Going 3.5 and C#3.0

As we are moving into the end of the year Internally we have to make a decision on the framework and components we will be building future products on. Now that SP1 is out for Visual Studio as will as the framework we have fixed our sites on it. That’s not to say that we will not revert back to 2.0 if a customer has a specific need or a constraint exists, but for the bulk of our product development its time to move on and ensue the long take of support from Microsoft and well as leverage the capabilities that are exposed in the framework. These are some of the technologies we are going to work with over the next year;

  • .Net FX3.5 WPF, WCF and WF
  • SilverLight
  • Linq, C#3.0
  • DevExpress for our 3rd Party IDE Suites
  • Adobe Web Suite tools for Richer UI designs

For our customers supporting DevExpress exclusively means that we as a company will be able to broaden our knowledge and create applications that can realize the full richness of the provided components. Its unfortunate but there are so many technology choices that some times you need to back away and focus on one or two to see the forest through the trees.

We are also going to start to build custom libraries, and frameworks and where required collect external components and provide services so that the projects we develop internally and for our customers are brought to the market in an even faster fashion then before.

Solidifying on a technology platform takes the guess work out of what tools to use and allows more focus on the end goal of creating the software. I have a UI designer on board now and we are in the Midst of a identity revamp including a new Web Site, Logo and a full treatment to use across our different properties.

For our development efforts, we are approaching our engagements in a more agile customer facing fashion. We already hold the customer relationship as the most paramount of ideals, but to identify this as a working tenant cements it into our fabric. This means getting prototypes and feedback quicker and reacting to the needs of the customer in a effective manner.

I am getting excited as I feel were at the next stage in our evolution. I believe that there are a ton of opportunities out there and unfortunately they get passed up because their size does not make sense for a high overhead company.

– Mark

Advertising Capabilities

I was in a conversation with a BP yesterday with regards to some web customizations I had completed where I had brought up my development background in more depth, outside of development of SalesLogix Mobile or Web. At the end of the conversation he was excited to know that there was someone available with the level of capability that he could use on projects that had absolutely nothing to do with a SalesLogix Product. At the end of the day we were working on a quote for development of a custom service application.

This got me thinking, am I failing to advertise my skill set correctly. Are partners not aware of where they can use my company to engage in projects that they would be either understaffed for, or incapable due to time or resource capability constraints.

So I am going to put this out there …. My Company (meaning me) can develop full .Net applications that do not rely on SalesLogix.

These application can be:

  1. Web, Windows or Mobile
  2. Windows Services that provide Integration
  3. Web Services/Integrations
  4. Full Platforms included including design tools

They can also be enhancements to the current web, mobile or LAN SalesLogix Product

I have the skills and overhead capabilities to take projects as Small as a few days to Months or more. So my point here is when you are out there and a potential customer states I have a need for XYZ. Before you turn it down for duration, or capability why not give me a call and see if its something we can work on together.

– M

SilverLight 2.0 For Mobile Announced

I have to say something at PDC has excited me. Going back to my mobile roots there is an impending development platform for windows mobile being released that will allow the development of next generation applications. SilverLight 2.0 has been officially announced and I recommend you head over to http://channel9.msdn.com/pdc2008/PC10/ and watch the mobile presentation. I will definately be downloading the BITs when they are released and see what is possible.

– Mark

PDC

This week Microsoft is hosting its PDC conference in LA. During this time the future technologies are displayed and the developers are given a preview of the things to come. Windows 7, Azure, CRM 4 are some of the products that are actively being discussed with much interest and so far not being at PDC though watching both keynotes I have formulated some though around the next iteration of Visual Studio, Surface and Windows.

Surface

I am deeply into the concepts of touch UI. I think it does represent a different way of doing things and will allow for scenarios in both the consumer side and business side that were either not possible or the workflow too kludgy to be usable. However when MS announced that the Dev Kits are going to cost more (30% est.) Effectively putting the investment into Surface to close to 20k CDN I started to get cold about the Surface SDK. My thoughts

1. Surface being a new technology has not been fully understood and in itself does not carry a market to ensure a ROI on the investment for a Small Development house

2. MS itself may be limiting the usefulness of the full surface system with the advent of windows 7 that will include touch and gestures. This is the platform that will enjoy more ubiquity

3. Tech Previews of Windows 7 are now showing up which means that POC development will be less costly then the surface investment

4. The Economy does not bode well for the smaller development shops to invest 20K unless there is a pretty good reason.

So for me I will wait till windows 7.0. I also might go out and pick up one of these HP Computers providing Touch capabilities today

 

Windows 7

Though it does not seem to represent a radical departure from Vista. Which is ok with me since I have been using Vista for some time and not finding it as problematic as some might suggest. I have yet to see a release build of windows, but when one is exposed I will check it out and see if the advancements are valuable. There is mention to some of the applications being removed from windows such as the native email client and photo software. From a business standpoint does any one still use the email client for anything more then News Groups anyways?

