Irregular Injection of Opinion
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 Wednesday, 01 April 2009
@Twitchhiker is a total tool!

So it appears that Paul Smith, the TwitchHiker has decided that:

“wherever you go in New Zealand, residents will complain how utterly frustrating the technology is, one born of a telecommunications monopoly and the country's remote placing on the planet”

Is our telecommunications infrastructure really that obviously ‘one born out of a telecommunications monopoly’?

I’ve travelled the globe, hell, I’ve travelled the globe in just the past 3 months and our infrastructure in new Zealand is as accessible, as fast and as useful as any other country I’ve visited recently. If Paul Smith wants to fly over here on the generosity of New Zealanders (@flyairnz and others) and then spout his mouth off about out internet infrastructure then he can $%&^$^ off back to Newcastle as far as I’m concerned.

Clueless tool!


In the comments someone asked me to back my statements up saying that Mr Smith backed his statements up. Well. Mr Smith just regurgitated the same old ‘Telecom is a monopolistic provider’ crap that seems to do the rounds. And I struggle to see how he could really lay claim to his experience unless he spent his entire time in a hermetically sealed Maui campervan.

So some facts to back it up then.

I travel the country and indeed the world. (9 Countries, 23 cities/airports, 130,000km and 59 days on the road just this year). My iPhone 3G and Tablet PC (with UMTS inbuilt) travel with me everywhere. In NZ this year I’ve been to TUO, HLZ, ROT, DUD, CHC, ZQN, AKL, MRO, NPE, NSN and a bunch of places in between when it’s been via vehicular rather than winged transport. From memory the only place I’ve been without Broadband when I’ve wanted it was at the Outdoor Pursuits Center in the middle of bloody nowhereville near National Park. Anywhere else I’ve had at a bare minimum sufficient GPRS signal to check my mail(I had GPRS at SEHOPC but I wanted broadband) , tweet my tweets and, should I have wanted to, cry poverty and try and sponge some more free travel. While not as ubiquitous as in the USA or Canada, the availability of good quality WiFi (back hauled no doubt by monopoly provided ADSL) is just fine here in NZ and as good as Australia or any other country that I’ve been to recently in South East Asia bar maybe Singapore.

Rants|Wednesday, 01 April 2009 12:11:41 UTC|Comments [4]|    

Gyming it at Infosys in Bangalore- Recumbent Bike Power Sprinting

So I’m staying on the Infosys Campus in Bangalore this week and hitting up their gym each morning.

The campus is a fantastic facility and the gym is top notch.

Did a cardio work this morning including a sprint on the Recumbent bike…. never thought I could peak my heart rate like i did on the recumbent! Always thought they were for grandmas! Definitely more of this for me going forward. Check out the chart


Tracking my workout using both my Polar S625x (as above) and my Suunto T3c at the moment.  Set out to achieve a 4.0 Training Effect on the Suunto which I nailed right at the peak of the recumbent interval- I think I was on level 18 (Constant wattage mode) doing about 100 RPM for that interval.

Gettin Fit|Wednesday, 01 April 2009 02:25:00 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Sunday, 29 March 2009
FFS Air New Zealand- Sort Your Filtering Out

I need to grab some files over Live Sync to review on the plane….. look what I get


I’ve been meaning to write a Blog post praising your use of this technology…. but this stuff is just STUPID!!!!

Rants|Sunday, 29 March 2009 23:09:43 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Saturday, 28 March 2009
Reduce, Reuse but please don’t pay to Recycle!

So an recent article by The Visible Hand In Economics has managed to get me off my bum and get me writing this long overdue blog post. Now I’m a bit of a closet Greenie- it’s hard not to be when you’re into the outdoors, like paddling free flowing rivers and skiing snow  covered mountain peaks. Of course I’m not a Watermelon type Greenie, but, those discussions are for another day.

One of the things I’m big on is Reducing the amount of packaging and other crap I consume. One of the things I’m less into is paying to Recycle that crap that I do, despite my best efforts, end up saddled with. This blog post is about why I think paying for recycling is wrong- it’s focussed mainly on Economic arguments and I certainly can’t claim them to be original, but, it’s nice to get your own views down on paper.

