Monthly Archives: November 2005

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Visual Studio 2005 Community Launch Tools

This year, I was asked to be the INETA community launch champion for my local user group. Essentially, the job is to present at least two topics related to Visual Studio 2005 and/or SQL Server 2005 and/or BizTalk 2006. I was honored to be picked for this role and have done my best to provide the best possible experience for those who come to listen. This month’s topic is “Managing the Software Development Life Cycle with Visual Studio 2005 Team System”. WOW! Here’s the blurb that the UG’s sent out on this topic:

“Today’s software projects have one consistent trait – they fail. They fail to meet budgets. They fail to meet deadlines. In many instances, they fail to even make it to implementation. In 2000, only a fraction of software projects succeeded. That rate did not get much better in 2004. Industry demands such as more complex business requirements, government regulations, and standardization of components will make success all the more challenging. In this presentation, we’ll explore how you can utilize the new tools found in Visual Studio Team Services to increase your own success track record. This presentation will show how requirements can be gathered early, managed, modified, tracked, and reported on all the way through the software development life cycle. Come see the powerful new tools that are provided for architects, developers, testers, project managers, business analysts, and even project stake holders!”

While its always a good thing to prepare for a meeting, I realized while sitting in my hotel room that there are quite a few tools that I use to give presentations. I thought I might post pictures and informationa bout the tools I use so that others who are just getting started in their presentation careers can get a glimps into their future.

The Laptop

Its an HP Pavilion zd8000 series laptop that has been customized for the best performance I can get out of it. It has 2GB of ram, a 100 GB hard drive, Lightscribe DVD burner, and the like. I love this laptop because it has 4 USB ports (5 if you count the HP usb digital drive port), firewire, built in wireless, bluetooth, 5-1 media reader, built in speakers, and the list goes on. It even has a media remote control (meant for use with Windows Media Center Edition) that works very well for remotely moving forward and backward in powerpoint slides. Its a varitable swiss army knife of laptops and the kicker, of course, is the 17″ widescreen LCD.


The External Hard Drive

I use a Maxtor 300GB exernal hard drive to keep all of my VPC images on. This serves as both a repository and a backup for my Virtual Server (or Virtual PC) images. Having your VHD image on a hard drive other than your system drive is essential for performance. This drie is particularly useful because I can use either firewire or USB to connect to any system. Using Maxtor’s software, I can also use this device to automatically backup files from any of my systems too — and literaly at the touch of a button!

external hard drive

The Bluetooth Headset

On occassion, depending on the room setup, I can use this Motorola headset in place of a mobile mic. I pair the headset with my laptop and use the mic to output to my speakers at a podium. If I bend the podium mic to the speakers, I have a virtual walking mic. Obviously if a mobile mic is available, I use that instead for better clarity.

bluetooth headset

The Tablet PC

You may be asking why I use both a laptop and this new Gateway Tablet PC. Actually, this makes great sense if you ask me. I can set up the tablet as a sort of teleprompter during my presentations. The tablet can hold my demo scripts and walkthroughs (in case I lose a bolt during the presentation and need to remember where I’m at). Also, I didn’t buy the top of the line tablet. While the 14″ widescreen LCD makes this item look expensive, I only paid $1300 for this one — and that’s standard pricing. It only has 512 MB of ram, but thats all I need for my tablet PC needs — particularly when doing presentations. This tablet has a directional mouse-like input device on the left hand side that allows me to easily scroll up and down in my document without using the stylus.

tablet PC

The Thumbdrive

While I do have wireless connections, bluetooth and infared that can share data, I prefer to use the tumbdrive for quick transport between the laptop and the tablet when neccessary. I also carry a copy of the presentation materials on it in case someone asks me for them. Then its as easy as plugging the thumbdrive into their machine and letting them drag them onto their desktop.


The Smartphone

I use the smartphone to help keep my timing in presentations. I leave the phone clipped to my belt and set up vibrating reminders to tell me when I should be at a certain point in my presentation. If I’m not there, I can speed things up. If I’m off to the races, I can slow things down and take a few extra questions when needed. I wouldn’t recommend buying one of these if you just want it for these purposes. I just happened to already have this phone so its what I use.


I love my tools. Its taken me a little while to learn what works and what doesn’t. I would imagine what works for one person wont neccessarily work for another. Let me know what you think.

Microsoft Korean Promo for Visual Studio .NET 2005

OK. I don’t really know how to react to this.

Review: HP Officejet 7410

Product Review: HP Officejet 7410
There are just some times in life when you have to spend money on equipment that you’d prefer not to. Yesterday was one such day for me. I’ve never been in the market for a combination fax/copy/printer/scanner before, but yesterday I had to break down and go shopping for one.

