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January 2009 Blog Posts

Daniela is blogging in English about UX and Design

My wife Daniela is a User Experience and User Interface Expert, and before that she worked as web designer at various web agencies.

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After a few years of blogging in Italian, she decided to take her experience, fresh perspective and pragmatic eye on design and user experience topics to a wider audience, and thus today she started blogging in English.

To do a warm start, she already wrote some posts, refactoring them from her top hits of the Italian blog:

  • Project management tools - a quick commentary of a blog post that does on overview of 15 online project management applications
  • Schematics: the horizontal vision - what is a schematic? how to develop it in the most time effective way?
  • How to make effective presentations using PowerPoint - PowerPoint leads to a wrong way of doing presentations: effects, animations are useless if we forget the basics. Daniela reminds us which these basics are.
  • Why to use a CSS framework? - Designers, way more that developers, like to repeat themselves, and always write their sites and layout from scratch. But in our work we cannot afford to loose time to always do the same things over and over, and a CSS framework can help us with that.

Just a quick note: her site runs, pretty obviously, on Subtext, and she just finished designing her new skin. And she also has a personal photo blog.

I really recommend that you go and visit her blog, and subscribe to her feed. She might not post always detailed step by step tutorials on how to do things with CSS, but she has a really fresh perspective on things.


Italian ALT.NET Conference retrospective

Last Saturday it was the day of the 3rd Italian ALT.NET Conference, held in Milano, and it’s now time to think about it, and learn for the next future conferences.

The room was completely full, with around 45-50 people that attended the conference, and I think this shows how people are getting interested in the topics covered during the session. It was a big increase from the first 10 people conference.

We experimented with 3 different way of presenting the sessions:

  • Complete OpenSpace discussion for topics we thought everybody knew something about (Domain Driven Design)
  • Introduction + openspace discussion for topics that someone knew and other people didn’t know (User Stories, Testing and Acceptance Tests)
  • Traditional “one-way” presentation for new topics (IronRuby)

And given my personal opinion and from what I heard at the conference, it is not possible to do the total opensource discussion because there will always be someone that doesn’t know anything about the topic… and in the DDD session, half of the people preferred not to talk and many of these said that they didn’t learn what DDD is, so I think that way of presenting is a failure: negative feedback is the best feedback, so we can improve for the next conference. And we will make sure that every topic has at least a 10 minutes introduction so that everyone knows what we are going to discuss about.

The conference was free to attend, but we accepted donations to cover the expenses (room and prizes were offered by the sponsors). We made it, and we even collected more money than needed, and we decided to make a donation to an OpenSource project ourselves. The project was voted among five projects (Castle, Ninject, RhinoMocks, Spark View Engine and MbUnit/Gallio) and the 45 people at the conference decided to give the 45€ to Ayende’s RhinoMock.

We filmed all the day, and I’m now in the process of trimming, cutting, editing, converting and uploading the sessions. All are in Italian, but the one held by Ivan about IronRuby is in English.

All the slides (they are all in English) and demos are already available for download at the SVN repository of the conference: http://code.google.com/p/ugialtnet3/source/browse/trunk/

And finally, as a way to thank everyone that organized the event, the speakers, the people that made a donation and the sponsors, we made a short introductory movie that we projected before the beginning of the event.


Italian ALT.NET Conference Introduction from Piyodesign on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for more videos, and hope to see someone else from the “traditional” Italian .NET community next time.

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How to migrate a VirtualPC disk to a VMware Fusion disk

I know, I said this more then one year ago, but now I'm really doing it: I decided to stop using my PC laptop, and I decided to finally everything to my Mac. There was one trigger, actually two, that made me take the final decision: the first one was that now I need to develop for the iPhone for work and I didn't want to go to my office with both the Mac (for the iPhone development) and the Dell (for Outlook, OCS, Office, time reporting software, and other internal applications), and then that for the writing my book I had to setup an isolated virtual machine in order to have a clean install and non customized look&feel (no toolbars on IE, no custom schema on VS) for taking the screenshots.

The process

So what step did I take to make the move? For the last we months I've been using a clean Vista Ultimate + Visual Studio 2008 installation as book writing VM. Since all my job is writing code in Visual Studio this is pretty much all I needed, so I decided to use this as my Vista baseline VM. When I first made it I did it with Virtual PC, so I needed to convert it to VMware in order to open it with Fusion. Once converted the VM from VPC to VMware I copied this baseline VM to my Mac, and I opened it with Fusion. And now I've a baseline VM that works both on my Mac and on my PC, and that I can use to build any project specific or task specific Virtual Machine.

