Plip's Weblog

Phil Winstanley - British .NET chap based in Lancashire. Enjoys tea and tech. Working for Microsoft.

June 2007 - Posts

MIX UK 2007

Looks like there's going to be a great lineup for the MIX UK 07 event happening in September in London.

Register on the site now to be the first to hear about the event when more details are announced.



New 7 Wonders of the World - we need you

English heritage is urging people to vote for Stone Henge as one of the 7 wonders of the world.

Sign up and vote for your top 7, just make sure Henge is in there :-)

What developers really want

It's that time of year, the time of year when developers everywhere decide they're being hard done by and that it's time for them to change jobs.

There are lot's of reasons why a developer might feel like it's time for a change, they're all quite important when combined however individually they're easy to live with (perhaps not comfortable but easy).

A cuddle is all that most developers need. Rather a pat on the back and to feel needed and loved. This might sound such a simple thing, but something as mundane as a boss saying "Good Job" can completely change the way a developer feels about his or herself.

I strongly believe that if more developers "felt the love" the amount of churn within the industry would be much lower, the standard "two year term" that the majority of developers go through after which they jump to a new job (and usually company) could be easily avoided just by treating developers properly.

We're a fickle bunch really, the occasional "go home early!" or buying the team a round of drinks at lunch time goes down wonders. These small things really do wonders for morale. Be warned though, just doing this when you want something from your developers will be spotted, we might not be the most socially active of people, but we can spot a bullshitter (afterall, it takes one to know one).

So why is it that most managers and bosses don't get this? Well they just aren't used to it, it's rare to work with a bunch of people who are usually intellectually superior to yourself, there are few professions where this is the case. A lot of developers resent the fact their managers tend not to be super smart (where they're not!), this different breed of underling needs a different type of management, they need a little TLC every now and again.

The discontent many developers feels can manifest it's self in different ways, these are all masks, hiding the real issue as above where all a developer really needs is a cuddle (like our kitties to the left).

The first way is "we don't have enough processes", where that isn't one of the reasons, there's usually "we have too many processes", ironic, but you'll find both in many of the places where people are unhappy.

Another way of discontent surfacing is in "my manager is a plonker", generally being overridden by someone you don't believe in causes so much anger and hatred amongst developers which bubbles up into their mind and becomes a reason they might want to change jobs.

Yet another is the issue of not enough cold hard cash. "SHOW ME THE MONEY" is a phrase I've heard many a developer utter, in reality it's rarely money that's an issue, the difference between a job whereby  you earn £33,000 or £35,000 is a whopping £166.67 a month (before tax), so whilst a £2000 pay rise might look like it's got lot's of 0's on it, in reality, it's hardly a life changing sum.

"I'm not being paid what I'm worth!", perhaps, what are you worth though? If you're earning enough to eat and pay your bills, is that enough? When is enough enough? Something you'll find as a developer over time is that resigning means a pay rise, even if you stay. Most companies are afraid of technology and the thought of losing your eyes into the world of 1's and 0's is terrifying for many managers, because of this, when a developer resigns there is almost always a counter offer made by their existing employer, this is corporate bribery which is something I wrote about back in December.

Cash is King, or atleast that's what your mind might be telling you, but take into account these other considerations.

Travel Time: If you spend an hour a day traveling to work and an hour traveling home, that works out to be roughly 500 hours a year or 62 and a half extra working days a year (Spent sitting in your car!). If you can find a job which is 15 mins away from home, just think how much extra time you'll get for your social life (soe of you will have one, or a friend with one!).

Doing something you enjoy is worth it's weight in gold. Like doing ASP.NET work and you have an ASP.NET job, not just a .NET job? Good on you. Programming isn't about making money, it's about having fun. Find a job you enjoy.

Anyway, a good friend of mine has just gone through this and I wanted to write a little about it.

VS.NET Orcas Specifications

Take a peek at the specifications here.

Windows Vista - Elizabethan Edition

It seems my copy of Vista is having ... issues ... with Datetime's on some files.

I've spotted a few times now that some files seem to have very odd timestamps on them when coming back in Searches.

Robert Deveraux had not tried to overthrow the Queen (for which he was beheaded - so don't go getting any ideas) when the Free Patterns and Practices Guide for ASP.NET Applications was around.

Here's one I just spotted: -


Safari for Windows - Beta download from today

Link isn't there yet, but it will be at some point: -

Apple are releaseing safari for Windows

Just spotted that Safari is coming to windows ...


"The fastest browser on windows" (I note they don't include opera in there).




11:12 am
new tab feature in all versions... drag them around
Can drag tabs off into their own windows

11:12 am
"I'm going to have to change computers here" (Windows comes up) "this is odd"

11:11 am
Google/Yahoo seach built in

11:11 am
what we've got here is the most innovative browser in the world, but also the fastest browser on windows

11:11 am
javascript: ie 2.4 sec, ff 1.6, saf 0.9

11:10 am
"how good are we at bringing apps to windows?"
benchmarking ibench html performance ie 4.6 sec, ff 3.7, safari 2.2

11:10 am
bringing all of th safari innovations over

11:10 am
safari 3 on runs on xp/vista

11:09 am
We have expertise with iTunes

11:09 am

11:09 am
18 Million Safari users
Marketshare has climbed to 4.9%
IE has 78%, Firefox 15%, others 2%
We Dream Big

11:08 am

RSS - the joys and the pains!

