How I fixed Visual Studio crashing when opening XAML (WPF) files

For the second time, Visual Studio 2008 began crashing when double clicking on a XAML file.  In this case, the crash was spectacularly underwhelming.  No error message, blue screen or other indication of something horrible happing.  Visual Studio would simply go a way, or “blink out” as I’ve seen it referred to.

After much searching I was able to determine that the PowerCommands for Visual Studio 2008 extension was somehow involved in the problem.  I tried quite a few different solutions including adding a dependantAssembly reference in my Visual Studio configuration, doing a clean solution then rebuilding the project.  Up to that point the only thing that worked was uninstalling the extension.  Reinstalling afterwards would cause the problem to return.

Working without PowerCommands was an option I did not want to consider.  Many times each day I would use functions such as “Open Command Prompt” which fires up cmd.exe starting in the directory of the file or folder selected in the solution explorer or “Open Containing Folder” on a file, just to mention a couple.  It was looking like that was going to be the only solution, I was bummed.

I decided to check with the source a bit further.  I looked through their issue list and the top voted issue was VS 2008 crashes when adjusting toolbox items.  Reading the description did not give me a lot of hope as it dealt with a problem when the toolbox items were adjusted.  It also included an actual error which was lacking in my case.

Among the comments to the above issue, I found the suggestion to run the command “ngen /delete *” (without the quotes) from a Visual Studio 2008 command prompt.  Ngen is the native image generator which creates native images from managed assemblies and installs a native image cache on a computer, which is a reserved area of the global assembly cache.

Wow, that sounds important, and I’m suppose to delete * (star)?  Ok….I was desperate and I did it before investigating what it meant.  Dangerous, I know, I know, but as I said I was desperate!

It worked.   Nothing seemed to break…and it worked.  Ok, off we go!  Wait, time to investigate….just in case problems start cropping up later.

ngen-help Running ngen /? from the command prompt yielded no information, not a mention of the /delete switch.  In my experience, when a command line utility fails to mention an argument that clearly did something, this is an argument that should only be used with full knowledge of what it does.  Now I started to get nervous!

I did a quick Google Search and was lead to the MSDN documentation for ngen.  It seems that my little command deleted all native images in the native image cache.  Hmm….that sounds bad.  Fortunately, a little further down the page the following information was also present.

 

This made me feel a little better.  The assemblies were still there, simply not the native images for them.  Native images simply cause the applications or assemblies to start up a bit faster.  With today’s hardware, I don’t know that I’ll even notice a difference, or if I do, it will be worth it to keep PowerCommands and get rid of the problem.

If this behavior resurfaces, I will do a little more investigation by using the /show argument to find out what native images are installed.  Then I will started deleting them one at a time to find the culprit.  My guess is that one of the native images somehow became corrupted, or the configuration for it got messed up or something like that.  Perhaps finding the culprit will aid in the resolution of the issue that this wonderful extension is experiencing by, if the Google results are any indication, a fair number of developers.

Essential Android Apps, 3 Months Later

Android Almost 3 months ago, I wrote about the Android applications that I found myself coming depend on.  With the release of paid applications on the Android Market, the quality of products has been rising and I’ve found that I’ve adjusted my must have list a little.

Apps I still use

Exchange by TouchDown

I still love this for my corporate Exchange access.  NitroDesk is doing a great job of adding new features and fixing bugs when they crop up.  In January I was still using version 1.  Since then, they’ve come out with v 2.0 which including, among many other things, push support.  Currently I am beta testing a new version which I am uncertain whether or not I can talk specifically about, just suffice it to say the new big-ticket item is very nice.

The NitroDesk support continues to be superior with most responses coming within a few hours at the most.  These guys simply get it.  I have checked out a couple of other Exchange clients and they just don’t come close.

 The Weather Channel

Not much to say about this one.  They have had a few updates, but nothing new and exciting, still the app simply works and it works well.  Sometimes, if it aint broke, you don’t fix it.

Quickpedia

I find myself struggling to remember details about topics that crop in conversations all of the time.  Quickpedia gives me what I consider to be the best mobile UI wrapper around the content from Wikipedia available.   Whether I’m looking up the discography for a band, or reading up on the science behind natural harmonics on your guitar, the information is formatted to look good on a mobile device including grouping the information by section allowing you to see a quick overview of the the types of information available.

Rings Extended

In my previous post, this was an honorable mention.  I suppose that was due to the fact that you almost never see this application.  The truth; however, is that you always use it.  It replaces the standard ringtone picker application allowing you to customize rings by using built-in tones or sounds, music or tracks on your SD card.

New Additions

Steel

The built in web browser is very nice; however there are a few features that it simply doesn’t have yet.  While the next version of Android (1.5, cupcake, whatever) may address them, Steel fills the gap in the interim.  Steel gives you full screen browsing, auto rotation when you turn your phone sideways, touch zooming, flip navigation between windows and a soft (on-screen) keyboard.

Steel uses the base Webkit engine that the built in browser uses, it simply adds a UI on top of it that should have been included in the first place.

SplashID

The folks at Splash Data have been making password management that syncs desktop with mobile for a while now.  They have versions for most popular mobile platforms including Android, WinMo, iPhone, Palm, Blackberry and Symbian Series 60.  For years I’ve enjoyed having my passwords stored in a secure environment on my desktop and my mobile device (formerly on WinMo) and now that SplashID has an Android client, I’m once again feeling safe 🙂

Useful Switchers

This is a quick-toggle application for many of the frequently used system settings.  It allows you with a click to toggle WiFi, Bluetooth, Auto Sync, GPS and more.  This little app is fast, and has a great looking, simple to understand interface.

Gone Missing

These are applications that were on my original list but have since lost their place in my my device for various reasons.

aTrackDog

This was the only way to really keep apps up to date without manually searching them out.  It was a great app, but since RC33 was released with the automatic updates listed in the market, my downloads section, it became redundant.

I see now that they have added some features to make it appealing again, including updates to non-market applications and a few other features.  I may give this another try, but for the moment it’s not on my device.

Power Manager

This app was designed really well.  It gives quick access to some of the settings that affect your battery life, such as WiFi, GPS and brightness.  A very nice features is the automatic triggers which will change settings to a certain profile.  For example, if your battery gets down below 30%, it may turn off GPS and WiFi.

Why did I get rid of it?  3 reasons:

  1. The main reason is that the developer changed it to a 3 day trial which you could upgrade to the full version.  He did this without adequate warning (I simply updated since my marketplace told me one was available) and did not leave the original free version available.  While it is only $0.99, and I would have likely paid for it, the manner in which it was done did not sit well with me.
  2. All of the quick settings toggles (and many more) are now available from Useful Switchers.
  3. I rarely let my phone get below the 30% threshold that I had set for turning off WiFi.

While it sounds like he may have made the free version available on his website (instead of the market place)

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list of the applications I have installed and use, but they are the apps that, if I had to do a hard reset, I’d likely install right away.  That says a lot about them regarding their usefulness and the way the work their way into your day-to-day routine.

If you have some that you think are essential, questions about any of these apps or criticism about some of my choices (please back it up!) please leave a comment!

Blogging (and micro-blogging) Hiatus

I have been on a bit of a lapse in the blogging, twitter, 12 seconds and other social network arenas.  Robert Scoble once posted The Corporate Weblog Manifesto.  Rule #13 states

If your life is in turmoil and/or you’re unhappy, don’t write.

He gives a brief, non-specific example of the potential effects.  My family has been going through some rough times lately that I will not get into in this forum, but suffice it to say that the stress level has been high and, though I have wanted to share my thoughts on several things of late, I did not want to fall victim to subconscious changes to my writing affecting the quality.

After almost 2 months, we are coming to terms with the changes in our lives at home and, while things are still far from what most people consider normal, we are at least coping.

I have to admit that not blogging during the break was somewhat of a relief but now I must deal with the consequences of my blog’s loss of relevance, but more importantly, it’s time to get back into something I enjoy, writing!

It’s official, and we had a party to prove it!

Last night (Feb 9th, 2009) down in Santa Clara, my company hosted the Meet & Greet party for the SMX West 09 conference.  This was the kick-off party for the conference where we were officially announced our new product, Pixelsilk.

Most of the Sales & Marketing folks were down at the party in Santa Clara.  It looks like they had a great time.  You can read about it in Kandi Humpf’s blog post here.  Be sure to take a look at the picture of the laptop!

On the other end of the laptop connected via Skype, the rest of the team (development, web and support) were having a great time eating cajun tater tots, pizza and of course drinking hand-crafted beer at our local McMenamin’s, the Old St. Francis School.  Here are some photos of the team enjoying a well deserved celebration.

I want to give a shout out to the entire team for helping us get to this point!  It has been a lot of hard work, but thanks to the all of the great folks it has always been fun!

Ready to Launch

At Smart Solutions, the company I work for, we’ve been working on a new product for quite some time now.  Our target has been a launch in February at the SMX West 2009 conference.  We’ve just announced it on our company blog.

Warning…Warning…The Coolest New Product of the Year Announced!

But you’ll have to be at SMX to see it!

Well, that’s not entirely true – you can also see it at www.pixelsilk.com; but you’re going to want to be at SMX to really get to know the geniuses behind this leading-edge…some would say “futuristic”… SEO-enabled Content Management System.

You can read the all the details here.  It’s an exciting time and very fulfilling to see the the results of our labor bear fruit.  Congratulations to the entire team!

Aessential Android Apps

android Now that I’ve been using my Android powered T-Moble G1 for several weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the applications that I find essential.  They range from true productivity to mindless time sucks, so take each as it is intended!

TouchDown for Android and Exchange

This is a great application giving access to my company Exchange server.  The UI and feature set is very nice.  I have access to my inbox, calendar and contacts.  It also has the ability to get to my other private folders.

The folks at NitroDesk have done a nice job of keeping the UI familiar for both Android and Outlook users.  It will, if you configure it properly work in the background and integrates with the standard Android notification system.

TouchDown seems to be developing fairly quickly and their team is quite responsive to questions via email.

aTrackDogaTrackDog

This is a great application that helps you keep your installed apps up to date.  It checks multiple sources to ensure your applications are running at the latest release and gives you an easy shortcut to update them if it finds that they are not.

The Weather Channel

This is a nicely done, good looking weather app.  Not only does it give you the standard current conditions and forecasts, you can also download the latest Weather Channel video for your area and it integrates with maps to show you local weather stations and their reported conditions.

Shazam Shazam

This one is just cool.  So you’re out and about town one day, maybe riding with a buddy in his/her car.  The radio is playing some random music station when a song comes on that you want to know more about.  You whip out your G1 and fire up Shazam and let it listen to the song for a few seconds.  It goes and figures out what the song is, the artist and even lets you look it up on Amazon or search YouTube for videos.  I still get giddy when it tells me about some song that I had no idea what it was.  Wicked!

Power Manager

Let’s face it, the battery life on the G1 isn’t the greatest.  This little app gives you power profiles that will let you switch quickly and will even apply them when circumstances dictate.  Out of the box, for example, when your battery drops below 30% it turns off your WiFi and GPS automatically and shortens the time before the screen dims when inactive.  As a side-benefit, it also gives you quick access to toggle your WiFi, GPS, cell tower locations and bluetooth.  It’s a must have!

Solitaire

Ok, so this is a total time waster.  I don’t know what it is about solitaire, but it is a great way to spend that time in a waiting room.  This one includes Klondike, Spider and Freecell.

Honorable Mentions

There are quite a few more that I”ve installed and many that I use fairly often, but those above are the ones that I find I really would miss if they weren’t there.  Here they are in no particular order:

Do you have any favorite applications not listed here?  Let me know what they are and why, I’m always looking for new ones!

Is Science Fiction finally coming through?

For years science fiction authors have written about fantastic technologies that will make our lives easier, more fun, and generally better in many ways and ever since we have been wistfully dreaming of those times.

Now it seems that there are a lot of things new announcements and products that fulfill some of those visions.  Here are some of the cool items you may not have heard about.

Video on Demand Evolution

Cable companies have had limited video on demand for quite a while now, and more recently companies like Joost, Netflix and Hulu have began bringing us a whiter variety of programming available to watch what when want to when we want to watch it.  The networks are getting the hint by making some of their shows available as well; however until now most of these choice required you to sit in front of your computer unless you were among the small percentage of folks that have some sort of media center integrated with your audio-video system.

We have seen set-top appliances that allow us to stream this content to our sets, but that is still yet another piece of equipment to have in your living room, something many wives simply do not like.

image Recently some television makes have announced their sets will support streaming with no other device, and they will do it over Wi-Fi.  LG announced 2 of their lines will support NetFlix, CinemaNow and YouTube, while Vizio unveiled models that not only stream NetFlix, Blockbuster, Amazon and Yahoo!, but it will also support images from Flickr, streaming music from Pandora and Rhapsody and more.  Not to be left behind, Sony announced the ability to stream from Yahoo!, Amazon, YouTube, Slacker(sm) and more..  I would also be remiss to mention that the XBox360 got streaming movies from Netflix last year, and with applications like PlayOn Media Server you can get your Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, ESPN and CBS on the XBox, Playstation 3 and soon the Wii.  All we need now is to replace the actual screen with a hologram ala The Minority Report and we will have arrived!

Mobility and More

Of course everyone knows about the iPhone.  What you may not have heard of are the new generations coming with the Android operating system, with the T-Mobile G1 being the first to market.  BlackBerry and Palm have also provided significant updates to their operating system given us many choice for little computers walking around in our hands with functionality from GPS navigation to price comparisons via scanned bar codes.  Oh, and they still let us talk to people too!

This revolution in mobility is beginning to make its way into other devices.  Android has been spotted as the underlying OS for new desktop phones and with its easy to use interface it makes it perfect for other embedded devices.  Can you imaging having a microwave or oven that you can set up to come on at certain times more easily, or a refrigerator that will let you know you are running low on milk via SMS before you come home?

Automotive

The newest Microsoft Sync is pruported to read your text messages as they come in, and even recognize your voice commands for not only calling, but for interacting with the navigation system and all of your music as well.

Oh, and since you asked (I know you were going to!) the flying car is making progress.  There are still a lot of issues from logistics to infrastructure and more, but it looks like there are some very smart folks working towards making the ultimate sci-fi dream a reality.

There’s far too many other gadgets to go into without turning this post into the size if War and Peace, but be assured that it is an exciting time in technology!