UK – VBUG Annual Conference 2008 (the 11th!)

4th and 5th November 2008

2 days and 21 session tracks with presenters from across the UK and global community

Key Note:
Roy Osherove, founder of the Agile Israel community.

From overseas:
From the US the legendary Ken Getz and Jeffrey McManus.

UK community speakers:
András Belokosztolszki, Santosh Benjamin, Harry Brignul, Barry Dorrans, Richard Fennell, Sebastien Lambla, Ben Lamb, Mike Ormond, David Ringsell, Gary Short, Oliver Sturm, Dave Sussman, Mike Taulty, Tony Whitter and Phil Winstanley.

£299 Members / £399 Non Member (ex VAT)

Microsoft Reading, Microsoft Campus – Building 3, Thames Valley Park, Reading, RG6 1WG, GB

What to expect:
Data-Driven ASP.NET AJAX
Silverlight for mobile
Create managed code for Office 2007 in Visual Studio 2008
Team Foundation Server

To find out more:

Here’s the link for registration:

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UK – Oren Eini – “Producing Production Quality Software” and “Interaction based testing with Rhino Mocks”

Monday 13th October 2008, doors open 6:00pm, meeting starts 6:30pm

UWE (University of the West of England), Frenchay, Bristol (see FAQ for directions and a map) – Room 2q50 (in Q block)

“Producing Production Quality Software” and “Interaction based testing with Rhino Mocks”

Oren Eini is the author of Rhino Mocks and a major contributor to Castle and NHibernate.

Because Oren is in the UK for a couple of weeks and we’ve managed to nab him whilst he’s here. This is a rare opportunity to listen to someone who can make a real difference to the success of your project.

How do I sign up for this meeting:
Send an email to meetings at and quote your user name and the October Extra meeting.

“Producing Production Quality Software” Abstract:
Working software is no longer the only thing that we need to produce. We need to create a software system that has a chance of surviving in the cruel world of production system, outside the clean room and sterile environment of development and QA. Understanding bottlenecks in the system, preventing cascading failures and recovery strategies have ceased being the problems of the very high end players. With the cost of system downtime being measures in $$$/second, this is an area we have to consider all the way. In this talk we will cover how we can map common weaknesses in the system design, “preemptively” protect ourselves from them, and produce software systems that can withstand the real world hostile environment.

“Interaction based testing with Rhino Mocks” Abstract:Beyond the simplest scenarios, all objects had collaborators that they work with. This flies in the face of testing objects in isolation. This is the problem that mock objects were created to solve. In this talk you will learn what mock objects are, how to utilize them and best practices on when / how to utilize them. Rhino Mocks is a mock objects framework for .Net whose core goals are to let the developer rely on the compiler work well with refactoring tools.

Oren Eini is an independent consultant based in Israel, focusing on architecture and best practices that lead to quality software and zero friction development processes. He is the author of Rhino Mocks, the most popular mocking framework on the .Net platform as well as a member of other well known open source projects, chief among them are the Castle project and NHibernate.
Oren is an internationally known speaker, and the author of the soon to be published book: Building Domain Specific Languages with Boo.

More information can be found here:

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Metallica, London – 15/09/2008

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to make it to the O2 Arena at the same time that Metallica happened to be playing the second gig of their Death Magnetic tour. Huge thanks to Toby Henderson for getting me a ticket. It was a bucket list event for me – that box is ticked now!

We saw

We met, we drank (thanks to Twitter for bringing us together)

Those white dots are camera ‘phones…
…Hetfield told the audience to put their ‘phones away…it’ll never be as good as the live experience. How true. I “do believe” that camera ‘phones should be banned from gigs of this calibre, although it’s very hard to enforce. Taking a handful of photographs is probably alright (as I did), however a lot of folks had their camera ‘phones out and up for the entire gig…such as waste and loss of enjoyment, in my opinion.

