The posts tagged with 'Working' are listed below. You can get to each post by clicking the title in the list.


Hello 2017

Over the past however-many months this blog has been inactive in spite of the volume of my activity. One could argue that the blog failed to emulate life but instead suffered from it. A few folks asked me why I'd been so quiet, so I wanted to answer that question. The post evolved into a recap of the past year. Even more, it provided a cathartic first post using a new blog engine I'll tell you more about in a moment.

What have I been working on?

I haven't not been busy. Here's a quick run-down of what I've been up to since my last post.

Visual Studio App Service Tools

I helped design and implement a number of changes to the Visual Studio Azure App Service Tools extension and helped customers and partners understand the opportunities these tools provide by speaking at a few conferences and writing a few release blog posts as we churned out numerous SDK releases.

docs.microsoft.com

Though I truly enjoyed the tooling world a great opportunity opened up in the docs.microsoft.com team working with some of my heroes and I changed roles. Together we're changing the way Microsoft does documentation. It hasn't been easy, but it has been rewarding to work in the team that inspired me when I was a graduate student reading MSDN SiteBuilder every week. Since I've joined the team I've been helping overhaul numerous reference experiences for topics such as:

Here I am with my my new teammate Rob Eisenberg (I'm so not worthy of these colleagues and constantly suffer from impostor symdrome) in our fancy team room:

Rob with Brady in his cave

Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code

I created the Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code extension using Node.js and the Azure Node.js SDK. Two of my goals for 2017 are to improve the Node.js reference documentation for the Azure SDK and to learn more about Visual Studio Code extension development. So late in 2016 I created this extension in the hopes of forcing myself to learn Node.js and to use the existing documentation from the perspective of a truly n00b customer so I could better ask our awesome developers on the team to make a great Node.js SDK documentation experience. Below is a screen shot of the commands made available using the extension.

Azure Tools for VS Code

In the last weeks of 2016 started working on a new blogging engine. More on this in a moment.

How's the family and Seattle going?

One of the other reasons I've been so busy is that my family and I have thoroughly been enjoying the Puget Sound Area, Seattle, and all the amazing sights and natural majesty the area offers:

In addition to all the work I've been doing I've also been familying and really enjoing it. Our first few years in the area were - well - weird, but we've gotten stronger out of it and really work together as a great team.

As if the global news, radical uptick in people-you-grew-up-with dying in 2016, and the stresses of work and personal life weren't enough, I had some personal tragedies as well. My father died, as well as a few other family members. It wasn't easy, but in the case of my dad, neither would be watching someone I love suffer for much longer.

In spite of the numerous explosions of the year it was an amazing year of change in our family and we're optimistic about the future. We moved into a cute little neighborhood after living on a scarily busy street and life has been a lot better as a result. The entire family has gotten involved in soccer, so we have numerous matches each week. Mostly indoor. Yes, it does rain here a little, but in spite of that it is an amazing and beautiful place to live and the whole family has been finding new people and places to enjoy.

I've gotten into MIDI

Since my last post another thing that's taken a ton of time has been that I've gotten back into producing music at home and have learned a lot about MIDI and how to use it to create music. By omitting a computer from the recording and creative process altogether I was forced to learn more about using the actual devices and building a decent rig of hardware. This has become quite a passion, as has been coming up with strange new sounds in the home office.

Home studio

One of my failed goals for the year was to write a blog series on these devices, how I made the decisions I made, and how to make interesting things happen with your devices. Again, the blog was neglected, even though I so badly wanted to sit down and write about it I got blocked each time.

I wrote a new blog engine using ASP.NET Core and Markdown

The truth is, I've been fickle with blog engines because I've been using blog engines written by other people who have different goals. My last engine, Miniblog, has far and away been my favorite. It is so convenient with a simple-to-use WYSIWYG editor in the browser, and even supports Live Writer. I can't say anything bad about MiniBlog, but we had to break up. It isn't MiniBlog, it's me. You see, I'm a creature of habit and I finally admitted I prefer the way I blog using Markdown and git to the way MiniBlog enabled me to blog. I realized my enjoyment of writing on my personal blog had been waning because everything about the writing process was different from what I'd gotten used to. The worst part was that I have a ton of work-related pet projects like the Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code extension and my MIDI tinkering, but my engine kept getting in my way. So, I started working on downr.

Most of the blogging and content publishing tools I use at work make use of Markdown. The open-source engine we use for docs.microsoft.com, DocFX, makes great use of Markdown, and our publishing systems support it. Additionally, Markdown is my medium of choice for all my open-source projects.

Some friends had also told me about Ghost, but it seemed a little too large for a single developer blog's need. There are numerous awesome options out there that would enable my desired workflow, but it seemed there wasn't anything that would be precisely what I was after written in ASP.NET Core. Though I've demonstrated a ton of ASP.NET Core things and done a ton of Web API work, I'd not built a custom site or web app in some time. I'd also wanted to do something a little more interesting with Grunt, so I took the opportunity of a greenfield project to use it to automate the build.

So in the final hours of my holiday vacation, I set out to create a blogging engine that I would use. I took inspiration from the tools and processes I use at work but made things a lot simpler and geared towards bloggers than comprehensive documentation. Then I converted my blog to use it and wrote a converter to migrate my content to my new engine. This blog is now using the downr engine, which you can learn more about in my Introduction to downr post.

2017 will be awesome

The turn of each year always offers promise and hope, and this year's turn is probably the most glaring example of this in recent memory for me.

We have some amazing new projects and ideas for documentation in the team and we've refined our process, made improvements to our tools, and have some new ideas for documentation next year that are sure to be exciting.

My pet projects - the Azure Tools for Visual Studio Code and the new downr blogging engine - are also great outlets for me to try the products I work to make easy to use for our customers.

Good luck to you in the new year!


Keep Outlook Open, but Keep it Quiet

The stories you hear about working at Microsoft and how we send and receive lots of email is true. It is more true than you could imagine. I’ve been an addicted avid user of Outlook since I’ve had a job but there are some features I’ve not explored with any depth. Even with software, I sometimes strive to live a more Buddhist lifestyle and deny myself the investigation for features that I fear I will not find. That whole expecting it to be there and being disappointed when it isn’t thing is too depressing for me to go through, so I choose to minimize my expectations and not go hunting for features my life would benefit from having. No, really. I’m just lazy. No but seriously, I have this obsessive rule about not seeing a scrollbar in my Inbox. Each day when the little scrollbar icon appears, shortening the width of my Inbox by 20 (or so) pixels, I cringe. I hate having more-than-a-scroll emails in my Inbox.

The feature I’ve wanted (ever since I got the feature of not having to refresh my inbox) is to tell my inbox to stop auto-refreshing. I’d never gone hunting for it. Tonight, I did, and I found it in 5 minutes. I like this feature so much I’m going to show it off. You’ve probably seen this already, but get this – you can leave Outlook open and prevent it from checking your mail. That way, you can clean out your Inbox while simultaneously preventing it from refilling itself as you try to clean it out.

Here’s the trick. On your Outlook ribbon in any of the modes – email, calendar, tasks, whatever – click the Send/Receive ribbon. Then, toggle the Work Offline feature. I’ve highlighted my favorite part of the feature – the “if you do not want to receive new mail” message.

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As soon as you do this, Outlook will stop checking your email for you. The status bar reflects my newfound joy, knowing I can keep my old friend open but quiet as I prune away towards inbox-zero Nirvana. In the status bar, I can see that I’m working offline. That way, once I get jittery in 15 minutes after not having received any new email, I can just look down and see why no one’s emailing me. I’ve temporarily put the incoming world on hold.

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Whenever I’m ready to stop being anti-social, I can go back to the Send/Receive tab and see that I’m hiding via the greyed-out Work Offline toggle button.

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Once I click that, Outlook connects and starts updating my folders…

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After a few seconds everything is updated and I’m back online, with new fresh email to read…

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You probably already knew about this feature, but I’m so excited I had to share it. Thanks, Outlook team, for being awesome.