Monday, April 23, 2007

Increasing Blog Traffic

Over on my other blog, The Freestyle Entrepreneur, I'm constantly trying to increase traffic. We have, IMO, great content...it's just a matter of getting it in front of folks. I pride myself on being aware of most online marketing venues but Achieve-It alerted me to one I wasn't aware of: ezinearticles.com. I'll be investigating this...submitting to the blog carnivals is effective but not quite yielding the desired results.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Windows Installer XML (WiX)

I've used a lot of installer tools over the years and...now I'm adding another! I'm embarking on the WiX journey. WiX is the Windows Installer XML open source project. Getting started:

Project
SourceForge
Introducing WiX (old but Mike Gunderloy is one of the best in installer technologies)
Google Group
WiX v3 Roadmap Draft

I downloaded WiX v3.0 and got the integration working with VS.Net 2005. Instructions:
Automate Releases With MSBuild And Windows Installer XML
System Folder Properties

Sunday, April 15, 2007

PowerShell: Alternative to VBScript and DOS Scripts

Most developers I know still use VBScript and DOS to compose reusable and one-time scripts. I was one of these people until I discovered PowerShell. It's a bit tricky to pick up but far more powerful than the legacy alternatives.

My favorite feature is the "-whatIf" flag found on most (if not all) operations. One can set this flag to understand exactly what would happen if you were to execute the command as it is written. It's almost like having a unit test harness for scripting operations. No more accidental hard drive formatting.

So, for your next scripting task, check out PowerShell instead of writing some hard-to-maintain/author legacy script.

Cube Farms Brought to you by Uncle Sam?

Joel Spolsky wrote recently on building out additional office space. They're choosing to leverage portable walls instead of drywall construction. They took this direction because permanent space improvements depreciate much slower than office equipment expenses.

In this regard, do we really have the IRS to thank for the proliferation of cube farms as opposed to the traditional thinking: mega-corporation? (PS. I'm a firm believer cube farms kill productivity and stifle creativity...I'm not a cow. However, they're much better than a big table housing 11 shoulder-to-shoulder consultants.)
Office furniture can be depreciated much faster than leasehold improvements, over 7 years. So for $20 of office furniture you can deduct about $3 a year: better than nothing. Even better, office furniture is a real asset, so you can lease it. Now you're not out any cash, just a convenient monthly payment, which is 100% deductible.

This is why companies build cubicle farms instead of walls, even though the dollar cost is comparable.

Turn off Email Notifications

Steven Borg writes a post that hits home for me. He suggests turning off email notifications while developing (or trying to focus on an intense task). I am so guilty of this. I'm all the time flipping into Outlook, Gmail, or OWA to check email (client, personal, and employer/firm). I'd probably be twice as productive if I followed his advice of only checking once an hour.

I'm going to work on this...

BTW, I took Steven's 3-day intense Team System training. I don't attend training often but his was some of the best I've seen delivered. His blog is a great resource for SCM, Team System, and just good overall development guidance.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

DotNetNuke 4.5.0 Install

Struggled with this one. I have two sites to build so I downloaded the DNN 4.5.0 source and copied it into two separate directories within Inetpub. I downloaded and installed Visual Studio Web Express Edition.

I pulled up the first site (VS Web Express uses Web Sites vs. Web Applications), built it, and browsed to the site. I walked through the straightforward install wizard getting to the last step where the database scripts install. And it just scrolled the progress bar endlessly. I even let it run overnight. Nothing.

Finally, I bypassed the install wizard setting the UseInstallWizard to false within the web.config file. Afterwards, I browsed to the default page again and an pragmatic but successful script informed me the site had executed the scripts successfully and my portal was available!

Other than this hiccup, I'm impressed with the installation mechanism and functionality.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

WCF Presentation Coming

I have a .Net Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) presentation due in a few weeks. So, I'm going to collect my travels here on Effective Thoughts.

