Integration Monkey

by topher 9. April 2009 08:05
it's official, the change has begun.

the move from application to integration development was announced yesterday in a team meeting and in the weekly update. it's all over the press!

i knew this move was coming, the signs have been there for a long time (biztalk/informatica/etc) and although i think there is real need for this type of development in the place i work, i believe that there is still a real need for application development, and that need has been dressed down far too much.

that opinion is not totally founded on the fact that i am an application developer and not a systems integrator, there is a need for apps to be built to deliver value to the business, to get those quick wins in these hard 'climate crunching' times, and we are the only ones that can do that, not system integrators.

don't get me wrong, there is also a need to sort out all the crazy data mess that we have gotten our selves in to here too, i just pray that the powers that be do not overlook the need for us 'real' devs ;)

i'm not a integration monkey, i'm a coding monkey. with an opinion.

Tags: ,

Rant | Work

Application Development Rocks

by topher 6. January 2009 23:04

app development does indeed rock. so its a real shame that i dont get to do any of it isn't it?

i do nothing but constantly read books/blogs/codeplex code/msdn/etc. about application development, and i'm dying for the next chance i get to develop a real application. and by real applicaiton i mean something with a decent ui. something that i can really get stuck into again, something which i can attack with some domain driven design using test driven development and have a result at the end of it that i can take a screen grab of and send it back to my mum with a note saying that 'i made this!'

this is the first job i've had where i have not been able to do this, and i've been in this job for the last 18 months.

dont get me wrong i really do like my job, i've been able to do some amazing things since getting here like the introduction of versioning, test driven development, dedicated build environments, automated build scripts and continuous integration. and i've really enjoyed it.

but i need some development to do now thankyouverymuch. something to keep my mind active.

there is a project coming up that i'm involved in that has a 3 stage delivery plan. stage one is to take the prototype access database and replace the vba/manual data import part with an etl tool and sql database, which is the stage that is definitely going ahead. next stage is to develop a few administrative tools for the users to handle exceptions, and the final stage is the all singing, all dancing management interface to the underlying data, providng all sorts of awesome widgets and gizmos for them to play with their calculations and do all kinds of funny reporting and cool stuff.

i'm going to make a bet...stage one will go in and we'll get shot of the tables in the access database, and they will be replaced with linked sql tables, but we'll still have the vba code in there, then everone will forget about the next two stages and they will just live with what they have, never knowing the incredible, magical, totally most zawezome3000 bit of software in the whole entire world, if only they just let me do it.

so what happens to me during all this? i get to play around with an etl tool and a sql database, and put in a few linked tables in access. christ, what the hell happened to me? i want to slit my wrists! the only bit of the development that appeals to me are the second and third bits where there is a small chance that there might some real development to do, and i bet you they never happen, actually, even worse than that, they do go ahead, but they'll make me do the ui in an excel workbook that will sit on a file share somewhere on our network.


watch this space.

Next Steps

by topher 10. November 2008 20:44
it's happening again. last time this happened was 2005, but this time it is even more complicated and i have to really think about what i do this time round.

the last time this happened it was an easy decision to make, nothing really to think about, i just focused on getting my mcp and learning everything i could about .net in general, but this time around, now that i've done what i set out to do those three years ago, i have to be more specific.

yep, it is crisis time again, and i've got to pick something else to get stuck right into.

the problem i've got this time round is the shear vastness of the things that i could do! i have an excellent .net base with which to do very well in a number of different fields i'm interested in at the moment, the issue is which one of these new technologies do i pick as my master for the next few years, until inevitably this same thing comes round again.

the way i see it at the moment i've got two rather broad directions in which i would like to go in. there are others, but these are the main two...

the first of which is my good old friend, the rich desktop application. i've been developing apps like these for years, until i got to my current place that is where i keep getting told about us not being a development shop blah blah blah...i love developing these 'proper' apps, a complete experience all self contained in a nice gift wrapped box. thing is, they are not really like that these days, and i'm in real need to brush up on the old development skillz. i know exactly what i need to be doing, and i have the books i need to read, i just need to get the time to read them. i've got an application that i've been dreaming up for years now, that will be a perfect vessel for me to sharpen my coding katana on. as i said, all i need to do is finish reading these books and get on with it. gone are the winform days, i've got to get into wpf, and gone is the traditional n-teir designs, i've got to get much more into domain driven design, and get my test driven development up to scratch too.

the second thing that i'm really thinking about is moving more into the soa and bpm space. i've just completed my first biztalk project at work, and although i was quite disappointed that it didn't really include any coding and was mainly all drag and drop, i really enjoyed the different way it made me think about the way in which i tackle problems. i did also have the opportunity to work with a very great man during this project that has made me think in a slightly different way about what i could be doing if i decided to go in this direction. and i'm really thinking about it. i've been watching loads of the pdc2008 sessions over the past week or so, and you can really see the move to services that they are pushing and its all very exciting stuff. wcf and wf could well be my next big thing. and, if that really is the direction i'll be going in, then all this will kick off when .net 4.0 lands. i'll be ready and waiting for it :)

so, what does this all mean? it means that over the next few months i really have to make some serious decisions on which direction is the one for me, as i'll be taking some time out to really brush up on the technologies that are involved in what ever direction it is that i choose to go in.

its all very exciting, but i'm still at this early stage quite unsure of what i really want. i love real development, getting stuck into a real application, one with a composite ui, with an extensible architecture, with loads of backend services exposing a reusable api...or is my future more about learning the new and very interesting wcf and wf?

i dunno just yet, i need to have a sit down with myself and have a good old chat with me.

Climate Crunch

by topher 21. October 2008 20:40

for some strange reason i've been thinking quite a lot recently about starting to blog again, so much so i decided last week to start up as a development only blog, following my adventures in coding. and as soon as the first post went up i really wanted to start writing about other things that are going on in my life at the moment.

i really want to keep purely about software development, and not about the other things that are going on in my life at the moment, so i really needed a place to start to vent all those things that do not belong on the development blog, although i anticipate them crossing over from time to time.

the major thing that kicked my arse into starting to write this right now was something that happened at work today. something that i think at least to some degree will change me in the coming months.

the funny thing is that as i write this i'm still not too sure where this content should live. i'm still very much in love with, and i'll have that domain until the day i die i'm sure, but a lot of people know about that, and since the start of this year i've felt restricted in what i can write on there. i need some where else to vent. i love recording the things i've been doing and thinking, it helps me concrete the memories and rationalise about them, and as i'm far more proficient with a keyboard than i am with a pen and paper, this is my outlet. but where does this text belong?

i'm going to put this up in a hidden location under until such time as i get some more inspiration. at least that way i can update it from anywhere, and thats the point about having one of these things.

today was a funny day. last friday night after work at the pub a more senior member of staff told me to keep an eye out for an email or two, as there was some rather large news on the way. with the whole climate crunch in full swing right now, thats no surprise.

well at 0945 this morning we got the email from the executive director that there will be inevitable redundancies as a result of the current 'climate crunch', we then, not 15 minutes later, got the follow up from our department (i.t.) head saying the same thing, then 10 minutes after that all the developers got a meeting request with the head of i.t. wicked.

obviously a lot of thoughts start circulating around in your head about what we are going to be told, but you know what? i'm not fussed about the final out come. truth to be told my job is not taking me anywhere i want to go anyway, and if i was to be let go it would be a blessing in disguise.

