Archive for June, 2007

QUALITY: You are what you repeatedly code

Posted on June 29, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Just going through my backlog of blog posts and read this one from Paul Stovell (from over a month ago).

I totally agree with his main point that ‘we are what we repeatedly code’. It takes a while to build a habit. I wish more coders wised up to this. But more importantly I wish more software managers wised up to this.

When it comes to the cost involved, I’d suggest that the cost is a little higher than Paul makes out (and others have alluded to this in his comments), but the important point is that the cost is much smaller long term than not doing it (as Paul points out in his comment reply).

The problem in many places (not here of course šŸ™‚ is that whilst software managers often pay lip service to wanting proper ‘resume quality’ code, they often don’t really follow through with enough resources. Good developers are the ones who often push for better quality, but managers have to (or is that choose to?) compromise due to other constraints. Sometimes this is because software managers are victim to the old ‘all responsibility, no authority’ trap, but other times, the pressures of too much work, not enough time get in the way. What value is there in documenting a project that has been delivered and already paid for? And of course here is the problem ā€“ it should have been documented during the project… but because we didn’t document it last time, we weren’t in the habit of documenting, and because we weren’t in the habit we didn’t… etc the bad cycle becomes the habit.

It takes guts and determination to break the habit, not just from the developers, but from management as well.

And I guess it would help if clients saw the value and agreed to pay for it as well (but that’s another discussion).

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ACS: Speaking at ACS Wollongong next Wed 4 July 2007

Posted on June 29, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Next Wed I’m speaking at the South Coast Chapter of the Australian Computer Society, discussing ‘5 Mistakes Software Managers Make‘. This is based on my recent talk at SBTUG, but expanded a little taking into account the great feedback I got at the meeting.

Details here

Not sure if any of my readers are Wollongong based, but if so I’d love to see you there.

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SBTUG: Web 2.0 and Connected Systems presentations available

Posted on June 29, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Looks like Rahul‘s beaten me to it again… the presentations from Wednesday night’s sessions at SBTUG are up.

A quick report: Steven Ringo gave a very good overview of Web 2.0, where it is used, popular sites, how it can be used in business and where it is headed. Most useful.

Scott Scovell (and yes, Rahul, I agree, he is a guru) managed to cram a comprehensive overview of the entire Connected Systems space into 40 minutes ā€“ an incredible feat. In fact it was overwhelming.

The thing about Connected Systems is that it is so broad and all-encompassing, that it is hard to get a take on it. And that’s why Scott’s session was so valuable. The important point is that Microsoft (and others of course) are making a huge (ahem, gigantic, massive) investment in it. As Scott noted in his session, 10 years ago XML was just a fad that a few techies talked about and the majority dismissed (OK, maybe not quite but you get the point) and then it became the very lifeblood of just about everything we do today. [By the way I wonder if VFP will ever support XML? ā€“ that’s a joke folks]. An in a similar way, Connected Systems is not really understood by the masses. Of course, XML is a mechanism, whereas Connect Systems is a strategy, so it’s not really the same, but the point is that if you want to be at the forefront of technology in the next few years, you need to be understanding Connected Systems.

Scott’s session is here

Steve’s session is here

Upcoming meetings are listed here

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VFP: Talman is hiring

Posted on June 28, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

As Rahul has posted, Talman is looking for two more staff to build our VFP team:

  1. A Senior VFP Developer
  2. A Senior QA + Testing professional

There are details on the links about how to apply.

Please note: the roles are only open to Australian permanent residents at this stage.

What’s interesting about this is that we are growing our VFP team (ie they are not replacements for people leaving). We have an ever growing backlog of VFP work. What’s really strange is that our Web work is drying up (something that I thought would be overflowing at the moment) but our VFP work is going nuts. We are seriously considering ‘realigning’ (warning: management wank-speak in use) our business completely around VFP ā€“ there’s too much money to be made…

Anyone else having this ‘problem’ šŸ™‚ ?

