A quest for software excellence...

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 Missing or Hidden Dialog Controls on VMWare

This is an oddity with Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 installed on the a virtual machine that I’ve run into that perhaps one in a hundred other VMWare Workstation users might run into. I’m running VMWare Workstation 6.5.3 on a Windows 7 x64 box with 8GB of RAM. In turn, I’m spinning up a Windows 7 x64 virtual machine with 3GB of RAM and two cores (a primary reason for buying the VMWare license over Virtual PC). And of course, I had 3D graphics acceleration turned on, because who wouldn’t want some acceleration, right?

But here’s what the New Project dialog and other “add” dialogs looked like (note: I’ve reduced the size of these as the nitty gritty details are not as important as the visualization of the controls, here you don’t see them and later you will):


Note the black (or rather dark blue) abyss at the bottom of the dialog. As near as I can tell, the normally light blue section was gone and inaccessible visually. I’m not certain, but I surmised that it was still there as I was able to tab into the darkness and then out of it again.

After trying various Windows 7 video personalization settings, I then tried increasing video memory in the VMX file, but that was a non-starter. Then an odd hunch led me to try this:


Once I saved that 3D graphics setting unchecked and spun up the virtual machine, I noticed two things. First, the virtual machine seemed more responsive. Second, and more importantly, controls were back in sight. This pleasing view is now what I see (minus my crudely drawn red circle of course):


There was a moment when I thought to blame Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 for this anomaly but of course some brief thought and sparing a brain cell or two for reasoning and cognitive function resulted in the conclusion that something with video driver and perhaps Windows 7 or Windows in general or just my machine did not like some video setting. Happily, the 3D graphics checkbox was the first thing I tried to disable on the VMWare settings and shazam, it worked.

If you run VMWare Workstation and have problems with Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 in your virtual machine with missing or invisible controls in certain dialogs and other UI elements, try disabling the 3D graphics option. I still highly recommend VMWare Workstation over Virtual PC, though I must admit that I have not tried Windows Virtual PC in its latest incarnation for Windows 7. The last time I tried it was in the VPC 2007 edition. If you believe the latest version has come up to par with VMWare, I’d love to hear from you.


A few weeks ago I made a major course correction in our choice of ORM data layer. We had planned to use LLBLGen Pro but several issues with the code that it generates continued to bother me. First, it's support for stored procedures lacked the ability to strongly type the resultset. Second, the data entity classes do not easily support serialization over WCF with the option to dress them up with the appropriate attributes.

So I took a second look at PLINQO with CodeSmith 5.0, something I had considered some time ago but had decided against because I felt it was not sufficiently mature for our team's use. I wanted to see if the dev team had improved the product to the point that I believed it would work for us. I'm very happy I gave it another try. They have done a great job and restored my confidence in LINQ to SQL.

With PLINQO, I found that I could return to standard LINQ to SQL queries and enjoy many of the benefits I had looked forward to using in LLBLGen Pro such as "disconnected" entities. And much to my satisfaction, PLINQO resolves the two major issues I had with the LLBLGen Pro. The improvements over standard LINQ to SQL may seem small at first but when dealing with a very large, enterprise class database, the enhancements that PLINQO offers are critical, including the separation of entities into individual class files.

There are many more features and benefits with PLINQO than I have time to review here. If you're looking for a better LINQ to SQL than LINQ to SQL, look very carefully at PLINQO. I mean, who couldn't fall in love with code like this all buttoned up for you automatically:

private long _userId;

//// <summary>
/// Gets the USER_ID column value.
/// </summary>
[System.Data.Linq.Mapping.Column(Name = "USER_ID", Storage = "_userId", 
     DbType = "bigint NOT NULL IDENTITY", IsPrimaryKey = true, 
	 IsDbGenerated = true, CanBeNull = false)]
[System.Runtime.Serialization.DataMember(Order = 1)]
public long UserId
    get { return _userId; }
        if (_userId != value)
            _userId = value;

Business Process Management with Ultimus and .NET

After a long search for the right business process management platform that would allow us to integrate and extend with .NET, my team selected the Ultimus BPM Suite. The primary factors in the decision were the comprehensive nature of the solution which would allow us to deploy process management without requiring the use of some other tool such as InfoPath or SharePoint. Additionally, the solution would allow an incomplete process to be deployed and have assigned "process experts" make final decisions about business rules that may not have been clear or available at the time the process was designed.

I spent all of last week at their North Carolina offices in a "jumpstart" training course and met many of the key players at the company. Good people all around. Their technical expertise and willingness to listen to our team's concerns were impressive. There were a few minor UI glitches that we brought to their attention such as some scrolling issues when designing a process with limited screen real estate. The Ultimus people were genuinely interested in our input.

Having initially found and recommended the product, I was even more impressed with the product as we went through detailed training that brought out a number of features and illustrated an architecture that gave me even greater confidence in the product. This was particularly true in the area of integration points with existing systems and the ability to extend the process using custom developed controls or even process context aware ASP.NET pages hosted outside of the process server.

Our only disappointment was that some of the the training session content could have been improved as at times some of the class members were left a little lost and fell behind. This was in part because the "jumpstart" course was designed to fit a lot of material into a few days, but it was in part due to a lack of maturity in the content and presentation. We were very candid with the Ultimus training director about this and he took our input eagerly and promised improvement. Based on my conversations with key Ultimus employees, I believe that will happen.

If you are looking for a better way to deliver business process management and enterprise human-centric workflow solutions, you should consider Ultimus. There were other systems that were much more expensive that may have fit our requirements, but this was the only one we found that allowed us the freedom to extend and customize using our .NET dev skills without requiring coding skills to design and modify and manage processes.

I'll be writing more about Ultimus as our experience with the product continues.