Monday, January 09, 2017

Austin .Net User's Group: Distributed Systems 101 by Colin Pear

Colin Pear from ClearMeasure (@colinpear) presented to this month's Austin .Net User's Group on Distributed Systems.  Here's a few pics:

My random notes:

Eric Brewer Cap Theory
Michael Perry Video)

Distributed Processing 
Pick any two:
1. Available
2. Consistent
3. Partition Tolerant

8 Fallacies of Distributed Computing by Peter Deutsch
The Network is reliable
Latency is zero
Bandwidth is infinite
The network is secure
The topology doesn't change
There is only one Administrator
Transport cost is zero
The network is homogeneous

Free book:

Distributed systems are complex
It's a paradign shift
Communication is the key

Smart endpoints, dumb pipes, distributed routing

Types of Coupling:
Spatial - physical links
Platform - Can a Java app talk to .Net? 
Temporal - time based

Going distributed solves problems, but it's more complex and requires different thinking.

NServiceBus does heavy lifting.  It's not free, but Colin thinks it's well worth it.  $25 or $30 bucks per machine per month.

NServiceBus can use AzureServiceBus, RabbitMQ, MSQueue, or SqlServer.

course by Udi Dahan:

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Web Development Things I Learned Recently

When removing an "href" in an anchor tag (and using the 'click' attribute instead) how to make the cursor look like it's over a link:

a.myLink { cursor: pointer; }

How to stop iOS from making input elements have rounded corners that look like a button:

#MyInputId {
    border-radius: 0;

How to pass arguments to a jQuery click function:
 In a Razor page I assign event data from our ViewBag to variables to be passed to "myFunction":
  $('#myButton').click({ size: "@ViewBag.size", colour: "@ViewBag.colour" }, myFunction);

In the receiving function the variables are in the event's data object:
 function myFunction(event) {
    var size=;
    var colour=;

How to trigger a form submit from JavaScript in .Net MVC:


How to make a banner stay at the bottom of the screen:

.myClass {
    position: fixed;
    bottom: 10px;
    z-index: 100;
    min-height: 100px;

How to use media queries for responsive design:

in variables.less:
@screen-sm-min:              768px;

in regular less file:
 .close-button, .close {
opacity: 1.0;
margin-top: 27px;
margin-right: 40px;

How to get rid of some network calls in the Chrome debugger?
In the Chrome debugger, under "Network" you can exclude calls with a particular string by prefacing it with a "-".  For example, to get rid of all calls with "transport", do this:

Thursday, December 01, 2016 not working with Backbone

 Don't we all love JS Bin?  Yes!
But to get backbone to work takes a little extra.
Using the default libraries I get this error:

"Script error. (line 0)"

But if you replace JSBin's imported javascript libraries:

<script src="//"></script>
<script src=""></script>

with these in the head element:

<script src=""></script>
<script src=""></script>
<script src=""></script>
<script src="//"></script>

JSBin works like a charm.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Software Estimation with Hours or Story Points in Scrum (aka the Eight Bloodsucking Ticks of Estimation)

Should you estimate with hours or Story Points when starting a scrum?

I've done both here in the great state of Texas and here's my thoughts:

Starting out I always liked hours.  Hours are comfortable, you can understand them, and they are  simple.  How many hours to make that widget?  Seven.  Easy.   You can touch hours, look them up in the dictionary, and explain to your boss what an hour is.  But "hours" have a dark side.

At the beginning of a sprint, we estimated we could work 6 hours a day,  with 2 hours for email and meetings.  How many stories can we put in a sprint?  Well, we've got two weeks, that's six hours times 10 days equals 60 hours of work per developer.

But our estimates were always way low for the work, about half of what they should be.  Frustration mounted as we missed features due to poor estimations.   Slowly, like a rattler sneaking up on a rat,  I realized the problems with estimating in hours.

When estimating hours we miss these eight bloodsucking ticks:

1.  Additional parts of the task we didn't think about.

2.  Some tasks are harder than we thought.

3.  Task Interruptions.  "Hey, I know you are in the middle of a scrum, but production has this huge problem and the big boss says to drop everything and fix it now."

4.  Unexpected tool problems.  At the most inopportune time, your drive will crash, Visual Studio will get corrupted, and the new guy will demolish the entire Git repository.

