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Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Travelling to DDD North? Directions

October 3, 2011 00:34 by Andrew Westgarth

Developer! Developer! Developer! North is this coming weekend in Sunderland, UK and is being held at the David Goldman Informatics Centre on the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St. Peter’s on the banks of the river Wear.  There are many different ways to travel to the University and here are some guides on how to get to the campus.

By Train

Sunderland is well connected by a national rail service.  Grand Central trains run direct from London Kings Cross daily.  East Coast run services into Newcastle Central Rail Station, from here you can take the METRO direct to Sunderland in approximately 30 minutes.

By Air

Newcastle International Airport is the closest airport to the University.  The Airport is linked to Sunderland via the METRO system and is about a one hour journey time.

By Car

From North or South follow the A19 towards Sunderland and leave the A19 onto the A1231 heading for Sunderland.  For the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St. Peter’s follow the brown directional signs for the National Glass Centre which is also located within the St. Peter’s Campus.

For Satellite Navigation Directions please use the postcode SR6 0DD.

For this Saturday only – the University has given us FREE Car Parking.

By METRO

Alight at the St. Peter’s station, go down the stairs, cross the main road at the Pelican crossing and follow the signs to your destination.  There is a metro map and journey planner at www.nexus.org.uk

By Foot

If you are staying on the Sea Front it is a short walk along the coast line and riverside to the campus.

http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=t4kc5pgwk5f6&lvl=16&dir=0&sty=b&cid=F697BCD4BD5A1C5A!2194&eo=0&where1=SR6%200DD%2C%20Sunderland%2C%20Sunderland&form=LMLTCC

Map picture

Looking for Somewhere to Stay at DDD North?

September 4, 2011 15:42 by Andrew Westgarth

As the agenda is being formalised now and registration for DDD North opens tomorrow I thought it might be useful to publish some information about accommodation for DDD North.

DDD North is being held in Sunderland, which is a city on the North East coast and has a stunning coastline, so why not stay on the coast with a fantastic sea view?  Take it from one who lives here, this is one of the reasons I love living in the North East.  So I have put together a selection of hotels and guest houses to get you started in finding great value accommodation.

The first on the list is the Roker Hotel, which is likely to be the focal point for meetings outside of the University as it has a large and well stocked bar!  All of the guest houses listed along with the Marriott are within walking distance of the Roker Hotel and the majority are within walking distance of the University Of Sunderland where DDD North is being held.

In addition there are plenty of other guest houses in the area and there is also a Travelodge in the city centre which is about 15 minutes walk from the University.

I’m adding a few more options in case those above fill up!

In addition there are two Premier Inns which are 15 mins drive to the University of Sunderland where DDD North is being held

DSC_0142 (2)

Software Development - Job or Career, Passion, Vocation

August 23, 2011 22:48 by Andrew Westgarth

My name is Andrew Westgarth and Software Development is my passion! Is the role you're in just a job to you or is it your Passion /Vocation and Career? Do you enjoy what you do and are you fulfilled in what you do? I think one of the biggest requirements for a good developer is a passion for what they are doing, in order to be a good developer you need to have a thirst for learning and a desire to improve.

I've been thinking about writing a blog post about this topic for a few weeks but not had time until now. Prompted by a conversation on Twitter today about the distinct lack of good, passionate developers available at present I thought I'd put down a few of my own notes on this topic. I have worked in software development (primarily web) for over ten years and have been on both sides being both the prospective employee and prospective employer. I have been involved in the UK Development Community for many years, running User Groups (NEBytes and previously VBUG), speaking at User Groups and Conferences and am now putting together the very first Developer! Developer! Developer! North.

Software Development is a career that you choose to go into and for me personally it is more than just a job, it's my passion, it's a vocation and it's my hobby. I am always looking to learn even more, every day is quite literally a school day, if I've not learned something new every single day then I'm disappointed. My passion drives me to get better and better with every opportunity. Be it looking to make sure that my code compiles cleanly and has no errors, or that I'm building the best user experience or looking at how new language enhancements can improve the performance of my applications.

