Nov 29, 2006

One Wii-k to Go

Only one week left until the Aussie release of the Wii.

The SMH has an article about it and how in the US the Wii sold at a rate of about 1 per second in it's first 8 days (600,000 units), and sold about 3 times as much as the PS3.

I'm pretty sure it'll sell more than 3 times the PS3 here at launch, but that probably because Sony couldn't be bothered trying to get any units to Australia until sometime in March. Thanks Sony - nice job! (not).


P.S. There's more Wii videos on the UK Wii site if you're interested.

Nov 26, 2006

More on the Guidance Automation Toolkit

I posted a few weeks back about the Guidance Automation Toolkit and how I was struggling with the learning curve.
Well, it appears I'm not the only one, and as a result I've given up on it for the time being.

Instead I've gotten back into CodeSmith. I used version 2.6 a few years back for a code generator for the AtomsFramework and it worked really well, but I put it on the shelf when I ran out of personal time for open source work.

Now it appears that CodeSmith has gone commercial and just released version 4. Looks like they've really put some more thinking into what can be done with the tool and the integration into Visual Studio. For example you can now generate code in VS2005 using Active Snippets right within the IDE instead of generating externally and copy/pasting the code into the right spot.

I asked my team to created some code gen templates and snippets this week and they had great results in about 3 days. If I'd have tried to get them to do it using the GAT they'd still be at it, and probably banging their heads into their desks at this point trying to figure out the mysteries and inner workings of GAT/GAX and the EnvDTE namespaces. It really shouldn't be that hard to do code gen. I like where Microsoft are heading with it, but the learning curve is just too steep for the limited use I'll have for it.

To my way of thinking code generation templates should be written once and then left alone unless there's problems. If that's the case why do I want to spend weeks learning the GAT/GAX structure and stuff (especially when there's no helpful documentation) and then not use it again. The learning curve for CodeSmith is almost flat and it takes about half an hour to figure out the basics and get started.

I'll give the GAT stuff another 6 moths to mature a bit more and see where it heads from there. In the meantime CodeSmith gets the nod.

Nov 23, 2006

Unboxing the Wii

Now that the Wii has made an appearance in the US there's a bunch of "unboxing" posts showing what's "inside the box".

Here's a few links

Paul Thurott's Supersite for Windows

Engadget

That Tech Chick (shows what's under the top flap - gamecube connectors!)

Come on December 7 - hurry up!!

And of course there's some wally smashing one just after he bought it, and in front of the store line up as well.

Nov 20, 2006

How you treat your staff counts

...Especially when popular blogs like Creating Passionate Users gets into your training facilities and notices how (not) current your employee of the quarter board is.

I tell you, that made me chuckle :-)

And then I had to stop and think. How well am I treating my staff? Thankfully I'm in the middle of informal reviews with them all and when I ask them "is there anything they need from me that I'm not doing?" the answer is usually nothing. Which either means I've beaten them into submission in true Orwellian fashion, or they're being treated OK.

Of course that doesn't mean I can't do better, but at least they're not going to lynch me when I'm not looking!!

Nov 16, 2006

GooTube lawsuit reserves

OK, so maybe Google did think the whole lawsuit thing through when they bought YouTube. According to the SMH web site they've set aside $200M for settling lawsuits.

That's some serious cash! And as a honeypot I'm sure it'll attract the lawyers in swarms. I suppose the thinking is that you get all the lawsuits out of the way now, tighten up the copyright controls on YouTube and then get on with life.

I still can't figure out where the return for them is, though the article talks about YouTube having a commercial component to it. Maybe that'll work...

More Zelda/Wii Footage

Nintendo UK has been keeping the steady stream of videos coming of people playing on the Wii (and Zelda in particular).

Recent updates include people protecting carriages, fishing, goat herding and doing horseback combat. Way cool :-). The US site also has people trying out excite truck.

