02 Nov 2007

SQL Server Express with Advanced Services

This really is the worlds most needed, most hidden and most marketing bs item ever. For those who don't know SQL Server Express is the light version of SQL Server, basically runs a database server but nothing else, not even a management tool. However it is free to redist with apps and it ships with Visual Studio etc... so it's out there a lot.
But you can just feel there are things needed to get it from almost useless to void filling tool (management tools being number 1). Anyway someone at MS realized this at some point in the last year and decided to bring out the Advanced Services edition (how is that for marketing spin, it should be the complete edition but no we need it to be advance, even though it install stripped down features of everything still).
Anyway above the standard express you get:
  1. Stripped down management tool
  2. Reporting services server (the /ReportServer, you don't get /Reports)
  3. and full text search.
These features are so advanced it's insane, oh wait they are all in the standard SQL server from day one.
Anyway if you need this you can get the 250 odd MB download, which you can just run on your vanilla SQL express to upgrade it, from
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=5B5528B9-13E1-4DB9-A3FC-82116D598C3D&displaylang=en
More details on this is available at
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms365248.aspx
29 Oct 2007

It isn't everyday that one buys a new car

From a conversation between myself and Pierre:  ...afterall it isn't everyday that one buys a new car
true.that new car smell, the first time you shit yourself cause you see a taxi in the rear view mirror, the first time you put petrol in it and wonder why it costs the same as the car, the first time you take it in to get those little issues fixed and get it back with the radio tuned to kaya fm, and a scratch on the side, fact for first 6 months you are crazy healthy, from walking from the far side of car parks where you parked away from anyone in case they hurt the car and the first time it rains and you go fuck it, and park next to someone.
Enjoy the new car, Pierre!
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26 Oct 2007

Microsoft Wines

This is very cool, a special bottle of Stormhoek branded for Microsoft. I wonder if Microsoft South Africa will get any of these? Read more on Steve Clayton's blog or on the Stormhoek site

I'll anyway try find the Stormhoek sauvignon blanc this weekend at Macro to give it a try.

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22 Oct 2007

My wandering thoughts

So after travelling so much last week (around 3000km, but not all at once) I finally enjoyed around 12 hours of sleep after the Bokke win against the English on Saturday. However during travelling I had some interesting thoughts I wanted to share:

  • Why can you gargle in private without messing, but not in public?
  • Why do I always get a seat on an airline with something wrong with it, forcing me to talk to airhostesses?
  • Men serving drinks on a plane are airhostesses.
  • I love how, when someone from a competitor company joins, there is almost a want to tie him to a chair in a dark room with a bright light until he tells all his secrets.
  • Why does the rain ALWAYS follow me to the coast?
  • Real developers get together after 7pm.
  • The state of confusion with woman is not a constant for men, it increases exponentially with each interaction.
  • Never trust a project manager.
  • When someone is truly grateful for my help, I feel bad about charging them.
  • I'm glad project managers charge for my time and not me.
  • Ever notice how people driving slower than you are idiots while people driving faster are reckless? Love how I am always perfect ;)
  • I am glad I am not English (as in the country, not language)
  • I wish the national pride that swells from 80 minutes of rugby could last 80 years.
15 Oct 2007

Best marketing system ever

A while ago I posted about sources of icons I use (see here) and one of them was IconKits.com, who frankly must have an amazing marketing person. If you read that article you will see I spoke about the fact each month you get a point to spend on "purchasing" a free set from them. When I wrote that I never realized how brilliant it was.

See by the time next month comes around I have forgotten about them, then I get an email about the free point, which makes me directly click the link and sign in on their homepage. Straight away this company has me on their homepage, interested in their products, seeing their marketing etc... every month, and I am happy to do it. Hell I even recommend other people do it too. But since I only get one point each month, it's not enough to get all their free stuff (and new stuff appears each month too) so I am always forced back.

Why does this work, well people like getting free stuff, people like spending cash and even more so when there is no penalty on that spend (ala Points) and people forget quickly. So you take all of those and give them a points system to get free things and remind them each month by giving them another point, and boom! you have a marketing gorilla.

Anyway this month I think I will get the Aerozone Folder Kit Laughing

02 Oct 2007

BizTalk as a collection of tools OUTSIDE of integration

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 has a set of features which work great doing what BizTalk is normally used for, integration. But these features are so powerful by themselves in a non-integration environment that I can see customers buying BizTalk and never using it, just some of the features. The first I want to look at is a feature call BAM, Business Activity Monitoring. This feature initially allowed you to see inside a running BizTalk orchestration. This is helpful in so many many ways. But the real power is starting to come through in R2 as it now allows you to see in side Workflow Foundation (WF) processes, since R2 supports those.

But most of the time IT thinks BizTalk = Integration. But really with BAM it is almost an infrastructure tool as well, especially if you think the following products all have WF as a core system:

  • Microsoft CRM 4.0 (was Titan)
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Speech Server 2008
  • Customer Care Framework 2008

Now how do you see whats going on inside all of these without your own tools or Visual Studio? BAM it! Also just think of developing a custom WF solution, now you can no spend time on a WF monitor rather just use BAM for that.

The next feature is the rules engine. The rules engine takes data from a BizTalk mapping, .NET component (so basically anything) or a database and runs it through a set of rules. The rules are versioned and items on one set of rules remain on those until they end of life. Now just thinking about how many applications I have written which have a very tightly built rules engine (i.e. business rules) which you can only really change the parameters, to extend that to add/remove rules etc... would be great. The rule designer also is in readable English, rather than C# or some weird language. This is great since it means that a business analyst or customer can manage it, not a developer. Why this is great is that you can integrate this engine into .NET in 5 lines of code or less! Image just plugging in a full rules engine in 5 min and then moving onto something else (in reality maybe not that easy but still easier than building your own).

The last feature is Enterprise Single Sign On (ESSO), where it was originally developed to store credential mappings. i.e. You are MYDOMAIN\USER1 in AD and in Siebel you are ROBMAC01 and your password is XYZ. BizTalk could then use ESSO to authenticate you into these other systems because it knows your user name/password etc.... and it's authenticated you against AD. It's also secure since your credentials are encrypted by your AD account, meaning no one can see other peoples details and there is even a nice client tool which users can use to manage password changes. This is great and maybe useful in your next application, but BizTalk internally and many other people don't use it for this. They use it for configuration setting storage per user. Since the credentials could be anything, including simple name/value pairs, instead of storing credentials you store values. Now instantly you have a accessible and secure config system with a client management tool and a great admin interface which is also scriptible. Once again all for very little development.

Update 16 October 2007: Thanks to Ryan for pointing out BAM is Business Activity Monitoring not Business Automation Monitoring.

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01 Oct 2007

More Lego than you could imagine

This just makes me tingle with excitement:

A few years ago, the Lego company was making "Star Wars" toys. LucasArts tapped game-development studio Traveller's Tales to make the critically acclaimed "Lego Star Wars" video game series. Lego made Batman toys. Traveller's Tales got the gig to make next year's Lego "Batman" video game. Lego recently announced plans for Indiana Jones Legos. Keeping the pattern going, LucasArts announced at Comic-Con last week that Traveller's Tales will be making a Lego "Indiana Jones" game for release in summer 2008 From http://www.mtv.com/games/video_games/news/story.jhtml?id=1565980

 

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01 Oct 2007

Rage Expo and Nag Lan report back

Update (2nd Oct 2007): The VC guys have been responding to the issues raised on the forums at http://forums.tidemedia.co.za/nag/showpost.php?p=21642&postcount=22. I recommend having a look since it does clear up some issues. 

Yesterday was my once a year weekend of nothing but gaming and computers (actually thats a lie, I do it more than once a year, but it's the special one Laughing). For those who don't know it was the Nag LAN at the Rage Expo. Now I have been attending this since it's inception so I classify myself as someone who has some crazy understanding of the event. Let me run through the expo to begin with.

I didn't pay to get in, being that all the lanners get in free so I can't comment on the value for money, but it definitely was smaller than last year and far more commercial. A lot more stalls were just shops selling stuff with very few people actually showing anything special or new. This includes the competitions at stalls which seemed that every second stall was giving away an XBox. The WII was launched and Halo 3 at the expo, but with little fan fare. The WII stand was tiny and had 4 consoles to play on (so the queue was to forever and back) and not the really interesting WII games, just WII sports. Halo 3 was equally bleak with just 2 or 3 consoles at the Microsoft stand showing it and someone dressed as Master Chief walking around. The Project Gothem console at the XBox stand got more attention than Halo 3 due to the chair and pedals and steering wheel. This is all in comparison to last year when the XBox was launched with a massive area with plenty of consoles and amazing give aways and a show that night etc....

It wasn't all doom and gloom for the expo, the booth babes were the best ever (quality and quantity) and the sound was better. Let me explain that last one, in previous years the sound has been more of loud talking with sound effects from games in the background. This year the games were more evident, thanks mostly to the 2 or 3 stands which had Guitar Hero 2 and 3 going. It just made it seem far better. In reality though, if you missed the expo this year, pop round to Zaps on a Saturday and imagine more people.

Next the LAN! It has grown to 1500 people this year, with the extra 300 people taking up the space which was used by the expo last year. The most popular games (using my method of looking at other peoples screens) seem to be Warcraft 3 and Counter Strike. A lot of UT2004 and Supreme commander was also played. This year also showed more female attendees which is great for gaming, and the file sharing on DC++ peaked at a whopping 44Tb (thats Terra bytes) shared!

The network was once again run by the VC crew who did an ok job. The electrical setup was perfectly done (I keep wondering if someone from VC isn't an electrician) but the network was lagging and is showing it's age. The network is a 100Mb with 100Mb backbone and non-managed switches. Considering the LAN is broken into 2 distinct areas (upstairs and down) the lag was occasionally very bad, to the point of losing connection. Definitely next year VC needs to go to 1000Mb and look at managed switches to cope. Their admin was as good as always. A downside is that unless you play a game the VC play, getting a server is impossible. We tried to get UT 2004 server for an informal tourney, and were successful. However it was not (remember the latest patch is over two years old now) patched and missing files so no one could connect, which meant the UT 2004 tourney flopped. The VC staff were unable/unwilling to help with this Frown

However the downside to the LAN was the venue. The dome is not the right place for this anymore. Remember that a large part of that 1500 stay all three days and nights at the event. The toilets were shocking by Saturday night with most getting blocked, no toilet paper, mess on the floor, etc... If the dome wants to keep it they need 24 hour cleaners for the duration of the LAN. The security was also horrible, it was far too easy to get equipment out while impossible to get any food or snack in. This is because the dome has it's own (crappy) fast food, and doesn't want competition from Northgate next door. However at a LAN, getting energy drinks and 2l cokes from fast food doesn't cut it. I had to make a trip back to the car to drop off items I had bought the day before. Unfortunately security (dome management) doesn't care about the equipment and once again there were items stolen and no one really being able to check properly. Also the dome has no area for relaxing so most people slept under their desks and the lights stayed on all night (thankfully I live a few km away and drove home each night). Once again for a 3 day lan, chill/sleep areas are needed.

I will be back next year, provide I still live close by. However if I had to spend all my time there or live far away I wouldn't attend it. The venue just ruins the experience of a great event too much for me.

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