Monthly Archives: August 2006

Google Apps for Your Domain – read the fine print!

I got sent a link to the Google Apps for Your Domain web-site overnight. It is an interesting service and a pretty strategic play by Google for your business. One thing that people should watch though is the fine print on this one – this attached to the word “free”:

“Organizations accepted by Google during the Google Apps for Your Domain beta period are eligible for free service for their approved beta users even beyond the end of the beta period, as described in the Terms of Service.”

That seems to imply that for each new user you bring online after the BETA period you will need to compensate Google. That’s not a problem, fair compensation for products and services is the cornerstone of commerce but the question is – how will Google derive that compensation?

I am concerned that the revenue will be generated off some form of advertising that might eventually reach your/my customers.The other issue with advertising based licensing is the impression that it is “free” and that impression can lead to poor support options when all that fancy JavaScript goes wrong. What really needs to happen with advertising supported software is that some kind of balance of support units needs to be maintained.

Running Windows Vista Pre-RC1 5536

I took the time to download and install build 5536 of Windows Vista today. Build 5536 is on the RC1 branch but isn’t quite RC1 yet (it should be here soon – I hope). This build is significantly more polished than the BETA 2 build that I had been running up until now.

I installed it on the same Dell Lattitude D820 that had been giving me a few video driver issues (it couldn’t take a screenshot properly). There are a few more gadgets installed by defaults but basically the platform is getting the feel like its just about ready to be shipped.

I doubt that we will see an SDK for this release, but hopefully we will for RC1 when it arrives. Looking good!

My Tech.Ed review scores…

One of the things that technical presenters always dread is reading their review scores and seeing that they got a bad review. I figured that my review scores would make good blog fodder and posting them would allow me to reflect on what I did well, and more importantly what I can improve on next time I present the same material.


First up is my PowerShell session (MGT304). In this session I presented on the next generation command shell from Microsoft which will be shipped to manage Exchange twelve.

I was actually presenting someone elses deck in this one so I wasn’t quite as comfortable as I normally am, and standing up in front of an audience of IT pros is not something that I normally do – and the review scores showed.

Out of the possible score of 9 I scored 6.7 which was the second lowest in the Windows Servier, Management and Operations track. What could I have done better?

Well, I think one of the things that I should have done was scrap the slide deck. Its not that there was anything wrong with it, but based on the comments I don’t think I was presenting it well. If it had been my own deck I would have been a lot more at home.

The second thing that I could have done was anticipate the audience a lot better. Going into the session I thought that I might get a 50/50 mix of developers and IT professionals, it turns out that developers really only represented about 15–25% of the audience and I think I made the mistake of making the session more approachable to that minority group.

Third, I think that I was light on demos. One of the beautiful things about PowerShell the flexibility you get from composing cmdlets to do common (and not-so-common) tasks. I think that I may have failed to demonstrate this aspect and just assumed that the audience “got it”.

Finally, as a developer, one of the things that facinates me about PowerShell is some of the syntax, the problem is that discussion of all this stuff is common in the developer community but not so much in the IT pro community – so I think that I may have been talking a foreign language in some parts.


Ouch! In this session on Concurrent Development with Branching in Team Foundation Server I scored sixth lowest in this session with 6.34. After the session I thought I had done reasonably well, but when I looked at the feedback I noticed a couple of stand out comments:

  1. My presentation skills are not really up to scratch for Tech.Ed (ouch!)
  2. Wanted to see more complete and full bodied demonstrations.
  3. I let the session get taken over by questions (was kind of intentional, but fair call).

I’ve presented at Tech.Ed a couple of times now and have generally had better reviews than this so I was a little bit surprised by the first piece of feedback. Having said that I was presenting more sessions this time, so it is possible that between this and the community project my preparation wasn’t as good as it normally is.

I completely agree about the demonstrations. What I was trying to show was concepts, so if there were some very experienced configuration managers in the audience a lot of this stuff would be second nature and boring to them. I think that the next time I do the session I will definately have a more complex code base and I will actually execute the scenarios that I mentioned rather than just talking about them – my only issue then will be fitting in the alotted time.

