• Staying Productive

    I ran across an interesting article last month in the NY Times about people's inability to multitask well, the impact of disruptions during the work day (such as email) and techniques for improving productivity. The beginning of the article addresses the fact that people aren't very good multitaskers. This is old news to me because I learned about this a decade ago in psychology class. The article starts to get interesting by the third paragraph on the first page:

    "In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages."

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  • Sneak Peek : Reporting

    This is an exciting time for Spider Strategies, over the next few weeks we’ll be giving sneak peeks into new functionality we’re developing. In this feature we’ll take a brief look at reporting, what it currently is, and how we’re going to improve it.

    One of the reasons why all software is built is because there exists a need to have a problem solved that is either too time consuming or complex to have people solve them manually. However, building software to run these long and complex processes are only half of what makes an application useful, the other half is reporting the data to users in a format they can understand and find useful. Our Corporate Management Suite application has always excelled in its ability to solve the problem of grading and tracking performance, however its reporting capabilities has needed some improvement in order to make it easier for users to get the information they need from the application.

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  • Windows Media Player for Firefox

    Are you sick of visiting sites like CNN.com with your Firefox browser and not being able to view video clips because they require Windows Media Player? Microsoft has just released a media player plug-in that should solve this problem.

  • Networking with Virtual PC 2007

    I wrote a post last month about how impressed I was with Virtual PC 2007 and how it has changed the way I work. This is a follow-up about a networking problem that I didn't discover until it was almost too late, as well as how to fix it.

    I decided to install Vista Business on my laptop a few months ago, and aside from a few application compatibility issues, I've been pretty happy with it so far. One of the main problems is that Oracle 9i doesn't work with Vista, and that's a database we need to develop against. So, I fired up my Windows XP virtual machine, installed Oracle, and then connected to Oracle on the virtual machine just like I would if it were installed on another server. Everything was working smoothly, or so I thought.

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  • I approach continuous integration (CI) servers in the same way I do my IDE -- as a tool of convenience for performing tasks I could choose to perform manually. I would no more have a build system reliant upon a specific CI server than I would write code that was only recognized by a specific IDE. Thankfully the CI servers with which I've worked conform to my philosophy. They do not seek to replace your build system as much as provide much needed automation. There is one area, though, where I feel CI servers violate this ideal, and that's creating a unique build/version label.

    Out-of-the-box, most CI servers provide a simple numbering scheme in order to produce a unique label for each build. Generating a build/version label is a task I prefer to happen within the build itself, so that the build is truly self-contained. Take our builds, for example. I've made use of the ant task buildnumber, so, upon a build, ant reads and increments a build-number property file and appends it to the project's "base version," the result being a label like "1.9.0.6", where "6" would be the build number. I imagine this is a common scenerio -- indeed its why theant task exists. Once I launch an official build via command-line, label generation happens automatically, and the repository is tagged "Build 1.9.0.6".

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