April 2005 Blog Posts

ZDNet reports that some attendees at the Infosecurity Europe conference think the email virus' heyday is over. This is an interesting observation and one I've noted just this week.

Much of my personal e-mail is delivered through a service with mail filtering outsourced to Postini. Here, unwanted mail is blocked on the server and identified as either containing a virus or being spam. Every few days I sign in to check that there are no false positives (usually mail that could be regarded as spam but that I might want to read anyway) and to delete the junk. I've noticed that the red list of mails with a virus has diminished drastically in recent weeks while the amount of spam has remained fairly constant.

There have been some interesting Channel 9 videos recently. The video with Bill Hill was about 90 minutes long but interesting all the way through. I cited the Rick Laplante interview the other day. Today there is an enthralling piece with Jim Allchin about Longhorn and his vision for the Windows platform.

The thing that I found most interesting was the insight into the purpose of showing Longhorn at WinHEC. There has been some disappointment in the press and on the Windows fan sites about the impression received about Longhorn. As Jim phrased it, WinHEC wasn't supposed to be a launch party for Longhorn. This show is targeted at hardware people and in this instance, a large part was to explain and encourage the new driver models for the next version of Windows.

I wonder whether it might have been sensible to point this out before the event rather than afterwards but corporate PR works in ways beyond my realm of knowledge.

The debate about the "contract first" approach to designing web services has been raging again. This usually revolves around whether to design WSDL and XSD first and then implement this, or whether to write the code first using your favourite WS stack and use the WSDL that results.

First, here are some of the recent posts discussing this issue:

This is an interesting discussion and clearly one that isn't new. Some of the comments to these articles provide diverse views also. Fundamentally, though I think some of the contributors are deliberately finding fault with a strict definition of code-first or contract-first to promote their view.

I get to work with a wide array of developers and architects. Mostly, I see people who are comfortable in the code world and less so in the XSD/WSDL domain. The model I have adopted and have been promoting for the last couple of years is one of code driven contract development. What I mean by that is to focus on the contracts that your services will expose first, but define them using code to represent the service end-points and the messages that will be passed.

Look, many of the people I interact with have the following properties:

  • they are very comfortable with writing code
  • they are comfortable with XML
  • they understand XSD but reading is easier than writing
  • they don't know much about WSDL

Given this, it makes sense to develop interfaces written in code but keep the XML in mind and adopt some pragmatic guidelines about the shapes of data that interop well as Dare recommends. Simon argues that this means some people who know XSD/WSDL must be involved in a way that suggests he thinks this negates the argument. The truth is that, yes, this is necessary, but it doesn't require a large part of the development team to know about why the guidelines are the way they are as long as they stick to them.

In Aaron's MSDN article, he contrasts VB6 and IDL development against "code-first" vs. "contract-first" web development, but to be honest I don't think it is a completely valid comparison. Considering the IDL is very similar to C/C++, writing COM components using IDL with an implementation in C++ isn't that dissimilar to the approach I propose for web services. Yes, separate interface from implementation but don't force people to use completely different syntax.

So my view is close to Craig's in that it's less about what you call yourself and more about your approach. I think it might be unrealistic to expect a whole development team to understand the stack end-to-end and that shouldn't preclude them from being involved in the design process. Today, though, if interop is your goal then you do need to have people that understand what's going on under the covers, as Aaron says, for when those abstractions leak.

Rick Laplante, general manager of Visual Studio Team System, responds on Channel 9 to customer complaints about VSTS's planned licensing and pricing.

Remotely Enable Remote Desktop: For those times when "...you forgot to enable the [Remote Desktop] feature before you shipped the server out to Kalamazoo."

The latest version of the Installation Guide for Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server is available for download either as a CHM or PDF file. This covers the system requirements and install instructions for both single and dual server installations of TFS. It also contains instructions for the Team Foundation Client install.

As Scott Guthrie reports, Beta 2 for .NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005 was signed off at the end of last week and will be available for download from MSDN Subscriber Downloads soon.

This is a milestone long awaited by many and comes complete with the "Go-Live" license enabling production applications to use the beta code. Congratulations to all the teams involved in shipping this as they move on to the final chapter and shipping the RTM version.

Update: Lotsof people are reporting that the beta is now available for download.

This is a pretty cool way of seeing where all that disk space you thought you bought has gone.

Microsoft UK are running a free technical briefing in Reading next week with members of the C++ product team coming over to present. They're keen to speak to C++ developers about the new compilers, improved VS2005 environment, and the new MFC and ATL classes. There will also be several developer evangelists from Microsoft UK present so it should be a good networking event. It should be a small audience event with plenty of opportunity to quiz the product team about their plans.

MSDN Technical Briefing: Visual C++ Accelerator Tour (Level 200)
22 April 2005 09:30 - 17:00 - Reading

You will learn about improvements to developer productivity in the Whidbey (2005) release, ways to make your application more secure, increase performance, mix native and managed code, and upgrade from prior versions of the Visual C++ compiler. You will gain a clear understanding of Microsoft's direction and ongoing commitment to provide the best tools for C++ developers.

Richard Howells brought to my attention that this coincides with the ACCU conference in Oxford next week.

To help provide some differentiation, the agenda for the MSDN briefing will be:

9:00-9:15Welcome and Introduction
9:15-10:00Session 1: V6 to 2003 to 2005 feature overview
10:00 - 11:00Session 2: Porting from V6 to 2003
11:00 - 11:15Coffee
11:15 - 12:15Session 3: Porting from 2003 to 2005
12:15 - 1:00Lunch
1:00 - 2:00Session 4: Security Features of 2003 and 2005
2:00 - 2:45Session 5: Performance Features of 2003 and 2005
2:45 - 3:00Coffee
3:00 - 4:00Session 6: Native/Managed code Interoperability and the NET framework.
4:00 - 5:00Open for Questions

One of my colleagues added:

There's bound to be some overlap between what gets said at ACCU by the C++ product team and what gets said at Reading on the Friday but ACCU looks to be more on the "academic" side of the languages whereas the TVP event looks to be more on the "tools" side of things with VS 2005 and so on.

If you're going to ACCU then you get to meet those guys at that conference. If there's a worry that by being at ACCU on the Friday you're missing the Reading sessions then there are some online versions of these kinds of materials at places like:

which I think will do a fairly decent job of bridging between the ACCU content and the Reading content.

All in all, it looks to be a good event so please register if you are interested.