The blogs of Black Marble staff

Speaking at the West Yorkshire BCS meeting on Agile Methods

After my comments on the QDD session at a past BCS meeting I have been asked to return and speak at the West Yorkshire BCS meeting on the 30th of June to give an overview about Agile methods.

This will be very much a management overview for people who are unaware of Agile methods, hence I will touch on XP, Scrum, Crystal Clear and Kanban and try to compare and contrast.

But, If you can’t wait to find out about Agile, why not come to the next Agile Yorkshire meeting on the 8th?

Great book on Kanban

I won’t bother to repeat what Gojko has said on David J, Anderson’s book on Kanban, other than to say I agree wholeheartedly.

I too have been looking for a good introduction book on Kanban as applied to software development (so Kanban as opposed to kanban, not the capital K). This is exactly what with book does. OK I know that this information is out there on the web (; but there times, especially for introducing potentially non technical people to development methodologies, where you want to point people at an easily accessible introduction they can dip into. This is that book, have a look it is worth it

Setting the display value in databound combo boxes on Access 2010 web forms

When you drop a combo box on a Access 2010 web form and databind to a query or table with a value column and display column (e.g. the query select id, description from table1) you don’t get what you would expect. It shows just the value e.g. a set of integers in the combo.

This is not the case if you are using a standard Access client form. the wizard that gets run sort it all out for you, and if it does not, you just set the ‘Bound Column’ property to sort it out.

On web forms the fix is simple, but not obvious.

  1. Databind the combo as you normal do to the query/table.
  2. Go to the combo’s properties format tab
  3. Set the column count to 2
  4. Set the column widths to 0cm;2cm (basically hide the first column and show the second)


Once this is done it work fine

More on my Vodafone 403 errors – an explanation at least

The next chapter of the ongoing saga. I had the 403 errors again today when using my phone as a modem to test out firewall. As I was in the office I had time to call Vodafone support. As expect I had to speak to a succession of people:

  • Person 1 – call centre advisor, passed me straight onto ‘support’
  • Person 2 – support advisor but seem lost when I spoke about web protocols, I think it was more ‘making a phone ring’ support
  • Person 3 – 2nd line support, success, as soon as I explained my problem they said ‘yes that happens’.

The problem is down, as I had suspected, to congestion in their WAN network (not the 3G network, though the density of cells is a factor). When you try to use HTTP Vodafone route a request to their authentication server to see if your account is allow to connect to the site. By default they block a list of adult/premium web sites (this is service you have switched on or off with your account). The problem is at busy times this validation service is overloaded and so their systems get no response as to whether the site is allowed, so assume the site you asked for is restricted and gives the 403 error. Once this happens you seem to have to make new 3G data connection (reset the phone, move cell or let the connection time out) to get it to try again.

I have now had the restricted service removed from my account, we will see if this help. I fear it will not as any connection still has to ask the authentication server if the site is restricted even if my account is set to restrict no sites.

So it seems that volume of smartphones is really hurting Vodafone's internal network. They seem to have the 3G/Edge capacity, shame they have not got enough server wan/capacity to back it up yet.

What I don’t understand is why this has taken me so long to get a sensible answer. Can’t they publish a statement on this problem on their support forums or web site?

Upgrading from Office 2010 RC to RTM

I got this commonly seen version error when I tried to upgrade my RC version of Office 2010 to RTM

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version of Microsoft Office 2010. You must first install any prerelease versions of Microsoft Office 2010 products and associated technologies. Correct the issue(s) listed above and re-run setup.

I had already removed by RC Office and Visio. Turns out the problem was I had the Outlook Hotmail Connector (Beta) installed too. Once this was removed the install worked fine.

DevExpress and Microsoft do it again


This time for Visual Studio 2010, CodeRush Xpress is a great developer productivity tool from DevExpress. Microsoft has made arrangements with Developer Express to make its CodeRush Xpress product available as a free download to any customer with a full Visual Studio license (i.e. not express). CodeRush Xpress includes a sub set of the full CodeRush features, CodeRush Xpress fully supports all language features of Visual Basic and C#

download it here

Once you have tried Xpress and seen how useful it is,I would strongly suggest looking at the full product


Looking for a good overview of Visual Studio 2010 and ALM?

Visual Studio 2010 provides many new features to aid Application Lifecycle Management. Learning its capabilities can be a bit daunting, especially if you are new to Team Foundation Server.

So enter the new book ‘Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010: with Team Foundation Server 2010’ by Mickey Gousset, Brian Keller, Ajoy Krishnamoorthy and Martin Woodward. This provides a great overview of all the the key features of Visual Studio and TFS 2010, presented with a view as to how TFS gives an end to end delivery of an ALM process.

Don’t go expecting this book will tell you everything about TFS, even at 600 pages it cannot be that detailed, it is a huge product, you think SharePoint is big, well it is just a subset of TFS! To address this potential problem the book contains many links of to relevant sources both on MSDN and blogs to fill in the extra detail you are bound to need concerning TFS and general development processes. Think of it as a “get you started” book, or a “what’s new in this release”, not a day to day administrators guide.

My one complaint, and it is very minor, is that it does read a bit like a collection articles as opposed to a single book. However, given it has four authors and the scope of the subject it covers this is forgivable.

So if you are are considering TFS 2010, whether as a developer, a sys-admin or manager this book will give you a good introduction into that you can achieve in your ALM process. Well worth a read.