In order to get my presentation skills back up to scratch I’m going to take advantage of some training that we sometimes do at Readify to make sure that my preparation and delivery is as it should be. Hopefully I can do better next year if I am invited back.


This was a general TFS session that I presented with Joe Sango. It scored higher than my DEV303 and my MGT304 sessions at 6.61. The comments for this one were kind of all over the place but were mostly negative, I’ll try to summarise here:

  • I’m not a fluid presenter.
  • There was too much coding and filling in of work items on the fly.
  • They didn’t like the simplistic demonstration code and the tag team presentation style (sorry, this was my idea).
  • Too slow and shallow, and too much time on Agile vs. CMMI.

I need to sit down and think on how to present this session some more because we need to try to give an overview of the lifecycle of the project. I’m thinking that rather than trying to weave MSF Agile and CMMI into it Joe and I should have just focused on MSF Agile and done a little bit of role playing as we defined scenarios, tasks and bugs. I think that CMMI is so rarely used that its not even worth discussing.


This was my best session and was on extending Team Foundation Server. I scored 7.64 on this one – there were just five respondants and only two comments, both were positive. Having said that I would have liked to spend about ten minutes bashing out a fully featured sample rather than relying on preprepared code – but it seemed to work.

Maybe the second incredient was that I had Grant Holliday and Chris Burrows come up on stage and show people TFS Bug Snapper and TFS Integrator?

Next Steps

Well, this blog post is the first next step. I’ve acknowledged that I could do better, and even suggested some strategies for how, I’m going to go back over my session materials and see if I can structure a better one, and if I can I’m going to do a Camtasia of the session and publish it out there on the web.

An idea for the Dell/Apple Notebook Battery Recall

I had an idea when I was in Sydney last week about how Dell and Apple could win back some brownie points with their customers, especially those that are dealing with security at airports. Rather than it being a negative experience they could have a Dell or Apple representative waiting offering to replace affected batteries right there and then.

The representative could then issue the traveller with a card that indicates that their battery is OK.

Dell Batteries: In the Sydney Morning Herald!

On Wednesday last week I got interviewed by Louisa Hern from the Sydney Morning Herald. She had found out about my blog post about being stopped at the security gate because I was carrying a Dell laptop and wrote an article about that and other similar incidents around the country.

That same day Louisa got published on the SMH web-site with some of the details that I gave through the interview.

Since then its been discovered that the problem with Dell battries also affects Apple who both use Sony batteries. Interestingly when I got onto the plane yesterday evening I wasn’t asked about the Dell laptop that I had in the X-ray tray – after this, am I to assume that now that Qantas didn’t want to piss off comuters using Apple computers (maybe Apple is the hardware platform of choice for Windows?), either that or the dangerous situation has suddenly abated (insert extreme sarcasm here).

Airport time with Geoff . . .

I was stuck in Sydney Airport on Saturday evening like Geoff. I was so tired I kept on nodding off so it was lucky that Geoff was there otherwise I think I would have snored through the call for passengers to come forward for the flight.

For some reason the peer-to-peer wireless link that we had going between our laptops kept dropping out. I’m not sure what the problem was but it must have been pretty frustraiting for Geoff.

The other frustrating thing that happened was that I couldn’t recover a copy of my OPML file that I had uploaded to I don’t quite get it, surely one of the killer features of a site like that is the ability to grab an OPML file containing a copy of all the RSS feeds that are visible on a page?

Rather than try to reconstruct my feed from the page, Geoff gave me a copy of his OPML file and I loaded it up into Bloglines which I am going to give a shot at using based on several peoples recommendations.

A week and a half with a Tablet PC!

Last week at Tech.Ed I exclusively used my Tablet PC both in and out of my sessions. In one case, my branching session I even used the pen on the tablet on a PowerPoint deck be more responsive to the questions coming from the audience. They would spell out their scenario and I would draw it up on the screen so that we could discuss the pros and cons of that approach.

I’ve probably been running slate vs. laptop mode in a ratio of 75% to 25% respectively. The tablet also came in really useful during the week as I was explaining how our TFS Integrator works.

So far it has been a really positive experience, and I just can’t believe how good the battery life is – and even when I do need to charge up the power cable is so long it can stretch half way across the room.

