Mike Swanson

August, 2005

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    SyncToy for Windows XP


    If you're like me, you probably have thousands of digital photos and documents that you want to backup or copy to external media. In my case, I copy everything to an external 160GB XIMETA NetDisk for safe keeping. I have used the free version of Allway Sync in the past, and I've had very good results. However, we recently released a handy tool for Windows XP called SyncToy, and based on my few days of experience, it appears to do everything I need. Here are a few of its features:

    • Provides easy and flexible copying, moving, and synchronization of files in different directories
    • Manages multiple sets of directories at the same time
    • Can combine files from two folders in one case, and mimic renames and deletes in another
    • Keeps track of renames to files and will make sure those changes get carried over to the synchronized folder

    Configuring SyncToy is as easy as setting up one or more folder pairs and corresponding actions for each pair. For example, I might setup one pair to synchronize changes between two folders (which works both ways) and setup another pair to simply echo changes from one folder to another (echo is the action I use for backup purposes). If you want to get more specific, there are additional options that can be configured.

    If you'd like to know what operations SyncToy would perform on your folder pairs, you can run the convenient preview feature. The preview feature analyzes the folders, then tells you what it would do if it ran, but—most importantly—it doesn't actually make any of the changes. This is a great way to get comfortable with the tool before letting it loose on your precious files. And if you want to automatically process your folder pairs, there's even a topic in the help file (lookup Schedule in the index) that explains how to schedule SyncToy to run on a periodic basis.

    Download SyncToy v1 Beta for Windows XP or to learn more, grab the whitepaper titled: Synchronizing Images and Files in Windows XP Using Microsoft SyncToy.

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    Show Off at PDC 2005


    Although I haven't had the time to blog about my experience, I attended SIGGRAPH 2005 at the Los Angeles Convention Center last week, and it was an amazing show. On Tuesday night, I attended a 2-hour event called the Electronic Theater where a sold-out audience of thousands watched short video clips of the latest and greatest work in computer generated animation. While waiting (in the long line) to get into the room, people were buzzing with excitement about what they would see and who would be showing their work. The presentations were short, and each video segment introduced the artists, the project, and the tools that were used. Not only was this a great way to see what could be accomplished with specific toolsets, but it was also very inspirational. Each clip ended with generous applause and a showing of strong support. About half-way through the show I wondered: "why don't we do something like this at the PDC?"

    Fortunately, we have a very cool PDC committee who connected with the idea almost instantly (it's great to work at this company!). So, with a nod to SIGGRAPH's Electronic Theater, we propose a PDC 2005 2-hour session called Show Off. The concept: "Why demo your cool application to a few friends, when you can Show Off to thousands of your peers at the PDC?"

    The important bits:

    • You and/or your team put together a single WMV file that shows off something cool about your application, tool, technique (or whatever).
    • This is a Microsoft developer conference, so make sure that it uses at least some of our technology. :-)
    • Videos are limited to 5 minutes.
    • It's content that counts. A Channel 9 "guerilla-style" hand-held video format is perfect.
    • If you want to use a screen capture application like Camtasia Studio or HyperCam (or even mix it with real video), go for it!
    • Be creative. Show something cool that would excite your peers.
    • You'd privately host the WMV file yourself, let us know where it is, and we'd collect it for consideration.
    • We reserve the right to pick which videos we show at the PDC for completely arbitrary and geeky reasons.
    • At some point, possibly right after the Show Off session at the PDC, you'd allow us to link from Channel 9 to your video for the whole world to see.

    During the submission process, we'd collect any project/team names, developer details, tools used, and contact information (if you want others to be able to contact you about your awesome work). If we show your clip at the event, we'll include this information at the start of the video.

    So, what do you think? Would you participate? We're trying to gauge interest before we spend a bunch of time on this. Please share this link with your developer friends, regardless of their ability to attend the PDC. Leave comments. Send e-mail.

    Is this a good idea?

    Update: In case you're wondering, you can pretty much show off anything with a Microsoft developer story. Maybe you have a 5-minute tour of awesome scripting or keyboard shortcuts in Visual Studio 2005. Or perhaps you created a cool XAML animation for the Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly known as "Avalon"). Or, you've come up with a great way to automate your build and testing cycle. Or think of it this way: if you had five minutes to show off some tip, technique, tool, code sample, or project to your developer friends, what would it be? We obviously don't want commercials, but if it's something geeky about a commercial product, that's good too!