3 weeks to go until the Australian release. Time goes so slowly... :-)

Office 2007 now available on MSDN

According to MSDN:

Windows Vista and Office 2007: Availability on MSDN Subscriber
Downloads

Office 2007 is now
available from MSDN Subscriber Downloads. Windows Vista is expected to be
available on Friday November 17, 2006 PST.


Might be time to start downloading :-)

Nov 15, 2006

SiteMeter and MyBlogLog Comparison - Part II

Continued from Part I

 

So what does SiteMeter offer in comparison to MyBlogLog?

SiteMeter Logo

Sitemeter has a lot more reporting options than those offered by MyBlogLog.  It's supported through the advertising shown on it's stats pages whereas mybloglog seems to rely more on people paying for the "pro" version.

Sitemeter is a pretty ugly thing to look at, especially compared to mybloglog, but when it's the information that's important the looks can be forgiven.

5. SiteMeter: Usage Summary

SiteMeter Summary

The SiteMeter summary page is more useful than the MyBlogLog summary.  You see readers and page views just like MyBlogLog, but in addition you also see how long people were on the site on average, and a weekly view of what's been going on.

The only thing not on the summary is the number of exit clicks, though that information is available elsewhere.

6. SiteMeter: Usage Details

This is where sitemeter really takes off.  There are a plethora of options to provide different ways of seeing the details of what's been going on for your site.  You can see where people came from, what they clicked on to leave, what pages they entered the site on and what pages were the last they viewed, and who is currently on the site.

SiteMeter Who's On

The out clicks details is a little different to mybloglogs and probably not quite as useful.  Instead of just seeing the outclicks, you also see information on those who either closed their browser window or went to a different site by changing the URL in a different manner (i.e. bookmarks, manually entering it, etc).

SiteMeter Out Clicks

The blanks are really quite annoying and make this information hard to trawl through, and there' s no summary of this information.

7: SiteMeter: Data Over Time

SiteMeter does really well in this area.  it's got charting for one thing!

SiteMeter Visits  SiteMeter Page Views

The charts are available for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly aggregation and show your web site trending and usage patterns.  The spikes you can see in my charts relate to when other (more popular) blogs have linked to posts on this one.

But it's not just page hits that you can chart - your can also do navigation charting to show visit depth, daily durations, etc.  You can see geographically where hits are coming from, what languages, operating systems, monitor settings, etc are being used.  All of which are useful pieces of information and all things which mybloglog lacks.

Summary

MyBlogLog meets it's goals of tracking the thing most other logging mechanisms miss - the out clicks on your site and does it in a much nicer way than sitemeter does.  Plus it looks a whole lot nicer than SiteMeter as well.

Unfortunately, most people use blog stats for a whole lot more than just tracking why people leave.  If they confine themselves to just the niche of tracking outgoing links, they'll probably disappear.  I for one want a blog stats service that offers it all - a one stop shop.  Why should I have two different pieces of JavaScript on my page to track stats.  Especially when sitemeter does a pretty good job at it now.

MyBlogLog has a lot of potential, but wether they have the appetite to meet that potential is yet to be seen.  There's a whole bunch of things they could add that would be really cool - like day-to-day comparisons, any kind of charting at all (top referrers, weekly usage, etc), browser stats or location information, time zone, common navigation paths, and so on.

MyBlogLog is no doubt capturing the data required - they just need to think about ways to turn the data into information that is valuable to their users - then they might really have something.  But for now, mybloglog operates in a niche and one that is likely to get filled by other services that offer so much more than they do.

SiteMeter will remain as my main source of stats tracking, and while I'll keep mybloglog tracking going for now because the outlink tracking is interesting, it probably won't last.

SiteMeter and MyBlogLog Comparison - Part I

A few days have passed now since I started using the MyBlogLog stats tracking system. Here's my impressions on it and a comparison of it to SiteMeter - the system I use normally.

