Sunday, December 31, 2006

Resolutions for the new year

I generally hate the idea of taking resolutions for the new year. I am certainly not one among those who think about setting resolutions just for the sake of a new year. I personally feel that you can make a new resolution and stick to it starting any day of the year.

But I have few resolutions I have been following for some time now and I want to continue to stay focused on them in the new year.

  • Blog good developer content - I want to make sure my blog is updated with useful .Net 2.0/3.0 content.
  • Be proactive - I have been using rememberthemilk website for sometime now for managing my to-do list and I should say it is going okie. But I could certainly improve my multi-tasking ability.
  • Financial Planning - My father has always my financial advisor all through my life. Personally I am really bad in financial planning, however I think I am getting better in this area. But still has to go a long way to be in a position to do financial planning without my dad (aka financial advisor).
  • .Net Certification - To obtain MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) certification. I don't believe in getting certification for landing a better job offer or being offered a better position in a company, but I certainly think it's the best way of keeping yourself updated with the latest technology.
  • Reduce my weight - I think this is always going to be on my list.. I personally think this is one resolution that is tough to keep. My recent relocation from Virginia, USA to Chennai, India is making the matter worse. I am getting pampered by my friends and families with sweets that I find really hard to resist.

I hope to stay focused on these resolutions. Will keep my blog updated about how things are going..

Wishes for a Happy New Year 2007 !!!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Want to be a hacker

I have always been fascinated by what hackers are capable of doing. I have always wanted to be an ethical hacker some time in the future, but the problem is there is not much courses available on "Hacker" nor there is books available on "How to become a hacker in 21 days?".

Last night I got some free time to browse about hackers and came across this hackthissite. It is a pretty good site with nice challenges on hacking. It was very interesting to solve those questions. I wanted to try solving some more puzzles from that site to keep my brain working/thinking in different ways. Hackers normally tend to think way too out of the box. I would suggest any developer looking for something challenging to take up the basic challenge mentioned in their site.

Some other sites worth mentioning are

ngsec -
Try2Hack -
HackMe @ Elderson -
Mindlock Security Challene -
Zebulun Challenge -
Root Hack -
DataFort -
HackNull -
Digital Evolution -

Happy Hacking :)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Working on Google API's

I have been thinking to add a search functionality to my web site for a long time. Atlast I got time to sit and code last night. I was impressed after checking the Google AJAX API , it is well supported with good samples. After digging through some samples I started to work on integrating the search inside Blogger Beta, I thought it's going to be a piece of cake since both of them are from the same companies... but it turned out to be a tough nut to crack, till I was able to find some help through Hoctro and thephotofool. So atlast I have added search in my website. It felt real nice to spend some time working on improving my blog. Check it out when you have some time and let me know if you like it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How to keep yourself updated?

"How do you keep yourself updated with latest tech-news/technology? " is one of the common questions among software developers. Considering that there are new tools/websites introduced every day, we need to spend atleast 1-2 hours everyday just to be informed about them.

My suggestions for keeping yourself updated will be
  • Read good blogs - This is the best way to keep yourself abreast about what is happening in the industry, since most of the blogs are written by end users after using a particular tool/website it gives a better idea than the manual found in the particular website.
  • Read websites aggregating latest tech news and nice tips - To begin with you might not know which is the best blog so go to site like techmeme, digg to get informed about the latest tech news. Also, make sure you read, it will improve your day to day life with computer much easier with tricks you have never heard before.
  • Use a Blog Reader - Make sure you have a good blog reader to automatically fetch posts from your favourite blogs/tech-news sites. Even though there are hundreds of blog readers, I recently started using Google Reader and I am loving it every minute. Since it is web based you can easily use it across multiple systems and it's from GOOGLE :).
  • Listen to Podcast - Most of us dont have enought time to spend browsing online. we spend valuable time in commute but podcasts make sure we use that time usefully. There are many sites like scotthanslemann minutes, dotnetrocks offering good podcasts on weekly basis. Download them to your i-pod and you will notice that your commute became more productive.
  • Learn with tutorial videos - Sometimes I hate reading books to learn something new. Try to see if there is any free tutorial videos available for the particular technology. Tutorial videos reduce your learning curve for a new technology. The other day I was looking for some tutorials for Ajax . It was really nice to see so many videos on that subject which made it real easy on me to start learning something new.

