Rest In Peace SDM

29 11 2008

SDM Tombstone

 

As some of you may know I used to work for a company called SDM. Whilst there I learnt about a number of technologies and products I had never really come across before including SharePoint, Project Server and CRM. There were a number of things I loved about the company, the people; the projects; the ‘can do’ attitude, the fun.

SDM was taken over by another company in January 2008 which should have been a great partnership. If the company had been smart they would have left SDM to do it’s own thing and backed them to become bigger and better. But they didn’t. They changed things and the fun, the attitude and the people began to leave.

Why am I telling you all this? Well the 30th November marks the last day that the SDM brand exists. As of the 1st December the brand will be no more.

I will always look back on my time at SDM with a great fondness, I made some excellent friends, learnt a lot, and most of all enjoyed going to work there, one day I hope I will be lucky enough to work at a similar company again.





Oomph – there it is..

15 11 2008

Ok, sorry about the Tag Team reference. A couple of weeks ago I installed some new software from Microsoft called Oomph . Oomph is a Microformats toolkit. What is a Microformat you might ask, well Microformat.org says they are:

Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards

I say they are:

A way to tag data in a common format allowing it to be consumed

There are a heap of different Microformats covering things like names and addresses, through to lists,outlines and events.

Now enter Oomph, it is a set of tools that assist in the Consumption, Display and Creation of Microformats.

Consumption

The best part of the Oomph toolkit in my opinion is the Internet Explorer Add On that parses each web page and will alert the user if Microformat data has been found in the page by flashing up an icon in the top left hand corner of the browser.

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Clicking on the icon reveals a cross browser overlay that shows the Microformat and allows you to consume the data in a number of ways. In the case of the hCard microformat it will allow you to save it to your email contact store.

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Display

In addition to providing a way of consuming the data, the Oomph toolkit also includes a number of CSS styles to present microformat information:

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Creation

The final component of the toolkit is an add-on for Windows Live Writer that enables you to create hCard microformat information automatically with you blog post.

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At the moment the Oomph toolkit provides a glimpse at what you can do with Microformats. Certainly the ability to have something identify a Microformat exists on a web page and allow that information to be subsequently consumed without having to manually transcribe it is incredibly useful.  I know Microformats have been around for a long time, but hopefully with Microsoft now pushing them a bit more, we can look forward to seeing more  innovation with them.





PDC 2008 : Wrap up

5 11 2008

So the PDC is over and there were a heap of product announcements, some of them really well done and received (Windows 7) some of them not so well done or understood (Azure). Personally I think Azure is going to be huge, and I am really interested to see how people are going to start using it in the real world, specifically how it’s going to impact the partner and enterprise ecosystems.

Anyway, I wanted to go back and look at my Canberra Airport Crystal ball and see what came true or what the Crystal ball was too damn foggy to see clearly.

Live
Lots and lots of Mesh news. As expected, a developers preview of Mesh was released built on the new Azure Services platform, one of Microsoft’s big announcements for PDC. The SDK / framework was released in a limited beta. Yes there was a new Mesh build dropped, moving Mesh from Tech Preview to Beta and introducing a number of new features. The Mac and Mobile clients were released, and I have to admit I am loving using the mobile client to push photos from my phone through to my other machines.

Windows
PDC had lots and lots of Windows 7 news. There were some really interesting demonstrations showing off the new feature of Windows 7 including HomeGroups, new Taskbar, Libraries, Aero improvements etc. As predicated there was a build given out to the attendees which everyone is commenting on how stable and snappy it is.  Unfortunately in typical MS style, the builds shown did not necessarily reflect the build given to the attendees, but WithinWindows has worked out how to address that to a certain extent. I am not waiting for the Windows 7 beta to start so I can get my hands on it.
Office
The biggest surprise to me was that there wasn’t much in the way of Office announcements at PDC. I had fully expected some demo’s of the Office 14 suite, but maybe it’s too early in the development cycle to see it. What was announced was Office Web Applications, a set of web based applications including Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote that include a vast majority of the functionality of the desktop clients blowing the current implementation of Google Apps out of the water. There is a pretty snazzy demo on Channel 9 showing the integration between client and web that is an interesting watch.  I have to admit, these apps got me thinking as to some of the scenarios that they could be used in, think Excel Services. Wouldn’t it be awesome to not need any client applications at all and to do everything within SharePoint 14? I am not quite sure when we are going to see more Office 14 related news, stay tuned.

All in all, PDC 2008 delivered a lot of news, a lot of it as predicted from my Canberra Airport crystal ball. Of those items I am particularly interested in Windows 7 (heh I have always been an operating system wh0re) and how people are going to start using the Live Framework in their application. It is certainly going to be a wild ride ahead.





Catchoftheday.com.au – Shamefull

29 10 2008

For a while now CatchOfTheDay.com.au (COTD) has been advertising a birthday bash where they were going to offer up a number of items at huge discounts. Sounds too good to be true? It is.

From 12:00pm today the site has been running like a dog, frequently down and unresponsive. Tonight, I finally managed to get the page to load, and to see something I was interested in buying. So I clicked on Buy Now. After entering my credit card details and confirming the purchase I was confronted by this:

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Notice the sold out at the bottom.  After providing my credit card details which were accepted the site went on to say that it had sold out.

I along with several hundred other potential customers of COTD are extremely unhappy. COTD management, there are some important lessons to learn here:

  • Don’t over advertise. If there are only four items up for grabs, say so. Bait and switching is a scam.
  • Make sure your site can handle the load, maybe move off PHP and onto Azure? 😉
  • Consider changing the flow of your site, like Ticketmaster. If you manage to buy something, that’s it you have got it. Hand over the rest of the transaction to other servers. If the user fails to pay within a set time, return it to the pool. You have the ability to do this in the 1 hour window per catch
  • Events like this can hurt as well as improve your name if they are not managed correctly

Oh and one final thing, I had  better not be charged for the item on my credit card or I am going to be REALLY REALLY unhappy.





Freeway Times : Rest in Peace

1 10 2008

As some of you may have noticed, the Freeway Time gadget stopped working on Monday. Unfortunately VicRoads do not provide a feed of times information for public consumption, so the gadget relied on scraping the information it needed from the Vicroads traffic site. On Monday VicRoads rolled out a new swish version of the Traffic times website that broke the screen scraping.

Unfortunately the new version seems to have taken the complexity to a new level calling SQL via JQuery and using Ajax to update the screen. Why am I telling you this? Well it’s going to take a bit of time to see if its possible to consume the new data source (my gut feeling is no).

Luckily I am on a couple of weeks leave, whilst waiting to start my new job on the 15th October, so I’ll see what I can do. 🙂





Dell Latitude XT Laptop

22 09 2008

For the last couple of months I have been (un)lucky enough to be using a new Dell Latitude XT tablet PC. Now I have been good and not installed anything demanding or unstable (like I would at home) but I have to admit the performance is not good. In fact it’s shocking.

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PDC 2008 : I won’t be there

22 08 2008

Unfortunately my powers of persuasion have let me down. After trying to persuade my boss that PDC was in fact a Project management Development Conference and not an awesome nerdfest of coolness it seems, I am left to watching all the announcements and news from my trusty friends Bink, Neowin and Google Reader.

But, this won’t stop me having a quick prediction at what will be announced and released, so without further ado, I peer into my crystal ball, whilst sitting in the departure lounge at Canberra Airport.

Live

  • Mesh will be opened up to allow development and access to the MOE ala Ori Amiga’s Channel 9 video
  • The Mesh SDK will be released
  • Programming in the Mesh will be released / showcased, maybe including Silverlight
  • Obviously a new Mesh build will be dropped
  • Mac and Windows Mobile client will be released
  • Other Wave 3 announcements, maybe the new Messenger?

Windows

  • More information about what is coming in Windows 7, but only the concrete changes, those features that are still up for discussion will not be discussed / shown
  • Lots of Windows 7 demo’s, possible early beta client build in the goody bag (might be PDC, might be WinHec)
  • Hints as to the Windows + Live services that will coming, how will Windows 7 interact with the cloud?

Office

  • Office 14 early beta, or at least a sign up
  • Lots of SharePoint news:
    • Two way BDC
    • Better Excel Services
    • Forms Services Improvements
    • Obviously WSS 4.0
  • Consistent Ribbon across other Office applications like Project, OneNote & Visio

Other

  • Lots and lots of cloud stuff
  • More general Silverlight goodness – maybe Silverlight 2.0 RTM?
  • Talk of OSLO and how it will integrate with the various v.Next Developer offerings.

Of course I could be wrong, as I am only a project manager, but we will have to wait until October to find out.





OptusQuota – V1.2.0

6 07 2008

Since Optus changed their broadband plans a couple of months ago to include uploads in the quota, the OptusQuota gadget has given dodgy information. Unfortunately Optus decided in their ultimate wisdom not to include data about the uploads in the data feed this and many other quota showing software uses.

Anyway, in the last few weeks Optus changed the feed to include the so called ‘Fusion’ data.  I have now finally had a chance to update the gadget to include functionality for the Fusion plans.

This release contains the following changes:

Full support for Fusion plans including:

  • Uploads are added to the total usage
  • Display of both MB and % on the gadget
  • Change the flyout for Fusion users to only display relevant Fusion information

In addition, the following changes have been made:

  • Checks every 15 minutes now, instead of 30
  • Timeout handling has been improved
  • Better offline network handling / detection
  • Improved update functionality

As always, the gadget is available from the Live Gallery, or existing users keep an eye out for a update message in the flyout.

Finally, the gadget now includes a Donation button on the settings page. I don’t get paid to write gadgets, I already have a very demanding job and loving family to sink my time into. If you use the gadget and like it, please consider donating.





Never a truer word said

24 06 2008

Got this when I tried to logon to twitter this morning:

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Live Mesh : I get it now.

13 06 2008

 96px-Live_Mesh

When Microsoft released the Live Mesh Technical Preview a few weeks ago I was intrigued to see what it was all about. Thanks to the Grumpywookie I managed to wangle an invite and could experience it in full technicolor and I have to admit I was a little dumbfounded as to what it was.

After a couple of hours playing with it and some thinking, I have to admit I was under-whelmed, but then I don’t think I was judging it fairly.  You see, we have been spoilt by the live team at Microsoft, they tend to ship highly functional stuff really quickly, so when I looked at Mesh the stuff I was surprised all it did was:

  • Sync folders (ala Foldershare/ Synctoy) across computers and the cloud
  • Mimic remote desktop
  • Provide a cloud based desktop to access files

But being the self confessed MS fanboy, I have continued to use it, syncing files between my home and work PC’s with ease and dreaming of the day that the Mesh Operating Environment (MOE) is made available for people to develop against (for some strange reason I really WANT to use the MOE WebDAV mount for storing docs in the cloud).

Anyway, fast forward a couple of weeks and I was listening to the Windows Weekly podcast with Leo Laporte and Paul Thurrott. They were discussing Windows 7 and how they are expected to merge the operating system and Live services even more, this got me thinking. Damn, MESH is a clever play by Microsoft, why? Well if you start thinking about Mesh as a platform, you can start doing things like this:

  • Extend the OS’s backup functionality, like Vista’s backup to push up to the cloud. In fact you can probably do this pretty easily when the MOE is opened up for programming against. Obviously this is going to require more space, and MS will be in an ideal position to offer more storage ala Google or Amazons’ S3;
  • RSS platform – Instead of storing RSS information in Vista and then letting things like IE and Outlook access it, why not store it in the cloud, then other services can access it. Why is this a good idea? Well you could have an RSS reader that uses this source and stores it’s read state in Mesh, then if I go to use a rich desktop app, the same items will have been read there;
  • Roaming profiles – Imagine having the same settings / desktop for every computer you use. If you store your roaming profile in the Mesh, this would be possible;
  • Software distribution – Once an application has been installed , Mesh could be used to distribute that software amongst computers on the mesh, a bit like a kind of private Peer-to-peer network. The application would need to be pretty isolated and not touch the registry but it should be possible;
  • Network drives – Through the MOE, you will be able to store your documents, pictures, movies, music in the cloud as if it were a normal network drive.

The MESH previews and blog posts are also talking about applications that run in the desktop. If that starts to leverage SilverLight (if it isn’t already) there will be some fantastic applications popping up.

Looking forward, there is a whole heap of sessions on Cloud services and Live Mesh coming up at PDC 08. I am hoping the Developer tech preview will be released there so developers can start to innovate on the platform and Live Mesh will sprout it’s wings and fly amongst the clouds! 🙂