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Preview: Keith Pleas Blog

Keith Pleas Blog

Keith's palimpsest


Going to Milan in August...

Tue, 31 Jul 2012 22:39:00 GMT

...with Jenny for a couple of weeks. We'll be taking side trips to other cities, and would welcome any suggestions!

UPS Gets the Job Done

Sun, 04 Jan 2009 03:35:00 GMT

As everyone in the PNW knows, there was a lot of snow here just before Christmas. We live at the top of the "driveway from hell" on Mercer Island, and we haven't had any UPS deliveries for over a week. We even tracked down our delivery driver, and he said "yeah, we have some packages for you but nobody knows where they are". My UPS tracking showed things loaded out for delivery a couple of days before XMAS, but...nothing showed up.

Well, today after lunch at Yuzen (our favorite) on the South end of Mercer Island I snapped this photo of _7_ UPS trucks parked together and a bunch of "brown" guys hustling packages between trucks.

When we got home, we had 8 UPS packages on our doorstep (including an extra hard drive for my WHS!)

Kudos to the drivers for taking the initiative to sort this out..

Encouraging Bad Coding?

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 18:05:00 GMT

A recent office-cleaning turned up a quote I'd kept from an automotive magazine from 20 years ago:

"Protecting drivers from the consequences of bad driving encourages bad driving"

Well, that seems reasonable to me. If you didn't have bumpers, seatbelts, airbags, and'd probably be encouraged to drive more carefully, right? And the Darwinian aspect would help cleanse the pool of bad drivers. So, how well would this translate to software development?

"Protecting developers from the consequences of bad coding encourages bad coding"

Of course, it's not just coding - you could substitute architecture or pretty much any other activity and the statement might still be true - and relevant.

Design for Operations on dnrTV

Fri, 01 Feb 2008 17:33:00 GMT

I've been working with the patterns & practices group on the "Design for Operations" initiative, and dnrTV episode 100 (up today) covers the Team System Management Model Designer that we're going to be releasing as a CTP within then next week or so.

Computer History Museum Memories

Thu, 13 Dec 2007 02:48:00 GMT

An interesting story in the Seattle Times about the Computer History Museum triggered some memories of a reception we did there for a patterns & practices Summit event a couple of years ago.

At the time, Ward Cunningham was with the, and - as you might expect with an industry icon - he had more than a passing familiarity with much of the hardware there. He clearly recalled using this machine:


Here's another picture of Billy Hollis and Rocky Lhotka taking in the history:



p&p Summit / VSTS Summit Quick Survey

Wed, 02 May 2007 18:21:00 GMT

We are actively planning the next patterns & practices Summit (scheduled for this November in Redmond), which will be coinciding with the new Visual Studio Team System Summit. To help us better program these events, we would very much appreciate your answering a brief - 6 question - survey about what you’d like to see most in upcoming Summit events.



It's been a while...

Thu, 29 Mar 2007 20:34:00 GMT

...but today JibJab launched its latest video called "What We Call The News" – it's a parody of the media and the crazy things they now call 'news' (Britney Spears, fingers in food, etc.).


According to my step-son Joey - who works there - it'll be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight…and JibJab founders Gregg and Evan are actually getting to meet President Bush today. That would be interesting...


Assuming you like the video J, you can "Digg It" at:


All slides, no code?

Wed, 04 Jan 2006 20:50:00 GMT

Ran across this comment (from memory) on an evaluation form for an Advanced Smart Client workshop that Billy Hollis and I have done a couple of times at VSLive:

   "Slides are nice - I can choose not to pay attention. It's not like following code - with Billy (the evangelist) you can't miss a beat".

No comment.

Why developers shouldn't test their own software...

Wed, 04 Jan 2006 20:31:00 GMT

My new wife (6 weeks today!) got her new business cards through her company's web-based application, and they say she now works for the "IT Department". Which was a bit of a surprise, considering that she's a clinical research technician for a large pharamceutical company.

It turns out that if you change one of the fields while filling out the web form (we're not sure which one since it was a couple of weeks ago, but "last name" would be a good guess), it resets your organization as well. To the "IT Department". Which probably seemed like a good idea to whoever developed the application. And, gee, it probably worked as they expected when they "tested" it.

A belated "thanks!"

Wed, 04 Jan 2006 19:59:00 GMT

I've been involved in a number of developer conferences over the years and one of the biggest joys of doing these shows can be the people you meet (also one of the as I recall a fellow who followed me off the stage, into the men's room, and then out the door into a cab before I asked "are you going to the airport too?").

Anyway...I want to take this opportunity to highlight a couple of folks from Volvo. At a VSLive conference in Stockholm several years ago, I was talking to them about something (I forget what, but it was probably about .NET localization since I worked on that for the .NET SDK and did a couple of talks there on that subject), noticed that their badges said "Volvo", and asked them if they had any idea who I could contact to get some documentation on the old (circa 1975) Volvo Penta TMD100A diesel engine in my boat.

Well...last year I received an original engine manual for my engine along with this note:

Hi Keith!

We met at the VSLive in Stockholm 2002, and promised you a manual for a Penta engine. Finally we found it.

Anders Bogren (not sure of the spelling on that last name!)
Goran Hellstrom

Hey, is that great or what?

EntLib 2.0 Hands-On-Labs "under development"

Wed, 04 Jan 2006 19:40:00 GMT

A couple of people have asked about Hands-On-Labs for EntLib (aka "Enterprise Library of Application Blocks"), so I asked Tom Hollander who replied with:

These are for EntLib 1.x; new ones are under development for 2.0.

VB6 Migration BOF at TechEd

Thu, 02 Jun 2005 00:26:00 GMT

I'm the host (the TechEd schedule says "speaker" ) for "Migrating VB6 to VB.NET" at TechEd on Tuesday night from 6:30 to 7:30. Of course, we're going to talk about migrating applications, not the VB product itself...

One of the things I'm planning to have available at the BOF is the first few chapters from the upcoming Microsoft patterns & practices guide on this subject, which is currently in production and should be available - with a couple of corresponding planning tools - by the end of July.

Folks from the patterns & practices team, the Visual Basic team, and some of the "usual suspects" in the VB community have all promised to be there so I urge you to come by if this is a subject that interests you (no Karl, we will not be discussing what Microsoft "should have done" ).

"Everything indigo this summer"

Tue, 24 May 2005 01:47:00 GMT

I just got an email with the above subject line. Hmm...really? Gee...I know they've been promising a lot, but "everything"? Wow. Then I looked at the sender...I just got spammed by Pottery Barn.

"The debugger is not properly installed"

Fri, 25 Mar 2005 00:11:00 GMT

I too have been a victim of this dreaded problem, likely caused by installing and uninstalling various beta versions of .NET 2.0 frameworks and tools. A great post by Gregg Miskelly (a dev on the VS debugger team) offered tons of promising looking tips, none of which worked. (note: Does anyone know how to interpret the output of DebuggerDiagnostics.exe?).

Of course, Setup - removing, repairing, or reinstalling - all failed. Finally, I just deleted all the files in C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\VS7Debug (stop the Machine Debug Service first), copied fresh ones from my MSDN DVD, and restarted the service. Bingo.


When Alan talks...

Tue, 15 Mar 2005 18:25:00 GMT

I mentioned Alan Cooper's keynote at the patterns & practices Summit a couple of weeks back. Alan's talk about "Ending the Death March" was - as expected - outstanding. Here's a picture from the kickback room after his talk with some of our speakers - including Ward Cunningham, Gregor Hohpe, and Rocky Lhotka (headless, on the left) - sitting with Alan and some of attendees:


Alan Cooper

Mon, 21 Feb 2005 19:21:00 GMT

Alan Cooper agreed this weekend to keynote the upcoming patterns & practices Summit in Mountain View. Alan's an old friend who's going to talk about creating "software that doesn't suck". Which reminds me of a story... Seven or eight years ago at VSLive/SF I did a session on good and bad UI design. And Alan did a keynote there on software development. Of course, Alan's best known as a UI guy whereas most people would consider me to be a software developer. (Note: This was back in the day before I was the conference chair and had some editorial control over the content! ) So Alan's going down the huge escalator into the "bunker" conference area at the Marriott...he sees me on the other side going up and hollers "what the hell do you know about UI design?" I yell back "about as much as you know about developing software!". We grin at each other. The interesting part is...I'd been doing UI protoyping and testing at MS (as a contractor) for more than 5 years. I'd spent many days in the usability labs watching guinea pigs (er, “customers”) navigate my creations. I was the tech editor on Microsoft cheif UI designer Virginia Howlett's book. And a session I did on UI design at one of the early TechEds was so popular that they had to schedule a second presentation to accomodate the overflow. Question: When was the last time you saw a UI session at a Microsoft conference? Answer: Chris Tobey (when at Microsoft his alias was "christ") talking about Windows 98 UI at the 1998 Microsoft PDC in Denver. Historic Footnote: Remember how "Search" used to be "Find"? Did you ever get used to doing +, , to bring up the "Find" dialog? And did you happen to notice that +, still takes you to "Search"? Let's just call that my small contribution to society. So...back to Alan, the "Father of VB" (written, in part, by legendary programmer Michael Geary who later wrote Adobe Type Manager and was - briefly - hassled by Microsoft legal for "stealing" their code). In those heady days for VB, there were actually a few people on the VB team at Microsoft who resented Alan's notoriety. In those early years we did a Midnight Madness at VBITS (precursor to VSLive) that featured a Microsoft-run "VB Jeopardy" game patterned (meaning "copied") from the popular TV show. One of the answers was "The father of VB", and you can imagine the audience’s consternation when the question “who is Alan Cooper?” was deemed WRONG by Microsoft, who insisted it was a guy named Len Oorthies (spelling?) who was the original PM. Well…LenO has long faded from view, but I’m happy to say that Alan is as feisty as ever. And I can’t wait to hear his “Ending the Death March” keynote next month at our Summit.[...]

VSLive gets a strong endorsement

Thu, 10 Feb 2005 07:46:00 GMT

Julie just IMed me to point out that Chris Sells blogged that "I Think VSLive Is *It*". I've been working with Fawcette for a long time - this was my 12th annual show in SF with them - and along the way I guess I just took that for granted.

Then I read where Chris said "... their coverage is top notch for 3rd party Windows developer conferences". Well, now that I think about it, I have to say "Thanks, Chris!". I'd forgotten that I was the conference chair for VSLive (and VBITS). Just tooting my own horn

Security piece finally makes it to MSDN

Mon, 24 Jan 2005 19:07:00 GMT

It took more than a year, but a piece I wrote reviewing "best practices" security principles as applied to the well-known .NET "reference" applications (PetShop, F&M, Duwamish) finally made it onto MSDN last week. As you might imagine, the security aspects of these applications don't stand up well when a strong light is shown on them. And yet...what else is there? How are developers, designers, and architects supposed to deal with security when all they have to look at is simple marketing-oriented demos or 2,000 pages of detailed guidance, with nothing in between?

There are probably a number of ways to locate this article (and MSDN's infrastructure discourages permanent links), but here's one from the Architecture Center portal that might be good for a while:

I'm particularly tickled by the ratings / comments. The overall is currently 6.4998 (about average), but you just have to laugh at the distribution (see the graph at the bottom on the article). And what are the comments that accompany the 1 ratings?

"this page sucked"

"This article is full of shit..."

But here's the most recent comment (clearly, from an intelligent and perceptive reader ):

"Told it like it is! The author has created has genuinely useful document that should be required reading for anyone writing secure apps."

Scoble on the cover of Fortune mag (Asia)

Tue, 18 Jan 2005 07:31:00 GMT

My friend Susi Johnston - enroute to the US from Bali, where she's been organizing a major relief effort to Aceh for the past 3 weeks - sent me an email from Narita with the subject:

   "Robert Scoble on the Cover of FORTUNE magazine"

Robert's blogged about Susi's relief effort a couple of times now, and we're going to his 40th birthday party this Saturday. Anyway, it looks like he's on the cover of the Asia edition of this magazine, which had this story about blogging. And somewhere in that issue is apparently something about the wiki as well, which was created by Ward Cunningham - who's in the group I work with at Microsoft and is doing an evening kickback session the first day of the next patterns & practices Summit. Small world, huh? Hmm...I wonder if I'm ever going to amount to anything myself...nah, prolly not.

PayPal for Aceh Aid Bucket Brigade

Fri, 31 Dec 2004 22:32:00 GMT

Robert and Julie have already mentioned this. I've been hard at work all week helping a good friend in Bali - Susi Johnston - put together an immediate relief effort for the Aceh province called the "Aceh Aid Bucket Brigade". Susi credits me with the name, but let's just say it was a group effort. One of the things I can take credit for was setting up her blog on MSN spaces (good suggestion Robert!) to which she can post via email (they have embarassingly slow connections over there). I still have to do the pictures manually though...

Susi's NGO (non-gorvenmental organization) on Bali - IDEP - was resonsible for much of the recovery work from the Bali bombing and the irony is that much of the organization around that disaster is being put to use immediately to bring relief to the Aceh victims. Lee Downey - one of the lead volunteers on the trucks taking in the aid was in fact the volunteer who managed the morgue from the bombing. He's got a digital camera and 2GB of media, so there should be some "on the ground" images available soon.

As you might imagine, getting funds physically into Indonesia can be a bit problematic. So we've set up a PayPal account through the Tides Foundation to channel money to IDEP. Tides is not taking any fees for the service and is a 501c3 non-profit for tax deductability. And on the approved Microsoft gift matching list . We are also applying to EBAY's foundation to cover the PayPal fees . We're working on getting some additional documentation online, but in the meantime you can send donations via PayPal to with the assurance that the money will actually be in Indonesia, purchasing direct aid, within a few days. Now, quick like a bunny! You've only got 10 more hours (PST) to make it a 2004 deduction!