Darth Reed

Now that I have a place to put my quasi-technical babble over at MSDN, the space is reserved for me to spew my political bile and enjoy all things sci-fi. Heh.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Serenity: Just for the record.

Before I abandon this blog entirely, I want to state emphatically that Joss Whedon is my master now. The movie opens Friday. Go see it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Link: How to Doom your IT operations in 3 easy steps

Hrm. It seems that incompetent Jedi continue to get promoted into positions of authority everywhere. A truly sad day because I wish that my last place of entertainment was the only place that this rant could've been written of:

Eric Wise : How to Doom your IT operations in 3 easy steps

Eric is definitely an honorary Sith! He did the smart thing and vacated the premises instead of staying to fight the inevitable tide of humanity and Jedi, probably for the same reason that I did -- They wouldn't make him Emperor! Anyone who advocates a single, unified vision, that all should subvert their own egos and career goals for "the good of the Company" and who demands that everyone march in lock step with "the Department's best interest" is well on his way toward the Dark Side. Welcome, Eric! You're definitely executive material!!

My favorite quote is:

Oftentimes the users see IT as an invisible pod full of trolls who want to make their lives miserable. Getting your IT staff out and visible helps put forth the human side of things.

Eric, you're a genius! Getting those IT trolls out in the sunlight also serves to help reduce the troll overpopulation problem!! Huzzah!!!

Strike hard!

DeepVertical launches vertical search site targeting autism.

This just flew by in a press release in a totally unrelated forum, and if I wasn't sensitized to the word (being a parent of an autistic child) I might've scanned right over it.

New vertical search engine: AutismAware.com - Autism Information Search Engine

I haven't used it for anything non-trivial yet (having just discovered it), but I plan to exercise it heavily and see how deep it really is.

Strike fast!

Ding-dong, Palm is dead?

Yes, Verizon has been getting bigger and faster. That's good, because it puts pressure on my current carrier (Not-Verizon Inc) to get their act together. (Buying Nextel doesn't matter to me, guys, unless it means faster data access! Hurry up!!) However, this little announcement from Bill's Company might be evidence that either Verizon is now powerful enough to raise the dead -- or Palm really is toast.

Windows Mobile 5.0 on a Palm Treo?!

I liked the Treo 600 that I had for a while, but I'm much happier with the Sprint PPC-6600 (aka the Audiovox 6600). The 6600 has its issues, but all things considered, I prefer the larger screen and slide-away keyboard (protects the keys!). I just hope the eventual upgrade to WM5 is painless...

Strike quickly!!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bluetooth Sprint modem experience in Rita's aftermath

Since Rita seems to have eaten Time Warner/RoadRunner in my little corner of Houston, I was getting ready to start kicking myself for never having signed up for Verizon’s data service... $80 a month used to seem a bit too steep. Then it occurred to me that I might be able to find and download some 3rd party widget which would enable me to use my PPC-6600 as a modem. Imagine my pleasant surprise to discover that it was already built in! (No, I don’t normally read the fine manuals. Why do you ask?) Unlike my old Treo 600, no 3rd party widget is required. WModem is very nice -- a big thank you to everyone at Microsoft and Sprint for making it so easy to use.

I had a Merlin Aircard at the last place of entertainment, and it was a bit pokey; this connection through the 6600 seems to be a little faster even through Bluetooth, but it’s still only 115k after all. (I’m using Bluetooth because I can’t figure out how to disable ActiveSync 3.8 which automatically starts synchronizing via the USB connection, and I don’t want to give myself the uninstallation/reinstallation headache. And even after I manually kill the ActiveSync connection and finally get Windoze to try to recognize the phone as a USB modem, it gives up after failing to find the driver.)

The Bluetooth connection was cake to setup as a standard Bluetooth modem (it eats up two new phantom COM ports) and then it was super easy to create a dial-up connection to #777 with no authentication credentials (presumably the phone itself provides sufficient identification to the Sprint data network). No need to use the expensive AT&T Global dial-up thing that Avanade provides; if you’ve got Sprint data coverage, this is mo’ bettah. And the best part, if you don’t like getting phone calls, is that the phone won’t ring while you’re using it as a modem.

