Do programmers dream in Byte Code?

This is Boss's blog , by day I am the Managing Director of Black Marble , by night I am an MVP for BizTalk and spend my life evangalising development to all.

Living with Windows 10 and a Surface Pro 3

I have been running Windows 10 on my pro 3 since the preview was first available. Truth being told there have been at least two occasions where taking it off seemed to be the best option but in both cases updates fixed the problem.

Being a developer I don’t always think before upgrading to new technology but in general it works out well as it has in this case.

To lay my stall out I like Windows 8, the concepts of live tiles, applications exposing search APIs etc. was/is a genuine change for the better, having taught developers the ins and outs of Windows 8 more and more I realise how good the concepts are. Windows 8 is a step change, unfortunately the press who slam Microsoft for not changing and when they do slam again seem to be winning out.

But Windows 10 is keeping most of the key features and hopefully integrated application search will come back.


Updates So Far

Updates have been coming roughly every month with a break for December.

Build 9841 – Initial Release

A  change, Windows 8 applications on the desktop, An enhanced start menu showing the Windows 8 tiles, a great snap feature for windows and virtual desktops. The app commands is now an icon on the title bar.

There is also experimental updates for cmd allowing ctrl- options ( select properties and experimental to try )


Build 9860 – The Broken Release

The dreaded broken release with thousands of fixes, the ability to choose the speed of updates you receive. crucially a fault in the XAML renderer (guess) caused most Windows 8 applications not to start. Notification centre is in but not working to any level.


Build 9879 – The Ah that's Better Release

Most importantly XAML works Smile

The app command bar has turned into a 3 bar icon (hamburger!!!!) in the top left of the window and now works very well

The notification centre now works like a dream and in very useful.

There is a significant update to OneDrive which once finished works well, but the update is not good and involves recaching everything, you can now choose which directorys to cache but not until the cache has been updated (oops)

The User experience has improved considerably, in window dialogs,


A new feature is gestures on touchpads

  • 3 finger up -> Task View
  • 3 finger down -> Show Desktop
  • 3 finger flick to left or right -> switches to previous app (go back 1)
  • 3 finger move left or right -> Alt-Tab pops up and you can select the app you want (remove fingers to select)
  • 3 finger tap -> Search

 It looks like an emergency update for build 9879 will be out shortly

The Pain in the Ass Features

As each drop is in effect a new version of windows, 7-8-8.1-etc you are more often than not presented with the “you don't know how to use windows” helpful hints.


So How is the Surface Pro 3 coping?

Well after 9879 it really has sprung into life and it works well, I had a few problems with the surface pen on the 9860 drop but all is ok now.

There has been a firmware fix as well for the surface, as both arrived at the same time as build 9879 (ish) it is hard to determine which had the bigger effect.

The main issues are the great UX metaphors from windows 8 are being down played., but I expect to see this fixed in the new year releases.


What am I looking forward to??

Integrated Application search (no promises) and integrated outlook search

Continuum, due to the nature of the Surface 3, setting either windows 8 mode or start screen exclusively is not helpful, but with continuum we should get windows 8 becoming more adaptive to use i.e. if it is tablet mode we see one view, with a keyboard another.

The big ticket item which will be a while is the true universal applications across desktop/phone/xbox one


Final thoughts

Windows 10 is the step change that Windows 8 needs, it is missing as ever good guides on use and in the new year after the next drop I will endeavour to get some written

for most users I would wait until end of April 2015 (post Build), but if you are a dev or IT pro with enough experience it is most definitely worth the effort



Moore’s Law – Deciphering Falsehood’s and Prophecies

Several times over the last few months I have encountered people who have misquoted/used Moore's law to justify a solution for a problem they are avoiding or more often are failing to comprehend to any real level. At a base level it is used as a reason not to do anything at worst used to justify the reasons not change poor or degrading solutions.

After far too many of these encounters I thought it was about time I posted my view of and at the same time debunked some of the many falsehoods I have seen Moore's law used to justify, but I also wanted to give a view of what the change over time of the Computing Industry actually means.


so what is the law:

Well first of all it is not a law it is in fact an observation and prediction, which in general terms has stayed the course for nearly 50 years.

Gordon E Moore predicted that in general terms the processing power of a computer will double every two years. Moore was initially talking about the number of transistors in a processor but later changed to talk in more general terms.

There is common trait of all of us is to read into a statement, what we want to hear or more accurately we hear what we want to hear when we don't fundamentally understand what was said.

