Martín Salías - Software Architect









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Thursday, November 22, 2007
Reading experience evolving

If there is a company than can finally establish the ebook as a regular reading experience (not talking about replacing paper books here), I guess it is Amazon.

And they are doing it the big way, or at least starting. See the Kindle device.

The thing is not very sexy, and while it has some nice features, the main point for me is who is trying to seel that to us.

1 - We already are purchasing books from Amazon. We already have an account and we all can do 1-click shopping from this gadget.

2 - They already have the digital content, the publisher contacts, and huge amounts of book metadata like comments, tagging, pictures and tons of etc.

3 - They not just created a device. They created a cloud service you don´t need to pay for. They´ll pay the wireless infrastructure they use out of the book selling business.

4 - They already proved that they can turn the book-selling business upside down.

See you later. I have some books to read now...

Posted at 09:53 pm by msalias
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Finally, a Spanish blog too

Due to public pressure, I finally started a blog in Spanish.

If you don't find anything better to do with your time, waste it at:
http://blog.salias.com.ar/

This blog would not be a translation of this one. I'll be posting different stuff with an arbitrary criteria, as usual... Tongue

Posted at 07:50 pm by msalias
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Agilist attack to a Microsoft subdomain

I didn't know about this Agile Center within the Architecture Center, but it is a great discovery (thanks to Roy for the tip).

Interestingly enough, most of the time Microsoft was ignoring or just pushing Agile methodologies and practices in the real of development issues. This is the first time I see them classifying Agile as an architectural concern, the same I always did.

Maybe I'm unconciously biased by my current (almost full-time) job at Microsoft, but i smell changes...

The Open Source site (notice the home animation is still using Flash) Smile
Silverlight and all its ecosystem been free and truly multi-platform
The very recent release of part of the .NET Source code

... and now this site (that probably has been there since a lot of time and I didn't notice).





Posted at 11:13 pm by msalias
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Monday, September 24, 2007
MSDN Briefing Code Samples

(This post is in Spanish first, then in English)

Como prometimos durante el evento, publico aquí el link a los ejemplos del MSDN Briefing. En la solución encontrará dos proyectos: Language, que contiene varios ejemplos de las novedades de C# 3.0, y LINQ, que contiene los ejemplos de Linq to Objects, to SQL, to XML y to Datasets.

http://www.salias.com.ar/download/LinqSamples.zip

English version:
As promised during the MSDN Briefing at Buenos Aires, here is the link to the presentation samples (the code and comments are in English). The solution has two projects: Language, which contains examples on C# 3.0 new features, and Linq, which contains specific Linq examples.



Posted at 12:34 pm by msalias
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Technet and MSDN Briefing in Buenos Aires

This traditional anual event is coming. As usual in the last years, the morning is for heavy metal IT guys, and the afternoon for software punks. :)

I'll be the last one in the afternoon, trying to cope with the previous great speakers:
(titles are not official, but what we talked about the sessions)
  • Keynote: Ezequiel (my boss) Glinsky and Alejandro Ponicke
  • Really Smart Clients: Matias Woloski
  • Connected OBA aplications: Diego Gonzalez
    coffe break
  • ASP.NET Ajax: Angel "Java" López
  • Silverlight and a bit of DLR: Rodo Finochietti
  • Visual Studio 2008 and LINQ: me (you could go home, but there is a raffle at the end)
September 20 - Paseo La Plaza, Av. Corrientes 1660, Buenos Aires.

More information (in Spanish) at the event web site.


Posted at 02:27 pm by msalias
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DotNetNuke presentation available again

Around June I did a presentation for the third online event on MSDN. Once the event ws over, they took the content offline, and many people asked me about it since then.

Well, it is back online. The presentation is in Spanish, and is available at:
http://www.microsoft.com/conosur/tercereventoonline/presentaciones/salias/salias_files/Default.htm

Posted at 09:14 am by msalias
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Seamless integration?