5.  Too many meetings.

6.  Developers are natural optimists.  "I really can do that in seven hours."

7. Pride.  You don't want to look bad in front of the ScrumMaster (tm)  and other developers, so you estimate low hours.

8. No time for bug fixes.  QA will find bad code, but we don't estimate time for it.

After seeing hours not working well we switched to story points.  How much is a story point worth?  We started with a rough guess of half a day.  (I know story points are suppose to be complexity, but, ... yeah, whatever, we started with two a day).

After a few sprints we got our velocity - about one story point a day - and it worked well.

The magic of story points is that they subsume the 8 Bloodsucking Ticks of Estimation into them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tips on Selecting the Lowest Electricity Rates in Texas Using

 Looking for the cheapest electric rates in Texas?  The shocking truth is that it's not easy.
Start by visiting

This will list the "cheapest" plans, but it's not quite that simple.  Companies have hidden costs, like a surcharge if you don't use 1,000 Kilowatt-Hours in a month so you just can't get the lowest price per KWH.

Here's a simple three step strategy for finding the best price for you.

Step 1:  Find out how much electricity you used each month for the last year.
You can find this by looking at your old bills, or, if you have a smartmeter, visit .

Here's my chart from from last year:
And the details

Step 2:  Get the average for the months in these bands:  below 500, 500-1000, 1000-2000, above 2000 KWHs.
I had 9 months between 500 and 1000 KWH with an average of 570 KWH, and 3 months above with an average of 1,100 KWH.

Step 3:  Call the companies with a rating of four and five stars that seem to have the best rates from and ask them to tell you how exactly much a month with your average usage in those bands would be.

(Make sure their numbers include everything except taxes.  Two reps on different days from one company quoted me just the "electric charge", and neglected the $9.99 penalty for not reaching 1,000 KWH in a month until I asked if it included that charge.)

 Then multiple those monthly rates times the number of months in that band to get your yearly cost.

 Here's my spreadsheet.  I had 9 months below 1,000 KWH and 3 above.

Months below
1000 kwh
Months above
1000 kwh

93Annual Cost

Average KWH5701,100

CompanyPhone NumberPlan Name

Green Mountain(844) 854-2260Pollution Free Conserve 12 Choice$38.00$67.00$543.00

Discount Power(866) 584-7776Saver 12$45.16$85.00$661.44

Reliant(855) 350-8650Reliant Conservation (SM) 12 plan$45.24$83.77$658.47

Power Express877) 400-0232Sustainable 12$61.00$111.15$882.45

Apt 18$43.00$112.34$724.02

Source Power and Gas(888) 557-0065

TXU(855) 847-6135Discount Texas Choice (12)$75.00$130.00$1,065.00

Smart Discount for 12 months$65.00$86.00$843.00

Mid America(800) 342-3346

Ambit(877) 282-6248Texas select 6 month term$52.85$82.72$723.81

Lone Star Select 6 month$51.14$79.42$698.52

For my usage patterns the best offer I found was from

Step 4: Have someone else do the heavy lifting.  A few options:

A.  Spreadsheet at .  It only works in Excel, and I use a Mac, so I cannot verify if it works, but it does look promising.

B. will tell you the cheapest plan based on their algorithms.  The cost is $35, but can easily save you that money.

C. will also calculate your best plan.  It's free for a while and they will charge money soon.  It's a beautiful website with wonderful graphics and an easy to follow process to get your best rate.
Here's a pic of my results:

Additional notes:
1.  At the web site you can get the exact formula the company uses for the different plans.  I tried to calculated what the customer rep should quote me before calling.

2.  It appears every company in the OnCor  region has to pay OnCor $5.25 base plus
-->$0.036384 per KWH.  Many companies charge a rate for electricity in the different bands, e.g., 7.5 cents for each KWH below 1,000 and 9.2 cents for above 1,000 KWH plus a base charge plus the OnCor charges.Other companies have a "bundled rate" and they roll the OnCor charges into a higher per KWH rate.

3. A good article about the process is at 

Good luck!

Let me know if you find additional helps in picking providers.  I've thought about making a web site to roll all this up into a simple grid.  Would that be helpful to you?

[Update:  As it turns out my cheapest plan was from Gexa Energy, which both and found, but I did not research.  I would have saved about $80 a year if I'd used their advice.]

Thursday, October 27, 2016

How to Show the Local Build Time on .Net Web Pages

Grant Erickson has a great post on how to display the compile time in a razor page by editing the AssemblyInfo class.  This technique was first pioneered by
 Jeff Atwood here.
 This shows the GMT date which is true, but sometimes not as helpful when everyone has to translate that to their local time.