Let me know if you have any other tips up your sleeves to keep yourself updated..

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Conversion to Blogger Beta

I noticed the link to blogger beta site couple of months back. Just for the fun of trying it out I created a new blogsite and started trying out new things in the beta version. I didn't find anything cool at that time and there was no option to migrate an existing blogger site to the beta version of blogger. When I was about to sign-in to blogger, I noticed a link to migrate the existing blogger site to blogger beta. Migrating the blog was a painless process which would have taken only about 2-3 mins. I hope they didn't loose any of my prior posts in the process. But from the beta dashboard I am still not able to view my previous posts (a note says it will be available soon). I haven't found anything exiting to write about the new blogger site so far but will write a new post if I do come across anything interesting.

As a part of migrating, I have played a little bit around the color/font of this blog and minor stuffs. Hope you like it better. I am no graphical designer but I hope I have done a decent job. Drop a comment if you don't like the way it looks

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cool tool for automating repetitive tasks

I am sure most of you have to do repititive tasks @ work like writing the same SQL query for debugging a certain issue, creating a particular email template, etc. There are few ways to automate things in individual application like creating a new template in outlook. But if you are looking for a utility which can work across all applications in windows take a look at AutoHotKey.

It is more than text replacement/macro recorder, it includes a nice scripting language which can be used to do almost anything which needs to get done using few shortcut keys. I just downloaded and installed it and started playing around with the .ahk file. I was having so much fun and now I have automated almost all my tasks which I used to type over and over again. I wish I knew about this tool sometime ago. I would certainly say this is one tool any developer should have in his system.

Happy autokeying :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Improvements in Scheduled Tasks in Windows Vista

I am sure most of you would have used Windows Scheduler to some extent in earlier version of Windows. After installing Vista I wanted to automate the processes like Defrag, diagnostic tools, etc in a scheduled manner. So I started to search for scheduled tasks. (In vista it is under All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Task Scheduler).

I thought it will have empty list of tasks but was rather surprised to see a total of 16 tasks. There are pre-scheduled tasks for doing defragmentation (which is really good) but I was not sure about the other 15 tasks. So I started doing some analysis and stumbled upon this article explaining about the Task Scheduler in Vista. Features of Task scheduler has improved tremendously from previous version of windows. A task in vista now resumbles more closely to a Job in SQL Server. A SQL Server job can have a series of tasks and you can configure that second task can fire only when the first task completes successfully. I was always thinking some day Microsoft will make scheduled task more close to the SQL counterpart. They have done that exactly in Vista. The coolest thing is now we can have tasks triggered based on actions like Scheduled time(defacto standard in previous versions), On Startup, On Logon, When system is idle, when a specific event occurs (some error is written to Event Viewer). I am sure all the administrators are going to have fun time scheduling new tasks.

Happy Scheduling :)

Neat tricks for Google Search

Everyone knows that searching the web using Google (the de-facto standard search engine for most developers out there.) is an art. Sometimes we spend hours together trying to find the website/information we are trying to look at but get frustrated to see everything else show up other than what we exactly want. I have been in this situation some times and you just feel like you are searching for a needle in a haystack. Remember that you trying to search thru Millions and Millions of web pages that are indexed by Google.

I think I have improved by search query tremendously after reading good article on tips for searching Google. I was totally surprised with the use of "~keyword" by Google.

Happy Searching ~~

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tools to be more proactive

I have been procrastinating a lot of my tasks for the last few weeks. I am not sure whether it is due to the nature of tasks I have been getting both at work and home. But i finally decided that I have to do something about this and start being more proactive about my tasks before people start complaining about my laid back nature. I needed a new way to start managing things and not forget about my tasks. So I thought of getting back to my old fashioned way of using yellow sticky notes all over my desk once again. But I wanted to change my habit and wanted to do a better job with one of the online to-do lists (not to mention free) available in the market.

