Monday, December 14, 2009

7 Job-Hunting Tips during the Holidays

Note: I apologize for the lack of frequency with my posts. I didn't want to go too long without posting, so I decided to write this article containing some great career tips.

Overview


Although all signs point to a recovery, the economy is still shaky when it comes to job creation. That said, according to economists and the US Department of Labor, information technology (particularly network management and software engineering) is the #2 fastest-growing career field for 2010 (#1 is healthcare). I still wanted to talk about finding a job during the holidays because:
a) you may be an out-of-work IT professional searching for a job
b) you may be a student who's graduating very soon, so you are searching for a job
c) you may be an IT professional searching for a better job

The Article


This article from MSNBC provides some fantastic tips for searching for a job during the holidays.

My Thoughts


I completely agree with the article, especially the three points: Your Resume is So 2009, Be a cyber elf! Build a better online image, and Rock around the Christmas tree.


In this century, having a professional on-line presence and portfolio (Your Resume is So 2009, Be a cyber elf! Build a better online image) separates the most valuable players from the bench riders in IT. If you don't have any online presence, this is the time to do so. For example:

Note
If you are going to post examples of your work, be sure that you are not violating your company's confidentiality agreements. If you can, modify or "tweak" the project to make it more neutral.


  • Set up a blog with examples of the kind of work you do.

  • Set up a LinkedIn account and use LinkedIn regularly. You can sign up for LinkedIn for free at http://www.linkedin.com.

  • Set up a Facebook account and use it to publicize the work that you're doing in Information Technology.

  • Use YouTube to make instructional videos or demonstration videos of what you have done or are doing in IT.



Once you set up your on-line presence, mention it in your resume.

If you do have an on-line presence, this is the time to make sure that it's professional. While your non-professional pictures and posts may make your peers laugh (or better yet, may get you an audition to be a participant in one of VH1's fourth-rate "reality" shows), some hiring manager or other manager with a C in his or her title may not find it amusing, and they pass you up for a candidate who can represent the company's brand a little better. It's okay to have a picture of you and your friends skiing in the Rocky Mountains, but it's not okay to post a picture of you and your friends in your undergarments getting drunk in the ski lounge. Start using your social networking sites to highlight your projects, or use the sites as a portfolio of your work.

It's also very important to network (Rock around the Christmas tree), and going to holiday parties give you a chance to expand your social network. The reality is that 80% of the people who found a new job found it through someone in the social network (for the students: yes, your career services department counts as a member of your social network). I'm about to tell you a "well-known" secret - most companies who are looking for employees will use their social (and business) network to find qualified workers before paying money to post an ad on the job websites or the classifieds.

Supplemental Reading


In a few past blog articles, I talk about a few of the tips in the MSNBC article in much more detail, as well as add a few tips of my own. Read my blog posts from January 2009 andfrom October 2008 talking about getting a job in a tough economy.

If you have any tips, please share your tips by commenting.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dual Booting versus Virtual Machines

Overview


The economy has changed the required skill sets of the IT professional. There was a time where being a specialist in a particular technology was king. Now, IT professionals are expected to be jacks and jills of all trades because companies typically cut IT budgets during lean times, and CIOs and IT managers want to get the most out of their limited budget. For example:

  • A server administrator not only needs to know Windows, but s/he needs to know Linux and Mac, and s/he needs to know how each system interacts with one another. Server administrators are also required to know how to write scripts to perform tasks.

  • A network administrator not only needs to know how to configure a router or design a network architecture, but s/he needs to be familiar with configuring and designing a VoIP setup. Some network administrators are also expected to know how to perform server administration as well.

  • A SharePoint professional needs to not only know how to administer a SharePoint server, but s/he need to know how to administer Windows servers, understand Active Directory, understand Exchange Servers, and perform basic DBA functions on SQL Servers. The pro may also need to know how to write custom code for SharePoint.

  • A developer in a programming language not only needs to be familiar in the programming language, but s/he also needs to know how to perform basic database administration, such as creating tables, views, and stored procedures in a database, and s/he needs to understand basic networking concepts since a number of development architectures are using web services.



When it comes to system equipment, the price of equipment is cheap compared to five years ago; we are getting more "bang for our buck", so to speak. Now that powerful machines are more affordable, IT professionals can position themselves to being jacks and jills of all trades either by setting up their machines to dual-boot between two (or more) different operating systems or by setting up virtual machines running different operating systems.

Dual-Booting


Dual-booting allows the user to set up the machine to run more than one operating system and choose which operating system one wants to run. Typically one would set up dual-booting to run two different operating systems, such as Windows and Mac OSX or Windows and Linux. However, some may set up dual-booting to run different versions of Windows, such as Windows XP and Windows 7, or Windows 7 and Windows 2008, but that is typically done by students who are simultaneously taking a class in a desktop operating system and a class in a network operating system.

NOTE - depending on how the boot loader is configured, you may automatically boot into one of the operating systems by default if you don't press a key sequence to allow you to choose which OS you would like to use.
Typically in dual booting, your disk is partitioned in a way where one partition is for one operating system and another partition is for the other operating system. Your system is now set up to allow you to choose which operating system you would like to run.

The selling point of dual-booting is performance. By dual-booting, you get full access to the memory and processor as well as other peripherals (video, network card).

There are a few downsides of dual-booting.

  • Having to reboot your machine to switch operating systems may become a nuisance after a while. For example, say you have a dual-boot system with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9. If you're working in the Windows system, and you need to go to your Ubuntu system while you're in the middle of working in your Windows system, you have to reboot your machine, choose to boot in Ubuntu, do what you need to do, and reboot again to return to Windows.

  • If you need to change your dual-boot setup, it requires a lot of work. For example, say you have a dual-boot system with Mac OSX Snow Leopard and Windows 7. If you decide that you would rather dual-boot between Mac OSX Snow Leopard and Fedora 12 (instead of Windows 7), you need to do a little bit of work. You may have to repartition your disk, or you may have to reinstall the OSes. If you have to switch back to a MacOS/Windows dual-boot from a MacOS/Linux dual-boot, you'll have to re-do everything.

  • If your disk partition runs out of space, you're out of luck - unless you want to reconfigure your partitions and reinstall your operating system(s).



Virtual Machines


NOTE - you still have to abide by the software licensing rules when using virtual machines. For example, if your Windows 7 software is licensed for one machine, the virtual machine setup for Windows 7 counts as one machine.
There are numerous software packages that will allow you to set up a virtual machine, which is a software "emulation" of a computer that runs exactly like a physical computer with the operating system running on it. Since IT departments are expected to do more with less because of budget restrictions and requirements to reduce the company's carbon footprint, virtualization is fast becoming a popular solution.

The selling point of virtual machines is convenience. If you are running one operating system but you need instant access to multiple operating systems, you can easily do this with a virtual machine without having to reboot your main machine. If you no longer need to use a particular operating system, all you need to do is delete the virtual machine rather than having to reconfigure your disk partitions and reinstall software.

Another selling point of virtual machines is you can set up a virtual "network" (for a lack of a better term) instead of running multiple machines. For example, if you are studying for your Windows certifications, you can set up one virtual machine to be the Windows server, and you can set up another virtual machine to be the Windows client that logs in to the server's domain.

There are a few downsides of virtual machines.

