The blogs of Black Marble staff

TFS Power Toys

I am not a fan of blog posts that are just a repeat of an announcement on other blogs, but in this case I think it is worth noting that the TFS October 2008 Release of the Power Toys are out.

The power toys are always interesting but the point of note here is the new shell integration for TFS. This means you can check in/out from Windows Explorer, thus in effect making it far easier to integrate third party products with TFS, like Dreamweaver or Expression Blend (OK not third party but has no TFS integration until version 3).

XPClub meeting on 12th November

Next weeks meeting is at the Victoria Hotel in Leeds as usual at 7pm. It is going to be group discussion sort of session, the subjects being:

Daniel Drozdzewski is going to present the future of the computing (based on the article read in recent New Scientist about processors built on logic gates utilising the chaos phenomenon)


moderated conversation about design in software projects

plus the usual gossip from the industry.

Hope to see you there, remember the event is free and so it at least the first beer.

NB. Remember next months meeting on the 10th of December is Gary Short’s excellent session on Patterns in software development

Tech Ed EMEA 2008 IT – Day 4

I attended a very interesting presentation this morning by Mikael Nystrom on creating a master image for SCVMM. We’ve been using VPCs for quite a while, in particular when building test systems for the developers to run their code on. Using a master image (or a series of master images) in SCVMM will help us speed up the delivery of these test systems.

Mark Russinovich (of sysinternals fame) gave an excellent presentation titled ‘The case of the unexplained’ which used a lot of examples of problems experienced running a number of applications on Windows to show a series of techniques that could be used to troubleshoot and find the root cause of the issue. Mark is an excellent speaker and I would urge you to see him talk (in particular on this subject) if you can. I can’t wait to get home and try some of the techniques he showed on one or two issues I’ve been seeing for a while.

Jeffrey Snover (the partner architect for PowerShell) ran through some demonstrations of PowerShell V2, which looks like a great leap forward from V1. In addition, V2 now comes with a visual editor, with debugging capability! A CTP of PowerShell V2 is available if you want to give it a go.

Steve Smith gave an excellent demonstration of the steps required to set up a load test against SharePoint using Visual Studio. I’m not a developer, but he gave me the confidence to have a go myself sometime soon.

The future of paid conferences and other thoughts

Whist at PDC and the VBug conference I have heard a a good deal of chat over the future of paying for conferences and user groups. This is in the light of all the PDC sessions being available on Channel9 in under 24 hours and that the content at the Vbug conference is also available at free events like DDD.

The question boils down to can a person or company justify paying a good few thousand Pounds, Euro or Dollars to fly half way round the world when they could see the same content at home? In my previous post on the PDC I suggested it was worth it for the networking, and I still think this is so. However, I have heard an interesting slant on this from more than one person; this is go to the city were the conference is but not to the actual conference; just taking in the parties and maybe watching content via the Internet where available.

For some people I think this might be a viable option; as long as you get the right party invites! For example at TechEd Europe there many community orientated events organised outside the conference because this is the one time most relevant people are in the same city. Also if you are in this group then you may struggle to find time to go to the actual conference so maybe this plan is viable or even preferred. However, for the average developer I am not certain it is the case, too much of the networking happens randomly inside the conference corridors and at meal tables. For this ‘outside the conference’ model to work you have to know who you want to meet and get invited to the right places/parties i.e. you need some profile in the community

As to the other point whether Vbug like events will continue I think we need to consider who they are aimed it. I had expected at the Vbug conference to see a lot of faces in the audience who I see at DDD, but this was not the case. There were a few but not a majority. Then again I don’t see the same faces at DDD as We have a number of distinct communities going on here, there is some cross over but not that much. I think the three broad groups are:

  • People who go to events (free or otherwise) during office hours – VBug attendees, and people who come to the events we host with Microsoft.
  • People who will go an event in their own time, but it is a passive learning experience – like DDD on a Saturday or a speaker at a user group
  • People who want to discuss what they do either in a user group over a beer or at an Open Spaces format conference – like

We are never going to get all three groups merged into one. People will move from one to another and maybe attend all three, but that is their choice.

We are lucky in the UK that we have such an active and high quality community so all three groups can be supported, it will be interesting to see if any one type prevails (judged by attendance) as time goes on. However I do not expect to see any type disappear soon.

