Ode to Holiday Shopping, 2006

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the city
Highways congested, tempers were tested; the sight wasn’t pretty

The stores opened early, and stayed open late
Registers rang, loudspeakers sang; as I tempted fate

I proceeded with caution, threading the aisles
Squeaking wheels, dubious deals; all the new styles

I grabbed toys for the boys, and a gift for my niece
Loaded my cart, doing my part; to help the Chinese

I rushed to the checkout, avoiding a wreck
Teeming masses, slow as molasses; all writing a check

After walking a mile, got it all in my car
Loaded for bear, gasping for air; I didn’t get far

After dodging and weaving, with skill and deft
Almost out, stuck en route; they’re all turning left!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

VCBuildHook updated for VS 2005 SP1

I’ve installed Visual Studio 2005 SP1 and have been busy testing all my projects to make sure they didn’t break. Microsoft did fix at least one of the bugs I reported (the resource editor choked on resource strings that contained an embedded NULL character), but the IDE still crashes fairly consistently if I initiate a large solution build while the Intellisense database is being rebuilt. SP1 also managed to break my VCBuildHook utility, so I’ve uploaded an updated version ( for use with SP1.

Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 is here!

Finally, the long awaited service pack 1 for Visual Studio 2005 is released! The service pack has been in the pipeline since soon after Visual Studio 2005 shipped last November, with release dates slipping month after month. The latest official release date was announced as “early 2007”. Perhaps this was an intentional attempt to alleviate some of the waiting pains with a suprise release (or maybe just the Microsoft rumor mill on autopilot).

Be prepared for a long install. The download page warns that it could take an hour or more to verify digital signatures before the service pack installation even begins.

Autodesk vs. ODA

The recently filed lawsuit has been a hot topic lately, and I’ve been following it along with everyone else. As a little side project, I decided to create a parallel blog dedicated to the ongoing battle between Autodesk and ODA. The new blog is at http://www.cadcourt.com.

The site is still a work in progress, but I hope you’ll check it out, and offer suggestions for improvements. Click on the Lawsuit Tracker link to view all the court documents in the case, and subscribe to the site’s feed to stay informed of new developments.

The secret world of file formats

No matter the communication protocol used to transmit it, most information gets packaged into a file format for consumption. File formats are like virtual checkpoints along the information superhighway, and we would do well to pay attention to who is manning the gates.

We’ve heard a lot of noise lately about the need for “open” file formats, but documenting a file format is not the same thing as relinquishing control of the format. The key consideration is who decides when and how the file format changes. This is a dirty little secret about file formats that you are not supposed to know. By controlling when and how a file format changes, an organization can maintain a mindshare monopoly over consumers of its file format — even when the format is “open”.

It may be that the relative anarchy of the internet has given us a false sense of security. We happily use “open” formats like PDF, DWF, DXF, HTM, and others with relatively little concern about who controls them, but all of those formats (HTM perhaps to a lesser degree) are controlled by corporations whose allegiance is first and foremost to their shareholders. For example, PDF is “open”, but did you know that third party developers need a digital ID signed by Adobe in order to create forms-enabled PDF files that can be opened in the free Acrobat Reader?

In April of 2006, Autodesk filed a trademark application for the word “DWG” when used to refer to DWG files. This may seem benign on the surface, but if successful it will give Autodesk more legal leverage in “defending” the file format. A few weeks ago, Autodesk filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Open Design Alliance claiming that the ODA infringed their “AUTODESK” trademark by embedding the mark inside DWG files created with its DWGdirect libraries.

Much has been written by the pundits about the pros and cons of the ODA lawsuit, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation predictably suggests that Autodesk is using trademark claims to stymie interoperability, but the bottom line is that the contention centers around a file format — a file format that Autodesk considers valuable enough to wage war over.