Yes it’s true, I’m certifiable

14 09 2009

image Recently I started a new role at OBS joining the EPM team in Melbourne which I am incredibly excited about. In order to ensure I become a productive member of the team as soon as possible, I set myself a goal of completing all my remaining MS EPM certification whilst at TechEd.

Well, I am pleased to announce that after successfully completing my 70-633 and 70-634 exams last week, and along with the 70-632 exam I passed last month, I am now a Microsoft Certified IT Professional in Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007.

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Tech-Ed 2009 thoughts….

14 09 2009

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend Tech-Ed on the gold coast. This was my first Tech-Ed after wanting to go for a number of years but not having a job that easily allowed it. This year I decided to fund the trip myself so I could go and to 
sum it up in one word – AWESOME!

Here is my round up of the event, including some thoughts on things I would like to see in the future…

Session choice – There was a raft of sessions to choose from across a number of tracks. I picked a number of sessions and in many cases had three or four options to choose from for each timeslot. From my perspective there were a couple of standout sessions including Reed Shaffners Office 2010 overview, Project Gemini and Will, Lee Hickin and Elaine’s BPOS presentation.

Networking – I really underestimated the networking opportunities at Tech-ed. As usual it was great to catch up with the usual ex SDM Crew and other Melbourne based SharePoint people, but it was also good to catch up with other SharePoint and Project Server people from both Microsoft and other partners.  On the way home I was giving a bit more thought to the networking aspect, next year it would be good to formalise some of the networking aspects other than just the expo hall and adhoc sessions in the local bar. I personally would love to see a Microsoft competency or technology based breakfasts / meetings / dinners similar to what happens at the partner conference for the various groups of partners or people with relevant technology skills could meet up and build their network.

Social networking – Twitter was huge with an absolute stack of posts and information being distributed via the #auteched hashtag. It was funny to go to sessions and see everyone sitting there on their netbooks with Tweetdeck running away :)  I read Jeremy Thake’s post about improving the social aspects and having some kind of twitter integration into the session planning tool would be great. Building on this I would love to see users twitter names on their delegate badges as well as many of us are known by our twitter alta egos.

Facilities – The facilities at the Gold Coast Exhibition Centre were excellent. The quality of the catering absolutely blew me away.

Network – There was a heap of posts about getting the GCECC network up to scratch for the Tech-Ed. The Microsoft team did a fantastic job in getting the network up and running and maintaining the speed. There were a few idiots who thought it would be good to start up bittorrent, with one wally sitting next to me in a session surfing The Pirate BayTechEd 224

Netbooks – The netbooks were fantastic. Microsoft pulled off a blinder with the netbooks that will be the envy of other conferences the world over.  Seeing delegates that haven’t used Windows 7 get blown away by it’s speed and functionality on the netbook was really cool to see and no doubt served to build on the already fantastic reputation of  the software.  My only gripe around this was the TechEd websites, it would have been great to have optimised the sites to work on the smaller screens of the netbooks as this was the main mechanism for access.

Session level – On reflection of the content, I felt that the level of the sessions was more aimed at customers and didn’t really hit the target for the more cutting edge partners. I brought this up with a couple of my colleagues who agreed that a more partner focussed technical track would be good.

Certifications – I had the opportunity to take two exams whilst I was at Tech-Ed at a vastly reduced rate. The process for signing up was incredibly simple and the prometric exam centre well set up and staffed. As for the exams, more on that in a later post.

Hands on Labs – I stumbled across the HOL area late in the piece and had a pretty limited experience. However what I saw and tried out was easy to use and well implemented. I loved the fact that at the end of the lab you could email the lab notes to yourself to try again later. Whilst valuable, it is limited as you don’t have access to the the underlying VM. On the friday afternoon I was hoping to kill some spare time doing some labs, but they had shut, it would have been great to extend the opening times until the end of the Friday. Finally I would love for MS to allow the other HOLs that I hadn’t specifically tried to be available for use / download after tech-ed.

image Free BPOS account – The free BPOS account was a stroke of genius.  I loved trying out the functionality and trying out the full functionality of Office 2010 including Communicator and using it to connect to my peers and people I met during the conference. The only downside to the whole BPOS experience was the need to register and have it configured at the BPOS stand in the expo hall which meant some attendees had to wait a while before it was set up. Next time it would be good if the default password was included on your attendee credentials and the user prompted to change them again.

All in all, I loved the whole experience and can’t wait to go again next year and learn about the next wave of technologies coming through and catch up with my peers! If you get the chance to go, do!





The obligatory catch-up post

16 05 2009

I have been on holiday for the past two weeks which has been a fantastic break. It seems I am always on holiday, and I agree, it does seem that way. This time I decided to take a break between changing jobs again and reconnect with my family and look after my wife while she gets over a particularly painful operation. So far she is doing fantastically and I am incredibly proud of her. Next week I start a new job at a more dynamic Microsoft partner which I am incredibly excited about, there are some great people there and I want to learn and be energised by work again.

During my time off I have had a chance to catch-up on a few things I wanted to do for a while and as is my want, I will share them with you 😛

  • Wrote the first version of iFreewayTimes which I am looking forward to using in anger next week when I start driving to work;
  • Went to the dentist with toothache and came out minus a wisdom tooth which has been pretty damn painful, but is getting better;
  • Took the family to Philip Island for the day and had a great time searching for Penguins with the kids;
  • I went through my twitter following list and was pretty brutal in un-following people. Twitter can be a very powerful tool, but it also can be a great source of noise. I don’t care if you need to go to the toilet, go, don’t tell me;
  • I nuked most of my RSS subscriptions, of the 100+ feeds I subscribed to, I only really read 10 or 15;
  • Learned to love my iPhone (no not that way @grumpywookie), damn it’s a fantastic device;
  • Had an awesome time going shopping with the kids to buy mothers day presents, next week we get to repeat it for Birthday pressies;
  • Was wrapped to learn that the last project I managed for Hyro went live without issue the week after I left to a fantastic reception all around the globe. It was unfortunate it was delayed two weeks so I couldn’t see it go live in person;
  • Installed Windows 7 x64 Release Candidate. Wow. You would have already read all the posts about how good it is, they are true. It really is (more on this in a later post).

So there you have it, I can’t promise I will be blogging any more regularly, but I will try to.





iFreewayTimes

10 05 2009

In the spirit of thirteen23 and their teaser concept apps, here are some screenshots of my first and working iPhone web app, iFreewayTimes.

The web app uses the same logic as the existing FreewayTimes gadget and parses data directly from the VicRoads Traffic status site.  The flow and logic is pretty simple, you choose a direction, inbound or outbound, and the app then shows you the traffic times for all freeways in that direction and a traffic light based on flow.

The web app itself makes use of the excellent iUi framework for iPhone web app development that provides everything you need to create a fully functional web app that resembles the normal iPhone look and feel.

I intend to give this a bit of a workout over the next few weeks when I return to driving to work and back and will no doubt come up with a few enhancements. Once I am happy with it, I will release it properly.





Another new gadget – BeagleQuota

28 02 2009

About a month ago, I churned ISP’s due to a number of things. I decided to go with Beagle Internet, who provide ADSL2+ over the Telstra Wholesale network which is about all I can get where I live.  Beagle is a pretty good company, very responsive to support questions, active on Whirlpool and provide a great service. Some people don’t rate them because they prioritise P2P traffic, but to be honest I haven’t really noticed any issues with it.

Anyway, enough Beagle marketing. Of course if I am going to have a new ISP, I need a new way of viewing my usage, so I developed a new gadget… introducing Beagle Gadget v.1.0

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I have to admit it looks pretty similar to the Optus gadget, but it has a couple of noticeable exceptions… TWO GRAPHS!!  Thanks to the excellent jQuery + jQuery progress bar I have been able to make the bars into dynamic graphs. The top bar shows your downloaded MB’s, if it’s green you are below your daily quota limit, if it’s red, your over.  The bottom bar shows the number of days remaining for the period. 

The gadget will also tell you if your shaped and will give you a countdown until you get your quota back.

There are a couple of other scenarios that certain beagle users can run into, depending on the accounts they use, but I haven’t coded them up as I don’t have specific test data to cover those accounts.

I am still not convinced as to whether I like the colour scheme of the graphs, but it’s fairly trivial to change them.

If your a beagle user and you would like to try the gadget out, it’s available for download from my Skydrive:

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BeagleQuota.v1.0.0.gadget




Updated FreewayTimes – Version 1.4

15 02 2009

Some people may have noticed that my FreewayTimes gadget has been freaking out for the Monash Freeway for the last week or so. The reason is that the times are not available at the moment due to the never ending Monash roadworks.

Anyway, I have fixed the gadget so when there is no time available it will show ‘—‘ in the time.  I also took the opportunity to add a new News link which links through to Twitter for up to date news and communication and update the gadget to support Windows 7 a bit better.

The gadget will be up on the Live Gallery as soon as MS approve it. In the mean time you can get it from my SkyDrive.

Update : Gadget has been approved to the gallery and can be got from here.





Windows 7 – two weeks on

30 01 2009

I have been running Windows 7 for a couple of weeks now and thought it was time to share my thoughts on it (besides at the time of writing, Telstra have stuffed up my ADSL Churn so I have no internet. Update : all back up and running now).

As you would no doubt of already seen on the internet, the stability and quality of the build is rock solid. I haven’t really run into many show stopping bugs with day to day use of the operating system, but what I am finding as I explore more and more are the little things that make Win 7 stand out.  So in the style of Tim Sneaths post, here are some things I love!

1. Progress is displayed in the taskbar

When you do a file operation that results in a progress bar dialog being displayed, the item in the taskbar will also show the progress (see the copy below)

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2. The Common Dialogs now have Search

Not sure if this was there in Vista, but the Common Save As dialog now has search in it. Damn it’s useful!

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3. Improved Search Experience

By default each Explorer windows has a Search box in the top right hand corner, just the same as Vista, but the the text in the search lets you know the scope of the search straight off the bat.

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Vista

Windows 7

Also, when you start to enter a search term, it will autosuggest, and give you the option to filter the search straight away.

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Finally, the results displayed via the new Content view are pretty impressive. It shows more information, notice the thumbnail and image size and creation date.

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4. Libraries

Instead of having to consolidate tens of folders into one folder in one location, through the concept of libraries you can have a virtual catchall that encompasses a number of directories spread out throughout the computer, both internal and externally attached drives. The GUI also looks to let network drives to be included in a library but I haven’t managed to get that to work yet. 

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In the library you can set one of the included folders as the default directory, so if you are downloading files to the Documents library, they will always be stored in your nominated directory within the library. Pretty neat. 

5. Problem Steps Recorder

This isn’t something you would use everyday and certainly most home users would never encounter it. However, I work in the software industry and have been involved in many projects where users have been testing software and gone through nightmares documenting issues they found in the software. Enter the Problem Steps Recorder, the answer to my (and most IT companies) dreams.

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What the PSR lets you do is record all the actions you take on the screen, each time you do something it takes a screenshot and highlights what you did. You can also choose to annotate each step manually. The output is a HTML archive that contains all the screenshots and steps you took which can be passed on to the IT dept, or development team with the most detailed steps to reproduce ever seen!  Awsome!

6. Gadgets

Well it wouldn’t be a post from me without something on gadgets. Vista introduced the concept of gadgets, they could exist in two places, either docked in the sidebar, or undocked on the desktop. Windows 7 removes the need to dock them in the sidebar, you can have them wherever you want. Each gadget now has an option next to it allowing you to choose between the docked (smaller) and undocked (larger) version of the gadget.

Weather Gadget Forecasted image

Microsoft have updated a couple of the gadgets and introduced another new one around the Media Centre. I have to admit, the Media Centre one is good, but it’s too big and obtrusive for me.  The weather gadget changes have impressed me, it now uses Windows 7’s location functionality when you configure it to make an educated guess on where you are. If you lose your net connection (as I am experiencing now), it will still show the weather as per when it last downloaded, including a xx hours ago notification in red. Finally, if there is still no connection, it will show the forecasted weather instead of the real up to date info. Nice!

6. Reliability Monitor

Another concept that Vista introduced was the Reliability Monitor. This gave you an indication of how reliable your system was behaving. When you first installed your machine, it would start at 10, and then as an error occurred, either in the OS itself, or an application or driver didn’t behave itself, it would decrease. 

With Win 7, the reliability monitor has been given a face lift and now has a much more polished way of showing the issues affecting the machine and provides a mechanism for looking up those issues within the GUI. 

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On the whole my machine has been behaving pretty well and I reckon the reliability monitor is being a little harsh (as per the above screenshot). As you can see, there are no real Windows failures, but heaps and heaps of Application failures which are mainly cases of the Windows Installer bug and Internet Explorer crapping out. I really hope IE 8 gets better with RC1, because the version in the Beta is letting the side down at the moment.