You can convert the time to local time, and display the local time zone on the layout page with this tiny bit of razor code:

[For Testing Only - Compile time: @(My.Namespace.WebUI.Properties.AssemblyInfo.Date.ToLocalTime().ToString("dddd MMMM d, hh:mm tt",CultureInfo.CreateSpecificCulture("en-US")))
            (@TimeZone.CurrentTimeZone.StandardName)  on @System.Environment.MachineName]

  Here's the resulting human readable time stamp:

[For Testing Only - Compile time: Thursday October 27, 03:20 PM (Central Standard Time) on US-ATX-Mordor022]

 This is helpful for QA personnel scattered over the world to know the build date of the system they are testing.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Distinguished Speaker Series - Scrum Turns 21, what is next?

Dave West spoke to 30 people at Agile Austin in the Distinguished Speaker Series.  Dave is the CEO of and "product owner" of the Scrum process.  Dave was formally the product owner of the old Rational Unified Process so he knows what makes a good process and what is too heavy.  Dave was a pleasure to hear speak about software development since he has such extensive knowledge of software and a good sense of humor.  Here's a few pics:

twitter handle:  @davidjwest
Scrum was originally unveiled in Austin 21 years ago.

SCRUM was originally all-caps because Ken Schwaber had to shout it out to be heard.  After SCRUM gained an audience, it crept back down to lowercase.

Evolution of Agile Organizations:
Agile Alliance founded in 2001 as a charity which made it to difficult to monetize.
Scrum Alliance founder 2004 was not non-profit, and able to certify Scrum Masters. was founded in 2009.  Mission:  "Improving the profession of software development."

Building software is an empirical practice with engineering foundation.  Which means we need lots of real world data to see what is working and what is failing.

Scrum is doing great with 70,000 professional Scrum Masters, 12 Million people doing scrum everyday, 100+ books with Scrum in the title.  Time to celebrate?  Maybe not.
In 2011 39% of projects were successful, in 2015 it has dropped to 36%.  Software isn't easy.

Changes to scrum:
It's a "Daily Scrum", not "Stand Up" anymore - since some people can't stand.
No Ceremonies anymore, use Events.

Jeff and Ken thought Scrum would spread organically.  But bureaucracy thwarted Scrum.  Amorphous Blob of Middle Management, ABoMM, stands in the way.

Martin Fowler coined the term "Flaccid Scrum".

Scrum is not a democracy, it's a kingdom.  The Product Owner makes decisions.  PO is the hardest job in the world.  Don't you have a committee running things.  PO is a leadership role, not a management role.  POs don't write user stories, the dev team does with the PO providing guidance.

We need to step back from velocity and look more at value.

If we don't have the right measurements, it's hard to be empirical.

Nexus(tm) is an exoskeleton to deal with multiple teams.

Ideal scrum team size is 7 plus or minus 2.  Same with the number of teams.  Over 100 people doesn't work.  The overhead is more than you can sustain.

"The Scrum Guide" by Jeff and Ken
Values added on July 7th:
Commitment - dedicated to delivering working software
Focus - concentrate on what is important
Openness - frequently inspecting through delivering
Respect - cross-functioning self-organizing teams
Courage - we admit we do not know everything.

Product Owners are typically either available or powerful.

What's coming next?

Time is right for a "Scrum Studio", a completely separate entity from existing IT organizations.
Not project oriented, but product oriented with these characteristics:

1. Agile Culture
2. Product-oriented
3. Planning through Operations
4. All services and administration provided.
5. Onboarding qualified products
6. Value based measurement and management
7. Persistent team and tribal culture
8. Methodology driven development
9. Modern, proven tool sets and infrastructure
10. Professional software

Build an organization that can delivery working software.

Business wants a pill that makes them skinny and good looking.  Scrum takes work.  You can't buy Agility.  Only way for Scrum to succeed is in an environment that encourages it, hence the need for a new, separate organization focused on software providing value quickly.

What we are doing today isn't working, especially in IT.  For scrum to flourish, it has to be moved into a walled garden.

3 Important Characteristics that make good agile teams:
1. Great Product Owners
2. Technical Excellence in teams. Code reviews are important, paired programming helps.
3. A good team with good scrum master that helps a team get better.  Co-location helps.
4. Product orientation (pardon the off-by-one error)