Don't look now, but Microsoft just announced that it's releasing the reference
source code for the .NET Framework libraries. Developers will gain the ability
to review and debug .NET source code under Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework
Released under the Microsoft Reference License, developers are able to view,
but not modify or distribute, the reference source code. The goal of the release,
the company says, is to give .NET developers an opportunity to better understand
"the inner workings of the framework's source code."
In a blog posting here,
Microsoft Developer Division General Manager Scott Guthrie summarizes the release
"Having source code access and debugger integration of the .NET Framework
libraries is going to be really valuable for .NET developers. Being able to
step through and review the source should provide much better insight into
how the .NET Framework libraries are implemented, and in turn enable developers
to build better applications and make even better use of them."
Do you think the release of reference .NET Framework source code will help
your dev shop produce better software? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/03/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
We're publishing a feature article on the OOXML and ODF file formats for our
next issue of Redmond Developer News
, and we want to hear from you about
the technical strengths and weaknesses of each. Here's your chance to have a
direct voice in the argument.
Have you worked with or examined the OOXML spec? Tell us what you think Microsoft
needs to fix or improve in OOXML, and tell us what aspects of the spec have
We're looking for the same input on the ODF side of the house. If you're familiar
with the OpenDocument Format, e-mail us with your take on what the technology
does right and what it does wrong.
Write us at [email protected]
and you could be featured in the next issue of Redmond Developer News.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/26/2007 at 1:15 PM19 comments
Just another reminder that the RDN Innovator Awards are under way. The RDN
Innovator Awards recognize outstanding accomplishments in programming using
the Microsoft Windows and .NET stack. Entries are accepted across a range of
Do you have a software development project that's worthy of recognition? Download
the RDN Innovator Awards entry form here.
Also, check out the ADT
Innovator Awards. Now in its 13th consecutive year, the ADT Innovator Awards
program recognizes outstanding development on non-Microsoft platforms.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/26/2007 at 1:15 PM2 comments
Call it "Standardization Theater." Last
, I wondered about the lack of positive takes when it came to Microsoft's
proposed Office Open XML (OOXML) standard, currently under review with the International
Organization of Standardization (ISO). Having received a flood of decidedly
critical opinions about OOXML, I wondered how it was that no one reading the
RedDevNews newsletter -- an audience likely to be friendly to Microsoft technologies
-- was saying anything good about OOXML.
Well, I heard a couple of responses. The first is from Jan Hansen, a developer
out of Copenhagen, Denmark. "Your previous article was linked to from Groklaw,"
he writes. "Maybe only visitors who came from there bothered to respond
to your question in that article."
Good point. Ben, an IT director in Leeds, England, contends that he and other
Redmond supporters haven't written in because "[it's] not our job. Microsoft
is a big company with a big budget and can look after itself."
He goes on with an interesting theory, which is that the ISO standardization
push is simply a grandstanding maneuver. He says the open source community first
gets its technology established as an ISO standard, then turns around and lobbies
to require ISO ratification as a way to keep competing technologies (read: Microsoft)
out of government contracts.
Writes Ben: "Best case for Microsoft, people will see through the tactic,
and realize that being blessed by ISO is worth exactly nothing outside of politics.
Worst case, MS will have to write a tip-top ODF import/export to get government
contracts, and will have to write tip-top DOCX import/export for OpenOffice
to ensure DOCX remains the interchange format -- which will basically mean massively
Is ISO ratification just public theater in the ODF/OOXML contest? I spoke with
Alexander Falk, CEO of Altova -- the company that makes XML-savvy software like
XMLSpy -- and he seems to think so. Falk says that the ISO process is a good
thing in that it helps improve the OOXML spec by bringing forward third-party
input. But he says he expects Microsoft's XML-based file format implementation
to gain widespread adoption with or without ISO sanction.
"At the end of the day, I think it will be in [Microsoft's] best interest
to get through it and make those changes," Falk says. "But my gut
feeling is they still have sufficient market share to push OOXML through as
a de facto standard, even if it doesn't become an ISO standard."
What do you think? Does it even matter if Microsoft ends up providing an ISO-approved
XML file format specification? Or will the mere existence of XML-based default
file formats in Office be enough for most IT and dev shops to get behind? E-mail
me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/26/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Executive Editor Jeffrey Schwartz reported this week that Jason
Zander (formerly GM for the .NET Framework) has taken
over as general manager
of the Visual Studio Team at Microsoft. Schwartz
caught up with Zander at the VSLive New York conference. Here's an excerpt of
RDN: How do you feel about this change?
