The blog of Eric Sibly; focusing on mountain biking, .NET development for the Desktop, Smartphone and PocketPC.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tablet PC platform in trouble...

I see from this post and a number of other over the past day or two talking about the Tablet PC being in trouble based on some IDC forecast. Whatever!

It amazes me sometimes the weight that these so called analysts have in the market with their reports. They remind me a lot of weathermen, they come up with some forecast based loosely on some fact and some posturing, work in a sensationalist element to sell for their network/organisation, and then inevitably get it wrong! And much like for the weatherman, in time the errant forecast is forgotten - trouble is someone in the meantime has acted on the advice and made a poor decision based on this crystal ball analysis.

I think the Tablet PC is a fantastic concept; there are times where the pen is the more natural way to interface with the device versus punching away on a keyboard and chasing a little mouse. To me the greatest limiting factor of the device is the price, in general we all just can’t afford it. When the price of these devices comes down and laptops by default are Tablet enabled then everyone will want it and use it. Look at Windows XP Media Centre, now that they are not so expensive and a number of the restrictions on its use have been relaxed it is the biggest sellers in the desktop market – price was the primary reason – everyone wanted one they just couldn’t justify it.

Somehow Microsoft needs to convince Dell to sell and then the device will really gain mass credibility. So when the tablet is a $100 premium over an equivalent laptop on Dell I’ll definitely get one.

Finally, I am surprised there has been little/no comment from Scoble on this seeing he is typically such a strong supporter of the device.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

WinFS is Beta 1

Well, WinFS is in Beta - who would have thought it? This is one of the original three pillars of Longhorn that was previously dropped. Great to see that it wasn't dropped completely and is following closely behind the other two pillars, WPF and WCF. It will not make it into the initial Windows Vista release unfortunately :-( It will be compatible with WinXP though :-)

I have to commend Microsoft for making all of these technologies backwardly compatible with Windows XP, it is a very strategic decision, creating an infinetly larger market than Vista could attain on release. Means developers can target these features knowing that a greater percentage of users out there will be able to run the applications - very nice!

Monday, August 29, 2005

All Blacks haka...

The All Blacks delivered their new haka this Saturday before the South African game. Good to see that the are continuing with this great tradition, and have updated it with the times. The All Blacks won the match 31-27 - yeah!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Engadget 1985...

One of my favourite blogs in Engadget, a site dedicated to reporting all the news related to the latest and greatest gadgets! They just re-posted this page from 1985 - it's wicked! Love the ASCII art, and they slammed Microsoft Windows 1.0 - boy did they get it wrong with this quote though:

"We don’t really know how they think they can take on the Macintosh user interface, though, so don’t be surprised if the little Arizona startup that could, well, can’t."

VS 2005 Web Project System

Here is an article by Scott Guthrie on the new Visual 2005 Web Project System; seems that there is a lot of goodness in the new version for those Web folks out there!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Late change to Nullable type...

Don Box posted a link to this post that describes some changes to the way the nullable types operate. This is excellent news as I believe these types are going to be used in a significant manner with .NET 2.0 and above, so getting it right first up is the way to go. Well done Microsoft for listening to the feedback.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Parents game rage…

Here is an article showing the consequences of over enthusiastic parents at a Rugby League game in Sydney, with their eight year old being kicked off the team. It is amazing how passionate parents getting whilst watching their kids play sport. I better make sure I behave myself at soccer tomorrow morning :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Media browser...

Just found this little video up on Channel 9 and what can I say - WOW!

This is an application that has been created by Microsoft Research (not an actual product) that demonstrates a new way/style of working with media files, specifically photos and videos. Hopefully we will some of this stuff move into the next version of Windows, being Vista. It is very very cool!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Daniel Moth has posted an article about a feature that I wasn't aware of that I think is actually pretty cool. You can select in the Visual Studio 2005 Forms Designer for a control, such as a label, whether a member variable is to be automatically generated. Set this to false for all labels, panels, etc., that will never be referenced and they won't appear in intellisense and will apparently save you some memory - nice!

