# Sunday, 28 October 2007

After a long run-up, friend, colleague, and partner at Vertica, Troels Riisbrich, is now online with his new blog, riisbrich.dk. Troels is leading the BPI team at Vertica, and if it has to do with BizTalk Server, Troels knows it. He’s the architectural master mind of several of the bigger BizTalk solutions at Vertica, and always an inspiring teammate to discuss both overall designs as well as small technical subtleties with.

This coming week Troels is attending the Microsoft SOA & Business Process Conference on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, and hopefully we will be able to follow his adventures on the blog. Other than that he will be blogging about BizTalk as well as everything else that gets him excited.

Sunday, 28 October 2007 16:24:52 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback
# Wednesday, 24 October 2007

At Vertica it has been a tradition to, approximately once a year, go on a company outing. This trip is used as team building, but also to discuss issues related to our work. We talk about the past year as well as the directions for the coming year. Though the CEO do go through the past years financial results, results is not limited to finances.

We also take the opportunity to catch up on all the things that has happened the past year. A company is (or at least should be) going through a constant evolution. During your everyday work there might be a tendency to forget some of all the achievements being attained. Though everyone does their best to remember to appreciate ones colleagues, when they have outdone themselves once again, an extra opportunity to look at each other and say “Damn, we are good!” is always welcome.

This year we also had presentations from sales as well as a Project Manager. As a consultant it is always interesting to hear what is going on in the sales department. Sales people and consultants can have a strained relationship, but a lot of it also has to do with being prejudged. As is always the case with prejudices, conversation and information are the best way to overcome them. Changes are that you might even learn something from it.

As I believe is the case for pretty much all other (IT) companies, we are also continuously working on improving our process model at Vertica. Therefore we also had a Project Manager do a presentation on the latest development with this work.

Obviously we also had time for some more social related activities such as an Edinburgh city tour, a ghost walk, and a 4x4 Jeep safari in the highlands. We even went to a typical Scottish night out with dancers, back pipe players, and of course the mandatory haggis. Interestingly enough, apparently it is only tourists that do the typical Scottish night out. At least all the Scottish people were somewhere else. Nonetheless we had a good time :o)

The whole trip was thoroughly documented by camera, and if interested you can see some of the photos in the Scotland 2007 photo gallery.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007 16:15:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback
# Thursday, 18 October 2007

A few of weeks ago I got back from my summer vacation. For the first time ever I have been in South America - and it was certainly not the last time. With backpacks my girlfriend and I travelled around Ecuador for three weeks.

The diversity of the country is simply amazing, and that goes for pretty much everything: people, culture, climate, and nature. Truely a fantastic place. And we didn’t even do the Galapagos Islands. Not because we didn’t want to, but because it would have added another week to the trip as well as set us back another couple of grand per person. At some point you have to stop – and it’s also a great reason to come back :o)

The main stops during the trip were Quito, Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon jungle, Rio Bamba, Baños, Cuenca, and Montañita. From Rio Bamba we did the famous Devils Nose train ride. Unfortunately due to an accident a few months earlier, there was no riding on the roof as is normally the standard practice. None the less it was a spectacular ride down the Andes.

Traveling with two digital cameras and a girlfriend very fond of photography, we ended up with 500+ photos. Digital cameras sure is a great thing, but it certainly also generates some hours in front of the computer sorting everything when you get back. It’s a nice way to relive the holiday though.

So far all I have managed is to have a small Ecuador photo gallery uploaded that you can check out if interested.

  

Thursday, 18 October 2007 22:04:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback
# Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Highly recommended by two of my favorite bloggers, Joel Spolsky and Erik Sink it was with a great deal of expectation, I started out reading this book. The book is subtitled “Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters”, and what can be more entertaining than reading about other people’s mistakes?

Not much, I would soon discover! In an extremely funny and lively style, the author Merrill R. Chapman, takes the reader through twelve chapters, each introduced by a nice cartoon drawing and describing a not so successful part of our proud industry’s history.

At the same time as I was rolling my eyes because of the mistakes made by managers of some of the biggest software companies in the world, I also found myself laughing out loud because of the hilariously funny descriptions of the obvious stupidity. Chapman having worked or consulted for several of the companies mentioned, enabling him spice everything up with personal anecdotes of both situations and people, just adds to the entertainment.

Several of the stories are from about the time, when I was first entering the industry. I remember many of the companies mentioned and also using their products. Companies and products that either completely or almost completely have disappeared from the public eye today.

Today the story very often is that the evil company from Redmond has used its monopoly to crush everyone else. But reading this book makes it clear how a lot of the companies went through a huge effort in order to practically obliterate themselves, and more or less serving the monopoly to Microsoft.

Why is it that today Apple has to make its living from selling iPods and not computers? And where exactly did Borland, Netscape, Novell, and WordPerfect go? Once shining stars of the software industry? These are just some of the companies that qualified for the book about stupidity. And don’t worry – obviously Microsoft also made it.

Being a marketing specialist Chapman does not just point fingers and make fun. Two further chapters titled “On Avoiding Stupidity” and “Stupid Analysis” give insight on both the main causes of failure in the software industry, as well as how the disasters in the first twelve chapters could have been avoided. Two interesting chapters, offering both detailed and easy understandable analysis, which I am sure a lot of (former) CEOs would have liked to read.