If it costs (I’m talking about the Economic concept of Cost here not just the money you have to pay for something) more money to
recycle something than it does to simply dispose of it then I think it’s bad personal policy to recycle.
Take a Glass bottle for example (numbers hypothetical, but, it does cost REAL money to recycle- the costs outweigh the value of the raw material recovered):
It costs a manufacturer 5 cents for the raw materials to make a bottle
When I’ve finished drinking the beer time it costs 2 cents to collect the glass from my curb-side, it requires 2 cents of labour and 4 cents of energy to turn the glass back into slag glass that can be sold for 2 cents.
If I just dump it it costs 2 cents for the curb-side collection and 2 cents to provide the landfill services.

So the net ‘cost’ of recycling = (2 + 2 + 4) – 2 = 6 cents
The net costs of dumping to landfill = 2 + 2 = 4 cents

I’m paying 2 cents to recycle. What I am getting for this two cents? Some would say that it costs more to recycle because the landfill cost doesn’t fully factor the externalities (environmental impact etc…) so sure, you could argue that I am ‘paying a premium’ to protect the environment. But, whatever the case that is a 2 cent cost in resources- the question to ask is ‘could those resources be put to better use’? So, for example, if I chose instead to dump to landfill and instead donate the two cents to a University doing research into glass bottles, twice as strong as normal but containing half the glass, might that be a better idea?

It’s even more of a problem, as noted in the article I posted at the top, when the costs are totally hidden from us. Do we think properly about reducing consumption of glass bottles when recycling them is ‘free’?

Rants|Saturday, 28 March 2009 22:53:59 UTC|Comments [3]|    

The “Open” Cloud Manifesto

So I’ve been head down and arse up this week; I’ve barely had enough time to get on top of my email inbox let alone my unread blog entries. Finally made some progress this evening at YVR and now on NZ83 en route YVR-AKL.

So while I was underwater a stink kicked up around a thing called the ‘Cloud Manifesto’. Meant to be being released Monday, it was leaked here (all 6 pages of it) a few days early. From my reading between the lines of the thinly veiled blog post by Steve Martin from Microsoft it looks like the document has been written, by an as yet undisclosed group, and is being farmed around a bunch of companies for them to ‘sign up’. There is a posting on the Cloud Computing Interop Forum (on Google Groups) by Reuven Cohen (who I’ve never heard of) who is the ‘Creator of the Enomalism Elastic Computing Platform’ (which I have to admit I’ve never heard of either). Reuven is also involved in Cloud Camp (which I have heard of). I tell you all this and encourage you to go and have a sniff around some of the links above and some of the press coverage so far so that you have some context before continuing. Steve Gillmor from TechCrunch – Amazon expressing their antipathy towards the whole thing Darryl Taft

I provide the above to give some background. Now for some of my thoughts.

The Emperors New Clothes*

So reading the document itself most of it feels so obvious it barely warrants saying- it’s PR puffery really. I’m going to cherry pick a few statements from the document to discuss.

“We believe that these core principles are rooted in the belief that cloud computing should be as open as all other IT technologies.  “

I hate to break it, but, other IT technologies aren’t that open. As I’ll set out below I’m a big believer that in most cases openness and interoperability are emergent aspects of technology and not something you should really set out to engineer.

“To reassure their customers, cloud providers must offer a high degree of transparency into their operations.”

So I just don’t know how realistic this is. Certainly Microsoft and even more so Google are highly protective of their data center operation details. A measure of security through obscurity is important here still I think. I would also disagree with the authors that moving data into a shared infrastructure necessarily exposes one to more potential for unauthorized exposure.

“Cloud providers must use and adopt existing standards wherever appropriate.  The IT industry has invested heavily in existing standards and standards organizations; there is no need to duplicate or reinvent them. “

So this is bang on target and to be honest the biggest thing that the Cloud Providers can do to ensure *useful* openness is to ensure they use existing standards wherever possible. But do we need this sort of industry bickering to state the bleeding obvious?

“Any community effort around the open cloud should be driven by customer needs, not merely the technical needs of cloud providers, and should be tested or verified against real customer requirements.  “

Would be interesting to know what level of customer involvement there was in the Manifesto document? Were folks like SmugMug (who are my favourite example of a great Cloud operated business) or enterprise customers (I know there is at least one airline using EC2 for some of their stuff) involved? It all feels like a bit much of a simplistic puff piece at the moment- though according to the CCIP group post ‘major players’ have been involved.

“Cloud computing standards organizations, advocacy groups, and communities should work together and stay coordinated, making sure that efforts do not conflict or overlap. “

Haven’t really gotten off to the best start in this regard to be honest.

This document is meant to begin the conversation, not define it.

