Windows Live Mesh – Everyday tasks made clearer

I was recently speaking at an event in Redmond, WA that caters to some high-powered geeks. (Ok, Microsoft Certified Trainers, but geeks nonetheless) Somehow during a discussion the topic of Windows Live Mesh came up. If you haven’t used Live Mesh, you really need to check it out. This is one of those “Game Changing” technologies (rather it *will* be game changer when it becomes more mainstream) that people who regularly use more than one computer will absolutely have to have.

Problems that lead to needing Live Mesh

I still rely on some private NNTP newsgroups for some of the communities I participate in. Yes, I realize that NNTP is an old technology and I should be using more modern technologies, but some things just happen to work very well for their intended purpose. The problem with NNTP-based newsgroups is that they are very client focused. There’s no current way to save your “state” on the server. (i.e., if you read a message from one client, if you move to a different client the message appears to be unread) This causes issues when you move between multiple machines and want to stay up to date with your community. (Myself, I regularly move between my desktop at work, my tablet PC, my desktop at home and the occasional meeting that requires a different laptop)

I’ve tried numerous NNTP clients and for basic newsgroup message reading, my favorite is Windows Live Mail. It’s simple to use, installs easily, and is integrated with Messenger and other tools from MS that I use. (I also use it to keep track of my personal email via an IMAP connection. The issue here is that Live Mail uses a local database for it’s message and status store that can get rather large. (My current WLM database is 1.1GB) It’s a pain to remember to copy the live mail folder to a USB drive and move it between computers, but that’s one method that I’ve tried to keep machines in sync. (Because of the trickery involved in setting this up, I’ll write a separate blog post about that process)

Another “Sync” problem that I have is keeping up with various presentations I’ve built. I generally put a “Presentations” folder in the root of my C: drive on all of my machines. I try and remember to keep my machines in sync, but never can seem to do it.

I also have a problem remembering which computer I edited a particular document on. This task is a bit easier because I tend to store documents on a network drive, but that doesn’t always help when I’m on the road.

Windows Live Mesh to the Rescue!

With Windows Live Mesh, you are allowed 5GB of online storage for FREE. It will currently sync with PCs and MACs, and will soon have the capability to treat your mobile phone as a true device. (Currently you can sync your pictures from a windows mobile phone, which is COOL)

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Getting Started with Live Mesh

Getting started with Mesh is pretty easy. Just navigate to this URL: https://www.mesh.com/Welcome/howto/setup.aspx and follow the instructions there. Once you get things setup, you can start applying Live Mesh to those pesky sync problems.

Compliance Checker for PCI DSS 1.2 Announced Today

My Company (Configuresoft, Inc.) announced the impending availability of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) compliance checker. The tool will be downloadable 1 week from today via our website.

From the website:

Compliance Checker for PCI DSS v1.2 is a free, downloadable tool that provides a real time compliance check for multiple Microsoft Windows servers and desktops against PCI DSS v1.2 requirements. The tool collects data from these servers and desktops and produces a detailed summary of which requirements are met and which ones are not. This summary of PCI DSS v1.2 compliance can be used to drive a remediation / mitigation strategy. Compliance Checker for PCI DSS v1.2 also includes a self assessment module based on the PCI Security Standards Council's Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). A compliance summary along with the SAQ results can be used during an audit to demonstrate PCI DSS v1.2 compliance.

 

Check it out here: http://www.configuresoft.com/pcidss-compliance-checker.aspx

Agile and the DoDo

If you’ve read some of the stuff that I’ve written here on this blog, you know that I’m a big proponent of Agile development methodologies. You also know that I believe Agile represents a mindset as opposed to a process.

I was just reading an interesting article in Visual Studio Magazine titled, “Is Agile Rock or Disco” where the author essentially asks if Agile will be around in several years. It’s a decent article, but I think it misses a critical point; When you try and put Agile Development into a single box, you begin to lose the power of what Agile represents. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Agile is a mindset, not a process! When you attempt to define Agile as “Scrum” or “XP” or “todays cool new flavor”, and represent Agile as one of the implementation instances, then of course you’re going to come down on the side of Agile being destined to go the way of the DoDo.

