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 Saturday, 02 July 2005

In a reply to a previous entry on the Mort persona, Dan B makes this comment:

 

I've written about this before, but I'll say it again - I think the dilemma VB faces is the dichotomy between being taken seriously as a modern OO language and the need to carry along the Morts. It's the challenge of balancing the need to distance itself from some of those VB6 carryovers with the need to keep those millions of high-school, hobbyist, etc. developers buying the product.

 

My previous post wasn't really about VB as such, but more about the "Mort" persona. That persona exists and isn't going anywhere. There are a whole lot of Morts out there, and more entering the industry all the time. Most developers are professional business developers and thus most developers fit the Mort persona. That's just fact.

 

Whether this large group of people chooses to congregate around VB, C#, Java, Powerbuilder or some other tool doesn't matter in the slightest.

 

What does matter from a vendor's perspective (such as Microsoft) is that this is the single largest developer demographic, and so it makes a hell of a lot of sense to have a tool that caters to the pragmatic and practical focus of the Mort persona.

 

If this is VB that's awesome and I am happy. But if enough Morts move to C#, then C# will be forced to accommodate the priorities and requirements of the Mort persona. Microsoft has proven time and time again that they are very good at listening to their user base, and so whatever tool attracts the overwhelming population of Morts will ultimately conform to their desires.

 

Don’t believe me? Why does C# 2005 have edit-and-continue? Because so many Morts went from VB to C# and they voted very loudly and publicly to get e&c put into their new adopted language. I know a great many Elvis/Einstein people who think the whole e&c thing was a waste of time and money – but they’ve already lost control. And this is just the beginning.

 

In other words, for those Elvis and Einstein personas who evangelize C# my words are cautionary. You are outnumbered 5 to 1, and if Mort comes a-calling you will almost instantly lose control of C# and you'll probably feel like you need a new home.

 

The irony is that you’ll have brought this doom on yourselves by telling the vast majority of developers that the only way to get your respect is to use semi-colons, when the reality is that the only way to get your respect is a fundamental change in worldview from pragmatic and practical to elegant and engineered - and frankly that's just not going to happen.

 

Most people are in this industry only partially because of technology. They are driven by the desire to solve business problems and to help their organizations be better and stronger. It is a small subset that are primarily driven by the love of technology.

 

If this ratio is changing at all, it is changing away from technology. Tools like Biztalk and concepts like software factories and domain-specific languages are all about abstracting the technology to further enable people who are primarily driven by the business issues and the passion to solve them.

 

But I don’t see this as hopeless. As one of my fellow RDs mentioned to me a few weeks ago, in Visual Studio 2005 C++ is finally a first-class .NET language. To paraphrase her view, Mort can have VB or C# or both, because the real geeks (the Elvis/Einstein types) can and will just go back to C++ and be happy. But the truly wise will geeks will use both where appropriate.

Saturday, 02 July 2005 11:09:31 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Thursday, 23 June 2005
Take the MIT Weblog Survey
Thursday, 23 June 2005 11:51:11 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Tuesday, 14 June 2005
This looks like quite the software development competition - check it out!
Tuesday, 14 June 2005 10:20:35 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Monday, 13 June 2005

Mort is the Microsoft “persona” often associated with VB, and for various reasons “Mort” has unfortunately become an insult.

 

But in reality, Mort is the business developer. You know, like the 3 million or so VB6 developers that have been programming for anywhere from 5-20 years and have a pretty good clue about how software is built. Mort is not a newbie or a hobbyist. Mort is a professional[1] business developer. In fact, the Mort persona represents the vast majority of developers. There are around 3-5 VB developers for every C++/C# developer out there. And an increasing number of C# developers are “Morts” as well - you don't stop being a Mort just because you change programming languages after all.

 

The highly productive majority of developers who build business systems day in and day out. These business developers typically build systems for 1 to 1000 users. Systems that are of critical importance to their business. Systems that are linked to the very lifeblood of the companies for which these people work.

 

Mort is the heart and soul of the Microsoft platform. Mort is the reason Microsoft development is pervasive in virtually all small to mid-sized companies, and why it is lurking in the shadows everywhere you look even in the Fortune 100. These are the business developers that won't say no, that won't give up and who refuse to spend weeks or months on over-thinking J2EE or COM+ architectures when they can have their software up and saving money in a few days.

 

These are the people who never left the "smart client" and so isn’t "coming back to it" in a revolution. Long-time business developers are the people who saw the web for the terminal-based monstrosity it is and never left the productivity of Windows itself. These are the true Microsoft loyalists.

 

They aren't the uber-geeks. They aren't in it for the love of technology nearly as much as for the love of helping their end users and their companies. They are pragmatic and focused on just getting stuff done and running and saving money.

 

It isn’t like quality doesn’t count. Quality is critical, but also relative to the task at hand. In most cases, adequate software that’s deployed in a couple months is infinitely superior to exquisitely designed and tested software that’s deployed in a couple years.

 

A very large number of these “Mort” business developers are still using VB6 and have yet to move to .NET. Whether these business developers stay in VB or move to C# doesn't really matter to me a whole lot. Speaking as a geek I think that what’s important is that they move to .NET, because it is a far superior platform than Windows. But is this actually important to the business developers themselves?

 

The fact is that the majority of business developers aren't going to change the way they work due to a new language or even a new platform. If .NET can't give them the high levels of productivity of VB6 they won't move. If Microsoft can't convince mainstream business developers that they can switch to .NET quickly, easily and in order to gain serious and pragmatic benefit they'll never move. Nor should they. If .NET doesn’t make their job easier what would be the point?