But the main problem is that Moore was talking about Raw processing power, but what we use as consumers of computing power is a managed level of computing offering a higher level of functionality well above and beyond the raw power, As time goes on, the computing systems offer more and more features and layers of tooling which make users, developers and IT pro’s life easier and more productive, but this comes at a general cost of raw power used by the operating system and the applications that run on top.


I think if you do look at Moore's law as a more general concept, then look out our industry where a lot of very bright people are working hard improving computer technology and the outcome is likely to be a doubling of overall power every two to three years and that the manifestation could be more transistors, more cores, better threading, then i think you are closer to understanding what people generally mean by the term.


With the continual growth of the cloud and specifically Azure bringing great Platform as a Service, elastic cloud delivery the general concept of Moore will have some time to go.


so why do people get it so wrong:


It would be inconceivable that in a modern enterprise, applications would be built enterprise applications without these successive improvements and changes to the core of computing which we take for granted.

Microsoft .NET is a great example of this, it performs a large amount of “heavy lifting” with regards to the day to day coding chores such as memory management, interoperability etc., it provides a large and comprehensive library set which to be frank in the 80’s and 90’s would have cost a fortune to buy or develop or indeed weren't available. .NET is free and people forget the sheer power it brings to a developers finger tips.

What this means in real terms is we can deliver new software with huge amounts of functionality in a relatively small timeframe, with a minor cost of a higher level of computing power.

But expecting that your poorly written, under performing application will be just fine in a few years is not the answer to anything apart from self delusion.


Ok but what does this mean in real terms?

In my opinion, Software systems increase in base value and functionality by an order of magnitude every 4.5 years. The real problem is that users expectations of software increase by at least double that.


So what to do?

Don’t bet on more power in the future, build for the now and allow for the future to increase your performance if it arrives. There are great tools to help performance and great guidance on architecture and design.



M is Dead, Long Live M


Years ago I had the privilege of doing some SDR’s with the team developing a toolset code name “Oslo” using a new language named ‘M’. The concept was to bring modelling of data and visualisation of data to all. Sadly the retirement of Oslo the day before a presentation I was to give was a sad day and the passing of the visualisation tool Quadrant sadder still.


However all is not lost, Data visualisation is a keen topic for me and recently I have been spending more and more time with the awesome PowerBI tools for Excel. As it turns out a chance meeting with some of the original team hinted that I should look at Power Query. The Power Query Formula Language used to allow Queries built by the user to be both repeatable and sharable. As this was the key tenant of the M language, it shouldn't really come as a surprise that the PQFL <sigh> is really M.

If you are interested and lets be honest who wouldn't be, Reference for M and PQFL is available here.



First Band Update

The first firmware update is out for Microsoft Band. To get the update you will need to update your Microsoft Health app. In the UK this means the set region to US, go to the store, check for update.
Run the Health app and it should offer a firmware update to the Band. The update is done over Bluetooth and so I made sure my power was connected to the Band and that the Band and Phone were a few Cm apart.
The first time I tried it failed, but closing the Health App and restarting the app Second time was the Charm.

Microsoft Health app version number = 1.3.1209.1
The Band firmware version = 1.1.2110.0 09 R

So far if truth be told, I have seen no differences and the change logs do just state improvements and fixes.


IT Pro New Year’s Honours List 2015

The lovely people in the IT Pro team have announced their IT Pro Honours list and I am privileged to be on it.

A great set of professionals and Me and Rik.

Me an IT Pro Smile who would have thought.

I suddenly feel the urge to help Rik fix his laptop Winking smile.

Seriously there is a steady merge between Dev and IT pro in the DevOPS world and what a great world to be in.

again great thanks to the IT Pro team for their consideration.


Microsoft Band

I have been very fortunate to get hold of a Microsoft Band. Bands are currently in short supply, but thanks to an Angel in Minnesota I have one. Currently there is no expected release date for the UK, but a quick look at EBay will turn up enough units to buy, remember the retail price is $199. CAUTION – Check

The Band is Microsoft’s first foray into the wearable's market and first impressions is that they did a good and quite an extensive job. Where most wearable focus on one or two areas, Microsoft Band covers pretty much everything.

For phone support Microsoft has made Windows Phone (obviously), Android and IOS first class citizens for the Band.


