tsJensen

A quest for software excellence...

To Outsource Or Not to Outsource, That is the Question

I just posted the following note on a LinkedIn group I follow in answer to a post about so called "software factories," which is a nice euphemism for overseas developers working for much less than they deserve struggling to meet the unreasonable demands of their bosses. This represents my opinion on the subject:

Never forget that you get what you pay for. Hiring an overseas or even local "software factory" or consultancy to build your software can be problematic at best and a complete waste of time and money at worst.

First, if you cannot communicate, forget about it. Building software is 99% communication and 1% technology. Okay, perhaps I overstate the case. A little. But you cannot overestimate the importance of clear, effective communication.

Second, unless you have the internal people required to manage such a relationship, your project will fail. This means you need project management and technical people in your own organization that you know well and trust. They need to be supremely competent. This is especially true if you plan to hire a firm outside of your own geographical area.

Third, plan for time and budget overages. It is the nature of consulting to promise a low price and quick turnaround and then when you are committed to the project and it is "nearly done," you will be informed that there is much more to do, generally due to legitimate changes in requirements because you did not fully understand what you wanted when the project first began. This is the boon and bane of software development whether internal or external.

Finally, you can have success outsourcing your software development project, but do not make the mistake of thinking that it will save you an enormous amount of time and money, especially for a single application project. It takes time to develop a working relationship with an outside consultantcy, especially one that is half way around the world. If you have multiple projects, long term goals, and a huge budget of time and money, it may in fact be cost effective to have a relationship with a so called "software factory." But if you are a small organization and have one or two projects, you will nearly always be better off hiring a professional locally, usually through one of the many technical recruiting companies, to come into your organization as a contractor to work on-site building exactly what you want as you discover over time what it is you want exactly.

Taking a Comment Holiday to Escape the Spammers

I upgraded to the latest version of dasBlog a few days ago and inadvertently allowed comments without requiring approval. A spambot comment got through and while I quickly turned on the "require approval" feature, it was too late. Since then I've been bombarded with stupid link spam comments. I even deleted the one post that seemed to be the bot target and created a new post with the same content.

No luck. After many similar spam comments today being posted to the most recent post on my blog, I'm giving up. I'm taking a comment holiday. It won't bother anyone really because I don't get many real comments. I'll enable the comment functionality some day in the future.

Meantime, if you have a comment, feel free to email me and I'll post it as an addendum to the relevant post.

Vista Defrag Woefully Inadequate - Enter O&O Defrag

Being rather new to Vista this week, I was sorely disappointed to see the severely dumbed down defrag utility in Vista. A pathetic effort. Really! So after a few highly scientific Google searches, I settled on O&O Defrag and could not be happier.

Here's the lame, incredibly useless UI in Vista's Disk Defragmenter. Note, if you are going to use some other defragmenter on a schedule, which I would recommend, be sure to disable the regularly scheduled Vista defragmenter by unchecking the box. One way of getting there is to go to the Control Panel and then Performance Information and Tools and then Advanced Tools.

And here is only part of the incredibly useful O&O Defrag UI, a shot taken as it defrags my drives:

Of course there are other suitable defrag tools such as DiskKeeper and others. Perhaps Microsoft wanted the Vista tool to cater only to the basic, uninformed user. If so, they certainly left the market wide open to the more sophisticated tools vendors such as O&O.

 

From XP Pro to Vista Ultimate x64

I finally took the plunge. Now I get to use 4GB out of 4GB except that the bare minimum I seem to be able to get Vista x64 down to is a 1.2GB footprint. And that's after hours and hours of experimentation and disabling some visual enhancements, though I feel no loss there and am experiencing a significantly reduced sense of loss.

Now I'm happy to be able to test on x64 virtual images using VMWare's Workstation, I'm afraid I may need to buy four 2GB sticks of RAM now. Despite the fact that the additional memory is available now, the larger footprint nearly wipes out the gain.

And that's without running any significant applications, except IE, which is quite a memory hog. I guess the old 640K upper limit days are over.

Yes, RAM is cheap. A quick check on Newegg.com and I found 8GB (4 x 2GB DDR2 800) for $174. I can't even buy three tanks of gas for my SUV for that.

Virtual PC 2007 vs VMWare Workstation 6.5

I'm getting ready to do some serious MOSS 2007 architecture and development work. In the past, I've used Virtual PC 2007 to host a virtual development environment running a Windows server operating system, SQL Server, MOSS and Visual Studio all running in the same virtual machine. And I've never been very happy with the performance of that virtual machine.

So today I decided to give VMWare a try and downloaded VMWare Workstation 6.5. I installed Windows Server 2008 Standard x86 (full install) on a new virtual machine with the same disk space and memory as I had allocated for the same operating system install using Virtual PC 2007. I gave both virtual machines 30GB of disk space and 1GB of RAM. I'm running on a Core 2 Duo 6600 on an ASUS P5B at factory default speed with 4GB of RAM with virtualization support enabled. Both virtual machines virtual drives live on the same drive.

The major advantage of VMWare is its ability to utilize both cores where Virtual PC is stuck with using just one. I'm sure there are additional reasons for the differences in performance. I used PerformanceTest 6.1 from PassMark. I'm sure there are other ways to test virtual machine performance, but this seemed to be a reasonable though unscientific approach. I made sure my machine was running the same processes and completely idle except for the virtual machine host application.

I only ran the tests that mattered to me: CPU, 2D, memory, and disk. I don't care about 3D and CD performance for the virtual machine. Here's the results:

vmware

test 1

test 2

avg

ratio

cpu: 326.6 344.4 335.5 2.2x
2D: 28.7 32.2 30.45 3.3x
Memory: 96.7 96.2 96.45 1.2x
Disk: 469.1 454.5 461.8 6.4x
Total: 921.1 927.3 924.2 2.9x
vpc 2007
cpu: 150.7 154.1 152.4
2D: 9.2 9.3 9.25
Memory: 83.3 83.2 83.25
Disk: 69.6 73.8 71.7
Total: 312.8 320.4 316.6
 

I was amazed to see that overall, the VMWare virtual machine ran 2.9 times faster than the Virtual PC machine. Even more amazing was the performance improvement of the 2D and disk tests, 3.3 and 6.4 times faster respectively.

I am now completely sold on the value of the VMWare Workstation license. The best price I found after a quick search was $161. For all the saved frustration in working with a slow virtual machine development image for MOSS, the product is well worth the price. But don't take my word for it, run your own tests if you don't believe me. Of course, if you aren't running a multicore machine, and what self respecting developer isn't, you probably won't see any improvement. On the other hand, if you have at least two cores, choosing save a few bucks seems to penny wise but pound foolish!

 

Some Things are True Whether They are True or Not

I get a lot of forward email from friends and relatives. I've never felt compelled to do anything with any of them until, bored this evening, I read this one from my father-in-law. I don't know if any of these stories are true or not, but whether they are or aren't, they are. In a time when America seems to be taking much criticism from within and without, it's good to have reminders like these.

When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush. He answered by saying, 'Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.'

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying 'Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?' A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly. 'Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships, how many does FRANCE HAVE?'

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, 'Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?' Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied "maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German.'

An elderly American gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on. 'You have been to France before, monsieur?' the customs officer asked sarcastically. The man admitted that he had been to France previously. 'Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.' The American said, 'The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it. 'Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France !' The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, 'Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to.'

Seven Days Past the Layoff

A week after being laid off finds me wondering why I've neglected this blog. I'm currently experiencing the self recriminatory state one goes into at the end of the dead end street having recently passed the Dead End sign. Brake, execute the multi-point 180 and head back to find the turn you missed. And then realizing that the turn you missed should have been as obvious as the nose on your face.

My conscience tells me not to be too hard on myself. In one week I've had an interview or two. Have another scheduled for tomorrow. And one or two inquiries from other potential employers. Met with more than one recruiter and talked with several more. Polished the resume a bit more and started working the neglected network of friends and former coworkers--neglect as a result of me working from my home office with little real world interaction. Note to self: get out more and talk with humans face to face.

I've even taken more than one meeting from possible business partners with ideas that may or may not pan out, but I'm not taking anything off the table until I replace my mainstream income.

So if anyone needs a C# dev guy with some architecture leanings, grab my resume and give me a shout.

TylerJensen2008web.doc (47.5 KB)

Url Utils Helper Class May Be Helpful

Sometimes the odd helper class is useful. This one might even be a decent candidate for some .NET 3.5 extension methods. These URL utilities are quite self explanatory and by no means are a complete set of URL helper methods that would be useful, but who knows, they might have something you're looking for.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Text;

namespace HelperCode
{
    internal static class UrlUtils
    {
        internal static string GetTldFromUrl(string url)
        {
            string tld = UrlUtils.GetHostFromUrl(url);
            if (tld != null && tld.Contains('.'))
            {
                string[] parts = tld.Split('.');
                if (parts.Length > 0)
                {
                    tld = parts[parts.Length - 1];
                }
            }
            return tld;
        }

        internal static string GetHostFromUrl(string url)
        {
            string retval = null;
            try
            {
                Uri uri = new Uri(url);
                retval = uri.Host.ToLower();
            }
            catch
            {
                retval = null;
            }
            return retval;
        }

        internal static string GetSchemeFromUrl(string url)
        {
            string retval = null;
            try
            {
                Uri uri = new Uri(url);
                retval = uri.Scheme.ToLower();
            }
            catch
            {
                retval = null;
            }
            return retval;
        }
    }
}

If you have a better way to do it, please, by all means, let us know. There are no doubt better ways. :)