# Wednesday, 10 March 2010

While there is a Nobel prize in other scientific fields, there really isn’t one for computing. Instead we have the A.M. Turing Award, the next best thing. According to Wikipedia, the award: is given annually by the Association for Computing Machinery to "an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community. The contributions should be of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field".

Past recipients have included legends such as EF Codd and Fred Brooks. This year the award went to Chuck Thacker, a technical fellow at Microsoft Research for his lifetime achievement and for his work in the early 1970s on the Alto, the first PC. (When he worked at the Xerox PARC.) More on Thacker and the award can be viewed here.

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posted on Wednesday, 10 March 2010 10:07:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, 09 March 2010

By now there have been a lot of blog posts on Windows Azure billing. I have stayed out of it since I figured that the billing scheme would generate some sticker shock on our end and some rethinking on Microsoft's end. For the most part it has, but I now want to tell my story since I think most early Azure users are thinking along my lines.

When Windows and SQL Azure went live, I wanted to deploy an application using some of Telerik’s products to “production”. I put my free MSDN hours into the Azure system for billing and uploaded the application. I actually could not get it to work and left it up there figuring I would get back to it and fix it later. Periodically I would go in and hoke around with it and eventually fixed it. For the most part I had nothing more than an advanced “Hello World” and simple Northwind data over forms via SQL Azure up there.

Recently, I received a bill for $7 since I went over my free 750 hours by about 65 hours. (I guess I had a test and production account running at the same time for a while.) Even thought for the most part I had no hits other than myself a few times, I still incurred charges since I left my service “live” in production. My bad, I learned a lesson as to how Azure works, luckily, it was only a $7 lesson.

It was then that I realized that I was guilty of treating Windows Azure as a fancy web hosting account. The problem is that Windows Azure is not web hosting, but rather a “web operation system” or a “Cloud” service hosting and service management environment. We’re not only paying for hosting, we are paying for Azure to manage our application for us- much like enterprise middleware 10-15 years ago, but for the cloud. I now look at Azure differently and this is good since I will use it differently (and how it was intended.)  I am guessing that other developers with $7 bills in their inbox this month will do the same.

That said, I was in Redmond a month or two ago and had a chance to talk to the head of MSDN. I complained about how the MSDN subscription offer was only for 8 months, etc. He told me that for the first time in Microsoft’s history, they have hard physical assets that have to be paid for with this service. It is not like if they want to give me a free copy of Windows, it does not cost Microsoft anything except the bandwidth for me to download (which is a fixed cost.) I get that, and I am sure that there will be a cost effective MSDN-Azure “developer only” subscription option in the future. Or at least there should be. :)

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posted on Tuesday, 09 March 2010 05:23:54 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Monday, 08 March 2010

Telerik is releasing an update to its entire product line this week. As usual, there will be webinars to walk you though all of the cool new stuff. All webinars will be held at 11 AM EST (full time zone conversion) and all will be recorded for Telerik TV on-demand viewing. To join the webinars, register now:

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posted on Monday, 08 March 2010 07:46:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, 05 March 2010

While delivering the Agile Seminars in Pune, India and Taipei, Taiwan over the last week, the question of the development team came up. What started out as a discussion of Team Velocity, ended with a discussion of “Heroes” or “Rock Stars” on the team.

Too many managers think that you need a team of super human coders to get the job done. I think that while a team should have the most talented, motivated, and hard working members it can find, teams should avoid adding the “rock star developer” at all costs.

At the seminar I told the story of a real life story of a team I managed a number of years back. It was a team of good developers and one rock star. Let’s call our rock star developer John. John coded faster than all our team members, some tasks he could do two or three times faster. His code was usually pretty spot on, decently commented, and well thought out. Shouldn’t the entire team be made up of John clones?

Well while the number of lines of code per day developed by John was high, other things did not add up. At code reviews John would argue with other developers about the direction they took. When those developers were not around, John would check out their code and make small changes.

What really got me to my breaking point was John’s inability to see the big picture. Once someone from the business side came over and asked John to make a small change to the online shop by the end of the day. It was a Friday of a three day weekend and the marketing guy thought that he can push this change out and help our sales over the weekend. This change was not in the product backlog (well this was almost 10 years ago, it was more of a project plan back then) but John said he can sneak it in today. John was assigned other tasks that day, but figured that if he skipped lunch and stayed a little late, he could do both and be the hero.

It did not turn out that way. John bypassed our build and qa and production upload process and somehow managed to push his change to production without telling anyone. He figured that the business people would be happy with IT and life would be good. The problem was that this took him longer than expected (it always does, even for rock stars) and he had to skip is regular tasks.

The rest of the team was at a local bar we hung out at watching the Mets-Yankees game on TV. (I remember it was a rare occasion where the Mets beat the Yankees.) John was noticeably not there and we just thought he went home. Then my cell phone beeps, it was the founder of the company asking me why the online shop is down. I said I had no idea and would look into it immediately. I asked a dependable programmer  to come with me and we went to the office to see what was up. Back at the office, the other programmer and I discovered John banging his head against his desk. After some heated words, the other guy and I reverted the site back to the original state. John pleaded and pleaded that he needed just 15 more minutes and that he was a “better coder than me.” While that may have been true, I said that my code always goes through QA. Against his wishes, I sent him home. John would have done better if he called in sick that day, by overpromising, he not only caused a problem with the site that caused two of us to fix, but he did not do his assigned tasks, making him behind in his work.

The next day I get an angry phone call from the VP of Marketing asking why the change was not pushed to production as he was “told by IT” it would be. The VP said that an email campaign was to be sent out telling customers about the change and it would be expensive to cancel it. I told the VP that I don’t care and to cancel it.

Needless to say the next week there were some fireworks at the office. I told John that he was like a cow who produced two buckets of milk while all the other cows produced only one bucket. But he also knocked over other cow’s buckets when he walked by. John thought he was right and I was wrong. That did not go well for anyone.

After the annual raise and bonus season went by and John was not “taken care of” in his mind (he was given the same modest raise and bonus the rest of the team received), he quit and took a job getting paid far more. He asked me what I would say when he used me as a reference. I told him:

“John is an A+ developer. Smart and fast. He is an F- team player. Overall that makes him a C+ developer.”

John never used me as a reference.

Rock stars have no place on a high performing team. Don’t confuse a rock star or “hero” with a very talented developer. A rock star is someone who, while talented, thinks that they are the ultimate guru and that everything should be done their way. Avoid them like the plague!

PS, about 5 years ago John asked me to lunch. It was the first time we spoke in many years. We made our peace and he admitted that he was wrong that day and looked forward to working together one day. I told him that if anyone asks for a recommendation today, I will let them know about our past difficulties and that he has evolved from a “Rock Star” to a great developer with perspective.

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posted on Friday, 05 March 2010 23:12:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [5] Trackback
# Thursday, 04 March 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Self-Service Business Intelligence with Microsoft PowerPivot

Subject:
You must register athttps://www.clicktoattend.com/invitation.aspx?code=146483 in order to be admitted to the building and attend.
Ever wonder why there’s no "light" version of SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS)? Find yourself wishing that SSAS offered an in-memory operation model akin to some of its competitors? And why are OLAP cubes nearly impossible for end-users to build while comparable capabilities have existed for relational databases for at least 15 years? Enter Microsoft’s product code-named “Gemini,” a component of the upcoming SQL Server 2008 R2 release, that joins together SSAS, Excel and SharePoint to make end-user analytics feasible, fun, publishable and discoverable by IT. Andrew Brust will show you how it all works in this not-to-miss session.

Speaker:
Andrew Brust, Chief, New Technology, twentysix New York
Andrew Brust is Chief, New Technology at twentysix New York, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner in New York City. Andrew was co-chair at Tech*Ed Developer conference 2008 and was recently named Microsoft Regional Director of the Year for 2008. He is co-author of Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (Microsoft Press), serves as Microsoft Regional Director for New York and New Jersey, is a Visual Basic MVP and a member of Microsoft's Business Intelligence Partner Advisory Council. Often quoted in the technology industry press, and himself a columnist for Redmond Developer News, Andrew has 20 years' experience programming and consulting in the Financial, Public, Small Business and Not-For-Profit sectors. He can be reached at andrew.brust@26ny.com.

Date:
Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time:
Reception 6:00 PM , Program 6:15 PM

Location: 
Microsoft , 1290 Avenue of the Americas (the AXA building - bet. 51st/52nd Sts.) , 6th floor

Directions:
B/D/F/V to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Ctr
1 to 50th St./Bway
N/R/W to 49th St./7th Ave.

posted on Thursday, 04 March 2010 20:14:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, 03 March 2010

In an op-ed piece in this month’s SD Times, I make the argument that software development productivity tools have evolved over the years to become more mainstream. I make the case that while some developers shun tools, in reality they take for granted the tools they are using today that were not available 10 years or so ago, or were not that mature. For example today we use some tools without even thinking such as: SCM, build management, standards enforcement, ORM and UI components. Tools today save a team a tremendous amount of time and are the missing link in the software development process.

You can get the March issue of SD Times on the newsstands today or read my article online here.

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posted on Wednesday, 03 March 2010 03:09:36 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, 02 March 2010

If you have been following me on Facebook, you know that last week I traveled to Vancouver, Canada, to watch the Winter Olympics. I love to take photos and videos and of course took a million photos and videos. The problem is that I apparently broke the law well over 100 times while I was up in Canada. These laws and their enforcement need to be updated.

Let’s start with a photo of Scott Stanfield and I being the ugly Americans wearing our Team USA jersey at a hockey game (USA crushed Norway 6-1!).  A friend’s wife took it for us using my personal camera. While I did not ask Scott if I can post it, having known me for 10 years, he knows that if you pose for a photo with me, it will be online-so permission is implied. Nothing wrong with this photo, right?

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According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), this is a borderline case. While it is ok to take the photo of ourselves at the venue, live action is going on in the background. Good news for us is that you can’t see it in the photo. I am safe, the IOC won’t send lawyers to shut this blog down.

Now take a look at this photo:

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Similar in nature to the one above of Scott and me, this photo is in the stands of a spectator. Sure this crazy cow-bell ringing Swiss dude did not give me his permission, but that is between him and me, not the IOC. (Trust me, he wants to be photographed!)

I posted this photo on a sports blog along with a small video of the same (to show the world how exciting and crazy Curling, yes curling is, and how rowdy the Swiss fans are with their cow bells!)

Not so fast according to the IOC. They sent me a nasty-gram legalese email and made me pull the photos and video down. You can see the ice in the lower right hand corner as well as the “articles of play” or the stones used by the curlers as well as one of the Olympic judges and logos. I am violating the IOC’s copyright right now, just posting it here again. (And YOU can go to jail just for looking at it!)

WTF?????

The old school copyright laws are out of date. There is a difference between me downloading movies and me taking a photo at a live sporting event. (Or any live event for that matter.) My views on the RIAA and MP3s are well known (they are pure evil), however, let’s take a minute to think about the copyright at the Olympics.

I understand that NBC and other broadcasters paid the IOC a lot of money for the exclusive rights to show the Olympics on TV. I also understand that without that money, the Olympics would be difficult to stage. If I recorded an entire event, or even a very important small part of an event (like the winning shot for the hockey Gold metal), I understand that that takes away from NBC’s exclusive coverage.

That said, that is not what I am doing. I was taking photos and videos of the atmosphere, the venue, the fans and surroundings. While at times I did get some live action in my frame, mostly it was stuff that the TV cameras did not care about. For example, most readers of this blog are technology savvy people who think that curling is a waste of time. I went to Canada believing the same thing. After attending curling, I was in awe of curling and its strategy, skill and the excitement of the plays coming down to the wire. I enjoyed it so much, I went to a second match!

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I was also blown away by the crowd. At the US-Swiss men’s game, the Swiss spectators were out of control. (Switzerland had a huge come from behind win on the last extra end shot.) It was like the 7th game of the World Series (or final match at the World Cup for you non-Americans) chanting over and over at the top of their lungs: Go Swiss!  Pounding the floor with their feet over and over. Boom boom boom! And the cow-bells. Oh the cow-bells! Singing the Swiss National Anthem after the match. Totally awesome! I captured the essence of this sheer excitement in the photo above. The IOC wants me to remove it.

Here is an example where a law is meant to protect a party (the IOC) and my violation of that law in actually helping the “protected” party. My photos are free advertising for the IOC. In addition with my enthusiasm, I am helping spread the word about curling, how much fun the Olympics were in person, and bring more attention to the Olympics in general. Someone who was not interested in curling and the Olympics may decide to go to the Olympics in 2012 or watch it on TV because of my blog post and photo. Or someone may google Olympic Curling and be brought to an Olympic site and possibly buy something or watch a video, a video that was sponsored and brought in revenue to the IOC. More to the point, the collection of photos by the thousands of spectators on flickr, Facebook, and blogs, etc, not just mine, will bring in even more to the IOC. The more people the violate the copyright, the more value for the IOC is created.

By violating the law, I am helping the IOC make money. If I follow the law, I am doing economic harm to the IOC in potential lost profits and free advertising. The system is clearly broken. The more photos on flickr, Facebook, and blogs, etc, the better off the IOC is. Copyright laws and their enforcement need to change, catch up with digital media and social networking.

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posted on Tuesday, 02 March 2010 04:38:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Friday, 26 February 2010

We had a great Agile seminar yesterday in Pune, India. You can download the seminar slides here.

A special thanks to Telerik, the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture and the team from e-Zest for planning such a successful event. Usually as the speaker I get all the glory, so here is the photo of me with the folks who made it happen, they deserve the glory:

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posted on Friday, 26 February 2010 03:37:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback