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  • Microsoft Technical Computing

    - by Daniel Moth
    In the past I have described the team I belong to here at Microsoft (Parallel Computing Platform) in terms of contributing to Visual Studio and related products, e.g. .NET Framework. To be more precise, our team is part of the Technical Computing group, which is still part of the Developer Division. This was officially announced externally earlier this month in an exec email (from Bob Muglia, the president of STB, to which DevDiv belongs). Here is an extract: "… As we build the Technical Computing initiative, we will invest in three core areas: 1. Technical computing to the cloud: Microsoft will play a leading role in bringing technical computing power to scientists, engineers and analysts through the cloud. Existing high- performance computing users will benefit from the ability to augment their on-premises systems with cloud resources that enable ‘just-in-time’ processing. This platform will help ensure processing resources are available whenever they are needed—reliably, consistently and quickly. 2. Simplify parallel development: Today, computers are shipping with more processing power than ever, including multiple cores, but most modern software only uses a small amount of the available processing power. Parallel programs are extremely difficult to write, test and trouble shoot. However, a consistent model for parallel programming can help more developers unlock the tremendous power in today’s modern computers and enable a new generation of technical computing. We are delivering new tools to automate and simplify writing software through parallel processing from the desktop… to the cluster… to the cloud. 3. Develop powerful new technical computing tools and applications: We know scientists, engineers and analysts are pushing common tools (i.e., spreadsheets and databases) to the limits with complex, data-intensive models. They need easy access to more computing power and simplified tools to increase the speed of their work. We are building a platform to do this. Our development efforts will yield new, easy-to-use tools and applications that automate data acquisition, modeling, simulation, visualization, workflow and collaboration. This will allow them to spend more time on their work and less time wrestling with complicated technology. …" Our Parallel Computing Platform team is directly responsible for item #2, and we work very closely with the teams delivering items #1 and #3. At the same time as the exec email, our marketing team unveiled a website with interviews that I invite you to check out: Modeling the World. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • AutoFit in PowerPoint: Turn it OFF

    - by Daniel Moth
    Once a feature has shipped, it is very hard to eliminate it from the next release. If I was in charge of the PowerPoint product, I would not hesitate for a second to remove the dreadful AutoFit feature. Fortunately, AutoFit can be turned off on a slide-by-slide basis and, even better, globally: go to the PowerPoint "Options" and under "Proofing" find the "AutoCorrect Options…" button which brings up the dialog where you need to uncheck the last two checkboxes (see the screenshot to the right). AutoFit is the ability for the user to keep hitting the Enter key as they type more and more text into a slide and it magically still fits, by shrinking the space between the lines and then the text font size. It is the root of all slide evil. It encourages people to think of a slide as a Word document (which may be your goal, if you are presenting to execs in Microsoft, but that is a different story). AutoFit is the reason you fall asleep in presentations. AutoFit causes too much text to appear on a slide which by extension causes the following: When the slide appears, the text is so small so it is not readable by everyone in the audience. They dismiss the presenter as someone who does not care for them and then they stop paying attention. If the text is readable, but it is too much (hence the AutoFit feature kicked in when the slide was authored), the audience is busy reading the slide and not paying attention to the presenter. Humans can either listen well or read well at the same time, so when they are done reading they now feel that they missed whatever the speaker was saying. So they "switch off" for the rest of the slide until the next slide kicks in, which is the natural point for them to pick up paying attention again. Every slide ends up with different sized text. The less visual consistency between slides, the more your presentation feels unprofessional. You can do better than dismiss the (subconscious) negative effect a deck with inconsistent slides has on an audience. In contrast, the absence of AutoFit Leads to consistency among all slides in a deck with regards to amount of text and size of said text. Ensures the text is readable by everyone in the audience (presuming the PowerPoint template is designed for the room where the presentation is delivered). Encourages the presenter to create slides with the minimum necessary text to help the audience understand the basic structure, flow, and key points of the presentation. The "meat" of the presentation is delivered verbally by the presenter themselves, which is why they are in the room in the first place. Following on from the previous point, the audience can at a quick glance consume the text on the slide when it appears and then concentrate entirely on the presenter and what they have to say. You could argue that everything above has nothing to do with the AutoFit feature and all to do with the advice to keep slide content short. You would be right, but the on-by-default AutoFit feature is the one that stops most people from seeing and embracing that truth. In other words, the slides are the tool that aids the presenter in delivering their message, instead of the presenter being the tool that advances the slides which hold the message. To get there, embrace terse slides: the first step is to turn off this horrible feature (that was probably introduced due to the misuse of this tool within Microsoft). The next steps are described on my next post. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Tool to convert blogger.com content to dasBlog