However being able to mount VHDs sounds very cool indeed.

Visual Studio 10

I watched both Keynotes with much anticipation on the technologies that would be coming in the next version of VS. It is my bread and butter development environment and I spend as much as 15 hours a day developing in in (ya, get a life) So the productivity gains in the UI, the enhancements in C# or VB.net that the features that will allow me to build new products that are not possible today or take a lot of effort are what drives me in these events. I honestly can say …. snooze …. The first day the keynote was dry and boring honestly I did not get much that was being said (note that I was not completely focused as I was writing code at the same time) but I just could not find the excitement in Azure.

Do not get me wrong, I am sure that this is going to be “game” changing but really is Azure nothing more then a glorified hosting solution. Sure there are connection points and deployment enhancements but can it be considered an OS or more then a framework. What defines it as an OS in the clouds more then what every other ASP is doing with hosting web, SilverLight and Flash/AIR applications. The presenters did not give a good elevator speech that made it a compelling argument. It seems to me really a way for generating revenue by collocating and aggregating services. I will watch with some interest to understand more in-depth the kinds of opportunities this opens up.

During the second Keynote more was discussed about VS but really from all I have heard, and read this next iteration of the product seems to be more evolutionary then revolutionary. Which is a good thing, given the investments to get into 2008, things will not shift so much to negate that investment.

I am sure that more details will come out in the next few days, and weeks and I am looking forward to C# 4.0 and the next iteration of VB.net to see what language innovations are exposed.

– M

Life Experiences Reinforce Values

2 weeks ago I was in the UK giving a on site training session on Mobile. When I arrived at Heathrow I quickly gathered my bags and proceeded thru customs and on to a Taxi that would get me to my hotel. Just outside the terminal, taxi’s were lined up awaiting their passengers, where I was ushered to a cab. I was given a price that seemed very high, but looking down the row of taxies I was left to believe that each cab was the same. On the way to the hotel the driver let me know that he did not know how to get to my specific hotel, so instead he was going to drop me off at nearby Reading station. I complained but relented. When we arrived the dropped the price by 10 pounds, and pointed me to a cab that could take me the rest of the way. When I finally got there it seems, the hotel was back the way we came. The whole trip was 120 pounds or 240 Canadian dollars.

The next day I called for a cab to pick me up and take me to the local Train station to go into London. Talking with the driver and understanding the distance and the rate that should be charged (34 pounds) I set up a pickup back to the Airport come the end of the week.

What made me think this morning as I was preparing my coffee and getting ready to get into a day long undisturbed coding session was how much my cabbie experience relates to the business I am in. Let me explain.

1. The first cabbie was overcharging for their services. He took a fare not on capability but on making the quick buck

2. When he realized that he could not get the job done, he dumped the project and the customer instead of following through with the prearranged agreement

3. Another cabbie had to resolve the problem that the first caused

4. Communication and planning provided a less expensive solution to the problem

5. The first cabbie lost any further revenue from the customer (me) because they did not want the relationship they wanted the buck

In the economic times that we find ourselves in the value proposition of using services from a company are going to be scrutinized and evaluated like no other time. Commitment to the customer, commitment to quality and service I believe is going to assist in riding out the storm. This episode in my life though insignificant within the whole picture really shows the two types of companies that exist and clearly reinforces the type of company I want to run where the customer is first.

 

My UK Fish Episode

I was not going to bring this up, but while training Nick and Jonathan I was going on about the meal (and the jokes that ensued) I had one night at the Inn that I stayed at. I decided to have a traditional Fish and Chips, heard so much about it, thought it would be a great meal to have. Well when I cut into my fish….. which was battered by the way, there was skin on one side. If you know me you will understand that generally I am pretty much a meat and potatoes man. Well this fish..skin episode scarred me for the rest of the night and gave us some good laughs the next day. So if you ask for Fish and Chips in the UK, look out for the skin 🙂

 

Mark

Next Business Mobile Device

With Apple selling so many iPhones the question is asked when/If SalesLogix Mobile will be getting to the phone. I do not work for Sage nor do I speak for Sage in this so there is no inside information here. I do believe that the next big business smart phone could actually be based on the Android operating system from Google. I believe this for several reasons.

1. The platform is open and will be available from many carriers

2. The development and deployment process is open and allows for more business models

3. There will still be an App Store for the location of trial ware, single purchase licenses

4. The base development can be done in Java which means an easier port from the BlackBerry code  base

5. There are databases available such as MySQL that will allow for quicker time to market so that DB code would not have to be created.

6. For businesses (I am taking a stab here) but I would expect that the TCO to be less then that of an iPhone due to the multiple carrier

7. Motorola has already announced support, a phone is already in the market

Development for any mobile CRM is going to be somewhat a long tail. Jumping on Android now would provide Sage a great win when it came to insights 2009 to show off the Mobile CRM on the Android phone. I am still a big fan for the development environment Microsoft has provided however they still have not come to the market and made a compelling enough argument to get business in general to adopt the phones in mass.

The one thing that Apple really did well was to get everyone to rethink the interfaces we are using on mobile. This is causing a great shift in the device makeup and I suspect that the Sage Mobile product line will have to morph in a UI way to embrace this shift. Let’s hope the UI catches up to today’s expectations.

Providing Specialized Training Services

Before I put BITtelligent into full gear I worked for a company called Corum Corp. In my day to day duties among the management of the development team and architecture of the Mobile platform from time to time I would provide training to outside partners. During my 4+ years at Corum I provided the training in the Canadian office, and various SalesLogix offices in Scottsdale AZ, Reading UK, and Melbourne AUS. For me the training class was one of the hardest things to do, as well as one of the most satisfying. It was one of the times throughout the development of the platform that I could see, and interact with the various companies that be using, and selling the product that I was instrumental in the creation.

Last week marks the first instance that I have provided a level of training on the Mobile Platform in some time. In all counts it was a success where already I can see Nick not only asking questions on the NG posts, but also offering fixes to issues in the way some of the core plug-ins were coded. The training is in no way a substitute to the one provided by Sage but augments that process with a more one-on-one approach consisting of on-sight advanced guidance with several days of end customer engagement support. To ensure that you are certified and can get Sage Support the mobile training class will get you there. If you need to go deeper, or have special implementation needs that were our training will fit in.  The time from engagement to being on site in the UK for the training was quite tight (less then 2 weeks) but in the end the results were well worth any inconvenience of moving so fast to deliver.

We are not going to provide class room training, I just do not want to support the infrastructure costs. We will however provide on-sight one-on-one or web based training should the interest arise.

Also if there is enough interest Training can be provided in .NET development with C#, or VB.net as well.

– M

BlackBerry Business Object Loading

When developing a mobile solution using the Sage Mobile platform there are times in code where you will need to load up a business object to do some action.

Looking at the BusinessObject type displays the getBusinessObject method passing in 2 strings. My expectation is to provide the table/business object entity name and the primary key and a populated business object would be returned.

[Added] Getting a answer back on the NG the getBusinesObject provides the capability to ‘Create’ a business object of a table type. You pass in the business object/table name, and a key value and a business object entity is returned.

To successfully load a business object you should use the BusinessHelper.loadByPrimaryKey method that will return the business object and if not found a newed instance.

BusinessHelper.loadByPrimaryKey(<businessobject/tablename>, <keyvalue>, (bool) new)

Developing in the UK

This week I was engaged on a project with the SalesLogix BP Pythagoras. Working with Nick Hollis, and Johathan Langley on a Mobile project. I have to say it has been a treat working with these guys. I also have to say that there is some culture shock that I had to get through in my travels.

Arriving in the UK

When I got here I jumped into a Black cab, well as I understand it this is not the best use hard earned dollars. By the time I finally got the the hotel (Bird in the Hand) I was well into a 240cdn dollar investment (wow) . A little confusion at the hotel but I finally got settled in without a hitch.

Where’s the Entertainment , Cannot get Connected

Initially I was setup in a Bed and Breakfast but after finding out that the accommodations did not have Internet access I was moved into a 14th century hotel with WiFi access. When I finally got into my room I found that the WiFi was not working and unfortunately the television only had 3 channels. (ugh).  For sunday it was ok since I was going into London for a day of sightseeing.

In London, my train was delayed

On Sunday, to acclimatize myself to the time zone change I headed into London very early. Since I was there alone I was in power walk mode zipping from Paddington, to the parks, and off to Buckingham Palace. Halfway through the day I decided to head back to hotel, however the plans were de-railed with an unfortunate fatality that shut down the trains for several hours.

Monday, Kickoff, Hotel Got Better

Monday was the first day I was working with Nick and Jonathan and it went very well. The mobile environment got setup and we were well into exploring the customization capabilities of the mobile platform. When I headed back to the hotel there was a pleasant surprise with bot the WiFi working and the Natasha, manager at the hotel arranged for a Digital TV to be brought to my room. It was a very nice thing for them to do and very much appreciated.

Meeting with some Friends

After work on Tuesday both Mike Spragg and Mark Cooper came up for dinner. The evening was filled with Geek talk and was a great time.  By this time of the 3 times I had dinner at the hotel 2 times I ate Lamb. Unfortunately the menu selection was not quite to my tastes.

 

I will post more in the next few days, including an issue I have found with the Mobile Platform.

-M