  • Because the virtual machines are sharing the resources with the main operating system, performance is not as good as running a dual-boot or standalone machine running the same operating system.

  • You may lose access to peripherals depending on the virtual machine software that you use. From my experience, I haven't had problems with VMWare or Parallels, but I've read about some instances of issues with the virtual machine software recognizing USB ports.



Dual-boot or virtual machine?


The decision to dual-boot or set up a virtual machine depends on the situation. Personally, I prefer using virtual machines over setting up dual-booting because of the line of work that I do. On my Mac OSX Snow Leopard machine using Parallels Desktop, I have the following virtual machines: Windows Server 2003 running SharePoint Server and SQL Server 2005, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows XP, and Ubuntu 9. When I'm done with an operating system, I can just delete the virtual machine with ease. I also have the virtual machines so I can set up a "mini-domain" between the Windows XP machine and the Windows Server 2003 machine.

That said, there may be situations where a dual-boot is better than a virtual machine. For example, I have students who are simultaneously taking courses in Windows and Linux. In some of the cases, especially with absolute beginners, it's easier for the student to have a dual-boot system instead of Linux or Windows running in a virtual machine because of the additional learning curve involved with setting up the virtual machine so the student can participate in the lessons.

Additional Reading


This article by darthpenguin provides additional insight on choosing whether to dual-boot or set up a virtual machine.
For those of you in the Mac world, this article by Robert Movin discusses the debate between dual-booting and virtual machines on a Mac.

Additional Information


Below is a list of desktop virtual machine software.

  • Virtual PC, Microsoft

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/

    This free software from Microsoft allows the user to run multiple versions of Windows on the same machine. You can also run other OSes from Virtual PC with a little jury rigging.

  • VMWare

    http://www.vmware.com/

    This commercial software is frequently used throughout the industry for creating virtual machines. While it's a fantastic software package, it does cost money. VMWare Workstation costs about $133 USD, and VMWare Fusion (for Mac) costs around $56 USD.

  • Parallels

    http://www.parallels.com/

    This commercial software package is frequently used on Macs for desktop virtualization. While this is also a fantastic software package, it does cost money. Parallels will run between $70 - $80 USD.

  • Virtual Box, Sun Microsystems

    http://www.virtualbox.org/

    Virtual Box is a free, open-source software package from Sun with software versions for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. I have students who swear by VirtualBox. However, based on personal experience, I found that VirtualBox is a real "resource hog", so you do need a very powerful machine to run this effectively.

  • Hyper-V, Microsoft

    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/hyperv-main.aspx

    This software comes with Windows Server 2008. The selling point of this software is it's written more for server virtualization. I wanted to mention this since there are students who are learning Windows Server 2008 and they are using this as their main OS for their machines.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yes, I converted to Mac

I know that this post may, in the beginning, seem to be a little self-indulgent, but please bear with me. I will talk about the technological information in the post.

The Backstory


Despite working in the technology sector, I'm the type of person to continue using something until I can't use it anymore. I do this with cars, I do this with mobile phones, and I do this with laptops. I found that the laptop that I had - a four-year old Gateway with an Intel Celeron M processor, 512MB of RAM, and 60GB hard drive space - was not working with the new projects that I'm currently working on. I had to get a new laptop. The question was - what brand?

With the push from Microsoft to go 64-bit with its new server releases (SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Windows 2008 R2, Microsoft SQL Server 2008), I needed to have 64-bit capability. However, I still needed 32-bit backwards compatibility because I'm still working on projects in the 32-bit world. Based on research, I found that the 64-bit "PC" laptops would do well for my work with 64-bit technologies, but I would have to trust my luck with the 32-bit technologies, because the 64-bit Windows OSes don't necessarily play nice with all 32-bit applications all the time (although Hyper-V supports 32-bit and 64-bit apps).

A few of my students, as well as a teaching colleague of mine, use MacBooks. They frequently talked about their MacBooks as if it was the second coming. Although I'm interested in diving into Apple technologies, I wasn't quite sure about purchasing the MacBook, since the majority of the work that I do is with SharePoint and Microsoft technologies. One of my students replied, "there's always Parallels". After some convincing from the students, my teaching colleague, and the Apple representative, I went for the glory and purchased a MacBook Pro 15.

When I started using it yesterday, the first words out of my mouth were, "why haven't I done this sooner?"

The Selling Points


I know that some people are sold by the design (it is designed very well, by the way), but I'm concerned about the performance. I have to admit, I was blown away by how quickly my laptop booted, even with applications installed on it (OpenOffice, Jing, and Parallels).

I was also very impressed with what I got for my money. Not only did I get a lightning-fast machine, but I got a lot of useful applications with my MacOS (I have Snow Leopard).

All of my peripheries worked well on the Mac. It could read my portable hard drive and flash drives, so there was no problem.

The Mac applications worked very well. So how about Windows? After all, most of my project work is with Microsoft applications. Although I could create a partition to run the Windows OS (using Boot Camp), I had to have virtual machines because I work in different Windows (and Linux) environments. That's where Parallels came into play. I created two virtual machines in Parallels. One machine has Windows 2003 Server SP2 with IIS 6.0 configured on it, Visual Studio .NET 2008 and SharePoint Server 2007 in a single-server configuration. The other machine just has Windows XP SP2. I couldn't believe it - both virtual machines booted considerably faster than the same configurations on a PC! I haven't tried setting up a virtual network with Parallels just yet, but from what I can tell, it's quite easy to do.

The Adjustments


For someone who is coming from the PC world, it was pretty easy to get the hang of the command button instead of the control button. The part that I'm getting used to is the touch-pad mouse. It doesn't work the same way as a touch-pad mouse on a PC laptop, but I'm working on it. For now, I'm just using a Bluetooth mouse (yes, Macs support Bluetooth).

I Can't Wait to Try....


As many of you know, I make training videos to accompany some of the tutorial posts in this blog. I haven't made too many of them lately because, based on some of the feedback that I received from the viewers, some of the broadcast quality wasn't as sharp as they would like it to be. I agree with that assessment. In order to make better quality videos, I need new software. Unfortunately, a lot of the software costs hundreds of dollars.

Mac OSX comes with software to allow me to create top-quality videos. I also installed Jing, an open-source software that will allow me to record screen demos. I'm going to be creating a new video tutorial in the near future, so I can't wait to see how it turns out. If I like Jing, I may purchase Jing Pro for $14.95.

The Verdict


I can see why people love Macs so much. I am completely sold on it, and I'm kicking myself for not getting one sooner.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Sneak Peek At SharePoint 2010: My Take

Note: I'm currently working on another SharePoint tutorial on enhancing the Announcements web part on your page. As soon as I finish that tutorial, I will post it.

Recently I attended a Microsoft seminar on SharePoint 2010. From what I've seen in the seminar, there are numerous improvements to SharePoint in this version. The following is my evaluation of the SharePoint 2010, broken down into "pros", "cons", and "questions". Note that I haven't covered every single enhancement - there are so many to mention.

Pros



  • Vastly Improved Features for a True Web Communication Solution

    Using SharePoint as a web site had limitations, including the lack of cross-browser support. A SharePoint site looked fantastic in Internet Explorer, but the same site looked "blah" in Firefox or Safari. Microsoft is adding cross-browser support to SharePoint 2010.