The problems

But all this was not without problems: the overall process took a few days to complete. First I had a strange error converting my VPC image to VMware disk. Then I had very strange problem with the mouse inside VMware. And finally I had to struggle a bit to use the VM on both OS.

Conversion from VPC to VMware Disk

The first problem was that the VMware converter failed due to not enough space on the disk: it was a "strange" problem because I had 45Gb on my laptop disk and more than 100Gb on the external drive the virtual disk was located. And then, once I managed to convert an run on VMware Workstation, the mouse pointer was stuck off-screen, so not usable.

Virtual Machine Version

One solved this problem (which required 4 conversion, and 2 full days (as in days and night) to be solved, and that you'll read about later), I opened the VM with VMware Player, I installed the VMware tools, and suddenly Fusion asked me if I wanted to upgrade the VM to the format of version 2. This upgrade should increase performances on Fusion. But this would not allow me to share the same virtual disk on Fusion for Mac and Workstation for Windows.

Performances

Last problem is performance: to run Vista smoothly with Visual Studio with R# I need more than 1Gb of RAM. To run OSX smoothly it needs at least 1Gb of RAM. So it comes that 2Gb are not enough.

Disk Format

The last but not big problem is that the only way to store a 15Gb file on an external drive is to store it either on NTFS or on HFS+... and unfortunately there is no way to write to a NTFS from the Mac (and I don't think there will be a way to read/write a HFS+ from Windows).

Solutions to the problems

How did I solve the problems just mentioned? I actually I did not solve them all, but at least I can use the VM, and somehow I can even share it between Mac and PC.

Conversion from VPC to VMware Disk

The "not enough space" problem was because, among the options available with the VMware Converter, I choose the "Reduce to minimum size" option when I was asked for the size of the virtual disk. The disk with not enough space was the virtual disk, not my physical disk. To avoid running into this problem make you select the following options:

  • "Maintain Size" when you select the source of the Virtual Machine
  • "Import and convert" when you select the VM Options of the destination VM
step-1.jpg step-2.jpg

The mouse problem was instead caused by the "old" VPC mouse drivers, interfering with the VMware tools and its mouse drivers. In this case the solution is easy: just uninstall the Virtual PC extensions before converting the VPC disk to VMware one. And then, in the customization step, uncheck the "Install VMware Tools" option. And then, when the VM starts, install the tools manually.

step-3.jpg

Virtual Machine Version

This is one of the problems I've yet to solve. For the moment I'm still on the version that is compatible both with Fusion 1.x and VMware Workstation 6.5. When they release a VMware Workstation that supports the Fusion 2 format, I'll update it.

Another solution would be to upgrade and downgrade the VM every time I move it from Mac to PC and the other way around.

Performances

This was an easy fix: I just bought 4Gb of RAM.

RAM-Upgrade.jpg

I also found out that older versions of MacBook, even if Apple says they support only 2Gb, actually support 3Gb.

The boot is still a bit slow and uses all the CPU of the system, but usually I suspend the VM, so not a big deal.

Disk Format

I solved this problem copying the VM to my local disk when using it on the Mac, and running it from the NTFS disk when running on Windows. I don't think there is going to be a solution to this problem

What's next?

Now I finally can use my Mac both for my day-to-day operations (emails, web browsing, IMs), for my Mac development and also for .NET development (and to use a decent blogging client).

The Italian ALT.NET Conference is here

As I announced a month ago, next Saturday there will be the 3rd Italian ALT.NET Conference in Milano.

I'm pretty excited to say that last week all the seats available went sold out, and we probably will expand the limit to 60 to include the people in wait list.

The agenda of the event, which is a kind of OpenSpace with "fixed" session, is:

  • How to write User Stories and Planning Game
  • IronRuby, by Ivan Porto Carrero, author of IronRuby in Action
  • Domain Driven Design
  • Advanced TDD in real world
  • Acceptance tests (with Fitnesse)

At the end of the event we will give some prizes to the people that will stay till the end of the day:

I want to say thank to these sponsors, and, our big thank goes to SourceSense that gave us the room for the event.

If someone from France, Switzerland, Austria or anyone that lives at cheap-fare flight distance from Milano wants to come to the event, just drop me a line: and don't worry about the language, we already have Ivan that doesn't understand Italian, so we will do our best to speak and discuss in English.


Booked the flight to the ALT.NET Conf and the MVP Summit

Yesterday I finally I booked the flight to Seattle for the MVP Summit and for the ALT.NET Conference.

