I am back

It has been a while since I last wrote here, but the past couple months have been very busy. So, what have I been up to?


After the 8+ years that I have been at Microsoft, I have never taken more that 4 days of vacation in a year. After loosing many, many days of vacation each year, (you are allowed to carry one year’s worth of vacation time from one year to another) I decided it was time to take a little break and burn some time. So I took two weeks and finally unpacked all those boxes from when I moved into my house (one year anniversary on Oct. 5th), made a few small repairs around the house, and then slept – a lot.


I also did a little work on a few projects I have been putting off. One of the benefits of working at Microsoft is that you sometimes get to be a guinea-pig, and get to try out some of the latest new toys, which included a test version of the new Media Center 2005. I installed MCE on a computer with a video capture card, and started playing around with it. I liked what I saw, but it became even more evident that I was missing an important thing in my home entertainment center: a good set of 5.1 speakers. So off to the local electronics store I went, where I picked up a set of Bose Acoustimass 15 speakers with a Harman-Kardon DPR 1001 receiver. Since the computer with MCE has an optical audio out port, that was connected to the receiver. Now I can sit across the room and thumb through my music library. I have not had a chance to try out all the video features of MCE, but I will be doing this soon and let you know how it goes.


I also started playing with a few other new toys. At TechEd Sad Diego, I bought a Bluetooth GPS receiver, but I was never able to get it to work very well with either my laptop or my Pocket PC. When Streets & Trips 2005 was released I picked up a copy and it has been working quite well with my Dell Axim X30. I have used it a few times, and the only problem that I have noticed is that my house on the map shows up about one street block off, but my address is rather odd and the Microsoft maps is not the only one that shows it incorrectly. I have also been trying out the new MSN Music service. I have tried iTunes MS but I don’t have an iPod (I like my Zen) so I need to burn the music to a CD then rip it again to get it to work on devices (ITMS had a few exclusive tracks that I had to have). I have a number of cassettes that I don’t listen to because of the format, so I have been buying a few of the older songs that I like but can’t listen to. Thinking about it, I don’t even have a tape player to listen to those old tapes – I should get one and try to convert them to WMA.


I worked a bit on Visual IL. Not too many changes, just a bunch of fit-and-finish type fixes (cleaning up the opcode list, fixing bitmaps, etc). I spent a little time investigating creating a Code DOM and a Code Model for IL. To do this, I need to create a parser for IL. The .NET SDK has a grammar file describing IL, but I need to find a parser and scanner generator that will generate C# code. I tried a couple (ANTLR and COCO), but they did not work (ANTLR would not generate code that compiled). Does anybody have any tool recommendations? I used to use Flex and Bison many years ago (in college I focused on compiler creation), but comparing it to other tools it seems overly complicated.


I also know that there were some of you out there that sent me mail, asking questions. I have not forgotten about you, I am just a bit backed up on mail. I have a few 1000 (literally) messages over the past few weeks that I still need to go through, and I will be getting to them shortly.


When I got back to work there was a lot to do, and I have been working every day since then on a few new features, features that we hope Visual Studio users will like. I will be making a post shortly after this one describing these new features, and how they can make your work easier.