Overview

Both systems rely on the inclusion of a small bit of JavaScript code in your blog template to track visitors - where they came from and where they go to. The idea being to help you figure out what people read on your site, where they were referred from and what they click on when they leave. If you look at the information you should be able to see what your readers find interesting and (if desired) focus your posts a little better to improve your blogs relevance to your reader profile.

Personally, I use it because I find it interesting to see what links you follow to get here and what sort of posts you are reading, and then to see where it is your going to. I don't adjust my posting subject matter to suit, and in fact one of the more surprising things is that a number of people have come here looking for information about the Upside Down show - a weird and crazy toddlers education show made by the witty & hilarious Umbilical Brothers.

OK. So on to what MyBlogLog offers.

MyBlogLog Logo

1. MyBlogLog: Usage Summary

MyBlogLog Summary

As you can see a small snapshot of my blog (in case for some reason I forgot what it looked like!) and I can see how many readers hit my site, how many page views there were and how many people clicked away from the site. The data is for the last day only, and the pro version is meant to do live updating of the stats.

Kinda useful, and presented nicely.

2. MyBlogLog: Usage Details

MyBlogLog Details

This shows a top 10 for each category for the day. Where people came from, what they looked at, and where they went. Obviously we can only track what the clicked on to leave the site - if someone types a new address in the browser or closes the window then that's not tracked.

This is also kind of nice - especially the side by side comparison.

For instance I most people came from an infoq post, some from Google and so forth.

3. MyBlogLog: Data over Time

Summarising data is done via reporting as shown here - either summary reports, or detailed reports.

mybloglog report

mybloglog report

While this information is OK, there's little value in it. Compared with what you can see on sitemeter it's sadly lacking. There's no charting, no comparisons, no weekly or monthly views, no trending, etc.

And while tracking the outlinks is OK, it would have been much better if I could drill down to see what posts the clicks came from. For example, I've posted about Windows Live Writer on a number of occasions - so which posts are generating the clicks and which ones are being ignored?

4. MyBlogLog: Click Tagging and WidgetsMyBlogLog Widgets

Click Tagging

This one is technically really cool and I've seen it in action on other sites. Basically you turn on click tagging and when you mouse over a link the reader can see how popular that link is in comparison to the rest of the site.

While this is a cool feature, I think most readers would find it annoying after time. After all do you really care how popular a link is on a blog you read (like this one for example). I care, but I don't need click tagging to tell me - I can check it out in the stats.

As you would expect widgets are also available. The "top 5 outgoing links" widget is OK but once again it's something that's really only useful only to the blog author, otherwise it's just a way of encouraging people to click away from your site. The "recent readers" widget is nice, but you only see people who are mybloglog users and that's not a very high percentage of the Internet population now is it?

Continue to Part II

Nov 14, 2006

Some useful resources I use

At work people sometimes ask where I get some of the inspiration for the ideas I have.  Well like most people I normally just stand on the shoulders of giants and borrow from other peoples creative thinking and skills.  I have two main sources - blogs and mailing lists.

Blogs I commonly read (visit the sites to get the feed locations)

(P.S. That's not the complete list - You can see all the feeds I subscribe to at share.opml.org)

and Mailing Lists

 

Other than that I read a fair bit - both fiction and non-fiction - and I'll also typically surf the web for a bit on weekends checking various things out based on whatever is floating around in my head at the time.  I suppose what I do when I read anything is think of ways I could apply it to my specific situations.  If it's not immediately applicable, I'll file it away in the back of my head in case it becomes useful later on.

After all - theory without practice is just so much hot air.

Nov 13, 2006

An Aussie Scrum Community

Well, kind of...

The Australian Scrum Community is a new shared blog with a focus on all things Scrum (as in agile, not union or league). They even linked to one of my posts :-)

It would be nice to have some sort of membership or sign up system, but since it's relatively I'm willing to give it some time. It's a great idea by the guys behind it and here's hoping it takes off.

Great Scrum Retrospective

There' s a rather long but very interesting paper by Henrik Kniberg about his experiences establishing scrum with multiple teams over the last 12 months.

Lot's of really practical stuff in there including the things that didn't work so well.  The information about testers and how they fit in the scrum process was excellent, and I see a lot of similarity in how he's structured his teams and been pragmatic in his approach and in what I've done.

If you're just getting started with Scrum or want some tips of fine tuning your problem areas go have a look!

Removing Impediments

One of my scrum teams was recently struggling to get through some items because of the time the software was taking to build in Visual Studio 2005. The solution has over 20 projects in it and is centred around a precompiled ASP.NET 2.0 Web Site project.

The first step was to change was the project style. The team switched over to the Web Application Project type and compile times dropped from around 10 minutes to around 10 seconds - the developers were definitely pleased about this.

However, things were still a bit slow, especially in the VS2005 environment itself. Productivity tools like ReSharper and other addins were not being used because of the extra RAM required. In fact most machines were using upwards of 1.2GB in RAM, even without the add-ons, yet each machine only had 1 GB in the box. So I did the obvious thing and purchased an extra 1 GB for each developer machine and had it all installed straight away.

VS2005 now runs quite nicely, thank you very much, and the dev team are now much much happier and much more productive - especially when doing bug fixes which is a process heavily dependant on recompilation.

In case it's not obvious - for your Scrum teams to succeed it's critical that you give your scrum teams what they need to get the job done and remove any impediments as quickly as possible. Doing otherwise will only lead to frustration, turnover and angst amongst your team(s) and reduce your overall velocity.

P.S. This doesn't mean you turn yourself into a shopping cart and go out and buy the developers anything they want - it needs to be things linked to specific impediments and not something that will either not be used very often or a distraction from getting work done.

Nov 12, 2006

More on Trackbacks

Well, the standalone trackback tool I posted about yesterday seems OK, and since then I've also found SimpleTracks and HaloScan.

Unfortunately, it seems that many of the trackback systems reject "trackback pings" if they don't come from the site the blog is on due to spamming. This is a bit of a shame since I can't create a trackback link from within blogger itself, and the feature wasn't added to the beta either (which is also a bit sad).

HaloScan also enables trackback functionality for your blogger blog. I won't try out the trackback functionality for now as I don't want to be a spam target myself. There's enough stupid comments that I have to moderate already and I don't want to make things worse :-)

Nov 11, 2006

MyBlogLog and TrackBacks

I recently ran across MyBlogLog (at InstaBloke) where it was tagging outgoing links and ranking them in terms of popularity. I thought to myself "That's kinda useful" so I've whacked it on this site (without link tagging for the moment) to see how well it tracks things. Since I normally use SiteMeter I'm interested to see what the difference will be.

While I'm going on about "useful" things. I also found a nice web page that does trackbacks since blogger doesn't support it. Thanks to Ohad for the link.

Another Windows Live Writer update

Personally, I love Windows Live Writer.  Being able to write blog entries on the train is great, editing in your web logs styles is cool and it's also a neat way of capturing notes during meetings.

Over the last few months there have been a number of occassions where the blogger beta changes have broken the live writer betas.  The Live Writer team have done a great job in responding quickly when blogger changes break something else.  They've also fixed an annoyance in using the keyboard to select sections of text (selecting text with shift+left would work, but moving back with shift+right wouldn't).

Yet another update for live writer is out which fixes the problems I was having previously.  It's also a little different in that it has a 1.0 version number (which is strange for a beta) and the install takes you to an install-success web page.

Other than that - let's hope there's not many more breaking changes.  Blogger beta is feature complete so that should help things settle down somewhat - well, here's hoping anyway.

For now - Back to train blogging again!! Yay!

Guidance Automation Toolkit

There's a nagging issue I have with VS2005 and that's the inability to use code snippets in aspx and ascx pages. It works in XML files and in the codebehind files, but not in HTML pages.

When you've got standard code that you keep repeating using a snippet would make plenty of sense. There is an alternative - the guidance automation toolkit from Microsoft.

I've seen presentations on this from Martin Granell at Tech.Ed (and heard the podcast on arccast) and when it works it looks really sweet! However trying to put something together from scratch has got me stymied and I don't have the 2 weeks it would take me to get my head around all the concepts and learn the visual studio model - I just want to be able to add some boilerplate code with substitutions to an existing page. Honestly, how hard can it be? The guidance toolkit itself does something similar itself for guidance package authors.

Unfortunately the documentation is less than sparse and there are no good end to end examples that suit. I don't need to start a solution from scratch, I don't need to add a new file type, etc - I just want to insert some code automatically in the .aspx page and in the codebehind.

I can't figure it out - I took the sample project and hacked it to pieces but it seems I've gone too far and hacked out all the bits that make it work. Back to the drawing board I guess.

If anyone has figured GAT/GAX out and has working examples, I'd love to see them 'cause I can't find any anywhere else.

Nov 9, 2006

How Companies Got Their Name

There's a cool little blog entry I stumbled across recently about how companies got their name. Here's a few of the more interetsing one's

Apache - its founders got started by applying patches to code written for NCSA's httpd daemon. The result was 'a patchy' server

Apple - for the favourite fruit of co-founder Steve Jobs and/or for the time he worked at an apple orchard. He was three months late in filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computer if his colleagues didn't suggest a better name by 5 p.m.

Fanta - The name comes from the German word for imagination (Fantasie or Phantasie), because the inventors thought that imagination was needed to taste oranges from the strange mix.

Pepsi - Pepsi derives its name from (treatment of) dyspepsia, an intestinal ailment.

There's more on the list and it's worth a read if this sort of thing interests you.

Nov 7, 2006

Office goes Gold. Blogger is feature complete

Looks like it's the time of year when new versions of products start getting wrapped up.

Office 2007 has made it to RTM stage. Read the blog post here. It will be available to volume licensing customers by the end of the year and in retail stores in early 2007 and I'm planning on upgrading everyone shortly after it becomes available (though I might wait for Vista first).

Also, Blogger have announced that their beta is now feature complete now that they've added support for FTP based blogs.

Nov 5, 2006

Wii videos

I've pre-ordered my Wii now (and a copy of Zelda), but I also just ran across video's of first timers playing with it. Quite a laugh - I can now see just how silly I might be looking soon :-) but at least I'll be having fun.

P.S. The Zelda sword fighting and the tennis & bowling videos are great to watch!

YouTube Sued

I've posted previously about GooTube and the litigation potential. We'll it's apparently started - but this is kinda left field and not at all what I expected.

YouTube is not being sued for copyright infringement, but because their name is so similar to a manufacturing company's name and the company has had to keep moving their web site because it gets flooded by people who can't tell the difference between YouTube and UTube.

Still, I bet this wouldn't have happened if Google didn't buy out YouTube. Given that UTube has already moved their web site a number of times previously, ask yourself what's changed this time to make them get all litigious?

Singapore Presentation Post Mortem

Well it took a little longer than expected but I'm finally putting down my thoughts on last weeks presentation.

Firstly, from my perspective things went very well. When you consider that I actually presented at 5:30 PM after a long day for the delegates, things went very, very well. I got the message across, kept people awake and interested (people leaning forward in their seats, nodding their heads is a good sign) and got a few laughs at the desired points.

Now I could brag here and now about how great I am and all that rubbish, but I still have room for improvement. One of the things I found was that because I move through my slides pretty quickly I was rooted to the spot. My left hand was always hovering near the cursor keys so I could advance to the next slide. This meant that even though I was out in front of the audience I couldn't move around much. I couldn't even talk with my hands! It meant that I was able to convey quite as much emotion or passion as I would've liked.

I think for next time I'll make sure I have one of those wireless USB presentation gizmo's. It'll mean I can move around somewhat and still control the slide progression. It's a learning experience :-)