Archive for the 'Essential Tools' Category

Windows Command Line stuff

Posted in Essential Tools, The Art of Programming, Windows Details on July 10th, 2009

Creating scripts to automate administrative or programming build tasks is GOOD. It centralizes details and reduces errors.

I find I need to re-learn DOS (and *nix) command line stuff every few years and then I completely forget how to do it and have to learn again.

Resources that I find useful:

The Windows Command Line

Microsoft Windows XP – Using batch files

Government computers and security settings

Posted in Essential Tools on May 7th, 2009

Recently we were asked to test our software on systems that had enhanced security settings. These are the result of (very) numerous configuration changes to the system so I looked around for some tools to help manage and apply these changes.

Bruce Schneier pointed the way on his recent post May 6, 2009
Secure Version of Windows Created for the U.S. Air Force

The Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC) is described here.

Some nifty tools are at Blogs.Technet: Federal Desktop Core Configuration and Blogs.Technet: Utilities for automating Local Group Policy management.

Website software

Posted in Blogs on blogs, Campfire Stories, Essential Tools on May 7th, 2009

After nearly 18 years of doing web-based work as either my primary job or in support of other work I get this question a few times a year:

We need to find a good, easy to use software program for generating the [website name here]. PC based. Any suggestions?

My snappy answer is

WordPress       WordPress at Wikipedia


I’ve used notepad, vi, VisualStudio, Netscape Gold, DreamWeaver, … All kinds of different tools. On the server side: Netscape Server, cgi-bin with perl, IIS (since NT 3.51), all sorts of pre-IIS app servers I can’t even remember the names of, Java technologies and LAMP.

I’ve used those bastard website-in-a-box things almost every ISP offers.

Way too many times.

Looking back I have to ask myself: which techniques and technologies stood up to the test of time? Which do I look back at with no regrets?

  1. WordPress on LAMP or IIS
  2. IIS/ASP and IIS  with ASP.NET

On the desktop editing/managing side? VisualStudio and Visual Source Safe

That’s it. I assert that you can build ANYTHING with these technologies. I routinely build sites that use BOTH 1. and 2. — like

If you are a beginner: go pure WordPress. if you need more site functionality there is almost anything you could want available as a wad of PHP you can tack on.

If you need a real web application — and you think it is going to get large: ASP.NET is astoundingly powerful and lots of standard functionality is available out of the box. Especially identification/authentication and data driven UI functions.

Integrating Subversion with Visual Studio 2005/2008

Posted in Essential Tools on May 4th, 2009

Subversion works well and it is easily integrated into Visual Studio using AnkhSVN found at

Note that as of this writing, you need to use a daily build version instead of any stable release if you are using the latest SVN client version.

Installation is easy and in use it works much as Source Safe integration did:


Yell if you want but I still like how Visual Studio integrates with Source Safe.

Actually, I should have said “miss” how Visual Studio integrates with Source Safe since I see VSS in use at fewer and fewer workplaces — except my home. People point out that’s kind of sick.

Missing Visual Studio Trick: Ctrl-J or IntelliSense is Your Friend

Posted in Essential Tools on March 17th, 2009

huh. Usually adding “Intelligent” or “Smart” to the name of anything in software is to doom that anything to complete failure and ridicule.

However, IntelliSense is your friend.

In Visual Studio, just type Ctrl+J anywhere and there’s your buddy. Great for crappy typists like me.

11 Visual Studio 2005 (and 2008) IDE Tips

Posted in Essential Tools on March 17th, 2009

I found this on Scott Guthrie’s blog (he’s the General manager at Microsoft for Visual Studio, ASP.NET, CLR, etc. (I did my “code on whiteboard” interview with him when I interviewed there…)) and he in turn found this post from Chin Do’s blog:

11 Visual Studio 2005 IDE Tips and Tricks to Make You a More Productive Developer

Some of the tips are .NET specific (snippets!) but most work in the C++ world too.