# Monday, 04 June 2007

Yes I know it's not related to .NET but they were just too cute not to post :) An entire photoset on Flickr of tiny little animals on fingers.

Tiny Animals on Fingers.

posted on Monday, 04 June 2007 17:58:13 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

image Developing web pages requires testing in multiple browser version. Unfortunately Microsoft doens't make it easy to have multiple version of Internet Explorer installed side by side. Luckily TredoSoft has just the thing: Multiple IE Installer.

posted on Monday, 04 June 2007 10:36:22 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, 31 May 2007

WindowsLIveWriterLogo My favorite blog posting tool Windows Live Writer has been given quite the upgrade both visually and feature-wise. I'm not too sure that I like the new UI but then again I'm a creature of habit so it'll probably grow on me. It's diffinitely got the Vista feel to it which doesn't blend too well with Windows XP which I'm still using at work. One feature I've been missing in the old version was the ability to add new categories; granted I don't do it every day but still it's nice not to have to go the actual website and update the post after posting.

WindowsLiveWriterMainWindow

posted on Thursday, 31 May 2007 10:38:35 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Tuesday, 29 May 2007

I ran into a pretty weird problem with the Commerce Server 2007 web services and Business User Applications. So much so that I wanted to write a quick note about it. Basically what we were seeing was that the Windows applications couldn't access the web services but we were able to get through to them using the browser. Notably the problem existed both when accessing the service via SSL and without. Further investigation showed that the problem happened on multiple development environments here. Weirdly enough the problem only existed with the Customers and Orders Manager tool the other tools were unaffected even when running with SSL.

Here's the error message which doesn't really tell us anything at all:

A couple of hours of debugging and fiddling around with Fiddler showed that installing the certificate created by SelfSSL.exe fixed the problem but I can't for the life of me explain why that is the case.

The steps I went through to actually install the certificate are as follows:

1) Navigate to the URL of the web service in Internet Explorer 7.

2) Click the red Certificate Error button and from the the View Certificates link.

3) Click the Install Certificate button on the Certificate window.

4) A dialog called Certificate Import Wizard will pop up click Next on the next two screens and finally Finish.

That's it. Hopefully the Business Tools should be able to communicate with the server now.

posted on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 09:02:56 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [7] Trackback
# Monday, 28 May 2007

 

I bet that the first thing you showed friends and colleagues right after you installed Windows Vista was Flip 3D (WIN + TAB) and I bet that you've used it precisely zero times after you showed it to everyone you know. I know that the case for me anyway. Like many Microsoft feature Flip 3D demoes well but doesn't work out so well in practical scenarios.

I've gone ahead and replaced the built-in Flip 3D feature with a small program called Switcher. Basically it emulates what the Mac users have with Exposé and makes WIN + TAB useful again.

Replace this:

with this:

posted on Monday, 28 May 2007 14:13:03 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [3] Trackback
# Thursday, 24 May 2007

Ever since talking to Patrick Tisseghem I've been wondering whether Commerce Server would be rolled into SharePoint as a feature; a scenario I'm not particular fond of. Ryan Donovan was kind enough to share with the community a preview of the roadmap for Commerce Server in which he states that the product will indeed continue as a stand alone product. Very good news indeed.

"Commerce Server is not going to be merged into other products; e-commerce is a unique enough scenario with extremely demanding requirements that will often times warrant a standalone deployment; that being said, we are going to continue to vigorously pursue deeper integration with other Microsoft products and technologies as it makes sense to provide the best integrated story possible.", Ryan Donovan

Read his post Update on Commerce Server Futures where he also details a couple of other interesting tidbits such as the team's ambition of release incremental features outside of the regular release cycle very much like the ASP.NET AJAX team does with the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit.

posted on Thursday, 24 May 2007 10:21:29 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The image says it all. Take a look at the full post Powerful/Free Download: Refactor! for ASP.NET 2.2 on Mark Millers blog. Thanks to my colleague Brian for passing this along. We have some tinkering to do in Visual Studio tomorrow morning I would think :)

posted on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 19:04:39 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

Thomas Jespersen wrote a post about Carbonite and how much he likes the service which made me revisit the idea of online backup. I originally rejected the idea due to privacy, performance, and pricing concerns.