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) has become pervasive over the past couple of years, like chickenpox in Kindergarten the RSS logo is appearing on site after site, page after page, blog after blog. A pandemic of RSS has swept the Internet and it shows no signs of slowing down. We're already on at least the second RSS standard "logo" and the speed at which this has happened is astounding.

Whilst RSS has grown in availability many different applications have spouted up to help you aggregate and manage your feeds including some from the big players like Google and Yahoo (oh and Microsoft).

The sheer volume of RSS out there is just astonishing everything from flickr to the most insignificant of sites have RSS feeds to keep you up to date with what's going on.

I remember many moons ago, back before .NET even, James Shaw created and published a site which made it easy to "share" content through this new fangled RSS (really simple syndication) technology, there were so few RSS sites at that time that James' site even kept a listing of the RSS Enabled sites, could you imagine doing that now? It's amazing the speed at which RSS has spread through the Internet.

I believe that RSS is still the preserve of the Geek, at a conference earlier this year I was presenting to an audience primarily made up of CEO's and Directors of companies in and around the North West of England, during my session I talked about how the Internet has changed from a place where people reproduce their brochures in electronic format to something much more interactive and user centric; during the session I talked about RSS and I was astonished that the vast majority of people had never heard of it, let alone used it. Surely though, it's only a matter of time before the public become aware of RSS and start using it in every day life. Modern browsers support and help people manage RSS without any additional software, so it's on it's way if it's not here already.

RSS is supposed to define a structured way in which we can share data, but unfortunately, there are many RSS feeds out there which to put it quite frankly are utter tripe. When I refer to the feeds, I don't mean their content, but rather their makeup, at a technical level, many feeds just don't conform to the specification and schema which defines RSS. This is where life becomes much more difficult for us, the consumers of RSS.

So what do you do, you have all these feeds and you want to consume them, but some of them are a little duff, well there's a service which Dave Verwer has launched called afeeda which helps solve that problem, it is a feed aggregator ("oh no, not another" I hear you scream!) but with a difference, it is specially designed so that it can work around the deficiencies in RSS (or rather, individuals implementations of RSS) and present you with a clean conformant feed.

afeeda is so much more than just an aggregator though, it's capable of being your central hub for RSS, it allows me to create feeds myself, so here's a "Personal" or as I think of it "Persona" feed all about Phil Winstanley (that's me if you didn't know!). That feed combines my Blog, Flickr and even my links into one feed, which means if my friends want to know what I'm up to they can just subscribe to one feed - that is a really nice feature.

In addition to the Persona feeds you can create any kind of feed you want, Dave created a feed for me which aggregates together all the blog posts from the Microsoft UK Developer Evangelists' into one easy to digest feed, I've been subscribed to that feed via Outlook 2007 for many months and it's been very useful to have all 10 or so blogs coming through in one feed, it makes my reading of posts easier in addition to meaning I never miss anything.

One really special feature of afeeda is it's support for event specific feeds, and this is where afeeda comes into it's own. One feed which has been added in the last couple of days is one for Big Brother 8 here in the UK where you can see a whole range of different sources coming through with all the Big Brother information you'd need (if you're a bit sad and like that kind of thing).

Another area the event specific feeds are cool is around conferences, because the aggregator is capable of searching out content and using tags to define and filter out specific entries. Last week I was at Reboot9 a hip and trendy conference for non Microsoft types (I was the token Microsoft user I fear). What was really cool was being subscribed to the Reboot9 feed via afeeda which was bringing images, blog posts, and a whole manner of other content directly to me, before, during and after the conference, it was like having my own network of spies around the entire conference gathering information for me and compiling it into an easily digestible format.

The feeds are not just static either, you can suggest new feeds to be added to any feed and become a contributor yourself, think that there's a good Big Brother blog which isn't on the main afeeda Big Brother feed, then join the feed and add your own contributions.

I would highly recommend you give afeeda a shot and run it in parallel to your existing aggregator (if you have one), I believe you'll be pleased with the outcome.

It's worth saying, I know Dave Verwer very well, we're good friends, so this endorsement isn't entirely unbiased however, I stand by every word in this post.

Posted: Jun 07 2007, 11:31 PM by Plip | with 2 comment(s)
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Running your own business is like....

Spinning plates.



Not that I've ever actually spinned a plate but you get what I mean.

Microsoft .NET 3.x new namespaces

It's been rumoured that there will be a new namespace included in the next release of .NET to be announced at TechEd this week.

The new namespace contains classes and methods which help with the transactional issues we run into on a day to day basis within our applications.

For example, it's a common issue whereby the code has parially completed before an exception is thrown, another scenario is whereby your user has made a mistake with their actions and they wish to return to a point in time through their process.

Whilst Windows Workflow and System.Transactions brought some of the above into .NET they've not really been brought together as they will be in .NET 3.x (or whatever version number the next version is).

Anyway, the System.Tardis namespace will have a whole range of cool features to allow you to move forwards and backwards in time (and space) to help your users achieve the tasks they wish to complete.

Watch out for it's announcement and the System.Tardis SDK (Space dimension kit) being released at TechEd this week.



Posted: Jun 04 2007, 04:39 PM by Plip | with 7 comment(s)
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