One of the statements in the article is a quote from Microsoft’s Don Smith, who works in the Patterns and Practices Group. He apparently made the comment, “Agile is hard to do without really good developers”. The author uses this statement as the basis to conclude that since not all developers are really good, Agile isn’t for everyone. He then goes on to use some other anecdotal evidence to state that since Agile requires really good developers, there’s no room for the talented yet inexperienced developers, therefore Agile will ultimately implode. It’s hard to disagree with those conclusions at face value, but in truth, I believe it all goes back to one of the main tenets of Agile, “Value People over Process”, and if you truly approach your Agile projects with this tenet in mind, you’ll find ways to be all-encompassing, instead of elitist.

I guess it just boils down to the following, “Agile” means different things to different people. You’re always going to have the moderates who try and blend, and the purists (or fanatics) who want to use the “My way or the highway” approach. Following the latter, Agile is indeed destined to go the way of the DoDo.

The Man From La Mancha (or Colorado Springs)

I think “La Mancha” must be old Spanish for “Colorado Springs” (ok, I know it’s not, but it sounded good!) as I sure sometimes find myself thinking in a very Quixotic manner and wondering if Cervantes was really gazing into the future and describing my life when he wrote his famous book.

(It’s OK to think I’ve gone off the deep end at this point, there’s a reason Don Quixote was considered crazy)

You may wonder what drove me to start a blog entry like that, but I don’t think I can really explain it, other than to say today has been one of those days…. There’s probably been enough content for at least 3 of these ranting posts, but I think I’ll confine it all to just this one.

It all started with a discussion of how “Agile Development” is shaping some future product direction. The problem that I see with this is it’s not the Agile process that' should be shaping the product, but the other way around. The needs of the product (and by extension the customers who consume the product) should be shaping the process.

Agile is a Mentality, not a Process!

This is probably going to become the mantra for my agile presentations this year. Too often I think project managers and their managers get caught up in the intricacies of their day to day work and forget to step back and take a look at the big picture. I’ve written before about how the real power of any Agile process is in how well it can be adapted to fit the current needs of the team or organization. In truth I believe that the process itself should almost be invisible and that “Agile” should really be more of a mentality than a series of steps that one must go through to develop product. Moreover, the needs of the product should be driven by what the users of the product want to do, not by what you can or cannot get done in a specific timeframe or cycle. Of course to get to that point you have to have a way to capture and document what those needs are. This means that the business itself needs to be agile.

Business Needs to be Agile, yet Honest with Themselves!

Back in the 1950s (ok, 1957 to be exact) Boeing introduced us to the 707. In the grand scheme of things it’s purpose in life was to move people from point A to point B. The 707 wasn’t the first jetliner (heck, it wasn’t even the first Boeing jetliner) but it certainly became the most viable one of it's time. It did so because Boeing had hit on just the right combination of engineering, tooling and marketing to capture a market. Today, Boeing is hard at work on delivering the Dreamliner, whose purpose in life is to efficiently move people from point A to point B. If you look at it objectively, there’s not a lot of difference between the two. They both have a common purpose in life, and the Dreamliner is built to take advantage of all the things Boeing has learned over the years, but it still serves that same singular purpose of moving people from one place to another. The innovation that Boeing has exhibited with the Dreamliner is still focused on that singular purpose. Boeing isn’t trying to take the Dreamliner to space, it’s simply adapting a tried and true platform to the needs of consumers today. This is an example of a company being honest with themselves and focusing on the needs of the product and adapting their processes around those needs.

Software companies face the same challenge, and every once in awhile a company hits on that rare combination of engineering marvel and market need and delivers a product that solves a real problem. If that company is honest with themselves, they recognize that and either try and exploit the heck out of that existing problem, or they may recognize the problem as short term and go in search of a new problem in hopes that they can replicate their success. When a company is not being honest with themselves they tend to talk about (and drive towards) product futures that either aren’t based on customer needs, or no longer solve the problem the product was intended to solve. There’s a reason that Boeing didn’t try to take the Dreamliner to space, just like there’s a reason that companies like Mojave Aerospace and Orbital Sciences aren’t trying to move people from point A to point B.

The Agile mentality has to extend to the business itself in order for it to succeed.