Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SkyDrive finally gets integration with Windows Explorer

When Sky Drive first came out from Microsoft I was really excited but alas there was no integration from Windows Explorer thus the intresst quickly faded, until today when I needed to share a binary file without having to require people to be registered and invited to my shared folder (which I need if I where to use my DropBox account) and to my suprise this was no issue at all for SkyDrive.

But still I was missing the windows explorer integration so I decided to give it one more go and boy am I glad that I did since it lead to the discovery of the excellent and FREE tool SkyDrive Explorer.

Screenshot of integration SkyDrive with Windows Explorer

Screenshot of accessing a folder on SkyDrive from Windows Explorer

Installing WPF Toolkit June 2009 on Windows 7 (getting rid of the heinous "WPF Toolkit requires .NET Framework 3.5 SP1")

Lately I've started to try out Windows 7 on my main development machine at work, this has worked really well and I'm really loving the Windows 7 experience... However there is always a darkside to everything, apparently the version of .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 that comes bundled with Windows 7 has a different version number than the regular download and thus you will bump into the following type of errors:

Imaging my frustration when googling around for this and not finding anything particularly useful (it's a rather annoying error message given the fact that it isn't correct since .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 is on the machine). Anyway after some email correspondance with a friend and colleague (thanks Samuel) my attention was turned to the Microsoft Platform SDK which contains a little tool called "Orca" which let's you inspect and modify the tables in an .msi file.

If you don't want to install the whole platform SDK you can grab the setup for "Orca" from my sky drive.

Now for the magic, to get around the error message we need to nuke the launch condition in question from the .msi file (there might be an easier way todo this so feel free to correct me by leaving a comment):

Step 1, Launch Orca.
Step 2, Open the .msi package.
Step 3, Find & select the launch condition entry in the navigation pane.
Step 4, Select NETFX35SP1_INSTALLED in the details pane & right click.
Step 5, From the context menu select drop row.
Step 6, Confirm the removal of the launch condition.
Step 7, Save the .msi package.
Step 8, Run the .msi package and voila no more error message.

Installing WCF LOB SDK SP2 on Windows 7 (getting rid of the heinous "WCF LOB Adapter SDK requires .NET Framework 3.5 SP1")

Lately I've started to try out Windows 7 on my main development machine at work, this has worked really well and I'm really loving the Windows 7 experience... However there is always a darkside to everything, apparently the version of .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 that comes bundled with Windows 7 has a different version number than the regular download and thus you will bump into the following type of errors:

Imaging my frustration when googling around for this and not finding anything particularly useful (it's a rather annoying error message given the fact that it isn't correct since .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 is on the machine). Anyway after some email correspondance with a friend and colleague (thanks Samuel) my attention was turned to the Microsoft Platform SDK which contains a little tool called "Orca" which let's you inspect and modify the tables in an .msi file.

If you don't want to install the whole platform SDK you can grab the setup for "Orca" from my sky drive.

Now for the magic, to get around the error message we need to nuke the launch condition in question from the .msi file (there might be an easier way todo this so feel free to correct me by leaving a comment):

Step 1, Launch Orca.
Step 2, Open the .msi package.
Step 3, Find & select the launch condition entry in the navigation pane.
Step 4, Select the ISWCFINSTALLED entry in the details pane & right click.
Step 5, From the context menu select drop row.
Step 6, Confirm the removal of the launch condition.
Step 7, Save the .msi package.
Step 8, Run the .msi package and voila no more error message.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

TFS Administration Tool Version 2.0 CTP now available for download

Finally it’s time for the brand new design of the tool to see the light, you can download the v2.0 CTP from here. Please take it for a spin and let us know what you like and not like about it (along with any potential problems you have).

The main new features in this release are:

  • Support for all available versions of Team Foundation Server (2005, 2008, 2010 Beta 2)
  • Complete redesign of the user interface
  • Multiple server connection
  • Bulk edit of users
  • Undo pending changes
  • Tracing

You can read more about the release on the homepage:

We are pleased to announce that the first community tech preview of TFS Administration Tool 2.0 has been released. This CTP marks a new beginning for the TFS Administration Tool as we have almost completely redesigned and rewritten the tool

The purpose for this rewrite was to provide a more stable and intuitive user experience.

Shortly we will start posting some walk through guides for common tasks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hans Rosling predicts the future ... When & How will Asia regain it's dominace over the world market?

Hans Rosling recently held a talk at TEDIndia about when Asia (India and China in particular) will catch up with the west and become the leading force in the economic world market. As usual he is very amusing to listen to and the stats he presents makes you think about the big picture as usual.

Hans Rosling: Asia's rise -- how and when

And while your at it make sure you watch some of his previous talks as well:

Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset
Hans Rosling on HIV: New facts and stunning data visuals
Hans Rosling's new insights on poverty
Hans Rosling shows the best stats you've ever seen

A fun note on the side is that when I sat down in the couch and opened up my laptop to write this post, I turned on the telly and guess what? It's a program with Hans Rosling on the Swedish television. Now that can't be just coincidence :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dropbox for iPhone is out!

Finally the wait is over you can now download the Dropbox client for your iPhone.

The GUI is fairly uncomplicated and follows the normal standards (for instances you swipe over the file to delete it). You can mark files as favourites and the will be available when offline. Most major file types are available for viewing along with easy access to sending a link via email.

There is support for media, photos & videos are pretty nice you can quickly upload either via existing photos/videos or simple take new and send it directly.

First impression of the streaming of music is not very good though since they tried to play my mp3 as a video :)

However what I really miss i the ability to move, rename and create & share files/folders. The application will be extended with this in future versions so that is no real problem.

As for simple editing of docx,xlsx and txt files is as far as I can tell not available nor planned which is major drawback :(

-- Posted from my iPhone

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Wait is over Spotify fot the iPhone is out!!!

Just wanted to spread the joy if you live in Scandinavia, United Kingdoms or Spain you can now download the iPhone client for Spotify (a music streaming service) provided you have a premium account with them.

This is step in the right direction for digital media distribution.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Watch Nordic Developer Conference 2009 from you favorite couch

If you also where unable to attend the NDC09 you’ll be happy to hear that the talks are now available for downloads go here and you can get them in a convenient torrent format so that you can download the whole shebang in one swoop (be warned though it’s a large download +30GB).

The speakers list of the  NDC09 was very impressive… Robert Martin, Craig Larman, Scott Hanselman, Phil Haack, Mary Poppendieck and Scott Bellaware just to name a few.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taking SQL Azure for a test spin (it’s dirt simple)

Earlier this week I received my invite to the SQL Azure CTP so I obviously threw myself at taking it for a test spin, and I must say that it was a sweet experience (a part from the fact that my SQL DDL is a little rusty). Anyway I figured that I should write a few lines about the experience but first let's just get some basic facts out of the way, what is SQL Azure?

Microsoft® SQL Azure Database is a cloud-based relational database platform built on SQL Server® technologies. With SQL Azure Database, you can easily provision and deploy relational database solutions to the cloud, and take advantage of a globally distributed data center that provides enterprise-class availability, scalability, and security with the benefits of built-in data protection, self-healing and disaster recovery.

The about quote is taken from the Windows Azure Platform site and as it states you can now deploy a relational database in the cloud and accessing it via the TDS protocol using ADO.NET and ODBC (there is even a driver for PHP if you need that).

Anyway enough with the chit chat let's get our hands dirty in some code... The app we will run through here is an extremely simple an silly notebook in the cloud which you can insert some reminders in a then go back and see what you should do (the whole application took less than one hour to get up and running, writing this post took far longer than that).

First out you have to activate your invite (if you haven't signed up you can do it here) and get your SQL Azure database provisioned. When you have done that you get to access the management portal:

Currently you can only manage your connection strings and create and drop databases, but since you can’t manage logins we might as well drop straight into the sqlcmd tool (in this version you can’t use the Management Studio it is not supported yet) and start by creating  a small database. When you create your databases and logins you need to be logged in to the master database.

Once you have fired up a command prompt we issue the following command to connect to the master database:

sqlcmd –U <admin>@<servername> –P <password> –S <servername> –d master

Now let’s create a database called MyCloudDB and a user called MyCloudUser:

CREATE LOGIN MyCloudLogin WITH password='1tsCloudyInSeattle'

Let’s switch over to our new database and create some tables and grant our user some access:

sqlcmd –U <admin>@<servername> –P <password> –S <servername> –d MyCloudDB

Then we issue the following statements create a user and a table where we can store our notes:

CREATE TABLE CloudNotes (ID int IDENTITY(1,1) PRIMARY KEY, Note nvarchar(500))
CREATE USER MyCloudLoginUser FROM LOGIN MyCloudLogin

Now we are ready for some code, first let’s write the snippet needed to put the reminders up in the cloud:

    public void InsertNote(string note)
SqlConnection cn
= new SqlConnection("Server=tcp:<yourservername>;Database=MyCloudDB;User ID=MyCloudLogin;Password=1tsCloudyInSeattle;Trusted_Connection=False;");
using (cn)
SqlCommand cmd
= new SqlCommand("INSERT INTO CloudNotes Values (@Note)");


= cn;
new SqlParameter("@Note", note));

And finally the code required to retrieve the notes so we don’t forget to but that milk on our way home:

    public List<string> ListNotes()
<string> result = new List<string>();

SqlConnection cn
= new SqlConnection("Server=tcp:<yourservername>;Database=MyCloudDB;User ID=MyCloudLogin;Password=1tsCloudyInSeattle;Trusted_Connection=False;");
using (cn)

SqlCommand cmd
= new SqlCommand("SELECT ID, Note FROM CloudNotes ORDER BY ID", cn);
SqlDataReader dr
= cmd.ExecuteReader();
while (dr.Read())
0).ToString() + " - " + dr.GetString(1));

return result;

That’s all there is to it as I said in the title dirt simple :) if you want to read more about the limitations and how to get going checkout MSDN documentation on SQL Azure. I’ll probably post more as I dabble around with it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting the dreaded "The fully qualified file name must be less than 260 characters" when publishing test results in TFS 2008

During the last week I've had some issues with getting an old set of tests to run in the automated build process. The reason they had been excluded before was that the author had used .xml files to drive his test suite and was unaware of the functionality in MSTest that let's us specify deployment items through the .testrunconfig file (provided that you run you tests using a .vsmdi file).

Anyway, even though I don't particularly fancy the approach of using external files to drive the test (there are good scenarios but in my opinion they should be oriented more towards simple parameter driving of test not complex object serialization, but that is a post in itself if I get around to it sometime).

The problem once I got the test to run on the server (some shmuck had deselected the deploy alternative for the assembly containing the unit tests in the build targeted by the automated build), that the testrun results simply wouldn’t publish instead we got this message in the log:

Waiting to publish... Publishing results of test run tfsservice@LIVMSRV228 2009-08-21 12:56:49_Any CPU_Release to http://livmsrv246:8080/Build/v1.0/PublishTestResultsBuildService2.asmx... ....The specified path, file name, or both are too long. The fully qualified file name must be less than 260 characters, and the directory name must be less than 248 characters. The specified path, file name, or both are too long. The fully qualified file name must be less than 260 characters, and the directory name must be less than 248 characters. MSBUILD : warning MSB6006: "MSTest.exe" exited with code 1.

What happened was that the tests ran ok and you’d see the results ok in the log but as soon as Team Build tried to publish the results we ended up with a complaint about a too long path. Unfortunately no matter what amount of logging you switch on the log won’t tell you which file is the problem and in our case this particular test result file was actually on of the shorter paths :). So after a fair amount of head-butting I managed to get it working and guess what the problem resided in the deployment items that we selected using the .testrunconfig. Our structure was heavily nested with long self-explanatory names for readability :) which is good, but since they somehow are involved in the publishing step (I haven’t had the time to drill down into what happens here so if you have some insight into this feel free to comment about it) and thus you are restricted to the 260 characters for the fully qualified path name of the deployment item.

Simplify Photo & Simplify Music ... It's got to be one of the coolest iPhone Apps so far!

Just felt that I had to share the joy. I just installed and tried out the coolest app to date for my iPhone (the app works for iPod Touch as well). It's a company called SimplifyMedia and they have produced a piece of streaming software available for PC,MAC and Ubuntu which let's you share your photos and music from a machine at home and then access it thrue an application called:

Simplify Photo (about 1$)
and not to mentioned what could well be a worthy rival to the long awaited Spotify iPhone/iPod client, altough you are limited to your own music collection which will most likely have trouble matching the depth and breath of Spotify's music archive.
Simplify Music 2 (about 6$)
After you've downloaded and setup an account and selected the folders to share your ready to go and can access your photos and music from everywhere.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tips n Tricks: Moving TFS to another server and getting Error 3154: The backup set holds a backup of a database other than the existing database

Another issue that I ran across today when trying to restore our TFS backup onto the freshly installed TFS server what the fact that due to various discrepancies in the environments I ended up getting the following error message when trying to restore my Reporting Services and SharePoint databases:

Error 3154: The backup set holds a backup of a database other than the existing database

So after banging my head awhile I did a bit of searching and sure enough I stumbled upon the following post that explains how to get around it.

To sum it up it is quick simple you have to switch back to TSQL mode and open up a query window and make sure you are currently in the master database and then issue the following command:

FROM DISK = 'C:\YourDatabaseBackup.bak'

That’s all there is to it, so far I’ve only encountered this issue with the Reporting Services and SharePoint databases, never with the TFS databases.

Tips n Tricks: Moving TFS to another server and getting "Scale-out deployment" is not supported in this edition of Reporting Services

Today I was mucking about with restoring our TFS environment on a different server to create a backup environment where we can do our migration testing and bumped into some minor issues. I Figured that I should post them, if not for anything else they'll server as a reminder to self the next time around.

Anyway the problem concerns getting the following error message when you try to access your reports:

The feature: "Scale-out deployment" is not supported in this edition of Reporting Services

So what’s the deal with this then? Well as the documentation states:

A scale-out deployment refers to two or more report server instances that share a single report server database

This functionality is not available in the standard edition of SQL Server and the problem I ended up with is that once you follow the steps in the guideline document (How to: Move Your Team Foundation Server from One Hardware Configuration to Another).

My problem was that once I had restored the encryption key for my Reporting Services I ended up with two entries when running RSKeyMgmt –l, to get around this I ran RSKeyMgmt –r OLDDTInstanceID.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to get the Using statement to work when dealing with interfaces directly.

UPDATE 2009-08-04: As pointed out in the comments by Marc L there are some issues involved in using the techniques described below the primary problem concerns the fact that you might incur an exception in the finally block of the using statement this would lead to any code below the using statement to not run. Also if you throw an exception in your code and the dispose call yeilds an exception this will mask your exception which you will never see. You can read more about it in this msdn article: Avoiding Problems with the Using Statement

Just recently I did some coding in a project and was faced with something that took me awhile to figure out so I thought I'd write a line or two about it. But before we continue let me state that this post deals with WCF based services in a VB.NET application.

The thing is that personally I'm not very fond of using the "Add Service Reference" in Visual Studio (there are obviously situations where it is useful but most of the times I prefer to have more control over the generated proxy), so what I usually end up doing is to spawn up my own proxy using the ChannelFactory and simply add a reference to the assembly containing the service contracts.

The problem arises when you start working with interfaces to make sure that you can inject your dependencies into your code to be able to implementing proper unit-test. When you do this and try to use the Using statement to implement the disposable pattern and make sure your resources are release in a timely fashion.