Money has never motivated me, as long as I've got enough to have a reasonable standard of living and can pay for my season ticket then I'm happy. What really motivates me is an opportunity to learn and to work with equally passionate people. The most enjoyable and highest quality work is always completed when a team is passionate about what they do. I've worked together with fantastic developers and designers to produce fantastic results. The infectious nature of passionate people rubs off on the others in a team and carries them along and reignites that spark.

I've been thinking about why there aren't more passionate developers available/in the industry and have my own opinions on why that is the case and here are some of my thoughts. Some developers don't see software development as a career they see it as a means to an end. They come to work at nine and finish at five and are not interested in learning anything other than what is directed by their company. Some developers are happy to work with older technologies day in day out and are not interested in raising their head above the parapet to take a look at what's going on in the world outside. This creates problems for them and the teams they work with because in the long term they will become obsolete as do the technologies they are working with, and it causes divisions as teams are held back from moving forward and the passionate developers are held back.

Some developers see training and personal technical development as something they should get paid for and something which should only happen during work hours, they will only attend events if their company pays for them to go and gives them time off to go. This attitude is seriously flawed when under hard times the first thing that is often cut is a company's training budget, so hence personal technical development stutters and stall.

Other developers are passionate about software development and see their role as a long term career which they are always looking to build on. Some developers want to work with code all day every day, some want to move towards architecture and beyond. They spend huge amounts of their own personal time learning, reading blogs, RSS feeds, tweets, journals, attending User Group events and community conferences, taking part in online seminars. They will bring this enthusiasm back to the team, distribute the information and hope that their enthusiasm and passion rubs off on the other developers in the team. Even better if there are a number of passionate developers within the team they feed off each other and drive standards higher and higher.

So we have roughly three groups, the 9-5ers who just see software development as a job, those that see their own technical development and progression as the responsibility of their employer and not themselves and finally there are the passionate developers who want to share their passion. So why are there so few of the last category both in the industry and available?

The possible options are that:

  • The passionate developers are employed in teams of equally passionate developers by employers who recognise that passion and how to nurture it
  • Those developers who once were passionate about software development have been taken advantage of by colleagues and employers who rely on those individuals to provide training and technical development for the whole team, and have now lost their passion
  • They have left the industry/country and taken their passion elsewhere.
  • ???

I'd really be interested to hear your views on this topic so please leave comments below and I'll follow up this post based on your comments. One group of developers who I haven't discussed in this post are graduate/student developers but that would be a complete post on it's own.

DDD North–Saturday 8th October 2011–Session Submission Open!

July 26, 2011 23:20 by Andrew Westgarth

I’m very pleased to announce that Session Submission has opened for DDD North, the first Developer! Developer! Developer! event to be held in the North East!

DDD North will be held at the University of Sunderland on Saturday 8th October 2011 – http://www.developerdeveloperdeveloper.com/north.  We are looking forward to hosting a fantastic free community led event where you the community define the agenda.  So what are you waiting for, get your session submissions in now!!

Stay up to date with DDD North through the twitter account – http://twitter.com/dddnorth and with the hashtag #DDDNorth.

dddSunderlandWPathenon

Cookies Law: Ah the Irony!

May 23, 2011 08:30 by Andrew Westgarth

Update 26th May 2011: This just keeps getting better and better.  The ICO have now issues guidance to say they realise there are going to be technical issues implementing this new legislation, therefore they are granting businesses a one year reprieve to come up with and test solutions to get everything in order.  This seems to be a bit of a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted!  For more information the ICO have released additional guidance and the BBC have also commented on the issue.

On Thursday 26th May 2011, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations are changing in the UK as a result of the revisions made to the European Directive.  The changes cover of a number of issues but the issue I’ve been focussing on recently is that of the changes in regulations to how cookies are used on websites.  However these changes from what I can see are going to cause not only companies and developers issues, but more importantly will cause more inconvenience for users!

funny-pictures-cat-wishes-to-access-your-cookiesSo what’s changing I hear you ask, well up until now the regulations required that websites which used cookies for storing information, informed users how the website used cookies and advised how they could opt out if they wished and gave instructions on how to do so using browser settings.