    You probably noticed that SharePoint really didn't support embedding rich media without a little bit of effort. For example, I have tutorials on this blog on embedding rich media on a SharePoint 2007 page using the Content Editor Web Part. According to Microsoft, SharePoint 2010 will fully support embedding rich media (including Silverlight).

    Another feature that has been added to SharePoint 2010 is "preview before publishing". In some cases, you have to publish your changes in SharePoint 2007 in order to see the outcome, which is not a good approach. In SharePoint 2010, you will have the ability to view your changes without having to publish your "works in progress".

  • Better Support of SharePoint Development

    If you've done any customization to SharePoint, such as creating custom web parts, you probably noticed that testing and debugging your work is...frankly, what testing and debugging? You usually had to publish your changes to the SharePoint site and test in "real time" on the site. SharePoint 2010 will have Sandboxed Solutions to give the developer a genuine, "protected" environment to test custom SharePoint development without affecting the SharePoint sites.


  • More information on FAST - http://www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch/en/us/fast-customer.aspx
  • Dramatically Enhanced Search Capabilities

    From my experience, SharePoint 2007's search capability was adequate, but there was some limitation. SharePoint 2010 will have enhanced search capabilities such as: boolean and wildcard searches, phonetic lookups, and Bing-like capabilities. The best part of the search enhancement is the integration of the FAST search technology in SharePoint 2010. This will help position SharePoint as a valid platform for web communication.

  • Integration with Office 2010

    In a nutshell, SharePoint 2010 plays very nicely with Office 2010. Some of the many integration features include:

    • Ability to take large amounts of data and pivot on those quickly like a spreadsheet (also requires SQL Server 2008 R2)

    • Ability to create workflow flow charts in Visio, import the workflow flow charts into SharePoint Designer, and have SharePoint designer create the workflows from the flow charts

    • Ability to import Office themes to use as themes for SharePoint 2010

    • With the correct licensing, ability to edit Office documents through the browser rather than on the client machine



  • Wizards for Easier Interactions with Databases

    In SharePoint 2007, this functionality required a custom-developed web part. SharePoint 2010 will have Business Connectivity Services that will allow a person to connect directly to a database via a wizard in SharePoint designer. Not only will it display the information, but it can also provide an interface for the person to change the data. (The Microsoft rep demonstrated this with SQL Server, but I would imagine that this could work with Oracle or PostgreSQL/MySQL.)



Cons



  • More "Power to the People" May Require Business to Re-Evaluate IT Support

    One of the enhancements that Microsoft is adding to SharePoint 2010 is adding more "power to the people" to make SharePoint an even better collaborative tool. This could make IT management re-evaluate how the IT department will support SharePoint. Based on experience, a number of SharePoint problems that I have to address is problems caused by the user (deleting security groups, setting up a page incorrectly, accidentally deleting content, assigning the wrong security to the site). Since users will have more "power" in SP 2010, IT departments may need to realign their resources to help support the users, even if the user base gets all the SharePoint training that they need. These changes may also affect financial budgets. For example, a reorganization may be required, so people who once fell under the IT budget and headcount may now fall under the business unit's budget and headcount.


  • The Requirements for SP 2010 May Require Additional Cost Investment from Companies


    SharePoint 2010 requires the following:

    • Windows 2008 64-bit SP2 or R2

    • SQL Server 2005 or 2008

    • Office 2010 preferred


    Not all companies are running bleeding-edge hardware technology, and in this economy, companies have tightened their IT budgets. If a company wants to use or upgrade to SharePoint 2010, the company may also need to purchase additional hardware and software if it's not equipped for SP 2010.



Questions



  • What about Flash?

    Although SharePoint 2010 is supposed to support embedding rich media on the pages, the one format that the Microsoft representative failed to mention was Flash. All due respect to Microsoft - for rich content on the web, Flash is much more prevalent than Silverlight. It looks like that one may still need to add a few workarounds on a SharePoint page to get Flash to appear on a SharePoint page.



One thing that I haven't mentioned is upgrading. Microsoft has acknowledged that upgrading from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007 was not properly supported by Microsoft. Microsoft is providing many tools and documents to make upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 as easy and seamless as possible.

I'm getting the impression that Microsoft wants to make SharePoint the "all in one" tool for web communication, and with this version, it appears that they are closer to accomplishing that goal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Free Lessons in Animation


Overview


Many IT students in the multimedia discipline are usually looking to work in the animation industry. Students who are looking to become animators are also required to take art classes in addition to the IT classes required for multimedia, such as Flash, Photoshop and Expression Studio. The multimedia students that I’ve spoken to are always looking for more art classes because either their school’s curriculum doesn’t offer enough art classes or the art classes that they are taking are lacking. What if there was an opportunity to get animation lessons from an established animator and innovator of Flash animation? John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren and Stimpy and a pioneer of using Flash for animation, is offering free animation lessons to qualified artists in his Cartoon College.

Cartoon College


John Kricfalusi launched his blog, All Kinds of Stuff (http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com), for fans who want to read about cartoons and its history and aspiring animators who want to learn about cartoons. The Cartoon College evolved from the blog to give aspiring animators a chance to hone their craft and improve upon their skills without having to pay a fortune in lessons.

The only requirement to participate in the Cartoon College is you have to audition for a spot. You post a comment on Mr. Kricfalusi’s blog, John K Stuff, requesting him to review your work. You should already have a repository for your work, such as a personal blog or a web site. If you are accepted, he sends you an invitation to join the class. To help your chances with getting accepted, Mr. Kricfalusi has posted helpful advice and information for the aspiring animator to follow. Below are the following links to the advice and information:


The college is a self-paced learning environment, so there aren’t any hard deadlines to follow. Mr. Kricfalusi will analyze your work and provide helpful comments to help you improve on your craft. Your peers in the college will also provide comments about your work, and you are encouraged to comment on your peers’ work.

Another advantage of the Cartoon College is you have a chance to work on an actual project of John K’s if you do well in the lessons and get paid for it. While a portfolio is nice to have to show examples of your work, practical experience on a “real world” project often gives the student a leg up over students who have no practical experience.

If you are a serious animator looking to hone your craft with an animation legend for free, consider auditioning for the Cartoon College.

Note: The author is not being remunerated by John Kricfalusi for the site review, nor does the author have any association or affiliation with John Kricfalusi's site.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Adding a SlideShow to a SharePoint Site Redux

One of my most popular posts on this blog was a tutorial on adding a slide show to a SharePoint site using HTML, JavaScript and the Content Editor Web Part. If you haven't had a chance to view that tutorial, you can view it at this link: Add a SlideShow to the SharePoint Site using HTML, JavaScript, and the CEWP.

Just as it was one of my most popular tutorials, it was the one that seemed to cause trouble for some of the readers. Two of the most popular questions that I received were:

  • Why am I only getting the first image?

  • Why am I getting red X's?



I created this separate post to address troubleshooting the application.

Check Your Browser Version
Common Symptom: The first picture displays but the slide show doesn't play

To give you more information on the tutorial, I tested the tutorial on the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 6

  • Internet Explorer 7

  • Firefox 3.1x

  • Firefox 3.5x

  • Opera 0.9x


I've noticed that in some of the browsers, the comments in the JavaScript caused it to only show the first picture only. Try removing the comments from the JavaScript.


