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.


  • 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 -
  • 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.)


  • 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.


  • 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


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 (, 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.