Though the title of this book may indicate that it is for the people in marketing and sales, the target group is far broader than that. It is a good read for everyone interested in the computer industry – and especially the history. As always the history is a very good way to explain why things are as they are today.

If you are interested the book has its own website where you can read more reviews. You can also read Joel Spolsky’s foreword to the first edition in his blog.

About seven years ago when everybody was having a great time riding the dot com wave, I was working as a developer at a company that truly lived up to the expectations of IT companies of that time. In the development team we had a saying that we used over and over again. It described those times, just as it describes the stories in this book:

“It’s funny ‘cause it's true!”.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007 19:07:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback
# Wednesday, 03 October 2007

As mentioned some time ago in my post Training – Expense or Investment I had been setting up some In-house Commerce Server training for the eCommerce Team with former Commerce Server Product Manager Max Akbar.

Max was at the office for three days, and though expectations were extremely high, he even managed to top them. Not being a Commerce Server developed, I only sat in on the BizTalk integration part, where we got a good discussion about the Commerce Server BizTalk Adapters. As these behave quite differently from practically all other adapters, there were a lot to talk about.

The whole team where equally excited about the training, and both Søren and Brian have already posted blog entries with their experiences of the three days.

In order not for everything to be only technical, we all went out for dinner one night, as you can see from the picture below. Not only the eCommerce Team and Max, but everyone at Vertica were invited – even the Sales Director and the CEO :o)

Following this success we will definitely try to arrange more in-house training. The whole team together with a highly qualified trainer for several days is extremely valuable, both from a technical as well as a social perspective.

Currently we have started looking for someone to provide BizTalk R2 training with specific focus on the new EDI features. I already know of QuickLearn providing Deep Dive BizTalk courses, and all, but the newest member of the BPI team, have already attended their course. However, I would like some training with even more focus on the EDI features, than QuickLearn has expressed, they were able to provide. So if you happen to know someone you are more than welcome to leave a comment or send me a mail.

Wednesday, 03 October 2007 20:50:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback

For some time I have been wondering what assemblies exactly are included when a MSI package is exported in BizTalk. When moving assemblies for one environment to another I had noticed, that I didn’t always get the latest version of the assembly included in the package.

For BizTalk to function properly the assemblies must be deployed to the Global Assembly Cache (GAC). This copy of the assembly is the one actually being used during execution, but apparently it wasn’t the one being included in the MSI package. However, In the BizTalk Administration Console for an application’s resources there are both a Source Location as well as a Destination Location pointing to a copy of the assemblies as well. Thus my first thought was that perhaps, it was one of these that were included in the MSI package.

To test this I tried to delete first one of them, and then the other. Either way I was still able to generate the MSI package, which meant that it were neither of these that were being used.

Increasingly puzzled I ended up turning to the good old newsgroups for some help. It took BizTalk MVP Tomas Restrepo less than 1½ hour to point me to an explanation, and apparently I was not the only one a bit puzzled by this. The explanation was another blog post by Richard Seroter titled Preventing Stale Artifacts in BizTalk Application Packages.

In here he explains what is actually going on when assemblies are deployed and how the MSI packages are generated. Interestingly and, at least to me, also quite surprising as first are, that the assemblies are added to a CAB file and stored in a table in the BizTalkMgmtDb database. For the full explanation I encourage you to read the post.

One obvious advantage of storing this information in the database is of course that you can be sure that in a multi-server environment regardless of which server you use to generate your MSI package will always be exactly the same. However, whether this is the only reason for the implementation I do not know.

Wednesday, 03 October 2007 19:23:22 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback
# Tuesday, 02 October 2007

About one and a half year ago Vertica moved to a new office. In the very beginning the office was a single room of about 12m² in an apartment shared with another company. Being five people with laptops, as well as a couple of workstations playing the role of servers, in a room of that size was a rather cozy and intimate experience (as well as hot and at times probably also smelly). Luckily we soon took over the entire apartment giving us a lot more breathing space.

As more people joined the team and the company grew, space got more and more cramped, and eventually it was time to move to a new location. The new location was two newly renovated floors in a building right in the center of Aarhus. The main part of the two floors was open office space allowing rather custom seating.

Already before moving into an office spread between two floors, we were very conscious that though people would be divided physically the company should not be divided mentally. One of the things to ensure this was that every now and then we would change the seating. It should never become our floor vs. their floor or something like that. Also, though developers are part of a team, all team members should not necessarily sit right next to each other.

There is a little bit of fixed seating though, as the Sales Director and CEO both have “real” offices with a door that close. They simply talk too much (on the phone most of the time), so we need a way to screen them from the rest of us.

Now you may already have guessed from the title of this post, that the title of this blog was not the most future-proof choice - once again it has been time to shake things up a bit. This time we have decided to have all developers on one floor (the second) and Project Managers, the Sales Director and the CEO on the other (the third). This way we hope to have an even greater synergy between developers. A nice side effect from this, at least from a developer perspective, is that since the Project Managers also often are rather busy on the phone, this is also no longer disturbing.

I do not intend, however, to change the name of the blog, nor do I intend to hand it over to some other Hansen working of living on a third floor, so for now Hansen on Third is written by Hansen on Second.

Tuesday, 02 October 2007 21:04:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |  Trackback