# Monday, 10 March 2008

aspnet A quick note to let you know that this Saturday we open the doors for the first code camp in the history of Aarhus .NET user group. The fun starts at 9:00 and we're digging into ASP.NET and building a blog application, just because we can :) The goal of this code camp is to give you a sense of what's available in ASP.NET and how to use some of it.

During the day you'll be able to ask the experts for help and meet some of your fellow aspiring ASP.NET developers.

Please note that the number of attendees is capped at 12 as we can't seat any more than that.

Read more and sign up.

posted on Monday, 10 March 2008 21:35:43 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

CarboniteLogo For a while now I've had a nice file server sitting under my desk at home for storing everything in a nice central location. One problem with the solution though is the complete lack of backup on that particular box. I really wanted to run Mozy on the box to get everything backed up off site in a simple and cost effective manner. One problem though: Mozy Personal doesn't support Windows Server which is running on my file server.

In my post Online Backup: Carbonite vs. Mozy I declare Mozy the winner due to a number factors like features, performance, and configurability. What I failed to mention though is the fact that you cannot use Mozy Personal for backing up a Windows Server box. For that you have to spring for a professional plan where you're charged by the gigabyte instead of a flat rate. For me that's not really an option as I've got a look of stuff to back up. For a couple of gigabytes it's probably fine.

Carbonite however allows you to back up a Windows Server box with the personal edition which means that it's a more cost effective solution for the home. Since I did the comparison Carbonite has added the number one feature I felt was missing from the solution: Version history. Mozy had this and Carbonite now does too. One thing hasn't changed though, Carbonite is still pretty slow to the tuned of 100k/s when you back up. Mozy will complete the initial backup approximately four times faster than Carbonite. Not a big deal once you're over the initial backup and into regular running mode with only updated files are transferred but getting over that initial hump does take a long while.

So to sum it up: With Carbonite allowing you to run the client on a server box it's a compelling offer for those of us running home servers wanting offsite backup. For everything else I'd still say that Mozy is superior. Alternatives like Amazon S3, JungleDisk (using S3), etc. are still way more expensive to use since they too charge by the gigabyte.

Mozy allows you to pay by the month allowing you to opt out immediately should you find a better solution. With Carbonite you're locking in for a minimum of a year. Where. Network performance with Mozy is a lot better than what you get with Carbonite, though that might just be me being located far away from the Mozy data center. The Mozy client still offers oodles more configuration options than what you find in the Carbonite ditto.

posted on Monday, 10 March 2008 21:06:49 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

SharedView-Start-SessionIt's been a while since I updated my toolbox so I thought I'd do a little post about my most recent addition: Microsoft SharedView.

What is SharedView? As the name implies it's a way of sharing what you see on your computer with others remotely. I've had to muck around with LiveMeeting a lot lately and boy is that a piece of work in the sense of me not being able to get anything done within a reasonable amount of time. Setting up a shared desktop experience with that stuff is like swimming in molasses: A lot of effort and very little reward. You have to pay to use it too.

Contrast this experience with SharedView where you're up and running in a matter of a couple of minutes. Did I mention that's completely free to use? To test out SharedView I tried it out with a partner abroad. I hadn't mentioned anything about it before the meeting but we literally had the program up and running within two minutes sharing the presentation that I needed him to see. Cool stuff! The experience has that Apple-feel to it: I got the job done, nothing more, nothing less.

SharedView allows you to share a single program window or the entire desktop and you can hand over control of the window to any participant in your current session. Setting up a new session is a simple matter of you logging in with your Live ID and clicking "Start new session" which will provide you with a link you can send to the participants of the meeting. That's it.

I definitely see this little gem coming in handy with customer meetings where we need to do sprint demos but can't come on site to do so. With a new delivery going down each month having the entire dev team on site is somewhat of a drain on the customer.

Download Microsoft SharedView

posted on Monday, 10 March 2008 20:44:54 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 18 February 2008

Microsoft_Team_System_Logo I'm proud to announce a very exiting meeting for Februar: The guys at Systematic are going to tell us all about their experience with Team System. Topics for the meeting include:

  • General introduction
  • Configuration management
  • Continuous integration

Following that we'll some insight into the world of software engineering at Systematic working with CMMI level 5 and agile processes like SCRUM.

The meeting will take place February 27th 18:00 at:

Systematic Software Engineering A/S
Søren Frichs Vej 39
8000 Århus C.

Signup and more information

posted on Monday, 18 February 2008 11:15:49 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, 06 February 2008

anug_logo_200x85 With the release of Visual Studio 2008, C# 3.0, and VB 9 in November last year we felt that it would be nice to get some information out there on what to expect of the new language features available in the new versions.