I’ve been signing a lot of contracts lately for various things. Going back out on my own has just required that I spend a considerable amount of time restructuring my life, my finances, and my contracts. Documents come as hard copy via the postal service or courier. Purchase orders come through email. The sales contract on my house had to be handled by fax. All of these things are pretty standard forms of communication, but require I spend time going to Kinko’s to make copies, or to scan the documents into digital format. Sometimes, the emailed documents have to be printed, signed, then scanned and emailed back with my signature. I’ve had a scanner for the longest time that just finally had to be replaced. It was also an HP scanner and it has served me well. Its time has come, however, and I was in the market for something better. I also had a Canon photo printer that was going to need replaced. I don’t have a home phone line, so the idea of having a fax machine really hadn’t occurred to me. Whatever I did decide on, however, had to actually be worth my while and help me do business. I didn’t want another expensive obstacle sitting in my home office.

I’m not a person that likes to spend a lot of time on product research. In general, I make sure the product I’m buying is a brand that is trusted, and has all the features I want. After that, I’m not really concerned if one uses a lower voltage or has a better network throughput. I care about a product that works reliably and at a fairly decent rate of speed — nothing more.

When I reached Office Depot, I found several “all in one” appliances. Many of them were in the upper $800-1000 range. Once I determined that these were laser printers/copiers I walked around to look at the much more stylish and much more affordable HP Officejet products. The started at around $199 and went up to as much as $899. As I walked down the isle, the prices and features increased. I settled into a sweet spot of about $500 where I found the Officejet 7410. After glancing over the feature set, I decided to bite and bought it for $457.00 after getting a price-comparison mark-down from SAMs club. I used the money I saved to buy an additional 1 year extension onto the manufacturer’s warranty. I don’t typically buy these warranties, but I was able to get a signed and personal commitment from the manager promising to abide by the terms of the agreement — terms that stated if I dropped the printer off my desk and broke it 729 days after I bought it, they would replace it.

So here is how I feel after one day of owning this device:

Assembly / Setup:
The folks at HP showed just how smart they are with this device. I don’t mean that sarcastically either. I unpacked the machine immediately and started putting it together. Surprisingly the device was very easy to assemble without so much as a glance at the instructions. I stacked the printer on top of its lower tray base; I added the two-sided printing attachment onto the back and plugged the device power cord and network cables up; I then attached the faceplate to the front of the machine. At first I thought it was odd that I would have to attach this faceplate but then quickly realized that HP did this so the product interface could be completely localized based on where it was being shipped to. After realizing the genius behind this move, I smiled and moved on.

After setting all of these things up, I turned the device on. The instructions on the LCD panel told me to attach the faceplate (oops, I already did). It then did something that I found nothing short of brilliant. It told me to look for any buttons that might be stuck under the faceplate and then cycle the power again. Sure enough, I found one that didn’t quite make it into the faceplate hole. I giggled the button a little bit and released it. Had they not provided this step, I would have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out why my device was misbehaving. My hat is off to the quality assurance folks who undoubtedly pointed this out in tons of testing. The hat is off once again to the product team who decided the QA/usability staff were right and should be listened to!

At this point, unbelievably, I was done. The network automatically configured itself using my local DHCP server. It did have one disappointing feature, however. This device comes with wireless networking capabilities. For those of you familiar with my typical stand against wireless, I do understand that sometimes this is the most usable approach and as long as security best practices are kept up with, it’s “reasonably” secure. HP, however, didn’t follow best practices, IMHO. The device came with its wireless radio ON by default. While I do see this as a usability issue, I would have preferred to see the secure approach of leaving the radio off by default and forcing you to simply turn it on. They could have even done the same thing they have done with their laptops, which is to provide an “on/off” button to enable and disable wireless. It’s a minor issue but one that I find important in this day and age.

The Photo Printer:
This machine boasted that it was a photo-quality printer. To enforce its usefulness as a photo-printer, the 7410 had many multi-media slots on the front that allow you to simply plug in your favorite digital camera media. Once you provided the media a small LCD allowed you to select the photos you wanted to print and queue them up for immediate printing onto your favorite photo paper. I tested this feature out right away and printed a large picture of our new kitten, “Rayne”. While the picture was taken with a very old Epson digital camera, the photo came out wonderfully. There isn’t much more to say about photo printing for me — it’s just not the most important feature I was looking for, but it did a great job and I’m sure that will come in handy when I print brochures or reports with graphs and images.

It would have been nice to see a little on screen cropping or orientation available to me, but once again, that isn’t ultimately the main purpose of this machine, in my opinion, so keeping the price down for us folks that just want “reasonable value / quality” is great in my book.

The Document Printer:
I installed the printer drivers and software that comes with this machine and followed the instructions to add the printer as a network printer. I was impressed at just how easy this was. It should be noted that my printer was NOT detected by default. This was more a function of my paranoid network than it was of the printer. I was able to easily set up the printer, however, based on the network setup sheet I printed from the printer. I quickly configured my internal home router to allow traffic to this IP from my secure network as well as from the few devices I have sitting in a semi-DMZ. Once this was done, I printed a contract that I had to get out the door immediately. It was a three page document and the printer I printed it from was down the hall from me. By the time I got to the printer, the last page was just completing and the quality was excellent.

I’m giving this document printing feature high marks – not because I feel it’s the best document printer out there, but because it does exactly what it advertises it will do and with the same speed and quality I was expecting from the product. My one beef with printing is the paper catcher that holds your printed documents as they are printing. Its very flimsy and doesn’t hold the full document. This means if I don’t pick up my print job right away, the corners of my document curl up from their own weight. This would have been fine if HP would provide a much more “durable” print job catching accessory.

I had to scan some receipts into my scanner to record my expenses for my latest trip to Redmond. I decided to go ahead and try the scanner out and boy was I in for a treat. Obviously I had several pages worth of scans to make with airline tickets, hotel bills, gas station receipts, meal receipts, etc. In case you haven’t figured this out yet, I have placed my device in another room – different from the one I’m using as my main home office. I thought I was going to have to scan the document, run to my computer and save it, then go back and forth until this was done. This wasn’t the case at all. I lined up each of my receipts as I wanted them laid out on the scanner and pressed the “Scan” button on the device interface. The LCD then prompted me to tell it where I wanted to send these items. I selected my computer from the drop down list – that’s right, it knew my computer was already configured with the software I needed to handle this scan. I was then asked how my computer should handle the scanned document. I was given several choices: HP Image Director, Word Document, and email were among the choices. The last choice was the file system. This is what I wanted so I selected the OK button and let the receipts get scanned. When the scan was complete, it asked me if I wanted to scan anything else. I did, so I continued scanning my documents one at a time until I was done. When I returned to my computer, I was prompted with a message box that asked if I wanted to save. I, of course, said yes and selected my location and file name. All of the documents I scanned were then saved with the format of xxxx.bmp. (I could have selected a different file format if I wanted too). This is exactly what I wanted. I need to be able to put forth as little effort as possible to get this paperwork out of the way. HP has come through!

Any time you have a scanner and a printer in one product, it just makes sense to add copying to the machine as well. After all, copying is simply scanning one document and then printing it. This device has implemented this copying feature brilliantly. I hesitate to give it a 4 out of 5 but had to based on the speed and usability. By default, the copying machine uses the second tray whereas printing uses the upper tray. This is a great feature to have since you may want to use different paper for copying than you do for printing. When I attempted to make a copy however, it simply told me that I was out of paper. After adjusting the paper in my upper tray several times, I decided to try putting paper in the bottom tray. Sure enough, my copy job worked. Since this is a “scan-based” copy and the 7410 isn’t an “industrial” copier, the copy took a little longer than I expected. The great thing is that if I have a multi-page copy job to create, I can simply place the copies in the upper paper feed and walk away until the job is complete.

I personally use eFax for my faxing needs. I like it because I can fax documents from anywhere. Since I’m out of town a lot, this is important to me. Technically speaking, I could open up enough ports on my network to let me fax to my network-connected printer However, this wouldn’t be the most secure approach. Because there isn’t a really secure way to implement this functionality, I am sticking with eFax for now and calling the fax machine “average”. It will be a welcome feature for the average home office worker, but not necessarily the best approach for the traveling consultant. You’ll be able to fax a document directly from your computer without printing it first and then faxing it. In fact, the drivers install a new type of “HP fax printer” that allows you to “print” any document directly to your fax machine. When you do this, you are prompted for the recipient information. The interface for the recipient information is a bit out of date and slightly cheep looking, but it definitely works. You can add recipients from your address book, add a generated cover page (and edit the contents), set the quality and contrast levels and preview the fax before sending it away.

Since I don’t use the faxing feature that much, the cool thing is that the rest of these features make it easy for me to scan documents and store them on my computer to be faxed out later – either through the fax feature on the 7410, or using eFax messenger.


Feature Rating (0-5)
Assembly / Setup 4.0
The Photo Printer 4.0
The Document Printer 4.0
Scanning 5.0
Copying 4.0
Fax 3.5
Over all 4.0

This device has a lot more to offer than what I’ve described here. You can sign up for the “HP instant share” service which will allow you to instantly share information with others you scan, print, or add through the multi-media ports. This is a fee-based service and requires that you and the people you know have the same service, but it is very interesting if you want to send a picture of the kids directly to grandma’s photo printer after you take it.

I love that I bought this device. I really just wanted to have a product that met my needs, but this has turned into my new favorite toy. I’d change a few things on this product which I summarize as follows:

  • Disable the wireless radio by default
  • When you state that I’m out of paper, tell me what tray you are trying to load from.
  • Provide a free or fee-based service that allows me to use my fax machine from anywhere. Just like you use Instant Share, you could provide the ability for me to add a fax job from anywhere and let my fax machine do the work. I’d drop eFax in a heartbeat if I could use my own machine securely!

Aside from that, I would highly recommend this device to anyone looking for something in an all-in-one device.