time (ha!) one of the things I've been doing is redesigning a pretty significant chunk of the FlexWiki engine. I basically had to because I wanted to add security, and the current design isn't extensible enough to do that without causing a major mess.


As I've been going through the code, it has occurred to me that I could benefit from some of the features that .NET 2.0 has to offer. So I'm thinking of upgrading. Here's the catch: it would mean that when I ship the code, everyone's going to have to install .NET 2.0 if they want to use the new version. Hence my dilemma.


See, the tricky part is figuring out how big a deal it is to say, "You must have .NET 2.0 to use FlexWiki." Eventually, of course, it won't be a big deal at all. But right now, it's actually a showstopper, since (AFAIK) you can't go live on the version that corresponds to VS2005 RC1.


Of course, there's basically no chance I'll finish before .NET 2.0 ships. It's too much work, and I'm progressing too slowly for it to be done before November, so I'm not too worried about the licensing situation. But the question remains: how long after November is long enough? Zero days? A year? Obviously, that answer is going to differ from individual to individual, so the challenge is to figure out an answer that's "right enough".


At the moment, I'm thinking that the right thing to do is to go ahead and upgrade. There are a number of reasons why I think this will work. For one thing, like I said, it's not going to be done for a while. For another, there's nothing that says people have to upgrade - they can install it whenever .NET 2.0 becomes an option for them. And finally, because FlexWiki is a web application, and because ASP.NET 1.1 and 2.0 coexist peacefully, the upgrade should be possible for most people.


I'm not going to do the conversion until at least October 1st. I announced my intention a few days back on the FlexWiki Users Mailing List, but I thought it might be a good idea to mention it here as well. If you have comments or advice, feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

IIS + Skype = Oops

My wife and daughter have been in Asia visiting relatives for the last couple of weeks. Fortunately, she has access to a fast Internet connection and a webcam, so I've gotten to see my girls most days. That's particularly nice when your kid is at the age where she's learning new things pretty much every day.


We've been using MSN Instant Messenger for our video conversations, and all in all I've been pretty pleased. It works well enough. My only complaint is the fairly high audio latency - that can lead to awkward conversational collisions. We've gotten pretty good at not stepping on each other, but I thought maybe I'd try a separate VOIP application, hoping that they were doing something with QoS that would get the latency down.


My first stop was Skype - I don't know much about VOIP applications, they're free, and they're a big enough name that I felt reasonably okay about installing it. Unfortunately, it completely failed to work - we'd get connected, but then something would happen on Alice's parents' computer and her connection would drop. Oh well - we just went back to the high-latency voice of MSN. She'll be back before we have a chance to try anything else out. Maybe when I start traveling to teach we can explore other options.


Well, that would have been the last I thought of it, but a few days later, as I was doing some FlexWiki work, I had some IIS problems. Specifically, I was unable to start my website. Oddly, I could still browse to the URLs I was working on, but all I got back was an empty document. By this point, you've probably figured out what I hadn't: another application was listening on port 80, preventing my website from starting, and serving up bogus documents in response to my requests. Obvious to most perhaps, but I had to google this KB article before I figured it out.


One "netstat -ano" later, and I'd discovered it was Skype that was hogging the ports. Sure enough, there was a checkbox in the options labeled "use ports 80 and 443 as alternatives". Unchecking it (and restarting Skype) fixed the problem. Good thing, because I was not looking forward to reinstalling.

Thursday, September 8, 2005


When my daughter Ellen was about 6 months old, my sister Kristin came to visit. Ellen was very shy at that point, and often wouldn't let Kristin hold her, especially if my wife was anywhere within earshot or eyesight. That week, Kristin got stung by a wasp at a barbeque we were having, and was obviously in pain. I was holding Ellen and trying to help Kristin. Ellen reached out her hand and touched Kristin, for all the world looking like she was trying to make Kristin feel better. We'll never know if it was just a coincidence, but this article suggests that perhaps it was true empathy on Ellen's part. Interesting stuff.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

I Want to Learn Everything (But Can't)

Clemens, I totally sympathize. Even given that I'm about to transition to a more academic mode, I know I'll never even start with all the technologies in which I'd like to become an expert. This really struck me today when I was looking at some VS2005 functionality for a client. The sheer weight of new features that I wanted to check out was crushing: Indigo support, Avalon support, VSTS integration, web project improvements… And the underlying technologies themselves: WinFS, XML and Web Service innovations, generics…and that's not even counting all the other stuff I'm interested in, like Ruby and LISP. It's just not humanly possible to get to it all. (For me, at least: maybe someone smarter could manage it.)


Oh well: while I can't possibly learn everything, at least it'll be fun to try. :)