I’m afraid I agree with a number of the commentators (both vested interests and ‘independent’ voices) at the top of this post. It was a pretty shitty way to ‘begin the conversation’.

Who’s Actually Behind It All

So a big question in my mind is who is actually driving this thing?

To be honest if it were just a group of bit players stroking and stoking their egos then I don’t actually think it would have generated the level of interest and posturing (from MS and Amazon to date) that we’ve seen.

Gillmor looks at the obvious candidates, IBM and Google (Amazon having declared they’re outside the tent). It seems inconceivable that Microsoft and Amazon would not be invited to be involved in this at the earliest opportunity. Even if it were the ‘Anything But Microsoft Brigade’ you’d still expect Amazon to be seated at the table- hell their model of a high scale application operator selling their dog food to others embodies for me much of what the cloud is about.

I have no idea how Cohen can, with a straight face, say:

“Given the nature of this document we have attempted to be
as inclusive as possible inviting most of the major names in technology to
participate in the initial draft.”

Given that this Manifesto appears to be largely driven by East Coast companies I can’t help but think that IBM have got their finger in this somehow. It’ll be somewhat ironic if this the case, as a key proponent of the standardization of Office Open XML (now ISO29500) I’ve had first hand knowledge of IBM’s ‘do as we say’; might this be their ‘not as we do’ moment?

I guess all will be revealed come Monday.

On The Substantive Matter- Or Why I Only Kind Of Give a Crap About Interop in the Cloud

Standards stifle innovation. There, I said it. Friends of mine will probably bitch at me for being so blunt, but, I genuinely believe that standardizing technologies is, in most cases, best left until they have reached a reasonable level of maturity.

Once something is standardized pace becomes glacially slow and the ability for innovators to recover a return on intellectual property becomes nigh on impossible. There are, of course, some business whom this model is de rigueur- I guess we’ve got to wait until Moday to find out more.

For the most part we’ll be building our applications using the same protocols and technologies that we’ve always done. At least for the stuff that spins my wheels, high scale applications, there’s not a lot that’s new in the cloud; it’s really just an interesting new way to deploy and dynamically scale the same architectures I’ve been working on since I was building SaaS apps in the Dot Bomb days.

The new stuff really comes down to the cloud fabric^ and the management thereof and frankly I think it’s too early to think about standards. Amazon scales at the unit of a virtual machine, Microsoft does the same but with sugar on the top to hide the fact that it’s really Windows at all. Let’s see what sort of models shake out best for customers before we try and anoint one king.

I Guess We Wait Until Monday

As someone looking to ship a pretty significant Cloud delivered app later this year what I really want is;

  • For my Cloud provider of choice to ship their bits!
  • For my travel schedule to slow down a bit- my Tripit stats are truly horrendous and I’m flying to Bangalore Monday morning.
  • For the Manifesto authors, whoever and wherever they might be to read a little Hayek.

Let’s see was happens Monday.

*So worth nothing this wasn’t my turn of phrase. Used here first but I liked it so much I pinched it!
^Call it what you will, this is the term I use when talking about Windows Azure at least.

PoliTechLaw | Rants | Windows Azure|Saturday, 28 March 2009 19:53:37 UTC|Comments [0]|    

FAIL: When Content Filtering Goes Bad I Can’t Access Live Mesh


At YVR, stupid tools have blocked MESH so I can’t login to accept an invitation to a MESH folder.

Elite Fail for YVR.

Somewhat of a FAIL for Microsoft too- surely you can let me accept invitations from the MESH client!

Rants|Saturday, 28 March 2009 00:45:53 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Monday, 23 March 2009
My Sessions from MIX09 last week

So the session videos are up for MIX09.

It’s video and screen casts …. which means you can watch me deftly dancing across the stage in my yellow Crocs. Both sessions are a bunch of fun! Well worth taking a look at.

Building Accessible RIAs in Microsoft Silverlight

State of the Art in Web Site Design on Microsoft SharePoint

.NET | SharePoint | Silverlight|Monday, 23 March 2009 05:34:03 UTC|Comments [3]|    

 Saturday, 21 March 2009
Useful Stuff for Building SharePoint Themes

Thanks to all who came to my session at MIX on doing great Theme design for SharePoint.

I promised I’d post up some bits after the session so here they are.

I showed some useful snippets in the session. These were used when we created our Feature Receiver.

These two snippets basically create the code required to add our theme into and take it out of the SPThemes.xml when we install and uninstall the feature..