In short, I’m blogging Rita (the non-event that she was in Houston) via Sprint’s PCS network from my Tecra... while that teasing little blinking light on the RoadRunner modem taunts me. I can almost hear the daemonz of disconnectedness laughing at me! Almost. Although one could wish for faster than what Sprint offers now, I’ll thank them kindly for the 115k that I do have, and at least now I know that I won’t be sitting around the airport lamenting my disconnected state anymore!! (Since friggin' T-Mobile HotSpots are never where you need 'em.)

Friday, September 23, 2005

The truth is out there?

For decades we've been verbally and legislatively pounded with the eeevils of burning fossil fuels and using efficient coolants. A few sane folks have maintained that more actual science needs to be done. Fortunately, there are some real scientists out there still on the job instead of preaching to smelly Earth Day types and raising the cost of producing a decent gallon of gas.

The truth about global warming - it's the Sun that's to blame

Oops!! It looks like it might not be Hummers and Expeditions to blame after all. The downside is that... [drum roll] There's not a damn thing we can do about solar energy output, no matter what you drive.

In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and the looming Rita, everybody's talking about not being able to afford NASA projects anymore. If you think that then in the immortal words of General Honore, "You're stuck on STUPID!!" If the Sun has turned up the Earth Toaster setting from light toward dark enough to start meling the polar ice caps on MARS then we need NASA now more than ever!

Somebody get me off this rock!!!

Waiting for Rita...

It looks like the ~2M people who vacated my general vicinity here in Houston may be in for a big disappointment. And that's a good thing! (At least from the perspective of Houstonians like me.) We're fixin' to get wet one way or another, though. Here's to hoping that Reliant can keep the electrons flowing and Time Warner can keep the Road Runner on the rails this weekend... or I might wind up in HALO2 withdrawal. Heh.

Shoot first!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Chunk bigger, padawan.

I've gotten a lot of questions about web service design in the past six months or so, and almost always they have come from people who are still trying to use web services like a data access layer...


You can't just insert a web service call wherever you would have used a database call in the pre-SOA world. It just doesn't work that way because the penalties for marshalling and serialization are too high! You've got to design your web service interfaces to be more purpose-built and to return more data than a typical request for data.

My personal benchmark goal for an ASP.NET application has been no more than one web service call to handle each single client web request event. One for Page_Load, one for each event handler, but no more.

Chunk your web methods bigger, padawan, and your application performance will improve immensely.

(With apologies to Pollotta and Foglio for ripping off their timeless STOP THAT! cannon. If you haven't read Illegal Aliens, you must stop now, go buy it and read it immediately.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services bug (Build 1308)

Yet another obligatory beta software warning!

Strong Warning: If you're using the August/September/CTP/TAP/Whatever-you-call-it of SQL Server 2005 for Reporting Services, you won't be able to run reports against Analysis Services out of the box with Build 1308.

Why you ask? Because whoever built the freaking installer forgot to GAC the MDXQueryGenerator.dll!!! It worked fine with the June CTP, so... of course, they had to screw it up for this build. *sigh*

Easy fix, after you waste the day wondering what makes you so masochistic as to try to build shiny new products on software that Brother Bill ain't finished yet... Just GAC the MDXQueryGenerator.dll on the Reporting Services server and things will start working again.

Oh, BTW, they seem to have removed gacutil from .NET 2.0, so don't bother looking for it. Just use the MMC console to manage it.

Strike fast!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Data security in the small.

Pop Quiz: Does your kid's child care facility use encryption to store the personal information that they keep on file about your family members?

Like most small businesses, I'll bet they don't.

Does the public school system do any better at protecting your family's data?

So, what do you do when you find out that the computers at your kid's child care facility or school have been stolen? Worry? Yell? Sue? Wonder? Watch your kids like a hawk? What do you do when it happens with no disclosure and you DON'T find out??

This isn't a hypothetical question for Darth Reed. This actually happened a couple days ago to the child care facility at our health club (who shall remain nameless for the moment). The details are sketchy, but it smells like an inside job to me. But who stole the PCs (and the data on them)? Punks who wanted higher performance toys? Junkies that needed some quick cash? Pedophiles who wanted the pictures of the kids, their addresses and the work out schedules of the parents?

You see, we don't know exactly what was stored besides pictures of us and our kids, our membership numbers and other basics. Were those things stored locally? On a network server? Were they encrypted with a meaningful level of complexity? Do you know who is keeping what information about you, where, why and with what level of protection around it?

At my last place of entertainment, we used no encryption whatsoever, despite warnings by the development staff, because in the immortal words of the former CEO, "Nobody has ever fraudulently purchased a home on behalf of someone else." They completely ignore (to this day, as far as I know) the fact that the personal appointment calendars of both customers and REALTORs® (which homes they have and will see and when -- along with notes about their preferences and impressions of the properties), the financial profile of each individual who was interested in buying a home and lots of private contact information like cell phone numbers and mortgage tracking documents were stored in the system. At best, a highly motivated seller with that data could hold out for a much higher price if she knew that the buyer was willing and able to spend more. At worst, a stalker could meet the prospect at an out of the way, unoccupied home for an illicit rendezvous that the prospect wouldn't appreciate at exactly the time scheduled on the customer's calendar. But, of course, executive management didn't believe that encryption and better security (like SSL certificates!) was worth the cost.

You may not have thought about it this way (I didn't until just recently), but there are more important data points in your life to protect than your credit card numbers... Your bank and credit card balances are insured, but no amount of insurance can really replace your wife and kids.

We software developers have got to STOP letting ignorant business people and miserly project sponsors skip over the simple but important bits of data security and start building our applications with some better self-protection.

Strike first!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I love beta software!!! Mostly. Not.

My favorite error to date with SQL Server 2005 (April, June, July and August CTPs -- jury is still out on the September RC) is:

Executing the query ...
Errors in the OLAP storage engine: The restrictions imposed on partition slice where violated.
Execution complete

Isn't that a beautiful thing? So far, it seems to mean that I've selected too much data and Analysis Services refuses to analyze. Reducing the number of member selections without changing anything else in the query makes it all better. Grrr. I guess even Microsoft can only cram so much intelligence in the business...

If I were an aircraft mechanic, I'd go on strike. Heh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The infamous disclaimer

Being of unsound mind and slightly round body, I am, of course, belated in posting my obligatory blog disclaimer. Better late than fired, I always say. (I have borrowed heavily from Wlodarczyk's blog's disclaimer. Apologies in advance for my heavy usage of apostrophes and commas.)

I am currently an employee of Avanade® Inc. My blog is mine. Avanade® Inc. is a joint venture between Accenture® and Microsoft® Corporation. My blog is still mine®. Oops, 5-yard penalty for inappropriate use of ®. The opinions represented in this blog are mine as well and may not (and probably won't) represent my employer's opinions or the opinions of my employer's owners. I have not been brainwashed by anyone to write praises about Avanade® Inc., Accenture®, Accenture® services, Microsoft® Corporation or Microsoft® Corporation technologies, I'm just writing about the technology, science fiction and other random things that I love, especially my kids. OK, well, maybe I won't blog about my kids, but you've been warned, just in case I do! All of my posts will include information that is public knowledge, so don't look to me to get internal information about any future Avanade® Inc. initiative, Accenture® strategy or Microsoft® Corporation product. My blog is still mine. And there may be other blogs elsewhere with my name on them.

Now back to your regularly scheduled random excrement.

This is why surprise parties for Sith are a BAD THING.

You should never shout "Surprise!" in a dark room when somebody who can kill you with his mind has just opened the door...

F-Minus: Surprise Party

"Oops, sorry!" is all that I'll have to say when you regain consciousness. Heh.

On a lighter note, I'll be publishing my series of "Why Extreme Programming is the Perfrect Demotivational Paradigm" articles based upon the illuminating works of Dr. Kersten in "The Art of Demotivation" later this month.