Believing in Success and Innovation

This is a bit (?) Hungarian specific thing. I believe in that a small country like Hungary will never able to compete in quantity with countries like India or China. I believe we have to compete on quality, and in the continious innovation that happens daily. Therefore I announce the '2008 Most Innovative Hungarian Partner Solution award'. Feel free to participate – it doesn't hurt that much 🙂

IE8 beta 2 – (another) great step towards standardization

Already in available in 4 languages – the brand new beta 2 version for IE8 is out in the wild. Some of the newly announced features (inprivacy browsing, smartscreen, etc) are quite compelling – worths to check out. Some of the favourite things among them in details:

  • Accelerators – Highlight an address, click the blue button and hover over “Map” or try Right Clicking a Page and Choosing Translate with Windows Live. Check out the new IE Gallery that has cool accelerators and slices from Digg to FaceBook to Ebay
  • Web Slices – Visit Live Search, search for “Seattle Weather” (or major city relevant to your region), hover over the rich search result and click the green button.  Click it to add a Weather Web Slice to your Favorites Bar. Or do the same with Ebay
  • Search Suggestions – Go to your Instant Search Box (top right) and type a search to see search suggestions in action
  • Navigation – Use the new Smart Address Bar to quickly find sites you’ve visited before.  The Smart Address Bar searches your history, favorites AND feeds for pages that match what you’re typing
  • Security – from updated Smartscreen phishing and malware filter to domain highlighting to the industry leading cross-site scripting filter so I feel my machines, my identity and my family will be safer on the Internet

Some of the videos *not* showing the features can be found here. The list of features can be found here. And – if you like it you may become a fan on facebook! 🙂

Reflector – is it the end or a new beginning?

News of yesterday – "Red Gate has recently acquired .NET Reflector. We will continue to maintain a free version for the benefit of the community." – you remember my post about open source? All open source projects have or may have this problem now or in the future – may collide with someone who sees enough profitability in the tool and offers a deal. Btw – Lutz is working for Microsoft. He is a Senior Software Design Engineer in the Expression Blend team. And the company Red Gate is the same that bought SQL Central community site – and from the experiences with that one I think that was a good deal for both the community and the companies involved. So – I'm looking forward how will Reflector 6.0 look like both from features and pricing point of view – meanwhile looking for alternatives as well 😉 (like DILE).

A short introduction to cloud platforms – an enterprise oriented view

I'd like to draw the attention to a whitepaper by David Chappell – not a long one, being comprehensive, can be easily cited (like cloud platform is "kind of platform lets developers write applications that run in the cloud, or use services provided from the cloud, or both" ) – so good for enterprise consumption as well 🙂 It provides context for Microsoft Software Plus Sevices (S+S) strategy by explaining the rationale for what an operating system provides: a foundation, infrastructure services, and application services. And how a cloud platform applications compare with on-premises applications. He explains how the two application types work together. In addition, he breaks down each of the pieces that are needed for a complete cloud platform, including storage, identity, search, mapping, and integration.

Long live Windows Server 2008 R2

The Windows Server Division has named the next server Windows Server 2008 R2. The release would be 'just' a "minor" or Update release. In a blog posting, Windows Server '7' aka "Windows Server 2008 R2", the team announced that the plan is to keep up with a two-year minor release, four-year major release cycle for servers. The current version of the Windows Server 2008 Product Roadmap shows that R2 will release in 2010. It explains that an update release "integrate[s] the previous major release with the latest service pack, selected feature packs, and new functionality." About the client release Ward Ralston (Group Program Manager) stated, that "The client will be a major release, but, as we’ve said before, compatibility with previous versions of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 is a design goal."

A short overview of cache providers, part 2

The short overview of cache providers continues with two more of them – NCache and Velocity.

NCache

As a surprise – it doesn’t come free! So our (my) expectations should be even higher. But hey – it has a free option as well! So – what we get from NCache?

  • Enterprise Library pluggability – this can be useful, but doesn’t seem to be unachievable using the other providers as well…
  • HttpModule for 1.1, Session handling module for 2.0/3.0/3.5 for putting asp.net session into cache
  • Can handle java and .net clients natively
  • You have the option to build complex hiearchies, clusters, etc

So – this looks like heaven, or not? The trick lies in the limitations for the free version:

  • Only a maximum of 2 servers supported
  • Cache clients should be either local or from the second cache server
  • Only the replicated cache topology can be used
  • No support for session state/output cache (means no module)
  • 32-bit only (which would mean a 2 Gig cap on cache size, but it’s limited as of 500 Mb anyway…)
  • No java clients, no remote .net clients
  • No SQL dependency
  • No event notifications (!)
  • No GUI tool

So most of the limitations are rock solid and stops me from using this, sorry…

Microsoft Velocity

Microsoft Velocity is anotherdistributed cache platform for in-memory caches spread across multiple computers. The Velocity API is in managed code, and as usual – any serializable managed object can be in the cache. So let’s look at the bells and whistles and the downsides:

  • It’s running as a 32bit process – in order to use more than 2Gigs you have to run more of them
  • It has session state provider module for asp.net
  • It supports regions as another level of separation as well as asynch communication, locking and TTL
  • Planned support for failover, replicated cache (currently only local/partitioned/routed available) and eventing

So if it’s at least as good as the others why not using it today? I have to admit – I’d miss many of the planned features… And as it looks like currently, CTP2 is on the way to be delivered at PDC, and RTM is targeted to be in H1CY09…


Of course – this is not a full list. If you know any cache provider you think may worth showing here – don’t hesitate. And I’ll try to come to a conclusion in the part 3 – so be prepared!

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Off to TechReady7…

In the following weeks, I'm going to learn about new technologies, strategies – or shorter to say: get a glimpse into the future. I'm going to get tons of information about things like new wave of products and old products' new waves – and what is the worse, I cannot share anything…

So see you in mid-August, when my journey across technology and architecture continues 🙂

Unmanaged resources and leaking

Everybody knows about, that you have to be very keen about using unmanaged resources (like filestreams, sharepoint objects, sockets, etc), disposing them whenever it’s important, etc. But do we know all situations, that you have to be careful not to leak memory or not to let an unmanaged resource to be collected by garbage collector (which should mean you were unaware about it being unreleased at the appropiate time)? I tried to collect most of the situations where you may leak an unmanaged object the way you even didn’t think about.

Returning a ref value

Wow – returning a value may cause problems? But how? The sad thing – it’s not that hard to create a situation when just returning a reference value can cause (curable) problems. Look at this situation:

We have two objects, both of them having unmanaged references to each other – let’s name them Parent and Child. Let’s state that both of them are backing up unmanaged resources as well. If I return the Child object from a call (let’s say Child GetFirstChildForThisParent(guid), and it looks up the parent according to the guid given), the following is happening:

You get a child object, which you use for what reason you would like to use it – the problem arise at the end of your code snippet, when you want to dispose the object – you have to be very cautious when freeing it up. If it has a managed reference to the parent – you can grab it, and free it! Or not? No, you can’t dispose it – what happens, if there are anything else in the memory from the parent – any other child, any other references that are hold, etc. So – where are we? Again at the reference counting world of COM arrived? Yes, this can be a solution as well, but what if you create a small class holding the parent and the child object together, and giving that as a result – and of course creating a new parent every time needed… That could work as well. So – this could be a solution, but this will create additional needs on the memory footprint and the number of unmanaged resources…

Iterating over a collection

Ok, what happens, if I iterate over a collecting? Collection iterating is done in two parts – first you get an iterator, than you get the values each by each by calling some property. So – in order not to leak the resources this time, try to reuse the collection from the original object in the iterator, and the main point – plan how you are going to manage the values you are giving from the list. A small problem would arise with this approach – you are not able to modify the collection easily while you are iterating over it, it’s not easy anytime, but the unmanaged resources you are holding are going to drive you nuts 🙂

Yielding

Ok, yielding – it’s a very good thing, but do we know exactly what is happening? State machine created, calls are stopped by early returns, etc. It’s one of the most useful creations in .NET, but – if you followed the previous paragraphs carefully, you already should know what is the problem – you don’t have the right control over the creation of unmanaged resources and linkage between them… So, as for the others, you can use this useful tool as well, but you have to be very careful at most of the cases… 🙁

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Open source and … your company?

According to a commenter there is always a question – are we allowed to use non-ms labeled technologies whenever it is appropiate?

Answer is tough – myself had the opportunity to use multiple technologies like NHibernate or NVelocity at multiple projects like a very complex system for a Canadian Insurance Company. And what is ‘worse’ – I was developer of those open source projects at the cost of my employer.The whole things depends not on technology, but it’s inside various brains 🙂

It’s all about things like Not Invented Here, Legacy Software, and Big Brand – these are things that cannot be proven by the right technology, just by the right approach. So, sorry, I cannot give the right answer…

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Open Source Series 2.: NVelocity (part 2)

I forgot an important part of the previous posts – I was talking about many projects using the original Velocity for many purposes – but is the .NET version used? I tried to put together a noncomprehensive list of usages – feel free to comment to add your own! One important thing – currently there are 2 branches on NVelocity – one can be found at http://nvelocity.sf.net, the other is part of Castle – use the latter one, it has more bells and support as well 🙂

This post is part of the open source series