Double your reading rate

I'm always on the lookout for productivity tips that help me be a better myself.

I used to love Steve Pavlina but most of his posts in the last six months or so have been quite bland.

Enter Scott Young. This article on doubling your reading rate is good. I'm hoping is other stuff is the same.

Aside: Moving to a new house (my very own one!), the baby and some other stuff have been disrupting my usual flow. Hopefully you'll be hearing more from me again...

Super secret project and the MVP Summit 2007 so far

I just got back from the session by Don and ChrisAn and they did 'partially' talk about the super secret project they've been working on.

I've captured the whole session on video and will have them up once I get it cleared.

The MVP Summit has so far been 'wicked'. I've met some of the biggest legends who have created the world that I live in and pays for me. BillG started off with his keynote, followed by Soma and then Anders took us through all the crazy stuff in C# 3.0 with Don and ChrisAn finishing off what has been a great day.

Tomorrow, I can't wait to meet ScottGu!

Looking forward to the MVP Summit

I'll be at Redmond next month with the rest of the SL MVP gang. Don Box just gave yet another reason for me to get excited.

We're being let in on the top secret project that Don and ChrisAn have been working on since WCF/WPF.

Window Clippings

I take a lot of screenshots and Vista posed a problem with it's window shadows. My workaround was to place the screen behind a Notepad background before taking the screenshot.

Enter Window Clippings from Kenny Kerr, includes taking the shadow background and supports a whole lot of formats including smaller file sizes with .png

The Snipping Tool in Vista just got retired.

<IMG height=582 src="http://www.merill.net/wp-content/uploads/binary/WindowClippings_AAB4/MerillFernandosWebLogWindowClippings2_thumb1.png" width=589 border=0>

Microsoft vs. BlueJ

I was first introduced to BlueJ when I started lecturing on OOP using Java at Keele (IIT) for their MSc program. Teaching first time programmers about objects and creating instances using the BlueJ IDE was a 'wow' moment.

A couple of years later I'm sitting at the regional MVP Summit in Singapore and watching a presentation by one of the Microsoft Program Managers (under NDA) about the new 'Object Test Bench' feature. The moment I saw it, I turned around to Prasanna and commented about its similarity to BlueJ. Other people too notice this and later even Microsoft admits that the idea was from BlueJ.

“*My* interpretation of the above statement is basically that our academic customers wanted this because of the success of this BlueJ feature.” (D Fernandez)

Fast forward to last weekend, Michael, one of the authors of BlueJ is alerted that Microsoft has patented BlueJ, Dan Fernandez (a Microsoft Product Manager) then works inside Microsoft to remove the patent. With a final update from Michael.

As a part-time educator who teaches both Java and .NET technologies what's funnier is that Microsoft copied the feature based on feedback from teachers and hilariously doesn't include it in the free versions of Visual Studio (Express Editions) which is chiefly intended for students and hobbyists.

Instead it is a high-end feature which is available only on the paid versions. I guess Architects can use that feature to teach new SE's about objects and instances (grin).

Hopefully D Fernandez who is the Lead Product Manager for Visual Studio Express will "fix" it in the next version.

HOWTO: Renew your Passport when it expires

With my impending visit to the MVP Global Summit 2007 in Seattle it was time to renew my passport which expired last year.

Dinesh pointed me to the well laid out Department of Immigration and Emigration site from where I was able to download the application form.

Since my passport was the old M series it was valid for only 5 years, I believe the new N series ones are valid for ten years. You can extend the validity of your passport for another five years, currently the renewal rate is Rs 100/- per year.

I had to visit the department twice. First to hand over the form and the payment and then they asked me to come two hours later to collect it. Three hours later when I went it was still not there, but I was able to get it after another 1/2 hour of waiting.

Even with all the computerization and what not, our ingenious public officials find clever ways to devise schemes to take bribes and expedite the renewal process for "bribe givers" while inconveniencing the guys who do it the right way.

Just after I parked the car at the nice car park opposite the department the ticket collector himself comes up and offers to get my passport renewed in 20 minutes. I turned him down.

The whole things shows up in an ugly way when you go to collect your passport. There are just two guys handing out the passports to the 150+ people who are waiting at any given time to collect it, and the passports trickle down in batches of about 15 every 10 minutes.

There are a another 15 plus officials (bribe takers) wearing the department tag who hang around waiting for their 'guys' (bribe giver) passport. They do this without an iota of shame in front of all 150+ people who are waiting to collect their passport.

The guys who get theirs legally have to sign the application to say that they collected it, but no such thing for the bribe givers.

Anyway given that we have one minister for anything that one can fart at, this sure is going to improve quite a lot.

I meant the bribery taking and giving.