Zander: I am excited about this. The developer division on the framework
and tool sides has always worked closely and that will not change. I have worked
with a bunch of folks on the Visual Studio team for years so I know everyone
over there. There's a whole bunch of stuff we can do.
What's first on your agenda?
My first task, given [Visual Studio] 2008 is almost done, is to work on the
next version of Visual Studio. We are already working on product planning and
features, that also includes language features -- languages are now under me,
as well. That includes the next version of C#, VB and all the dynamic languages,
Moving forward, what will be the key areas of focus for Visual Studio?
To me there's a few things. One, just like we did factoring with the .NET CLR
for Silverlight, we made it more compact, and we made it really easy to deploy
on a machine. I'd like to see those same kind of attributes showing up in the
full .NET Framework as well as Visual Studio, so it gets easier and easier to
use the tools. It needs to be easier and more friction-free across the board.
Are you anticipating quick uptake to Visual Studio 2008, or will it be phased?
I think people will be interested. It solves some concrete problems, such as
thousands of lines of codes, it's a painful proposition today.
Read the entire Q&A at the Redmond Developer News Web site here.
Where would you like to see Zander take Visual Studio next? Tell us at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/19/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
I like to think of myself as a fair-minded guy who's open to both sides of
an argument. So when I wrote about the recent no-vote
for the Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML) spec
by the International Organization
of Standardization (ISO), I was a bit astonished by the nature of the response.
To wit: Not one person wrote in to say they supported Microsoft or the OOXML
specification. Not one.
Instead, what I read was a parade of impassioned protest. Readers railed against
what they found to be a sloppy, complex and potentially dangerous XML-based
technical specification. Several wrote to express concern about Microsoft strong-arming
the ISO process, stacking national ISO voting bodies in an effort to win approval.
And to a man (or woman), the writers condemned OOXML on its technical merits.
What surprises me about this response is that these are people reading Redmond
Developer News -- you know, a publication for developers and managers working
with the Microsoft technology stack. You'd think this audience would have a
lot invested in Microsoft tools and skill sets, and that they'd be at least
somewhat likely to have a favorable opinion of OOXML.
But they don't.
What does it say about Microsoft and its current OOXML push that our readers
-- essentially, the home field for Microsoft in this contest -- are so clearly
opposed to the Redmond-sponsored technology?
You tell me. Because I really want to hear it. E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/19/2007 at 1:15 PM12 comments
Forrester Research has been cranking out a lot of useful research and insight
for the dev community lately. Now it's talking big picture, with its "Design
for People, Build for Change" forum, scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26 in Carlsbad,
I'm always leery of grandly themed forums and initiatives, since they tend
to trip up on mundane stuff like the specifics of implementation, integration
and technology. And yes, some of the advance work on this event engages in suspicious
verbiage. Like this gem:
"As the 'design for people, build for change' concept gains momentum,
Forrester is seeing a much more holistic, transformational picture emerging
from the synthesis of the many business trends and new technologies that are
swirling around IT."
The funny thing is, this forum actually makes a good point. That being: Too
often, sophisticated, forward-looking systems are created in a way that makes
them very difficult to use and to adapt to changing needs. This is a challenge
Microsoft has been attacking directly for a couple years now, with its effort
to turn MS Office (via Office Business Applications) into the friendly user
interface for industrial-strength CRM, ERP and other back-end systems.
You can read more about the forum and find an executive summary here.
So my question is: Are busy dev shops able to take in any of this big-picture
wonkery and turn it into anything useful? Is it possible to craft user-centric,
future-adaptable applications without completely crushing budgets or turning
application development into an endless task? You tell me. My e-mail is [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/12/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Developing software, especially inside the enterprise, can be thankless work.
There are no shiny, shrink-wrapped boxes in store shelves, no market buzz or
feedback from the media, and most such projects only get real attention when
things go wrong.
We want to put the spotlight on dev projects that went right.
To help recognize the best efforts of corporate software developers and management
working for the Windows and .NET platforms, Redmond Developer News in
September launched the first
annual Innovator Awards.
The contest is going on right now. We've issued a formal call for entries spanning
seven different software development categories. Criteria for winning entries
will be those that show an innovative approach to application development, while
delivering a compelling business outcome.
