The Legofication Of Business

I love Lego.

To be fair, the number of people who don’t fall into that category is probably fairly small. There is nothing like the joy of taking the slightly differently shaped blocks and creating something bigger and better. And I’m not a big fan of all of the custom kits either.If a piece only has one purpose (like as the nose for an X-wing fighter), then it’s not for me.

I also love Star Trek. Well, not love, but greatly appreciate and enjoy the various forms over the years. And I have referenced Star Trek in various presentations, not to establish my geek cred (of which I have very little), but because of  how software works ‘in the future’.

And yes, Lego and Star Trek are related in this way.

The key to Lego block is the simple and consistent interface. Doesn’t matter what the shape of the block is, the fact that every block has the same interface allows them to be connected. And it is through the various connections that a much bigger whole can be created.

Star Trek takes the Lego idea and applies it to software. Every wonder how Geordi and Data were so quickly able to create new and complex software? Because all of the different components had the same interface. Or at least similar enough interfaces so that the components could communicate with one another. And connected software allows you to create a much bigger whole.

Now let’s move back to the here and now. What’s missing from our current software environment that would prevent Geordi from creating the application that saves the Enterprise? Two things, really. The lack of a standard set of interfaces and the inability of most software functionality to be ‘connected’. And this is the next phase in software development.

If you’re a company that provides services to others, then you need to think about enabling access to your service from the cloud. Want to allow people to easily buy your services or products? Give them an interface on the Web that allows them to do so. Not a Web page, but an API. Have some information that others might find useful? Give them an interface to access it. Create the Lego blocks that I was talking about earlier. Find standard interfaces for the type of data/service you offer and expose them on top of your services. In other works, provide Lego blocks for others.

One of the benefits of doing so is that you let others build out functionality based on your services. If your service or data is compelling enough, others will build your front-end for you. You have already seen this happen with a number of the social sites that are out there. People combine information from Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. to create interesting apps for others to use. The engagement level of people with apps that run on their phones are high and likely to move higher. Finding ways to integrate your service/data with that ecosystem can only be beneficial.

So what’s the downside? Well, you have to implement and/or design the interface. Technical yes, but not beyond the scope of what most companies can do. And you need to provide the infrastructure for surfacing your API. This is where virtualization comes into play. I’m a fan of Azure and the new functionality it offers, but speaking generically, virtualize where it makes the most sense. If you’re a Microsoft shop, I believe you’ll find the biggest bang for your efforts with Azure.

But the technology is not the key here…it’s the concept. Look at the products you offer to your clients. Find ways to expose those products to the Internet. Be creative. The payoff for your efforts have the potential to be significant. But more importantly, you take the first step towards what will be the development and integration paradigm for the next decade…Lego.

Microsoft Changes The World – Part 4

Yesterday was another Microsoft announcement day. Only this time, it was the preview for the next version of Office (you’ll hear it called Office 15 or Office 2013). I was half surprised they didn’t include this in the Worldwide Partner Conference last week. It was certainly suggested that yesterday would be about the next version of Office. But then again they probably didn’t want it to appear to be focused just on partners, but to everyone.


Integration with Metro – This is the version of Office that has the Metro sensibility. I suspect it will be the example used for what Line of Business applications in Metro should be until there are other, better instances out there.

Integration with SkyDrive – One of the default locations to store a document is on SkyDrive. That is, in the cloud. The integration is nice. But one of the interesting features was the ability to pick up right where you left off. In other words, edit a document on your desktop at work and save it to the cloud. On your way home, open up the document on your laptop and it moves to the exact place in the document you were at on the desktop. Finally, the same thing happens when you open the document on your Windows Phone device (although I’m not imagining much editing going on through that form factor).

PDF integration – PDF files can be opened in Word, edited and then saved as either a Word or a PDF document. Enough said to know that’s sweet.

Flash Fill in Excel – This one is tough to explain quickly. It’s basically a tool to help your parse data from a separate cell. Figure it like the following: You have a column of data that is tilde delimited (‘1~15.3~kyle~hockey’ is the first cell, ‘3~17.8~curtis~soccer’ is the second and so on. In a separate column, but on the same row as the first cell, you type ‘kyle’. In the cell immediately below that you start to type ‘curtis’. Excel now makes the prediction that you are trying to extract the third value out of that column and fills in the rest of the values down the column. It’s an edge case, but if you need this functionality (and I have in the past), this is way cool.

Other Features – A rotator control to select font families, sizes and colors. Integration with Bing so that search results can be embedded into Word directly (and the embedded HTML is live). A slightly improved UI that is still a ribbon, but the spacing between icons is greater to allow for easier interactions with a touch interface. A new presenter view for PowerPoint, including built-in zooming.

If you want to try the preview, you can get it from here: One word of warning. The C++ runtime used by Word is not compatible with the one used by Visual Studio 2012. As a result, you might get a warning indicating this when you launch VS2012 after installing the preview. There is a patch to this problem, available here:  You’ll see this problem called out in the KB (

Microsoft Completed Build Deletion – where has our test results gone?

Did you know that the files and data that are part of a completed build can delete?

Did you know that the data deleted cannot be recovered?

Did you know by default Test Results from any automated tests run against the build are deleted by default?

If you have the right permissions you can right-click in Build Explorer on a completed build and select delete. When you do that by default all the items associated with that completed build are deleted.

·         Details: Information about the completed build that is displayed in Build Explorer. This information includes build steps, requestor, and date and time queued.

·         Drop: File and folders output by the build and copied to the drop location.

·         Test Results: Results of any automated tests executed during the build process or results of any test published against this build.

·         Label: The version control marker associated with the specific file versions used by the build process.

·         Symbols: The debugging symbols published to a symbol server during the build.

You can also configure the retention policy and set auto deletion rules . Nothing wrong with that however is the person responsible for the “Build” setup and maintenance deleting could be deleting Test Results?

There is an option that can be set to stop the deletion of your Test Results. 

Make sure your teams understands what happens when deleting completed builds. Set that option to keep your test results, unless you don’t want them!


Testa Smile

TFS 2012 Team Explorer

I did a little video for Tech Days TV demoing some of the new features of the Team Explorer.

You can check it out here.

A new beginning

It was almost 12 years ago that Dave Lloyd and I began ObjectSharp with some shared goals and values. I committed a lot of energy towards those goals and I’m very proud of what ObjectSharp became during that time. I’ve had a chance to work with some fantastic people including our staff, our customers, and our partners Microsoft.

Today I want to let you know that I have some exciting new goals I want to achieve but to do that I’m going to have to say good bye to ObjectSharp. I wouldn’t be able to leave ObjectSharp if it wasn’t in good hands, so this transition has been in the works for more than a year and now I’m able to pursue those goals.

Although I’m saying goodbye to ObjectSharp, I will be staying within the Microsoft Ecosystem  and staying within the Greater Toronto Area, so I will remain a familiar face in these areas.  I hope you will follow me on my personal blog at and twitter @bgervin and will post more news there when the time is right.

Testing for Continuous Delivery with Visual Studio 2012 RC

Microsoft patterns & practices has release Testing for Continuous Delivery with Visual Studio 2012 RC the guide describes how testing has been changing over the years and how Visual Studio 2012 RC helps us achieve continuous delivery. Just to get your interest here is a statement from the preface.

“Testing has always been the less glamorous sister to software development, scarcely noticed outside the software business, and the butt of complaints inside.”

I had the privilege of working on this book with the author’s as a contributor and reviewer.

Visual Studio 2012 RC is available.

VS Ultimate RC

Visual Studio 2012 Application Lifecycle Management Virtual Machine and Hands-on-Labs / Demo Scripts

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Fixing “TF400508: The current process settings are either missing or not valid…” error

We have recently upgraded our TFS 2010 server to TFS 11 RC. The upgrade process was smooth and painless. But (there is always a "but"), when I tried to access new TFS Web Access (which is awesome, by the way), I get "TF400508: The current process settings are either missing or not valid…" error. This error is only happening with old "upgraded" projects and we do not see this error if I create a new project in TFS 11. So, it looks like the problem lies within the older template. To resolve the issue, I had to use updateProject file from Microsoft to update an Agile, Scrum or CMMI team project from Team Foundation Server 2010 to Team Foundation Server 11.

To run the updateProject batch file:

  • Launch Visual Studio 12 command prompt
  • Run updateProject batch file as follows:

    updateProject CollectionURL ProjectName TemplateName

For detailed instruction see

A workaround for Windows Store app download issue on Windows 8

Every time I try to purchase or download something from the Windows Store I get the following error: "Your purchase couldn't be completed. Something happened and your purchase can't be completed." This error does not really tell us why it failed, but that things have failed. Pretty useless. Don't you hate such errors. L

Anyway, I searched online for a solution to this problem, but none of the suggested solutions helped me resolve the issue. Then I remembered when this problem started happening. I have started experiencing this problem after I have associated my Live ID with my Windows 8 installation and started logging to my laptop in using my Live ID, instead of a Windows use account. So, I thought it is worth a shot to reverse that change. After I have switched back to Local Account, the problem disappeared. I am now able to download apps from Windows Store without any issues. To me, this seems like a bug in Windows 8 Release Preview. So, until Microsoft fixes this bug, I am going to stick with Local Accounts. ;)

Oh yes, almost forgot. To switch to Local Account:

  • Go to PC Settings
  • Select Users
  • Click Switch to Local Account button. That's all.

What’s new in TFS?

Recently I have been on Tech Days TV and Align IT with some friends of mine.

All the shows, pertain to the next version of TFS coming out in 2012.

If you want to watch them here is the link.

Mobile Testing plugin to Visual Studio

A new Visual Studio plug in SeeTest for mobile testing. You can use Visual Studio (all versions) to test real physical phones including iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian. This includes Windows 8 phones. Just connect your device using a standard USB cable to your computer and record tests. SeeTest auto generates a script that you can copy & paste into Visual Studio. Then you can edit, run & view results in Visual Studio.

Check out Charles Sterling blog all about Visual Studio & SeeTest plugin. There is a video on Charles blog that you can watch.

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