Monthly Archives: October 2004

Jonathan Wells @ Melbourne .NET User Group

I was lucky enough to attend the joint Melbourne .NET User Group/AusDEV.NET meeting last night where Jonathan Wells presented on smart client technology with a focus on the Compact Framework. Jonathan is a (the?) Product Manager for Smart Client technology.

It was a great turn out with over 65 people attending – I’m so happy to see the group that I co-founded with my partner in crime flourishing. John and I can no longer attend the meetings since I now live in Canberra and John has moved back to Canada.

Shrinklet now hosted on SourceForge

Have you been wondering why I haven’t posted up anything about Shrinklet recently? Of course you were, you were just sitting there on the edge of your seat waiting for more Shrinklet goodness weren’t you.

The reason is that I have been waiting to get Shrinklet approved as a SourceForge project. My initial application was rejected because I didn’t provide enough detail and I didn’t notice the rejection notice so it sat there waiting for clarification.

I am now happy to report that the project page is up and running SourceForge right now and I spent an hour or so migrating the CVS repository over including the historical file versions (minus correct date information).

Feel free to go and check it out. Over the next few days I’ll set up the bug tracking and feature request systems the way I want. I will continue update my source code releases on Darren Neimke’s Project Distributor – actually – I hope over time I’ll be able to move everything over there once they start getting SourceForge like features.

Over the coming weeks I hope to start commiting sources for a 2.0 or 1.1 release (not sure depending on the features that get included), at which point I’ll need to branch the repository to do bug fixes on 1.0 versions.

I love DELL, pure and simple.

Bill Evjen is telling us how to build your own computer. Thanks Bill, I’m sure a lot of software junkies are going to get a lot out of that, although my background is a little bit different.

You could say that I got paid in the early days to work on the systems side of computing so I have a realitively good idea about the workings of the modern mid-range computer system, atleast at the component integration level. In the past I’ve purchased custom systems with a very high success rate so when my wife’s computer recently died I went to one of my favorite online computer stores to spec out the various components I needed.

The components were cheap to be sure! And I felt that I could have ended up with a fairly impressive machine but it would have been a lot of work pulling it all together and to be honest I just don’t have that sort of time, and I don’t like the exposure to risk.

So I sat on my hands for a little while and let my wife struggle away reading e-mail using my iPAQ with Wireless and using my laptop when she needed to do something more serious (like the banking).

Anyway, a few weeks ago I got the idea of going and buying a DELL desktop for her to use with a few upgrades so that I could occasionally use it for running a virtual machine.

Why DELL? Well I’ve actually been a DELL customer for about six years, using both Inspiron laptops and PowerEdge servers and I have to say that they have been the most reliable machines I have ever owned.

My first Inspiron (I think it was a 7500 series) was a real work horse for me – technically it did have one glitch – the power supply cable had a tendency to wear at the transformer end, but it was always replaced (free – next business day) before it became a critical issue. I changed jobs and was provided with a Sony VAIO and all I can say is that it was hell. The VAIO was one of the “wierd models” from Sony and consequently the driver support was shocking and the performance was just terrible.

After six months my request for a replacement was granted and I got my current DELL (8500 series) and the world was good again. After being treated so well by DELL hardware in the past I decided it was time for me to part with some of my hard earned cash and become the actual owner of a DELL system.

We ended up getting a DELL Dimension 3000 series with some extra RAM and hard disk plus a new All-in-One photo printer with a three and a half year next business day parts and labour warranty.

At this point I would really like to specifically thank Ghassan Abu Zalaf from DELL who coordinated the order for me. His customer service was excellent – its the first purchasing experience that I have had that made me feel like I wasn’t pulling teeth to get things done – he (and DELL in general) seemed to actively want to get things moving along.

Well done DELL. Now for some constructive criticism, the web site is a little confusing to use. Placing an order is OK (although the session timeout is WAY too low) but downloading drivers is a little painful. A while back HP used to have a big picture of a disk on their homepage with the word Drivers underneath it – this would be good. Also the order status page didn’t seem to update for me so the order always looked like it was in pre-processing, although the estimated delivery date turned out to be pretty accurate (it was delivered two days early – nice!).

Overall it was a fantastic experience, and those issues wouldn’t stop me buying again but they are things that could be improved.

Methodology Discussion (cont’d)

A few days ago I posted up a brief of a discussion that I had over lunch with Joseph Cooney. Darren Neimke pulled me up on one particular comment in that post which my jaded view of methodology discussions. He wanted to know which particular aspects of the discussion I was jaded about. So rather than just reply in the comments I thought I would make a follow up post.

First, let may lay out a scenario, you are sitting in a meeting room with about five people. There customer representatives, project managers, technical leads and maybe even some developers. There are two project managers in this meeting, one manages an overall umbrella project which feeds us some dependencies and the smaller project feeds some back.

The topic of discussion is time and responsibilities. All participants in the meeting have some exposure to the project management disciplines associated with software engineering but it could be argued that none of them are real experts. In theory all participants are familiar a common project management methodology but in reality they are only familiar with some of the nomenclature and even that has been blended with their past experiences.

Unfortunately, because so much of the terminology in the various methodologies overlap the participants believe that they are having a useful exchange and go away feeling like they got what they wanted out of the discussion.

I call this a “methodology protocol error” because instead of exchanging useful information you are trying to get two incompatible abstractions for software engineering management to talk. Its kinda like doing XML-RPC and SOAP interop without an explicit translation step.

Now to answer Darren’s question (which particular part do I get jaded with), I guess the answer is everything. I feel my time is valuable, and in fact I am sure that when my clients see the invoice they will feel the same way – so discussions that abstract away detail when it comes to setting delivery milestones, priorities and roles and responsibilities add little value to what I am trying to achieve – a successful project outcome. I’m jaded because I see this over and over again.

On the road … err … in the airport lounge again.

Well its a Saturday morning and I am sitting in the airport lounge with a prime opportunity to catch up with some blog writing and blog reading.

I don’t normally fly on Saturday’s but work has arrange a professional development weekend for the whole company in Queensland. I’m flying Virgin Blue today which is also rare for me – it also has the side effect that I will need to delay posting this message until I can find a wi-fi cafe in Brisbane (or perhaps the hotel has it).

Unfortunately even if I was flying Qantas I wouldn’t be able to connect, to understand why, lets look at the contents of my laptop bag.

  • 1 x Dell Inspiron 8500
  • 1 x Microsoft Trackball Explorer
  • 1 x Antistine-Privine Eye Drops
  • 1 x Creative MuVo MP3 Player
  • 1 x i-Mate SmartPhone 2 Cradle
  • 1 x Copy of Agile Software Development with Scrum
  • 1 x Print out of itenerary
  • 1 x Polarmine Antihistamine Tablets (hayfever sucks)
  • 1 x Filofax

Spot anything missing? Come on – there is a hint in there somewhere. Thats right I forgot my (*^&(*%*^& phone! Thats why I am no longer sitting in the airport lounge but am instead back in the taxi making a return trip home to get it. Normally I wouldn’t bother but because I have back to back travel plans it could mean I am disconnected for up to ten days – this is unacceptable – especially since I will have a number of last minute logistical issues to resolve today and during the rest of the coming week.

Normally I would just call my lovely wife and beg here to make another trip to the airport with “my precious” but I she dropped me off at work yesterday on the way to Melbourne.

Fortunately my flight seems to have been delays so I have a very comfortable margin to work within. Actually, the real reason for the comfortable margin is that I only live fifteen minutes from the airport (thats right, on the other side of Canberra :P).

I know the reason for my lack of mobile phone. I used it as an alarm clock this morning so when it went off I just reached over and turned it off before getting up to have a shower. This meant that it wasn’t in the usual position when it came to getting dressed (which is when I normally slide it into my pocket).

Nearly home.