The blogs of Black Marble staff


Andy and I are travelling to Barcelona this weekend for TechEd EMEA IT. I’m really looking forward to some of the sessions on Hyper-V, SharePoint and Forefront.If you’re going to be there, feel free to drop us a line and say hi.

VBUG Newcastle: Introducing OpenXML with Craig Murphy – Wednesday 29th October 2008

Many thanks to Andy Westgarth for organising a very interesting talk on OpenXML, given by Craig Murphy yesterday. Craig gave an excellent introduction to Open XML file formats in general and specifically the Open XML Format SDK 2.0.

I've been working recently on a project migrating SharePoint 2001 Portals to MOSS. The project has had some tight deadlines, hence the absence of posts. I've used PowerShell to deploy and customise the sites. I'll try and post about my experiences using PowerShell with SharePoint.

PDC Day 3

The keynote today was all about MSR, interesting as ever. I particularly liked the demos of Second Light (Surface computing that reaches beyond the surface of the physical pc) and Boku (a system to help children program). The latter is close to our hearts at Black Marble due to the work we have done on FPL, another system to teach children to program (watch out for free downloads of this application soon)

It was also interesting to see that there was a date for a PDC 2009 – shows that Microsoft have plenty of new things in the pipeline.

Outside of the keynote, what could be more directly useful to me will be Visual Studio Team Lab, a new SKU for 2010 (sorry still can’t find a link with more details) that will manage the provisioning of test environments: Hyper-v VHDs are stored in a repository and created using pre defined rules as part of a build process. Test can then be run either automatically or manually using the new VS2010 test tools. Test results are then fed back into the TFS work item tracking system including screen shots, error test information – in fact enough information to allow a developer to connect to the Hyper-v pc at the point of error and debug. This idea is something we are working on internally with current VS2008 and Hyper-V tools. Unfortunately we are unlikely to see Team Lab until VS2010 reaches beta, so a good way off – so I am going to have to persist with our own internal projects it seems.

PDC 2008 Day 2 Keynote

Well it was all end user focused today; Windows 7 and experience in Live systems. All looks very nice, given the usually question you have to raise in a connected environment over personal data security. I am sure Microsoft have done a good job of physical and logical data security, but the whole concept of mesh networks opens up a huge potential for social attacks. No developer can protect against the user clicking on an ill advised email or now mesh link; I know I have fixed too many friends PCs with the XP Antivirus 2008 Trojan of late, where they click on a link because an email said their anti virus was out of date, they thought they were doing good.

It was interesting that the major third party demo’s big demo’s were both from the UK: Tesco and the BBC. Is it me or does the fact Tesco plan to offer a WPF application to handle your online orders but also manages family photos see a little scary? Where is their reach going to end?

The second half of the keynote was the Don Box and Chris Anderson show  - excellent as ever. A whistle stop tour of programming against Azure. And all the demo’s coded against the live web sites even worked!.

SCVMM 2008 Beta and non-admin access to remote machines - further information

Following my last blog post regarding SCVMM 2008 Beta and the issues I was seeing with non-admin access to remote machines via Hyper-V manager, I thought it would be beneficial to forward my query to the team concerned via Connect. Here's the answer I got:

"What you are seeing is expected behaviour. When you add a Hyper-V host in SCVMM the Initialstore.xml file is no longer used for Hyper-V security. Instead SCVMM creates a new XML file and modifies it based on the user and admin roles that apply to that host in the SCVMM. That means that the step where you ran Azman and updated the Initialstore.xml file is lost. There is not a good workaround for this issue. The only thing that could be done is to add the user that needs access as a delegated administrator in SCVMM (with the right to administrator this specific host). Then SCVMM will update the XML file it uses with the correct info. Note that if you edit that file manually those changes will be lost when SCVMM refreshes it. It is called Hypervauthstore.xml."

This is useful insofar as it does indeed allow me a nice way around the problem I was describing. It does however raise another issue, which is that I don't believe that there is enough granularity in the delegated administrator role mentioned. I can only assign a host to a delegated administrator, not an individual guest. While I can limit which virtual machines a delegated administrator can log onto via user accounts, it may well generate a lower administrative overhead if I could limit the machines that a delegated administrator can connect to (say in the same way that TS Gateway works with RAPS and CAPS).

I'll feed this suggestion back to the team via Connect.

PDC Day 1 , Azure

Microsoft Azure is the name of Microsoft’s Cloud Operating system, a new service based operating platform

Windows Azure ( cool logo to come ) is Microsoft’s core web tier capability for virtual computation with automated service management
using a fabric controller for the provisioning with its design based on a balance based on existing windows dev skills + code , allowing develop

It turns out the the legendary Dave Cutler has been working on Azure for a while, all of the azure team were
touting Red shoes , presumably as a nod to the original working title of Red Box(I think that is right)

Windows Azure , is a solution hosted by Microsoft , released as a CTP with a first fraction of the initial features. Azure will deliver rapid change of Azure itself. Microsoft will move its own systems over to azure.

Azure provides scalable hosting with a hypervisor designed for cloud ,multiple level security implemented using hypervisor enforced isolation.

Azure also provides automated service management which allows it to cope with application
upgrades and OS in place upgrades. At Azures heart is the fabric controller which views all of the data centre as a fabric of hardware.

The fabric controller manages services not just servers. There is a light weight dev environment to allow testing.
which then can deploy to staging and then production.

Pricing to be released.

My thoughts are watch Azure.


It made me laugh…

At the PDC expo drinks last night I was asked to show age ID to get a drink! Just me it seems, nobody else from the company.

I thought I was doing well to be carded on my 30th birthday whilst in the US, but 10 years on it getting silly – You must ask how do I keep my youthfully countenance? Wish I knew, but they say it is youth culture here in LA.

So my new aim is to get asked to prove my age to get a drink with an OAP bus pass.

VSTS 2010 at the PDC

Though not really mentioned in the keynote there are a lot of sessions on VSTS 2010 at the PDC; it is going to be a major really major release.

Chatting in between the sessions with other delegates there seems to loads of interest in the new testing features, but we know this is pain point from meetings. It will be interesting to see how these new tools deliver, I am sure the manual testing tools will be useful, but I am a bit more doubtful over the UI testing tools. We have all seen the demo promise of these products before and hit problems when we try to use them for real.

I think the improved integration for Office is also going to be important. At the moment we use the eScrum template for VSTS and the main reasons for this are the easy project visibility it gives to non-developer users via it’s web site and the way it manages the relationship between the product backlog and sprint tasks (given the lack of hieratical work items in the current VSTS). With 2010 I am not sure we are going to need the eScrum web site. The ease of reporting (and live work item updating) in Excel and hieratical work items will make this it superfluous, so the basic Agile template in 2010 may will be able to do the job.  

PDC 2008 thoughts day 1

So it seems we are going to have themed days at the 2008 PDC and day one is all about  the Azure services platform. Though judging by the expo stands the key announcements for tomorrow - Oslo and Dublin are out there too. As conferences go it seems a bit confused to me, I guess Microsoft are aiming for three big bangs at three keynotes; but we seem to have had a big bang today and splutter of future items.

However, I might be wrong, there could be stuff we have not even suspected, lets wait and see what we get tomorrow. Don Box and Chris Anderson are usually good value whenever they present so I await their keynote session with anticipation!

So as to Azure, a new move for Microsoft? Well not really it seems the logical next step especially given the offerings of Amazon and Google. It will be interesting how this develops, but on a first quick look Azure seems a very strong offering, I guess it will all be down to price in the end. Oh and if you trust Microsoft to host your business data.