a view into the sordid life i lead

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A little less suckage from Microsoft

I had to resurrect my winbloze machine last week due to some contract gigs which required that I work with MSSQL and IE. This is after a year of the poor hardware resting in my basement, and my Ubuntu box giving me super amounts of joy. I actually had to turn the machine on because I found that MS doesn't always blow.

1. COM, or OLE Automation
I got a gig recently to automate some website logins. I initially went down the path of a Firefox extension (thanks Quinn - but when will we finish it, dammit? ;) ). That was somewhat painful, but greasemonkey is just freaking amazing. But this is about how M$ sucks less, not how Mozilla sucks less, so ...
The most convenient approach turned out to be to use COM (a complete citrix-house, so no probs). A super simple script in Perl, use Win32::IEAutomation tied to a SQL Server back end (with Win32::SqlServer) did the trick. The app essentially allows a small group of logins to be used in round-robin sequence by a large group of people, with automatic kick-out after some time. There are a number of interesting applications to this idea, which I'll have to elucidate at some point.

I really, really wish that the GUI app space on Linux/*BSD would be able to do automation like this. I know Expect can do a lot, as can Perl (and I use it almost every day). But to be able to automate an entire application (like OpenOffice, for instance) would just be very nice. The Watir-OpenQA guys are doing some interesting things in this area, which I need to follow more closely. There's also DogTail, which looks like it could be promising. I have to try it at some point.

2. SQL Server Management Studio
I blogged previously about database front-end tools for connecting to SQL Server from Linux. There are, of course, several to connect to MySQL. I hate to say this, but management studio is amazingly powerful, and nothing on linux comes close to the ease of use or power. Obviously it only works on windows, but interestingly the concept of linked servers is incredibly useful for connection to any external (i.e., non-MS) database as well.
I would love to see something like ManagementStudio on Linux. And I believe the way to do it would be using Mozilla as the framework, sort of in the same way that Komodo did for IDEs.
There are actually no hard limits that I can imagine, except perhaps connectivity to MSSQL from Linux, but thus far FreeTDS and jTDS have worked relatively well for me.
The other alternative is to do this using Mono, but my luck with Mono is pretty low so far. I'm constantly frustrated at how hard it is to make Mono do pretty much anything (as far as RAD GUI'ing I mean).

3. Regular expressions-based searching in Visual Studio and Management Studio
This is something MS should make standard in EVERY search window, through an advanced search option. I use VIM and absolutely LOVE the fact that I can regex my way through anything. I wish things like Excel, Word, Visio, and all the other MS crap that I have to use regularly would give me regex searching!
Actually, come to think of it, why the heck can't every Linux app integrate this as well? It's just a simple library to include in the compile. Yeah it would bloat things a wee bit, but it's not like OpenOffice is not bloated already!

Thus far I have not found anything else on Windows that makes me happy to switch back.

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