Back to the routine again

by Terry 5/19/2008 10:15:00 AM

I am back to work again. Oddly it feels good and unsatisfying at the same time. I am seriously considering changing my work. My current job is evolving and moving me further from software architecture and development and into systems evaluation and integration. If I stay with my current job and decline the new assignments, I will move into a software maintenance role and perform little design and development work. I have no shortage of work offerings, but I do not like what my options are as much. I still have time to sort it out, fortunately. My head is mostly clear today, so I am able to think on this and talk to Karen about it some.

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Recovering from travel and weekend work

by Terry 5/19/2008 9:49:00 AM

I am mostly recovered from the head-cold. Saturday was the worst with a full day of air-travel. By the time I got home I was exhausted and suffering a marvelous headache. I passed out on the living room recliner and snored for almost five hours before I staggered to bed and slept another nine hours or so.

Sunday I felt better. Sleep is amazingly recuperative. After breakfast Karen and I joined her family in Seattle to paint the house of an in-law, John. He is in the last stage of terminal cancer and this became an effort to ‘clean-house’ and helps his family out. We managed to paint the exterior of the house completely by the end of day. It looked good and gave the house a fresh look and finished a task that I know John wanted to finish himself but has been unable to muster the energy. John and his families definitely were happy and appreciative. My head-cold is trivial in this light.

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Orlando Airport, Returning Home

by Terry 5/17/2008 4:46:00 AM

I am still suffering from a head cold. I had poor sleep as my sinuses are preventing me from breathing normally. I am dreadfully tired and I actually look forward to the chance to sleep on the flight home. At the moment I sleep better sitting than lying in bed. Oddly, I have better wireless access in the airport than I had at the hotel. This will let me catch up on work emails while I am waiting for the plane – except I cannot get a secure connection to the office. So I will read the news instead.

TSA was its normal theatrical self. Basically there is a Starbucks on both sides of the TSA checkpoint. I can get a bagel and coffee at both, but I can only take the bagel through the TSA theatrical inspection point. Oh, I appreciate the security provided by the TSA, but I do not feel it is any more useful than the inspection methods provided before 9/11. But that is another topic. I wonder how the TSA would feel about me writing this as I wait to board a plane.

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Championship Karate and Tae Kwon Do, Orlando, my return visit

by Terry 5/16/2008 7:33:00 AM

Last Tuesday and last night, Thursday, I visited Championship Martial Arts (CMA) in Orlando (http://www.championshipma.com/). Again, I am grateful to the instructors for allowing me to observe and take class. I managed to catch a head cold, which I became aware of just as I arrived at the school last night. I still took class, knowing I would suffer for it. The workout was short, thankfully, and I put some extra effort into the exercises so I could sweat out the cold. I do not think it worked so well, but the workout was still good.

I managed to observe several classes over the few hours I was there. I have notes I can take back to DMW Martial Arts and share with the students in my Leadership class I normally teach on Thursday evenings. As I told Mr. Chris and Mr. Eric from CMA last night, watching and being a student in another school gives me more tools in my toolbox to teach with.

As an example, I learned how to do a front-kick and maybe five ways to describe the same. Watching a different school with different martial art and teaching styles, I learn two or three new ways to describe that same basic form of kick. Next week, and forever after, when I go to teach a new student that same old front-kick, and the words I use to describe how to improve their kick do not appear to help, I can now draw on these new descriptions. The student has the benefit of a better chance to ‘getting it’. I benefit by reduced frustration. The student body, as a whole benefits from the greater breadth of knowledge and experience.

I started in the martial arts a little late in life to be as physically dynamic as Bruce Lee or Jet Li. I have no plan to impress anyone in that way. What I can do is use my head, leveraging my intelligence to compensate for my physical shortcomings. I once read that Bruce Lee had one leg shorter than the other and he intentionally altered his fighting style to compensate and maximize his strengths. Obviously that worked for him, despite his abbreviated life. I know there physical aspects of the martial arts I will unlikely reach, but I know there is ultimately no technique I cannot describe or teach over time.

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VSLive 2008, Day five

by Terry 5/16/2008 6:53:00 AM

Today the conference is sparsely populated, and hence the network works as advertised. My head is full. This is a figurative and literal truth. I managed to catch a head cold and suffered through the night last night. I have this last day of sessions to sit through on almost no sleep and burning eyes and sinuses. But, I have network, I can check in on the office and keep up with the world.

Today I am attending a session on creating ‘Order from Chaos, leveraging .NET 2.0-3.5’ with Rockford Lhotka as the speaker. Mr. Lhotka made an interesting comment this morning. Basically, code-reuse is not the ideal to strive for because technology is often changing to quickly beneath our feet. It makes sense in the case where I have sever applications that are jointly developed, for example. Overtime, as platforms and coding technologies change, those ‘reusable’ objects we create have to be scrapped or rewritten. Therefore, strive for code reuse only where it will be of benefit.

Ultimately, how you construct your business, data and UI layers make all the difference.

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VSLive 2008, Day four

by Terry 5/15/2008 8:45:00 AM

Guess what? The network is down again at the conference. VSLive has always been a good informational conference. I have attended four times over seven years. Network has always been an issue at each. You would think the hotel IT vendors would get it right considering what they charge. I have a friend who owns a media vendor contract company in Seattle and Portland. I will need to ask what is up with the process and industry.

Obviously, if you see this, the network returned long enough to post.

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SQL Server 2008, VSLive, Orlando, Day three

by Terry 5/14/2008 8:13:00 AM

Some new features are now in SQL Server 2008 (beta as I write this).

Table Valued Parameters (TVP) are just that, parameters. They are more like objects that can be declared from a table definition. These TVPs can be passed to store procedures as a single value or marshaled to other clients as a whole.

The obvious advantage to this is large data changes. For example, I have an order and that order has a hundred order items. A stored procedure can be called that has two parameters; a TVP for the order header and a second TVP for all one hundred of the order items. This saves considerable back and forth travel time from a client. Ultimately, I think it can make transactions much more reliable.

In the past, I have done much the same thing, but less elegantly, with the somewhat more cumbersome use of XML objects passed into SQL Server 2000 stored procedures.

The Varbinary(MAX) FILESTREAM object declaration is pretty cool too. This allows BLOB data to be saved to the file system of the SQL Server, but still retain all the attributes of a varbinary object. The advantages are the blobs have transactional and SQL programmatic access, but are only limited to the size of space on the file system. I presume the disadvantage is that if the file system is not properly secured, the files can be edited outside of SQL Server, this was demonstrated, and therefore such edits, I assume, are not transaction secure. Being a beta product, it is too early to know for sure how that will be addressed.

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VSLive 2008, Day three

by Terry 5/14/2008 8:11:00 AM

I am frustrated with the on-site wireless connectivity. I seem to have said that before. The Lowes Pacifica Resort got it mostly working yesterday, but today it is unavailable again. It is annoying because I am trying to stay in touch with work and I want to avoid the $11 daily connection charges for my room. After all, I paid the disturbingly costly conference fee which is supposed to include high-speed wireless. As I write this I see the connections have all come back. If this gets posted you can assume it is live once again.

I am following the SQL Server tracks this morning. I make good use of SQL Server. I am less familiar with Oracle, but can use it well enough, but working in a largely Windows environment, Windows systems seem to work better with SQL Server. For the technology choice I had with the project I support at work, I made use of SQL Server and SQLXML for IIS. I have isolated and disconnected systems to support, so the XML feeds are easily saved to a file system and can be copied into disconnected networks. You can interpret that as a form of sneaker-net. In some cases, the data can go in on DVD, but only leaves as incinerated dust.

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Championship Karate and Tae Kwon Do, Orlando

by Terry 5/14/2008 8:10:00 AM

My visit went well last night. I watch a couple of classes and attended the adult class which ended the evening. I introduced myself to Mr. Chris, whom I called last week and was invited in. The teaching instructors I saw last night, Mr. Xavier and Mr. Eric, are quite skilled. Judging by their style and comments, there training is more Karate based than Tae Kwon Do (TKD). I am largely TKD trained, so while I could keep up in class, sometimes it took a moment to figure out what I was expected to do. I greatly appreciate their acceptance of a visitor.

I felt a little apologetic when I spoke with Mr. Chris last night. I called last week to arrange my visit, which was arranged at a higher level by my instructors at DMW Martial Arts through Mike Metzger of MAIA as a benefit of elite membership of MAIA. Somehow, and I will assume it was me being unclear, Mr. Chris believed I was attending class next week. Thankfully, this did not create too much inconvenience for the instructors when I appeared a week earlier than the expected, and again, I am thankful for their acceptance.

I wore a white belt, not my black belt. I am not there to teach or presume that I know anything, I am there to learn. Class was interesting. Unlike going to my own school as a student, where I hone my skills in class and help others, I was more distracted by watching the instructors and other students. In other words, I was looking at teaching style and the student interaction. Consequently, my performance was less than I usually drive myself to. I was there to learn, but learning is not always competing against everyone in class.

Now that I have broken the ice, I am hoping my next visit on Thursday evening will be a bit more of an idea exchange with the instructors.

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Improving Team Development, VSLive 2008, Day two

by Terry 5/13/2008 9:04:00 AM

The theme for much of the conference is Visual Studio Team System (VSTS). Improving Team Development, the session I am currently attending, is presented by Mario Rodriguez, the VSTS program manager at Microsoft. Note, while this is largely a Microsoft technology focused conference, most of the presenters are independent of Microsoft, and sometimes subtly vocal about Microsoft’s blunders, as they see them.

An ineffective team has some attributes:

  • Completes (works on) tasks with no business value
  • Divergent or incompatible agendas of the members
  • Incomplete or unknown requirements
  • Poor estimates, late delivery
  • Delivery of low quality software
  • Lack of defined roles of team members
  • Inability or poor team member communication

I have had the fortune to work on both successful and unsuccessful teams. I would agree with this list faults.

Success attributes include delivering customer value as the driver of a project; a top-down approach is constraining by focusing the team on a list of planned tasks. A top-down method is not a bad approach, but it is less efficient. By focusing on the customer requirements throughout the development process, you gain the following successful attributes

  • The customer can evaluate the deliverables
  • Quality assurance is embedded in the process
  • Eliminates process that deliver poor quality code

VSTS tools help produce quality code by enhancing, streamlining and enabling these attributes. Additionally, VSTS has Agile and CMMI templates, which are customizable. I agree with that, to a point. Having the tools available will help, and good tool integration will help a lot (I have to suffer with that where I work). Ultimately, the development team needs to work with these processes.

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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