In their infinite wisdom the European Union, and consequently the UK, have decided to change this and require that websites provide full information about how cookies (including Flash Cookies and Isolated Storage) are being used and ask users to opt in to the use of cookies.  The only exceptions to this rule would be where a cookie is “strictly necessary” for the function of a site, e.g. maintaining a shopping basket.  An example of a cookie which needs to be declared and in common use on many websites around the globe, are those created through the use of the Google Analytics service.

How Can a Website Comply?

In the UK the information Commissioner’s Office, in their guidance document have advised website owners that they should look at this in three stages:

  1. Review and make a list of all cookies and similar technologies (Flash Cookies; Settings in isolated storage) being used on your website and how they’re used;
  2. For each one identified determine how intrusive it is;
  3. Determine a method of obtaining consent for each one, which will provide the best experience for users of your website and which will fulfil your requirements. Then put together a plan to implement this.

It is no longer sufficient to users browser settings to indicate whether or not they wish to allow the use of cookies, due to the lack of sophisticated control of cookies, levels of variation between browsers versions and the fact that browsers are not the only way in which users access websites.

Solutions and Irony

I’ve been looking at possible technical solutions to this issue and still can’t find one which I like and believe will serve all interested parties well.  All of the possible technical solutions have advantages and disadvantages.  Some examples of the options I’ve been considering are Popup windows or splash screens, but these are often blocked by browser settings, can cause immense confusion and often inaccessible to users'; Requiring the acceptance of terms and conditions which detail required use of cookies is again unworkable as users would have to have accounts with which to access your website, how can you handle anonymous users?

The irony of all of these changes is that the likely technical solution is to ask for permission to write a cookie to indicate whether or not the user is happy with cookies being used.  However if a user does not allow cookies, the cookie can’t be written so what do you do then?  Deny users access to your website? Prompt them on each request from your website?  If you chose to disable the cookie(s), for example the Google Analytics tracking cookies, do you turn them off on an individual page basis, or do you disable them on a session basis?

Comments

Apparently there were consultations with members of our industry on these changes and discussions on how they will work.  I can’t believe that these regulations have been passed in their current state, they are extremely unworkable and pose so many issues for maintaining a workable, compliant and usable web. 

The intention behind these changes is good, in that the EU is aiming to protect user’s privacy and enable users to make informed decisions about what data is released and able to be used by third parties.  However by asking users for consent for permission to use cookies each time they try and access something on a website, after they have said they don’t want to allow the use of cookies, users will start accepting the use of cookies just so they can use the web.  Also as user’s won’t always access websites through the homepage, site owners will need to implement solutions which cater for every possible entrance to the site.

The most common instance of where websites write cookies are for the use of analytics services, i.e. Google Analytics.  So far Google haven’t commented on whether they are changing their service to not need cookies, nor have they provided any guidance for website owners on how the service can be used if user’s deny cookies.  So are site owners going to stop using the very, very popular service in order to improve the usability of their site but also lose the benefit of analytics – which ultimately are used to improve user experience?  I wait with baited breath to see how major websites – Amazon, Play, Google; tackle this issue from Thursday in a way which won’t lose them users.

I think the major losers in all of this, are going to be the users, which these changes are attempting to protect – ah there’s the irony again!  By creating differences in how websites comply, users will be left confused, harassed and frustrated when all they want to do is use a website to do something which they’ve been able to do for years be that buy a book, find information or post an update to their timeline.

What’s Your Opinion?

I’d be really interested to hear other people’s take on this.  How do you interpret the changes?  How would you implement the technical requirements?  Do you think it’s workable?  I look forward to an interesting discussion on this issue and seeing the many responses to this on a website near you!

Other Posts on This Issue

Craig Hawker has put down his thoughts on this issue in the form of an excellent blog post, which I recommend reading for additional commentary - The “EU Cookie Directive” (2009/136/EC) and you.

Black Screen And Mouse Pointer After Enabling Live Mesh Remote Connections

April 17, 2011 21:16 by Andrew Westgarth

Live Mesh is a fantastic product, on top of giving access and synchronisation services to 5GB of storage on SkyDrive, it provides the ability to open remote desktop connections to machines over the internet.  It is this connectivity gain which I have made most use of in the past, and unfortunately it has caused me no end of pain after a complete rebuild of my laptop, so much so I’ve had to disable remote connections.

About a month ago I rebuilt my laptop OS, something I do fairly regularly (well at least once a year) to make sure everything is running smoothly.  I have a Dell Latitude D820 (Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM and NVIDIA Quadro VS120M Display Adapter) and it has served me very well for more than 4 years.  However I noticed an issue recently with my laptop after rebuild whereby upon boot all I got after logging in was a black screen with a white mouse pointer!  I tried everything I could as this seemed to be quite a common occurrence when I’d searched for it, at first I thought it was a graphics driver issue so I uninstalled went back to basics and tried with each version of the drivers, still the same outcome. 

I was however able to remote desktop using Live Mesh to my machine and see the full desktop and interact fully, so it continued to baffle me. Well I had to flatten my hard drive for an unconnected reason.  So as I started to rebuild once again I tested each stage to check where the black screen issue appeared.  I noticed it happened after I installed Live Mesh and enabled remote connections, something I’ve done many times before but having been able to replicate the issue twice I believe there is another issue, maybe it is a combination of Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit SP1 and Live Mesh I’m not sure.  All I know is since I have disabled remote connections through Live Mesh the issue doesn’t exist on my laptop anymore.

So my final question is: has anyone else seen the same behaviour?  Have you had problems after enabling remote connections?  I’d like to hear from anyone else having this issue.  I’m trying to raise a bug on the relevant Connect element but have been unable to so far, I’ll update this post with the link when I have created it.

What Podcasts Do You Listen To?

March 17, 2011 00:23 by Andrew Westgarth

When I presented at NxtGenUG in Birmingham last month I was asked which podcasts I listen to and I promised to write a blog post listing some of my favourites.  So here it is!

  • .Net Rocks! – Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell publish a podcast twice a week and cover a wide range of .Net related topics for .Net Developers
  • RunAs Radio – Richard Campbell and Greg Hughes host a weekly talk show primarily aimed at IT Professionals.  I’m a developer but pretty much an all round geek, so love hearing about additional technology such as Exchange, Hyper-V and Lync.  Plus to be a good developer I believe you need to have an understanding of the systems you are interacting with.
  • Hanselminutes – Another weekly talk show this time hosted by Scott Hanselman, covering a wide range of topics from how-to advice, tools, utilities and issues and workarounds.
  • Deep Fried Bytes – Deep Fried Bytes is a podcast with a Southern (US) flavour hosted by Keith Elder and Chris Woodruff, a huge variety of topics are covered as they say in their description “Anything is fair game if it plugs into the wall or takes a battery.”
  • This Developer’s Life – This is a fairly new podcast but a great listen.  Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery talk about different aspects of being a developer and most of it is really relevant, especially the Disconnecting episode.
  • NEBytes Bytecast – Of course our very own NEBytes Bytecast – I always listen back to see how good or otherwise it was.
  • PC Pro Podcast – This is a weekly podcast from the team behind the PC Pro Magazine, covering a wide variety of topics and technology, quite an easy listen.
  • Polymorphic Podcast – This is a great podcast which I only found last year, Craig Shoemaker covers Object Oriented Development, architecture and best practices (.Net).  Unfortunately there haven’t been any new episodes for a while but the archives are certainly worth listening to!
  • Pixel8 – Podcast centred around building great user experiences.
  • Sod This – Podcast by Oliver Sturm and Gary Short two normal guys interested in technology, software, programming and lots of other things.
  • The Thirsty Developer – A fairly new podcast to me, been running quite a while though – podcast with MS Developer Evangelist Dave Bost and Clark Sell
  • SEO 101 – As I’ve been getting more and more into SEO I came across this easy to listen to podcast, unfortunately what’s not easy to listen to are the four long advert breaks per episode, thankfully I can fast forward through them!
  • Radio TFS – What it says on the tin – a podcast dedicated to Visual Studio ALM (Team Foundation Server)
  • Pragmatic Programmer – If you’ve read the Pragmatic Programmer then you should check this podcast out from the Pragmatic Bookshelf
  • Windows Weekly – This Week In Tech’s Windows Weekly podcast with Paul Thurrott, a weekly look at all things Microsoft.
  • NxtGenUG Podcasts – Podcast from Rich and Dave although they haven’t produced many new podcasts lately their back catalogue is certainly worth a listen.

Finally I have just found the Herding Code Podcast and will be adding that to Zune for synchronisation and automatic download.  That finishes quite a long list but are there any podcasts I don’t have in that list that you listen to and would recommend?

User Group Tour 7th to 11th March 2011 IIS, Media Services and IIS SEO Toolkit

March 1, 2011 21:35 by Andrew Westgarth

I’m currently in Redmond, Seattle at the 2011 MVP Global Summit but next week I’m embarking on a User Group tour back home in the UK. I’m covering a number of IIS topics including IIS 7/7.5 for Developers, IIS Media Services and IIS SEO Toolkit.  I’m starting off in Bristol at DotNetDevNet on Monday 7th March 2011 and finishing in Cambridge at NxtGenUG on Thursday 10th March.  I’m really looking forward to visiting new groups and talking to the attendees about these great sessions.

I decided to take a week off work to travel and talk to groups I usually wouldn’t be able to take time out to do so.  Hope to meet lots of new people and catch up with old friends too as I work my way back up the country!  Hope to see you there!

Event Details and Sign Up links:

Categories: IIS7 | Events | MVP | UK Community
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Great Resources for Budding User Group and Conference Speakers

February 3, 2011 21:53 by Andrew Westgarth

I’ve been sitting writing and submitting session proposals for Developer Day Scotland this evening.  I really enjoy speaking at User Groups and Conferences and am always looking for ways to improve and share knowledge.  In our User Groups i.e. North East Bytes and the Developer Community we actively encourage new speakers, indeed that was the original mandate of the DDD events.  We’re always looking to discover new speakers and to encourage new speakers, be they starting out with a short 10 minute Grok Talk or standing up and delivering a full one hour conference session.

Guy Smith-Ferrier, well respected speaker with over 20 years experience of speaking at User Groups and Conferences such as Tech Ed, has recently published a series of 8 videos on How To Give Great Presentations in addition to his paper which he has previously written on the subject.  Guy is a great speaker and these sessions address key elements of giving great presentations with plenty of tips and information which both new and experienced speakers can use to improve their presentations.  Check them out now,

Two Great Resources from Other IIS MVPs

January 27, 2011 13:37 by Andrew Westgarth

I don’t often post links to posts from others, however I really wanted to highlight two great resources which two other IIS MVPs have started recently.

IIS Community Newsletter

Steve Schofield has recently published the first IIS Community Newsletter.  The newsletter comprises all of the latest information and happenings in the IIS Community.  If you would like to find out more or register to receive the newsletter go to http://www.iisnewsletter.com and if you have anything you’d like to contribute you can also contribute to the Wiki.  Big thanks to Steve for the mention is the inaugural newsletter for both my Twitter account and for NEBytes

Web Pro Series

Scott Forsyth has recently started a 52 week series of walkthrough videos on a number of topics relevant to IT Pros and Web Developers covering a vast range of topics including

  • Troubleshooting essentials;
  • Application Request Routing and Load Balancing;
  • URL Rewrite;
  • SQL Syntax for IT Pros;
  • Scripting;
  • Command Line Basics;
  • IIS Share Configuration;
  • Keyboard Shortcuts;

In the first four weeks Scott has covered Ping and Tracert; Understanding DNS Zone Records; Nslookup; Capturing Command Line Output.  It’s a great start and will help to fill gaps in knowledge and also add tools and techniques to your arsenal for resolving issues and implementing technologies in the best way possible based on a wealth of experience. 

Categories: How To | IIS | MVP
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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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