Monthly Archives: April 2006

Architects Who Don’t Write Code Are “Powerpoint Architects”

I work at my day job as a System Architect in a small company who creates commerce applications. I design the plumbing of applications and I write code to test the design. This is not true of all architects, there are some who are behave more like prima donnas, thinking this is not their job. They create charts with some fancy software and present the design to a team and walk away. This does not work. How can a design be so complete as to work this way without proof of concept?

Johanna Rothman is a writer who I enjoy reading her books and in particular her blog about Managing Product Development. She had a post recently about this subject where she makes the statement that Architects must write code. She also calls out to a book from Pragmatic Bookshelf called Practices of an Agile Developer that call these types of Architects “Powerpoint Architects”.

I cannot agree more about this labelling. We went through a complete redesign and are deep in our rewrite of our latest commerce application. I worked with another Architect in the initial design and we spent many weeks on an iterative architecture design, we wrote code to test our theories and reworked the architecture based on the results. The code was not production code but prototype code to prove the design. I think this was the key to our good design, without this we would have gone down the wrong path in several areas for various reasons which relied on the current framework available at the time of design versus the framework to be available at key phases of the implementation.

As an example, we had some design decisions to make when we were using the .NET Framework 1.1 and looked ahead to version 2.0. Knowing 2.0 had some great features that would supplement our design and take it a different direction we had to rework the design committing to version 2.0. Our prototype code was done with a beta version of 2.0 and looking back it was a key design decision that we are better for now. If we had not taken the time to prove some initial points we may be using version 1.1 today and be months behind because of the areas 2.0 saved us time in.

A good architect needs to write code, period. A good design needs to be proven, it is a culmination of experience and proven results.

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Microsoft Atlas Control Toolkit Released

Microsoft has made available a really nice set of extended controls for use with Atlas. The announcement was made by Shawn Burke, who is on the Atlas team. The toolkit is available form the Atlas site, here.

The toolkit is really a set of samples that show controls and extenders for the existing Atlas controls. There is also an SDK that assists developers to create their own controls and extenders. The controls out-of-the-box are pretty nice. My favorite is the Drag Panel which behaves much like the panels on

If you don’t have Atlas which I mentioned the release here, then go get it. From the Atlas toolkit web site you can check out the samples included in the toolkit:

In the "Atlas" Control Toolkit, you'll find the following controls and extenders (click the links to see them in action!):

  • CascadingDropDown: Easily link drop downs, complete with asynchronous population and no postbacks!
  • CollaspiblePanel: This extender allows panels on your page to collapse and expand with no code.
  • ConfirmButton: This extender adds a confirm dialog to any Button, LinkButton, or ImageButton control.
  • DragPanel: Makes any panel into an object that you can drag around the page.
  • HoverMenu: Allows UI to pop up next to a control when the user hovers over it.
  • PopupControl: This extender turns any panel into a popup.
  • ReorderList: This control is a full-featured data-bound control that allows its elements to be reordered on the client via drag and drop.
  • TextBoxWatermark: This extender adds "watermark" prompt text to TextBoxes on the page.
  • ToggleButton: This extender turns an ASP

I am planning on digging into these controls over the next week or so and I will report back on them.

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CNN Reports, Software Engineer is BEST Job in America

OK, well the title says it all.  CNN has a story from showing the results of a survey showing Software Engineers have the best jobs in America.

I don’t know how scientific this survey is but I think the stress level for most high-paying Software Engineering jobs is quite high.  My vote for the best job would be for the #2 College Professor.  Money reports the stress level is the same as the Software Engineer but I don’t see how.  I know quite a few college professors and most seem laid back and not stressed.  On the flip side I know many Software Engineers and they all seem a little too up-tight, myself included.



Microsoft Atlas April CTP Released

In case anyone missed it, Microsoft released the April CTP of Atlas, their Ajax toolkit.  I have been using the last build to work through some test projects and the took kit is fantastic.

I know it has been reported the amount of the data is large for Atlas-enabled pages but the performance is good.  I am sure Microsoft will optimize this as the debug code comes out and things will get smaller.

There are also some great sample applications available on the Atlas web site.   Is anyone using this framework?  If so, what are you building?

Rick Strahl has a great example of using Atlas for a chat web service here.

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Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 now free

I am sure I am not the first person to report this and I won’t be the last but yes…Virtual Server is now free.

It’s not earth shattering news since VMWare is giving away their latest virtual server environment.  The real nice thing here is how well Virtual Server works and what you can do with it.

It runs on Windows 2003 Server and allows Windows to host other operating systems inside itself.  You can host other Windows 2003 Servers, Windows XP, Windows 2000 and even Linux (now supported).  I understand it will also run on Windows XP SP2 for testing purposes as well.

The possibilities are endless really.  If you are an ISP you can now host virtual servers and allows clients to almost have a dedicated server without needing an actual dedicated server.

If you are a developer you can host a bunch of different operating systems that allow you to test your application, deployment or whatever.  I think this is a step in a great direction to allow people more flexible systems without having a ton of servers for all different purposes…just virtualize them.

I have used Microsoft Virtual PC in the past and use it on Windows XP all the time to test various operating systems and such.  I just started using Virtual Server and from what I have seen so far it works better than Virtual PC, handles memory better and better hardware integration to maximize performance.

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Instant Rails 1.1 Released

On the heels of the Rails 1.1 release, Instant Rails 1.1 was released. 

For those of you who don’t know, Instant Rails allows Windows users to have a complete environment to develop and test Ruby and Rails code without having to install and configure each necessary component on your own.  Instant Rails provides:

  • Ruby 1.8.4
  • Rails 1.1
  • Apache
  • MySQL

All are configured and ready to go.  I have been using this environment on my Windows systems for quite a few months now and the support has been great.  The environment encapsulates everything so well that there is no interference with any other applications to be concerned with.

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