Join ObjectSharp for Silverlight on the Silver Screen – July 9 – Scotiabank Theatre Toronto

Silverlight 3 will soon be released.  And to properly celebrate the excitement of its release, ObjectSharp is teaming up with Microsoft to present an action-packed first look at the UX3 platform, live from the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto. 

As one of the first companies to be featured on Microsoft’s Silverlight gallery, our consultants will share with you their deep knowledge of the next generation of tools.  Whether you are a designer, developer, or purely a marketing geek, you will not want to miss this blockbuster event.  You will see feature-rich demonstrations of Silverlight, Expression Blend, SketchFlow, and  Windows 7 touch technology.  You will also see how these tools can be used to dazzle your customers and gain attention for your brand.







For Developers and Designers:

  • See in-depth demonstrations of Silverlight 3, Expression Blend, and Windows 7 touch technology.
  • Learn how to quickly design user interactions with Microsoft SketchFlow
  • Take Designer/Developer work flow to the next level with Visual Studio Team System
  • Learn how to cut off your bosses head off and paste it on other people’s bodies with Expression Studio


For CTOs and Marketing Managers

  • Understand the benefits of creating line-of-business applications with Silverlight and .NET RIA Services
  • Learn how to integrate Rich Media and Advertising with the Microsoft Platform
  • See Touch technology and natural user interfaces bring kiosk applications to life with Windows 7 and WPF

Technologies You Will See:

  • Silverlight 3 featuring WPF & XAML
  • Expression Blend 3 featuring SketchFlow
  • Windows 7 featuring Touch
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint System 2007 (MOSS) for external facing web sites
  • Visual Studio 2010 Team System

Register Online   |   Watch the Movie Trailer

Technology Predictions and Trends for 2009

I’m sure we’re going to look back at 2009 and say “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ and it will no doubt be interesting. Here’s my predictions….

Social Networking Everywhere

Although online social networking companies are already struggling with diminished valuations, in 2009 we’ll see social networks break out of their silos and become essential platform elements that see their way into other online applications such as travel, e-commerce, job-posting boards, online dating services, CRM services, web based email systems, etc. Blogging is also changing, slowing down in fact. Micro-blogging with status update-esque features in FaceBook, Windows Live, and of course the explosion of Twitter will take on even larger roles. It’s as true today as it was back in 1964 when fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan wrote “The Medium Is The Message”.

The Death of Optical Media

Okay, so you’ll still be able to walk into a video store to rent a DVD or buy a spindle of blanks at your grocery store but make no mistake about it – the death march is on, and that includes you too Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray will never see the adoption curve that DVD’s had. They thought they won when HD-DVD died, but if winning means dying last, then sure, you won. We’ll increasingly be renting our movies on-demand through our cable boxes, on our converged PC’s and XBOX 360’s via services like Netflix. Along with this, the rest of us will start to realize we don’t really need to own our libraries of movies. With IPod penetration as high as it is, it may take longer to realize we don’t need to own our music either – frankly we don’t own it anyway even though the pricing models try to convince us we do. I won’t go out and predict the death of DRM, frankly, I think 2009 maybe the year where DRM starts to get more tolerable once we are clearly renting our music and movies. The Zune Pass is making some inroads here but until Apple starts offering a similar subscription pricing, this may take a bit longer.

The Mac Air may have been a bit ahead of the curve with dropping the optical drive, but get used to it. Expect more vendors to do the same as they reduce size or cram in additional batteries or hard drives.

The Rise of the NetBook

If 2009 is the year of doing more with less, then this will surely be the NetBook’s year. Mainstream hardware manufacturers hate these and their small profit margins, but Acer and Intel will be raking it in building market share if not large bottom lines. Who knows, MS may learn to love the NetBook if they can get Acer to start shipping Windows 7 on them this year as well. Be prepared to see these everywhere in 2009, but don’t expect to see Apple make one (ever).

Zune Phone

The big story at the end of 2008 has been the global suicide of the original Zune 30s. I predict that tomorrow they’ll be they shall rise from the dead but it might take until the 2nd for everybody to figure out that they need to entirely drain the battery. The big news is that there won’t be a Zune phone with the MS brand name on it, but the Zune UI will come to Windows Mobile (6.5?) turning legions of touch based smart phones into music players almost as good as an IPhone. The bad news is that without an App Store to vet software quality, crapware will continue to be the source of reliability issues for the Windows Mobile platform. The good news is that without an App Store, Windows Mobile users will have lots of choice in the software for their devices, not to mention lots of choice in devices, carriers and plans. The battle between Good and Evil may morph into the battle between Reliability and Choice.

