Showing posts from February, 2011

A tale of two conferences…

This month I attended two conference in Vancouver, B.C. One I left looking forward to the next one,  the other I am unsure if I will attend again. I give a table of the characteristics of the two conferences Attribute Product Camp SQL Saturday Attendance Limited to 140 (with waiting list) 280+ (no limit) Breaks Rooms with round tables and sofas In hallways, no seating Lunch Seating Sitting around round tables Sitting on one side of tables facing stage Lunch food Buffet ($10) Individual plates brought by staff ($15) Lunch time activity Talking with each other, making new friends Listening to sponsor presentations (captive audience) Speakers Local folks Imported from everywhere

Possible future of Taxes and Teleworking

Last night and this morning there was an ongoing discussion about taxes and teleworking on one of my groups– especially for small firms (LLC often). All of the folks are based in WA-state and thus subject to B&O and sales tax. The discussion also caused me to look at the future of taxation – why, governments are slow to adapt to technological change.   First item was simple: in WA state an individual or business that buys stuff on the internet is suppose to self-report and pay tax to Olympia.  It is unlikely that individuals will be audited on this (cost benefit is negative unless they can get massive cooperation from credit card companies); businesses are a different issue – if you are registered in Olympia and file B&O, then they know the size of revenue target that you present. My own solution is to buy items from Amazon if it is for business use because they charge me tax (thus saving the cost of tracking and self-reporting).   Second item is B&O, there was an o

Book Review: Pro Web Gadgets Across iPhone, Android, Windows, Mac, iGoogle and More – Part 4

Finally I am at the last part, and the one that most interested me – Mobile Platforms. The idea of learning multiple smart-phone languages does not appeal to me, and if you are involved with a startup – could add a major outsourcing expense. I look at a well established site like the and see that they have an iPhone application and have a pending Android application announced. With their deep pockets, it is clear that time to market for each mobile application can be problematic. Windows Mobile First item is that it deals with 6.1 and 6.5 only – the classic problem with books on the cutting edge of technology.  Good solid advice about a gotcha that some developers may not think about because they will not think beyond their own phone… “For gadget developers, the two editions of interest are Windows Mobile Standard and Professional. The important distinction is that Professional is meant for touchscreen devices, while Standard is not.” We also discovered wh

Book Review: Pro Web Gadgets Across iPhone, Android, Windows, Mac, iGoogle and More – Part 3

Today I will cover Part 3 of this excellent (so far) book, Desktop Platforms. The first chapter talks about Windows Vista, Windows 7.  Alas the author failed to cite that it can also be used for Windows Server 2008 if you do a ‘ little adjustment ’  see this how to . The rest of the chapter is nicely done – covering debugging, publication on Microsoft’s Gallery as well as how to add it directly to your own website (often a better way of promoting an web gadget to your readership). The non-web extensions (i.e. showing CPU usages, critical event log entries, etc) is described but since this is off-topic, he provides the appropriate link and did not get distracted.   The second chapter dealt with Windows nemesis – Mac OS X. He points out key features that could frustrate Windows types, like case-sensitivity of files. For testing the appearance, he points out Mac widgets are always rendered with the Safari browser. Issues like widget bundle is required to include a background image nam

If you move to the cloud and THIS happens….

I caught a breaking story on CBC National this evening and it pretty much resolved a question that I was struggling with. The story was that two Canadian Federal Government Department had been severely breached. Treasury and Finance. It happened a month ago and they are still in recovery mode (a.k.a. finding all of the virtual moles hiding in all of their systems). What they did was the right way of handling an virtual mole a.k.a. ghost in the machine – they disconnected both departments entirely from the internet. The moles could not report back to their masters – even if they had internal relay points. If an employee needed to check something on the internet (or even send email outside of the isolated departments) they had to head home or to a coffee shop. The hack managed to send emails out to have people change passwords via a bogus site from senior officials because there was a security breach of passwords! Talk about self-fulfilling email messages! Foreign hackers attack C

Book Review: Pro Web Gadgets Across iPhone, Android, Windows, Mac, iGoogle and More – Part 2

Finally got some time to get back to this review… Chapter 3: Developing for Multiple Platforms The opening paragraph perked my interest: “if your gadget uses a feature from a specific API, how can you avoid being locked into that API?”  This is actually a problem across the industry with most developers struggling to get a feature working and paying no attention to lock-in issues. In general, I see a lot of developers focused solely on getting some functionality working with neither lock-in, performance or robustness ever being considered.   The treatment of issues from HTTPProxy to caching was among the best balanced that I have ever read. A path is given, alternatives paths are cited and instead of defending his choice, he gives the pros and cons and then why he opted to use a specific solution (often it’s clarity of presentation). For example: Finally, there are also two web gadget platforms, Netvibes and iGoogle, that will supply the configuration user interface for y

Product Development: Divided we fall?

On the way home from ProductCamp Vancouver, we got discussing the increasing division of product development into smaller and smaller cubicles – each with a hyper specialized individual in it. Back in 1979, I had my first professional employee - then consulting gig. Technically I reported to the head of IT. My customer was a department head managing a 30+ employee group. I meet directly with the department head, his reports and the clerks that would use the application (an interactive system using CICS running on a big IBM 4331 –2 megabytes of memory!!). I did UX mockups and reviewed them. Shadowed the clerks. Refine the requirements. Then I proceed to write the specifications. After that I proceed to design the database and implement (create a relational database using ISAM – not a trivial feat). Then coded up the application in COBOL and tested it (did QA too!). Then it was passed over to user acceptance. Finally, writing up documentation for users as well as design documentation

ProductCamp–Vancouver: Observations

This weekend I attend Product Camp Vancouver . Some talks were interesting (review of information that I already know), some were so-so (or worst), and others were good “reference card” session such as the one on UX (User Experience). One of the impressions that I had was that product development is becoming a tower of Babel with everyone using in-vogue phrases scattered in each language (or pidgin language). A common frustration was poor communications with others in the team (UX Product Manager – Architecture – Development).   One of the most interesting talks (with a small attendance) was a pragmatic talk about how far does Agile Development scales. The concept of agile development is well known, but we are seeing terms like ‘agile architecture’ and ‘agile product management’ being tossed around. Often they seem to be used as excuse for not doing their homework.  An agile product management means that the architect must be agile – agile to the point of being continuously interru

Lamenting the lack of full DDL triggers and SQLCLR in SQL Azure

Recently I have been working with an alpha release of Aditibus™ Policy Server which supports some nice features well beyond the traditional role based access control (RBAC). Some of these features include native support for: Geospatial Constraints – base on physical location of user Historical Constraints – based on user’s past actions or other’s actions Temporal  Constraints – based on time, for example, is someone on duty or not Policy Effectivity – ability to set policy rules to be turned on or off in the future automatically Strict Delegation – giving someone else a set of permissions and by doing so, you no longer have those permissions until you recall the permissions Soft Delegation  --giving someone else a set of permissions and by doing so, you still retain those permissions until you revoke the permissions (or someone removes those permission from you) Obligation – following the UCONabc model Aditibus™ recommended interface for SQL Server is a

Book Review: Pro Web Gadgets Across iPhone, Android, Windows, Mac, iGoogle and More

For my next book review, this title from APRESS caught my attention. The reason is simple, last year I soliciated quotes for a startup that I was involved in and effectively got a typical price of $250K per platform, and $350K for Blackberry for a relatively simple application. For a startup dropping a million on smart phone applications is not the best decision. I have played with some Web Gadgets in the past, and long before that with some Scriptlets (like 10 years ago!), so it looked like an effective way to address the polynomy of Smart Phones and Operating Systems in today’s culture. The first chapter was very informative, and the key items of interest was: – Emerging standards from W3C – latest version is October 2010. This suggests that they may soon be industry grade. Sound advice: “ At this writing, Flash, Silverlight, and other plug-ins have minimal support on mobile browsers, unfortunately. Although this landscape is c

