Do you ‘bing’?

I know it sounds cheesy, that’s because it probably is. Not because it’s particularly wrong to try to ‘verbify’ it, but because it’s trying too hard to be like Google. The fact is, I do ‘bing’. Yes, you heard right, I use Microsoft’s bing as my primary search engine, and I have done so since the very first day. Actually, I started with ‘Live’, even before the birth of bing.

Having said, I have to say, I have never had to revert back to Google, ever. I have almost always found what I was looking for; except in those extreme cases when I could not, a quick refinement of my search keywords would remedy that immediately. That doesn’t say that I never use Google, I do, but only when the default search engine is set to Google (someone else’s machine); I’m not going to switch to bing just for the sake of switching.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s something particularly wrong with Google, it’s just that I prefer bing. And I would ask everybody to try to use bing for some time, let’s say, a week, just force yourself for a week, and you’ll see for yourself that it is at least as good as Google. In fact, other than the interface, there isn’t much to differentiate between both search engines. That’s primarily because they keep competing for the same features, when one adds one the other does as well.

As for ‘verbifying’ the name, I’m afraid I will continue to use ‘google it’ instead of ‘bing it’ just the same way I say, pass the ‘Kleenex’ or ‘Xerox’ this for me or I ‘Hoovered’ the carpet.

What do you think?

Farewell Windows XP

I just formatted my laptop. It is something I have not done ever since I bought my laptop almost 2 years ago, which came with Windows XP preinstalled.

I formatted it to install Windows 7 which, as an MSDN subscriber, I had first hand access to. I did everything right, I backed up my previous C: drive (I keep all my files on the D: drive) and made emergency bootable media just in case.

I inserted my Windows 7 DVD and restarted. A few clicks later, the installation was on its way. Thus far, I have to say, things were looking pretty good. Less than 30 minutes later the installation was complete and I was running Windows 7 for the first time ever.

I have to admit I was hyper-excited. I’d only had 4 hours of sleep the night before and was falling half asleep between clicks, but, it was all worth it. The ‘adrenaline was pumping fast’ as they say on reality TV shows.

Just to clear things up; my laptop’s a 1.6GHz Gateway with 3GB memory and 160GB HDD, and a VGA capable of running Aero. Towards the end of the Windows XP days, it was running pretty darn slow, because of all the software I’d install for testing and/or development purposes. And I was looking forward to the alleged ‘crisp’ speed of Windows 7.

To tell you the truth I was shocked to see how Vista-like it was, and when applications started to freeze for no apparent reason, I said to myself, oh boy, here we go again. If the recession didn’t ‘break’ Microsoft, this surely will, another Vista fiasco.

I tried to run Windows Media Player for the first time and it froze. I ran IE8, and a few tabs in, it froze. I couldn’t understand the ‘new taskbar’ and how it was supposed to operate and even that froze.

I was devastated. Now I have to switch back to Windows XP! And then I remembered an article I’d read earlier about how Windows 7 would run on netbooks and I thought, year right, super netbooks maybe.

I mean, on my machine, running almost entirely with no other applications installed, Windows 7 required almost 800 MBs of memory. That’s almost 4 times as much as Windows XP had required. Most netbooks have around 1GB memory in total, which leaves around 200MB for all other applications. How is that going to work, I don’t know.

The next day, I’d had some sleep and decided to give it another shot. I setup my email accounts, downloaded all the available updates, which were mostly for Office and then gave it a number of restarts.

A couple of hours had passed by, and for some reason (perhaps it’d finished indexing) Windows 7 started to work surprising well. No freezing, no delays, fast responses; IE8 was exceptionally responsive, even faster than Google’s Chrome on my XP machine!

Every other application I ran was working perfectly. I was getting the hang of it, and that new taskbar is amazing!! Windows 7 has so much out-of-the-box now I fear another round of anti-trust cases. In fact, the only problem I had was the fact that it was using way too much memory for my liking.

The way things are going if I never use Windows XP again, it’ll be too soon. For now though, call me Mr. Windows 7!!

Can you say ‘Xobni’?

Neither could I. Xobni (pronounced zob-nee) is ‘Inbox’ spelt backwards, and has been hailed by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates as the ‘next generation of social networking’.