If you're not using the browsers that I've used to test the code, test the code in a stand-alone "test" web page to see if the browser supports the JavaScript. If you do that, make sure that you comment out the _spBodyOnLoadFunctionNames.push("runSlideShow"); line. If the code is not working, it's possible that your browser will not support the JavaScript code.


Also check the user's browser settings. The browser settings may be configured to not run JavaScript. If that's the case, then the script won't run.


Check Your Code

Common Symptom: The first picture displays but the slide show doesn't play; red X's appear instead of images

When I was assisting people with the slide show, I found two common problems:


  • Coders forgot to add the _spBodyOnLoadFunctionNames.push("runSlideShow"); statement before the ending </script> tag

  • Coders were not referencing the correct location for the images


Make sure that the _spBodyOnLoadFunctionNames.push("runSlideShow"); line appears before the closing </script> tag.

If the _spBodyOnLoadFunctionNames.push("runSlideShow"); statement is there, check to make sure that your path to reference the pictures is exactly right (the src property in the <img> tag). If you are having trouble with using the relative path, try referencing the absolute path (ex: http://www.bogus.com/images/image.jpg). If you are still getting the red X, it's possible that the image does not exist where you are referencing.


Check to Make Sure That Other Scripts on the Page Aren't Failing

Common Symptom: The first picture displays but the slide show doesn't play

If the page on the SharePoint site is running other JavaScripts (especially JavaScript that gets added through a feature) and one of those JavaScripts fail before the page gets a chance to load the slide show script, the slide show script won't run. For example, in my environment, we have a feature that adds JavaScript to change the logo. If that JavaScript fails, the slide show stops working. If your slide show is not working, view the errors on your browser to see if there is any JavaScript that's failing.


If You Are Referencing a Document Image Library for the Images, Check to Make Sure That You Have Read Permission on the Library

Common Symptom: The script "hangs", then red Xs appear when the user stops the script from running.

One of the things that readers reported was that their script would "hang", and when the stop the "hanging", it would show a red X. If you are referencing a document library for the images, you will possibly get "hanging" if the viewer does not have read permission to the document library. Either grant the viewers of the site at least read permission to the document image library, or move the pictures to a document image library where the users have read permission.


Hopefully these techniques are helpful. If you have other ideas to help fellow readers who are having trouble with the script, please post your suggestions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spotlight on Great Tutorial Site for Learning Telecommunications and Network Technologies:RAD University

RAD University - http://www.rad.com/12/RAD_University_Tutorials/5266/

Follow Dr. Debby Koren, Founder of RAD University, on Twitter (@RAD_U_dean)- http://twitter.com/RAD_U_dean

I usually teach network and telecommunications technologies in school, and I'm always trying to find ways to help the students learn the concepts without being completely bored or overwhelmed. Typically, I'll make interactive games in Flash. Unfortunately, I'm not a full-time professor, so my time to create supplemental materials is limited. While I was looking for an interactive example of IP Routing, I stumbled upon RAD University.

Created by Dr. Debby Koren of RAD Data Communications, Ltd., she and her students at Tel Aviv University and other institutions of higher education created interactive tutorials to help students understand concepts in telecommunications, data networking, and computer networking. While these subjects would generally appeal to students studying network engineering, software and computer engineers may also want to view some of these tutorials to help them develop applications for telecommunications or networking.

A complaint that I hear from some of my network technology students is the concepts about telecommunications and networking can be dry, which made it a little difficult for them to really understand it. RAD University's tutorials really make learning about telecommunications and networking interesting by providing fun, interactive exercises to help learn about the topics.

If you are interested in learning about telecommunications and networking in a fun way, or if you are an instructor looking for more exercises to help reinforce learning, check out RAD University. As an instructor, I'm looking forward to directing my students to this site.

Note: The author is not being remunerated by the owners of the RAD University website for the site review, nor does the author have any association or affiliation with the RAD University site.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

WPF Tutorial: Great Site for Learning WPF

WPF Tutorial, by Christian Moser - http://www.wpftutorial.net

I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what technical skills employers are looking for in a particular IT discipline so I can help guide my students with their learning plan to prepare for the work force. One of the technical skills that seems to be in demand with employers looking for .NET developers is WPF. As a student or a professional who's looking to build a skill set, it may be difficult to find a course teaching WPF that's affordable. It may also be time consuming and expensive to find any self-study materials to learn WPF. Christian Moser, a software developer from Switzerland, has solved that problem.

WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) - a graphical subsystem for rendering user interfaces in Windows-based applications.

Mr. Moser has developed a web site for students (and established IT professionals) who want to learn WPF. His site, WPF Tutorial, is a well-organized, beautifully designed, "one-stop shop" site that provides students with information that they need to learn WPF. Some of the features of the site include:

  • Tutorials to get started with WPF.

  • Informative articles about tools and books that help students learn WPF.

  • My personal favorite - "Learn WPF in two Weeks". Note: this tutorial appears to be incomplete, but there are enough exercises to get started



If you are interested in learning WPF, visit Christian's site by clicking on the link at the top of this post.

Note: The author is not being remunerated by the owners of the WPF Tutorial website for the site review, nor does the author have any association or affiliation with the WPF Tutorial site.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blog of Interest for IT Students - http://careertips.blogliterature.com/

There was a blog that was brought to my attention that I found to be very interesting to job seekers. The blog is called Career Tips.

Although a number of tips are targeted for people just entering the workforce, a few of the tips posted are also very useful to people in mid-career or people who are changing careers. It's worth a read regardless of what stage you are in a career.

Granted, some of the posts are of little interest to an aspiring IT professional. For example, most IT professionals aren't interested in learning how to write a resume to get a job as a chef. However, many of the posts are relevant and informative. For example, two posts on the blog - tips for searching for a job and choosing a career - are relevant to aspiring IT professionals.

If you're looking for some advice on getting your first job in the industry or changing careers, visit http://careertips.blogliterature.com.

Note: The author is not being remunerated by the owners of the Career Tips blog for the site review, nor does the author have any association or affiliation with the Career Tips blog.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Writing Your Own Twitter Client



These are screen shots of a Twitter client that I wrote for my own use. This application allows me to log in to Twitter and post tweets without having to log in from my browser.

This application was written in C#. I put all the calls to the Twitter API in a reusable class (this application is referencing that class), and I put all the URLs to Twitter in the configuration file in case.

I also have logic for the program to reference the configuration file to determine what image should appear in the application.


Overview


A great way to get more practical experience with computer programming and software design is to design and write your own substantial application. By substantial, I mean something beyond the standard "hello world" or "add two numbers" program. One fun idea is writing your own Twitter client. Thanks to the Twitter API, you can make your own custom Twitter client.

The Twitter API


Twitter has APIs that aspiring programmers can use to create their own custom Twitter applications. In a nutshell, the APIs are accessed using HTTP, and the methods/functions return an XML response. The documentation to the Twitter APIs can be accessed here.


If you are learning a programming language, you should acquaint yourself with using the Twitter APIs. However, the libraries and wrapper classes are very handy if you are already experienced with a particular programming language and you are on a tight deadline to create an application.

Please note that if you are creating an application using one of the libraries, you will need to be aware of the usage license for those libraries. For example, if you are making a commercial application, you may not be allowed to use a particular library.