The Macro I showed for creating the 12 Hive structure in VS.NET is in this post here.

I mentioned Heather Solomon’s CSS Reference Guide for SharePoint here.

I also talked about the March CTP of VSeWSS 1.3 and a pack of 10 Themes for SharePoint that we’ve put together. Both are linked to from a post by Paul Andrew- his blog is well worth having in your RSS reader.

I think that’s about it. If I promised anything else please let me

SharePoint|Saturday, 21 March 2009 00:03:58 UTC|Comments [5]|    

 Sunday, 15 March 2009
Wellington Road Biking - Great Ride This Morning

With all this travel I keep forgetting just how lovely Wellington can be on a great day.

Did a fantastic road ride today. Out to Johnsonville (past the murder scene at the Mobil), back into town via Ngaio, around the bays and the Miramar peninsula and the I cut home @ Kilbirnie as I was pretty stuffed by then. Rode a bunch of the peninsula with a guy from Mercer comparing notes on hotels to stay at that actually have proper spin bikes.

Did about 70km all up.


My peak 20min power was up to 300 Watts so I’m defn. seeing some improvement in my Functional Threshold Power (up from 280 Watts last time I did a proper test) . Even more pleasing was I maintained 290 Watts for 20min and 255 Watts for 60 min. Just have to get the body weight down and should be caning it.

Adventure Sports | Gettin Fit|Sunday, 15 March 2009 02:25:05 UTC|Comments [2]|    

 Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Creating the Structure for a SharePoint Theme in VSeWSS v1.3

So VSeWSS doesn’t provide a Visual Studio project type to create Themes.

So we have to start out with a SharePoint –> Blank Project.

Then we add a Root File

Then we need to create a structure something like this (if we want to be nicely multilingual aware)

So creating these by hand is a bit of a pain in the arse… especially if you have to do it during a presentation (come to my presentation at MIX09! ‘State of the Art in Web Site Design on Microsoft SharePoint’).

So I wrote a little Macro that creates these folders for you… thought it might be useful to some people.

    Sub TemporaryMacro()
        Dim themeName As String = InputBox("Enter the template name")
        Dim rootItem As ProjectItem = DTE.Solution.Projects.Item(1).ProjectItems.Item(2)
        Dim templateItem As ProjectItem = rootItem.ProjectItems.AddFolder("TEMPLATE")
        templateItem.ProjectItems.AddFolder("LAYOUTS").ProjectItems.AddFolder("1033") _
    End Sub

Hope it’s helpful for people.

.NET | SharePoint|Wednesday, 11 March 2009 00:12:51 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Friday, 06 March 2009
Getting Tail Kicking Performance Out of Virtual PC

So there are plenty of posts around the web about how to get the best performance out of Virtual Machines. I thought I’d jot down what I do. I use VMs mostly for running training and demos- so my usage approach is optimized that way.

First let me say I am a Virtual PC guy. I’ve tried VMWare, I’ve tried Hyper-V, I’ve tried Virtual Server 2005 R2. In the end I just find VPC 2007 SP1 the best balance of performance and convenience. I use VMs mostly for presenting and I do so off a less than uber grunty machine- I run my VMs on a Lenovo x61t Notebook- it’s not the fastest machine in the world but it is tiny, light and versatile- all grat for regular travellers like me. My Vista Index looks like this

You’ll note I’ve invested in the important things- 300GB 7200RPM HDD and 4GB of RAM. Despite only being a 1.6Ghz Processor it still gets a 4.5.

Anyway, I digress. So here’s how I run my VPCs.

I do some basic Host machine tweaks per:
Basically this is just configuring my Virus Scanner (CA eTrust) to ignore VPC and my VHD and other related files.

I follow some of the guest tweaks that Andrew Connell has collated here.

My key secret is my drive configuration.
I put my VHDs onto a fast Flash key. I’ve got a 32GB Patriot XT and I just got an OCZ ATV 32GB. Both are fast reading drives at about 30 Megabytes per Second..
I then configure my VMC so that the *.vmc file is on my primary HDD spindle (the 7200RPM drive above) and I turn on Undo disks. This means that all the write traffic is on the 7200RPM platter and the read access is split between this main drive and the thumb drive. The result is great performance. I’ll probably swap my primary drive to an SSD later this year which will probably mean a bit of a rethink.

YMMV.. but this works well for me.

.NET | Windows 7even|Friday, 06 March 2009 07:28:36 UTC|Comments [1]|