As always I started out the meeting by summing up what the core group has done since the last time around; we've been quite busy too. I'm very proud to announce that we've booked meetings at various companies around Aarhus until May. We do have a gap in April but I expect to put on a little song and dance about the MVC framework for ASP.NET.

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Future Meetings

So what have we got planned for you guys to enjoy? February will bring us a talk from the guys at Systematic where they'll tell us all about their experience with working with Team System with CMMI and SCRUM. Personally I'm looking forward to this one quite a bit as we're using Team System internally at Vertica as well; I know that many of you guys are too so I expect that a lot of very useful information will come from this one.

March brings us not one but two events: First there's our code camp for people who want to know more about ASP.NET where we'll continue building our blog application. I expect that we can accommodate approximately ten people and those attending will have to bring their own laptop. we'll do a full Saturday better our hands dirty in the code. More information on this will follow shortly so stay tuned.

Later in March we'll head back out to Scanvaegt where Henrik Kristensen will give a talk on his works with Workflow Foundation. He's been doing a number of POC applications and is very eager to share his experiences with the rest of us.

ASP.NET MVC Framework has garnered a lot of attention lately, but what is it and why should you care? I'll try and explain this with my talk on it in April. I'm doing an internal talk at Vertica this Friday and I figured that you guys would find it interesting as well. There are certainly some nifty techniques at play in the framework that I'm looking forward to sharing with you.

Finally Klaus Hebsgaard from Kristelig fagbevægelse will head up the April meeting with his talk about WCF. He's doing some very interesting work with WCF in conjunction with a large SOA project at KF and I know for certain that he'll have a lot to say about the topic.

Facebook

As an experiment we decided to do sign up for the meeting via Facebook. While it's been quite a success there are a couple of flies in the ointment: 1) Some people really dislike Facebook and outright refuses to use it. 2) Some companies actively block Facebook in their firewalls.

In the light of this information we'll not do exclusive sign ups on Facebook in future. Carrying forward we'll do Facebook sign ups primarily but also allow e-mail sign up as to allow everyone full access to the user group. Additionally we'll make sure that all relevant information will be available from the anug.dk web site.

Jobs

Interestingly we were contacted by a company owner who wanted to make our members aware of a job opening at his particular company. Our stance on this is that we won't advertise job openings in the interest of keeping our purpose clear and keeping a neutral position with respect to the companies kind enough to let us use their offices for the meetings.

Meetings Outside Aarhus

We've discussed the idea of holding meetings outside of Aarhus as a number of interesting companies exist in the vicinity. When asked though the members of the group indicated to me tat they weren't willing to travel too far outside of the city to attend our meetings. So we'll try and keep the meetings local as to not impose too much of a travel burden on the attendees.

Language Features in C# 3.0 and VB 9, Henrik Lykke Nielsen, Captator

The main attraction of the evening was of course .Henrik, Microsoft's RD for Denmark, and part owner of Captator.  I asked Henrik to give this particular talk because I know he's very fond of VB and I really wanted to see even attention given to both languages. It turned out though that when asked the attendees were interesting in C# 3.0 only so VB was mentioned in passing but the upshot of course was the fact that Henrik able to gauge the interest of the attendees and adapt his talk accordingly. Tip of the hat for that.

Henrik gave a very detailed talk on C# 3.0 and we even got into some IL discussions along the way which was a nice twist on the evening. I must say that I'm impressed with Henrik's deep knowledge on the subject having given a similar talk myself internally at Vertica I figured that I knew most of what he was going to say still I got a couple of nuggets of gold to take home from the meeting.

To understand many of the new features of C# 3.0 you need to understand what's already put in place in previous versions of the languages and again Henrik did an admirable job of getting everyone up to speed before moving on to the new features.

Slides are forthcoming as I'm still waiting to receive them from Henrik. While you're waiting for those why not head on over and take a look at his blog?

posted on Wednesday, 06 February 2008 21:32:18 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Tuesday, 05 February 2008

Commerce-Server-2007-Logo A while back a friend of mine posted a comment here asking me to describe what it's like developing with Commerce Server 2007. Initially I wanted to reply to him in comments but thinking more on it I really want to provide a different and real perspective on how Commerce Server is to work with as a product, a perspective in which I want to dig a deeper than the usual how-to and tutorials you see on the various Commerce Server blogs; mine included.

Check out part 1 Secure By Default where I discuss the security aspects of Commerce Server, part 2 Three-way Data Access in which I write about the various ways of getting data into your applications, part 3 Testability which not surprisingly is all about how CS lends itself to unit testing, part 4 Magic Strings Galore where I take on low level aspects of the APIs, part 5 Pipelines where COM makes a guest appearance in our mini series, part 6 which is all about getting your solution into production, and part 7 where I rip into the reference shop implementation: The Starter Site.

