All MacBU Personal

Lying down on the job

Well, the nerve, it’s not so good. I had an MRI last week and saw Dr. Peter Nora for a neurosurgical consult on Monday. There’s no immediate damage or need for surgery, but the MRI showed a definitive herniation at L5-S1 (not my personal MRI, but a decent example of one like mine), just like I’ve had twice before. Dr. Nora strongly recommended I take several weeks to minimize prolonged periods of sitting and standing, to take pressure off the disk and give my body a chance to solve the nerve irritation on its own.
That’s a great idea, but what about work? I’m still quite mentally fit (aside from the foggy effects of taking Percocet to dull the pain) and didn’t relish the idea of spending 3 weeks staring at the ceiling. Luckily, Microsoft has a great HR and benefits team, and I have an understanding manager (who happens to be a long-time friend and is actually the very first person I met at Microsoft on my first day as an intern in 1995!). Together with my general doctor, we crafted a formal ‘accomodation’ plan that acknowledges my limitations and still allows me to work from home part-time (and account for the rest of my time with sick leave). This way I get to be productive, keep my mind off of my back, and yet not stress my system with long commutes or hours sitting at my desk. I’ve got a laptop at home and can use Apple Remote Desktop to drive my Mac Pro at work, and thus can do pretty much anything from my bed that I could do at work.
The one tricky thing is that as a development lead, I have several people who report to me, and I need to be able to meet with them on a regular basis. Handily enough, between the new A/V capabilities of Microsoft Messenger 7 and the nice corded mic on my cell phone, I can attend meetings and talk to all my direct reports face to face. I did a number of one-on-one meetings that way today, and it seemed to work rather well.
So, I’m spending my days lying on my nice comfy bed with a couple of pillows and a freaking hot MacBook Pro. Not exactly where I’d like to be, but given the circumstances, I’ll take that over a stay in the hospital or a blah view of my ceiling. And, *knock on wood*, with any luck I’ll avoid a third surgery and be physically back in the office soon.

All Personal

The nerve! It burns!

So I said a few days ago that I was going to blog more — so much for that idea. Right now I’m standing at an elevated desk in my office, muttering under my breath at the firey pain coursing up and down my right leg, and generally bemoaning my inability to sit down.
I have an injured disc in my spine, at L5-S1, that has been pinching my right sciatic nerve for about 12 years now. I had surgery in 1996 and 2005 on it, and my back is generally in decent shape, but I somehow managed to irritate it last week such that the nerve is again all inflamed and causing pain.
I’m once again finding out just how challenging it is to sit with nerve pain. I haven’t been able to sit in front of my Mac at home to write up a blog post. I’m taking tomorrow off to go see the doctor — maybe I can get my laptop working again and write something up while lying down.

All Personal

Preschool presents and PHP

I’ve been at home for the past two days. Yesterday, my son woke up with a nasty cough and hoarse voice, so we kept him home from preschool. My wife had to work during the day and go to her Montessori class in the afternoon, so I stayed home as well to take care of the boy. He’s lots of fun to be around — we went out for lunch to Metropolitan Market, where he scarfed down 8 pieces of California roll and most of an apple, we played ‘cave’ with two sofas and a blanket, and I got some occasional bits of work done while he entertained himself in the sandbox out on the deck. As the day progressed, however, I noticed my throat getting sore, and I had a number of sneezing fits, both of which are usually pretty good indicators that I’m about to become ill myself.
Sure enough, last night I could hardly sleep because my throat hurt so much, and today my head feels like it’s all stuffed up with lovely goo. I decided to stay home from work to get some rest and avoid giving this preschool germ to everyone around me. I got some quality bed rest in the morning, and spent the afternoon tweaking some of the PHP code in one of my WordPress plugins to interact better with Mint.
PHP is weird. There seem to be two distinct styles — HTML with PHP embedded inside of it, or PHP with HTML embedded inside of it. On occasion I’ve seen code where the designer couldn’t keep track of which was inside what, and it’s just a gnarly mess to read. (Then again, I suppose my stuffy head could be part of the problem, too.)
I had intended to spend part of today writing up a MacBU-based post, but I’ve been unable to organize my thoughts well enough, which is why you’re getting this fairly random post instead. Maybe tomorrow, if I feel better.

All Blog

RSS Woes

In the process of redirecting my RSS feeds away from FeedBurner, I managed to mess up the FeedBurner settings, so it is redirecting RSS readers to the (now bogus) invisible FeedBurner feed on my site. I’ve futzed with the .htaccess mod_rewrite settings to redirect old RSS subscriptions from that bogus feed to the real one, and I think I’ve got it right. The redirect should be reported to your reader as a permanent one, so NetNewsWire and others should automatically notice the change, but if you have problems, please let me know.
(Of course, RSS-only readers who are having problems won’t see this post… Catch-22.)

All Blog


I just upgraded the site to WordPress 2.5, and removed a bunch of hidden spam in the last few posts. I’ve been amazingly remiss in blogging (that’s what a couple of crunch periods at work will do to any desire to talk about it), and haven’t kept close track of what spammy people have been doing.
Much better now. Much blogging to resume…

All Blog Personal


As I said a few weeks ago (and has been readily apparent if you look at the lack of posts here), I haven’t had much time to blog in a while. I’ve been spending some long days (and evenings!) at work polishing off stuff to get Mac Office 2008 ready to ship, and I haven’t felt like sitting down in front of the computer at home for long periods of time. However, I have been keeping up with the various RSS feeds that I read on a regular basis, and last week I read Adam Engst’s Confessions of a Twitter Convert on TidBITS. I’ve heard a lot about Twitter, but mostly ignored it as it seemed too hyperkinetic and “who the heck would care what I’m doing at any given moment”-ish. But, after reading Adam’s article, I decided to give it a shot.
I’m only following a few people at the moment (Adam, Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, and Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica, and some MacBU folks among others), and it’s actually been pretty interesting. As Twitter intends by asking the question “What are you doing?”, the stream of pings is more or less random snippets of folks’ lives that they want to share, and thus not terribly heavy on Mac development or Mac news. However, I’ve seen entries fly by ranging from Daniel discovering that MarsEdit’s icon has been copied by a Linux distribution, to Adam fighting spam for the TidBITS domain, and a whole lot else in between.
I’ve tried to post little bits throughout the day myself, since Thursday or so. Tonya Engst is right, it is a whole lot easier to blurt out the ‘topic’ of a blog piece than it is to write up the whole thing. It might be of some minor interest to a few folks if I wrote up a blog piece about the byteswapping bug I spent most of Friday tracking down, but I was absolutely exhausted yesterday evening (my son woke me up at 6am, I had an eye doctor appointment at 9:15am which included getting my eyes dilated, so that I couldn’t read a computer screen for hours, I had 2 different triage meetings to attend, and a one-on-one meeting with my manager’s manager that day, plus fixing bugs) and had no energy to blog. Instead, I put up a few ‘headlines’ on Twitter throughout the day. Admittedly, my following on Twitter is very small so practically nobody saw them, but I felt like I was actually doing something public again for once.
So anyway. Yep, I gotta blog more. Folks have asked about Xcode over on Mac Mojo and now that we’re reaching the end of a major product development cycle on the new tools it’s time for an update. I’ll work on that, but in the meantime if you’re curious about some of the day-to-day stuff going on inside the MacBU, come follow me!

All MacBU

Mac Office 2008 Sneak Peek

We’ve just launched the Mac Office 2008 Sneak Peek site, with short video clips and descriptions of a bunch of new features in Mac Office 2008. The video clips are a little small, but they should give you a good idea of the new UI (more adoption of common OS X UI elements, extensive use of Core Graphics) including the new Elements Gallery and some Word and Excel features. Nadyne has just put up some commentary on how the design of the Elements Gallery evolved out of the Win Office ribbon and some of our own internal User Experience testing. Some of the other folks I work with in the MacBU will be posting to Mac Mojo over the next few days talking about their work in designing, developing, and testing the new capabilities.
On a more personal note, I’ve not posted here in a very long time. As you might imagine, I’ve been very busy at work over the last several months, with more to do before Office 2008 becomes available in January. Instead of blogging, I’ve been spending my free time at home playing with my kids and doing small fixit projects (I replaced two faucets over the weekend so that my son could reach the handles and turn on the water by himself.) I do hope to write more regularly soon.

All MacBU

The Bill and Steve Show

So last night was the Bill & Steve confab at the All Things Digital conference. It was a pretty mellow discussion as they go (although apparently contrary to popular opinion, BillG is not Fake Steve!)
Both Bill and Steve made some nice comments about the MacBU. Check out this link from roughly 2:35 to 3:05.
I’ve talked about the relationship that the MacBU has with Apple developers before, and it’s nice to hear Steve himself say that “it’s one of our best developer relationships.”

All MacBU

Save at the airport with Office 2004

At MacWorld 2007 this past January, Apple released their new 802.11n Airport Extreme Base Station with support for sharing a USB hard drive. Since that release, we’ve seen a few reports here and there that Mac Office 2004 applications are unable to save files to such a shared disk. One of my colleagues had run into the problem at home and reported the bug internally here as well, and it ended up on my plate.
I obtained a new AEBS from our lab and set it up in my office. I rebooted my Intel iMac into Tiger, applied all the recent security updates (that Mac has been running Leopard seeds for a while, so the Tiger partition was a little out of date) and installed the new AEBS software. I then booted up Office 2008 (since that’s easier to debug right now) and tried to reproduce the problem. No luck — Excel and Word both had no problems saving to the wirelessly-mounted disk drive. So, I tried Office 2004. Again, it just worked! So, I sent the bug back to my colleague saying I couldn’t reproduce the problem.
Today, he brought his own AEBS in from home and we tested it. Sure enough, we could reproduce the problem on his AEBS. So, we pondered the problem for a little while and realized that when I set up our lab’s AEBS the other day, the first thing I did was update the AEBS firmware as prompted when I first ran the Airport Utility tool. Comparing the two AEBSs showed that the one I set up was using firmware v7.1, whereas my colleague’s was using v7.0. A quick update of his AEBS and a new test, and the problem went away!
I then dug around on Apple’s web site and found the release notes for the new firmware update. Lo and behold, the new firmware says that it has “improved support for third party applications saving files to a USB disk.”
So, if you are having problems saving files from Office 2004 applications to your new whiz-bangy Aiport Express Base Station, go to your Airport Utility and check to see if you have the latest AEBS firmware. Your Office installation will thank you (or at least, save your files…)!

All MacBU

VB to AppleScript

After my posts this past August about the removal of VB from Mac Office 2008, lots of people asked about how to convert VB code into AppleScript. I had always intended to write up a post with some simple examples but never actually found the spare time to do so. However, Paul Berkowitz, along with the help of some other stellar Microsoft MacBU MVPs has written an excellent tutorial with some concrete and very relevent examples of VB macros and their AppleScript equivalents.
MacTech Magazine announced on Wednesday that their upcoming April 2007 issue will contain the entire 150-page book! I saw a slightly-pre-release copy of the book at MacWorld and I think it will be an excellent reference/HowTo for anyone who has created custom solutions in VB for the Mac.
I know this doesn’t address the cross-platform issues surrounding VB but it should give you some ideas of the richness of AppleScript and our support for it in Mac Office 2008.