My August editorial for Level Extreme .NET Magazine

Integrating applications -at least at the enterprise level- is today generating the same amount of work, or even more than building new ones. In fact, it can be argued that as far as corporations keep exposing their business processes as cohesive and autonomous services, integrating them in new configurations is a way of producing new applications.

However, Service Oriented Architecture adoption is still timid and it is primarily been adopted in new development, whereas just a small portion of old corporate solutions are wrapped with a service layer than can be exposed by using standards. In many scenarios, making applications interoperate takes more work and means rewriting parts of the applications. Let's take a quick look at the several approaches that are available to integrate them.

While most of the time we try to integrate at the back-end, at the business-logic or database levels, sometimes this is too difficult to do, mostly with old-style applications that doesn't have properly isolated components or tiers. This may sound like heretic after so many years of talking about n-tier development and even SOA, but consider how many core solutions running on mainframes are working since decades, before the idea of separating the logic from the UI came along.

For this cases, there is a series of well-established patterns by now for front-end level integration. Indeed, several toolkits or frameworks are available to make easier to automate UI to be able to use it programmatically. In this cases, a framework allows to do screen-scrapping and input injection for old TTY consoles, adding a layer that allows to automate menu selection, data entry, and then screen reading, even contemplating error or warning messages, so you can expose a service for some operations that are actually performed by using the old terminal interface running on a non-visible server emulator.

Sounds sloppy? Well, it is, but you know the distance between what's ideal and what's possible can be really large. Sometimes you don't have access to the code of these legacy systems, or they are running on platforms where the technology to isolate and expose services from the core -not from the UI- is not readily available.

While you have to be careful about this idea, properly dimensioning the usage load to avoid hogging the legacy systems, the benefit of this approach is that you don't need to touch it at all. Actually, the system is never aware of been used from a non-human consumer.

Indeed, this approach is also extended to improve efficiency in multi-application scenarios like -typically- call centers. There the typical user interacts with customers and has the need to access many different corporate applications depending on the task. They could need to access the CRM, a sales order entry system, a claiming or trouble-ticket application, account balances, statistical or historical information, or related systems owned by subsidiaries or even merged companies not yet unified.

In such scenarios we are seeing an increased adoption of composite desktops, where the user can host several different applications (from terminal consoles to windows to web interfaces) into a unified (generally tabbed) container. The advantage of using this kind of container is that it can react to specific UI events, like messages, alerts, refreshes and so on, and make them converge into a unified experience.

Moreover, applying different interaction techniques for different applications, the container can replicate certain actions, saving manual synchronization effort to the user. One implementation fo this concept is found in the Customer Care Framework from Microsoft. Based on the foundation of the Composite UI Application Block (CAB), it provides a hosting environment for different types of applications and allows scripting to orchestrate the user interfaces by means of the appropriate mechanism in each platform. Thus, when the user enters a customer code in the application having focus (let's assume it is a windows CRM), the container can forward this code (even translating it if the underlying systems have different codes) and search the same customer in a second application (using the HTML DOM for a web app, for example) and do the same for a third one (using the keyboard buffer for a console app, for example).

These kind of tools provides all the abstraction to read or write from several different UI sources (screen scrapping, DOM, windows handles and controls, even Java applets), and then they build on top of that, providing higher level services like single sign-on, where the operating system credentials are converted into the proprietary user/password combinations needed and send trough the different clients in a secure way, plus messaging, state saving and forwarding, and so forth. It also allows to easily integrate the contained applications with devices like a PBX or other caller-id mechanism, and more.

Of course, this is a mid-term solution, and it should never been taken as a replacement for real systems integration, which is better done on the back-end. But when you are automatic the user experience rather than clearly-defined business processes, this is an option to take in consideration.

Integration is such a broad topic that I hope to go back to it and talk about other part of the problem soon. By now, I just wanted to comment on an often overlooked alternative, which can be faster and cost effective, although it is usually a short-term solution while you work on the longer plan.


Posted at 01:55 pm by msalias
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Sunday, July 08, 2007
Of Mice and Men

My July editorial for Level Extreme .NET Magazine.

We seem to be in the verge of an important change on computer interfaces. The mighty keyboard dominated the human-to-computer interaction from the last 50+ years. Indeed, since its beginning, in the form of a teletype first, then in a more direct way. Output was more complicated, and moved ahead a bit faster with the jump from cards to printers and finally to the still dominating (but slowly fading) Cathodic Ray Tube.

Anyway, computer history is not linear, but logarithmic, and while the mouse started shaking its tail just a mere twenty-something years ago, it became so ubiquitous as his cousin keyboard, and certainly more fashionable.

But in the last years we are seeing a lot of wanna-be interfaces trying to win over this dynamic duo. Technology declared obsolete the CRT and it is being replaced by LCDs, which are maybe in the process of being replaced by OLEDs, but the important thing is that this sparked a myriad of new screen formats, from 19" notebooks to 2" portable video players. In one corner, multi-monitor setups are gaining adoption, while many of us have several tiny screens where we keep up with our schedules, calls and videos.

Pointing at screens with a stylus first and then with a finger is so common, than many are pushing for the next step which is allowing you to use as many fingers as you want, as in the talked-about-ad-nauseam iPhone to the still niche Microsoft Surface. But really, if you try any of this devices (I played with a prototype) you see there is a lot of great uses it can enable.

Still, I can't see touch screens of any kind wining over the mouse any time soon. I can't imagine having to touch my notebook screen all the time. The small arrow has the nice property of not hiding anything, and your hand can move the mouse over the table, so you don't get tired too soon. But someone smarter can figure out a better way than the mouse, maybe...

The keyboard seems a more difficult rival to me. Even if voice recognition improves a LOT, and even if you are a lousy typist as I am, I guess the keyboard is more practical. For people who mostly write prose document voice can be a great complement, but I can't imagine how to edit text easily with voice commands. And definitively, I can't think of programming with voice... can you? Just try to read a piece of code aloud...

In any case, these innovations and additional input and output devices will be increasingly common, if they still can't beat old Querty and Mickey. And we as developer have to start thinking on them more seriously. I guess the days of the pop-down menus are over. Even desktop application interfaces are sliding off them. Look at Office and their ribbons. Even if you don't like them too much, I think they are more effective than the previous polluted menus.

Well, maybe what we have to think more and more about is separating the interface from the logic, but this time for real. While we got accustomed to tiered applications, we still have a tendency to think in menus and data entry screens as the UI when we think in our domain model. It noticed that some time ago when I had to provide an IVR interface (phone-based, with a mix of voice and button commands) for a system. My team have to make some changes to the business objects to make them more usable from something different than a windows or a web page.

Windows Presentation Foundation, and now Silverlight, as Flash is doing from some years ago, makes the need for this separation more clear, and we can see separated tools, with some capabilities in the middle, for both interaction designers and programmers. And I avoid saying "graphic designers" on purpose, because there the web was full of graphic designers producing nightmarish interfaces because they were not prepared. Interaction design is much more than that. I guess this could be the next hot area for the upcoming generations, together with our now old profession.


Posted at 01:58 pm by msalias
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Next Step: Web IDEs

I wrote about this some time ago on one of my Level Extreme .NET Magazine editorials. It seems I'm not the only one.

Peter Fisk of Vista Smalltalk fame is thinking among the same lines, although for less sophisticated developer types.

My take is that this should happen short-term, but inevitably more complete IDEs will start appearing, and development tools will quickly move server-side.



Posted at 03:12 pm by msalias
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Meta-Art

I love when software -what I like to do for a living- meets art -something I liked all my life.

Thanks to Bill Gibson (one of my favorites writers, too) for the link:

Women in Art
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUDIoN-_Hxs

Sit, relax, and enjoy...

Posted at 10:14 pm by msalias
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