I think that my Tablet PC use is starting to get to Darren Neimke who might be the next convert – resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

One great thing that happened on Tuesday morning was the opportunity to catch up with Hugo Ortega at a bloggers brunch hosted by Frank Arrigo.

He brought along an EO UMPC which were fun to play around with – later on the week I actually noted that Nick Randolph was wondering around with a Samsung UMPC and I had another go at trying to type with them, I need more practice there. I noticed that the Tegatech site is now sporting the Fujitsu Lifebook P1510 – is this actually a UMPC, or is it a very small Tablet?

Dr. Neil was also at the bloggers brunch and he gave me a few tips for the care and feeding of my tablet which I appreciated a lot, especially after seeing some of the screens on the M200’s around Tech.Ed I’m glad he did.

Getting to know WatiN, a web appliation testing framework.

Bruce McLeod worked with Chris Burrows at Tech.Ed in the Dev’Garten to get the WatiN web application testing framework up and running with Team Build in order to support the Smith Family community project. I didn’t have time during the week but I was interested in the framework.

WatiN is different from the Web Test projects found in VSTS because its pretty much a code only approach to writing web-tests, but if you look at the documentation the API is quite friendly.

As Bruce shows, you can embed WatiN code inside a standard VSTS unit test which is fortunate because that means that you can use it inside Load Test types.

Tech.Ed 2006 Community Project: Lessons Learned

Running the community project from the Dev’Garten was a fascinating experience both in terms of seeing how tools like Team Foundation Server can be adopted in a relatively short space of time by a team of developers that have never seen it and how things need to be structured to increase chances of success.

I’ve learnt a lot of lessons, but before I get into that I wanted take this opportunity to thank the team leaders and developers that helped focus the efforts of the other team members that worked on the project in the Dev’Garten. So – thank-you (in no particular order):

Without these guys involved in the project we wouldn’t have had a failure to launch. Because of these guys we managed to get hundreds of work items completed and thousands of lines of code written. We even managed to get some testing done.

Frank Arrigo has a copy of the graphs and stats on his locknote slide deck so I will see it I can get a copy and post the relevant bits here.

Lessons Learned

The best thing about doing something at an annual event like Tech.Ed is that you might get the chance to do it again using the lessons learnt the first time. The Smith Family community project was no exception. Here are a couple of things that I learned:

  • User account provisioning took too long; this one was a time killer. Some of our team members like Grant, Tatham, and Andrew Spent a long time creating accounts and giving them the level of access required in TFS. Next year I would either like to have everyones accounts pre-created, or perhaps even better is having some kind of scanning device which scans their event pass and creates the account in Active Directory and automatically gives them contributor access to the Team Project.
  • We needed VPN access on day one; we had a few troubles getting external access to the Dev’Garten going. In the end we decided not to use ISA and instead just set up RRAS. This allowed developers in the Dev’Garten to get access to the Internet to look up documentation, and the team leaders to get access from wherever they happened to be located. Next year I’d like to get this going earlier so we could get more people coming in from networks like CommNet.
  • We needed a scenario for each of the owners; one of the issues we had was people having visibility of how close we were to being done. This was my fault, I thought that I could own the scenarios and keep track of it, but I should have assigned one or two scenarios to each of the team leaders, that way they can help focus others efforts in those areas.
  • Scheduling; its really hard for team leaders. They tend to be the ones who have sessions to present at the conference so we need to be consider the impact that has on delivering the project – I think that most people managed quite well, except for perhaps me, and I was lucky because Grant Holliday and Chris Burrows basically took change of getting the build up and running with TFS Integrator.
  • Stats stats stats; Andrew Coates managed to swing a large LCD display for us on day two of the event. This was useful as it allowed the team leaders to take a quick look at how we were moving the line. Next year I’d like to get this setup on day one, and configure the warehouse updates to happen much more regularly.

There were also a few things that I thought were done exceptionally well. Those included getting the skeleton of the project fleshed out quickly including the data-model and data access layer. This made it possible for people to get data out of the system quick and we had very few questions about the database – it was just “there”.

I am completely psyched about next year, and while we still have a bit of polishing work to do on the UPlift project I think that this is a great idea for future Tech.Ed’s.