 

Personally I am convinced that Visual Studio 2005 (with its attendant new VB and C# languages and related tools) is the tipping point. Not from a geek perspective (though there’s cool stuff there too), but from a pragmatic get-it-done perspective.

 

The new data access features in ADO.NET and in Windows Forms are truly the best stuff Microsoft has ever done in this area. The levels of productivity for building business applications in Windows Forms are unmatched by any technology I’ve seen.

 

The new and updated Windows Forms controls and the streamlined nature of Windows development brings back memories of VB6. Yes, Windows Forms is still a new forms engine when compared to VB6, but finally we can honestly make the claim that it is easier and more powerful than its VB6 predecessor. We can sincerely show that a business application can be written faster and with less code in VB 2005 than in VB6.

 

Things like the new splitter control, the flow layout, the toolstrip (the toolstrip is my new favorite toy btw), the new datagridview and other controls are the keys to serious productivity. Couple them with the easy way you create template projects, forms and classes and you almost immediately have a highly consistent and productive development environment to match or exceed VB6.

 

At Tech Ed last week Microsoft announced that VS 2005 and SQL Server 2005 will be released around the week of Nov 8, 2005. If you are one of the very large number of business developers who’ve been holding off on .NET, I understand. But I strongly suggest you look at VS 2005 and VB 2005, because I’m betting you are going to love what you see!

 

 

[1] As in sports, a professional is someone who makes their living by doing something. In this context, a professional business developer is someone who makes their living by building business software

Monday, 13 June 2005 16:45:12 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Thursday, 09 June 2005

Several of the Tech Ed speakers (myself included) have donated an hour of our time to charity, and you can help!

Go to http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=5587400881 and bid for your speaker of choice.

The idea is that you'll get an hour of valuable time you can use to get questions answered or problems solved, and the money will go to a good cause.

Thursday, 09 June 2005 16:43:09 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Monday, 06 June 2005

Virtual PC (and/or Visual Server) are the most wonderful things to happen in a long time - especially if you use any beta software or do any system configurations that might damage or corrupt a real system.

But getting these things to run fast, especially on a laptop, can be a serious challenge. Here's a checklist of things I've been doing recently to get decent performance.

  1. Make sure to uninstall/reinstall VPC and SP1 after upgrading the host Windows XP to SP2
  2. Make sure to install/reinstall the VPC add-in software on the guest OS after upgraded to VPC SP1
  3. Put your vhd and vmc files on different physical hard drives (not just partition)
  4. If possible, put your vhd files on a different physical hard drive (not just partition) from your host OS system drive
  5. Before starting VPC, do the following on the host
    1. Stop SQL Server
    2. Stop IIS
    3. Stop any virus scanning software
    4. Stop Messenger or other IM software
    5. Close all apps
    6. Close or stop any other items in the system tray or via the Services manager - anything you can stop that doesn't crash the host is to your benefit
  6. Grant your VPC the most memory you can afford. After doing step 3, I'm able to grant 640 meg to the VPC on a 1 gig host machine.
  7. The more memory on the host machine the better. 2+ gigs of RAM rocks!
  8. If you need to put the host in standby, close VPC entirely first. Not just VPC instances, but close the VPC console itself. There are bugs with VPC that cause display failure issues when the host comes out of standby
  9. If your VPC mouse pointer ends up with a black box around it (in LiveMeeting or other projection software), go to your video settings under the Settings tab, Advanced button and turn hardware acceleration down one notch

I'm sure there are other tips and tweaks, but doing these helps a whole lot with VPC happiness!

 

Monday, 06 June 2005 14:26:36 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Tuesday, 24 May 2005

It is clear to me that Service Oriented Architecture has gone about as far as it can go in a vacuum. And Service Oriented Programming continues to evolve somewhat randomly as vendors and/or standards bodies see fit (WSE, Indigo, etc).

 

So there needs to be more rigorous thought apply to Service Oriented Design. If we assume the SOA concepts of autonomous entities communicating via contract-defined messages over negotiated channels. And if we assume we’ll have programming tools that provide contractual synchronous and asynchronous communication vectors, then we can move ahead and work on thought models for designing services and systems composed of services.

 

Note that there are two very different aspects here. One is how to create a service, the other is now to build systems where services interact. The inside view and the outside view. And the rules and concepts are very different for each.

 

In that vein, here's a good/interesting article on SO design from Rich Turner at Microsoft. He’s taking the inside view and discussing some high-level design concepts for how you might build an autonomous service that still requires other services to function. He’s proposing a couple thought models that might be useful in design efforts – exactly the kind of dialog that is required to move SOD forward.

 

Personally I think that a number of the object-oriented design concepts behind CRC cards (class, responsibility, collaboration) apply equally well to services. In such a scheme, Rich’s relationships (constellation or fractal) would be listed as collaborators from a service.

 

I’m convinced that at least the first side of a CRC card, where the class (now service), responsibility and list of collaborators (other services) are a good design tool for services. Some of the other sides (like the list of behaviors) aren’t so useful, since a service is an atomic procedure and thus by definition has exactly one behavior. Still, applying those parts of CRC that do work is very helpful.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005 09:02:10 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Sunday, 08 May 2005
I try not to do too much simple link-fowarding, but this is a very good, clear article on SOA.
Sunday, 08 May 2005 18:45:51 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
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