Rich client, poor client…

This would make a great title for a book ;-)

I know I have made the case previously for the Smart Client (rich) versus the Browser (poor). Here is a pretty good video from Channel 9 that supports this and demonstrates the benefits of looking for the appropriate application interface depending on your audience and they features they desire. It demonstrates the difference between an ASP.NET Web Application and a .NET Smart Client equivalent.

First up, let’s remember that the Rich Client is a concept, versus a product. The Rich Client can be a custom built application, or the likes of Office connecting to a Web Service or Database, etc.

There are times where “Reach” is important, being many users on any number of browsers and operating systems, then I agree the browser offers the best solution. However, if the user base fits the minimum Windows requirements for .NET, as most users do within corporate firewalls then a Smart Client should seriously be considered. Another reason many organisations build Browser applications is due to the misconception of deployment, agreed this was a nightmare in the old COM days, but with .NET and the likes of ClickOnce this is no longer an issue.

From a business perspective the benefits are significant:

  • Richer data entry experience; faster, more effective, more accurate data capture and richer UI controls
  • Reduced network access; less round trips – saved network/internet costs
  • Offline and synchronization; application works without network - supports mobility
  • Reduced development costs; Windows Forms simpler than ASP.NET

See the Dell Case Study to see how switching to a Rich client has improved their business.

Quoted in a magazine...

Just over a month ago I was asked to talk about Mobile development in a phone interview with Technology & Business magazine. This month the magazine has come out and I have been quoted - how exciting. It is a 6 page article and I featured in two paragraphs - better than nothing ;-)

"Web Services has come a long way in helping the integration of these devices," says Eric Sibly, solutions architect with solutions development giant Avanade. "A reduction in filling out manual forms means companies can get their processes moving a lot quicker, and built in reference data can improve the timeliness and quality of information they are getting. However, in applications where you need to do real time updates, you've got to look at the type of connectivity and make sure you know what happens if the wireless link fails."

Avanade had to address this exact problem during a recent project with Queensland Rail, which recently worked with Avanade to build a shipment scheduling system that used PDAs and the CDMA mobile network to let train drivers bring detailed information on shipments with them. With uncertain wireless coverage in regional areas, the application had to be designed with enough data permanence to ensure that they remained usable even in black spots. Collected data is stored on the devices until it can be synchronised back to the home server once the CDMA signal is picked up again.

Well that is kind of what I said. Close enough :-)

Update (28-Sep-05): The full article is now online.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Threading and Concurrency...

As our applications get more complex we need to look at ways to better utilise the available hardware and operating systems (such as multiple processors) to improve performance. This means writing software that utilises multiple threads to break down the task into smaller units of work that can be executed concurrently. This then creates issues with concurrency, in that multiple threads can being working on the same data structures at the same time with potential for creating some really nasty bugs - these suckers can be nigh on impossible to debug! To assist with concurrency we can look to synchronise (lock) access to the data structures, but now we need to be wary of dead locks or over locking creating additional performance issues. So, buyer beware - with great power comes create responsibility! This article provides a good overview of concurreny and it potential pitfills, and offers good advice on how to effectively code in a multithreaded manner. Good luck!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The NZ trip...

The holiday pretty much went as follows:

Thursday: Arrived in New Zealand around half nine, picked up by Rob from the airport and back to his new “pad” in the city - very nice. We also went out for a couple of quiet beers, the nice kiwi stuff.

Friday: Rob had to go to work, and I got to sleep in – no boys or wife to wake me – ah! Went and closed our old bank account, our final NZ legacy, and took out the remaining money for holiday funds. Met Rob after lunch, and then met Graham for a couple of beers at the Loaded Hog to catch up on what had been happening and collect keys to the Taupo house. Rob and I then went to the movies to kill some time before meeting up with some of his mates, saw the new Batman Begins movie – it was actually really good. Drank lots and lots and lots of beer, got home at 3am feeling pretty wasted / drunk / seedy :-p

Saturday: Woke up feeling pretty sorry for myself due to previous night’s consumption - required Panadol to assist in healing process. Caught up with John Aiken for lunch after checking out his house that he has recently purchased in Ponsonby with his new girly. Heard all the great news about how well things were going, and am excited about seeing his book that comes out soon. That night was pizza with some other old Ernst & Young friends, Jos and Mark and families.