'we are not a software house' is what i'm repeatably told on almost a weekly basis. however, just because we are not churning out, off the shelf large software solutions does not in any way mean that you can side step the fundamentals of software analysis, design, development, testing and delivery. and for some odd reason, so far this company has thought they could, and even in my short time (18 months) of being there i've seen it come back and bite us time and time again.

since being there i've introduced versioning, unit testing, mocking frameworks, build scripts, automated builds, design patterns, and god knows what know what, before i got there there wasn't even a single label in vss (i know, i know, i'm working on getting rid of vss), how can you seriously say you're a professional developer and you dont even know what the concept of a tag or a label is all about?

am i worried about the news that we were brought today? no. and thats not because i dont think i'm going to be one of those that gets made redundant. on the contrary, i think i might well be one of the (un)fortunate. but if i am, its the long over due start of a new chapter, this one has been dragging on.

p.s. i've decided that this is close enough to development that i am actually going to put it up on

IIS6, WCF, BizTalk, Sql and Permissions

by topher 13. October 2008 22:52
the project i'm working on at the moment will be drawing to a close in a few weeks, in fact the go-live date is mid november sometime, so that means i need to get things off of my local pc and into some test environment. this is where all the fun starts.

as the post title eludes to i'm using biztalk to integrate a data feed from a third party into one of our sql db's (which is abstracted away with a wcf service hosted in iis6), and then on to a final resting place of yet another third party down stream somewhere.

i've never been a web man, i've always been a winforms man, rich client through and through me, so the only permissions i've ever had to deal with is the occasional readonly file.

i've been developing on a local instance of biztalk for some time, talking to a wcf i've also had running locally hosted in iis, and i've been using unity for dependency injection and wrote a rather noddy file based implementation of the repository so that i could get things up and running, with out the need to get my hands dirty with the whole database bit just yet.

everything was working hunky dorey until this weekend when i started on writing the sql implementation of the repository. things are not all fine and dandy any more.

as i've managed to steer clear of any kind of iis development, when i ran into problems with user impersonation this morning i also immediately, and rather annoyingly ran smack into a brick wall.

the db requires integrated security, and as the wcf service is iis hosted it's running as the aspnet account, and the db keeps giving me the bird. panic started to set in as i realised that there isn't anyone at work who can help me out with this, and i've only got a few hours of the day left to get things working before tomorrow. so, google is your friend right? well not when there are pages and pages of asp and wcf security guidelines/tutorials/blogs/posts to read though, and the clock is ticking.

i ended up hacking it to get it working (by using a local sql logon, shhh, dont tell anyone, it will be gone soon and no one will know i was even there) so at least when tomorrow comes and a rather bright man comes into work i can get him to help me out and teach me a thing or two about iis hosting of wcf services and impersonation.

i actually think that the problem i'm getting will go away as soon as i promote my code to the development servers, as on the win 2003 server as opposed to my xp pro sp2 machine (and dont quote me on this as i'm not a web dude) i can run the virtual directory under an app pool that runs under a user which has the credentials to access the database. it will be interesting to see if this is the case tomorrow.

its times like these that i wished that i had a given a little more time to looking at web development. i'm not interested in developing web sites at all, but i feel that i'm going to need to familiarise myself with iis a little more as i think i'm going to be hosting quite a few wcf services in it in the future.

Tags: , , ,

IIS | WCF | Sql | BizTalk

hello world

by topher 12. October 2008 23:05
hello everyone.

it's been a while since i've blogged, and i've got a few of my own reasons why i haven't, but i'm back now, and with a different approach to it this time.

i've been really getting into my work recently, reading an awful of books, and checking out the developer community on an almost daily basis online reading blogs and numerous articles, and generally getting fired up a fair bit about my work in general, and the work of the others who i follow electronically.

actually i've always been very much into my work, but recently i've met a few people that also feel very passionately about what they do, and this has got me rather excited.

i've been developing for quite a while now, i started back in 1997 whilst i was working for hewlett-packard in germany when i was a still a student at the university of surrey, england, and i've only really worked with one or two people in my field that i have really admired, and that might be stretching it.

it's a shame that i haven't met more people that feel as strongly as i do about their work, maybe that says a lot about the industry i'm in, but that is starting to change now, and the number of other good developers i know is growing, and its really firing me up about software development.

this blog is not going to be about my personal life, things are different these days.

this blog is going to be about development. the development i'm doing, and the development that i want to be doing. its going to be a record of my adventures in development, so that in years to come i can look back and laugh about it.

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My name is Chris Browne and I'm currently living it up in London.

I feel very passionatly about software development, I just never seem to get the chance to practice it that much.