Page views not updated in community server

Since we added the new themes to our community server we have not been getting any updates on the Blogs control panel as to the number of times a post has been viewed (but the aggregate views via RSS are incremented OK)

After a bit of digging it seems that we missing the IncrementViewCount flag on the in the post.aspx file. It should be as shown below.

<CSBlog:WeblogPostData Property="FormattedBody" runat="server" IncrementViewCount="true" />

If you miss this flag out you page shows OK but the statistics are not updated.

Tech Ed EMEA 2008 IT – Day 3 (the other things)

In addition to the two Steve Riley presentations I saw, there were a few other items that caught my attention on day 3:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 will be 64-bit only. yes, that’s right, there will be no 32-bit version. WoW64 will still be available for those of you needing to run x86 apps on the server, but it’s now an optional component, so no need to install it if you don’t need it for anything.
  • The .NET framework (or at least a part of it) will be available on Server Core in Windows Server 2008 R2. Unfortunately it looks like there won’t be enough of it on Server Core to allow us to run SharePoint (or even say the WFEs only) on it. Hopefully this is something that will happen into the future. As an aside, Rik and I did mention this to someone on the Server 2008 team, and someone from the SharePoint team; hopefully it will make its way up the chain.
  • Hyper-V v2 looks cool.  Many improvements, including support for many more CPUs than v1. The ability to add VHDs to a running system without rebooting was also mentioned; a very useful feature in my estimation.
  • Remote desktop services will support multi monitors in Server 2008 R2 – at last!
  • R2 power management appears to be getting an overhaul as well; core parking (the ability to entirely switch off a processor core, or an entire socket) looks to be something that will help power consumption on systems when they are lightly loaded.
  • R2 will give us an Active directory recycle bin! Hopefully no more ‘oops… oh no!’ moments.
  • Microsoft uses TS Gateway to allow remote users to access systems within the corpnet network. I was very interested to hear how few machines they use (albeit in clusters) to support their users. A reasonably high spec server (dual Xeon, 4Gb memory IIRC) supported 200-300 users simultaneously.
  • TS Gateway in Server 2008 R2 will allow device redirection limitations set from within TS Gateway to be enforced, even for TS clients that typically ignore these settings. In addition, consent messages can be sent to users forcing them to agree to access policies before they can access the remote systems.

Tech Ed EMEA IT: Day 4 - Guru Central

So, we're on the penultimate day of TechEd EMEA and I have to say that exhaustion is starting to creep in. However, the day had a great start with sessions by Steve Riley and then Mark Russinovich.

Steve was talking about security implications of virtulisation and his views were stimulating. He was talking in depth about what to consider when virtualising machines and why Microsoft took the architectural approach that they did for the Hyper-V stack when security was considered. I could post more, but I would urge you to go and find the video of the session when it's available as Steve himself gave a much better delivery of the material than I ever could.

Next up was Mark Russinovich, of sysinternals fame. I've been using tools produced by sysinternals for a long time, but almost always from the standpoint of figuring out how to make apps run with the least possible security. That means filemon and regmon, now replaced by Process Explorer. What Mark was showing was how to use ProcExp with some of his other tools to analyze why applications crash and how to drill right down into crash dump files to identify the offending code. It was a very cool presentation and his delivery was both engaging and amusing. If you get the chance to see him speak I would highly recommend it.

Tech Ed EMEA 2008 IT – Day 3, Security

Following a strong recommendation from Robert, I attended a couple of talks by Steve Riley (Senior Security Strategist for Microsoft). The first presentation was titled ‘21st Century Networking: throw away your medieval gateways’, the second was ‘Do these ten things or get 0wn3d!’. Steve has to be one of the best speakers I have ever seen, In each case he wandered round the auditorium keeping everyone entertained while at the same time getting across a very important message.  I cannot recommend his talks strongly enough. If you get the chance to hear him speak (I would say on any subject, but frankly it will be security with probably some politics thrown in), do so! If you’re at Tech Ed EMEA IT, Steve still has sessions on Thursday.

Tech Ed EMEA IT: Day 3 - Steve Riley

The last session of the day was just incredible. A surfer-dude with boundless energy wandering around the audience in shorts, cracking jokes and telling stories and every single one related in some way to his point. Steve Riley is a fantastic presenter, and his session - Do these ten things now or else get 0wned was a great session on security. Sadly, I don't think it's repeated or I would urge you all to attend the next viewing. If you have the chance to see Steve speak, grab it with both hands - especially if you are involved in any way with security or IT management.