.NET Rocks! and the State of Visual Studio Team System 2008

by Erik Lane 12. May 2008 04:11

I'm no ALT.NET guru but I have decided that it doesn't have to have the  Microsoft (MS) stamp to get me to look at it. I recall when I was "that guy". You know, the guy who would hear about non-MS options and glance over them. If it was that important and that good then MS would be doing it, right? The answer to that question is yes AND no. The reality is that we're all trying to do our best and serve the customers that pay us to write code. MS is the same and they do what is best for their business model which means that they can be reactive at times - just like everyone else.

Recently I was Listening to an episode of .NET Rocks!. It was show #328 with Joel Semeniuk on the State of Team System. All I can say is - what!? I mean he's talking about the new Continuous Integration (CI) feature of Team System 2008 Suite and how valuable it is.  No doubt, CI is valuable but what get's me is that they all are discussing it as though CI is a new concept.  Let's be fair and mention the fact that MS is being reactive and Team System is late to the CI party. The sad fact is even tough CI has been around for a long time most enterprises will not even look at it until it has the MS stamp of approval.

Giddy Up!


Review - uCertify PrepKit for Exam 70-528

by Erik Lane 1. May 2008 15:45

I was contacted by uCertify requesting that I do a review of their certification PrepKit software. I agreed because I was already studying for the MCTS exam 70-528 and wanted to see if their software would really be an asset to passing the exam. Initially, I wanted to use only their software to study for the test and then write my review. I felt that would be a great way to write a quality review of their product. Since agreeing to do the review my study efforts have diminished (moving to Colorado, taking a new job, etc.) but I still wanted to put together a review of their product.

Product: 70-528-CSHARP PrepKit
Cost: $59.99 (use discount code “ERIKLA“ and receive 10% off)


  • The UI is very well done, easy to navigate, and easy to look at.
  • The quiz feature is the strongest feature of the program. You can select the number of questions from each focus area and then take the quiz. One nice touch is that after you answer the question the timer goes directly to 5 secs. and then goes to the next question. That's enough time to see your answer but yet you don't have to take your hands off of the keyboard to go to the next question.
  • Study notes are useful as they match up with the exam objectives. They state the objective and then provide a summary review of that objective.
  • Exam objectives with notes are nice as well. It is similar to the study notes but instead of a summary it provides an in-depth review of the objective.
  • Reports are a nice feature that show your progress from the diagnostic exam through the simulated test.


  • I didn't like the flash cards feature. The main reason is that it gives you a text area to type in your answer.  Although this may be helpful to some, I didn't want to take the time to type out my answer when I can just think it and then compare to the actual answer.


  • Articles are nice for further development but not critical for studying for the exam.
  • Study tips, again, are nice for further development and are great for someone who has never written code associated exam but it's not critical for the exam.
  • HowTo's are not critical but are a nice feature that walk you through, via screen shots, how to do a lot of the tasks associated with passing the exam.


For me, the uCertify product is great add-on for prepping for the exam. I say add-on because I don't feel comfortable saying this tool could be used as the only source to prepare for the exam; especially if someone has no practical experience in the area covered by the exam.  My study style will still be to write code and use technical books and study guides to ensure I know how to do the tasks that are covered in the exam. I certainly would use uCertify for their quizzes and test simulations as I get closer to taking the exam. I think that's a good strategy and for $60 it's a good deal as well.

Update:  The great people over at uCertify will give a 10% discount on the uCertify PrepKit of your choice when you use discount code “ERIKLA“.


The Great Calendar Sync Debacle

by Erik Lane 22. April 2008 17:24

Over the last few weeks my wife and I have come to the realization that knowing each other's schedules would be really helpful and we've started down the path of sharing our calendars.

Our setup:

Me (work):  I use Outlook 2003 100%.
Me (personal):  I use my Google Apps for Your Domain (GAFYD) calendar.

Wife:  Outlook 2007 100%.

One of our primary goals was to try and find a free way to accomplish this task.  After some looking around, the consensus is that we will use Google Calendar (GCal) as our go-between.  I looked at what Scott Hanselman is doing since I've heard him talk about this on his podcast.  He uses SyncMyCal which can probably do everything my wife and I are needing except that it fails the free requirement.

I then looked at Google's Calendar Sync tool but it will only sync up with the primary calendar.  That's no good - even if my wife and I shared our GCal's we couldn't sync with each other's and so it didn't seem like that would work either.  I threw out a tweet looking for suggestions and I got some great feedback (Twitter is great for things like this).

Prokrammer had the best idea that I thought might work for us and still be free.  He recommended that I use the Google Sync tool since it was free, but create a GCal for my wife on my domain and have us both sync with it.  Because this new calendar was in my domain I could grant myself full rights to it and could edit as needed.  With this setup   I would one-way sync my work calendar to it and then my wife would 2-way sync it with her Outlook calendar.

I would be providing my wife with my work calendar and she would be giving me her personal calendar via GCal.  I would then use her shared GCal as my primary calendar and will make all of my personal appointments on it.  Then, she too would get them when she synced up.

This sounded like it would do the trick...All the planning in the world doesn't take into account software failure.  The GCal sync tool, for some reason, can not access my wife's calendar.  It gives a beautiful error "Could not connect to Microsoft Outlook: error -2147319779, code 0".

