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October 24, 2005

TechWhale moves away from OpenSource

Filed under: Business,OpenSource,Software — stephane @ 1:44 pm

I have been reading with interest the letter of Alan Ranciato, President of TechWhale Solutions Inc. It looks like TechWhale was lurred into some sort of lala land where they thought that by dumping the code for their products, mass of users worldwide would work for free to enhance their BlueWhaleCRM product.

What we soon learned was that the mass of the OS community “hates� Microsoft based products

I’m sorry Alan, but I don’t exactly agree.

  • There is no such “OS community” when you dump some product code. This was the job of TechWhale to actually builds a community around it and drive people to contribute. It takes time and effort. It’s no magic bullet. You need “marketing” effort, communication and you need to play by the rules.
  • It certainly was a risky decision from a market point of view. Many opensource contributors run on either Windows, Linux or OS/X but mostly opensource projects are made to work for those platforms. Targeting only Windows users to develop for Windows in .NET is extremely risky to me.

I think this letter unfortunatly demonstrates clearly an error of analysis that many companies did and still do as of today, thinking that by dumping the code somewhere it will suddenly have a second life.

I have been only in the OpenSource for something like 5 years through The Apache Software Foundation, and all I can say, is that indeed contribution rate is generally very low and I would be surprised to hear that you can get more than 1 per 10000.

October 20, 2005

Please attach your vmware image to your bug report

Filed under: Software — stephane @ 11:19 pm

No this is not what I’m requesting, but sometimes this what I would like it to be. That would be of a great help for developers with no QA to help track bugs. Just attach the VMWare image and voilĂ , you’ve got the problem easy to reproduce.

But hey, if that’s sounds strange, that’s also because there is one step missing in the development process…it goes straight from development to production..there’s no QA stage. Unfortunately that is happening a lot in the IT industry in France.

Anyway, VMWare announced the availability of VMWare player and what is awesome is that for instance you can already get an image of Oracle 10g installed with RAC on Red Hat. Watch out though, the first DVD is 2GB.

October 17, 2005

Microsoft stepping into Process Management

Filed under: International,Process,Software — stephane @ 3:42 pm

Microsoft seems to step frankly into the Process Management with the advent of Visual Studio Team System. They have created a development process called MSF – Microsoft Solutions Framework, which has 2 derivatives

  • MSF for CMMI Improvement, which should help achieve CMMI Level 3 compliance
  • MSF Agile, whose analogy is obvious with the Agile Manifesto and that can adapt to any process through role distribution (Architect, Business Analyst, Developer, Project Manager, and Tester)

Ultimately, as there is no one-size-fits-all process that is the magic bullet for any organization, not many assumptions have been taken and you can perfectly define your own methodology with your own templates within Team System. As it is recognized in a MSDN article:

Microsoft currently has an established development process called the Microsoft® Solutions Framework (MSF), which is currently in version 3.0. MSF has not been widely adopted across a broad base of developers even at Microsoft, possibly because it is viewed as difficult to learn and use

Mainly, without delving into details (which seems overhelming), VSTF has the following capabilities:

  • Gives you a set of document templates (word, excel and project files).
    It gets you started for all stages of the project from business requirement to project closure reports.
    Project methodology can be based on MSF Agile, MSF for CMMI or eXtreme Programming
  • Integrated Nightly Build into Team Foundation Server
    This looks similar to CruiseControl, AntHill, Beetlejuice, Continuum and all the like
  • Integrated Unit Testing in Visual Studio Team Test
    This looks similar to JUnit framework integrated into IntelliJ IDEA or Eclipse for example where you can generate a test case skeleton and you write your test methods.
  • Work Item Tracking
    This features integrates with Microsoft Project or Microsoft Excel

The thing is that everything is fully integrated within Team Foundation Server. For example you can define check-in policies such as:

  • Work Items – a checkin must be associated to an existing work item/task
  • Testing policy – Unit tests exist and are working. They also be associated to work items, further defect reports and fixes can also be associated to a work item
  • Code analysis – The code meets coding standard
  • And any custom policy

Of course, your Process Development portal, fully integrated within Microsoft Sharepoint allows you to have all the metrics/graphs associated to your projects.

When I see how most shops get out of their mind to deliver a simple product in several months and a couple of developpers, there are obviouslly a lot of lessons to be learned in project management and portal like this are a necessary step.

However, it is not a magic bullet and you should carefully analyze all figures that it gives you back. Plus it is definitely not something you get up and running in 2 days..and ‘ZAAAM’ productivity and quality is increased by a factor 50. Just like any process, it will take you months if not years depending on the organization culture and inertia. After all CMMI feedback already says that a CMMI step takes about 18 months.

18 months seems mostly in par with my own experience of implementing automated unit tests, coverage, metrics and daily builds with everything built from scratch in an existing organization with bad to no practice at all.

Big negative point. You must nearly get the whole Microsoft suite from A to Z to get the best of the process management portal. Looks like though there is a converter for example to have IBM ClearQuest as your bug tracking system… says a lot though about the type of organization they are targeting. What about Bugzilla and Jira ? :)

October 10, 2005

What is a J2EE architect

Filed under: International,OpenSource,Process — stephane @ 9:52 pm

I was asked recently by a person with zero knowledge of the software industry to explain what lies behind the title of a J2EE architect and to explain what is opensource.

Defining what is behind a J2EE architect has been discussed at length not so long ago in a JavaWorld article Hiring the phantom Java architect and the associated TSS thread.

In the software industry, defining the responsabilities behind a title is a challenge in itself and you may get as many definitions as you have people. In an IT company working contract, the responsabilities of a software engineer (I’m assuming that a software engineer is related to all people working directly in the software industry) is often defined as “assignements can be anything, can happen anytime, and can be anywhere“.

Having such a non-clear cut definition of a job title obviouslly does not help our industry much. If management is not aware of the basic requirements of software job in terms of involvement, it obviouslly encourages acting more as a meat seller than a knowledge seller. Been there, done that.

October 9, 2005

Opensource tool closing itself

Filed under: International,OpenSource — stephane @ 10:00 pm

In an interesting move, the Nessus security tool will not be available anymore as opensource. The project founder

expressed disappointment over the lack of community participation in developing the software

and the fact that

A number of companies are using the source code against us, by selling or renting appliances, thus exploiting a loophole in the GPL”

This is bound to happen when crooks are selling revamped opensource products without giving anything back despite the fact that it drains a lot of money.

There are now a lot of opensource IT companies and major IT companies doing opensource. I have rarely seen a lot of contributions. Having been part of a so called opensource IT company, I did my best to actually show executives that it is in their best interest to do so, but that was incredibly difficult and the result did not live up to my expectations.

Once again, there are dozens of way to give something back to an opensource product.

  • Report bugs
  • Submit documentations, patches or improvements
  • Participate in the user or developper mailing list
  • Sponsor improvements
  • Donate money

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