Monday, May 28, 2007

The end of Larkware?

I guess I should have seen it coming:

...I expect to shutter the doors over there by the end of the year.

on May 9, 2007 04:09 PM

This is in the comments of Jeff Atwood's blog post about these folks who are giving up on Microsoft.

Now anyone who's been paying attention knows that Larkware is the best place to get the 'daily news' for the Microsoft developer's world. And we've all grown accustomed to Mike's cynical comments to help keep us grounded.

I have not seen an outcry on the blogs since Mike posted this comment. I can only assume this is because it was buried in the comments and nobody saw his post.

Mike, I understand you don't have the time or desire to do this anymore. If you really must give it up, please pass the torch to someone who can fill your shoes (is there such a person?).

Then again, maybe we can convince you to stick with it?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

TV on My PC (Aliant)

I may be the only person in the world who cares about this, but here it is anyway.

Aliant is the local phone company in the Atlantic provinces, and they are also my ISP (DSL). For years, they have provided a service called TV on my PC. This offers 10 streaming TV channels through their own web interface with an embedded Windows Media Player.

For some reason, they have decided not to support Windows Media Player 11. This means everyone with Vista.

I needed to come up with a workaround right now, because Roland Garros is starting Monday, and TSN is covering it. TSN is one of the channels offered on TV on my PC.

So, I found the media player links in the web page:


And I found out that those mmst:// protocols work with the VLC media player.

So install VLC, run it and go to "file".. "network stream".. "http/https/ftp/mms" and in the URL box, put in one of the addresses above - in the case of TSN, it's "mmst://".

Or, better yet, create a desktop shortcut to

"C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc.exe" mmst://

Of course, this will all break when they change the IP address, but until then it works fine.

I don't know for sure, but I think this only works in New Brunswick, and I think it only works for those on the Aliant network.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Echo chambers and jaded generalists

Jeremy Miller wrote a nice post summarizing his thoughts on DevTeach.

I particularly enjoyed the rant about "seeing how the other half lives". His first point here is about the "agile echo chamber". As he suspected, the enterpise architects and the database guys are missing the agile perspective. The agile talk is in the echo chamber, and it isn't getting out.

I want to point out that there are a lot of echo chambers out there. The DBAs have one. The enterprise architects have one. The agilists have one. And don't forget the IT guys.

These people just aren't talking to each other.

I witnessed several instances of high profile folks meeting for the first time, and clearly not having ever heard of each other. This is amazing to me. Talk about echo chambers. When database guy and the agile guy are not reading each other's blogs, how are we advancing the state of the art? Thankfully, conferences like DevTeach provide some cross pollenation that can only help the situation.

Jeremy quotes a friend who said "There are no smart guys, there's only us". By far, I think that's the most important lesson to take away from all this.

1) Don't believe the hype of any of the echo chambers.
2) Do pay attention to what's going on in each of them.

The bottom line here is that we are in a creative line of work. You can look for inspiration in any number of places. But in the end, you have to deal with your own unique set of constraints, and you have to solve your own problems.

Friday, May 18, 2007

DevTeach Summary

Thanks to Jean-René Roy for putting on another great conference. I really liked the fact that he added an IT track and an Agile track. The speaker list was amazing as always. The first day, Jean-René announced that there will now be a conference every 6 months, and it will move around. The next DevTeach is in November in Vancouver. He said that a significant majority of the attendees come from Montreal, so moving the conference means reaching many more people.

This is great news even for those of us who still have to travel. There's no way I'll be able to attend twice a year, but if you can't make it for whatever reason, it's nice to know you don't have to wait another full year!

Here's my wish list for the next conference.

1) Something on SQL Server Analysis Services. Microsoft is doing big things in BI and SSAS is the foundation for a lot of that stuff.

2) Database refactoring. Mentioned this to Scott Bellware (leading the Agile track) yesterday and his first reaction was "Scott Ambler". Ambler would be a great addition to the list.

3) More IT stuff. Hey, there could easily be a whole conference on IT stuff, but there isn't one in Canada as far as I know. But for the small-shop guys like me, it's great to have it all in one conference.

It's hard to imagine adding to such a packed agenda, but with a conference every 6 months, more ground can be covered.

DevTeach postconference

Enjoyed the Sharepoint session with Rod Paddock and Jim Duffy. Jim gave the crash course in setting it all up, and Rod talked about the developer's perspective. In Sharepoint 2007, it looks like a more reasonable undertaking to develop you own parts. In 2003, it was scarier it needed to be.

The fact that you can now reasonably use SharePoint to host your public website means that a small IT team can make a more reasonable resource investment when it comes to a) learning the technologies and b) actual development effort.

Time didn't permit a demonstration of some of the more interesting extensions. In particular, custom workflow, Reporting Services and KPIs are the ones that interest me most. Of those, I would only expect the custom workflow to be a bit tricky, but I have not had time to look at any of these yet.


Thanks to Wendy Friedlander, Udi Dahan, Oksana Udovitska and Scott Bellware for talking with me about the "one team, multiple projects" issue. It's fantastic to have the opportunity to talk to these people.

As is to be expected, there are never clear answers to management questions. But I did get some interesting new perspectives to think about.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

DevTeach Day 3

Went to Derek Hatchard's WPF talk first today - I found it easier to follow than YAG's talk yesterday. Maybe that's just me? Derek is also from New Brunswick, and I've been following his blog and PodCast.

Then back to the SQL Server side for a bit: Peter DeBetta, spoke on XML in SQL Server. Then Brian Noyes on the SQL Compact Edition.

Next, Julie Lerman's Hacking ClickOnce. The session stuck to unsupported fixes to common problems. Interesting stuff. But it got me thinking again about the old web app/smart client argument again.

Remember when people were arguing that ClickOnce solved the distibution problem, so we didn't need to deal with complex web apps anymore? The fact that we need a Hacks session shows that didn't really work out. So then everyone says that Ajax is the answer - sure, lets add more complexity to those web apps. Now SilverLight claims to bring those worlds together - we'll see. I'm not holding my breath yet.

Not that each of these things doesn't have it's place - clearly they each solve a different problem. But most of these things end up overpromising and underdelivering.

Julie said something about MSBuild, and I made a note to myself to read up on that. Then I looked at the schedule, and Claudio Lassala was talking about it in the next session!

Tomorrow I'll sit in on the SharePoint post conference session with Rod Paddock and Jim Duffy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

DevTeach day 2

Spent today mostly on the IT track. For me, this new track is a welcome addition to the conference. I know I'm not the only person in a small office environment who gets to work on both sides of the fence. As far as I know, this is the only conference in Canada with an IT track.

Rick Claus did a great job on Exchange 2007. I went to both sessions, and I'm looking forward to having a look at Exchange 2007.

I went to Ted Neward's Powershell session, then to Daniel Nurenberg's Powershell session. I don't know if I'm the only person who did this - Ted's session was from the developer point of view, Daniel's was from the IT perspective. I thought it would be a good way to get both sides of the story, and I was right. The bottom line is that this is one of those places where development and IT collide - just like SQL server. I think for the generalists (or specializing generalists), Powershell is one of those tools that's going to make life better.

Here's a good a place as any to point out Leon Bambrick's 3 minute guides. Check out the PowerShell ones, if you haven't already.

Also saw Yair Alan Griver's Silverlight talk. It's neat stuff, but this is something I won't be spending time at for a while. One benefit of these conferences is that you learn what not to spend time on.

Finally, Damir Bersinic offered a great overview of SQL Server 2005 security features.

I need to second Wendy Friedlander's post where she says we are missing Analysis Services at DevTeach.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

DevTeach day 1

The first day was amazing. I think the highlight was Roy Osherove's Agile Q&A session. This was the most creative session, but required the least preparation! To make a clever point, Roy asked the audience bewhat we wanted to see in the presentation. So he gathered requirements from the clients. Then he asked us to prioritize them by voting on each requirement. In the alloted hour, we only managed to discuss the top 3 topics (of 16!), but between Roy, Scott Bellware, Jean-Paul Boodhoo and Wendy Friedlander, you can bet the topics were well covered.

The top 3 topics were:

1) estimation (40 votes, of about 60 people in the room)
2) distributed teams (35 votes)
3) adoption of agile in organizations (30 votes)

My question came in at #9 with only 15 votes, so "one team, multiple projects" is a common problem (25% of the folks in the room, using my newly minted estimation skills), but not common enough. Maybe one of these folks will be kind enough to comment here?

I have read Ken Schwaber's book, but if that point was covered, I missed it.

My thinking has been to ignore the projects and only worry about requirements. This means an interation could include tasks from each project, as long as someone can prioritize accross all the projects.

Also, if the team is responsible for developement and IT at the same time, time estimates must be allowed for the interruption driven IT work.

These things diminish the business value you can deliver for an individual project during each iteration.

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm talking about a very small team in a small office.

Monday, May 14, 2007

DevTeach pre-conference

Today I attended the pre-conference session with Paul Neilson.

I sat in on one of Paul's one-hour sessions last year and found him to be one of the more entertaining speakers - so I knew he could keep me awake for a full day long session. He is a SQL MVP and the author of The SQL Server Bible. I have not read his book, but I expect it would be a worthwhile read.

He did an excellent job, although it was challenging to fit everything into a day. Paul normally does sessions that are 2 days to a week long. That said, I think he gave everyone plenty of things to think about. Brad McGehee (SQL MVP and the guy behind SQL-Server-Performance.Com) sat in listening all day, so you know Paul's opinion is respected.

Paul does some original thinking. He breaks performance down into logical layers in something he calls 'optimization theory'. I think his optimization theory is one of those useful tools that world be helpful to anyone getting started in optimization. It clearly shows where to focus to get the most benefits, then you could build on that foundation.

But once you understand the concepts, I don't imagine anyone would think in these terms anymore. Like Codd's normal forms (which Paul himself says he doesn't really think about), these are tools you can use to help you understand what needs to be done. Once you really grasp the concepts, these tools really become less important.

So while I personally won't spend a lot of time thinking about optimization theory, it did provide an excellent outline from which to build his presentation for the day.

Some of the mistakes he pointed out are one that I personally have made - and they have come back to haunt me. So I know he isn't making stuff up. I think soon I'll write up a list of rookie mistakes I made. Too bad I didn't sit in on one of Paul's sessions 10 years ago!

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Just arrived in Montreal for the DevTeach conference.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Onfolio live

I've said it before, but I think it deserves a new post. I want Onfolio Live! Microsoft put Onfolio on the Live toolbar, but it has no Live features. I want my desktop, IE integrated RSS reader, but I want it to sync across all my machines.

Also, Onfolio is buggy with IE7 tabs. This says to me they are letting it die. Microsoft has done this before - buy a company and let it die.

Anyone got a good alternative for me?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Vista Activation

I installed Vista on a Virtual PC, and had an activation issue.

Code: 0×8007232B
Description: DNS name does not exist

So of course I start wondering if we have a DNS issue (we are running our own DNS on Windows 2000). Eventually, I found this post which cleared things up. Apparently the error has nothing to do with a DNS error. More time lost to a bad error message.