We heard
That Was Just Your Life
The End of the Line
Kirk Solo #1
The Thing That Should Not Be
Of Wolf and Man
Broken, Beat & Scarred
Until It Sleeps
Wherever I May Roam
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Kirk Solo #2
The Day That Never Comes
Master Of Puppets
Stone Cold Crazy
Jump in the Fire
Seek and Destroy

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Various “fails” that have riled me recently…

Not really worthy of the Fail Blog, here are a few that have caught my attention over the last few weeks:

Car Mart – YOUR instead of YOU’RE or YOU ARE:

A local NHS Hospital telling us about a “10 minute wait aprox”:

In keeping with my previous car parking fail, this BMW driver did what they do best:

Finally, PC World can’t decide whether this item is available for delivery or not:

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“It wasnae me” – browser history, real world example 2

Readers who are sensitive to shocking content should stop reading now – the following screenshot contains text that might offend!

Over the weekend I wrote a blog entry about some of the “stuff” that I’ve found in the browser history/cache of the computers that I find myself being asked to “fix”. I find myself reminded of some text that I wrote on the subject of precisely how we find ourselves sucked into supporting the IT infrastructure of our friends, relatives, family and their friends…a scenario that doctors never find themselves presented with… Anyway, here’s the original browser history article: Browser history can help determine rebuild vs clean up, but can be revealing…

More recently, just last week to be more accurate, I was running CCleaner and Eraser over a desktop and a laptop. CCleaner is good at telling us precisely what it will remove; here’s an extract from the cookies collection that it found on the laptop:

I don’t really want to know what content I might expect from the sites that I’ve highlighted in red.

There’s little in the way of a real message in this blog entry, except to say that if you are going to ask your friend in IT to “fix” your computer (because “it’s running very slow”), think about the sites that you have been visiting before you hand it over. Personally I find admission is better than denial – tell me that I’ll find some shocking sites, tell me “it was my mate who stayed with us”, tell me anything, but the truth is always best!

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The importance of calling .Close()

Courtesy of Andrew Westgarth, via IM, I found myself look at Visual Basic code last week. Andrew’s “designer” was having problems editing some files that made up an application that Andrew was developing…seemed that something was keeping a lock on the files such that they couldn’t be edited. I suggested a couple of things, including hard-coding the filename (avoiding use of Server.MapPath) just to see what happened.

However, after a little experimentation, it turns out that the XmlReader instance wasn’t being closed and as such was keeping a lock on the XSL/T file in question. The solution was to call the .Close() method. It’s obvious now, however sometimes whilst in thick of it, it’s very easy forget to call such methods, nobody’s perfect.

Andrew provides a full write-up over here:

***warning contains VisualBasic code***
Can’t Save your XSL/T File? Have You Closed Your XMLReader?/a>

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Microsoft “shoe bending” advert, in all seriousness, please…

A recent Microsoft advert, brought to my attention by Colin, is somewhat odd, cool, weird, memorable, etc. Ian then replied to Colin with 1938media‘s response. I was going to prepare a video response to Loren’s video, however I decided to put it into writing instead (largely due to a noisy household, a shortage of production time and toothache).


Gates and Seinfeld spend their time inside a shoe store called Shoe Circus. This is an advert loaded with one-liners many of which have a deeper meaning. For example, in the opening scenes Seinfeld introduces viewers to the shop slogan “Quality shoes at discount prices – why pay more?” and the fact that Bill Gates is inside being fitted out for a pair of shoes. Viewers are free to read into this whatever they like, however the message is obvious: if Shoe Circus is good enough for Bill…then it’s good enough for the rest of us. The analogies with software should be obvious to viewers.

With Seinfeld taking over the role of shoe fitter, he asks Gates’ “is that your toe?” Gates’ response is nothing short of inspired, “no, it’s leather”. Of course it’s the leather that Seinfeld has just touched. Appearances can be deceptive, sheep can hide in a wolf’s clothing, Gates’ is being open and honest with the brevity of his response.

We learn that “the left one’s is a little tight”. Gates does not say much in this advert, this sentence is his longest. Viewers may find themselves feeling that Gates and Seinfeld are actually portraying McCain and Obama with this political reference. However, the opposite is actually true: there is no room for politics in global product development.

Viewers are invited to consider the statement “he’s a 10”. Seinfeld makes this point very clearly with little in the way of semantic fluff and verbal distraction. He is careful to repeat the statement “that’s a 10”. The point that he is making is also clear: there’s no 11 here, we don’t need to be one better than anybody else, we can be as good at 10. These three words have deep roots in the wise words of Spinal Tap whose amplifiers are better than the competition because they go one louder.

Outside the store, the Spanish-speaking family are not interested in Gates and Seinfeld, they are interested in the Conquistador, the shoe itself. This is a clear indication to the viewer that big brand names should not be the primary focus, it is the product that exhibits the quality and usability. Indeed, we can induce some meaning from the definition of conquistador – the explorer or adventurer – products do not develop themselves, exploration and risk are essential in order to move any product development forward.

We have already seen Seinfeld demonstrate the flexibility of the Conquistador, which sends home the a message that products should be flexible and able to meet all your demands, even if wearing leather shoes in the shower is one of your demands. Viewers may initially have thought that the shoe bending was a direct reference to Yuri Geller’s spoon bending activities of the 1970’s, however the producers very quickly put us off the scent with the vision of Seinfeld wearing his clothes and shoes whilst showering.

During the closing of the shoe purchase we learn that Gates has a platinum card for the store. The card itself has a picture of Gates that pre-dates 1980 (readers are invited to work out a more precise date for this photograph on their own). Of course the message that the producers are hoping to convey with this hark back to the late 1970’s is that of stability and the desire to produce quality products since day one. The irony of the loyalty card being called a Clown Club should not be missed – this is a laser-guided “direct hit” against anybody who believes that Microsoft cannot hit the mark with whatever they set their cross-hairs on.

The secondary message suggested by the Clown Club card infers that there are other folks in the club. One might think that members of the same club should play fair, as happens in traditional sporting clubs. Gates’ smirk as he announces that he is a platinum member suggests that other members of the same club may not be playing fair, although this is a statement that is never made directly. The Clown Club card itself rewards holders with Big Top points. These are probably worthless, however this is sending a clear message to the other club members that team work and playing fair are essential in today’s world, points do not always mean prizes. Scoring points against your opposition is not something club members should be entertaining.

During the penultimate message, as Gates and Seinfeld leave the store and the shopping mall, Seinfeld comments that Gates has “mind-melded his Magnum Jupiter brain to those other Saturn-ringed brains at Microsoft”. We see here yet another reference to the need for team work, the need for the creation of a global playing field, there is no room for a disconnected organisation. Gates short but subtle response, “I have”, drums this point home. A question left unanswered at this point is “where did Gates get his churro from?” The viewer is left to make up their own mind about the origin and meaning behind the introduction of this random and spurious churro.

The closing message sees Seinfeld, a clear thought leader in this field, ask Gates the ultimate question, a question that would normally result in the answer 42. Readers of this piece and viewers of the advert are invited not to panic at this point, as what follows is merely one interpretation of this particular message.

Seinfeld, as we have witnessed throughout the advert, plays the lead part with the most vocal content. However it is Gates’ with his “man of few words” responses that are the most emotive and carry with it more meaning than wordy sentences can come close to achieving. This is a hidden message: quality over quantity.

We may believe that there are take-aways in Seinfelds closing message: “I’m just wondering, are they ever gonna come out with make our computers moist and chewy like cake so we could just eat ”em while we’re working? If it’s yes, give me a signal, adjust your shorts.” Viewers are then either shocked or surprised to see Gates adjust his shorts (for the benefit of UK readers/viewers, we must imagine these to be boxer shorts, as worn under the trousers). Gates’ action allows the advert to close somewhat rapidly, leaving us with the message “The Future…Delicious” and the Windows logo.

The advert’s primary message is clear: Windows 7 will be a product oozing with quality, usablity, flexibity, style and it will integrate with the way you do things. Gates still is still associated with Microsoft, certainly in the eye of the viewing public, hence the choice to use him as part of this advert for future Microsoft products and hence this author’s direct reference to Windows 7.

This advert says so many things about the Microsoft product development process and their products, surely so much is obvious?


A YouTube version of the advert can be found here.

Thomas Lee’s post on the same topic.
An alternative ending can be found here (provided here for reference, not endorsed)
The deal behind hiring Seinfeld

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Browser history can help determine rebuild vs clean up, but can be revealing…

Like a lot of folks in the IT industry, whether you’re a software developer or in an infrastructure/support role, I seem to find myself sorting PCs and laptops after they’ve been infected with malware, spyware and/or viruses.

It’s something that I’ve written about elsewhere in this blog: Confidence Tricks and It’s a scam, it’s a hoax, but how do you know?

Sometimes the cause can be obvious, but asking the question “have you been looking at porn?” directly can be a little awkward and embarrassing.

On one such occasion a few years ago, I knew that the PC had been used to view skin tones and the like, however I chose to ask the question anyway. The response that I got back then was a resounding “no”. This wasn’t the first time that I’d recovered this particular PC from viral infections after visits to the skin toned side of the Internet…so I wasn’t at all surprised to find the sites presented in the image below in the browser’s history. Incidentally, this is a carefully positioned view of the history list – there were some real shockers elsewhere in this history.

I suppose it helps us to see this kind content in the history, at least we then know what we’re dealing with. If the history had been wiped, we may have wasted time trying to perform a clean up instead of a rebuild. My threshold for rebuild vs. clean up is getting a lot lower. If it can’t be cleaned up within 45-60 minutes, the unit is flattened, paved, formatted and the re-installation process starts.

A PC rebuild was the order of the day in this case.

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Murphy’s Week w/c 01/09/2008

Here we are again, on a red-eye flight from Edinburgh to London. It has been a few weeks since my last trip. In that time I have made some improvements to a Visual Basic ASP.NET 1.1 application and added Monte Carlo risk simulations to and existing C# 2.0 application (it’s now up to .NET 3.5 thanks to gratuitous use of LINQ!)

I am in London for two days, Monday and Tuesday. Oddly, I am unsure of the learning outcomes or what we might achieve from these two days – we have a software vendor visiting, so I guess we should tap him for any knowledge that he can spare us…

My usual cabin bag has been replaced for this trip, largely because I am flying into London City as opposed to Heathrow. Flights to London City make use of Avroliner RJ85/RJ100 aircraft – the overhead bins can be a lot tighter/compact on these types of aircraft. So instead, I am carrying a rather aged Microsoft .NET rucksack (hint hint!) and a leather laptop bag. Don’t tell anyone, but it’s not my laptop bag – I am returning it to our London office on behalf of its real owner. However, before you report me to the authorities hear me out! As luck and flight cancellations would have it, the real owner is actually sitting a couple of seats away to my left! Oh, wait, the intent to carry on a bag that was given to me by somebody else was there:doh! Guilty, take me away, lock me up and throw away the key!

Interestingly, the last time I travelled through Edinburgh airport with this partiucular Microsoft .NET rucksuck (the dark blue ones given out at an MSDN Roadshow circa 2000), a chap (MSFT accounts/sales chappie) tapped me on the shoulder and asked in I worked for Microsoft…that was in 2003/2004. Amazingly, whilst at London City’s DLR station *the same bloke* asked me the same question! What are the chances of that happening? Anyway, small world.

Sacrificing the laptop bag doesn’t mean I’ve left my laptop at home. No sir! I use a Targus sleeve to protect the D830 when it’s in my usual Tumi backpack bag – I’ve brought the sleeve along for the return journey. So, all going to plan, I’ll be traveling home rather light…makes a change.

Arrived at London City airport with the usual bang of what feels like a heavy landing but is actually fairly common with these aircraft. Of course, it’s a case of land and get off the runway as quickly as possible at London City, such is the length of runway and size of airport. Expansion work must have taken place as we had to walk a lot further than usual – “baggage handlers al fresco” was further evidence of the ongoing works!

Getting into Marble Arch involved taking the DLR to Canning Town then on to Bond Street via the Jubilee line – both were packed to the gunnels/gunwales (or overcrowded as I prefer to call it).

The return flight home was at 2005, the late one. There are two advantages to this. Firstly, it means that I can get a full day in he office, leaving at the usual time to head out to the airport. Secondly, Heathrow is not so busy after 1830…most of the time…which makes for rapid transit through security to the lounge.

Sadly the flight was delayed by one hour. However the captain boarded us before we knew of the delay. This is a cunning approach that often works – the captain sent air traffic control the “ready” message which gave us a chance at an earlier slot. It paid off as the delay was reduce by 15 minutes. You know, I am beginning to think that BA are my only source of fatty fish oils omegas – I was going to write “sole source”, but I fear @garyshort might shoot me down for bad jokes! Not whilst in-flight at least! Oh, there’s another one, doh!)

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday after a couple of trips to the dentist, it became clear that 15 years of check-ups, cleans and polishing had come to an end. I appear to have a minor infection in one of my left lower molars – the treatment is remarkably similar were it a major infection. Treatments, appointments, pain, suffering and a large bill to follow. I am not looking forward to it – the first treatment was meant to be today, Friday, however due to equipment failure it has been postponed. They say that you can be sure of two things in life, death and taxes. I would extend that to include dental work, despite taking great care to avoid it. C’est la vie I guess.

On the positive side of things, there’s only a week to go until the new Metallica release Death Magnetic:

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Fancy a chance to have Scott Guthrie watch you speak?

With REMIX around the corner on 18/19th September 2008, once again the community is gearing up to provide it’s own unique brand of “entertainment while you learn” plus opportunities for all members of the UK Community to take part in events and promote their groups and themselves.

To that end, the REMIX team are organising another Speaking Competition along the lines seen at TechEd and the UK Launch. There’s been some discussion recently about promoting new speaking talent on this thread. Well, here is a fantastic opportunity to do just this by offering the chance to speak at a major event to your user group members. In the process they can get some help in improving their speaking skills plus have a chance to win an Xbox 360! Yes “Ready Steady Speak” is back for REMIX.

For those of you not familiar with it, the format is as so:

Contestants will present a 5 min session on a subject of their choice relating to Web Development or Web Design. They will present in front of the REMIX audience and in front of a panel of judges. If there are more than a certain number of contestants (TBD), there will be ‘heats’ earlier in the day with the winners of the heats in a ‘speak-off’ in the evening session. The ‘speak-off’ will take place as stated in the evening of the first day of REMIX and the first prize is an Xbox 360 + Goodies!



  • Speakers must NOT have previously presented ‘full sessions’ at DDD, TechEd, DevWeek, SDN, SQLBITS, VBUG Conference, NxtGenUG FEST or any similar such conferences.
  • Speakers must create a new session of their own with new material which can be based on existing material but cannot be a simple copy of it.
  • Speakers must limit their session to as close to 5 mins as possible (overrunning time will cause the speaker to be marked down).
  • Speakers must not have previously won Speaker Idol or “Ready Steady Speak” UK Launch – Sorry to James Coulter!
  • Speakers must state their desire to enter the competition by no later than close of play on Monday 15th September 2008. E-mail dave ^AT^ nxtgenug ^DOT^ net to express your interest!


  • Speakers should provide if at all possible their own laptop, but one can be provided if necessary. The speaker should notify the organisers of any software prerequisites.
  • Speakers should have spoken previously at a User Group meeting even if only for a 10 min mini-session or ‘nugget’. This is NOT mandatory.

The likes of Scott Guthrie will be there and could be in your audience!

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