    - by Daniel Moth
    Due to blogger.com dropping FTP support, I've had to move my blog. If you are in a similar situation, this post will help you by showing you the necessary steps to take. Goals No loss on blog posts, comments AND all existing permalinks continue to work (redirect to the correct place). Steps Download the XML files corresponding to your blogger.com content and store them in a folder. Install and configure dasBlog on your local machine. Configure your web.config file (will need updating once you run step 4). Use the tool I describe further down to generate the content and place it at the right place. Test your site locally. Once you are happy, repeat step 2 on your hosting provider of choice. Remember to copy up your dasBlog theme folder if you created one. Copy up the local web.config file and the XML dasBlog content files generated by the tool of step 4. Test your site on the server. Once you are happy, go live (following instructions from your hoster). In my case, I gave the nameservers from my new hoster to my existing domain registrar and they made the switch. Tool (code) At step 4 above I referred to a tool. That is an overstatement, it is simply one 450-line C#code file that you can download here: BloggerToDasBlog.cs. I used this from a .NET 2.0 console app (and I run it under the Visual Studio debugger, i.e. F5) like this: Program.cs. The console app referenced the dasBlog 2.3 ASP.NET Blogging Engine i.e. the newtelligence.DasBlog.Runtime.dll assembly. Let me describe what the code does: Input: A path to a folder where the XML files from the old blogger.com blog reside. It can deal with both types of XML file. A full file path to a file where it creates XML redirect input (as required by the rewriteMap mentioned here). The blog URL. The author's email. The blog author name. A path to an empty folder where the new XML dasBlog content files will get created. The subfolder name used after the domain name in the URL. The 3 reg ex patterns to use. You can use the same as mine, but will need to tweak the monthly_archive rule. Again, to see what values I passed for all the above, see my Program.cs file. Output: It creates dasBlog XML files in the folder specified. It creates those by parsing the old blogger.com XML files that reside in the folder specified. After that is generated, copy it to the "Content" folder under your dasBlog installation. It creates an XML file with a single ignorable root element and a bunch of inner XML elements. You can copy paste these in the web.config file as discussed in this post. Other notes: For each blog post, it detects outgoing links to itself (i.e. to the same blog), and rewrites those to point to the new URLs. So internal links do not rely on the web.config redirects. It deals with duplicate post titles; it does not deal with triplicates and higher. Removes all references to blogger.com (e.g. references to [email protected], the injected hidden footer for statistics that each blog post has and others – see the code). It creates a lot of diagnostic output (in the Output window) and indeed the documentation for the code is in the Debug.WriteLine statements ;) This is not code I will maintain or support – it was a throwaway one-use project that I am sharing here as a starting point for anyone finding themselves in the same boat that I was. Enjoy "as is". Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Watermark TextBox for Windows Phone

    - by Daniel Moth
    In my Translator by Moth app, in the textbox where the user enters a translation I show a "prompt" for the user that goes away when they tap on it to enter text (and returns if the textbox remains/becomes empty). See screenshot on the right (or download the free app to experience it). Back in June 2006 I had shown how to achieve this for Windows Vista (TextBox prompt), and a month later implemented a pure managed version for both desktop and Windows Mobile: TextBox with Cue Banner. So when I encountered the same need for my WP7 app, the path of least resistance for me was to convert my existing code to work for the phone. Usage: Instead of TextBox, in your xaml use TextBoxWithPrompt. Set the TextPrompt property to the text that you want the user to be prompted with. Use the MyText property to get/set the actual entered text (never use the Text property). Optionally, via properties change the default centered alignment and italic font, for the prompt text. It is that simple! You can grab my class here: TextBoxWithPrompt.cs Note, that there are many alternative (probably better) xaml-based solutions, so search around for those. Like I said, since I had solved this before, it was easier for my scenario to re-use my implementation – this does not represent best practice :-) Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Slide Creation Checklist

    - by Daniel Moth
    PowerPoint is a great tool for conference (large audience) presentations, which is the context for the advice below. The #1 thing to keep in mind when you create slides (at least for conference sessions), is that they are there to help you remember what you were going to say (the flow and key messages) and for the audience to get a visual reminder of the key points. Slides are not there for the audience to read what you are going to say anyway. If they were, what is the point of you being there? Slides are not holders for complete sentences (unless you are quoting) – use Microsoft Word for that purpose either as a physical handout or as a URL link that you share with the audience. When you dry run your presentation, if you find yourself reading the bullets on your slide, you have missed the point. You have a message to deliver that can be done regardless of your slides – remember that. The focus of your audience should be on you, not the screen. Based on that premise, I have created a checklist that I go over before I start a new deck and also once I think my slides are ready. Turn AutoFit OFF. I cannot stress this enough. For each slide, explicitly pick a slide layout. In my presentations, I only use one Title Slide, Section Header per demo slide, and for the rest of my slides one of the three: Title and Content, Title Only, Blank. Most people that are newbies to PowerPoint, get whatever default layout the New Slide creates for them and then start deleting and adding placeholders to that. You can do better than that (and you'll be glad you did if you also follow item #11 below). Every slide must have an image. Remove all punctuation (e.g. periods, commas) other than exclamation points and question marks (! ?). Don't use color or other formatting (e.g. italics, bold) for text on the slide. Check your animations. Avoid animations that hide elements that were on the slide (instead use a new slide and transition). Ensure that animations that bring new elements in, bring them into white space instead of over other existing elements. A good test is to print the slide and see that it still makes sense even without the animation. Print the deck in black and white choosing the "6 slides per page" option. Can I still read each slide without losing any information? If the answer is "no", go back and fix the slides so the answer becomes "yes". Don't have more than 3 bullet levels/indents. In other words: you type some text on the slide, hit 'Enter', hit 'Tab', type some more text and repeat at most one final time that sequence. Ideally your outer bullets have only level of sub-bullets (i.e. one level of indentation beneath them). Don't have more than 3-5 outer bullets per slide. Space them evenly horizontally, e.g. with blank lines in between. Don't wrap. For each bullet on all slides check: does the text for that bullet wrap to a second line? If it does, change the wording so it doesn't. Or create a terser bullet and make the original long text a sub-bullet of that one (thus decreasing the font size, but still being consistent) and have no wrapping. Use the same consistent fonts (i.e. Font Face, Font Size etc) throughout the deck for each level of bullet. In other words, don't deviate form the PowerPoint template you chose (or that was chosen for you). Go on each slide and hit 'Reset'. 'Reset' is a button on the 'Home' tab of the ribbon or you can find the 'Reset Slide' menu when you right click on a slide on the left 'Slides' list. If your slides can survive doing that without you "fixing" things after the Reset action, you are golden! For each slide ask yourself: if I had to replace this slide with a single sentence that conveys the key message, what would that sentence be? This exercise leads you to merge slides (where the key message is split) or split a slide into many, if there were too many key messages on the slide in the first place. It can also lead you to redesign a slide so the text on it really is just explanation or evidence for the key message you are trying to convey. Get the length right. Is the length of this deck suitable for the time you have been given to present? If not, cut content! It is far better to deliver less in a relaxed, polished engaging, memorable way than to deliver in great haste more content. As a rule of thumb, multiply 2 minutes by the number of slides you have, add the time you need for each demo and check if that add to more than the time you have allotted. If it does, start cutting content – we've all been there and it has to be done. As always, rules and guidelines are there to be bent and even broken some times. Start with the above and on a slide-by-slide basis decide which rules you want to bend. That is smarter than throwing all the rules out from the start, right? Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Word 2010 Navigation Pane and more

    - by Daniel Moth
    I have been using Office 2010 since Beta1 and have not looked back since. I am currently on an internal RC, but will upgrade tomorrow to the RTM version. There are a plethora of new productivity features and for Word 2010 the one that overshadows everything else, IMO, is the Navigation Pane. I could spend time describing it here, but I'll never be able to cover it more thoroughly than what the product team has on their blog post. You enable it via the "Navigation Pane" checkbox in the "Show" group of the "View" tab on the Word ribbon. Even if you have come across this new Word 2010 feature, trust me you will learn something more about it, you will thank me later. Go learn how to make the most of the new Navigation Pane.             As an aside, there are many new benefits in PowerPoint 2010 too, my favorite being support for sections. Not to leave Excel 2010 out, you should check Excel's integration with HPC Server. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • AutoFit in PowerPoint: Turn it OFF

    - by Daniel Moth
    Once a feature has shipped, it is very hard to eliminate it from the next release. If I was in charge of the PowerPoint product, I would not hesitate for a second to remove the dreadful AutoFit feature. Fortunately, AutoFit can be turned off on a slide-by-slide basis and, even better, globally: go to the PowerPoint "Options" and under "Proofing" find the "AutoCorrect Options…" button which brings up the dialog where you need to uncheck the last two checkboxes (see the screenshot to the right). AutoFit is the ability for the user to keep hitting the Enter key as they type more and more text into a slide and it magically still fits, by shrinking the space between the lines and then the text font size. It is the root of all slide evil. It encourages people to think of a slide as a Word document (which may be your goal, if you are presenting to execs in Microsoft, but that is a different story). AutoFit is the reason you fall asleep in presentations. AutoFit causes too much text to appear on a slide which by extension causes the following: When the slide appears, the text is so small so it is not readable by everyone in the audience. They dismiss the presenter as someone who does not care for them and then they stop paying attention. If the text is readable, but it is too much (hence the AutoFit feature kicked in when the slide was authored), the audience is busy reading the slide and not paying attention to the presenter. Humans can either listen well or read well at the same time, so when they are done reading they now feel that they missed whatever the speaker was saying. So they "switch off" for the rest of the slide until the next slide kicks in, which is the natural point for them to pick up paying attention again. Every slide ends up with different sized text. The less visual consistency between slides, the more your presentation feels unprofessional. You can do better than dismiss the (subconscious) negative effect a deck with inconsistent slides has on an audience. In contrast, the absence of AutoFit Leads to consistency among all slides in a deck with regards to amount of text and size of said text. Ensures the text is readable by everyone in the audience (presuming the PowerPoint template is designed for the room where the presentation is delivered). Encourages the presenter to create slides with the minimum necessary text to help the audience understand the basic structure, flow, and key points of the presentation. The "meat" of the presentation is delivered verbally by the presenter themselves, which is why they are in the room in the first place. Following on from the previous point, the audience can at a quick glance consume the text on the slide when it appears and then concentrate entirely on the presenter and what they have to say. You could argue that everything above has nothing to do with the AutoFit feature and all to do with the advice to keep slide content short. You would be right, but the on-by-default AutoFit feature is the one that stops most people from seeing and embracing that truth. In other words, the slides are the tool that aids the presenter in delivering their message, instead of the presenter being the tool that advances the slides which hold the message. To get there, embrace terse slides: the first step is to turn off this horrible feature (that was probably introduced due to the misuse of this tool within Microsoft). The next steps are described on my next post. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Get your content off Blogger.com