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Submit Your Show Off Videos


    If you've been following my blog recently, I've been talking a lot about the Show Off event we're planning for the Professional Developer's Conference next month. Well, we have most of the details ironed out, and you can read about what it takes to submit your own video by checking out our post on Channel 9. I'm constantly amazed at the creativity of our developer audience, and I can't wait to see what gets submitted.

    If you've never edited video on your computer before, I urge you to check out Windows Movie Maker. If you have Windows XP, you probably already have a version installed on your computer (download the latest version to get the newer features). If you're looking for help, check out the WindowsMovieMakers.net enthusiasts site for tutorials, tips, etc.

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    Slaves to E-Mail?


    Over the past few days, it seems that I've been involved in a few conversations about the volume of e-mail at Microsoft. My general impression is that most of us believe that we send and receive a lot of e-mail as compared to others. Of course, we don't really have any data to back this up (at least none that I'm aware of); and frankly, I'm not sure we'd be thrilled if we discovered that we actually do send more. Is sending more e-mail a good thing? Or does it simply illustrate that we're slaves to our technology?

    As many of you know, I was with Microsoft Consulting Services as a field employee for almost five years before I relocated to Redmond, Washington in January of this year. Although I didn't change companies, there was an obvious increase in e-mail traffic after I made the move. The culture here at corporate seems to enjoy cc'ing anyone who might have anything to say about a given topic. It sometimes reminds me of decision by committee. Good or bad, I've found myself following their lead.

    Sure, there are lots of impromptu hallway conversations and meetings, but if the topic is something that we want to have on record, it better be discussed via e-mail. That creates another problem: how does someone actually store all of these conversations in a meaningful and searchable way? There have actually been books written on this topic. You've probably heard others blog about Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook to Get Organized and Stay Organized or David Allen's Getting Things Done. These books and programs contain some useful ideas...don't get me wrong. But that's only if you accept that the deluge of e-mail is actually providing a benefit to the work you do.

    As a thought experiement, what if you sent and received so much e-mail that it actually replaced all phone calls, meetings, and verbal communication? Would you be any more efficient or effective just because you've written a lot, have an "audit trail" of the communications, and allowed your recipients to reply at their convenience (usually when they're sitting in another meeting)? :-) Or would you just have improved your typing skills and your ability to configure fancy rules in Outlook? And if this continued ad infinitum, how much storage would you need!?

    There's certainly tremendous value in communication. But, for most positions, is the value mostly in the communication itself? Perhaps if you're someone who is spending most of their time coordinating or managing a group of people, this makes sense. For someone who has other activities to perform, after a certain threshold, it would seem that e-mail is more of a distraction.

    The other problem is signal to noise ratio. Because we receive many e-mails that aren't addressed directly to us (via cc, bcc, or distribution list, for example), I think we stop spending the time to carefully read and consider each e-mail message. The "noise" side of the ratio gets so high that we become sloppy. Speaking from personal experience—and today alone—I had to answer three questions that I had just answered in prior e-mails to the same people. Fortunately (or not), a lot of us have resorted to succint bullet-point e-mails that use underlining, boldfacing, or highlighting to focus the attention of our readers.

    I may sound like I'm ranting, but I'm really just musing on the volume of e-mail at Microsoft. It's caused me to examine when and why I send an e-mail message versus when I pick up the phone or walk down the hall. I just took a moment to count the number of e-mail messages in my sent items folder (replies, original e-mails, etc.) over the past week. Here are the results:

    • Wednesday (today): 134
    • Tuesday: 98
    • Monday: 125
    • Friday: 100
    • Thursday: 81

    I compared my numbers to this O'Reilly Survey, and I'm afraid that I fall into the "more than 60" category. I know that I'm not unique. Granted, it's PDC time, and communications are high, but these don't seem overly abnormal to me.

    What's your experience? How many e-mails have you sent over the past week?

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Adobe Blogs and PDC 2005 Show Off


    I feel like I'm breaking some blog rule by covering two different topics in the same post, but both topics are so short that neither of them warrants a full post of their own.

    First, Adobe joins the corporate blogging world and encourages its employees to post. There aren't many posts yet, but I'm already a subscriber. I was particularly interested in the post by Mark Niemann-Ross about the August Plug-In Guide for Illustrator. I didn't see my Illustrator to XAML Export Plug-In listed, but perhaps it'll be in the next edition.

    Second, due to the positive responses and e-mails related to the Show Off at PDC 2005 post, I'm happy to confirm that we are proceeding with our plans. The event is currently scheduled from 9:00pm - 11:00pm on Thursday, September 15th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We're in the process of working out the video submission details, but in the meantime, start thinking about what you can "Show Off" to the rest of the developer community. I'll post more details when we know them.

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