Dim factory As ChannelFactory(Of IMyService) = New ChannelFactory(Of IMyService)("MyBinding")
Dim myInterface as IMyService = factory.CreateChannel()

Using myInterface
End Using
This example code will generate the following complier error:

'Using' operand of type '…IMyService' must implement 'System.IDisposable'.

So after banging my head against the monitor for awhile I stumbled upon a blog with an example where the author used the As operator to perform a cast in the using statement, so I figured that this hade to be doable in VB.NET as well.

Dim factory As ChannelFactory(Of IMyService) = New ChannelFactory(Of IMyService)("MyBinding")
Dim myInterface as IMyService = factory.CreateChannel()

Using DirectCast(myInterface, IDisposable)
End Using

The above code will work and even though it isn’t as slick as it’s counterpart in C# it will do the trick. Now we are able to both utilize the disposable pattern to make sure we are not forgetting to release our resources and still make use of dependency injection in our code and improve our testability.

There is no magic here once you think a little about it what the using statement wants is simply a reference to an instance that implements the IDisposable interface which the proxy returned by CreateChannel does. So we just need to give the compiler a little nudge to get it to work.

UPDATE 2009-08-04: However the problems don't stop here. If we wrap an object implementing IDisposable inside a using statement and the Dispose method throws exceptions we are toast. This will lead to all kind of weird behaviours when dealing with error situations.

First out we need to handle the fact that any exception being raised within the using block will be supressed by exceptions raised from inside the Dispose call. Secondly we have the issue that if you have any code that needs to be executed after the using block, you will be in for a nasty suprise since it will not run if an exception is raised from within the dispose method.

The easiest way to get around this would be to implement a helper object dealing with the disposing logic that we can pass to the Using statement. This object can then supress any exceptions being raised during disposal and do the appropriate logging. The code below implements such a wrapper object that will handle this for the WCF scenario, you could easily modify it and just pass in any object implementing IDisposable and just deal with the logging and exception suppression.

Imports System
Imports System.Diagnostics
Imports System.ServiceModel

Namespace DisposablePattern

Public Class CommunicationObjectScope
Implements IDisposable

Private scoped As ICommunicationObject
Private disposed As Boolean = False

Public Sub New(ByVal co As Object)
If TypeOf co Is ICommunicationObject Then
scoped = co
scoped = Nothing
End If
End Sub

Public Sub Dispose() Implements IDisposable.Dispose
If Not disposed Then
If Not scoped Is Nothing Then
Select Case scoped.State
Case CommunicationState.Faulted
Exit Select
Case Else
Exit Select
End Select
End If
End If
Catch ex As Exception
'TODO: replace with more approriate logging!!!

'NOTE: Do NOT throw or rethrow from within this
' exception block since this will mask the
' original exception.
End Try
End Sub
End Class
End Namespace

By using this class we would end up with code looking like this:

Dim factory As ChannelFactory(Of IMyService) = New ChannelFactory(Of IMyService)("MyBinding")
Dim myInterface as IMyService = factory.CreateChannel()

Using co As New CommunicationObjectScope(myInterface)
End Using

To summarize you can use the DirectCast approach if you have controll of the object implementing IDispsable, but if there is the slightest chance that an exception might occur from within the Dispose method you should go for the wrapper approach.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Need help selling ALM? (or Application Lifecycle Management explained)

David Chapell just released a set of papers the could help you out if your in a shop with a poor ALM implementation and you need some help selling ALM to your management.

All papers where sponsors by Microsoft but they are not aimed specifically at Microsoft Visual Team System but rather at the concepts behind ALM and how it aligns to business strategies and processes.

If you want to read Mr. Chapell's original post you can find it here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Way of the Whiteboard: Persuading with Pictures - MIX Videos

A picture is truely worth a thousand words ... I just realzied that I've forgotten to post this (I wanted to read Dan's book first, which I have done now). The book which I can recommend if you wish to get some inspiration and ideas on how to communicate best with picture is called The back of the napkin.

Anyway Dan held a very inspiring talk at MIX09 earlier this year called The Way of the Whiteboard: Persuading with Pictures and even if you do not intend to read the book you should take an hour out of your scheadule and watch this video.

Hear Dan Roam talk about persuading people with pictures. Whether convincing leadership to back a project, getting a VC to fund a business, building consensus on a project team, or selling a new technology platform within an organization, nothing is more powerful than a simple picture for discovering and developing technological concepts and business ideas. This session shows how to use the pictures we've created to persuade other people to take action.
Power to the all the black pens out there you know who you are...

From Business To Buttons 09: The Zen of presentation design & delivery

If you like me where unable to attend From Business to Buttons 2009 and watch Garr Reynolds deliver his keynote about the Zen of presentation.

Over the years presentation software such as PowerPoint has gotten better, but presentations largely have not. The presentation tools have advanced, but we have not. Why? Part of the problem has been a focus only on how to use the tools themselves rather than on how to clarify and amplify our ideas and messages through through fundamental design and storytelling principles.
You are able to watch a recording of the session here:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lets do the wave together

If you haven't already checked it out you should really take an hour and a half from your scheadule and take a look at the unveiling of the new project from the creators behind Google Maps.

They announced Google Wave at the annual Google developer conferance and I'm dying to get an account for this piece of communications software, it will most likely change the way you communicate digitally like ICQ did way back in 1996 with instant messenging.

The product will be open source (at least the majority of the code) and it will have a where rich extensibility API and last but not least everything is based on open protocols. In the launch they previewed serveral very cool bots that where built ontop of the APIs, these bots where able to participate in realtime in the conversations providing services such as translation and spellchecking.

By far the two coolest features of the product was the instantaneous syncronization of the changes in a messages (at one point in the demo they where five people simultaneously editing the same wave message) and the playback feature where you could be thrown into a conversation and simply play it back to see how it had evolved over time.

Read more about it in the following post: Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

TFS Administration Tool Version 1.4 in now available for download

Today we release v1.4 of TFS Administration Tool (you can download it here) which closes a total of seventeen work items from the list of feature requests and defects.

The major thing in this release is the support for Reporting Services for SQL Server 2008, you can read more about the details of the release over at the blog of Michael Rumiers who is the co-ordinator for the project.

And be sure to stay tuned and check in often at the projects homepage since we are working hard already on a possible new version with a lot of new features previously unavailable in the tool.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What's New in Microsoft SQL Data Services

Nigel Ellis one of the architects on the SDS team gave a very intressting talk at Mix09 which you can view here:

What's New in Microsoft SQL Data Services - MIX Videos

It's a talk that really doesn't present any really new fantastic technologies and that's the beuty of it all. The key take away from the session is that it most likely will just work provided your using the basic relational functionality of SQL Server.

You can expect to get your hands on a public CTP around July 09.

Some things that I found very intressting was the talk about data partioning that would let us use distributed queries in a very easy way. Also coupled with the data syncronization features (based on the sync framework) that will enable tight integration with onpremise instances of SQL Server, we can expect to actually start pushing out parts of our applications in cloud bursting scenarios (this was a headache for me prio this release it was simply not worth the effort on a exsisting application).

So what is not in v1:

Distributed Transaction
Distributed Queries
Hosted CLR
Spatial Data
Service Broker
Business Intelligence
Reference Data

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sql Data Services - A real cinderella story!

About 2 weeks ago David Robinson of the Sql Data Services team announce that they where planning to announce some really mind blowing changes to SDS at MIX09.

Earlier this week (I've been a little slow on my blog reading) he announce what's comming and sure enough:

Stored Procedures?...Check
Visual Studio Compatibility?...Check
ADO.Net Compatibility?...Check
ODBC Compatibility?...Check
Personally I have been spending some time trying to figure out how to best model and implementing a solution ontop och both SDS as well as Azure Storage. So I'm naturally curious about whats going to happen with the ACE model (which in the first place felt some what strange since the Azure storage platform offers similar support, not to mention that it is rather limiting compare to a traditional relational model) and sure enough it is a deadend in SDS (personally I think this is very good that Microsoft is drawing a clear line and positioning the two different technogies like this, it will be a major improvement for the Azure platform making it an even stronger platform for the cloud):
What about the ACE (Authority, Container, Entity) data model and developer experience? Since Windows Azure storage has a similar data model (property bag) and developer experience, we will stop supporting the current ACE Model sometime in the future.
So when will we get our hands on this goodiebag? Well acording to the SDS team the CTP will be around summertime 2009. So in the meantime go ahead an read the original posts to get more details on this:

The no spin details on the new SDS features
First round of Questions and Answers

Minority Report is coming to a neighbourhood near you!

Yesterday I watch a presentation from TED 2009 where Pattie Maes from MIT Media Lab's new Fluid Interfaces Group demos a new technology that see called Sixth Sense (there are seems to come alot of intressting innovations from the Fluid Interfaces Group, I recently blogged about another new technology called Siftables which also came out of this lab).

It basically comes down to a device that is pieced together from equipment about $300 consisting of a projector and some mirrors hooked up to your cellphone that enabled you you to project and interact with information on any surface (just like Tom Cruise in Minority Report altough still abit rough around the edges), this opens up alot of oppertunities but instead of reading my ramblings take 15 minutes out of your schedule and whats the demo:

Pattie Maes demos the Sixth Sense | Video on

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finally a proper book about MSBuild and Team Build

I just finnished reading Inside the Microsoft® Build Engine: Using MSBuild and Team Foundation Build and even though I know of several posting about this book I figure they could do with some more praise :)

I approached this book with and expectation that I already knew my fair share about the build process in Team System but was pleasantly suprised that there where a few nuggets that I was unaware of so it paid of to read it after all. Otherwise I must say that the book is well structured and is down to earth with a lot of practical examples from real world scenarios. I truely wish that I would have had access to this book back in 2005 when I started out with build automation in Team System.

The book is a must read for anyone considering working with build automation using Team System (atleast until VSTS 2010 comes out and changes it again). Also if you want to truely understand MSBuild and how your projects are built by Visual Studio (although you will come along way when working with Visual Studio without reading one single row of MSBuild script).

Personally I will keep my copy on my desk as a reference and flip through it when working with the nitty gritties of the build scripts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

FathomDB a relational database in the cloud

I've been playing around with how to store your data in a cloudbased environment, mainly I've been looking at the various offerings from Microsoft (Azure Storage & SQL Data Services).

Even though I like the concept of being able of putting my data in the cloud, I find the current data model available some what limiting when compared to a regular relational database.

Well the other day I stumbled upon a new product called FathomDB, which comes to the rescue with a DaaS (Database-as-a-Service) offering. Initially they offer MySQL running on Amazons EC2 platform but it sounds as they will offer more backend platforms and possibly more database engines in the future.

I'm currently waiting for my beta account and will probably blog more about my experiences with FathomDB in the future.

It's also worth noting if your intressted in DaaS that there is alot of buzz about Microsoft going to offer SQL Server as a DaaS also. At the very least we can expect some intresting news in mid march when Mix09 takes place.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Visual Studio 2010 IDE Goes WPF!

I just went through my backlog of blog posts (incredible how fast they pile up) and stubled upon a post by Jason Zander from the Visual Stduio 2010 team about the new look and feel of the IDE. As indicated by the CTP bits from PDC08 and the new .NET 4.0 designers we could expect more changes in the good old Visual Studio IDE. It looks very slick as you can see in the screenshoot in Jasons post A New Look for Visual Studio 2010.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Problems with getting the new TargetsNotLogged feature to work in VSTS2008 SP1

I guess many people have hade similar experiences as us since upgrading to TFS 2008 with build logs being way to verbose. Fourtunately SP1 fixed this problem for us like Aaron Hallberg describes in his post "Orcas SP1 TFS Build Changes".

Unfourtunately there was a misstake in this patch which lead to only the first project reference got eliminated (also described by Aaron in this post "TargetsNotLogged Hotfix Available"). But the good news is we have a hotfix (kinda obvious by the title in the above mentioned post).

So why the heck am I writing this post? Well as it turns out there seems to be a glitch in the installer when installing SP1 on a build server, the problem is that the new version of the file "Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.targets" is not installed. So what you need to do is to copy it from a development machine running any team edition and replace the one on your build servers, you can find the file under the following path: C:\Program Files\MSBuild\Microsoft\VisualStudio\TeamBuild.

Don't forget to make sure that you are copying the file from a machine that has SP1 installed.

UPDATE 2009-02-15: As Buck points out in the comment you only have this problem if you can keep your fingers out of the cookie jar :) (I know I couldn't) and have made any changes to your "Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.targets" file. If this is the case then the installer will not replace it since it doesn't consider it to be the same file since it used the original datestamp on the file when patching.

Also I missed that my good friend Mathias Olausson also posted some notes on this issue in particular he some info on how you could quickly verify if you have this problem or not which I completely forgot about:

open your "Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.targets" file and check that it contains the line <TargetsNotLogged Condition=" '$(TargetsNotLogged)' == '' ">GetTargetPath;GetNativeManifest;GetCopyToOutputDirectoryItems...
have a look a Improved build performance with Team Build SP1 + hotfix KB958845 to read the whole post.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Siftables, the toy blocks that think

I just watch the latest talk from TED 2009 given by David Merrill who is a grad student at MIT, where he is working on new technologies for interacting with digital media. In his talk he gives and absolutely awsome demo on their current project called Siftables, it is really awsome and I think this will have some major impact on how we think about interacting with computers atleast when it comes to dealing with digital media.

It's a short presentation only 7 mins so take a break from whatever your doing and have a look: David Merrill demos Siftables, the smart blocks

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting started with Azure: Watch thoose VM hours!

About a week or two ago I recieved my invitation to participate in the Azure CTP, unfourtunately I was in the middle of reinstalling with Windows 7 Beta 1 then and discovered that the Azure SDK didn't function properly at the momement so I had to setup yet another development machine.

Anyways, I'm finally on track with the Azure stuff and started playing around it. It was a breeze to get a simple hello world kind of service up and running, altough I'm expecting to hit some snags later on once I get into more details in a more real world like scenario.

The warning though as the title of this post states is that you can go through your alloted VM hours quickly if you don't cleanup apropriately. I did some experimenting afer talking to a good friend that knew about some problems with running out of the alloted hours.

The VM hours starts ticking as soon as you have started to deploy to the staging server no matter what state your service is in once you've uploaded it the clock starts ticking. Given that you get 2000 VM hours you can run a service for 83 days, I'm not sure what the deal is if you upload multiple services since I didn't try that. So the leasson is delete your services if you aren't working with them.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Monitoring the health of your TFS servers using "TFS Performance Report Pack"

Grant Holliday is surely a swell dude :) before he joined Microsoft to work with Team System he gave us an awsome report to track performance on our TFS through a performance heat map report (you can find it here if you aren't already running it be sure to give it a try).

No he is back with even more goodies in what look like it will become part of a future power tools release, namely the TFS Performance Report Pack which is loaded with reports to monitor the health of your TFS servers (you can download it and read more about the reports here).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Win7 From the Trenches: Update on running ITunes 8 in VirtualBox

Just wanted to give some feedback on running ITunes 8 in a virtualized environment, even though it works good enough I have had to revert to using my server (running Windows 2008) as my ITunes machine :) abit weird but hey I need my ITunes...

The reason for this has to do with the fact that my laptop has a wireless network adapter that do not support promiscuous mode. This results in me having to use the "NAT" feature of VirtualBox and it is simply dead slow, it is impossible to work with any kind of downloads from ITunes.

So unless your network card supports "promiscuous mode" you shouldn't use the solution describe in my previous post: Win7 From the Trenches: Getting ITunes 8 to run on Windows 7 Beta 1

Win7 From the Trenches: Enabling Hyper-V Remote Administration

As I've written in my earlier posts I had some problems locating the Hyper-V administration console under Windows 7 Beta 1. As it turns out it's actually quite easy (found a nice little post on the subject here).

