Monthly Archives: February 2008

Agile from a Developers Perspective

I recently discovered an agile presentation by Richard Banks, (of Sydney Australia) on “Agile from a Developers Perspective”, which I thought was worth a look. The presentation itself deals with the following questions:

  • How do you do estimating with an unknown target?
  • Can a team be agile in a company with a “traditional” environment?
  • How do you do up front estimating – especially related to fixed cost?
  • Which agile methodology should we use?
  • How much documentation is needed before we start & how much should we create as we go?
  • How do you pick a good agile team member – what qualities of a person do we look for?
  • How do we handle scope changes in terms of the overall project?

VS2008 Web Deployment Projects RTW

Microsoft announced the release of the final RTW (release to web) version of the Web Deployment Projects add-in for Visual Studio 2008, available at the Microsoft Download Center. Web Deployment Projects are used not only to package pre-compiled ASP.NET Web Sites, ASP.NET Web Application Project can be packages as well. Unlike the built-in Visual Studio Web Setup Project, Web Deployment Projects are compiled with MSBuild. Besides marrying the capabilities of MSBuild this eliminates the need to call devenv.exe from an automated build process. ScottGu’s original tutorial offers a popular getting started guide. It provides both a step-by-step example, as well as the origin and the feature of the add-in.

This release includes an upgrade wizard to migrate from the 2005 version. It also adds the ability to create IIS Applications. It is mostly a maintenance release keep up with the new releases of Visual Studio 2008 and IIS7.

The anouncement did have one interesting twist: The core of the add-in is a console application, aspnet_merge.exe, which is useful in build scripting. Due to community feedback the console app has been released independently of the VS add-in. It is now included in the Microsoft Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) for Windows Server® 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5.

Life at Microsoft

Stumbled upon this recently, thought it was pretty funny. Check it out:

Where are the new MacBook Pros?

I’m in the market for a new laptop, and have been following Macs closely since they began sporting Intel processors.  My Toshiba Tecra/tablet is in need of an upgrade, while it still works nicely for casual use, I tend to push the envelope a bit, mult-tasking and running several development IDEs.  I puchased the laptop back in late 2005, pre-Vista; even with a faster hard-drive and more Ram, she still falls a bit short for my needs.  I’d really love to see a quad-core cpu in the new MacBook Pros, like the announcement recently made for the Mac Pro (G5’s) with dual, quad cores!

From what I gather, the MacBook Pro is ripe for makeover, latest rumors predict an LED screen in the 17″ models, multi-touch (as found in the new macBook air) and penryn processors.  Last release of the macBook pro dates back to June of 2007.

I fully expect to begin using the new Mac OS (v10.5 Leopard) for typical desktop tasks, but am still tied to Vista due to Visual Studio.  I also plan to install Ubantu, for a triple boot power-house.  If only Apple would annouce the availability of the new macBook Pros!!

Vista SP1 Released to Manufacturing

Microsoft has released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to manufacturing. This final release of Windows Vista SP1 addresses reliability and performance issues, and provides support for new hardware and several emerging standards. MSDN and TechNet subscribers can now access Windows Vista SP1 via the Top Subscriber Downloads section on the subscriptions home page. Windows Vista SP1 will be available to the public in mid-March via Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center.

TFS Automated Builds

I was finally able to dedicate some time to investigating automated builds using TFS.  Over the past several weeks, our development team has been working to more formally embrace Agile, as a software development practice.  A couple key components we’re trying to leverage are available within VS 2008, team suite & Team Foundation Server (TFS), including automated builds, automated deployment and database source-code control, using VS DB pro (more on that soon.)

Today, i plowed thru documentation; we recently upgraded from TFS 2005 to 2008 and understand several things have been improved with regard to build to 2008.  While we began using TFS back in early 2006, we had yet to utilize the automated build capabilities.  After speaking with a few people, I was happy to see the improvements made in 2008, most notably native support for automated/nightly builds, and continous integration (CI) – both are now standard in 2008.  Previously, automated builds had to be setup to use a scheduled job, and batch file.  CI took even more work. 

After understanding the framework, I began to dive in, setting up our build server, and configuring the agent.  From there, the VS gui makes it very easy to configure.  Within an hour or so, I was able to setup a scheduled build, whereas the build server pulls the latest codebase, compiles and labels it, and publishes the binaries to a designated drop site.  pretty cool.

Originally, what we were hoping to accomplish with automated builds, was simplifying the process of moving the latest code base from source-control -> to our dedicated development environment, saving the team valuable ‘publishing’ time and giving QA an updated code base to review each morning.  While this is somewhat possible with automated builds, i discovered, atleast initially, the binaries published to the drop site contain unqiue folder values, identifying each build/version #.  This makes it somewhat difficult to publish to a dedicated environment, whereas IIS/virtual directories use a static location for content.  I am still investigating options, to see if this is possible.

While doing some digging, I recently came across Scott Guthries post on a VS 2008 web deployment project, rtw (released to web.)  From the sounds of it, it provides more granular deployment options, including pre/post compilation as well as managing connection strings between environments, whereas your DEV/Staging/Production environments need to point to different datasources.  If you’re also working to incorporate an automated build/deployment model, you might want to also check out the Web Deployment Tool, by the IIS team.  Needless to say, automated deployemnt is now next on my  “to do” list. 

I’m hopeful within a few days, I’ll be able to incorporate a basic, automated nightly-build process.  A little later down the road, we’ll look to leverage CI and setting more granular build qualities.  Baby steps for now..

A bumpy ride for the iPhone

Its been over six months since Steve Jobs unleashed the flashy iPhone to the world, and the sleek, do everything gadget has met his ambitious initial sales targets (and then some) with over 1.5 million sold.  And despite all the prelaunch hype and fear mongering, you dont hear many gripes that the novel, finger-driven user interface doesnt work, or that videos look crummy or the battery sucks.  if anything most of the iPhones features have exceeded technological expectations.

Still, the iPhone frenzy seems to evaporate even more quickly than it built up, with little gotchas seemingly popping up at every turn, the biggest probably being AT&T.  The official details haven’t been made public to my knowledge, it is believed Apple is getting kick backs on monthly subscriptions.  Apples customers have been pretty verbal with the quality of the AT&T network, coverage and data speeds – wanting better performance.  Apple recently estimated nearly 20% of the iPhones purchased so far havent activated their AT&T accounts; in other words, if they are in use – they’ve been hacked to work on other networks which has been reported as pretty easy to do.

Being hijacked right out of the gates doesnt instill alot of confidence in the new “platform”.  To combat the problem, I’ve heard Apple now refuses to sell more than two iPhones to each walk-in customer and wont take cash as payment.  Not very consumer friendly.  I’ve also heard they’ve released a software update that turns hijacked phones into “bricks”.  I’ve also read this problem to be a motivating factor as to why Apple has yet to allow outsiders to write applications for the iPhone.  The quick price discounts after launch also rubbed alot of consumers that forked over the $500+ bucks the wrong way, some evening resulting in lawsuits.

Between the quirky keyboard, locked-in vendor dependance, lack of 3G support – some say there are better phones for the money.  I know I certainly recall the first time I bought a phone from a first generation provider (HP) – man what a horrible experience that was, needless to say, I sat this one out.