Unless Google provides and update with the fix I guess we will have to bail on the free requirement and purchase something.

Giddy Up!


Some Stuff

by Erik Lane 26. March 2008 09:06

Things around here have been busy that's for sure. After spending the last year in Baltimore with Advertising.com I'm now a full time employee at Ciena. In addition to the new job we've also moved to the Colorado Springs, CO area and we're loving it.  I'm getting the opportunity to work from home most of the time but have to make a trip up to Denver a couple of times a week and work in the office. The commute isn't bad and even when it's slow it's still nothing compared to DFW traffic.

Nothing special on the technical front is happening at the moment although I am enjoying the challenge of introducing Continuous Integration and Test Driven Development to my new team.  I've got a couple of blog posts on using Entlib to create your own providers, etc.. but I don't think I'll be finishing them. However, I am using Entlib for audit logging so I may try and piece some of them together for something technical.

On a personal note, I did pass the Microsoft 70-536 exam at the end of the year -  so I guess now I know I can pass a written exam to prove my knowledge?  I know there are discussions on how much value certs add and I'm on the side of “they are worth the effort“.  While I don't think they imply you're a coding superstar I don't think they hurt. In studying for exams (or interviews) I've learned a lot that I wouldn't have known about just in my daily coding.  Now I have that knowledge in my tool belt for later use.

Because I no longer work in an office of developers everyday I've really taking a liking to Twitter.  I can now have some pretty good technical discussion on there.  Onward and upward.

Giddy Up!

Prayer Request for Stefan

by Erik Lane 25. October 2007 09:19

Just a few months ago a fellow contributor to AC180.com, Stefan, found out that he has Stage 4 Colon Cancer.  Tomorrow he will be going in for his first surgery where the doctor will look around inside and try and remove as much of it as possible and bathe the remaining organs in direct chemo.

Please remember Stef, his family, and his doctors in your prayers.

Thanks and God Bless.

Categories: Faith and Family

Amazon MP3 Downloads

by Erik Lane 23. October 2007 09:08
I was itching for some new music and so I took the opportunity to checkout the Amazon Mp3 service. I downloaded and installed the Amazon MP3 Downloader and I was off and running. The first album to buy was a toss up:
You can see that I opted for the new TFK album.

You can have the downloader automatically add your tunes to your iTunes library but I like my file names in a particular format. So I use Media Monkey to rename all of the files and then manually add them through iTunes.

I've been using iTunes since I purchased an iPod (like most people) and it is OK. Since it's just "OK" I'm on the lookout for a way to completely move away from it. With the Amazon Mp3 service out I feel like I am one step further in than plan.

I really need a good podcast solution first before I'll be able to drop iTunes all together. If anyone has one please share it!

A Great Visual Guide to Source Control

by Erik Lane 12. October 2007 01:53

I've expressed by thoughts on source control and I still believe it is a vital part of any development project.  I guess it's just misunderstood.  Thanks to BetterExplained.com we now have a great visual example of it.


[via RossCode]


Remote Assistance with Copilot

by Erik Lane 24. September 2007 15:11

Copilot's tag line is "Safe. Secure. Simple".  I would agree 100%.

I used Copilot this past weekend to help out my in-laws and it was easy to use and well worth the $5.  I love helping people with their computers but doing it over the phone, where  you can't see what's happening on the other end, can be very painful.  I wanted something that would be simple to use for my in-laws but give me the control that I needed.

With Copilot all my father-in-law did was go to Copilot.com and enter the invitation code I read to him over the phone.  He then downloaded the small app, click a couple of buttons, and then I had control of his machine.  I needed to work on my monther-in-laws machine too and the $5 was good for 24 hours and no restrictions for the number of machines I could connect to.  Cheap and easy!

Giddy Up!

From Saul to Paul - A Complete 180

by Erik Lane 23. September 2007 08:48

I've been as asked to be a contributor over at A Complete 180 (from Saul to Paul).  This will be something totally new for me and I'm looking forward to it.  Living outside of your comfort zone is when you grow the most - I should grow a lot.

If you're not familiar with the site I suggest you stop by.  Here is a blurb from their mission statement.

"...Yet, like all men, we face a world and systems that challenge our intentions each day. We don't give up or quit. We battle. We fight. We band together as brothers. We pray. We seek grace. When we fail, we ask forgiveness. At our core, we want all men to do the same. It’s the very mission and prayer of each of the authors and contributors of ac180.com."

Thanks Aaron.

Giddy Up!


Good Computer Desktop Lamp

by Erik Lane 18. September 2007 06:55

I need to get a desktop lamp for my cube at work. I started my new project last week and I've got a powerful machine, nice LCD monitor, and good chair to sit in. However, there is a big lighting problem. There is too much indirect light reflecting on the screen and it's causing my monitor to wash out. It's starting to hurt my eyes so I'm looking to get a lamp to light up my monitor.

Ott-Lite Vision Saver Crane Lamp is the one I want but it's too expensive.

Lorell Computer Desk Lamp"looks" similar but is closer to what I'm looking to spend.

If anyone has a favorite or is willing to recommend one - I'm open.

Giddy Up!