All you have to do is download the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7
and install it, unfourtunatelly this simple puts the bits on your machine (this is what got me) and you have to explicitly enable this particular feature.

Todo this you'll have to open your control panel and click on the “Turn Windows Features on or off”, then you'll have to locate the "Remote Server Administration Tools" and under there you'll find it under "Role Administration Tools". Great so now your set to go, right?

Nopes if your like me and simply are running in workgroup mode at home the admin tool will not work very well with the hyper-v server unless you do some configuring. Personally I have given up at the moment I did follow the guidance provided by the eminient John Howard in his post: Configure Hyper-V Remote Management in seconds. It simply won't work for me and I'll give it another try once I have some time over to create an proper domain for my machines in my home network.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Win7 From the Trenches: Getting ITunes 8 to run on Windows 7 Beta 1

As I stated in my previous post on my first take on working with Windows 7 I am a IPod user and can not do without my IPod Touch thus I have an urgent need to have ITunes 8 working on my machine. First and for most let me state that if you are using ITunes 8 heavily you should probably consider not converting your primary box to running Windows 7 since the solution I am going to present is not for the faint of heart...

Actually it not a fix to get ITunes running on Win7 rather it is a workaround that involves a virtual machine running on your Win7 box so you'll have to do the following:

1, Install VirtualBox and create a virtual machine select Windows XP as the target OS and create a virtual hard drive that can fit both the OS as well as the size of your ITunes library.

You might be wondering why you have to use VirtualBox? Instead of VirtualPC, well the answer is simple. VirtualPC have no support for USB devices in the guest OS (VMWare does but that ain't free and VirtualBox is).

2, Boot your virtual machine and install Windows XP as your would do using any virtualization tool. Once your done patching install ITunes 8.

3, Time for some configuration of the virtual machine. Make sure you map the network correctly so that you can subscribe to podcasts and purchase new applications and songs. Set up a shared directory on the host machine where you can copy your ITunes library (or do it via usb or the network if you prefer). Finally plugin your IPod so it gets detected by the host and create a usb filter on your virtual machine for your IPod.

4, Boot up the virtual machine containing your ITunes installation and copy over your existing library to your virtual machine from whatever source you choosed in the previous step. Finally you'll need to authorize the virtual machine to get the syncronization to work (otherwise it will delete all your purchased stuff from your IPod) you can always deauthorize it later once ITunes starts working on Win7.

5, Make sure your virtual machine has focus (I usally put it in full screen mode when syncing) and plugin your IPod (most of the times it just works but from time to time it will not work then unplug it and try another usb port and it should work).

So there you have it, quite abit of work to get it to work. I didn't do any screendumps with detailed instructions since I don't know if there is an huge audience for this post but if that is the case leave a comment to let me know and I'll put together a details instruction. Also I will keep trying any new versions of ITunes on Win7 and let you know if I find a version that seems stable enough to use.

Update 2009-02-04: Please read my follow up post about performance as well which you can find here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm in beta heaven or is it hell? First impressions on Windows 7 Beta 1

A couple of weeks ago when Microsoft released the first public beta version of Windows 7, I kind of had a brain meltdown and decided it was fun to go all out with the beta testing and switch over my main development machine to Windows 7 :)

In retrospect I'm not sure it was a good investment timewise since I've been suffering abit with some application compalitbilities (I'll go into more details later) and thus I've been dedicating a considerable ammount of time to work around my problem areas.

First out I gotta say that I really enjoy the new taskbar (it grows on you quickly) and the overall stability and performance are really good for a beta 1, that stated lets have a quick look on my pain points.

First and foremost I'm an avid user of my IPod Touch and could not imagine life without it and alas it works crappy on Windows 7 (altough that was not all that suprisingly since it had it's fair share of problems on Vista as well). I simply can't get ITunes 8 to work properly (altough I have a work around in the works I'll post more on that later) it crashes my machine with an ugly BSOD or it simply hangs so bad that I have to power off to be able to shutdown the computer. Another really problematic issue with this is that most of the time it won't even start it just spawns up a process without any user interface (you'll see the process but you can't touch it). So if you really rely on your ITunes 8 to function properly you should probably consider testing Windows 7 on another machine.

Then it was time to install some virus protection and Norton AntiVirus 2009 didn't work properly I was unable to run any updates if just didn't work. However this seems to be a passing problem since after running windows update and rebooting a couple of this all of the sudden it started to work. But fourtenately there seems to be a quick uptake on the antivirus market to support Windows 7 read more in this post Anti-Virus Solutions for the Windows 7 Beta.

After a couple of weird crashes I started to snoop around the device manager and saw a few driver related problems but I managed to work them out by going to HP's homepage and download the Vista drivers and so far it seems to work properly (not so many crashes anymore). I still experience some problems when playing movies using Windows Media Player, from time to time it simply freezes and I have to reboot or it won't start playback of the movie at all (currently I don't know why and it is not that frequent so I'm not gonna dig to deep into that).

Another issue that bugged me (both very breifly since the problem solver in windows actually told med exactly what to do to solve the problem ... wooot that's not allways the case) but is has to do with running msi installations and you can read more about the problem is this post Delete regkey to fix msi installer bug in Windows 7 beta.

After awhile I started to turn my attention to the sidebar gadgets (Windows 7 has done away with the sidebar that was introduced in Vista, I'm still not totally comfy with that) which now can be place anywhere you like on the desktop. I quickly discovered that nothing happened when I tried to add a gadget, this turned out to be caused by the fact that I've disabled UAC and then you can't have gadgets :( I really hope they work this out in later versions. If you are really diehard about the sidebar you can still enable it just follw the instructions in this blog post Workaround to Run Windows Vista Bar Style Sidebar in Windows 7.

One thing I still haven't solve it the fact that I can't seem to get the Hyper-V Administration Console to work (I just can't find it! And yes I've downloaded and installed the update) when I get the time to work this out I'll post how I managed to do it.

Finally and equally bad as the ITunes problem is the fact that the Azure SDK CTP doesn't function properly on Windows 7 so I end up running my Azure labs in an virtual machine instead. I'm currently considering to try out the MED-V Beta 1 to get the development environment to run seamlessly in the host os but I'm not sure I'm that brave (MED-V is currently not supported on Windows 7). Anyway if you want more details on the Azure SDK issue go to this post Windows Azure SDK Jan 2009 CTP doesn’t work on Windows 7 Beta AzureJournal - Windows Azure Blog.

That's all folks :) I'm gonna keep posting on the topic whenever I bump into problems and solve them.

MED-V 1.0 available as Beta (finally a windows alternative to VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop)

I read about MED-V (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization) a while back and was happy to see this addtion to the microsoft virtualization family.

The main goal with the product is to let you deal with noncompatile applications when upgrading your os, atleast that seems to be the major benefit altough if you read more about it on the official MED-V website it looks like there might be some intressting areas of application in the future.

You can go download the beta and start playing around with it but once it becomes final you will only be available through the "Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack" which you only get if you have purchased a "Windows Client Software Assurance" license.

You might wonder what my intrest in this product is since after all my main line of work is not dealing with the infrastructure (although I need to keep tabs on it)? The thing is that in dealing with architectural issues and process development I tend to work alot with products in beta of alot of virtual machines with different configurations to evaulate new ideas and technologies.

It mainly boils down to one thing that has bugged me alot since I saw such products as VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop on the Mac. I really missed the ability to run applications in a seamless fashion without having to dealing with switching between different virtual machine. It finally looks like I will be able to do this with MED-V, a little word of warning though beta 1 does not support Windows 7 as a host environment yet altough there are rumors that it will become available soon.

For more information read the following posts on the subject:

"Springboard Series - The Resource for Windows Desktop IT Professionals : Beta 1 for Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization 1.0 (MED-V) is now available".

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) Beta is publicly available

Monday, January 5, 2009

I've got an itch..... To code :)

I find myself suffering abit from lack of pet projects to code on and I thought I'd just ask you guys that read my blog if there are any particular needs that needs to be addressed when using TFS 2008?

Please post any ideas as comments in response to this post and maybe we can get something going for 2009 (kind of miss working on TFSBuildLab). So get those creative juices flowing so we can start building some usefull extensions to TFS 2008.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Geekonomics ... What does a bug really cost?

I recently finnished reading Geekonomics: The Real Cost of Insecure Software which is a very well written analysis of the problems caused by insecure software (or poorly written software if you like). This is a book that should be read by preferably everyone invovled in the development process, but at the very least all you architects out there should consider it a must read.

It paints a pretty grim picture, but is in now way exaggerated. Technology is digging itself deeper and deeper into the very fabric of our socities which brings us great advantages but also presents some very dangerous scenarios. This is a subject that has been nagging in the back of my head for about a decade or so (about the time when my first son was born), mostly when you talk on a topic like this people tend to think you are exaggerating. However as the book clearly shows there are numerous of well documented cases where the shit really hit the fan.

One such case is the hacker attack on Estonia in 2007 that more or less shutdown the goverment in Estonia just because they decided to take down a russian war monumental. Another incident is in the epilogue of the book which is a little nugget about when when world war 3 almost started due to a a software glitch in the russian radar system.

So whats the deal why do we have all these problems with software? Well there are many factors but one prominent one is the fact that most software vendors are operating in a marketbased economy without any governmental regulations in place. The market is supposed to be selfregulatory, but when competition is driven by constantly creating new features and not necessarily by utility secure software is not allways on top of the list. Writing truely secure software is very hard and comes with a high monetary cost but little or no "bling bling". The whole software industry is operating in a "just ship it" mode or as Guy Kawasaki very eloquently put it:

“Don't worry, be crappy. Revolutionary means you ship and then test...”
The author concludes that the tipping point for when it is impossible to take back control over software is rapidly approaching. We need to put into place govermental regulations for markets that affect our infrastructure as a whole, licensing of software developers needs to be put into place and we need to take away the absolute immunity granted to the software manufactors by adhesion contracts.

He also proposes a intressting idea about vunerability taxes that would work similar to pollution taxes the more defects you unleash on the market the higher the taxation. This an intressting concept but it has some issues when applied in a competitive market.

Personally I think that we need to put all the above into place but we also need to apply the mentality of "act local, think global" and as software developers we need to take pride in what we do and consider our work more of a craftmanship.