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SBTUG: Web 2.0 and Connected systems this Wed 27 June 2007

Posted on June 25, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

This Wednesday at Sydney Business & Technology User Group (SBTUG) we have two excellent sessions lined up.

The first (Business) has Steven Ringo talking about all things Web 2.0, explaining the different offerings, but most importantly outlining how they can be useful to your business.

The second (Technology) is an overview of Connected Systems by Scott Scovell. This won’t be so much HOW to do stuff, but more focussed on answering the WHY questions. Why do need to know about Connected Systems, Why do they matter, Why are they so important etc. So, if you’ve been wondering about BizTalk, WCF, WF, CardSpace and where they all fit into the scheme of things, then this talk is just what you need.

More details available here:

www.sbtug.com

Don’t miss it:

Wed 27 June 2007 @ Microsoft HQ, North Ryde.

We’ll be starting with Pizza at 6:30pm and the first session will start at 6:45pm sharp.

I promise to be vigilant on the schedule for the evening ā€“ we’ll be finishing up around 8:30pm (I realise last time I didn’t control time that well šŸ™‚

Please sign up on the site to receive email reminders.

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Also, check out the sessions coming up later in the year:

http://www.sbtug.com/#Future_meetings

And a reminder that you can help shape the user group by filling out our quick (60 sec) survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=96143930384

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MANAGEMENT: Hiring and firing

Posted on June 14, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

You may have already seen this little gem:

http://www.simple-talk.com/opinion/opinion-pieces/fired-with-enthusiasm/

If not, then be dazzled by the genius of Kishor (not his real name).

Do you relate to the author’s comment towards the end?:

‘It was at that point that I realised I would never make it to the top rank of IT managers. Something else was necessary; a talent I didn’t possess. Kishor had it.’

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VFP: FoxPro blogs

Posted on June 14, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

As noted by others, there are a two new VFP bloggers, including:

Bo Durban

Craig Boyd (not sure about this guy ā€“ tread carefully J)

Btw does anyone know what Kevin Ragsdale’s new blog address is? The new FeedBurner link he provided last week doesn’t appear to be working…

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NETWORKING: Speed-Networking report

Posted on June 13, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

About two weeks ago I attended this event, a speed networking event for .Net companies. The idea is that the ‘community’ of .Net based companies get to know each other better for the purposes of partnering and network building.

I was a little hesitant but went any way (Talman does a lot of .Net stuff in addition to our VFP stuff). The reasons for my hesitancy were because I wasn’t quite clear what the objective was, but on reflection Dan’s note on Andrew’s blog was pretty accurate.

So here’s how it panned out:

Eddie Geller (CEO of Unique World MCed the event ā€“ let’s call him ‘MC Eddie’ from now one J) and started with a quick run-down of the NSW.Net cluster aims, noting there will be more events commencing in July ā€“ stay tuned by checking here every so often)

Next, two brief introductions from people explaining their businesses, and then onto the Speed-Networking itself. This was organised as two circles of people (one inside the other, the inside facing out, the outside facing in) and you were given 4 minutes to network with the person in front of you before a bell rang and the outside circle moved to the left (‘…it’s just a jump to the left…’).

Now before you cringe and think how strange that might be let me make a few comments. First, I thought it was really good. The issue with networking for me has always been about how phoney it seems ā€“ you know you wander up to someone at a function and pretend to be interested in them. Here though there is no need to pretend ā€“ everyone knows they have just 4 minutes to chat. So, and here’s the next good thing, you learn to get your ‘elevator speech’ pretty smooth. By the end (we had about 30 minutes or 7 changes) I was pretty good at summing up Talman in a minute and knowing what to ask my networking ‘target’ so I could understand their business as quickly as possible. These are good skills to work on. And, finally, yes I did make some good contacts. People I will probably work with, and others who I will want to work for us. Yikes! Could this networking thing actually have some benefit and not be just a superficial waste of time? Yes, it can and does. I said as much here a while back and am glad to be still saying the same thing.

Eddie has a good summary of networking advantages here.

The event finished with a stunning presentation on Silverlight by Michael Kordahi. Sadly his presentation was too short (he was limited due to all that bloody networking stuff going on earlier!)

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VFP: 3+ days to FoxPro ass kicking?

Posted on June 13, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Interesting tidbit from someone who needed to learn VFP in a hurry

http://n0tablog.wordpress.com/2007/06/10/how-i-learned-visual-foxpro-in-an-emergency/

Compare this to this

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PERSONAL: Iā€™m back… again…

Posted on June 9, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Yes, just got my notebook back after a week without it. This is the second time in as many months that my machine has died. This time it died on Monday morning when I booted up at work, but I’m lucky enough to have it back late on Friday arvo (so I can spend all weekend re-installing all my stuff J).

It makes you realise how lost you can become without your machine. Sure, everything was all backed up (I haven’t lost anything ā€“ especially my VPCs that I’ve spent the last month building thank goodness), but if you haven’t got anything to restore your backup to then it can be a frustrating time. Fortunately there was spare machine in the office I could use for basic email and office functions ā€“ but you really miss not having your space.

I guess this is why most senior managers and presenters these days carry around two machines… just in case.

At times like this you really appreciate the different registration processes that software companies use. For example, at the ‘you little ripper’ end of the spectrum is FeedDemon. I just downloaded the latest version and it prompted me to enter my Newsgator name and password. It then did the rest ā€“ retrieved my subscription details, registration code, everything. A fantastic experience. Others have been a little frustrating, such as SnagIt. I bought this in the days of v7, and then paid for the upgrade to 8. But trying to install their latest version, and hunt back through emails for registration codes, which then turn out to be invalid since they are for 7, and you can’t find a code for the 8 upgrade, and on, and on, and on it goes ā€“ very painful. I haven’t been able to get SnagIt registered yet ā€“ and will most likely just buy it again to get around the issue ā€“ very frustrating.

In Microsoft’s favour I have been pleasantly surprised that activation of Office 2007 has been pain free. Even though this is the 3rd time this year I’ve installed it on this notebook (and more if you count my VPCs) there have been no activation issues (and thus no phone calls required to the activation hotline). I’m assuming that part of their activation process records the hardware specs, and somehow knows it is being installed on the same machine. I wonder what will happen when I get another machine (I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting a backup machine now).

Anyway, must dash, I have few thousand blog posts from the past week to get through.

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CLARITY: Anyone understand SOA?

Posted on June 3, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Here’s what’s frustrating me lately ā€“ there is no easy way of getting simple answers to anything. Nothing is simple anymore. Everything gets swamped in too much information.

Take Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) for example. I want a simple, agreed upon definition for this phrase. I usually explain it in terms of having different servers exposing web services etc. Incomplete and too simple I know, but something that people can relate to. But I’m after something more concrete. Anyway, I came across the following gem in an ad from a ‘master’ SOA company ā€“ here’s what they defined SOA as:

‘A paradigm for organising and utilising distributed capabilities that may be under the control of different ownership domains. It provides a uniform means to offer, discover, interact with and use capabilities to produce desired effects consistent with measurable preconditions and expectations.’

Any of this make sense to you? I guess if you already understand SOA then you can decode what that definition is all about.

So I popped over to Wikipedia to try to get some clarity. Here’s the link. And guess what ā€“ that waffle above (from the ad) is actually a definition attributed to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). Yikes! Good luck with the ‘Advancement’ part. And on it goes in the Wikipedia article. The more I read the more frustrated I got. Don’t get me wrong I’m a big Wikipedia fan, but I start to wonder why it is so hard to get to the essence of things. Imagine trying to explain SOA to your CEO in the terms above. Not likely.

[By way of contrast I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how clearly Wikipedia outlined the Windows Live concept ā€“ I actually felt I had a good grasp of it by the end, something Microsoft hasn’t been especially good at giving.]

Do you ever get the feeling there is too much theory/data/information and not enough reality/simplicity/clarity anymore?

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BLOG: Eric Sink

Posted on June 1, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Just thought I’d recommend Eric Sink’s blog and book. As I mentioned in an earlier post I thought everyone read his blog, but at UG the other night it turns out many were missing out on this little gem.

I’ve read the book, and yes, it is mostly just re-workings of his blog entries, but still worth buying for the ‘easy, offline experience’. Good reading for software managers and software company owners. Targeted at micro-ISV owners (or budding owners), but suitable for larger companies as well. (btw Eric is the guy who originally coined the term micro-ISV). Eric is CEO (or something) at SourceGear (not be confused with Google Gears šŸ™‚

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BOOK: How to run a user group

Posted on June 1, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

This is a promo post for Greg Low’s new book on running user groups. Greg is a Microsoft Regional Director down under and a SQL Server MVP. He’s also run (and still runs) some very successful (by which I mean extremely helpful to the community) user groups.

He’s written a few books, but the one I want to recommend is this one: Building Technical User Communities. Greg was kind enough to send me the complete book (as a draft) last week in the lead up to kicking off SBT UG. The book is packed with down to earth, common sense, well thought out, learned from experience, salient advice. I used great chunks of the book to guide the UG on Wednesday. It was invaluable and perfectly timed too!

I think Greg is pretty amazing, so I’m of course biased. Thus, could I please ask a few (thousand) people to buy copies and let me know if I’m wrong about this one?

You can pre-order it on Amazon today. (Also available from the Rational Press site but frankly I found their site woeful ā€“ where’s the Search function for goodness sake?)

[Greg also has a book on the SQL CLR, but I haven’t read it yet.]

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BizTech: Sydney Business & Technology User Group report

Posted on June 1, 2007. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

I’m very pleased to report that our first meeting of the Sydney Business & Technology User Group went well.

There was a much bigger turnout than I had expected (we ran out of pizza early!). My thanks to the people who came just to support the group even though it may not directly relevant to them ā€“ it was very much appreciated.

Overall the night went well. My session was reasonably well received I think (I hope it was useful ā€“ the content is here and the PowerPoint is here). I’ll also be updating it a little over the next few days with some of the comments from attendees.

Adam Cogan’s session was very useful ā€“ he went through SQL Server Data Dude, plus compared some of the features to other tools on the market (RedGate, Apex, etc).

Some feedback from attendees:

  • There was a number of technical people there, who were probably not as interested in the business related stuff as the technical stuff
  • It went far too late (my fault for not keeping the program on track time wise ā€“ I’ll be more vigilant next meeting I promise!)
  • There was a lot of comment on communication skills and email management during the night (this was a topic of interest)
  • Not many people had heard of Eric Sink (I thought everyone read Eric Sink’s blog)

Special thanks to the following people who have encouraged and supported the idea: Frank Arrigo, Andrew Coates, Adam Cogan, Steven Ringo

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One downside: I had a cap full of business cards (many attendees were good enough to give me their card so I can keep in contact with them), but towards the end of the night ‘someone’ took most of them (they left 3 cards behind).

I mention this for three reasons:

1. I assume it was accidental (perhaps the person thought I’d already taken the cards and these were leftovers?) and to thus request they pop them in the cap next month (I’ll leave it up the back as usual).

2. To apologise to people who did leave their cards if they get unsolicited email from someone!

3. To apologise to those same people when they don’t get reminded of next month’s session because I don’t have their details.

Ā 

Next Month: Steven Ringo talking on the business side of Web 2.0 & 3.0, and Scott Scovell talking on the technology decisions related to Connected Systems (ie BizTalk, WCF, WF).

Stay tuned to the UG web site for more details (I’ll post full session descriptions next week).

Thanks again.

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