New release of Windows Live Writer

image No question for me that Windows Live Writer is the best product to come out of Microsoft’s Live project/platform/whatever. The Writer Zone blog announced today that there’s a new release available.  It’s a CTP (Community Technology Preview), not a stable release because they’ve added a bunch of new SDK plugin stuff along with the updates to Live Writer itself.

Steve Hodson has a great post outlining all the new features in the application, there’s heaps of great stuff in there, including some little things like recognising what lighbox plugin you’ve got installed on your blog & allowing you to set the images to use this.  The Auto Linking features is also cool, an automatic glossary.  Download the installer here.

The 'unnecessary' Scout is released by Office Labs

Despite Microsoft Senior VP Chris Capossela saying that a search interface for the new Office ribbon device was unnecessary, Microsoft Office Labs yesterday released the internal project called ‘Scout’, now given the far less interesting title ‘Search Commands’.  What is it with Microsoft having cool development names and then giving the products really boring release titles?

Anyway, the plugin adds another tab to Word, Powerpoint & Excel.  It’s added as the last tab, but helpfully, you can just click ‘Windows Key + Y’ and it will jump to the search box from the application. 

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All it really is is a search box, a bunch of suggestions plus a gigantic help button. It is very useful though.  Just start typing in the box and it will come up with a list of commands related to what you’ve typed in.  It starts with partial matches and narrows down as you type.  What is particularly handy is that it isn’t just doing a text match on the name of the commands, it’s doing a contextual match too.  The example given in the help tutorial is that if you enter ‘background’ it comes up with a bunch of commands related to document backgrounds (in Word).  This includes things like Watermarks, changing themes and shading.  I’m not sure how this is done, there must be some sort of categorisation for the application’s commands behind the scenes.

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Windows XP Service pack 3 RTM, public release due April 29

Microsoft has announced that Windows XP Service Pack 3 has have been RTM.  This means that OEM providers and Enterprise customers will be getting it in the next couple of days, while it is due to be released via Windows Update & the Microsoft Download Centre on April 29th.  A PDF with an overview of the contents of the Service Pack is available.

This is a much smaller update than the previous 2 SP releases, especially SP2 which added a lot of functionality, especially security.  According to the PDF

With few exceptions, Microsoft is not adding Windows Vista features to Windows XP through SP3. As noted earlier, one exception is the
addition of NAP to Windows XP to help organizations running Windows XP to take advantage of new features in Windows Server 2008.

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Internet Explorer 8 public beta available

Microsoft has released the first public beta of IE8.  The release was announced at the keynote of Mix in Las Vegas (which apparently is full of cool stuff).

Grab the beta now & check out the noise about it on TechMeme.

Update: Ha! Check out the latest article on the IEBlog:

Although we said that IE8 Beta 1 passes the ACID2 test, some of you may be seeing results like the image above; we thought we should explain what’s going on. IE8 passes the official ACID2 test hosted on http://www.webstandards.org/files/acid2/test.html. (Note, this seems to be a popular destination at the moment. You may have trouble reaching the site.)There are also a number of copies of this test around the net. One popular copy that I’ve seen of late is http://acid2.acidtests.org/

People didn’t wait long to start fact checking them!

Update 2: Note, you may need to install this hotfix if you haven’t already: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=c1ac48ad-f4f9-4b4b-9cb5-460593b052cc&displaylang=en

Opening .NET 2.0 Web Application Projects in Visual Studio 2008

So I’ve downloaded & installed Visual Studio 2008. First impressions: nice. It seems faster than 2005, but that may just because I haven’t installed ReSharper yet :). The multi-targeting feature that allows you to specify which version of the .NET framework to compile the project as is awesome. It makes migration so much easier. I’ve now been able to migrate our whole web solution to Visual Studio 2008 but keep the framework version at 2.0. We’ll upgrade to 3.5 later.

Very glad Microsoft decided to keep Web Application Projects built in to 2008, makes it all really simple. Everything ran fine except for one little gotcha with the web project itself. It’s not a big deal, but it was really annoying and the error messages were not overly helpful. It’s basically around Visual Studio trying to create the required virtual directory for the website in IIS. The error I was getting was:

Creation of the virtual directory http://dev.drive.com.au failed with the error: Could not find the server ‘http://dev.drive.com.au’ on the local machine. Creating a virtual directory is only supported on the local IIS server

See below for steps to reproduce & how to resolve this:

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Visual Studio 2008 released, available on MSDN now

Microsoft has released Visual Studio 2008 with .NET 3.5.  The full version is up on MSDN now, and the express edition can be downloaded here.  I’ve been really looking forward to this, LINQ, Lambda expressions and extension methods, plus built in JavaScript debugging & intellisense.  But one of the best features IMHO is that we’ll be able to step into the .NET framework code while debugging.  That’s going to be awesome.

To download the Visual Studio releases, you need to do it from the ‘Top Subscriber Downloads’ section, it’s not actually available in the normal subscriber downloads section.  Probably to reduce server load.  VS2008 Professional is a 3.81GB download, so make some room.

Live comes out of beta

Microsoft released the 1.0 version of Windows Live writer this week, which wasn’t much of a change on the last beta, just a couple of new features, including spellchecking for English (US, UK, Canadian), French, German & Spanish and support for AtomPub.  Good though, I’m glad they’re supporting it & not left it in perpetual beta.  Especially since WordPress updated to allow tag creation based on WLW keywords, WLW has become hugely useful for me.

I’m still not a huge fan of the whole Live.com web interface, it just looks a bit weird to me.  Oh well, I can’t really talk about quality design skills anyway.

Also released was the ability to sign up for a live.com (.au/.uk/.etc..) email address.  When I first went to the signup page it set me up as a .co.uk user, I guess because I’ve got my language set as British English somewhere.  Easy to fix though, just change the mkt=en-uk to mkt=en-au.  Not really a user-friendly option though, but I couldn’t find any other way to change it from that page.

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Halo 3 multiplayer maps video

The 7th Columnist has video of 2 multiplayer maps for Halo 3 – Epitaph & Last Resort (aka Zanzibar Mark II). They look brilliant. 

He also has a full video of the Gamekings interview with the Bungie guys.

I love the soundtrack, the way it slowly builds up from a haunting choral tone and then breaks into the Halo theme, I really need to get a 360!

Microsoft Removing Office from MSDN Subscriptions

From the MSDN Subscriptions blog:

Effective June 30, 2007, MSDN Subscriptions will no longer be offering any activation versions of Office 2003 and Office XP from MSDN Subscriber Downloads or on media. We are working with the Office team to provide non-activation versions to replace these editions, and wanted you to be aware now so that you may download any needed Office 2003 and Office XP bits from MSDN Subscriber Downloads before they’re removed later this month.

Please note that the existing Volume License versions of these products will continue to be made available on MSDN Subscriber Downloads for MSDN subscribers who purchased their subscriptions through our various Volume Licensing programs.

Interesting. I’m not quite sure what the motivation is here.  Were they not seeing enough purchases of Office 2007 because everyone was downloading them from MSDN?