    - by Daniel Moth
    Due to blogger.com deprecating FTP users I've decided to move my blog. When I think of the content of a blog, 4 items come to mind: blog posts, comments, binary files that the blog posts linked to (e.g. images, ZIP files) and the CSS+structure of the blog. 1. Binaries The binary files you used in your blog posts are sitting on your own web space, so really blogger.com is not involved with that. Nothing for you to do at this stage, I'll come back to these in another post. 2. CSS and structure In the best case this exists as a separate CSS file on your web space (so no action for now) or in a worst case, like me, your CSS is embedded with the HTML. In the latter case, simply navigate from you dashboard to "Template" then "Edit HTML" and copy paste the contents of the box. Save that locally in a txt file and we'll come back to that in another post. 3. Blog posts and Comments The blog posts and comments exist in all the HTML files on your own web space. Parsing HTML files to extract that can be painful, so it is easier to download the XML files from blogger's servers that contain all your blog posts and comments. 3.1 Single XML file, but incomplete The obvious thing to do is go into your dashboard "Settings" and under the "Basic" tab look at the top next to "Blog Tools". There is a link there to "Export blog" which downloads an XML file with both comments and posts. The problem with that is that it only contains 200 comments - if you have more than that, you will lose the surplus. Also, this XML file has a lot of noise, compared to the better solution described next. (note that a tool I will refer to in a future post deals with either kind of XML file) 3.2 Multiple XML files First you need to find your blog ID. In case you don't know what that is, navigate to the "Template" as described in section 2 above. You will find references to the blog id in the HTML there, but you can also see it as part of the URL in your browser: blogger.com/template-edit.g?blogID=YOUR_NUMERIC_ID. Mine is 7 digits. You can now navigate to these URLs to download the XML for your posts and comments respectively: blogger.com/feeds/YOUR_NUMERIC_ID/posts/default?max-results=500&start-index=1 blogger.com/feeds/YOUR_NUMERIC_ID/comments/default?max-results=200&start-index=1 Note that you can only get 500 posts at a time and only 200 comments at a time. To get more than that you have to change the URL and download the next batch. To get you started, to get the XML for the next 500 posts and next 200 comments respectively you’d have to use these URLs: blogger.com/feeds/YOUR_NUMERIC_ID/posts/default?max-results=500&start-index=501 blogger.com/feeds/YOUR_NUMERIC_ID/comments/default?max-results=200&start-index=201 ...and so on and so forth. Keep all the XML files in the same folder on your local machine (with nothing else in there). 4. Validating the XML aka editing older blog posts The XML files you just downloaded really contain HTML fragments inside for all your blog posts. If you are like me, your blog posts did not conform to XHTML so passing them to an XML parser (which is what we will want to do) will result in the XML parser choking. So the next step is to fix that. This can be no work at all for you, or a huge time sink or just a couple hours of pain (which was my case). The process I followed was to attempt to load the XML files using XmlDocument.Load and wait for the exception to be thrown from my code. The exception would point to the exact offending line and column which would help me fix the issue. Rather than fix it in the XML itself, I would go back and edit the offending blog post and fix it there - recommended! Then I'd repeat the cycle until the XML could be loaded in the XmlDocument. To give you an idea, some of the issues I encountered are: extra or missing quotes in img and href elements, direct usage of chevrons instead of encoding them as &lt;, missing closing tags, mismatched nested pairs of elements and capitalization of html elements. For a full list of things that may go wrong see this. 5. Opportunity for other changes I also found a few posts that did not have a category assigned so I fixed those too. I took the further opportunity to create new categories and tag some of my blog posts with that. Note that I did not remove/change categories of existing posts, but only added.   In an another post we'll see how to use the XML files you stored in the local folder… Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Visual Studio Async CTP

    - by Daniel Moth
    While most of the buzz at the recent PDC here at Microsoft's headquarters has been about Windows Azure and Windows Phone, there is a truly noteworthy technology that as a .NET developer (of any kind of application) you should pay attention to, even in its early technology preview stage: Visual Studio Async CTP. I could provide many more direct links, but you do not need them: just visit the home page of this technology to download whitepapers, watch videos on how this technology integrates with C# and with VB, (through the new async and await language keywords) as well as videos on how the technology works under the covers (based largely on the Task Parallel Library). More importantly, download the actual bits (they install on top of your Visual Studio 2010), which include many samples. Get ready for a revolution in Asynchronous Programming with C# and Visual Basic. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • RTL (Arabic and Hebrew) Support for Windows Phone 7

    - by Daniel Moth
    Problem and Background Currently there is no support for Right-To-Left rendering in Windows Phone 7, when developing with Silverlight (itself built on .NET Compact Framework). When I encountered that limitation, I had a flashback to 2005 when I complained about the luck of RTL on NETCF. Unfortunately, the partial solution I proposed back then requires PInvoke and there is no such support on Windows Phone today. Fortunately, my RTL requirements this time were more modest: all I wanted to do was display correctly a translation (of Hebrew or Arabic) in my FREE WP7 translator app. For v1.0 of the app, the code received a string from the service and just put it up on the screen as the translated text. In Arabic and Hebrew, that string (incorrectly) appeared reversed. I knew that, but decided that since it is a platform limitation, I could live with it and so could the users. Yuval P, a colleague at Microsoft, pushed me to offer support for Hebrew (something that I wasn't motivated to pursue if I am honest). After many back and forths, we landed on some code that works. It is certainly not the most efficient code (quite the opposite), but it works and met the bar of minimum effort for v1.1. Thanks Yuval for insisting and contributing most of the code! After Hebrew support was there, I thought the same solution would work for Arabic. Apparently, reversing the Arabic text is not enough: Arabic characters render themselves differently dependent on what preceded/succeeds them(!). So I needed some kind of utility that takes a reversed Arabic string and returns the same string but with the relevant characters "fixed". Luckily, another MS colleague has put out such a library (thanks Bashar): http://arabic4wp7.codeplex.com/. RTL Solution So you have a reversed RTL string and want to make it "right" before displaying on the screen. This is what worked for me (ymmv). Need to split the string into "lines". Not doing this and just reversing the string and sticking it a wrapping text control means that the user not only has to read right to left, they also have to read bottom up. The previous step must take into account a line length that works for both portrait and landscape modes, and of course, not break words in the middle, i.e. find natural breaks. For each line, break it up into words and reverse the order of the words and the order of the letters within each word On the previous step, do not reverse words that should be preserved, e.g. Windows and other such English words that are mixed in with the Arabic or Hebrew words. The same exclusion from reversal applies to numbers. Specifically, for Arabic, once there is a word that is reversed also change its characters. For some code paths, the above has to take into account whether the translation is "from" an RTL language or if it is "to" an RTL language. I packaged the solution in a single code file containing a static class (see the 'Background" section above for… background and credits). Download RTL.cs for your Windows Phone app (to see its usage in action download for FREE "The best translator app") Enjoy, and if you decide to improve on the code, feel free to share back with me… Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Dryad and DryadLINQ from MSR

    - by Daniel Moth
    Microsoft Research (MSR) researches technologies, incubates projects which many times result in technology that looks like a ready-to-use product (but it is important to understand that these are not the same as products built by the various… actual product teams here at Microsoft). A very popular MSR project has been DryadLINQ, which itself builds on Dryad. To learn more follow the project pages I just linked to and I also recommend this 1-hour channel 9 video. If you only have 3 minutes, watch this great elevator pitch instead. You can also stay tuned on the official blog, which includes a post that refers to internal adoption e.g by Bing, a quick DryadLINQ code example, and some history on how DryadLINQ generalizes the MapReduce pattern and makes it accessible to regular programmers (see this post and that post). Essentially, the DryadLINQ framework (building on the Dryad runtime) allows developers to re-use their LINQ skills for creating/generating programs that process large multi-gigabyte/terabyte datasets across 100s-1000s of machines. One way to think about it is that just as Parallel LINQ allows LINQ developers to seamlessly use multiple cores from a single process on a single machine, DryadLINQ allows LINQ developers to seamlessly use multiple machines for their data parallel algorithms. In the former scenario the motivation was speed of execution, in the latter it is speed of execution AND processing large datasets that simply don't fit on a single machine. Whenever I hear about execution of parallel code on multiple machines on the Microsoft platform, I immediately think of Windows HPC Server. Indeed Dryad and DryadLINQ were made available for Windows HPC Server and I encourage you to watch the PDC session on this topic: Data-Intensive Computing on Windows HPC Server with the DryadLINQ Framework. Watch this space… Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Parallel Computing Platform Developer Lab

    - by Daniel Moth
    This is an exciting announcement that I must share: "Microsoft Developer & Platform Evangelism, in collaboration with the Microsoft Parallel Computing Platform product team, is hosting a developer lab at the Platform Adoption Center on April 12-15, 2010.  This event is for Microsoft Partners and Customers seeking to incorporate either .NET Framework 4 or Visual C++ 2010 parallelism features into their new or existing applications, and to gain expertise with new Visual Studio 2010 tools including the Parallel Tasks and Parallel Stacks debugger toolwindows, and the Concurrency Visualizer in the profiler. Opportunities for attendees include: Gain expert design assistance with your Parallel Computing Platform based solution. Develop a solution prototype in collaboration with Microsoft Software Engineers. Attend topical presentations and “chalk-talk” sessions. Your team will be assigned private, secure offices for confidential collaboration activities. The event has limited capacity, thus enrollment is based on an application process.   Please download and complete the application form then return it to the event management team per instructions included within the form.  Applications will be evaluated based upon the technical solution scenario along with indicated project readiness timelines.  Microsoft event management team members may contact you directly for additional clarification and discussion of your project scenario during the nomination process." Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • DirectCompute Lectures

    - by Daniel Moth
    Previously I shared resources to get you started with DirectCompute, for taking advantage of GPGPUs in an a way that doesn't tie you to a hardware vendor (e.g. nvidia, amd). I just stumbled upon and had to share a lecture series on channel9 on DirectCompute! Here are direct links to the episodes that are up there now: DirectCompute Expert Roundtable Discussion DirectCompute Lecture Series 101- Introduction to DirectCompute DirectCompute Lecture Series 110- Memory Patterns DirectCompute Lecture Series 120- Basics of DirectCompute Application Development DirectCompute Lecture Series 210- GPU Optimizations and Performance DirectCompute Lecture Series 230- GPU Accelerated Physics DirectCompute Lecture Series 250- Integration with the Graphics Pipeline Having watched these I recommend them all, but if you only want to watch a few, I suggest #2, #3, #4 and #5. Also, you should download the "WMV (High)" so you can see the code clearly and be able to Ctrl+Shift+G for fast playback… TIP: To subscribe to channel9 GPU content, use this RSS feed. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Links to C++ documentation

    - by Daniel Moth
    After a recent talk I gave on C++ AMP, one attendee was complaining that they were not familiar with lambdas and another found templates hard to parse. In case you are in the same boat, I thought I'd gather some essential reading material for you (also gives me one link to use in the future for referring people to ;-) Lambdas are available (in some shape or form) in all modern languages, so do yourself a favor and learn about them: Lambda Expressions in C++ (and also syntax and examples) Watch Herb Sutter's full length session on lambdas at PDC 2010 Templates, have been around in modern languages for even longer than lambdas (e.g. Generics in .NET), so again go dive in: Templates topic with full table of contents linking to subtopics In fact, why don't you refresh your knowledge and read the entire msdn C++ Language Reference – that's what I am doing! If you are looking to keep up to date with what is happening in the C++ world, stay tuned on the Visual C++ team (aka WinC++ team) blog and ask questions in the C++ forums. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • IE9 Beta

    - by Daniel Moth
    I've been using Internet Explorer 8 since the early pre-release bits, but I never tried IE9 until today – the day the Beta is available. I downloaded it from here: http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/ The download took longer than what I expected, but I was doing other stuff, so no bother. After coming down, it asked me to reboot my computer. Really hate when apps do that, but I did it anyway. The first time I launched it, it prompted me with a list of add-ons I should disable including the start-up time that I could save fore each one. It even let me configure the prompt so, for example, it won't prompt me again unless an add-on contributes to more than 1 second of the startup time. Cool. First thing I noticed is that the search bar had gone and, as you'd expect, you have to search from the address box. I totally despise this feature. The first thing I've been doing with all versions of IE is to turn off the automatic searching from the address bar and now I have no way of searching if I do that. Ridiculous. The second thing I notice is that the tabs are next to the address bar and cannot be moved to go below it. One word for that decision: appalling (and, no, I didn't accidentally drop an 'e' and added an 'l' in the previous word). The third thing I notice to the right is the favorites button (star icon) and when I click on it, it brings up the favorites explorer under it on the right; then I pin the explorer and it jumps to the left(!). Why move the entry point to this feature to the right instead of leaving it on the left is beyond me (other than wanting to retrain me on what I've been used to for all this time), but the fact that pinning it makes it jump sides is… an "astonishing" design decision. As I browse I notice a little annoying pop up in the bottom left every time I hover over a link; there is no status bar. I correctly guessed to right click at the top and turn on the status bar (which also got rid of the popup thereafter) and while I am at it, I bring back my favorites bar which was hidden by default (and am pleased to see that all my favorites are still there). The next thing I notice, I like: IE9 is fast. No joke, I visit sites and they seem to be loading visibly much faster – try it! Beyond the speed, I am interested to find out what else is new. I searched and found a few good links: What's new in Internet Explorer 9 Internet Explorer 9 Features (check out the links under "Clean") Top Features If you are a developer, check out IE's msdn home for many articles, e.g. this section on Canvas and SVG. Either way: wherever you are, get IE9 Beta now and judge for yourself. If you don't like it, you can always uninstall (which auto-restores the previous version). Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • PPL and TPL sessions on channel9

    - by Daniel Moth
    Back in June there was an internal conference in Redmond ("Engineering Forum") aimed at Microsoft engineers, and delivered by Microsoft engineers. I was asked to put together a track on Multi-Core development, so I picked 6 parallelism experts and we created 6 awesome sessions (we won the top spot in the Top 10 :-)). Two of the speakers kept the content fairly external-friendly, so we received permission to publish their recordings publicly. Enjoy (best to download the High Quality WMV): Don McCrady - Parallelism in C++ Using the Concurrency Runtime Stephen Toub - Implementing Parallel Patterns using .NET 4 To get notified on future videos on parallelism (or to browse the archive) stay tuned on this channel9 parallel computing feed. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Are you a GPGPU developer? Participate in our UX study

    - by Daniel Moth
    You know that I work on the parallel debugger in Visual Studio and I've talked about GPGPU before and I have also mentioned UX. Below is a request from my UX colleagues that pulls all of it together. If you write and debug parallel code that uses GPUs for non-graphical, computationally intensive operations keep reading. The Microsoft Visual Studio Parallel Computing team is seeking developers for a 90-minute research study. The study will take place via LiveMeeting or at a usability lab in Redmond, depending on your preference. We will walk you through an example of debugging GPGPU code in Visual Studio with you giving us step-by-step feedback. ("Is this what you would you expect?", "Are we showing you the things that would help you?", "How would you improve this") The walkthrough utilizes a “paper” version of our current design. After the walkthrough, we would then show you some additional design ideas and seek your input on various design tradeoffs. Are you interested or know someone who might be a good fit? Let us know at this address: [email protected] Those who participate (and those who referred them), will receive a gratuity item from a list of current Microsoft products. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Guide.BeginShowMessageBox wrapper

    - by Daniel Moth
    While coding for Windows Phone 7 using Silverlight, I was really disappointed with the built-in MessageBox class, so I found an alternative. My disappointment was the fact that: Display of the messagebox causes the phone to vibrate (!) Display of the messagebox causes the phone to make an annoying sound. You can only have "ok" and "cancel" buttons (no other button captions). I was using the messagebox something like this: // Produces unwanted sound and vibration. // ...plus no customization of button captions. if (MessageBox.Show("my message", "my caption", MessageBoxButton.OKCancel) == MessageBoxResult.OK) { // Do something Debug.WriteLine("OK"); } …and wanted to make minimal changes throughout my code to change it to this: // no sound or vibration // ...plus bonus of customizing button captions if (MyMessageBox.Show("my message", "my caption", "ok, got it", "that sucks") == MyMessageBoxResult.Button1) { // Do something Debug.WriteLine("OK"); } It turns out there is a much more powerful class in the XNA framework that delivered on my requirements (and offers even more features that I didn't need like choice of sounds and not blocking the caller): Guide.BeginShowMessageBox. You can use it simply by adding an assembly reference to Microsoft.Xna.Framework.GamerServices. I wrote a little wrapper for my needs and you can find it here (ready to enhance with your needs): MyMessageBox.cs.txt. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • What changes were made to a document

    - by Daniel Moth
    Part of my job is writing functional specs. Due to the inevitable iterative and incremental nature of software design/development, these specs need to be updated with additions/deletions/changes over a period of time. When the time comes for a developer to implement features or update their design document (or a tester to test the feature or update their test specs) they need to be doing that against the latest spec. The problem is that if they have reviewed this document already, they need a quick way to find the delta from the last time they reviewed it to see what changes exist and how their existing plans may be affected (instead of having to read the entire document again). Doing that is very easy assuming your Word documents are hosted on SharePoint. 1. Every time you review a document note the SharePoint version and/or date (if it is a printed copy, make sure your printout includes the date in the footer – all my specs do) 2. When you need to see what changed, open the document (make sure you are not using a cached or local offline copy) and on the ribbon go to the "Review" tab and then  click on the "Compare" button. 3. Click on the "Specific Version…" option. In the dialog that pops up pick the last version you reviewed and click the "Compare" button. [TIP for authors: before checkin of your document, always compare against the "Last Version" on the SharePoint so you can add appropriate more complete check in comments] 4. What you see now is that in addition to the document you have open, two other documents just opened up. One is in the background (flashing on your task bar) – close that one as it is the old version. 5. The other document is in the foreground and contains all the changes between the old version and the latest one. Be sure not to make edits to this document, use it only for reading the changes. To find all the changes, on the ribbon under the "Review" tab, click on the "Reviewing Pane" to open the reviewing pane on the left. You can now click on each pink change to see what it is. 6. When you are done reviewing changes close the document and don't save any changes (remember if you want to make edits/additions/comments make them in the original document which is still open). And now I have a URL to point to people that keep asking about this – enjoy  :-) Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Are you a GPGPU developer? Participate in our UX study

    - by Daniel Moth
    You know that I work on the parallel debugger in Visual Studio and I've talked about GPGPU before and I have also mentioned UX. Below is a request from my UX colleagues that pulls all of it together. If you write and debug parallel code that uses GPUs for non-graphical, computationally intensive operations keep reading. The Microsoft Visual Studio Parallel Computing team is seeking developers for a 90-minute research study. The study will take place via LiveMeeting or at a usability lab in Redmond, depending on your preference. We will walk you through an example of debugging GPGPU code in Visual Studio with you giving us step-by-step feedback. ("Is this what you would you expect?", "Are we showing you the things that would help you?", "How would you improve this") The walkthrough utilizes a “paper” version of our current design. After the walkthrough, we would then show you some additional design ideas and seek your input on various design tradeoffs. Are you interested or know someone who might be a good fit? Let us know at this address: [email protected] Those who participate (and those who referred them), will receive a gratuity item from a list of current Microsoft products. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Are you at Super Computing 10?

    - by Daniel Moth
    Like last year, I was going to attend SC this year, but other events are unfortunately keeping me here in Seattle next week. If you are going to be in New Orleans, have fun and be sure not to miss out on the following two opportunities. MPI Debugging UX Study Throughout the week, my team is conducting 90-minute studies on debugging MPI applications within Visual Studio. In exchange for your feedback (under NDA) you will receive a Microsoft Gratuity (and the knowledge that you are impacting the development of Visual Studio). If you are interested, sign up at the Microsoft Information Desk in the Exhibitor Hall during exhibit hours. Outside of exhibit hours, send email to [email protected] If you took part in the GPGPU study, this is very similar except it is for MPI. Microsoft High Performance Computing Summit On Monday 15th, the Microsoft annual user group meeting takes place. Shuttle transportation and lunch is provided. For full details of this event and to register, please visit the official event page. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • X technology is dead

    - by Daniel Moth
    Every so often, technology pundits (i.e. people not involved in the game, but who like commenting about it) throw out big controversial statements (typically to increase their readership), with a common one being that "Technology/platform X is dead". My former colleague (who I guess is now my distant colleague) uses the same trick with his blog post: "iPhone 4 is dead". But, his motivation is to set the record straight (and I believe him) by sharing his opinion on recent commentary around Silverlight, WPF etc. I enjoyed his post and the comments, so I hope you do too :-) Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Supporting copy 'n paste in your Windows Phone app

    - by Daniel Moth
    Some Windows Phone 7 owners already have the NoDo update, and others are getting it soon. This update brings, among other things, copy & paste support for text boxes. The user taps on a piece of text (and can drag in either direction to select more/less words), a popup icon appears that when tapped copies the text to the clipboard, and then at any app that shows the soft input panel there is an icon option to paste the copied text into the associated textbox. For more read this 'how to'. Note that there is no programmatic access to the clipboard, only the end user experience I just summarized, so there is nothing you need to do for your app's textboxes to support copy & paste: it just works. The only issue may be if in your app you use static TextBlock controls, for which the copy support will not appear, of course. That was the case with my Translator by Moth app where the translated text appears in a TextBlock. So, I wanted the user to be able to copy directly from the translated text (without offering an editable TextBox for an area where user input does not make sense). Take a look at a screenshot of my app before I made any changes to it. I then made changes to it preserving the look and feel, yet with additional copy support (see screenshot on the right)! So how did I achieve that? Simply by using my co-author's template (thanks Peter!): Copyable TextBlock for Windows Phone.   (aside: in my app even without this change there is a workaround, the user could use the "swap" feature to swap the source and target, so they can copy from the text box) Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Monitor network connectivity in WP7 apps

    - by Daniel Moth
    Most interesting Windows Phone apps rely on some network service for their functionality. So at some point in your app you may need to know programmatically if there is network connection available or not. For example, the Translator by Moth app relies on the Bing Translation service for translations. When a request for translation (text or voice) is made, the network call may fail. The failure reason is not evident from any of the return results, so I check the connection to see if it is present. Dependent on that, a different message is shown to the user. Before the translation phase is even reached, at the app start up time the Bing service is queried for its list of  languages; in that case I don't want to show the user a message and instead want to be notified when the network is available in order to send the query out again. So for those two requirements (which I imagine are common in other apps) I wrote a simple wrapper MyNetwork static class to the framework APIs: Call once MyNetwork.MonitorNetworkAvailability() method so it monitors the network change At any time check the MyNetwork.IsConnected property to check for network presence Subscribe to its MyNetwork.ConnectionEstablished event Optionally, during debugging use its MyNetwork.ChangeStatus method to simulate a change in network status As usual, there may be better ways to achieve this, but this class works perfectly for my scenarios. You can download the code here: MyNetworks.cs. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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  • Heading to GTC 2010

    - by Daniel Moth
    Next week the GPU Technology Conference (GTC) 2010 takes place in San Jose, CA and I am lucky enough to be attending the entire week. It has been an extremely long time (in fact, I can't remember the last time) where I am registered as an attendee at a conference (full pass/access) without being a speaker *and* without having any booth duty! Having said that, we (our team at Microsoft) will be running GPU debugging UX studies throughout the entire week (similar to what I had previously advertised). If you are attending GTC 2010 and you are interested, look for the related flyer in your conference bag. The conference is an excellent opportunity to connect in-person with various individuals that I have only met virtually. From an educational perspective there is a very long and interesting session list, with multiple concurrent slots, making it very hard to choose between them, but I have managed to create my (packed) schedule. I am most looking forward to sessions on the programming languages and tools, both from Microsoft and MS partners. For full conference details, visit the GTC 2010 official page. Comments about this post welcome at the original blog.

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