But it works on my PC!

The random thoughts of Richard Fennell on technology and software development

New books on VSTS/TFS ALM DevOps

It has been a while since I have mentioned any had new books on TFS/VSTS, and just like buses a couple come along together.

These two, one from Tarun Arora and the other from Mathias Olausson and Jakob Ehn are both nicely on trend for the big area of interest for many of the companies I am working with at present; best practice ‘cook book’ style guidance on how to best use the tools in an ALM process.



If your are working with TFS/VSTS worth a look

Great book full of easily accessible tips to apply the concept of user stories to your team

As with many concepts it is not the the idea that is hard but it’s application. ‘Fifty Quick Ideas to Improve Your User Stories’ by  Gojko Adzic and David Evans provides some great tips to apply the concept of user stories to real world problems. Highlighting where they work and where they don’t, and what you can do about it.

I think this book is well worth a read for anyone, irrespective of their role in a team; it’s short chapters (usually a couple of pages per idea) means it easy to pickup and put down when you get a few minutes. Perfect for that commute

‘The Circle’ a good read

Seven whole years ago I wrote about re-reading [corrected – getting old and forgetful not William Gibson’s it was]  Douglas Coupland’s  Microserfs and how it compared to his then new book JPod. And how they both reflected the IT world at their time. Speculative fiction always says more about the time they are written than the future they predict.

I have just read ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggers which in many ways is a similar book for our social media, big brother monitored age. I will leave it to you to decide if it a utopian or dystopia but it is well worth a read


Review of ‘Software Testing using Visual Studio 2012’ from Packt Publishing

I have just been reading Software Testing using Visual Studio 2012 by Subashni. S and Satheesh Kumar. N from Packt Publishing


This book does what it says on the cover, it is a general introduction to the testing tools within the Visual Studio 2012 family. My comment is not about how well it is done, it is a clear enough introduction, but why produce a book that really just covers what is in MSDN, Channel9, numerous podcasts, blogs and ALM Rangers documentation?

I suppose this is a question of target audience, some people like to browse a physical book for ‘new’ technology, I can see that (though I tried it on Kindle, more of that later). This book certainly does cover the core areas, but sits strangely between a technology briefing for a manager/person who just needs an overview (it is all a bit long winded, list all the features and flags of tools) and not enough detail for the practitioner (the exercises do not go deep enough unlike those provide by Microsoft in Brian Keller VS/TFS demo VM series)

Given this concern I wonder who the target audience really is?

A real issue here is that Microsoft have gone to quarterly updates, so the product is always advancing, faster than any print book can manage (Microsoft’s own MSDN documentation has enough problems keeping up, and frequently is play catch up). For a book on testing this is a major problem as ‘test’ has been a key focus for the updates. This means when the book’s contents is compared to Visual Studio/TFS 2012.3 (the current shipping version at the time of this review) there are major features missing such as

  • The improvements in Test Explorer to support other non Microsoft test framework, playlists etc.,
  • SKU changes in licensing, MTM dropping down to Premium form Ultimate
  • Azure based load testing
  • The test experience in the web browser (as opposed to MTM)

The list will always grow while Microsoft stick to their newer faster release cycle. This was not too much of a problem when Microsoft shipped every couple of years, a new book opportunity, but now how can any book try to keep up on a 12 week cycle?

One option you would think is Kindle or eBooks in general, as at least the book can be updated . However there is still the issue of the extra effort of the authors and editors, so in general I find these updates are not that common. The authors will usually have moved onto their next project and not be focused on yet another unpaid update to a book they published last quarter.

As to my experience on the Kindle, this was the first technical book I have read on one. I have used the Kindle App on a phone for a couple of years for my novel reading, but always felt the screen was too small for anything that might have a diagram in it. I recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite so though I would give this book a go on it. I initially tried to email the book from the Packt site straight to my Kindle, but this failed (a file size issue I am told by Packt customer support), but a local copy of USB was fine.

So how was the Kindle experience? OK, it did the job, everything was clear enough,  it was not a super engaging reading experience but it is a technical book, what do you expect? It was good enough that I certainly don’t see my getting too many paper books going forward whether thet be novels or technical books.

So in summary, was the book worth the effort to read? I always gauge this question on ‘did I learn something?’ and I did. There is always a nugget or two in books on subjects you think you know. However, ‘would I say it is a really useful/essential read for anyone who already has a working knowledge in this subject?’, probably not. I would say their time is better spent doing a hand on lab or watching conference recordings on Channel9.

Leave this book to anyone who wants a general written introduction to the subject of Microsoft specific testing tooling.

Experiences with a Kindle Paperwhite

I wrote a post a while ago about ‘should I buy a Kindle’, well I put if off for over a year using the Kindle app on my WP7 phone, reading best part of 50 books and been happy enough without buying an actual Kindle. The key issue being poor battery life, but that’s phones for you.

However, I have eventually got around to getting a Kindle device. They key was I had been waiting for something that used touch, had no keyboard,  but most importantly worked in the dark without an external light. This is because I found one of the most useful features of the phone app was reading in bed without the need for a light.

This is basically the spec of the Kindle Paperwhite, so I had no excuse to delay any longer.

Kindle Paperwhite e-reader


This week was my first trip away with it and it was interesting to see my usage pattern. On the train and in the hotel I used the Kindle, but standing on the railway station or generally  waiting around I still pulled out my phone to read. This had the effect that I did have to put my phone into WIFI hotspot mode so the Kindle could sync up my last read point via whispersync when I wanted to switch back to the Kindle. This was because I had not bought the 3G version of the Paperwhite, and I still don’t think I would bother to get, as firing up a hotspot is easy if I am on the road and the Kindle uses my home and work WIFI most of the time.

So I have had it for a few weeks now and must say I am very happy with it, I can heartily recommend it. I still have reservations over having to carry another device, but it is so much more pleasant to read on the Kindle screen. So most of the time it is worth carrying it and for when it is not I just use my phone.

New book from Gojko Adzic ‘Impact Mapping’

A common problem with getting software developed is the needing to get everyone aiming for the same goal. This too often gets lost in the development process; the real goal of the business is not communicated to the development team.  It maybe that the goal professed by the business is not the one they even really want, but their current viewpoint obscures the true goal.

In this new book from Gojko Adzic provides a excellent introduction to Impact Mapping as a tool to help address this problem. It describes using workshops and simple graphical tools as a way to tackle this problem of keeping an eye on the true goal. These are tools to use well before starting down the user story/ALM path to make sure the goal of your project is sound, known and measurable.

This is a refreshingly thin books that should be easily accessible to anyone involved in software projects irrespective of their technical skill level or team role. Well worth a look by everyone

Nice introduction to the new features of VS2012

If you are looking for a nice introduction to the new features of Visual Studio 2012, I can heartily recommend Richard Banks 'Visual Studio 2012 Cookbook'.

This book covers a wide range of subjects including the IDE, .NET 4.5 features, Windows 8 development, Web development, C++, debugging, async and TFS 2012. This is all done in a easy to read format that will get you going with the key concepts, providing sample and links to further reading. A great starting off point.

There is stuff in the book for people new to any of the subjects as well as nuggets for the more expererienced users. I particularly like the sections on what is not in 2012 but was in previous versions, and what to do about it. This type of information too oftan left out of new product books.

So a book that is well worth a look, and has it has been published by Packt there are no shortage of formats to choose from.