MySql (LAMP) versus SQL Server

I was recently asked for comments on LAMP versus SQL Server. LAMP is a suite of products and SQL Server is a RDBMS, LAMP usually mean MySQL is being used as a RDBMS and thus I will give my thoughts on SQL Server versus MySQL. Often the issue boils down to business factors and not technical issues. License Cost : If the database size is less than 4GB -- same cost -- Zero. SQL Server Express is free. Some existing opinions worth reviewing (i.e. technical nit-picking) There's a MySQL synposis at: Finding and costs of human resources with expertise level 'X' is a business factor. I used InDeed.Com to get an ideal of salary ranges in the DC area to get a large a

Final Comments on “Microsoft SQL Azure: Enterprise Application Development”(2010) by PACKT

This is my final comments on the book below (click to go to publisher site). First, I’m likely a tough reviewer having been a professional technical writer for Microsoft since the mid 1990’s and still doing that occasionally. Second, I’m a pedagogue (ex-teacher for those that are vocabulary challenged) and tend to read stuff at several levels – including suitability for teaching or mentoring. The first question is what type of book is this? This book will be a useful book on my bookshelf because it touches enough area in sufficient depth to serve as a cookbook for first recipes . The problem is that it try to span too many target audiences and as a result does not make it in any area well. Is it a Cookbook? The number of items covered and the crispness of the coverage suggests that it is. The problem is that if I compare it to the classic Cookbooks from O’Reilly, it is both too shallow and too sparse. It’s more a collection of recipes clipped from ‘Women’s Journal’ (or sho

Teaching old SQL dogs new cloud tricks – Part 3

I’m continuing onwards with my review of . So far my biggest grip is that IMHO this is not an “Enterprise” book I would suggest Microsoft SQL Azure: Introduction to Application Development” – with that name, I would give the book good ratings as such (80%ile – better than 4 out of 5 similar books). With the existing time, it disappoints against what I expected.   Chapter 6: SSIS and SSRS Applications Using SQL Azure The author tried to kludge a solution to a problem in this chapter without doing analysis or coming up with a good solution.  A sharded solution for security is clumsy at best, there are better solutions for column level security. The issues of update and remedying  inconsistencies arising from sharding are neither raised nor addressed.  A simpler solution given that the end deliverable was a Microsoft Access database would be to just do pass through tables to the two SQL data bases and do an appropriate join in Microsoft Access. The second part of this chapter de

Teaching old SQL dogs new cloud tricks – Part 2

I’m continuing onwards with my review of . For those that are interested, Microsoft is offering a 30-Day Pass:   USA Developers: Windows AzurePlatform 30-Day Pass We're offering a Windows Azure platform 30-day pass, so you can put Windows Azure and SQL Azure through their paces. Use promo code MSDNT1. No credit card required. With the Windows Azure platform you pay only for what you use, scale up when you need capacity and down when you don't. One Caveat : Microsoft’s “accept this license page” is case sensitive for your first and last name --- I suspect poor quality controls of their contractors… Chapter 3: Working with SQL Azure Databases from Visual Studio 2008 For a book published in 2010 to not use the latest edition of Visual Studio available (2010) is a little disappointing. What is confusing is that on p.106, we suddenly jumped to VS 2010 Express – suggesting that the technical editing needs to be tougher.   The structure diagram on page

Teaching old dogs some new tricks… SQL Server to SQL Azure…

I have been involved with SQL Server since before the first beta versions went out – I was working as a consultant to Microsoft’s Internal Technology Group and we were the bleeding edge folks in those days. I was heavily involved with stressing and performance analysis (given the nick name on my door of “Dr.Science” because of my statistical analysis) and we had the joys of getting up to two different builds a day from the Dev Divisions when we encountered issues.   Today, I have several projects that are likely needed to be cloud-supportable in the near future so it’s time that I get up to speed and hope they don’t re-invent the technology before I need to build commercial systems on it. Two books have come across my desk recently that on first read appear ideal. The first one is on SQL Azure and is not focused on the “Hello World” style of book often seen. A second aspect is that it’s a new-kid-on-the-block publisher, and often they do a better job then the old folks who find a p