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BizTalk 2006 First Look Clinic

Microsoft is putting on clinic's to support the release of BizTalk through the county. As part of the VTS program, I will be delivering the clinic in Columbus, Ohio on March 7th, and in Nashville, TN on March 14th.

You can sign up for this free event at www.biztalkclinic.com.

The morning sessions will focus on deployment and management. The afternoon sessions will focus on development and integration. The content is mostly level 200, so prior experience is defintely not needed. Just a general grasp of development and/or server administration. Great way to see the product, and get a feeling how it can help you in your organization.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Screaming about CSS!

This is in response to my buddy's post about his struggles with CSS. You should read Dave's post first.

Some might call me a zealot. And yes, I am screaming.

The benefit to css layouts is that you can seperate your content and document structure and behavior. Not doing that is like putting all of your business and data code in your asp.net code behind; because you can do that quicker than defining some interfaces, seperate assemblies, and architecting your code. Don't be so lazy. :)

The hardest part is getting over the thought pattern that tables put you in, and start thinking in a rules way. If you try to implement a table layout with CSS directly, you will struggle. Embrace the CSS way, and it will become so much faster to develop, easier to maintain, and trivial to debug.

To me it is like the curve that most people struggle with when they first try TDD. It takes some hard work and coaching to stop doing things that bad way. Some think it's a waste (before they transcend) thinking it can't be better if they are writing 30% more code than before. But it is.

"Do more of what works, and less of what doesn't."

But hey, use all the tables you want. Thats more business for me to come in and fix it later. ;)

It appears I have more work to do in reminding people that tables tags are for just that, tables! Not for layout. Single, clear pixel GIFs should also be banned. They are in my shop.

WSS Adapter for BizTalk

I have been working on some demos that use the WSS adapter. The demo was to monitor a document library for any new documents, and based on some content, change their status to either approved or denied, and then resubmit them into the same library.

I was able to add a custom field to the library in Sharepoint, and then leverage that in the send port subscriptions. Be careful though. Not all fields that show up in the filter fields are actually promoted from the WSS adapter. Some are in there and aren't actually promoted.

The adapter worked very well, and I plan on exploring it even more.


FYI: New Atlas Bits

The Atlas team has pushed a refresh of the December Atlas bits. The version is called the M1 refresh. Never heard the M1 moniker before. Go get them at atlas.asp.net.

There is mostly bug fixes, and some minor enhancements to the update panel and script manager. Now I have to go upgrade all of my demos and slide decks.

The drag and drop behavior still leaves something to leave desired, but I am sure it will rock before the final bits are released. Some people on my team at the shop are overhauling our 'open positions check out' page to make it 100% callback based. So far it looks neat. The scriptaculous stuff clashes with the Atlas script manager though, so it isn't using Atlas yet. We will have to upgrade it this summer.

Anyway, fresh bits, get them while they are hot!


Time Flies

What a fast start to the year. It's Feburary already!

Started off the year with a presentation at the Cinci/Dayton Code Camp. That went pretty well. Jim and James did a great job putting it together. I did a session on BizTalk 101. Very entry level stuff. I just thought a session like that was needed since most of the questions I got at the launch event were of the 'What is BizTalk?' variety. It wasn't the most fascinating topic, but I think it helped alot of people figure it out.

It was also the first presentation I have ever done with the Takahashi(sp?) method. I read about that on Guy's blog. Few words, big font, little actual content on the slide. Although this matches how I like to speak, I wasn't sure it would work for a training session. I think it went well though. I did add some visuals, like a graph of how basic message flow works in BTS.

The code camp was on a Saturday. The following Wednesday I presented HOAP at the Dayton .NET users group. HOAP is the acronym for the talk's title "Hands On Agile Practices." So many speakers cover the values of agile, or the pillars, or the theory. But they never cover the HOW!

This talk walks through the real deliverables and tasks that are used in planning and executing. Such as the planning game, estimating game, the big wall, BVC's, and so on. I use real examples, and bring actual feature cards, and worksheets, to go through mock sessions. The group really enjoyed the session, and there were a ton of great questions afterwards. Two collegues came with me to help out, and they really helped make it seems real and doable.

My message was 'don't just take all of this and start tomorrow'. Take one piece, and use it. Even if there is some process Nazi at your company with a full close full of shelfware you have to follow, you can still use some of this stuff within your own tasks and cube. It will spread like a virus to other people in your org. I am tempted to write a series of posts that follow the topic. We shall see.

After Dayton, I attended the monthly meeting for Central Ohio .NET Dev Group. Drew did a good presentation on Windows Workflow Foundation. I got to butt in with the BizTalk perspective from time to time, so that was fun. There was a surprising amount of negative perspective from some people in the crowd. Almost like they saw WWF as a threat. Granted Drew presented a very high level, level 100 type material, but some people just didn't get it. Every app has some workflow aspect in it. Wether it is state of a business process, or actual flow, it's in there. Guarenteed.

The following Wednesday I had a demo with a Microsoft customer in Dayton. I had days to throw together some basic demos for the session. The problem was, the VPC image I use for BTS demos was acting very slow. It took me hours to do a demo that should of taken only 30 minutes. Then a collegue told me about VMWare's free player. It won't let you create images, but it will let you execute (or play) VPC or VMWare images. This was awesome. And it is totally free. It worked like a charm, and the virtual system ran very fast and smoothly. Apparently they now have a free server product as well. VPC is very nice, but it has some catching up to do.

Anyway, I got the demos done, and they went smoothly. The customer wants to do a Proof of Concept now. That should go nicely, and I will get to use the new HIPPA accelerator. We have more and more projects with BTS, so if you know anyone in the Columbus region that is looking to be a consultant, please let me know.

Then I had to start putting together a day of .NET/clinic/code camp for state agencies. We had some clients of ours that are agencies approach us to put one together, so I am gathering speakers, and agenda's to see what we can do.