Professional Visual Studio 2008 now available with TechEd Offer

Professional Visual Studio 2008 now available with TechEd Offer

Professional Visual Studio 2008


If you follow the Professional Visual Studio blog you will have noticed that Dave has already posted that this book is now available.  As a special offer to those going to TechEd Australia and/or New Zealand there will be free copies available!

What’s the catch? Well, it’s only available for the first 2 people (in each country) to get business cards from the nsquared solutions founders.

(Hint: there are three of us)

Iinet’s lack of QOS (again), another reason for Software + Services

Iinet’s lack of QOS (again), another reason for Software + Services

(I seem to recall having issues with Iinet in the past. Looking through my blog it appears I did when I was setting up my original Naked DSL account last year)

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been moving apartments. Whilst I’m only moving upstairs in the same apartment block I still have to go through the usual process of redirecting mail and of course changing my ASDL connection.  Last year when I moved to Sydney I took advantage of the then new Naked DSL option from Iinet and to be honest have been exceptionally happy with it.  I’ve even recommended it to people as it was stable and a very cost effective option for people who don’t really need a landline.

Unfortunately Iinet seems to have lost their ability to service customers, specifically, existing customers who wish to change their existing service.  Essentially what I was asking for wasn’t rocket science – I’m moving apartments, so need the service transferred to the new apartment with minimal disruption.

I accept that

a) I would have to pay to get the service transferred

b) I would most likely have to wait for a couple of days for the transfer to happen

I was also away for the week prior to moving, so didn’t get around to organising the transfer until the Monday after moving (14th July).  At this time I was sent a confirmation email stating that the service would be provision (yes, that’s right, there’s no process for transferring it so it has to go through the full provisioning process which apparently still typically takes 10-20days) last Thursday (24th July).

This email states that they don’t normally require access to the premise but if they do, and you aren’t available, they will charge you $109 to reschedule. So, I did the sensible thing and stayed home for the duration of the appointment (did I mention it was to be done somewhere between 8am and 1pm!). As I had a meeting in the city at 2pm I left at 1:30pm having not heard anything from Iinet. 

Later that day, I think around 6pm, I called Iinet to find out whether my account was active or not.  I had more work to do that evening so wanted to know if my account was active so I could work from home instead of the office. At this stage I was told definitively that the line had been provisioned and that it was operational. As you can probably guess I got home to discover that the line wasn’t available!

After a bit of a discussion with Iinet as to why I had been told that it was connected when it hadn’t, I was reassured that someone would contact me the following day. Sure enough no one contacted me during the day. At this point I was still assuming that someone had come the previous day, completed the provisioning and that I was waiting on Iinet to complete the setup (the email mentioned earlier did state that it may take a day or so following provisioning for a confirmation email to be sent out). When I got home in the evening I checked my mailbox and discovered a “we tried, but you weren’t home” notice from the line technician from the previous day.

The notice stated a couple of things:

Customer appointment:   8am – 12pm (and hour shorter than the time specified by Iinet)

Time that technician arrived:  1:20pm (a good hour and twenty after their appointment and twenty minutes after even the Iinet appointment. Also before I left the apartment).

The implication from this was that the technician came late, didn’t try the buzzer and/or my mobile, and just left. Another call to Iinet, around 6:30pm on Friday, so of course all I got was a “everyone’s gone home for the weekend, why would you want the Internet over the weekend, we’ll get someone to call you first thing on Monday to organise a new appointment as soon as possible”

Having waited patiently all weekend I decided that I’d keep the ball rolling and get in early – I called Iinet at 8:45am this morning, only to be told that no one from provisioning was available as it was still before 9am. They also reassured me that someone would contact me as soon as they were in.

Around 11:15am, having heard nothing from Iinet I decided to give them a call back. At this stage they fed me some rubbish about the provisioning system having been down this morning (like I actually care) and that no there wasn’t a team leader available to discuss my case with. They assured me that someone would call me back within the hour.

The next time I looked up it was 2:15pm – time for another call to Iinet.  It’s got to the point where I know their phone menu system well enough to get straight into the queue. Anyhow, again I get told that no-one senior could help me and that they would call me back soon…… waiting….. waiting….. eventually around 3:45 a team leader/manager calls me back.

After explaining the entire situation again (don’t they have call notes for this stuff) I’m told that he would have to make some calls and would contact me again tomorrow morning. I pushed a little bit harder, explaining this wasn’t good enough and that he should try to give me a call back this evening. He tried to tell me that he was in Auckland and it was past his bedtime – after explaining that there was still plenty of time in the day here in Sydney he got the picture that I was less than happy with Iinet’s pitiful service level. Within about 10-15 minutes he had called me back…..can you guess what happens next.

When this guy calls me back he says the best he can do for me is to schedule a new appointment for the 6th August. So for some reason, because Telstra/Iinet are incompetent I have to go without Internet for another week and a half.  I’m sorry this is not acceptable!

