# Thursday, April 27, 2006

The other day, my car overheated -- pegged the temperature gauge -- after about 5 minutes of driving. I limped it home and discovered it was out of engine coolant. After I added more I could drive for a few minutes but again it violently overheated and all the coolant was gone. With visions of expensive repairs dancing in my head I took it to my neighbourhood mechanic.

It turned out to be a cheaper repair than I expected, but a more frustrating one. You see, the minivan I was driving has a separate heating system for the back seats. Their own controls, vents, everything. We actually use this perhaps once a year, it's a low-value frill. But here's how it works: they pipe the engine coolant halfway back the car so it can go through a heat exchanger and warm up the air in the back. And of course it makes cars easier to build if all the pipes and wires are underneath the car. Over the years, kicked up stones and gravel weakened this coolant pipe until it finally broke, spewing precious engine coolant all over the road. I could have easily lost the engine or been stranded hundreds of miles from home. And for what? A separate heating system in the back? Who cares?

What could they have done instead? They could have piped the hot air instead of the hot coolant, so a leak would only make the back seat cold instead of ruining the car. (I know, from my former life as a chemical engineer, how much easier and cheaper it is to move liquid than air.) They could have installed a sensor that would detect low coolant levels directly, instead of indirectly when the car overheats. They could have run the piping in some protective shroud. (Ha! This is the company that blames me when the wiper motor breaks because the car gets snow and ice on the windshield! Three times so far on this van.) They could have skipped the whole feature on the grounds it made the car way too vulnerable for the benefit it offered.

I see a moral in this story for software developers. What features are you writing that turn out to be a heating system for the back of the van?


Thursday, April 27, 2006 8:09:49 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    
# Friday, April 21, 2006

I've just updated the mentoring and consulting pages on our website. The mentoring offering is where I get most of my fun, so we've decided to emphasize it a little more. I even found out how to put flare on my blog. Tell your friends :-)


Friday, April 21, 2006 10:52:35 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    
# Thursday, April 20, 2006

I just spent a TON of time fighting an XSLT stylesheet. This is a long established system that needed a tiny change -- the customer wanted the little R-in-a-circle symbol after one of their trademarks. No problem, right? Go on into the XSLT and put ® in the appropriate place. Not an entity known to XSLT. Right, I remember that. But heh heh you can't stop me: ® should do it. Test in XML Spy and there's the symbol. Generate and upload all the pages and -- yikes! -- everything says ? where it should say ®! I don't think my clients want the header on every web page to say REALTOR? -- a little certainty is wanted here. That's because XSLT is putting the actual symbol into the HTML -- if you do a View Source on the web page there's no entity, there's the actual symbol and some browsers can show it and some can't. OK, let's try ® or ® -- they come out looking just like that on the screen. Bleah. More Googling. Suggestions to define DOCTYPES and ENTITYs that all manage to stick the symbol into the HTML but not the entity. A brief attempt at some circular definitions of reg to reg, some desparate CDATA flailing -- and then we got it:

Literal text in the middle of the XSL stylesheet:

REALTOR<xsl:text disable-output-escaping="yes">&amp;</xsl:text>reg;

We have a winner. I get &reg; in the HTML and my client gets their trademark.


Thursday, April 20, 2006 6:51:50 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    
# Thursday, March 23, 2006

It looks like I never added an entry about speaking at Devteach. I just made my travel plans to get there. I love taking the train to Montreal -- I'll end up within walking distance of the conference hotel, save time compared to flying, and travel in comfort the whole way.

Devteach is a delightful conference with a friendly atmosphere. I count 8 RDs among the speakers list, plus a whole pile of MVPs, Julie, and some of my favourite Microsoft people... DEs mostly. There is one track in French and the rest of the talks (about a hundred) are all in English.

My talks are:

  • Moving C++ applications to the CLR
  • The Future is Concurrent

There's plenty for everyone: web, smart client, data, security, patterns and practices, testing, Team Systems, architecture -- if it's a development topic, someone is speaking on it. On top of that the conference hosts the Canadian User Group Leader Summit (and gives user group members a discount on attendance - contact your user group leader for a code) and the Canadian Regional Director Summit. It's a great place to meet the stars of the Canadian developer community, and a number of folks from the American northeast who love to come up to Montreal. See you there!


Thursday, March 23, 2006 7:25:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
# Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Microsoft Canada is holding a five-city Web Development and Security tour with the theme of "real development". I'll be speaking in Toronto and Montreal along with Developer Evangelists Jerome Carron, Dan Sellers, and John Bristowe, and fellow Canadian Regional Directors Scott Howlett and Richard Campbell. To quote the blurb:

realDEVELOPMENT_06 is your opportunity to see the very latest technologies, trends, and techniques in web development. The day will be divided into two halves.

In the morning, the WEB PLATFORM SESSIONS will give you the chance to explore Web development technologies such as AJAX, RSS, Javascript and Gadgets.

In the afternoon, our SECURITY ON THE BRAIN SESSIONS will focus on how to address common security issues, and help build more secure Web applications though enhanced development techniques.

It's an all day (9-5) event:

  • Ottawa, May 30th
  • Toronto, June 1st
  • Montreal, June 6th
  • Vancouver, June 8th
  • Calgary, June 13th

      As well, RDs and MVPs will be on hand for ask the experts / cabana / mashups -- you know, people milling around asking questions and having conversations -- often the best part of these events!

      Register while you still can!


    • Wednesday, March 22, 2006 10:48:25 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
      # Tuesday, March 21, 2006

      Once again I am honoured to be speaking at Tech Ed USA. Details to follow -- it will be a C++ topic. See you all there!


      Tuesday, March 21, 2006 6:55:38 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
      # Wednesday, March 15, 2006

      No, not for 2005 :-) Some quotes from the announcement:

      Visual Studio .NET 2003 shipped in July of 2003. This upcoming Service Pack will serve to roll up selected fixes that were issued after that release and before Whidbey. We have also included some triaged critical fixes and fixes included in VS .NET 2002 SP1. We anticipate that Customers will gain additional environment stability through the inclusion of these roll ups and the select set of critical fixes. We hope that VS 2002 customers may see this Service Pack as an additional stabilizing factor and proceed with plans migrating to the VS 2003.


      Release Schedule: (these are estimated dates)
      Beta Release 3/24/2006
      RTM 6/1/2006
      We encourage all interested parties to sign up to participate in the Beta. You will have the opportunity to use our pre-release product and notify us of any bugs you may discover. You may apply for the Beta by going to http://connect.microsoft.com and signing up under "Available Programs".


      Visual Studio .NET 2003 SP1 will provide the following fixes:

      1. Hotfix and other critical update roll up
      2. Released security patches/issues and other identified security fixes that satisfy triage criteria.
      3. The top 50% Watson issues across the entire product.
      4. Customer driven bugs
      Bugs will come from 2 sources, Watson data analyzed by the product teams and PSS.

      Don't you love that sentence from the first paragraph? "We hope that VS 2002 customers may see this Service Pack as an additional stabilizing factor and proceed with plans migrating to the VS 2003." That's no typo. Enterprise clients are really slow to move to the new bits. Just last week in a customer meeting at an enterprise client of mine, I asked if a new Windows app was to be built with VS 2003 or 2005. Without a moment's hesitation my contact replied "there's no service pack for 2005 yet, we won't even consider using it." [I didn't dare tell him there wasn't a service pack for 2003 at that time :-) luckily we are now covered if he asks about it.]


      Wednesday, March 15, 2006 3:55:06 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    
      # Thursday, March 9, 2006

      Anyone who thinks that C++ is a forgotten language at Microsoft that has been put into the corner and ignored needs a quick reality check. And if you've always wanted to work at Microsoft, or if you're looking for work where you can use C++ every day, how does this sound:

      Want to build the next generation of C++ development tools? The Visual C++ team has multiple openings working on the libraries. You will have an opportunity to work with environments, components and tools that are used in complex projects like Windows Vista which has about 50 million lines of C++ code. If you are willing to take up the challenge of delivering high performance, scalable, and most usable set of features to the most sophisticated and demanding developers in our  community and have a passion for handling new technologies that is in Microsoft's horizon, then please send in your resume. We're looking for senior individual contributors ready to code, design and provide the next generation of code reuse leadership at Microsoft. Candidates are required to possess a bachelors or masters degree in computer science, and five years relevant experience.

      If you are someone who's ready to design code that will be used and critiqued by the whole developer community; ready to have a direct connection to customers whose problems you understand then the Visual C++ Libraries team is the place for you. We are building new libraries that drive developer productivity and power on the native and managed  platforms. Next version we'll bring our MFC and ATL libraries up to date to work with the new Win32 APIs of the Vista Wave. And we'll help our customers work with WinFX and move forward their existing code. We own the full set of C++ Libraries -- C Runtime Library, Standard C++ Library, MFC and ATL. In future we'll also address challenges like parallel programming, and migration of existing native applications to managed code. If you have prior experience of large scale ISV development with MFC or ATL, we'd be especially keen to hear from you.

      Just as was the case about seven months ago when I blogged a hiring opportunity, you need to email Martyn Lovell for this. I figure most folks who qualify for the job can find his email address, but here's a hint: you could always email me and ask for it :-)


      Thursday, March 9, 2006 9:46:24 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #