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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vista has been released! (it's about time)

Vista has been officially released to the public. It's taken a long time and many of the original features promised have been cut, but overall, it looks like a pretty exciting upgrade to XP (though I probably won't upgrade until I get a new computer). The thing I'm most excited about is the ability to search for applications and documents from the start bar (I know you can install 3rd party applications to do this, but it's nice that it's built-in). Windows Sidebar and Gadgets look cool too (I use Google sidebar now and really like it).

Bill Gates was featured on the Daily Show last night (Jan 29th). It was pretty funny but not all that informative (no answer to what the F12 key does).

Several other Microsoft products were released along with the official release of Vista. Most notably, PowerShell! If you thought I was going to say Office, you are reading the wrong blog :).

2007 is shaping up to be an interesting year in software. I can't wait to see what is coming. Expressions Suite is one software package that comes to mind. If we are lucky, Visual Studio Orcas might make it as well. Roger Jennings has a good post on release dates associated with Orcas. Orcas RTM to Slip from 2007 to 2008?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I've changed my blog style

I didn't like how narrow the article column was in the last style (especially for some of the source code). Let me know what you think of the new style. 

What every software manager needs to know about software architecture

If you are a manager in a software company, and you enjoyed the "Conjunction, Junction, what's your function" videos on ch 9 when you were a kid (or whatever channel they played Sesame Street on), you should watch this video!

Architect Video

Obviously somebody has too much time on their hands :).

I have to admit that I'm not sure that comparing software architects to building architects makes a lot of sense. Though perhaps the differences are more of a matter of degree than of kind. The basic job function for both types of architects is to plan a project to make sure it addresses the customers requirements, doesn't violate any regulations, and can be constructed within a reasonable amount of time and cost.

However, the actual environment that the two types of architects work in is very different.

There are no regulations on who can become a software architect. Building architects must obtain a licence and only after having received specific certifications and experience. Although most software architects have previous experience as developers (hopefully they all do), few have any certifications that mean anything in the industry. The field of software is so new and changing so rapidly with so few regulations (and those are changing fairly rapidly as well), it would be difficult to create a licensing process that wasn't obsolete before anybody could even achieve it.

There is usually a considerable amount of difference in the education and experience of a building architect and the people who will construct the building. The building architect must be very detailed and consider all of the implications of any design decisions. However, in software, the difference between the architect is usually only a matter of number of years on the job and aptitude. Software architects often just produce high-level designs and the developers produce the detailed designs (I'm sure there are many exceptions to this, but this has been my experience).

Unfortunately, there are many software projects where the planning was left to personnel managers and inexperienced developers. This has led to software being written on an extremely shaky foundation. Typically this just means that developers have to work extra hard to make things appear to work smoothly to end users. A building cannot be placed on a shaky foundation. It would be condemned.

Not as much time is put into the design of a software system as you would put into a building. This is because the cost of making a mistake with software is far less than the cost of making a mistake when designing a building. In fact, their are design techniques in software that allow the building of a system without doing very much up-front design at all (such as Extreme Programming). I don't believe this would be possible when designing a building.

Of course, the video is trying to explain the need for architects to people who probably don't really know anything about software architecture, so the analogy might be appropriate for that level of ignorance.

Check out Wikipedia for more information about building architects and software architects.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Browser Wars

After the surge in visitors I got from being featured on both the Firebird and IBExpert websites this week, I thought the browser metrics were pretty interesting. Apparently, the folks that use Firebird seem to have a preference for Firefox. Perhaps it's the name similarity? :)

1. Firefox - 57.14%

2. Internet Explorer - 37.03%

3. Opera - 4.37%

4. Mozilla - 0.58%

5. Safari - 0.29%

6. Mozilla Compatible Agent - 0.29%

7. Konqueror - 0.29%

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Great 2006 Software Review

2006 was a great year for software. I thought I would make my first post of the new year as a review of the software that was released last year that caught my interest. This is software that I think will have an impact on the world (some big, some small). It is not necessarily software that I use on a regular basis (or at all :).

I know I'm going to miss some great software, so please feel free to post anything I might have missed.