The Good Stuff

In this the final part of my mini series about developing Commerce Server I'm going to cover the stuff that I love about working with Commerce Server 2007. While I didn't start out with a particular roadmap for this series of articles I've noticed a trend when I look back over the posts: They aren't very positive about Commerce Server. Why is that? Does it mean that Commerce Server is a bad product? The answer to that eluded me for a while until our salesman pointed out a particular fact about engineers: Our job is to know the weak spots of the technology we're working with in order to produce the best possible solutions. While this is great trait for an engineer it certainly doesn't make for a great sales person :). I guess the reason for my negative slant stems from this fact: For me and my team to deliver the very best Commerce Server solutions we have to be constantly aware of any and all weaknesses of the product which is why I naturally gravitate towards that mode of describing the development experience.

So to answer the question posed above: Is Commerce Server a bad product? Certainly not, actually I enjoy working with a very mature platform which provides a lot of great features out of the box. Actually I've found myself in the fortunate situation of being able to tell a customer that, "yes we can do that out of the box", more often than not. I truly enjoy that part of my job because I find that customers are used to not getting anything out of the box if they're coming from the traditional business which started out on the web on a custom solution.

Actually I come across two types of distinct businesses when I go out and do Commerce Server work in the field: The business which primarily grew out of the web with the webshop at the core and the traditional business with the ERP at the center. As I mentioned above Commerce Server is a very compelling offer for the webshop-centered business because it provides a much more sound foundation than the custom built solution. The benefits for the traditional business are of course the same but interestingly I've found that Commerce Server is aligned very well with the way ERP guys typically think about a business. A good example of this is the rich way in which we can express business data in Commerce Server, in the areas of the ERP which concern a webshop we're able to not only match the capabilities of ERP systems but in some cases even surpass them, e.g. richness of the order schema and the way shipping is handled, the flexibility of the catalog, etc..

Were I to use a single word to describe Commerce Server it would be "flexible". Flexible in every sense of word as you can customize every aspect of the product to the suit the needs of the customer. Pretty the only limitation you'll come across is your own knowledge about the platform. With the right knowledge you can shape Commerce Server to suit the particular requirements of your customer which is why getting the right people working on your Commerce Server-project is essential for the success of it. You might argue that this is the case for all types of projects but I've seen how bad I project can go if the people working on a Commerce Server project lacks the proper skills to do so. The sound foundation I wrote about previously suddenly starts to look pretty wobbly and you end up in a situation where the platform is working actively against your business instead of with it.

So what happens if you get the right people working on your project creating the right architecture? Something akin to magic that's what. With the projects we've got going on right now I see one particular trend: The architecture that we're putting in place on top of Commerce Server leveraging the platform without working against it is actually opening up new avenues of possibilities for us as the projects move forward. Instead of feeling barred in by the choices we make I increasingly find that our solutions just support new requirements from the customer either "automagically", with reconfiguration of the existing system, or with very little modification to the system because the features were built on the sound foundation that is Commerce Server. That and of course the fact that I've got the privilege of working with the best damn e-commerce team out there :)

posted on Tuesday, 05 February 2008 21:21:13 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

Commerce-Server-2007-Logo In light of the success of the Aarhus .NET User Group on Facebook I went ahead and created a Facebook group for Microsoft Commerce Server for all of us working with the product. If you have an interest in getting in touch with people with deep Commerce Server knowledge please don't hesitate to join the group. Prominent people like Ryan Donovan and Max Akbar are already in there so why aren't you? ;)

Microsoft Commerce Server Facebook group

posted on Tuesday, 05 February 2008 19:42:14 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Commerce-Server-2007-Logo A while back a friend of mine posted a comment here asking me to describe what it's like developing with Commerce Server 2007. Initially I wanted to reply to him in comments but thinking more on it I really want to provide a different and real perspective on how Commerce Server is to work with as a product, a perspective in which I want to dig a deeper than the usual how-to and tutorials you see on the various Commerce Server blogs; mine included.

Check out part 1 Secure By Default where I discuss the security aspects of Commerce Server, part 2 Three-way Data Access in which I write about the various ways of getting data into your applications, part 3 Testability which not surprisingly is all about how CS lends itself to unit testing, part 4 Magic Strings Galore where I take on low level aspects of the APIs, part 5 Pipelines where COM makes a guest appearance in our mini series, and part 6 which is all about getting your solution into production.

The Starter Site

Ah the fabled Starter Site... When I look at my search logs for this blog I see that people are very interested in the Starter Site and are doing lots of searches for it. Ever since Commerce Server 2000 Microsoft has provided a reference implementation of a commerce site for developers to learn from. Ever since Commerce Server 2000 it's been and all-around bad idea to actually use the Starter Site in production. As a Commerce Server developer you'll cross paths with these guys so it's important for you to know what they're al about.

So is it still a bad idea to put the reference implementation for Commerce Server 2007 in production?Yes and no, while the Starter Site is a step up from previous reference implementations it's still not what I'd call production ready. The Starter Site provides great insights into the workings of the Commerce Server APIs but it's not exactly a shining example of web application architecture.

The Starter Site is done as a web site project in Visual Studio which by itself is not an issue. The problem though is that there is no separation between UI and application logic. All business logic is placed in the App_Code folder of the web site which means that it lacks reusability completely.

Additionally the code which is there lacks support for testing as well, all components are implemented directly on top of the CS APIs which as I discussed in part 3 Testability means that we have no means of creating unit tests for our custom code. Not only that but the entry point to the subsystems used is the CommerceContext which is initialized by a number of HTTP handlers during execution of the ASP.NET pipeline, this means that we're effectively bound to an ASP.NET context which in turns blocks the ability to test anything.

Now the abstraction provided for the Profile System does show some good ideas. Profiles are abstracted in nice type safe objects which in turn are mapped to the underlying Profile System by use of attributes. Great idea but I'd like to have seen the idea carried a few steps further. For instance relationships are implemented by a pattern that the developer needs to redo for every single property which reference another profile or list of profiles.

Oh and some corners are cut here and there: We have a nice abstract BaseProfile class which serves as the base for all profile implementations, perfect but in an especially grievous example a method in the BaseProfile is implemented with knowledge about one of its inheritors, see that's bad OO design right there.

Finally the Profiles which is most Commerce Server projects serve as the data store for domain objects are bound to ASP.NET like the rest of the business logic of the Starter Site meaning you can't reuse them in other contexts like winform apps.

All that said the Starter Site is a very nice running reference from which you can learn a great deal. There's no code like running code, all else aside the Starter Site is probably the best reference and source of learning Commerce Server especially if you're already familiar with earlier versions of Commerce Server.

Provided with the code base is the control gallery which is a collection of ASP.NET controls that you can use in your own site. They're implemented as server controls which means that they're easily transferred to other sites. That's ten points right there :)

So while the Starter Site is an exercise in bad web application architecture there are very good reasons for downloading it and taking a look at it. Learning is the obvious route but if you find yourself tight for time or money on your particular e-commerce project you can get some good results with the Starter Site as a foundation provided you take care and identify the weaknesses of the code base and rearchitect accordingly.

posted on Wednesday, 23 January 2008 20:42:01 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 14 January 2008

My favorite news reader of all times, FeedDemon, is now free for anyone to download and use. What makes this guy stand out from the competition is not the simple and easy to use UI, it's not the fact that you get a nice Hot/Not list of feeds, not the fact that you can subscribe to any quirky feed on the planet.

No what really makes FeedDemon shine and what made me cough up $29,95 having tried the product only a couple of times is the synchronization features. Simply put FeedDemon has made me use RSS more than I did in the past because I don't have to worry about reading my feed in multiple locations. Now to be fair Google Reader does provide the same feature but I simply can't bring myself to read my feeds in a web interface. With lots of information rolling by I need a nice work flow to process everything; while Google has done everything possible to make this happen in their web interface it's simply no match for a well designed desktop application.

To put it short, download FeedDemon, synchronize and be happy. Even if you don't read feeds in multiple locations you'll still have off site backup for your feeds ;)

posted on Monday, 14 January 2008 21:52:25 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Sunday, 13 January 2008

I'm starting to look into the ASP.NET MVC Framework and needed to download the CTP just now which is not all that interesting. What is interesting though is the fact that I was greeting with a dialog asking me whether I wanted to try the new Silverlight version of the MS Download site. Naturally I couldn't resist :)

Check out the MS Download Center beta done in Silverlight.

posted on Sunday, 13 January 2008 14:42:45 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, 17 December 2007

Ever since beginning my work with Commerce Server it was apparent that we needed some way to link the disparate subsystem with each other in a uniform way. Sure there are lots of links between catalog, order, and even profiles out of the box but the problem with them is that they're all done in different ways.

My colleague Brian found an excellent solution to this problem by introducing a concept he calls Extension Profiles which is basically a profile you tag on to other data objects in Commerce Server. With this in place you can use the extension profile in a number of ways like mapping objects or extending non-extendable CS objects like ShippingMethods and Payments.

I've been bugging Brian to write about them for a while and during the weekend it seems that he finally got around to it.

Check out How to extend Commerce Server Payment Methods and Shipment Methods

posted on Monday, 17 December 2007 08:29:05 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback