Mike’s Dump

April 25, 2005

A couple points from Leadership for Dummies: The Axioms of Leadership

Filed under: Work — mikesdump @ 1:28 pm

I started reading Leadership for Dummies during my Christmas break a few months back. At the time I was determined to get through the book and work on improving myself and hopefully be better able to shape my role/future at work. After I got back into the daily grind I found myself in “reactive mode” just trying to survive day-to-day. Well I’m determined again, which hopefully means the walls
won’t start falling down!

Leadership is about vision and management is about execution.

The above point from the chapter that I am currently reading seems to be a reoccurring theme in a number of articles that I’ve read on
I believe that I see both of these roles where I work. Our general manager is great at motivating people and sharing a verbal vision ofwhere we are heading. The operations manager on the other hand I would say is very much focused on the execution of that vision with his own unique form of motivation. I belive both roles are crucial to any organization because without the execution you sit around talking “you know what would be really cool”. Without the vision you enventually will be overtaken by the competition and left wondering what was wrong with the processes that were put in place.

One of a leader’s most important jobs is to prevent management from overrunning an enterprise, and keep management’s responsibilities properly aligned with that of the leader’s vision. Left to their own devices, managers will always micromanage, worrying about small details and missing the big picture. Because much of management is rule-based, managers left to their own devices will bury an enterprise in endless red tape and rules. As a leader, you have to ask yourself constantly what the systems and structures that make up your enterprise are doing to help the enterprise achieve its vision and which things are unnecessary to the smooth operation of your group.

The above paragraph has always concerned me. Maybe it is me just focusing in the the word “micromanage”. I’m very detailed orientied and
I like everything to be first time right. I don’t want to become the “nag” but sometimes I see things not being completed and I feel I just have to say something. Sure sometimes people have forgotten a task, everyone does from time to time then there are the other times I follow up and find out there was a legetiment reason for not moving forward on something. I guess I’m still trying to figure out the right balance.

With my current role I believe I have the opportunity to explore both roles. Our product manager creates the vision for our products that will be developed and our software manager develops the people and processes make it possible to turn the vision into a reality. When considering the first statement from the book sometimes I’m a leader in that I create or assist in creating the product idea. I’m probably heavier on the management side because my main task I would say would be to see that the vision is turned into reality (aka execution)

April 20, 2005

My Dream Job

Filed under: Work — mikesdump @ 1:17 pm

My dream job would have the working hours of 10 am to 2 pm Monday to Friday. In that time I would walk around talking to people seeing how things are going (work or otherwise). When I’m finished doing my rounds, if there is time, maybe I would do some RnD into some new
technology that may help with current projects, can be used with future projects or are just plain cool. The value that I would hope to add to
that organization is to try to ensure that people have what they need to be happy and successful. I would also try to create the culture
where people wanted to achieve excellence and relied on each other to do that. Did I mention that I would have to be paid really well so that
I can provide everything my family wants?

I am guessing that this type of position doesn’t exist. If this dream is to become reality I’m going to have to create it myself. I’ve always
envisioned having my own company someday. Of course the company would be IT focused but I really don’t have the product idea. I do know I
don’t want anything too big (10 – 30 staff sounds right). Providing an online service or shrink-wrapped software would probably be the best bet for this. IT consulting would be too much of a headache.

How do I get from where I am today to where I want to be? In reality I guess the only thing stopping me is myself (and the product idea). I
could argue that I need more experience in this or in that but I get the feeling it is kind of like when Sandy and I decided to have kids; there is never going to be a perfect time. We knew it is something we both wanted to do in our lives and we took the chance. The kids haven’t tried to run away or have been taken away so we probably aren’t doing that badly.

Time to start thinking about a product!

Crawlspace cleanup

Filed under: Home — mikesdump @ 11:27 am

Cleaning a part of the house that is normally used for “storage” is probably never going to be fun. Sure you’ll see things that you haven’t
seen for years and get to take that trip down memory lane. But, when you are a pack rat like me and keep adding crap to your crawlspace like
I have over the past six years the task becomes a little more difficult than it should be. This past Sunday was time to purge.

Some of the items we got rid of:

  • Stereo Amplifier (about 28 years old – in storage for at least 6 years.)
  • Metal chair that usually cut you when you picked it up or snagged your shirt
  • Waterbed mattress and heater (haven’t used in about 8 years)
  • Vacuum that we replaced last year
  • Broken wedding cake (we have been married almost 10 years)
  • One of my book reports from grade 6
  • Recycled about 40 cardboard boxes from things that we have bought that *just in case* we have to return

My favorite item of the afternoon… Professional record cleaner. Not just record cleaner but professional record cleaner 🙂
Record CleanerGarbage

The next day someone had already taken the vacuum and stereo… as long as it isn’t in my crawlspace.

April 19, 2005

First Public Post

Filed under: Home — mikesdump @ 2:01 pm

Well I’ve been blogging for a couple weeks now but this is my first post to the outside world.

Next I just need to get a domain name.

April 17, 2005

Automated web UI testing

Filed under: Links — mikesdump @ 10:06 am

Automated web UI testing… check this out more later, sounds pretty cool.

April 16, 2005

Uninstalling VS.NET 2005 Pre Beta 2

Filed under: Links — mikesdump @ 10:06 am

These should help when upgrading to beta 2.

Uninstalling previous Visual Studio 2005 betas to prepare to install beta 2
How to manually cleanup a failed .NET Framework 2.0 install

April 15, 2005

Is there any documentation for that?

Filed under: Work — mikesdump @ 10:05 am

A long time ago I had a sign on my wall that said, “Developers don’t document. If it was hard to write it should be hard to
understand”. I had it there because I thought it was funny but at least part of me agreed with that statement. Not that the code should be hard to understand but if the code is written clear enough (descriptive variables and method names) then why should a programmer document the application. That mentality didn’t last that long once I started working in the real world. Everything might be crystal clear at the time of writing an application of but few months go by and you start to forget the details. I started to realize that some documentation outside of the code is very important to be able communicate to people that don’t need to be intimate with the code at the time.

I still believe that any decent developer is going to be able to look at well written code and be able to debug a problem but without an overview of the design. Without the overview though, it is possible to cause more problems by making a change in a system you don’t  understand unless you are extremely cautious. Ideally the system has unit tests that will protect the developer from making those types of changes but I would  guess in most cases that would be the exception instead of the rule.

The one piece of documentation that I believe is an absolute must and that must be kept up to date is the requirements document. More  specifically, what is the purpose of the functionality? What business problem is it trying to solve. Having this information gives a developer the ability to understand what the code should be doing and not just what it is doing. Of course, the developer that is writing the code should have requirements but I’m am talking about the developer that is required to fix something that nobody has touched in a few years and nobody is left that understands how it works or what it was supposed to do. All the code that makes up the application should answer the purpose
question but then you are trying to see the forest from the trees. So hold on to the requirements some developer is going to need them. I know I did today.

April 12, 2005

Not Connected To Oracle – ORA-03114

Filed under: Code — mikesdump @ 10:04 am

You have to love Mondays! A Monday offers an endless array of possibilities. Maybe someone has given their notice, gotten into a bar
fight over the weekend, or maybe you have two people show up at your desk like I did yesterday.

Usually when person shows up at my desk it can go either way (good news or bad news). When there are two people it is because they need a new feature now and they want to try and ram it into the schedule or something is broken. My Monday started off with something broken.
Something really important was broken and I had modified it five days before.

I had made some modifications to one of our applications that basically takes data and shoves it into Oracle as fast as it can. The last time I
checked the application processes about 750000 records a day. One of the changes that I made was to switch from OLEDB to the Microsoft .NET Oracle provider. I had tested the MS provider when I first wrote the application for .NET 1.0 and found that it was flaky so I stuck with
OLEDB. Nearly two years later with 1.1 SP1 out I thought it would be safe to move to the .NET provider.

I had put the application in testing for two weeks on our staging server and everything appeared to be fine. I deployed last Wednesday. Friday after I went home we had some sort of network issue that cause the Oracle connections to be dropped (the application maintains several). The application is designed to automatically recreate a connection when needed (encounters an unexpected error) and continue to insert data. If for whatever reason the application can’t create a database connection technical support is notified so someone can investigate the problem.

The people that came to my desk said that data was going into the database inconsistently. I checked the logs and it appeared that all weekend the inserts were failing because of a “not connected to Oracle (ora-03114)” error. The very next message in my log said, “database connection create”. Followed by another failure. This pattern continued all weekend. Since the connection was created successfully notification wasn’t sent out. I had read up a few months ago on connection pooling with ADO and found that it basically does it for you as long as you maintain at least one connection to the database. The only thing that made sense to me was that I was getting a bad connection from the pool. But that is  impossible, right? 🙂

After a quick search on Google I found this post (http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;830173). As it tuned out we didn’t have SP1 installed and even if we did it didn’t fix the entire problem. It was kind of nice that my guess on the problem was correct and to resolve the issue was fairly painless.

The next time two people come to my desk on a Monday morning I think I’ll start licking my keyboard and say that I’m busy. That should scare
them away and I’ll probably need a sick day on Tuesday 🙂

April 11, 2005

New version of AJAX Wrapper for .NET

Filed under: Links — mikesdump @ 10:03 am

XmlHttp is something we do a fair amount of at work but not something I’ve had a chance to play with.

I found this posting that is probably worth further investigation on simplfying this process.


April 9, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Filed under: Home — mikesdump @ 9:48 am

Sandy and I watched Hotel Rwanda last night and although I thought it was a really good movie it was also very disturbing.

Ten years ago some of the
worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of
Rwanda–and in an era of high-speed communication and round the clock
news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In
only three months, one million people were brutally murdered. In the
face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family,
an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over
a thousand helpless refugees, by granting them shelter in the hotel he

I found it disturbing for two reasons. The first reason is how can
people hate so much that they would kill so many men, women and
children? Looking at my daughter it makes me sick to my stomach to
think that someone�could kill a child (or
anyone)�because�their race.�

The second reason that I found the movie disturbing was that rest of
the world did so little. If Rwanda was a country that exported millions
of barrels of oil you know that the reaction would be different. It
seems unless there is some sort of payoff for other countries a lot
less is done. Just look at Iraq. I disagree with the U.S.A invading so
I was happy with the Canadian governments decision to stay out of the
war but they had no problem getting in there when it was time to
rebuild (which was being funded by the sale of Iraqi oil).

I’d like to think since then the world has become a better place.
But, when the tsunami struck December 26, 2004 the Canadian government
offered only 4 million dollars. The donation was increased only after
the U.N. blasted rich countries for not giving enough. The Canadian
government should be a little more generous not just when the world is
watching or there is an election coming up but because they can.

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