Want to see your hard work recognized and even featured in Redmond Developer
News? Innovator Award winners and runners up will be profiled in our Dec.
1 issue. This is a great chance for your dev shop to be recognized for its creative
effort and technical acumen. Here's a quick rundown of the seven categories:
- Pure Windows: A look at applications that were built and designed
using pure Windows-based development tools and designed to be run on Windows-based
back-office applications such as, but not limited to, Microsoft's SQL Server,
BizTalk and SharePoint.
- SOA: Emphasizes how applications were developed to take advantage
of Web services available through BizTalk, in addition to other middleware
and/or application servers it may be linked to.
- Collaboration: Applications that make use of Microsoft's SharePoint
services or similar application-sharing platforms, which are designed to run
with Windows-based client and server-based applications.
- Business Intelligence/Digital Dashboards: Focuses on applications
that use BI platforms that are hosted using Windows-based applications such
as SQL Server or BizTalk, and/or were developed with tools that take advantage
of Windows-based APIs. These should be applications that provide business
analysts and high level executives real time views of how a business is performing.
- Only Office: These are applications either built using the development
capabilities of Office or to use the Office suite in a unique and innovative
way (providing noteworthy business impact).
- Rich Internet (RIA): Web-based applications that employ rich user
interfaces and provide a sophisticated user experience beyond what is possible
using simple HTML. Entries should be built on AJAX, Flash, Silverlight or
other RIA-enabling platforms, and should deliver significant programmatic
- Roadworthy: Applications designed specifically for mobile users and
other non-traditional client devices including Windows-mobile-based PDAs,
Windows Tablet Edition or traditional laptops, making use of wireless networks
or for scenarios where the user is rarely, if ever connected directly to a
corporate network, yet utilizing the services of the enterprise.
Entrants must be custom applications developed by or for corporate, non-profit
or public-sector enterprises. And yes, applicants are welcome to enter multiple
projects in various categories.
Finally, a note about the Innovator Awards, which were actually founded 13
years ago by Application Development
Trends, a sister Web site to RDN. If you have a cross-platform or
non-Microsoft development effort you think is worthy of consideration, definitely
look over the ADT
Innovator Awards. The winners of those awards will be published on ADTmag.com.
Entrants can download an application form for the RDN awards here
or, for the ADT Innovator Awards, here.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/12/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
How is it that a decade after cell phones have come into widespread use, mobile
business apps still aren't ready for prime time, unless enterprise IT hands
out the exact same handset to every employee? In our Oct. 1 issue, we look into
mobile application development and the upcoming platforms that enable it.
RDN is looking for your input. We'd like to interview developers and
dev managers who have migrated their applications to smartphones and PDAs, or
who are evaluating platforms for doing so. If you're interested, please contact
our senior writer, Thomas Caywood, at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/05/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
It's official. The Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML) file format won't
from the International Organization for Standardization
(ISO) as a formally recognized international file format standard.
In the Byzantine process of ISO approval, Microsoft needed to win a two-thirds
majority among ISO P-members (national standards bodies that participated in
forming the proposal), as well as a three-quarters majority among all voting
OOXML failed to earn a passing grade by either metric, though it was close.
According to a Microsoft statement, 51 ISO members -- or 74 percent, just shy
of the required majority -- supported ratification. That leaves the OpenDocument
Format (ODF) all alone as an ISO-ratified standard for file formats.
Microsoft, oddly, sounds positively giddy about the losing result.
"This preliminary vote is a milestone for the widespread adoption of the
Open XML formats around the world for the benefit of millions of customers.
Given how encouraging today's results were, we believe that the final tally
in early 2008 will result in the ratification of Open XML as an ISO standard,"
said Tom Robertson, general manager for Interoperability and Standards at Microsoft
Corp, in a statement.
That's right: Every good bit of theater these days inspires a sequel, and the
taut OOXML vote is no exception. Many "no" votes and abstentions included
comments that provide technical guidance as to what Microsoft must do to sway
votes. And that means OOXML could get another run at ratification early in 2008.
Speaking of theater, the IT industry got an eyeful when Microsoft admitted
that one of its Swedish employees had offered
monetary compensation to Microsoft partners in Sweden if they engaged in
the proposal process and voted for the OOXML spec. Sweden invalidated its "yes"
vote for OOXML and essentially abstained from the final voting.
No surprise, broader accusations of ballot stuffing -- by way of getting dozens
of companies to suddenly join the ISO voting bodies of individual nations --
I asked Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of the C++ programming language and
a guy who has wended his way through the ISO ratification maze a few times himself,
if he's ever seen this kind of chicanery in previous ISO votes.
"I have never heard of money changing hands in exchange for votes or anything
equivalent," Stroustrup writes back. "I guess every process is vulnerable
to political and economic pressures, but I have not personally seen or suspected
anything like that in relation to C++."
Despite the acrimony and accusations surrounding the OOXML ratification push,
Stroustrup thinks in this case the process may have done what it was designed
to do: Put the brakes on fast-moving technologies.
"The elaborate ISO process and its emphasis on consensus ensures a more
conservative approach to standardization. Whether that is good or bad depends
on your views on how fast technology should move, what risks you consider acceptable
and how important compatibility is to you," writes Stroustrup.
Over at the ODF Alliance, meanwhile, Managing Director Marino Marcich is upbeat.
In a statement, he says:
"ODF remains the document format of choice for governments, as it
is now being considered for use by countries in every major region of the
globe. Microsoft has every right to seek the ISO label for OOXML, but, as
the ballot results show, it has a long way to go before it earns it and can
be considered a truly open, interoperable document format."
I give it six months.
As developers, what do you think of the ongoing OOXML standards push? Is your
dev shop looking at OOXML, ODF or both going forward? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 09/05/2007 at 1:15 PM7 comments
When the servers behind the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation software
stumbled last weekend, users suddenly found their legitimate copies of Windows
XP and Vista flagged as invalid and pirated. For Vista owners, that dropped
their copies of the operating system into reduced functionality mode.
It took Microsoft until about mid-afternoon on Sunday to get WGA running correctly
again. Microsoft Program Manager Phil Liu blogged about the issue and its resolution
The cause of the problem? You guessed it. Simple human error.
"Pre-production code was sent to production servers," Liu writes.
"The production servers had not yet been upgraded with a recent change
to enable stronger encryption/decryption of product keys during the activation
and validation processes. The result of this is that the production servers
declined activation and validation requests that should have passed."
Let this be a lesson. Even the largest, most well-funded software development
efforts can fall victim to something as trivial as deploying non-production
code. What's interesting is that Microsoft had designed its WGA service so that
if the servers were down or inaccessible, Windows continues to run in validated
mode. In this case, however, the servers were running, albeit improperly.
Liu says changes have already occurred in the aftermath of this embarrassing
gaffe: "We have implemented several changes to address the specific issues
that took place over the weekend -- for example we are improving our monitoring
capabilities to alert us much sooner should anything like this happen again.
We're also working through a list of additional changes such as increasing the
speed of escalations and adding checkpoints before changes can be made to production
What do you think of Microsoft's genuine faux pas? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/29/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
If you've been reading Redmond Developer News
lately, you've probably
seen the new DevDisasters
written by Worse Than Failure
publisher Alex Papadimoulis. His accounts, submitted by readers, illustrate
the high price of botched development. There's no doubt that "train wreck"
projects can destroy budgets, crater business plans and ultimately ruin promising
Now, Forrester Research has just released a report that aims to help developers
dig their way out of trouble. The research firm interviewed more than 20 application
development professionals and came up with a four-step plan to help dev shops
recover wounded programming projects. The steps provided in the Forrester report
- Halt all work and declare a reset
- Fix the root cause of the problem
- Re-plan the project
- Execute against the new project plan
This doesn't seem like rocket science, but Forrester does a nice job of digging
into each of these steps to help dev managers effectively redirect project efforts.
One theme I noticed: focus. In the first stage, Forrester recommends that shops
"paint a target" on the root cause of the failure, while in the next
stage it calls for a single person (a "fixer") to lead the effort
while also increasing the clarity and depth of fuzzy project requirements. Across
each stage, dev managers need to focus, streamline and componentize aspects
of the project.
Ultimately, the research itself notes that the toughest challenge may be deciding
to stop work and start over. Too often, projects that desperately need to be
reset are allowed to roll forward even as dev managers futilely apply minor
course corrections or changes.
You can read an excerpt of the Forrester Research summary here.
Do you think Forrester is on to something? What secrets have you discovered
that can help save a dying project? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/29/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments