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one of my favorite episodes from the office (us version) is when dwight receives a bobblehead of himself.

well, you too can now have that luxury.

www.whoopassenterprises.com delivers fully custom bobblheads at $115 (US) each.


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this past weekend was the american 'thanksgiving' holiday.  as is tradition with most, i too ate turkey for the holiday.  this one was different for us.  we decided to escape the normal family gatherings and stress of making food, cleaning, and having kids in non-kid friendly homes.  we took off for san diego, california on a whim.  i hate driving.  anything > 3 hrs sucks.  but i had my wife with me and we were able to finally talk about a lot of things -- something our normal daily lives don't seem to allow us to do.  it was great times the whole way there.

for thanksgiving day, we bellied up at a restaurant and had them cook/clean for us.  it was awesome.  the food wasn't half bad either.  the next morning it got me thinking about what i eat.  i'm a carnivore.  as i sat and ate unborn chickens (eggs) and the fat of a pig (bacon) it really made me think how savage we are.  survival of the fittest i guess.  i wondered if i should stop eating meat (or less of it) once i pondered what i was doing.  nah, tastes too good.  i used to be a vegetarian...actually a vegan.  i lost a LOT of weight, but also lost energy, etc.  needless to say that was in the younger years and i'm not anymore (and gained a lot of weight since :-)).

i traveled this weekend with my trusty zune in hand.  before i left i acquired a travel kit from a local store.  it came with the premium earbuds.  um, awesome.  now i'm not an audiophile, can't tell the difference between 192kbps and 320kbps in music quality (if those are even the correct terms), but compared to the inlcuded earphones with the zune and the ipod earbuds (which i'd been using), these kicked some major arse!  they fit great, look good, and sound incredible.  when i have them in i can't even hear anything but the music -- which is awesome (except if you are driving).  i also got the car kit (fm transmitter) -- needless to say, that will be going back to the store today.

i burned a few dvds using the tools i'm investigating.  i never thought i'd be 'that guy' with videos on a portable device.  but i am.  it is so cool and convenient.  i apologize to all the video ipod people i mocked ;-).  my daughter loved them too -- i'm going to put some kid movies on there -- much easier for her to hold than the 9" portable dvd player we currently use.  my experience with zune as a traveling device was fantastic.  it really is growing on me and making me forget the size and convenience of my ipod mini.  battery life was good as well -- two movies watched (2 hrs each) on a single battery with some left over juice.

i also mowed the lawn with the zune (well, not *with* the zune, but you get the picture) and couldn't even hear the lawnmower thanks to my new earbuds.  they didn't fall out either when i was doing the yard (a common occurrence with the ipod buds).  kudos!  viva le earbuds!

when i plugged my zune in yesterday there was already a firmware update.  cool, tells me microsoft found some issues maybe and fixed them right away -- no new features i could tell, but hopefully those will come.  oh yeah, and found this hack to make your zune a mass storage device.  cheers.

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while reading my december issue of msdn magazine, i came across an advertisement that certainly caught my attention.  it simply had a picture of a toe-tag and the url was: www.is-the-grid-dead.com.

looks like a component vendor about to announce something.  i honestly have no idea what it is, but they used good advertising to catch my eye among the other technical ads.

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i'm trying to hold off installing itunes just for podcatching.  i tried pwop catcher, but it looks like the project has gone dark for a bit and didn't have what i needed.

my friend turned me on to .  so far it is okay.  it still isn't itunes, but i'm going to give it a whirl.  i've configured it to dump the podcasts/videoblogs into my Music\Zune folder so it will sync when i tell it to.

that's all for now on zune for a bit (maybe :-) ).  i think i'll work on doing some development for some zune add-ins and see if it can woo me on the developer side.