Touch Everywhere

Get your head out of the gutter, that’s not what I meant. What I did mean is that 12-24 months from now, it will be difficult to purchase a digital frame, LCD monitor or phone without an onscreen touch capability. Windows 7 will light these devices up and we’ll start to not think about the differences between Tablet PC’s and Notebooks as they just converge into a single device. With the advent of Silverlight, WPF and Surface computing, MS has been banging the “user experience” drum for a while now but when touch starts to be the expectation and not the exception, we’ll have to re-engineer our applications to optimize for the touch experience. This may turn out to be bigger than the mouse or even a windowed operation system.

Flush with Flash

In 2008 we’ve been teased with sold state hard drives but with less than stellar performance at outrageous prices, they’ve been on the fringe. In 2009 prices and read/write times will both come down in solid state drives, but with the increased capacity of USB memory sticks 32gb, 64gb +, we likely won’t see SSD drives hitting mainstream this year. Instead I think we’ll see an increase in the behavior of people keeping their entire lives on USB flash memory sticks. Hopefully we’ll see sync & backup software such as Windows Live Sync, Active Sync, Windows Home Server, etc. become more aware of these portable memory devices that may get synced from any device in your mesh. 

Camera flash will have to have a new format as SDHC currently is maxed at 32gb. With the increase in demand for HD video recording on still and video cameras, we’ll need a new format. As such we’re seeing rock bottom prices on 2gb chips now. Maybe somebody will come out with a SD Raid device that lets us plug in a bank of 2GB SD Cards.

Growing up in the Cloud

Cloud computing is going to be a very long term trend. I think we’ll only see baby steps in 2009 towards this goal. In the consumer space we’ll see more storage of digital media in the cloud, online backup services and the move of many applications to the cloud. Perfect for your Touch Zune Phone and Touch NetBook without an optical drive eh? IT shops will take a bit longer to embrace the cloud. Although many IT Data centers are largely virtualized already, applications are not all that virtual today and that doesn’t seem to be changing soon as developers have not whole-heartedly adopted SOA practices, addressed scalability and session management issues nor adopted concepts such as multi-tenancy. As we do more with less in 2009, we won’t see that changing much as a lot of software out there will be in “maintenance mode” during the recession.

Maybe, Just Maybe, this is the year of the Conveniently Connected Smart Client

Adobe Air & Silverlight are mainstreaming web deployed and updated rich client desktop apps. It’s hard to take advantage of touch interfaces and massive portable flash storage within a browser. All of these other trends can influence Smart Client applications, potentially to a tipping point. We’ll hopefully see out of browser, cross-platform Silverlight applications in 2009 to make this an easy reality on the MS Stack.

Incremental, Value-Based and Agile Software Development

Many of my customers began large-scale re-writes of their key software assets in 2008, many of them against my recommendations. For most of my key customers in 2008 and into 2009 I’m an advocate of providing incremental value in short iterative releases, not major re-writes that take 6+ months to develop. Even if your application is written in PowerBuilder 6 or Classic ASP, avoid the temptation to rewrite any code that won’t see production for 4 months or longer. We can work towards componentized software by refactoring legacy assets and providing key integration points so that we can release updated modules towards gradual migration. It is difficult for software teams in this economy to produce big-bang, “boil the ocean”, build cathedral type projects. We simply can’t predict what our project’s funding will be in 4 months from now, or if we’ll be owned by another company, scaled down, out sourced or just plain laid off. That is of course unless you work for the government. Government spending will continue if not increase in 2009, but still, try to spend our taxpayer money wisely by delivering short incremental software releases. It allows you to build trust with your customers, mark a line in the sand and move onward and upward, and let’s you move quickly in times of fluid business requirements and funding issues.

Incremental, Value-Based software development isn’t easy. It takes lots of work, creative thinking, and much interop and integration work than one would prefer. It might easily seem like an approach that costs more in the long term, and in some cases you could be right. But if a company has to throw out work in progress after 6-8 months or never sees the value of it because of other changing business conditions, then what have you saved? Probably not your job anyway.