Libraries/Wrapper Classes using the Twitter API


If you want to save a little time with writing your application, numerous developers have written custom libraries or wrapper classes (based on a variety of languages) to make calling the Twitter API a little simpler. These libraries can be found here.

A C# Lab: Making a Simple Twitter Client That Sends Tweets



Custom Twitter API Libraries (based on language) - http://apiwiki.twitter.com/Libraries

Twitter API Documentation - http://apiwiki.twitter.com/Twitter-API-Documentation

I created a C# lab that will allow the C# student create a very basic, simple Twitter client using the Twitter APIs that will give the student practice with how to use the Twitter APIs. If you want a copy of that lab, you can access it here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Links to FREE SharePoint 2007 Training and Reference Resources


Before I begin my article, I wanted to address a comment that was left on one of my posts regarding moderating comments. I didn't publish the comment because a) it contained language that was not safe for work or school, and b) it was not in a tone that would promote a healthy learning environment. I still want to answer the question anyway.

There are a few reasons why I moderate my comments:

  • Since a good bit of my audience are students, some of them try to be funny. If it's something clean, I'll post it. However, there are some who like to post inappropriate links or messages that are not safe for work or school. I don't want my blog to get flagged by web site traffic blockers because somebody finds it amusing to do a rickroll to pornographic material in my comments.

  • A pet hate of mine is when someone likes to use the comments to post spam. By moderating the comments, I can keep the spam off my site.

  • Although my blog is read by IT professionals of all levels, my blog is targeted to IT students and professionals who are starting out in a technology. As an adjunct professor, I believe in promoting a healthy learning environment where people can freely ask questions without being told that they're "stupid" or that they should just "Google it before asking it", and people can receive constructive criticism instead of negative attacks. By moderating the comments, I can block the people who are attacking others that have left comments or questions.





When I talk about job roles throughout the article, I mean the following in relation to SharePoint:

  • Administrator

  • Programmer/Developer

  • End User

  • (Web) Designer




I'm always looking for resources to help me with my day-to-day activities and my project work in relation to SharePoint 2007. Because of the economy, I need to use resources that are as inexpensive as possible. There's nothing less expensive than free.

Below are some free resources that I personally use and endorse.

The MSDN Windows SharePoint Services Developer Center is a fantastic source for all job roles with SharePoint 2007. After all, SharePoint 2007 is a Microsoft product. This site contains whitepapers, tips, and videos on all things SharePoint.

If you are looking for general tips and techniques, the SharePoint News Section of SearchWinIT.com contains great tips and techniques to help you with the various job roles in SharePoint. Note: you may have to register on the site to gain access to some of the information. Registration is free.

You can also access the free SharePoint E-Zine to get monthly information about the management, implementation, and governance of SharePoint. For example, the March 2009 issue contains traps to avoid to save yourself aggravation while supporting SharePoint, and the February 2009 issue talks about migrating from WSS 3.0 to MOSS 2007.

If you are a designer, look no further than Heather Solomon's Site. If you already work with branding and designing SharePoint sites, you probably already know that Ms. Solomon is considered the expert in SharePoint branding. Her site is the most comprehensive site on SharePoint branding.

If you are a developer, there are two helpful sites for you. Kirk Evans Links to Free SharePoint Developer Resources contains reference links that SharePoint developers need to have handy when working on development projects for SharePoint, and Point8020 free developer training is a 12-part course on writing code for SharePoint. It includes a module on Silverlight, which is what I'm learning now. ;)

When it comes to free SharePoint resources, a "new kid on the block" is Shelby Consulting. Bob Shelby is an IT professional working toward Microsoft Partner status in SharePoint, and he was kind enough to publish materials that he acquired and developed during the process. Most of the tutorials are targeted at administrators, but he does have a section for designers.

If you have any links to great free resources (in SharePoint) that you would like to share, please leave a comment and I will publish them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Congratulations Pittsburgh Penguins!!



Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins for beating the odds and winning the Stanley Cup!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Look at CAML for SharePoint Development

Overview


For a quick summary of how CAML improved performance on a list items query, read this article from author and SharePoint development expert Sahil Malik.
The Collaborative Application Markup Language (CAML) is an XML-based language that is primarily used to perform data manipulation. In a number of cases, using CAML helps improve your program's performance.

CAML Tutorial


If you are unfamiliar with CAML syntax, Karine Bosch wrote a fantastic tutorial on writing CAML queries for SharePoint Magazine. She covers all the basics and the "gotchas" of CAML syntax in an easy-to-follow manner.

Helpful Tools


When I am writing code where I need to use CAML, I am partial to two FREE tools.
Screenshot of Stramit CAML viewer. Click on the image for a larger view.


The Stramit CAML Viewer is an "all-in-one" tool that not only lets you view and test CAML queries, but it also displays the GUIDs for lists and views. You can download this tool from CodePlex.

Screenshot of U2U Caml Query Builder. Click on the image for a larger view.


The U2U CAML Query Builder is a slick, time-saving tool that will automatically build the CAML query for you based on the information entered by you. It also has a feature where you can copy the built CAML query to the clipboard. You can download this tool from the U2U site.

CAML in Action: A Simple Query



Note: This code will only work on a server where SharePoint is installed. For example, if you are going to add a view to a list that exists on http://bogus/bogussite, you need to have this code on the server that houses http://bogus.


In this example, I have a list on my site called Doctor Who Episodes. I would like to get the list of episodes that starred Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, and I would like to order that list by the year. My application, written for demonstration purposes only (no "fancy" formatting, application usability design, or full performance evaluation was considered), will display the episode list in a text box the moment the application runs (Form_Load).
Click on the image for a larger view.


After creating a new C# Windows application called SimpleCAMLQuery, I added reference to the Microsoft.SharePoint library in my project and referenced the library in my code.

using Microsoft.SharePoint;


I added the following in the Form_Load event:
I defined three variables to hold the URL for the site, the list name, and the view name.

String siteName = "http://bogus/bogussite";
String listName = "Doctor Who Episodes";
String viewName = "All Items";


I then used SPSite, SPWeb, and SPList to open my list on my site. I also used SPQuery to open my view, since this class has the method/function to use for the CAML query.

SPSite site = new SPSite(siteName);
SPWeb web = site.OpenWeb();
SPList list = web.Lists[listName];
SPQuery query = new SPQuery(list.Views[viewName]);


I then build my CAML query using the StringBuilder class. You can also put the CAML query directly into a string object if you prefer. If the field has spaces or special characters in the name (as it does in my example - the field in my list is called "The Doctor"), you need to reference the hexadecimal values in the name.


System.Text.StringBuilder oSb = new System.Text.StringBuilder();
oSb.Append(" <Where>");
oSb.Append(" <Eq>");
oSb.Append(" <FieldRef Name=\"The_x0020_Doctor\" />");
oSb.Append(" <Value Type=\"Text\>Jon Pertwee</Value>");
oSb.Append(" </Eq>");
oSb.Append(" </Where>");
oSb.Append(" <OrderBy>");
oSb.Append(" <FieldRef Name=\"Year\" Ascending=\"True\" />");
oSb.Append(" </OrderBy>");

Note: The order in which the Where and the OrderBy tag blocks appear in the CAML doesn't matter. Some people place the OrderBy tag blocks before the Where tag blocks. I usually place the OrderBy tag blocks after the Where tag blocks because I'm used to writing SQL, and in SQL syntax, the Order clause comes after the Where clause.

I then called the Query method/function of the SPQuery object to set up the CAML query

query.Query = oSb.ToString();


Finally, I put the results in a SPListItemCollection object and looped through the object.

SPListItemCollection results = list.GetItems(query);
foreach (SPListItem i in results)
{
  txtResults.Text += i["LinkTitle"].ToString();
  txtResults.Text += Environment.NewLine;
  txtResults.Text += i["Synopsis"].ToString();
  txtResults.Text += Environment.NewLine;
  txtResults.Text += i["Year"].ToString();
  txtResults.Text += "----------------------------------------";
  txtResults.Text += Environment.NewLine;
  txtResults.Text += Environment.NewLine;
}



Here is the full code:
Click on the image for a larger view.


Additional examples of CAML in Action


If you would like to see additional examples of using CAML, view these previous posts on my blog:


If you have any questions, comments, or additional examples, please feel free to post a comment.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Scribd Store: Another way to expand your portfolio...AND your wallet

As you may have read on my blog, I am a fan of Scribd, and I am a regular user. Scribd has released an exciting feature. Scribd now has its own storefront that will allow you to sell your written works.

Not only is the store a way to earn money on technical and research documents that you have written, but it is a way to build your professional portfolio.

  • Published works are always great projects to have on a professional portfolio.

  • The analytics tools that come with the store displays sales and viewing figures that you can use to demonstrate your product's marketability to potential employers.

  • Having your own store demonstrates business skills - a secondary skill - because you have to manage the sales and marketing of your documents.



For more information, visit http://www.scribd.com/store/about.

Monday, May 18, 2009

SharePoint 2007: System.OutOfMemoryException in SiteData During Search Crawl

Lately at work we've been getting these errors on our SharePoint site. From what I was able to Google, it looks like others have this problem as well.

After doing some research, I found a post from Ranjan Banerji, who also experienced this problem in his environment. This post goes into deep detail as to how they worked around this problem. You may want to read through the post. I've found it to be very helpful.

In addition to the information mentioned in the post, we found that we had users who had abnormally long names for folders and files. As a result, it would make a path that was entirely too long for SharePoint to handle. From what we were able to tell in our logs, we noticed that the crawler would "choke" on these entries, which would then trigger the OutOfMemoryException.

If you have encountered this problem due to a reason not mentioned by me or Ranjan, please feel free to post a comment.

Friday, May 8, 2009

SharePoint Development Tutorial: Programmatically Create View on a List

While it is easy to create a view for a list in SharePoint, you may find a scenario where you need an easier way to create a view on a list. For example, I had a situation where I had to create over 30 views for one list. Creating the views using SharePoint can be time-consuming, and it could increase the possibility of user error because of the manual process. Using C#, the Microsoft.SharePoint library, and CAML, one can create a view for a list on SharePoint.

This illustration will demonstrate the simplest example of using C# code to add a view to a list (as a console application). You may want to make modifications for your needs, or use it as a foundation for a larger-scale application.


Note: This code will only work on a server where SharePoint is installed. For example, if you are going to add a view to a list that exists on http://bogus/bogussite, you need to have this code on the server that houses http://bogus.



The Scenario


In this illustration, there is a list on a SharePoint site called "Doctor Who Episodes". This list needs a new view called "JNT Era", which will display Doctor Who episodes made during the JNT era (1980-1989). This list has four fields:

  • Title

  • The Doctor

  • Synopsis

  • Year



See the example list

After starting a new project, you will need to add a reference to the Microsoft.SharePoint library in your code, and you will need to indicate that you will be using the library in your code.
See the example snippet

The next step is to define the SharePoint classes that you will need to perform the action. The four classes that you will need are:

  • SPSite - Collection of sites

  • SPWeb - The SharePoint web site

  • SPList - A List on a SharePoint web site

  • SPViewCollection - Collections of views on a list



In the code, you will need to access the website. You will define an instance of the SPSite class to get the site, then you will need to define an instance of the SPWeb class to have a reference to the actual site.

SPSite oSite = new SPSite("http://bogus/bogussite");
SPWeb oWeb = oSite.OpenWeb();


Alternative to SPList oList = oWeb.Lists["List Name"]

You can also access the list by the GUID. Use the following logic if you want to access the list by the GUID rather than the name:

Guid gui = new Guid("The List GUID");
SPList oList = oWeb.Lists[gui];


Then, you will need to access the list that will get the new view, and you will need to access the list's collection of views.

SPList oList = oWeb.Lists["Doctor Who Episodes"];
SPViewCollection oViewCollection = oList.Views;


Finally, you will need to define the new view name.

string strViewName = "JNT Era";

See the example snippet

We are ready to define the fields that will be displayed in this new view. In this example, the view will display all the fields. You will need to define an instance of the System.Collections.Specialized.StringCollection class to hold the names of the fields that will be displayed in the view.

System.Collections.Specialized.StringCollection viewFields =
new System.Collections.Specialized.StringCollection();

To add the fields, use the Add() function of the class. You do not have to use the special hexadecimal characters to represent spaces and special characters for the field names. You can use the literal field name.
See the example snippet


Helpful Links:

CAML Syntax

Stramit Caml Viewer

We have to define the criteria for the view using CAML. In our illustration, we want to display the Doctor Who episodes from 1980 until 1989, and we want to display them in ascending order. Your scenario may be different, so your CAML will be different. If you are unsure of CAML syntax, a link to a site that has documentation on the CAML syntax has been provided for you on this post. If you want to make sure that your query will work before you begin coding, you can use the Stramit Caml Viewer to test your CAML query. A link to the tool has also been provided for you on this post. In this illustration, I am using the StringBuilder class to hold the CAML query. Then, I am converting it to a String.
See the example snippet

Finally, we are ready to add the view. The Add() function of the SPViewCollection class adds a view to the list. The Add function
takes six parameters:

  • View Name - a string

  • Collection of View Fields - string collection

  • CAML query - a string

  • Row Count - an integer

  • Is this paged? - a boolean

  • Is this going to be the default view? - a boolean


You also have to call the Update() function of the SPWeb class to make sure the changes "take".

oViewCollection.Add(strViewName, viewFields, query, 5000, true, false);
oWeb.Update();

See the example snippet

After completing, compiling and running the program, the list now has a new view!
See the results

If you would like a copy of the skeleton code, you can download the RTF file of the skeleton code here.

Please post your questions or comments, and I will answer your questions to the best of my ability.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Twitter is a Helpful Tool if You Are or Are Going to Be in IT

If you don't know what Twitter is, here is a link to the Wikipedia article on the service.

If you haven't been living in a cave for the past six months, you've probably noticed that Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) has become the newest Internet application star. Twitter is a way for people to send updates via the web, a mobile phone, or an application on a PC or Mac. I use Twitter, and I find it to be a very useful tool in my line of work. By streamlining how one uses twitter, it can be a useful tool for all IT professionals and aspiring IT professionals. Here's how:


  • Twitter is a way to expand your technical knowledge.

    I follow a number of tweeple (people who use Twitter) who make informative posts about what's on in IT. Not only do I get instant technology news, but I also get posts containing: links to technology how-tos and tips; links to training and webinars; and career tips. It saves me a lot of time from sifting through websites and search engines to find information.

  • Twitter is a way to get assistance with your IT issue.

    Most forums are good tools to use to post questions. Twitter is another tool that you can use to post questions. Based on my experience, I've posted questions to the Twitter community, and more often than not, I got an answer to my question relatively quickly.

    If you've already asked a question in a forum, and your question is not getting a response, you can use Twitter to post a link to the question. If the regular readers of the forum can't answer your questions, perhaps someone in the Twitter community can.

  • Twitter is a way to get publicity for your professional work.

    If you're looking to expand your audience, Twitter is a good tool to use. I've recently started to use Twitter to publish links to my tutorial posts on this blog, and I've noticed a slight increase in my traffic. Other things that I've seen other tweeple post: links to custom applications and SharePoint web parts that they have written; links to web sites that they have designed; and podcasts and videos in which they were involved.

  • Twitter is a way to expand your professional social network, as well as assist with your job search.

    There are a number of IT professionals who use Twitter, and a large number of those tweeple post IT-related content 95% of the time. You can build your network by re-tweeting informative posts, as well as answer questions that other tweeple have posted.

    I've also noticed that a number of small business owners and IT job recruiters use Twitter to post job openings. You can use Twitter to keep abreast of new opportunities.



Do you use Twitter? Do you like Twitter? Can you see a use for Twitter for your profession? Please feel free to post any comments or questions that you have.

P.S. If you use Twitter, and if you are interested, you can follow me on Twitter

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SharePoint Development Tutorial: Programmatically Deleting All Items from a List

Microsoft Reference Documentation: Microsoft.SharePoint namespace

Sometimes you need a quick way to delete all items from a SharePoint list. You can manually delete each item from the list without writing code, but this can be time-consuming, especially if you have a high quantity of items on the list.


Click the link to download the source code for this post

Licensing and Warranty

You may use the code as you wish - it may be used in commercial or other applications, and it may be redistributed and modified. The code is provided "as-is". No claim of suitability, guarantee, or any warranty whatsoever is provided. By downloading the code, you agree to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the Author and the Publisher from and against any claims, suits, losses, damages, liabilities, costs, and expenses (including reasonable legal or attorneys' fees) resulting from or relating to any use of the code by you.




You can write code to programmatically remote items from a SharePoint list using the classes in the Microsoft.SharePoint library (namespace). There are two ways that you can delete all the items from the SharePoint list programmatically:

  • Using the DeleteItemById() function of the SPList class

  • Recommended for performance:Building CAML and using the ProcessBatchData() function of the SPSite class



I will demonstrate both approaches. The skill sets required for these approaches are:

  • C# knowledge

  • A general knowledge of the classes in the Microsoft.SharePoint library/namespace

  • A general knowledge of CAML (for approach #2)



Note: This code will only work on a machine on which SharePoint is installed.


Approach #1: Using the DeleteItemById() function of the SPList class


The function DeleteItemById() of the SPList class expects a numeric parameter ID, which is the ID of the item to delete. This code snippet, which is a slightly modified version of a function in Keith Richie's SPPurgeList (http://www.codeplex.com/sppurgelist), demonstrates how to delete all items by capturing the IDs in a hashtable, reading the hashtable, and calling the DeleteItemById() function. In this example, we will be running this on a site called http://mySharePoint/bogus on a list called BogusList. If you want to use this code, you would substitute the site and list names with your respective site and list names.

Sample: Using DeleteItemById() [Opens In Another Window]

The issue with Approach #1 is performance. While it is negligible on a list with a small amount of item, it becomes more noticeable on a list with hundreds of items. Each call to DeleteItemById() takes about 1 second. If you have hundreds of items, this could take a while to run.

Approach #2: Building CAML and using the ProcessBatchData() function of the SPSite class


Passing CAML to the ProcessBatchData() function of the SPWeb class runs faster than caling the DeleteItemById(). The following code snippet demonstrates how to build the CAML (using the StringBuilder) and pass the CAML to the ProcessBatchData() function to delete the items. In this example, we will be running this on a site called http://mySharePoint/bogus on a list called BogusList. If you want to use this code, you would substitute the site and list names with your respective site and list names.

Sample: Using CAML and ProcessBatchData() [Opens In Another Window]

A Note About Using CAML to Delete Items from a Document Library

The code snippet above will work for the lists except for document libraries. If you try to run the code snippet on a document library, you will get an error about file names. The document libraries require an additional parameter called owsfileref. The following link to the code snippet demonstrates how to build the CAML for document libraries.
Sample: CAML for document libraries [Opens In Another Window]

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them, and I will answer the questions to the best of my ability.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Attention Hackers! Uncle Sam Wants You (to help)!

I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I will be resuming tutorials on Monday.


MSNBC reports that The United States government is looking to hire hackers to help protect cyber networks.

To read the artice: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30280436/

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For Multimedia Students and Professionals: An Affordable 2-D Animation Program

Most of graphic design and animation is done using computers. If you are a Multimedia student or professional, you may have noticed that many applications used in your line of work, including the academic editions of the software, are very expensive. For those of you who are studying or working in Multimedia Technologies, famed animator Eddie Fitzgerald wrote a review on affordable 2-D animation programs that may be useful in your line of work.

At Last: An Affordable 2-D Animation Program

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spotlight on a Good Example of a Project for a Career Portfolio


Stephanie Jones's site, Best of Everything

http://www.joancrawfordbest.com


For people who are starting out in the IT industry, one of the things that I tout is creating a career portfolio. If you are a web designer or a web application developer, a comprehensive, professional web site is a great way to gain experience.

A fine example of a professional web site is The Best of Everything, run by Stephanie Jones. The Best of Everyting is a comprehensive, unbiased, well-researched site about classic film star Joan Crawford. What impresses me about this site is Ms. Jones is not a web developer by trade, but her site does not look "amateur".

Below are some points on what makes this a good site:

  • The site is thorough, well-researched, easy to navigate, and has a good layout.

    While creating a social networking profile is a nice way to "get your name out there", you need more that that to illustrate that you can do the work. Unfortunately, a simple, few-page web site about your pet, your favorite possession, your favorite sport, or your favorite celebrity will not win over the hiring managers. You need a strong, active site to prove that you can do the work. This site fits the bill. It is not just a site with a list of Joan Crawford films and a few pictures; it is an all-inclusive site about Joan Crawford.


    A University of Michigan study showed that people receiving instructions in a plain font like Arial were able to follow the instructions and complete the task more quickly and accurately than people receiving instructions in a "fancy" font. (Source: Hyunjin Song, Norbert Schwarz (2008). If It's Hard to Read, It's Hard to Do: Processing Fluency Affects Effort Prediction and Motivation Psychological Science, 19 (10), 986-988)

    If you are going to create a web site, the trick is to make it look like a skilled, talented professional created it. The site shouldn't look like it was created by someone who uses FrontPage and animated GIFs and considers that "web development". You want to take the color pallete, the layout and the fonts into consideration. If you look at Ms. Jones' site, you will see that she uses about 4 colors total on the site. The site is also easy to read - the content is "center" to the page, and the font is a "rounded" font (ex: Arial), which is easier to read. She is also utilizing well-established third-party tools (like Google Search and Yahoo!Groups) to properly enhance her site.


  • The site illustrates Ms. Jones's skills with writing and research.

    Ms. Jones is a copy editor by trade. The thorough research that has been done on this site illustrates her writing and research skills to potential employers and clients. She has had a job offer based on the work that she has done with her site, and she was able to expand her professional network because the site was a good conversation starter.

    What does that have to do with technology, you may ask? As I mentioned in numerous articles about getting a job in the economy, you need to be more than a "digithead" in order to get the job. You need secondary skills that will support your role in the company. Written communication and research are two secondary skills to have. For example: let's say that you want to develop a encyclopedic web site dedicated to vintage machines. If you develop a site featuring pictures and scant information about the machine, it may be nice - not thrilling, but nice. However, if you also contain thorough information about the machine ( who invented it, when was it used, what kind of "under the hood" technology was used, what was it's claim to fame, what replaced it), you'll demonstrate your ability to research and understand your topic as well as your web development abilities.

  • The site is professional.


    You'd be quite surprised about how many websites are out there that "borrow" content from someone's site without properly crediting the source. That's plagiarism. If you're working in the academic world, that's grounds for dismissal. In other arenas, that's grounds for a copyright-infringement lawsuit.


    Creating a site about a celebrity can easily drift into the "unprofessional" category. Ms. Jones does a wonderful job with keeping the content professional (although the message board can get a little "colorful"...you, as a student developing a site for a career portfolio, may need to monitor your forums). If she makes a personal opinion, she chooses her words carefully. Most importantly, if she receives information from outside sources, she properly credits those sources.



If you want to build a celebrity tribute web site for your career portfolio, look at The Best of Everything as an example of a site that would look wonderful in a portfolio. In my opinion, this site is so well done that it could easily pass for an "official" site.


See Also:
Getting a Job in a Tough Economy

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Add a SlideShow to the SharePoint Site using HTML, JavaScript and the CEWP

While the SharePoint OOTB web parts for displaying images are nice, the functionality of the web parts are very limited. Particularly, the OOTB web parts do not have a true "slide show" capabiilties that many end users are looking for. You can write your own custom web part to display images like a slide
show. However, this solution will not only take time and effort to do, but if you are just a “power user” for your SharePoint site, you may not have the right tools and permissions to make your own web parts. If you are familiar with JavaScript and HTML, you can add your own slide show on your site.

For a step-by-step guide that you can download: Add a Slideshow on a SharePoint Site using Javascript, HTML, and the Content Editor Web Part

Here is a video demonstrating how to add the slideshow:


UPDATE: If you are having trouble with getting this to work, see the blog post from 10/26/2009 for troubleshooting tips.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

VB.NET Tutorial: Renaming a Directory using VB.NET Code

There may be a time where you need to programmatically rename a directory. For example, you may be creating a Setup and Deployment project where you have to have a project that "backs up" a directory before installing a directory. .NET has a class that allows you to programmatically rename a directory.

The following video demonstrates how to programmatically rename a directory with the Move function in the Directory class using VB.NET:


A more detailed document is available here: Rename a Directory Using VB.net

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask, and I will try to answer to the best of my ability.

P.S. - I just noticed - this is my 100th post!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

SharePoint Tutorial: Playing a WMV File in a SharePoint Site

Sometimes you may need to play a WMV file on a page in a SharePoint site. For example, you may have to play a video of your CEO speaking, or you may have to play a training video. By using the Content Editor web part, you can easily play a WMV file on a page in a SharePoint site.

You can download the step-by-step documentation from the following location: Playing a WMV File in a SharePoint Site

Below is the step-by-step demonstration:


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask!

Friday, March 6, 2009

SharePoint Tutorial: Play a Flash Video on your SharePoint Site

Sometimes you may have to play a Flash video on your SharePoint site. For example, you may have to play a message from your CEO, or you may have to incorporate a quiz on the site. This tutorial demonstrates how to play a Flash video on your SharePoint site.

You can download the written tutorial here: Playing a Flash Video on a SharePoint Site

If you are a more visual person, here is a demonstration:


If you have any questions or comments, please post a comment and I will answer the question to the best of my ability.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Basic Training: Working With .NET

Since I am in the process of developing a Basic Training tutorial on C#, I thought that I would create a post on the tools that programmers can use when developing in .NET.

The obvious tool


Microsoft created an IDE called Visual Studio that will allow you to develop and compile your code in one interface. This IDE also allows you to create distribution builds as well as publish web (ASP.NET) projects to a web site.

IDE - Integrated Development Environment


The latest version of Visual Studio is Visual Studio 2008. There are four versions of Visual Studio 2008:

  • Express Edition - A free but very limited version of Visual Studio. Each of the languages (Visual Basic, C#, C++, Web Developer (including ASP.NET)) are in separate software versions. This version is ideal if you are just starting out in one of the .NET languages, but it doesn't grow with you when you are ready for more involved programming. You can download the Express Edition from Microsoft.

  • Professional Edition - A full-featured version of Visual Studio 2008. This version contains additional features that the Express Edition doesn't contain, such as the ability to deploy packages. This version is ideal for an individual user or a small "shop". The product information can be found at Microsoft

  • Development Edition - Works like the Professional Edition, but this edition contains more features aimed at development teams, such as: code analyzers to improve code quality and security; unit testing features; code analyzers to analyze code performance; and metrics to identify error-prone code. This version is ideal if you are developing your own commercial or freeware applications. The product information can be found at Microsoft.

  • Team Suite - This is the mother of all versions of Visual Studio. This version contains a boatload of features aimed at larger software development shops. This version also includes a subscription to MSDN. The product information can be found at Microsoft.



What If You are Broke but You Don't Want the Express Edition?


If you are a student or an instructor, Microsoft has a program called DreamSpark. The purpose of DreamSpark is to give students and instructors professional editions of their software free of charge. Once you sign up for DreamSpark, you can download the software for free. Your school or institution may not be participating in the DreamSpark program, but you can still sign up for it as long as you have an e-mail address from a school or institution.

Note: If you are going to use SharpDevelop and you have some money to spare - even $5.00 - please take a moment and make a donation to the people who developed it.


If you are not a student or instructor, there is a free, open-source IDE called SharpDevelop that's based on the .NET Framework. The look and feel, as well as the functionality, is very similar to Visual Studio (there are a few slight differences). I have used SharpDevelop and I like it. The latest version of SharpDevelop works with the latest .NET Framework (3.5).

What If You are Broke but You're "Hardcore"?


Guess what? You don't need an IDE to develop in .NET! All you need is the latest version of the .NET Framework SDK, and you can write code with the editor of your choice and compile .NET programs from the command line (csc for C# programs, vbc for VB.NET programs). The latest .NET Framework SDK includes components for Windows Server 2008 as well as the SDK for .NET Framework version 3.5. You can review the release notes and download the SDK from Microsoft.

Those are a few tools that should get you started with .NET development. For those of you that are experienced with .NET development, please post a comment on any additional IDEs that you use for your .NET development that aren't mentioned in this post.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Great Tutorial on LINQ

I'll be posting more tutorials in the near future - I have a cold so I don't have much of a voice right now :(.

I found a tutorial on YouTube from rafaybinali on LINQ. Since the launch of .NET 3.5, Microsoft has been heavily promoting LINQ. This video series gets you started on LINQ pretty quickly.

Part 1



Part 2


Part 3


Enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Congratulations SIX-burgh


Congratulations Pittsburgh Steelers - 6 time Super Bowl Champions!