Sunday: Up bright and early, car packed, time to drive down to Taupo. Weather is decidedly dodgy, with rain, rain and more rain all the way down. Finally get to Taupo four or so hours later, with the weather looking slightly brighter with a few showers. Did some shopping for food supplies to last the next few days, then set ourselves up at the house in Taupo. Decide that the break in the weather offers a chance for a quick ride, so we get the bikes ready and head off to Craters of the Moon. We start riding the trails, which are fairly water logged, large puddles, gooey mud and slippery roots making it all a bit of a challenge. We get onto a second more challenging trail when we encounter a bit of a steep downhill section, I shoot down first and go up other side to wait for Rob. Rob comes down, gets a little too much speed up, gets the wobbles and ends up running into a tree stump at the bottom, does a Superman over the bars and comes down hard. I run down to see how he is and find he has a puncture in his knee from landing on a stick or rock, lots of blood oozing out – when he stretches leg it starts spraying blood out - wicked! I rip the bottom half of my polypropylene shirt and wrap that around the wound and then tape up with some electrical tape from within the backpack to stop bleeding. This appears to work and we walk / hobble it back out with bikes to the car and make a visit to the local hospital, turns out the wound is fairly clean and doesn’t require stitches, just some bandages and rest. This basically put an end to Rob’s ridding, and our skiing for the holiday as he could barely walk for the remainder of the holiday. Took it easy that night :-(

Monday/Tuesday: Carbon-copy days. Basically hung out in Taupo, and I went for a ride each day back at the Craters of the Moon trails whilst Rob read the paper or a magazine in the car, followed up by a movie (The Island and Fantastic Four – both not bad). I managed to explore some new trails that I hadn’t been on before and had a great time ripping up the trails. This place really does have some of the best riding I have ever done. The trails consist or largely rolling singletrack, with some small, medium difficulty climbs, fast-ish downhills, with most riding being middle ring at speed – a real blast. The new bike was just awesome, it ate up everything the trails could throw at it, and with the track drying out more and more each day it just got faster – it was wicked! I could just keep going back for more – maybe I should move to Taupo and just ride for the rest of my life!

Wednesday: Cleaned bikes and packed up ready to head back to Auckland. Had to call in Electrician for the house as the hot water cylinder had stopped heating, turns out the master switch in the house had melted itself as somebody had previously wired it incorrectly – nasty! This crazy electrician turns up in his van with “Phone SEX” painted on the back; an acronym for “Scotty’s Electrical Xpertise”, with a website, – dodgy bugger! Went via Rotorua and did the obligatory luge - good fun! Stopped off to catch up with Derek Fairweather (ex SAP guy from EY - who is now the CEO of Innovation Waikato) – he then showed Rob and I around the premises and showed us some of the things they were investing in – it was really interesting; then we caught up some more over a few beers. Went onto some other bar in Hamilton and got abused by the bar girl – the story too embarrassing to tell :-( Arrived back at Rob’s just after midnight and crashed.

Thursday: Awoke at around 10:30am – totally unheard of at home where the wife or kids would have kicked me out of bed well and truly before an obscene time like that. Anyways, after breakfast, we went off and played 9 holes of golf; was fun smacking around the little white ball again, it has been a long time since I had last swung a club in anger. Another movie, The Longest Yard, then onto drinks again catching up with a couple of other guys I hadn’t seen in a long time. Packed the bags ready for the 6:50am flight home.

Friday: Awoke early, caught flight, spent the day with the missus, then picked up the boys from school.

All in all an awesome holiday, I would like to thank the wife for letting me go on the trip and Rob for putting up with me for the week :-)