At first glance Xobni looks like yet-another-desktop-search-engine, much like Google Desktop and Windows Desktop Search. A second glance would prove all the difference.

Officially, Xobni is an Outlook plug-in that helps you organize your flooded inbox’ (which doesn’t say much).

While indexing your email Xobni will group contacts you email together much like the way Facebook and LinkedIn do. It will provide you with information on who this contact ‘networks’ with (based on the people he Cc’s when emailing you), how many emails you have exchanged with each contact (in and out) and will even rank your contacts based on the number of emails you send.

Xobni will even let you know how many ‘conversations’ you have had with a particular contact and what files you exchanged with him/her.

Xobni will even attempt to associate telephone numbers with contacts based on ‘signatures’ and other algorithms and will allow you to call them using Skype. Whenever you click on an email (to read or preview it) Xobni will immediately provide you with the most relevant information for the person who has sent you the email.

Microsoft seems to have been interested in Xobni, but were turned down, price issues (rings-a-bell?). Xobni are planning versions for different email applications / services, but right now, its only for Outlook. Remember, its still in beta.



A developer’s best friend is…

Two years ago, my friend, mentor, manager and fellow MVP Omar Shraim and I were on a Whidbey (now Visual Studio 2005) and Yukon (now SQL Server 2005) ‘Train-the-Trainer’ course in Paris, France.

And I can remember our trainer for the Yukon course was ‘Richard Hundhausen,’ an MVP and an RD, who gave us a few tips from ‘real life’ so-to-speak about development in the ‘real world’. And, according to him, ‘a developer’s best friend is Google’.

Well, not particularily Google, but back then your best choice for online searching was, in fact, Google. Things have changed since then.

The moral of this blog is not to try to debate which search engine is best, but to show developers out there the light of way. When developing applications and stuck on the best way (or any way) to write a particular piece of code, don’t bang your head against the wall and attempt to read every book there is on the shelf (you can use that as a last resort).

Literally, almost everything, related to software development or otherwise, is available on the internet. All you have to do, is search. I say this from experience. Never underestimate the power of ‘internet search’.

Now, the next time you face a problem, any problem, ‘Google it!’ or best still ‘Live it!’ Search Dot Net

I just came back from Friday prayer, my kids are out with their Aunt (probably at McDonald’s), my wife’s in the kitchen prepping something up for lunch, so I have the study room all to myself. I went in, and instead of firing up my laptop, I logged on to my desktop, which I don’t usually log on to because my kids have it monopolized.

I fired up IE7 and was about to go check how Spider-man 3 did in the box office, when I was sort of taken aback by the home page; Its been a while since I’d done any searching on Live (yes, I confess, I usually search on Google; I’m sorry :-)). So, for the sake of humanity, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.

Being a self-centered geek, and an MVP, I decided to search for ‘Bashar Lulu’, and boy was I amazed by the results. Not by the number of hits, as many as they were, but by the organization, the relevance, the readability and the fact that I could actually use this as a reference. These are things I could never have done a while ago, because I saw Live as lacking, frail and simply un-usable. The results where out of order (by relevance, or importance), the engine itself seemed buggy; not any more.

Mind you, I’m not saying that Live is perfect, or that it is better than Google, I’m just saying that its getting better, much better.

Now, let me continue my story. One of the search results took me here; a list of Visual Basic MVP blogs. Yes, my name was there, and a few names down, was Dan Appleman’s. I’ve always been a fan of Dan’s, back from the days of VB5 and his book on the Windows API. Under his name was a link to his blog which I immediately clicked on.

To cut a long story short, it was on Dan’s blog that I learned about SearhDotNet a search site for .Net developers. Based on Google’s custom search facility (which allows you to create your own search engine), SearchDotNet gives .Net developers information relevant to .Net only.

Dan puts it as: ‘Many typical developer search terms (like “cryptography” or “Url”) apply to many technologies, not just .NET. When I search for cryptography, I don’t want to know how to do it in PHP, nor am I interested in the latest government policies on the topic. I want to know how it works in .NET.’

Not only that, but Dan also allows users to suggest ‘inclusion criteria‘ where we can suggest what sites to add to the search results.

My kids are back, they want the PC, got to go!