The Hardware:

The display is a capacitive 1.4-inch (11mm x 33mm) TFT full colour touchscreen, with a resolution of 320 x 106

The sensors include heart rate monitoring using a optical heart rate sensor, a UV sensor, a 3-axis accelerometer, a Gyrometer, an ambient light sensor, a skin temperature sensor and a galvanic skin response sensor.

To wrap things up Microsoft has also included Microphone,Haptic vibration motor

Microsoft says that the Band is splash proof, but NOT waterproof so be careful no showers

The Battery lasts for about two days, charging is done with a nifty magnetic USB cable.

There are two buttons, the central button is the Power Button and the off centred button is the Action button.


Getting Started:


For Windows Phone first of all you will need to install the Microsoft Health Application.

Currently the Health application is only available in the US Store. If you are outside the US, Change your region to US, reboot, download the application, change the region back, reboot and all is well.teh

The Band has enough charge to get started but plugging it in is the first step and it will wait to be paired.

Next pair the band and your phone over Bluetooth.

Then run up the application.


The Band:


band a


The Band has a set of applications which can be chosen using the Health application (select the band symbol top right), the usability is very good.

The main display shows the time, swiping to the right shows the Band status (heart rate monitoring, Bluetooth and battery) alternatively the action button cycles the small display between pulse, steps, date and exercise.


In the settings, you can change the basic sensors and if you want the band to work as a normal watch set the clock to always display, but most of the settings are done in the Health Application.

Microsoft Health:


 The health application keeps a track of the exercise you have done (more on this later) and your historic. it is also the main setup point for the Band.

Top Tip : set your height and weight and then go on a run/walk/amble with GPS on (set the run mode) to fully calibrate. 


I like what I see and it is growing on me day by day, I will post more on applications over the next few weeks





Lumia Denim

Don’t worry, Nokia are not planning to revive 70s nostalgia aftershave, Denim is the new update for Lumia's providing better low level support of the hardware.

Denim offers several key updates

Camera – for the 830/930/1520 updates specifically for HDR, Dynamic flash and 4k video and speed fixes for the 1520. as a user you will see this surfaced in the new Lumia Camera application update.

Image Quality – Denim also comes with a new generation of image processing algorithms which “should” improve picture quality.

Cortana – for the 1520 and 930 there is a new “Hey Cortana’ voice recognition which will start Cortana.

Glance – Now has Bing weather, Bing Health and other applications

Availability as ever is network dependant, but as this is generally improving, hopefully you will catch it soon.

Check for your area here

I haven’t received it on my 930 where lets hope glance makes a sorely needed appearance.


Give a Hoot, Learn to Code

This week is Computer Science Education week (CSEW) and I am really exited that Computer Science is being seen for what it is, A gateway to an amazing future.

The Hour of Code is upon us and urge everybody to look at helping children and adults do their first hour.

Microsoft have been promoting the Hour of Code and the importance of Teaching Children to program,

(Quotes from the good and myself)

To celebrate CSEW, on Wednesday Black Marble will be running a Schools Event to help Teachers and Students understand why programming and Computer Science. This is the third year we have run the event and the success of seeing students inspired to take up Computer Science is one of the greatest rewards I have received.

We have great speakers from Microsoft, Black Marble ,Oracle and other industry specialists. There are labs to help students learn.

There are still a few places, call Black Marble if you are a school or a teacher would would like to attend, please get in touch.


Keep on Coding



DDD North and IOT


Yesterday was the ever great DDDNorth. Huge thanks to everybody who came,helped, spoke and organised a great event, what a great bunch of people.

I must also thank the University of Leeds for their support in providing accommodation for the event.

A greater bunch of people where the self selecting bunch who came to Iain and my talk “The Internet of Things ,Thought about it? Now try it.”.

Thank you to everybody who came and congratulations to the people who won an Intel Galileo kit.

After feedback we will be running a follow up session in the next few months, I will be posting information on ISS as soon as I can.


Here is the main link for running Windows on Devices

For a sneak peek at ISS

To Help get Windows running on the Galileo Devices

Useful notes on remote shutdown

MQTT on Galileo


If you came I hope you had a great time and I look forward to seeing you at the next event


Windows 8.1 update 1 _KB2919355 Error: 0x80070070

While I have been pootling about updating machines at home I received an  Error: 0x80070070 for _KB2919355 patch. After some digging the problem and a bit of trial and error was the need for 4.5 Gb of free space to be available which on some of our smaller tablets was a challenge.

But simple enough, clear the space and you are set to go