I'll have a pretty tight schedule for the week I'll be there:

  • I'll leave from Milano on February 27th in the morning and I'll land in Seattle at 2:30PM
  • The ALT.NET Conference will begin at 5PM of the same day, I hope I can clear the customs and take a taxi to the venue on time for the opening.
  • Then Saturday and Sunday I will be at the ALT.NET Conference
  • Sunday evening at the Party with Palermo
  • Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the MVP Summit
  • Thursday March 5th, at midday, I'll have the flight back to Milano, where I'll land on Friday, in the morning

No time for sight-seeing, but I think that's an invaluable opportunity to meet with great minds, people I know only from twitter and blogs, but also with people I know since a long time (like all the guys of the Subtext team) but never had the chance to meet in person.

See you all (MVPs and ALT.NET-ters) in 6 weeks or so.

4 podcasts about Azure with Wally

If you want to get started with Azure, you might be interested in listening to the 4 last episodes of ASP.NET Podcast, by Wally.

Episode 131 is a general discussion about Cloud Computing in general (MP3 only).

Then things get more interesting, and Wally talks about two of the main components of Windows Azure: Blob Storage and Table Storage. These two episodes are screencasts that show how to setup the development environment, how to use the local Azure fabric and the how to create a simple CRUD application.

Then the last episode (#134) is the a wrap up show, with general thought on Azure development.

If want a more complete sample, that shows how to deploy you app on the cloud you might want to check the great series by Maarten Balliauw: CarTrackr on Windows Azure

It’s MacWorld day

UPDATE: The big news were:

  • New iLife ‘09, with new iPhone with Facial Recognition, support for Flickr and Geo-Tagging
  • New iWork ‘09, with possibility to share docs online on iwork.com
  • New Aluminum MacBook Pro 17” (starting from 2800 USD, a bit too much in my opinion)
  • DRM-Free songs on iTunes, and new pricing schema .69c for all songs, 1.29$ for the latest hits

Today is the day of the usual MacWorld keynote: it will be without Steve Jobs, suffering from some health problems. As usual many rumors are spreading about which is going to be the big news of the year. Here in random order some of the rumors:

No video or audio streaming is allowed from the MacWorld: many sites will have a text only live event, but I’d follow it from twitter, from macrumors

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Resolutions for 2009

Year 2008 finished with a post about my best 5 posts of the year: year 2009 must start with the usual New Year’s resolutions.

Personal Resolutions

Go back climbing

Last year, due to various personal problems, general bad weather and book writing I was not able to train and go the climbing gym as I used to. And I also didn’t go too much out in the mountains doing climbing. I hope I can train and go climbing more this year.

Take part in one triathlon competition

During last year I started going back to cycling (the only sport I practiced at competition level), I bought a new bike, and started training during the weekends (that is also part of the reason last year I didn’t climb that much). I run quite often, especially after I bought the Nike+ kit. I also started swimming, since I found a public swimming pool at only 10 minutes from my office. And triathlon is one of the sport I always dreamed of doing, let’s see if I can take part in a Triathlon Sprint (the shortest distance, 750m swim, 20Km bike, 5Km run) in 2009. I also want to thank Luca Villa, a developer at the client I worked at during 2008, for the inspiration (he is a triathlete).

Blogging and community involvement Resolutions

Blog more tutorials and technical articles

2008 was more about in-person activities: I organized two events, I spoke at 4 events about ASP.NET MVC and wrote a real book. But I didn’t write a lot of quality technical posts. I’ve already some ideas of good technical posts and tutorials that are going to come in the next few months. In 2009 I want to provide more quality content here in on my blog. Stay tuned to get it.

OpenSource development

I’m part of Subtext core team, but lately I didn’t work on it that much. I also a few ideas about small and simple libraries and widgets that I’d like to develop to contribute to the community. I’d also like to revamp my CC.NET Monitor Gadget for Vista, which has been more than an year and half without an update.

Produce some content about ASP.NET MVC in Italian

I’ve been asked by Pietro Brambati  and Gabriele Castellani to do something about ASP.NET MVC for MSDN Italy: I’d love to do it, also because most of my technical articles are in English, and I feel like I’m not giving too much back to my home community, UGIdotNET.

Redesign my blog

This is long overdue: hopefully I’ll get to do it in a few months. A big to Daniela that is doing the design (and also one skin for Subtext), and to Janko for the great suggestions he sent me.

Technology Resolutions

Enhance my .NET skills

There a few libraries/technologies that I’d like to get deeper into, and that I’ve not been able to yet:

  • jQuery
  • IoC Containers as whole, and specifically Ninject
  • Lambda, Expressions Tree in C#
  • LINQ

Start developing for Mac/iPhone

I wanted to give it a try since I got my MacBook 13 months ago, and now that I’ve to develop a iPhone app for work, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to get started with it.

Let’s see if I can make these resolutions come true. I’ll keep you updated while the year passed by. If you haven’t already, consider subscribing to my free updates via RSS.

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