So after googling for some time i came across a nice article written by Brian Benzinger. Anyone who wants to try different online to-do list apps before finalizing one should go thru the list of all applications he has mentioned. I am sure he has spent atleast a whole day on research before coming up this article. I spent couple of hours trying out the different applications he has mentioned before finalizing on RemembertheMilk. The name is kinda funny that I thought of staying away from this application. But after starting to use it for some time I found it so cool and I think I am going to stick with this for a long time. The best thing I like about any web application is the keyboard options they would support. I have started to expect this from every web application after using Google reader for the last one month. RTM supports cool keyboard shortcuts and I am having a blast using them. At this point I am not sure whether continuous usage of this tool will help be more proactive. But I think atleast I have made a start somewhere and hope this continues for a while. Will keep this blog entry updated about how my efforts to be more proactive is working out.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Got Vista & Office 2007 Installed

After patiently waiting for nearly 24 hours to get my MSDN Windows Vista downloaded to my PC, I was able to install it in my PC last night. I should say it was worth the wait. If I remember correctly this is the first time that I had a troublefree installation of Windows OS. I have Windows XP in my system and I installed Vista so I could dual boot into both the systems. Other than the interface and the graphics I dont find any major change in the OS. Microsoft has put in quite a lot of effort for the graphics. For a minute I was thinking that I was looking at a Macintosh system and not windows.

But so far I haven't seen anything worth in Vista which will force a user to go out and upgrade the current version. I tried out Media Center and it looks really cool. I also installed Office 2007 after reading quite a few blogs mentioning the ribbon interface. It looks very and feels very different. As an occassional user I found it really nice visually. But we have to wait and see what the end user who is going to use it for the whole day. I didn't like the gadgets on the desktop I feel it's just waste of precious desktop area but some will like it. I am sure there is a new market for developers to create new widgets.

I will keep blogging about the other cool things which I find in Vista.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Xbox 360 for only 100 $

Can you believe it ??? Amazon is giving out 1000 units of xbox for only 100 $. I saw a Amazon poll last week presenting a list of items they want to offer at really low prices and they had Xbox 360 for 100 $ instead of the standard 299 $. I was pretty sure people will vote for xbox 360 and the results came y'day that they are going to offer Xbox 360 for that price.. Wow !! I am really excited. It is going to be available in sale starting at 11:00
AM PST(thanks brian for correcting that). I am sure it is going to available for not more than 10 seconds.

Wish me luck !!! I hope I end up getting one of those !!!

Test Driven Development in .Net

I am sure every curious developer will be interested in learning about the test driven development (TDD) methodology. While developing a new software a software developer takes the approach of design and then coding. But TDD emphazies the opposite, stressing the need to prepare test cases even before writing the code. Take a look at this excellent article on how to learn the TDD for a sample project.

The author explains the advantage of using TDD and how to buildreusable test cases for a project. I have always been interested in implementing it for my previous project but the domain of the project (healthcare) and unrealistic deadlines for some of the projects made it really tough to implement the same. Creating the automated test cases in most cases will take more time than the actual coding itself. But I am sure I could have done a better job in some of the areas had I used TDD. Nunit is a great open source tool available for doing automated unit testing. So go ahead and try implementing TDD for your projects and let me know what you think about it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Do you want Free Software ??

Lifehacker has posted a post about a cool new site for downloading free software giveawayoftheday. Read "Free software" it is not shareware, not freeware but commercial software which you should normally pay a fee to use is available to download freely. I am not sure how this business model is going to work. The website claims that it will pay the company money to make the software available for free download. The site is in beta now and I think it has been functioning only for few weeks now, but I haven't seen any sensational softwares available free over there.. But I certainly dont hope to see Vista or Age of Empires over there anytime soon. But would be nice to get some really nice free softwares.. so keep watching !!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cool tool for Remote Logging - LogMeIn

This is the coolest tool I have found in a long time. Check it out in Logmein. This is very useful if you want to remote login to one computer using a browser. I just tried it out by installing it in my home laptop and logging in remotely from my office laptop. Now I can take a look at any file/code in my home by using this tool and all I need is an internet connection to access them. I am not sure about the security of this application. But I am sure the developers who thought about this kind of an application would have put in decent thought about the Security aspects of it. You have pay if you want to sync files between the computers. But you can always use foldershare which is a better tool to sync up files between different computers.

I would strongly recommend this to be installed in your parents PC and you can troubleshoot any issues easily from anywhere as long as they are connected to the internet. WOW !!

The last few days have been really fun trying to check out the interesting tools that I have missed out for some time.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Portable Applications - How far will they go?

Have you heard of this term "Portable Apps" ?? When I heard of this term for the first time I thought it was some kind of application which is written in Java which can be easily ported to other platforms.. ;) But that's not the case.. The definition goes something like this

"portable - carried or moved with ease
app - a computer program like a web browser or word processor
A portable app is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use on any Windows computer. When your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod or other portable device is plugged in, you have access to your software and personal data just as you would on your own PC. And when you unplug, none of your personal data is left behind."

from the site PortableApps.

It's funny that oneside world is moving towards bigger machines with GBs of RAM for hosting faster/bigger applications and on the other side we have started looking for applications with small footprints that can be carried in a USB drive mainly to minimize the security theft of our data. I think employers should start forcing employees carrying sensitive data to start working with PortableApps thereby reducing the chance of data theft that has been happening recently with the reports of lost laptops with sensitive customer data.

I am surprised to see so many utilities/audio/video/games available for portable apps. I think one good outcome of this will be the shift in the developer mindset to develop applications with smaller footprint which has been lost in the past decade b'cos of the availability of huge storage spaces.

History of Computer Programming Languages

I came across this cool web page showing the history of computer programming languages in this diagram. Someone must have spent quite a lot of time to comeup with this pictorial representation. It's a common saying that "A picture is worth thousand words" and that's exactly true when you see this picture you get the whole idea of the history of Computer Programming languages

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Site of the Day - BetaMarker

I came across this cool site - BetaMarker it has an extensive collection of shareware/freeware tools/utilities for various areas like System Utilities, Audio/Video..etc.

I was looking to download a password manager for a long time to use in my system, since it was becoming real difficult to remember/cut & paste passwords from the text file I used to maintain. So I downloaded "Roboform" from BetaMarker will write another blog entry to say how roboform has been helping me maintain my passwords. So far I am happy with it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Cool New Site - Zamzar

I came across a cool new site probably it has been around for a long time, but I came across it today. Zamzar is a site which provides you the functionality to convert your files to different formats without downloading any utility in your computer. They have multiple options for converting doc, video and audio files. I will use it going forward when I am having tough time especially for converting between various video file formats.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Removing Special Characters from a column in SQL Server

Recently I got an interesting SQL Server puzzle from one of my collegues. The question goes like this. There is an existing table containing UserId and password and we need write a query to remove any special characters from the UserId columnin the table. My first instinct was to write a cursor to acheive the same. But obviosuly cursors are always associated with performance issues so we need come up with someother solution. So I started writing some code and googled for some ideas. Then I cameacross a neat trick in a website (I forgot the link but I would like to appreciate whoover wrote this piece of code)

Declare @TmpTable table (UserId Varchar(30))
Insert Into @TmpTable values ('pr_()em%')
Insert Into @TmpTable values ('r*^#am)')
Select 1
While @@Rowcount > 0
Update @TmpTable Set UserId = Replace(UserId, Substring(UserId, Patindex('%[^a-zA-Z0-9]%', UserId), 1), '') Where Patindex('%[^a-zA-Z0-9]%', UserId) <> 0
Select * from @TmpTable

I am sure anyone who has been working in SQL server for some time would this piece of code :). Check out how cleverly @@rowcount has been used to run the update statement recursively in a loop.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Move to a new company

Having worked in healthcare domain for the last 3 years I decided couple of months back to move into a different area. After some serious thinking I landed in a company providing financial solutions. I just attended thier 3-day induction program and the line of products they offer is pretty interesting. I was always interested in knowing more about how electronic transactions happen from the time a member swipes his card in the ATM/Point of Sale (POS) device. I think I am in the right place to know the answer.

Still trying to get adjusted to the new place/collegues :) after seeing the same familiar friendly faces for the last 3 years. I sure miss my old collegues a lot but that's the way life goes...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cool Expensive Headphones

I came across this website when I was reading a blog. Ultimateears is supposed to be one of the best headphones out in the market. Their custom fit ear phones looks completely wierd and the price is expensive.. a cool 900 $ ( yup I meant Nine Hundred dollars). I hope to try these headphones one day just to see is it really worth the money :)