Blog Resume

Oh where did the summer go? Not spent blogging. My life was turned a bit upside down this summer. My expectant wife Caroline was hospitalized for pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) for 2 weeks, and when she did get released – she was put on bed rest. Caroline has been a stay-at-home Mom for the past 9 years so I had to learn her ways of keeping the wheels moving with two busy daughters during the summer months, not to mention hospital visits to see Mom once or twice a day.

I picked up the Rogers Portable (Wireless) Internet service so Caroline and I could both keep up on email while at the hospital (no cell phones allowed). It wouldn’t penetrate our new windows in the house, likely because of the low-emissivity coating on the glass but it worked fine from the Oakville hospital.

The situation for high-risk pregnancies in Ontario was quite grim this summer. There few hospitals equipped for a high-risk/early delivery (i.e. not Oakville) were quite full and they threatened to move us to as close as Credit Valley in Mississauga, to downtown Toronto, to Montreal, Winnipeg (yuck), or even Detroit or Buffalo. I can’t believe the lack of capacity in our healthcare system – it’s embarrassing.

Anyway, after a couple of weeks at home, pre-eclampsia was turning into eclampsia so they decided to do an early delivery (just under 7 months). We picked the right day (July 14th) as we managed to get a spot at the nearby and wonderful Credit Valley Hospital. Our baby was breech so they had to do an emergency cesarean section delivery. We were blessed with another baby girl weighing 4lbs, 14 ounces, not bad for a 7-month old. As usual, we didn’t have a name picked right away so I nicknamed her Buttercup. The nurses quite liked this and made a special name card for her isolette.

IMG_1901 Caroline’s blood pressure was still pretty high and she had a dedicated nurse bedside for the next 24 hours taking her blood pressure every 5-15 minutes as they loaded her up on various blood pressure medications including magnesium sulphate. After 24 hours she was well enough to be moved to the regular labour & delivery unit. Caroline was in the hospital for another week, which wasn’t too bad since she was able to visit Baby Buttercup as often as she liked.

Caroline had received a steroid shot for lung development when she was first admitted a month ago so that really helped with Buttercup’s lung development. Buttercup still needed oxygen for the first week or so to keep her saturation up as she breathing very rapidly and shallowly. They kept her on IV fluids and then added a nutritional supplement for the first couple of weeks before they started feeding her breast milk with a nasal tube. After almost 4 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Credit Valley we were finally able to bring her home. By this time she was fully breastfeeding and was about 6lbs and gaining weight every day.

I don’t think I’ve spent as much time in a hospital my entire life as I have this past  summer, but we are very thankful that everybody is now home together and healthy. Claire and Fiona adore their new baby sister – now named Maeve Juliet, and as of today' she must be well over 8lbs.

As if this wasn’t enough, I started leading a new project in July with a few of my O# colleagues. It’s a rich client in .NET 3.5, WPF front end connecting to SQL Server through a ADO.NET Data Service (formerly Astoria) sitting on top of the Entity Framework. We’re using elements of our own framework as well as portions of Enterprise Library 4.0 including the Unity IoC Container, Composite Application Library (CAL) and the Validation Application Block. Of course we’re also using VSTS including the database edition and using TypeMock here and within our unit testing.

As you can imagine, a tremendous amount of the application is declarative, not just architecturally, but also programmatically with liberal use of LINQ queries throughout. We’ve started to see some really great productivity now that the architecture is stable so I’m looking forward to resuming regular programming here with some tales from the trenches.

Live Search Maps - now with Bird's Eye View in Toronto


It's amazing what MS will give you, if you give them a Team Canada Hockey Jersey.

MS MVP Summit 2008: Who did you give your Team Canada Jersey To?

The 2008 Microsoft MVP Summit concluded yesterday with a closing keynote from Steve Ballmer, which was great as usual. This was the second year that the Canadian MVP's wore their Team Canada Jersey's. I was a bit surprised that more countries didn't follow our lead on this one - although the Aussies did have touques, they were pretty subtle and they all didn't wear them or they didn't sit together at the keynotes. I saw some Russians with jackets, but again - sitting together is the key here.

One of the things I've always enjoyed watching at the Olympic games was the international bonding between athletes. During the opening ceremonies - countries file into the stadium very proudly in their matching uniforms and by the closing ceremonies - everybody is mingle and has swapped clothing. Maybe that has more to do with something else - but it's very heart warming nonetheless.

Likewise, the MVP Summit is a great place to make new friendships and renew old ones. So I decided on the final day to give my Jersey Steve Ballmer.

Thanks Steve for humouring us Canadians by wearing it. You'd make a totally wicked hockey player! There was a find the secret hockey puck thing going on all week at the Summit and 10 lucky non-Canadian MVPs ended up finding all the pucks and scoring themselves a Jersey. But after this keynote, I saw a lot of people coming up to us Canadians followed by spontaneous Jersey giving. I saw a French guy wearing one (he took this video but I forgot his name - sorry), and then also saw Ken Cox and Rob Windsor giving their jersey's away to somebody from China (I think) and Italy.

Steve Ballmer's call to action in this video is that each Country bring their national pride next Summit which has already been announced as March 1, 2009. Bring it on World! Bring it on!

Live Traffic on Local.Live.Com - for Torontonians


Should you take Lakeshore or the Gardiner home tonight? I just noticed on that the Traffic button works for Toronto. I have no idea how long this has been going on - anarchy I tell you. Live Search Maps with Canadian Data! Bravo. Incidentally, this picture was taken from the 3D view - it's just too much fun. If only I could fly home that fast.

Now Powered by Bullfrog

Well last night at his "If YOU were Prime Minister..." Tour in Hamilton, David Suzuki pushed me over the edge and today the Gervin household switched our residential electricity provider to Bullfrog Power. Bullfrog is the first 100% green electricity retailer in Ontario, which sells a mix of wind and certified low-impact hydro. 

Signing up took less than 10 minutes online and costs 2.7 cents more per kilowatt hour than the traditional mix of electricity generated from Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Nuclear and Hydro. Over the past 4 months we've been trying to reduce electrical consumption around the house, getting rid of the extra bar fridge, using compact fluorescent bulbs, turning lights off, etc. Year over year we've cut back our kWh consumption between 20-25%, so although we're paying more for our electricity per kWh, out total bill will still end up being less than it was a year ago. 

Based on some carbon carbon calculators, this simple move should reduce our carbon emissions by about 2-tons every year! We're very lucky to have this choice here in Ontario. For those that aren't as fortunate, the next best thing one can do is purchase carbon offsets.

It's nice to see these guys gaining momentum and Bullfrog customers are in good company:

My new Prius

Well, I finally got my new car, a Toyota Prius Hybrid last week. It took a bit longer than I had hoped since I ordered it fully geeked out with GPS Navigation, Voice Activation, integrated Bluetooth headset, and rearview camera which my kids, and more importantly their bikes are happy about.

So far, I'm digging it. I'm getting pretty good mileage for cooler Canadian temperatures. Of couse this vehicle gets good mileage on its own, but when I can, I'm trying to drive pulse and glide style to maximize the mileage. You can keep track of my actual mileage on the right of my blog which I'll report tank by tank. My first tank averaged 4.9L/100km or 48MPG. The tank range seems to be in the 900-1000km range (45L). Aside from the reduction in burning fossil fuels, the greenhouse gas emmissions are quite low so I'm happy to be doing my part there.

The Prius & Hybrid Communities are extremely active online which is nice to learn tips and tricks. Apparently the European and Japanese models are now shipping with parking assistance. Fortunately I'm not challenged in that regard and can probably parallel park faster than this computer.

Check out the video:

Video: Prius_IPA_innen

Will code for food?


Is it just me or over this past fall did we hit a new low for the software development discipline in Toronto? Most of the downtown core was plastered with these home made signs reminiscent of purveyors of piano lessons or dog walking.


What's next, coders joining the legions of squeegee kids and hot dog vendors on the streets?

Building Cathedrals, Bazaar's, and Mystery Houses

Almost since software development has been a profession has the practice of software development been compared to the construction industry.

In this sphere of analogy, I often use the contrast in the process of architect cathedrals against the evolution of a bazaar during my lectures on software engineering. I often use this analogy in comparing waterfall-style, can't-have-too-much-uml monolithic architecture with a more organically evolving service oriented architecture.

I've heard others use the cathedral and the bazaar analogy for a few other software engineering comparisons, but I believe the first use can be attributed to Eric S. Raymond's book "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" where he observes how Linux was built with an open source model.

One must be careful not to use Bazaar-style engineering as an excuse for not maintaining a strong engineering discipline and a thoughtful planning process. Otherwise you risk having your Bazaar end up like the Winchester Mystery House, another common software-construction analogy, one you don't want to have your software compared to.