I can't claim that I have much to hide on my computer but I still don't like the idea of transmitting everything I've ever created digitally over the Internet to a service where I basically only have their word for them not being evil and not misusing my data.

Secondly I do have a lot of stuff to backup. I've been very careful with my data during the years and I'm proud to say that I've not lost anything of value or importance for more than five years. Of course the reason for that is an event which happened one day 5 * 365 - 1 days ago :) Luckily I didn't have a whole lot to lose but I learned my lesson. Additionally I'm now using the PC for so much more than just playing around. Specifically my wife would murder me if we ever lost a digital photo and of course I'd weep myself to sleep every night should I lose stuff related to work.

For a long period of time I've been using FolderShare to back my stuff up to multiple locations both on site and off site. FolderShare is a tool for synchronizing folders and therein lies both the power and a very real danger in that deleting, say every digital photo in one location, deletes everything in the other locations as well. Not the very best of backup strategies but it did do the trick for me for a while and for free too.

So back to Thomas Jespersen who reminded me of the online options for backing up. I had taken a look at Carbonite but rejected it as I said. His post however made me rethink that decision because losing everything is much worse than people gaining insight into my personal stuff. Also it's worth mentioning that the online backup services really aren't insecure in that they offer encryption of everything before the data is sent across the wire so one would need to purposely pursue getting access to the data which to me is highly unlikely.

Finally there's pricing which has been a major barrier for me. I'm not prepared to pay hundreds of dollars each year to back my stuff up remotely when I can buy hard drives in the amount of terabytes for that same amount of money and carry them off site. Sure the convenience factor isn't too high on the manual hard drive switch-a-roo thing but still worth considering.

Luckily two service providers do offer pricing which is justifiable and even affordable. Both Mozy and Carbonite offer an unlimited backup plan for $4.95 a month and with rebates you can go even lower if you go for a full year or two.  Also a major factor is the unlimited storage when compared to other backup provides who want major bucks for anything above 10 gigabytes.

So I've basically chosen Carbonite and Mozy for evaluation based on two factors: Price and storage space.

Features: Carbonite 0 / Mozy 1

Carbonite is a pretty bare bones product: you use Windows Explorer to set which folders to backup which is very handy. Each backed up folder gets a little blue dot to indicate that Carbonite is protecting it. From that point on Carbonite runs all by itself no need to think more about it.

With Mozy you will be dealing with multiple backup sets. Backupsets make a lot of sense in the initial backup where you have a lot of stuff you need to backup; some more important than other. I created a backupset for important stuff and lumped everything else into a different set and ran a manual backup of the first on to ensure that documents, photos, code, etc. was backed up before spending time backing up my iTunes library.

Backupsets can be configured by using the physical file structure or by rules. The rules feature is pretty neat because you could create a global backupset for everything related to say code and include projects, code files, solutions and so forth in the set and not worry where it is actually stored. Very appealing to my developer mind which likes generic solutions :) For me the feature is useful to exclude .p2p files which are created by FolderShare for synchronization. Carbonite has a similar feature but it requires you to navigate to the file, right-click and select exclude file type.

Mozy has a nice versioning feature which allows you to go back to a previous version, very nice for those of us used to source control :)

Ease of Use: Carbonite 1 / Mozy 0

Both providers offer a downloadable client which run on your computer unattended. For a  solution that just works Carbonite has the advantage as you don't really need to set anything up for it to work. The user interface is very simple which both a strength and a weakness.

Mozy on the other hand brings a lot of settings you can tweak which is nice for a person like me who like to tweak and tinker with the stuff. For the average person though I think Carbonite comes out ahead, you can't mess anything up because there's nowhere to get a the settings.

Configuration: Carbonite 0 / Mozy 1

As mentioned Mozy offers a lot of configuration options which is great though some of the options seem strange. For example they have put a slider in which you can move between two points: Faster Computer / Faster Backups. My guess is that the slider is for controlling the encoding process but it's not what I would call obvious and I certainly don't get the point of it in this day and age where most of us are equipped with dual core machines. Still nice to have the option I guess.

Mozy offers a lot more configurability in terms of what you're backing up. Mozy has the notion of backup sets which is basically a collection of stuff you want to backup. It's nice to be able to have stuff separated so you get the most important stuff backup up first in the initial backup. In the long run however it's not a very useful feature and Mozy seems to spend forever on populating the backup sets whenever you need to display the client interface.

Network Performance: Carbonite 0 / Mozy 1

This is the big one for me. I have a lot of stuff I need backed up and when I have unlimited storage available I want everything backed up damn it! On paper unlimited storage looks like a good deal but in reality it's very constrained by the network. My connection is a 20/20 mbit fiber optical connection so it shouldn't be a problem to backup everything. The service however limits this, the question is: how much does it limit it? For Carbonite I'm able to get about  1 mbit/sec when backing up which means that it takes forever for me to backup 10 GB.

With Mozy I get anywhere from 1 - 4 mbit, mostly 4 so I have to go with Mozy on this one. Basically the 4x speed increase means the world in difference and I can actually use the service like I want to. One strange thing I've found is that Mozy will actually stop using the network when it encodes (encrypts) data which is unfortunate when the service is network constricted.

Support

With a product like Carbonite which caters to inexperienced computer users ease of use is essential and when all else fails support needs to be in place to help out the user. I tried contacting Carbonite support in regards to the low speeds I experienced and got only a reference to their FAQ back after days of waiting. In spite of providing them with a very detailed description of my setup, connection speeds, etc. they felt that providing me with their FAQ was the best course of action. Of course I'd already read their FAQ and concluded that the problem wasn't on my end of the line. Disappointing to say the least. No followups to ensure that the problem was fixing happened either.

Issues

While testing Carbonite I came across a weird issue with iTunes where my iTunes Library files was corrupted twice after installing Carbonite. I've never experienced this kind of problem with iTunes before not even running on the Windows Vista betas. I can't say for sure that there is a problem with Carbonite and iTunes; all I can say is that since uninstalling Carbonite I have not experienced the problem again.

Summary: Carbonite 1 / Mozy 3
posted on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 13:25:05 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [10] Trackback
# Sunday, 06 May 2007

It's not everyday that you get the chance to sit down with one of the .NET rock stars and pick their brain. Nonetheless that's exactly the chance we got this week when Patrick Tisseghem swung by the office for a beer and a chat. We've been wanting to hire Patrick and U2U for a training engagement for a while but our schedules just didn't fit. Luckily circumstances meant that Patrick was in Aarhus for another engagement and offered to swing by the office if we'd provide some beer for the session. Naturally we did :)

We first learned about Patrick and U2U at TechEd 2006 in Barcelona where he gave a talk on creating a CMS site with SharePoint Server 2007 (a publishing site in MOSS terminology). We were very impressed with the demo as he got a site up and running in 45 minutes with nothing but the SharePoint Designer, no Visual Studio needed. Very convincing. You can read my reaction to his session in my post entitled TechEd 2006: Web Content Management and Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007. The other thing I remember very clearly from that session is that I've never encountered a living person who said "Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007" so many times in such a short time span :)

Back to our session with Patrick. There was no formal plan for our chat and what a great thing that turned out to be. Basically we spent three hours talking about our ideas and how we envisioned them implemented in SharePoint. He in turn let us know how we could go about leveraging the platform. Great stuff and making it even better was the informal tone. Patrick is a very knowledgeable person when it comes to SharePoint and the .NET platform in general but what made his views even more convincing was the fact that he had a very ... lets say realistic image of what SharePoint is and what it isn't. I was actually surprised that he had such a balanced view of the product, he even went as far as calling some of the features "samples" which is right on the mark to my mind.

Of course I couldn't help but ask about the future for SharePoint to which Patrick had a very interesting answer: Basically we'll see even more functionality moved to SharePoint making it the "one" platform for the future. Now I got to admit that I do have a problem with the "the can be only one" way of thinking. I'm worried that making SharePoint the Swiss-army knife of web software will dilute the value of the product. When trying to be all encompassing you are very likely to miss the mark by a huge margin and not do any of the areas well.

Also SharePoint is a hugely expensive product at this point and rightly so: It addresses a wide audience. My fear is that SharePoint will become prohibitively expensive to a market such as the Danish where we're dealing with many small to medium sized businesses and not very many large companies. From my point of view markets are going to open up for ISVs who target these markets because Microsoft seems oblivious to these markets. Of course this can be remedied by licensing so it will be very interesting to see what Microsoft does next.

Finally I'm concerned that complexity will bog down developers with nitty gritty details, abstraction this, abstraction that. SharePoint is a complex product as it is, adding more stuff to the product will naturally need to be accommodated by more complex architectural solutions which we need to understand to be able to go in a customize according to the wishes of our customers. In this day and age where agile methodologies are all the rage we need to select products which support this way of thinking and SharePoint is rapidly moving away from this.

Enough about me ranting about SharePoint. I like the product make no mistake about it but I do think that solution providers need a broader perspective on the standard platforms available out there in order to be successful. This has always been the case but in a market such as the Danish this is even more true.

We covered a lot of ground and even got around to discussing Silverlight and AJAX. Silverlight has been announced to the public recently and of course we were eager to know more about it. Now I have to admit that I didn't particularly see Silverlight as something relevant to us since we're focused on doing tight backend solutions. Designers provide the layouts and UIs we need and we implement them. That was true until I learned that Silverlight actually includes a small version of the .NET Framework running on the client. Version 1.0 doesn't have this but the alpha of version 1.1 does and with it I see a point to actually investing time and effort in learning about the technology. Simply put we're now able to do web UI running on the client in C# and VB both an exciting and slightly confusing prospect because we have some overlap with AJAX functionality wise. Another thing for my todo list I guess :)

We have a guy coming on soon who has changed career path from designer to .NET; I think I need to turn him loose on Silverlight and see what he can do :)

posted on Sunday, 06 May 2007 11:49:47 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Thursday, 19 April 2007

Our sales guy needed some Commerce Server picture and did what everybody does: Search Google Images. Little did he know ... :)

Google Image Search for "Commerce Server"

posted on Thursday, 19 April 2007 11:28:59 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback

I just finished reading Eric Sink on the Business of Software yesterday and I was actually annoyed when I ran out of pages: I wanted to know even more! :) The premise for the book is Eric Sinc's work with SourceGear a company he founded. SourceGear which develops the source control system called Vault, an alternative to Visual Source Safe.The content of the book is made up from blog posts and MSDN articles he did on running a MicroISV.

In his own words SourceGear is, "a boring but profitable small ISV selling developer tool", and that is basically what you get from the book: Not boring content but solid practical guidance on how to go about areas developers normally don't think about (or even care that much about). He covers areas such as Marketing, Accounting, Hiring, Strategy, Pricing, and Sales.

Initially I was skeptical to the notion of turning blog posts into a book, much like Joel Spolsky did with his books. Let me just tell you right off that bat that the model actually works and it works well. Basically you get everything presented in a coherent manner which makes the thoughts and point so much more accessible than what you find in a blog. Reading blogs often gives you a disjointed look into the person due to the fact that most of us usually reads lots of blogs on a daily basis which makes it hard to separate the content. Not so with the book. Also there's still something to be said about sitting back on the couch and enjoying an hour with some good old fashioned paper :)

By no means is this a comprehensive work to allow you to run a business. What it does give you is an insight into some of the hard learned lessons that Eric Sink has been taught over the years by running SourceGear. It's accessible and has a humorous tone which often lacks in books for our kind of audience.

Eric's style of writing is engaging and interesting and I even got the feeling that he learned a thing or two along the way making it even more compelling to know what happens on the next page.

It's not a huge read so I would suggest that you read if you find yourself at all interested in other aspects of development than just writing the code, doing solution architecture, or even infrastructure architecture. For me it provided a nice additional insight into the workings of my surroundings here at the office and a fresh perspective on why some things work the way they do.

For you guys here at Vertica reading this: The book is on the book shelf if you want more ;)

posted on Thursday, 19 April 2007 08:53:35 (Romance Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback