Changing From an iPod to a Creative Zen

The time finally came for me to replace my iPod with something new. I was using aniPod click wheelthat I gotas awarranty replacement back in 2004.It was good to me, but I felt that it was time to look at other options.If iTunes ran a little better on my PC, I probably would have just bought another iPod withouta second thought.

Hardware

It took me quite a while to choose a new device. I did look at the iPod Nano, but they couldn’t store quite as much as I wanted.The iPod classic on the other hand is way more storage thanI need, and I prefer the lighter weight, longer battery life, and the improved durability of flash storage.

The Microsoft Zuneis another device I considered, but the windows software for that is even worse than iTunes. For example,songs can haveone of three ratings: heart, broken heart, or no rating. I like that they’re trying to simplify the interface, but I really feel like I’m not their target audience.That said, if Zune Pass worked in Canada Imight have gone with them anyway.

The Creative Zen X-Figave me everything I wanted. It’s small and light, has 32GB of flash storage and can be easily expanded, and it’s priced competitively. It has an FMradio, and buttons on the outside. I know touch screen isin these days, but I can change songs without even taking it out of my pocket.

Software

Replacing iTunes was another big job. I’ve built up a detailed system ofsmart play lists and ratings over the years and change scares me. I’m willing to try something new, but I need an app with enough features to do the job.

My search was quickly reduced to two main contenders, Winamp and Media Monkey. Both had automatic play lists,song ratings, and file typeconversion features.

I ended up downloading both and doing several tests before choosing Media Monkey. Both applications were comparable for features, but Media Monkey was alittle better with syncing, and a little more straightforward for organising songs and play lists.

Converting to Media Monkeywas easy, and all the data (like ratings, play counts, album art) came over fine. I did have some trouble with the comments getting scrambled in several tracks, but it seems like iTunes was causing that well before copying the data over. All told, I had all the data over and fixed up after a half day of elbow grease.

Verdict

My only real problem so far has been with the Zen. I’ve hadto reboot the device a couple times when it’s hiccuped during a huge sync operation orfailed to come back out of sleep.The UI can be a bit difficult sometimes as well. I won’t get into details, but let me just say that converting a WEP key to stars while typing with 9 buttons isn’t making my life any easier.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the change so far. Just getting the weight of my old 20 GB monster out of my pocket has been nice.

SQL Management Studio Express with VS 2010 Express

I had some fun trying to install SQL Management Studio on myhome computer over the weekend. I was successful in the end, but it was a rough journey.

Theseseem to be the things that can lead you into my scenario:

  • Windows 7
  • Visual Web Developer 2010 Express (which installs SQL Server 2008 Express)

These are the things I ran into trying to install SQL Management Studio (both from an SQL 2008 standard disk, and a download of the express version from the Microsoft web site):

  • A warning that the installer was not compatible with Windows 7. The warning leads you to the SQL 2008 SP1 installer, but that can’t install management studio.
  • Theinstaller fails to load with this error: “Invoke or BeginInvoke cannot be called on a control until the window handle has been created.”(If you keep retrying you can eventually get past this error, but it seems to be possible at three different stage of the install process.)
  • A reboot is required before proceeding, even when running the installer immediately after a reboot.
  • When given a list of modules to add, SQL Management Studio isn’t an option on the list.

What a frustrating evening!

The thing that finally worked turned out to be pretty simple though:

  1. Launch the Microsoft Web Platform Installer (which you need to install to have Visual Web Developer 2010 Express, as far as I know).
  2. Go to the Web Platform tab, and click “Customize” on the Database option.
  3. Check “SQL Server 2008 R2 Management Studio Express”, and click Install.
  4. Stand back and let the web platform installer do it’s thing.

I wish I’d tried that the first time.

Shared Resource Service Requirements

I want to start my project by dividing up the various things the system needs to do, then put them into the order I plan to approach them. I want to start with requirements thatare the most risky and mostimportant to success first, and work my way down the list until I finish with items that are neither risky nor important.

This approach gives me several advantages. It’s not an issue in this case since I don’t have any deadlines to meet, but if this were a professional project and a deadline had to be pushed up, I am more likely to have a product that does the most essential things. If I had a fixed deadline and the projectstarts running long, I’m more likely to have a working product that’s just missing a few less important features. In an ideal world those don’t happen, but at the end of the project the parts that were risky and/or essential have had the most time to be tested and fine-tuned as the application matures.

I could just charge in and write some code, and sometimes the results can turn out okay, but in my experience it never saves time. If anything, it just increases the chance that the project will fail. On the other hand, I don’t want to do too much design up front. I will know more and more about the problem space the further I get into the project, so the further back I can push parts of the design, the more likely I am to getthem right, or at least be close,the first time.

After a couple days of thinking and fooling around with the list, here is what I end up with in the general order I plan to approach them:

  1. Recieveevent invitations by email and send an acceptanceemail.
  2. Recordaccepted invitations, and send a rejection email when a new invitation conflicts with an existing one.
  3. If an event is cancelled, remove it from the record.
  4. If an event is rescheduled, try to accept the new time andremove the previous time.
  5. Recieve invitations for multiple resources.
  6. Users can view the schedule for resources.
  7. Administrators can view, add, edit, and remove resources or change other options for the service.
  8. Save free/busy information for all resources in a format compatible with MS Outlook.
  9. The schedule for a resource can be retrieved in the iCal format.