To start off, how do I obtain and install WCF?
(...assuming you have Visual Studio 2005 w/ SP1 installed)
Visit the Windows Vista Developer Center and download:
.Net Framework 3.0 Redistributable
VS.Net 2005 Extensions for WCF, WPF (Nov. 2006 CTP)
Windows Vista SDK

Resources
.Net WCF home page
.Net 3.0 Virtual Labs
MSDN WCF home page
.Net Framwork WCF home page
Vista Series on SearchVB

More to come!

eMoms Birthday Party Contest

There's a cool blog makeover / SEO contest going on over at eMoms to celebrate their 1 year anniversary. So, I thought I'd enter by posting a link to their site. If I win, I'll use the resources on my other blog The Freestyle Entrepreneur. (and before you laugh, the folks at eMoms are experts at SEO/M and...I have a wife who's most certainly a mom!)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Freestyle Entrepreneur Outgrows TypePad...DotNetNuke Here we Come

In my spare time, I operate a small business / entrepreneur blog called The Freestyle Entrepreneur (affectionately known as TFE) with my cousin. We started it about 6 months ago to help entrepreneurs and to try and make a profit. I'm handling the technology, the marketing, and a bit of the content. Other than this personal blog on Blogger, TFE was my first foray into serious blogging.

After much investigation, I placed us on TypePad using their top-tier offering. It's a very reasonable $15/month given the value of what TypePad (or SixApart...also makers of Moveable Type) provides. To be clear, TFE isn't really outgrowing TypePad, we've outgrown blogging.

This isn't to say, "Pfffft, blogging? We mastered that in 6 months! Whatever!". Quite the contrary. We've refined our approach and identified blogging is just one piece of what we're about. We're taking a more holistic approach with a more newspaper/portal feel with blogging assuming just one piece of our offering.

With this new goal/approach in mind, the technology department (me), set off to find a new, more appropriate platform. After much research, I've decided on DotNetNuke 4.5 (just released) with a SQL Server Express 2005 backend and a stock template presentation. My criteria focused around:
  • Clean, easy to navigate, easy to administer/maintain
  • Comfortable, mainstream technology with a large developer community
  • Readily available, reasonably-priced hosting
  • Broad functionality and flexibility
Given this criteria, I narrowed it down to OpenPHPNuke, Joomla, Mambo, Moveable Type, and DotNetNuke. All met my criteria with Moveable Type bringing up the rear (no cut to MT but it's really more of a blogging tool than a portal/CMS platform and it takes a good deal of tweaking to make it do CMS).

The site CMS Matrix won me over to DotNetNuke. Someone put serious effort into this site. It's excellent! One can choose from dozens of CMS platforms and compare them side-by-side against dozens of features. Seeing a "Yes" next to almost all features for DotNetNuke won me over. Additionally, I've been using the .Net platform since before Beta 2 of version 1.0 (2000).

This isn't to say we're dumping TypePad either. Their blogging tool works great and we may just keep the blog there but build up a bigger site around it. Not sure yet.

I'll post soon with background on setting up the platform and our progress...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mom has Ubuntu Now

You're probably thinking I abandoned the effort of repairing my Mom's ancient Dell workstation with the failed hard drive previously running Windows 98, right? Well not so fast my friend!

After about 80 hours of struggling to get Ubuntu to a usable and consistent state (yes, I feel less than brilliant about that), I finally concluded the hard drive I'd dug out of my box of obscure, random computer parts was bad itself. Way to go Einstein.

I found a deal on an 80GB, 7200RPM drive at Microcenter for $50, purchased it for pick-up on their web site, pulled the jumper, attached the 40-pin, mounted it to the chassis, booted into and installed Ubuntu, updated the distro, and wala: Ubuntu lives! Insultingly, this entire effort, including time spent retrieving the hard drive from Microcenter consumed a whopping 2 hours.

Mom visited this weekend. I spent 10 minutes walking her through the interface, how to configure the wireless card when returning home, and using OpenOffice.

So, the easy ;-) part is through and now we move into the support phase of our experiment...