NOTE: Most of the links go to the original announcements. Some are official press releases, others are just blog entries.

Google Bookmarks (via the toolbar) - January 30th

Everybody that uses a browser knows what bookmarks are (also known as favorites). The Google difference is that these bookmarks are stored online, but are accessible through the Google toolbar in the browser.

I love being able to share my bookmarks between home and work and that I don't have to remember to back them up before I get a new computer.

Google Calendar - April 13th

My wife and I now share a calendar. This is a very convenient way to communicate events between us. There is also a very handy Google calendar gadget for the Google Sidebar that shows me the calendar right on my desktop at work so I always know what's coming up.

Windows Live Writer (beta) - August 11th

I'm using this software write now to create this post. It is a very nice blog entry tool. There are still a few kinks to work out, but overall it's great! It was very easy to set it up to upload my posts to my blog.

Firebird 2.0 RC3 - August 13th

This is a great database. It's reliable, performs well, easy to use, and it's free with no limitations. I've been using the previous version of the DB for close to a year and have been very impressed with it.

Of course most people need more than a command-line utility to create and manage a database (not to mention testing it). IBExpert is a great commercial product with a free version for individual developers (it's limited, but you can still do a lot of stuff with it). If you've used SQL Server Enterprise Manager you can probably imagine what features it has (I actually believe that IBExpert has more features than SQL Server Enterprise Manager).

Logitech MX Revolution Mouse - August 24th

Ok, this isn't software, but I'm still damn excited about it! Mostly it's the flywheel for scrolling. It actually switches between a flywheel and ratchet (standard scroll wheel behavior) depending on the application you are using.

PowerShell RC 2 - September 26th

Command-line + .Net, what's not to like :). If they can fix the performance issues, I'm sure that many Windows admins are going to be very happy people.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets - October 11th

The future of the office software suite is here! Google has created an Internet based document editor (like Word) and spreadsheet application (like Excel). They allow for a high degree of collaboration, including the ability to work on the same document at the same time and receive live updates, almost like an instant messenger program (as rumor has it anyway, I haven't had the opportunity to see that work).

Internet Explorer 7 - October 18th

It's about time Microsoft updated its browser! They have done a great job of cleaning up the UI and providing the features that experienced web surfers have come to expect (such as tabbed browsing).

Firefox 2 - October 25th

I am very impressed with the improvements that have been made in such a short amount of time by an open-source project. It's great to see a viable alternative to Internet Explorer (if for no other reason than to encourage Microsoft to keep its browser up to date).

Microsoft Windows Desktop Search 3.0 - October 25th

This is the most effective way to search your Outlook email that I'm aware of. It also searches other documents (including MS Office) on your system as well. It's easy to use, fast, and produces good results.

.Net 3 (including WPF and WCF) - November 6th

These technologies will definitely have an impact on the world, especially Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), though it may take a few years for the hardware to catch up. Expect to see some amazing consumer applications coming out soon.

Basically the WPF (not to be confused with WTF) allows designers to create graphically intense (including animations) user interfaces quickly and easily. .Net 3 comes installed on Windows Vista and can also be installed on Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server.

Windows Vista - November 8th

Microsoft's new OS is possibly one of the best yet (based on the presentations I've had of it anyway). It has some great features for security and usability. As I look into my crystal ball, I see a new computer with Windows Vista on it in my future :).

I really looking forward to Windows Home Server. Home Server is essentially an appliance that you can hook up to your network for file sharing and other nifty things (it's a full version of Windows Vista). Unfortunately it's not due out until the second half of 2007. If you're interested in this, here's a great Ch 9 Video.

SQL Prompt 3 (beta) - ~December 11th

It's about time somebody added Intellisense to my SQL scripts. This has made writing SQL much less painful. I know longer need to scan the object browser every time I need to find a table or field.

Google Patent Search - December 14th

Patent surfing just might be the next big time-waster (ok, probably not). Google has certainly made looking for patents much, much simpler. You can now search for patents from the comfort of your home using Google's excellent search capabilities in order to make sure that your new "great idea" is not already patented.

Again, if you know of something I missed, please post it.