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okay, so if you haven't downloaded it yet, why not?  visual studio tools for office 2005 second edition, aka visual studio tools for office 2007, aka vsto SE was released at devconnections earlier this month.  if you have a license to visual studio 2005 professional or a license to vsto 2005, then this is a free tool for you.

how do you get it? go here:

what is it?  it enables easy office development using visual studio.
but hasn't this been around? yes, kinda.  vsto 2005 has been there and really did make things easy.  vsto se adds support for office 2007 and makes things easier!

i seriously am loving office as a development platform these days.  i really think they've done a great job merging the office development com world with the managed code environment. 

i started looking into it when creating my sample, .  i currently am working on three other outlook add-ins right now that i'm going to finish, put up a screencast, and supply the source to once completed (so stay subscribed).  in the meantime, i wanted to point you to some great resources.  these are all readily available on the msdn site, but might not be elevated to a level of importance or may not be as discoverable as they should be.

right now, i've been enabling my add-ins via customizing the ribbon of microsoft office. (side note: we just announced some updates to licensing the office ui [royalty free] -- so if you are interested in leveraging the office ui experience in your applications, visit now.)

okay, on to geek stuff.  first, a fundamental important thing to understand when using the ribbon ui, is it's structure and how to customize it.  the simple method of doing this is providing an resource in your add-in that contains xml instructions on your custom ui.  this is a simple xml structure that looks something like this:

   1:  <customUI xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2006/01/customui" onLoad="OnLoad">
   2:    <ribbon>
   3:      <tabs>
   4:        <tab idMso="TabReadMessage">
   5:          <group id="SnopesGroup"
   6:                 label="Snopes">
   7:            <button id="snopesButton"
   8:                    size="large"
   9:                    label="Snope-It!" 
  10:                    screentip="Search Snopes.com to check for validity" 
  11:                    onAction="OnSniff" 
  12:                    getImage="GetImage"/>
  13:          </group>
  14:        </tab>
  15:      </tabs>
  16:    </ribbon>
  17:  </customUI>

in editing in visual studio, we always love using intellisense...but the xml schema for customUI is not a part of the default intellisense.  alas, here's my first tip: use a schema file!  not only will it help you be correct, but also bring light to options you may not know about.  first, download customUI.xsd from a site. (this is supposed to be installed during the vsto install and added to the catalog, but i couldn't find it.)  i downloaded it from here: .  i then put it in %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\Xml\Schemas.  now when you open an xml file in visual studio, go to the properties pane, click on schemas and choose customUI.xsd -- boom, intellisense for ribbon customization (for the most part -- no attribute enumeration).  there is a tool on openxmldeveloper.org called the , but to be honest, i really didn't see value in it -- i was expecting something "more" and it wasn't there -- but feel free to take a look.

once you have this you may notice the "idMso" attributes in the sample above.  what are these?  well, they are the office built-in control ids...and very helpful.  in some instances it will allow you to customize their use, but in most instances it will help you place your customization.  in the sample above, my add-in will reside in the Message tab of an item being read.  the idMso attributes are well documented in this document: .  install this document set and leverage it -- it will help you and be a valuable resource.

one caveat that i've just discovered is that you cannot add your add-in controls (i.e., a button) to an existing ribbon group.  for example if i wanted my SnopeIt to be in the Other Actions group, i couldn't.  apparently there is some thought out reasoning why not, but i don't necessarily agree with it (i mean, if mine is another action, it would make sense that to maintain usability i'd keep it there in the 'other actions' group).  just know that.  but you can control where your addin group is placed.  in your group, again using the intellisense will help you here, you will see an attribute called insertBeforeMso (and insertAfterMso) where you specify the control id of the group you want it before/after.  again, look at the list of control ids.

okay, and last tip for now...debugging.  by default your office client will not show errors in your ribbon customization -- not good if you don't see your customization and don't know why.  for example, in outlook 2007, go to tools, options, others (tab) advanced, and enable "show add-in user interface errors" -- if your addin won't load due to a violation/error in the ribbon customization, you'll see the reason here.  this has helped me.

that's it for now -- there are some great tutorials on getting started, and i'll document my add-ins (which are a little more useful [hopefully] than SnopeIt, but still fun).