Weekend Adventures in Coding - Visual Studo Customization - Order of Adornment Layers

Saturday, February 14, 2015
When Visual Studio 2010 came out, I started looking into customizing the environment a little beyond what was able to be done with existing extensions. I was looking for the ability to place a background image underneath code and fix some issues with font rendering (particularly around the input font). I had succeeded in getting the background properties set through an extension I wrote (similar to ClaudiaIDE, but with a simple property set instead of adding an adornment layer -- it served my purposes but with some limitations). This morning, I tweaked my extension and brought it up to support 2013 (wow, was that easier than I expected!).

Font rendering was helped by re-running the OSes Clear Type configuration and installing Text Sharp. If this sort of thing is important to you, you also want this free gem: MacType. It causes Windows to render fonts in a way that is more similar to a Mac which I find improves readability substantially. Unfortunately, it doesn't work perfectly everywhere, but some of Visual Studio is affected.

I've decided today to see if I can apply the last bit, a white shadow to text. This is a common effect throughout MacOS/iOS and I find it improves readability (particularly for high-contrast backgrounds).

Here's what I'm looking to apply (apologies for formatting, I'll get the code formatter working again, soon).
item.Effect = new DropShadowEffect
            Opacity = 0.34,
            ShadowDepth = 9,
            Direction = 542,
            BlurRadius = 9,
Finding an efficient way to do this (preferably without having to hack about with Reflection) has been frustrating, but I've managed to apply all kinds of effects elsewhere while I was attempting to fill in the gaps of the documentation with some reverse engineering.
Default order of Adornment Layers
While poking about, I thought it might be helpful to know the order of the default adornment layers. I just started (re-)evaluating OzCode and it was picked up by the "Exp" (temporary debug instance), so some of these belong to that. I'm also on CU4 so any that aren't documented may belong to that (search PredefinedAdornmentLayers or hit F1 for the documented ones).

Difference Space
Inter Line Adornment
Intra Text Adornment
I have no idea what I'll be doing with these, but that's the fun of reverse engineering. If you have to do such a task, OzCode is very helpful. It allows searching the contents of objects through several layers and can surface interesting bits to play with. This is, of course, experimental and likely will break between updates, but they've made extending Visual Studio so easy, it's not that bad to tweak between updates/versions. More to come if I figure this out!

Another chapter after 17 years

Saturday, February 7, 2015
On to new things!
After 17 years, I have decided to resign my position at Level (3). 17 years. That's a lifetime in IT. I started at a small telecom located in Southfield, MI and ended up at an international telecom with a headquarters in Broomfield.
What a ride
I started as a desktop tech, within a half-year I was doing servers. Ultimately Allnet was purchased by Frontier, Frontier by Global Crossing and then the bottom fell out. For the remaining years until about last year, I worked for a company that was effectively a start-up in a very competitive sector. Layoffs every year were normal while Global Crossing struggled (and ultimately succeeded) with survival. Level 3 purchased Global Crossing in 2011. For 15 of those 17 years, I rode the wave down and for the last two I've been riding it back up. It was strange working for a company that was not operating in survival mode.
It was 17 years for me, but nearly every year I was given a new position, more responsibility and new and interesting projects. Mix in the fact that I was working amongst, what I considered to be, some of the best people in our industry.
Onto Development
I'd always been a programmer. I'm not sure why I took the ops route originally, but within two years I was writing code that was changing the way our employees worked and I knew right away that this is what I was made to do. I love programming...love it. Over the years I was given the freedom to code, experiment and learn. I quickly jumped on the C# bandwagon, missing the days of hacking about in C and Pascal/Delphi and fell in love. And I learned...
So why now?
After 17 years, I've discovered that it's time for me to move on. During my time at Level 3, I had the privilege of working on some special projects involving Lync and Office Communications Server. This was my first exposure to an API that I couldn't simply Bing (there's one for you, MS) a million answers from people who had just learned the API. The APIs I was working with were pre-release, but after release the situation wasn't much better. For some reason, I enjoyed this immensely!
What now?
I had sent my resume out to Modality, a Microsoft Partner and a company with a very successful business in the Lync space, earlier last year. This wasn't unusual for me. If someone mentioned a job that sounded interesting to me, I usually prepped my resume, took and interview and turned down the job. It's happened so many times over the years that I almost expected to make the same decision when Modality had a position available to me. After talking to the guys over there, much to my own surprise, my mind was made up.
I'll be a US based, "work from home" (I prefer remote) employee working for a company that sells services and software for an application that, since 2008, has been the reason I could work effectively as a remote employee for Global Crossing and ultimately Level 3. Being a part of a company that was an early adopter--eliminating all phones on PCs and replacing them with USB headsets and speakerphones was far less of an adjustment than anyone could imagine---was great for me. The quality and effectiveness of audio conferences suddenly made it possible to have a workforce that was distributed far and wide without losing much other than water-cooler conversation.
Farewell, my Level 3 coworkers and friends! You are among the best and many thanks for the help, support and just-plain-fun you've given me over the last 17 years.