Ok, so just briefly, cause this has been a bit of a long winded explanation, I want to come back to the subject. I think I’ve covered the fact that Iinet’s QOS is less than acceptable but how does this apply to Software + Services. Well one of the topics that I’ve been interested in for some time is around building applications that will work well when they are occasionally connected.  For example Outlook in Cached mode essentially does a lot of operations locally, and then synchronises with Exchange.  This is the basic premise of Occasionally Connected Systems, which are in themselves really just a special case of Software + Services. 

Taking the Outlook example, with my limited connectivity at home (via my 3G phone which doesn’t seem to connect to half the websites out there) I can still do email as normal.  Sure the sending/receiving is slower but for most of my email/calendaring/contacts this doesn’t matter.  In fact, if more applications were built with this in mind perhaps my computer wouldn’t grind to a halt everything there is a network outage.  As I’ve been doing some web dev in the past couple of months I’ve had to use FireFox for testing – this product is one of the worst offenders for hanging when there is no Internet connection!

Update: If you read Tatham’s blog you will have seen this post, where he talks about his issues with Iinet.  Granted he’s been messed around even more than I have but regardless this quality level is definitely not acceptable.

Update 2: Just received an email confirming the appointment on the 6th August but also indicating that I’m up for a $109 fee for rescheduling the appointment!

Update 3: (30/7/2008) After 4 phone calls with various people at different levels within Iinet I have a new appointment that is a whole 2 days earlier. whoopie….

Making up for my sins – yes, that’s right, I’m doing Web Development!

Making up for my sins – yes, that’s right, I’m doing Web Development!

I’m very much a believer of using the right tool for the job and whilst I’ve never been a big fan of the ASP.NET model there are times when you just have to get the job done.  Anyhow, so I find myself working in the web space and having to do things like running up test servers and the like. 

After a bit of a poke around on the new server I couldn’t for the life of me work out why it wasn’t serving up .aspx pages.  Simple html pages and images were being served out fine.  Anyhow I spoke with IIS guru and fellow Australian MVP, Ken Shaefer and he pointed me to quite a useful flowchart that helped me diagnose what was going on.  This is probably old-hat for most of you but I thought I’d highlight it just incase it’s useful to others.

Here’s just the beginning…. click through for the full thing!


Broken WPF designer on a clean VS2008 installation

Broken WPF designer on a clean VS2008 installation

I’ve been running an M700 for almost a month now and it’s been a fantastic development machine.  It also generates a WOW when pulled out at meetings, even against those super-cool folk who are equipped with an iPhone.  However, it hasn’t all been easy-sailing – today I was trying to do some WPF development and came across an annoying error.  It appears that somehow, most likely installing some beta bits, I managed to disable the designer for xaml files.  The symptom, a rather descriptive error, with very little information on how to resolve it:


Whilst it is nice to know that "There is no editor available for …..xaml" the suggestion to "Make sure the applciation for the file type (.xaml) is installed." is completely useless.  Does Microsoft even both thinking about these error dialogs.  Luckily there was one useful discussion thread that helped resolve my issue. 

Simply run:

devenv /ResetSkipPkgs

Mobile Happenings

Mobile Happenings

Fellow Windows Mobile MVP, Mauricio Freitas (who runs Geekzone) has an interesting post around the evolution of mobile devices and how there are a number of people/parties talking about how we don’t need a physical qwerty keyboard or user installed applications. Having used the iPhone/iTouch on-screen keyboard I must admit it’s a better experience than I thought, but I think I still prefer a keypad or keyboard for doing text entry. With regards to not having to install applications I can definitely see the advantage of web applications (such as the iphone adaptation of Facebook) but I still think that installed applications have their place – particularly to support disconnected scenarios and to leverage otherwise inaccessible device functionality.

Elsewhere in the Mobile space…..

RedFiveLabs have announced the availability of Net60 which is a port of the .NET Compact Framework runtime (v1.1 only) for the S60 platform. Check out the following webinar for how to get started:

Windows Mobile .NET on S60/Symbian
This informative webinar showed users how to leverage their .NET CF applications onto the S60/Symbian platform and help create new revenue opportunities for their company by enabling them to address the 165 million S60/Symbian device worldwide installed base. This webinar also included how .NET CF code can be re-used to quickly enable the target application on S60 devices!

nsquared solutions is growing

nsquared solutions is growing

As some of you will be aware at the end of March I left Intilecta to form nsquared solutions with Microsoft Regional Director, Dr Neil Roodyn and fellow MVP, James McCutcheon. With some significant expertise in the mobile space it would come as no surprise that we are doing some projects in this space.  Whilst I can’t give any more away at this stage we have some awesome projects and products in the mix that I’m really excited about and can’t wait to share more about them.

In the meantime we are looking to expand our development team.  Specifically we are looking for self motivated, no-messing around developers who are passionate about technology.  The two technology areas we are looking to fill are around WPF and ASP.NET – if you feel like you’re up for the challenge then checkout the full position descriptions across at Dr Neil’s blog post, or contact me directly.

Saying Farewell to the Silicon Beach House

Saying Farewell to the Silicon Beach House

Over a month ago I had to close the doors to the Silicon Beach House due to insufficient tenants for it to be cashflow neutral. Unfortunately I was still left holding the commercial lease for the premises until a replacement tenant could be found. I would have thought that in the current climate in Perth this wouldn’t have taken this long but it’s clear to me now that commercial leases can take quite a while to be finalised.

So, now that a replacement tenant has been found it’s time for me to reflect on what worked and what didn’t with the beach house:

What Worked

  • The open plan environment we had really worked well. Although having other people talking in the same room can be distracting for some people, most of the beach house residents found it good to have someone to talk with occasionally – this is particularly true of the sole traders who would have otherwise been working by themselves.
  • The location worked. You have to ask "how could it not?" – it’s in the heart of Perth with shops, cafes and virtually anything you need almost on the doorstep.
  • The size of the premises.  There was enough space for 10-11 people to be based comfortably in the beach house.  With a fairly basic setup of flat desks and roller chairs this seemed to work well for those in the house.


What Didn’t Work

  • The lack of commitment from those who were initially pushing the idea.  This is more of a learning lesson for myself – don’t volunteer to put your personal finances on the line to help out others unless they have shown equal commitment.  Not only did I sign up for the lease for the place, I also invested in furniture and in removing a partitioning wall to help enhance the working environment.  Sorry guys but I blame the failure of the beach house entirely on you!!!
  • The short term leases. The leases were only three month leases with a 1 month notice period.  Unfortunately with me being in Sydney now it was difficult for me to replace tenants as they vacated.  This resulted in severe under utilisation which resulted in the eventual closure of the beach house. If I was going to do this type of thing again I would put a condition in the lease that the tenant was responsible for finding a replacement in order for them to exit the lease.
  • Me moving to Sydney. This didn’t help at all in being able to find new tenants.  Again, there was no one else in the beach house with their $$$ on the line, which meant that although Dave and Myles (big thanks guys) put in quite a bit of time to promote the beach house it was never their responsibility to find new tenants.
  • The lack of parking. Well honestly, did people really expect that they were going to get free parking in the centre of the CBD as part of their $120 per week.  I think not and I’m surprised people even asked.  Part of the reason it was based in the CBD is that there is an abundance of public transport options.


Overall unfortunately the sour taste of thousands of wasted dollars means that I’m unlikely to ever undertake this style of project again.  I will however continue to be involved in the various developer communities.

Imagine Cup 2008 – Paris by Bike

Imagine Cup 2008 – Paris by Bike

A couple of us decided to try out one of the more green/environmentally friendly forms of transport to get around Paris.  We eventually managed to work out how to hire a bike from one of the numerous bike racks around the city – this took a number of attempts as the instructions weren’t at all obvious. This would have to be one of the most enjoyable ways to get around Paris, although it can be a little scary sometimes when the normal road rules don’t seem to apply.







Imagine Cup 2008 – Australia makes the Finals

Imagine Cup 2008 – Australia makes the Finals

The top six teams for the Software Design Invitational for the 2008 Imagine Cup competition were announced earlier today as:

  • Australia – SOAK (Smart Operational Agricultural toolKit)
    David Burela, Dimaz Pramudya, Ed Hooper, Long Zheng
  • Brazil – Ecologix
    Carlos Eduardo Rodrigues, Eduardo Sonnino, Renato Ferreria, Roberto Sonnino
  • China – UniqueStudio
    Jing Pan, Yang Liu, Haojian Jin, Zhou Yan
  • Hungary – Digital Mania
    Ákos Kapui, Laszló Zöld, Bálint Orosz, Gergely Orosz
  • Portugal – (void*)
    André Sousa, Marco Barbosa, Martinha Rocha, José Faria
  • Slovakia – Housekeepers
    Marián Hönsch, Michal Kompan, Jakub Šimko, Dušan Zeleník

Imagine Cup 2008 – Round 1A

Imagine Cup 2008 – Round 1A

Yesterday was the first round of competition for the 2008 Imagine Cup worldwide finals.  This is where the students get to showcase to the judges the software that they have spent the last year working on.

The overall format for the finals are that it’s broken into three rounds:

  • Round 1: Split into part A (yesterday afternoon/evening) and part B (this morning), the students get to present for the first time in each part.  Each presentation is 20 minutes with 5 minutes for Q & A, and each presentation is to a different set of 4 judges.
  • Round 2: At the end of Round 1 the top 12 teams will advance to Round 2 where they again will have to present to a panel of judges.
  • Round 3: From 12, the competitors will be trimmed down to just 6 teams that will again present, this time in a much more public forum.  A set of 7 VIP judges will determine who is the overall winner of the Imagine Cup 2008 Software Design competition.

So, what are my thoughts so far? Well I can’t go into any details until the results are known to the students but I will reiterate a comment that I’ve made previously about the Imagine Cup competition:

Throughout the Imagine Cup competition the students have built some software to address a problem that they have identified based on the statement "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment". However at this point in the competition what matters the most is being able to convey what they have done to the judges in just under 20 minutes. This means getting their presentation absolutely perfect – no mistakes, no issues with demos, everything has to go smoothly.  This means practice, practice, practice and when you think you have it right, practice it some more!

Good luck to all the students for Round 1B and for the rest of the competition.