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Posts tagged ‘best of’

Cannot Find File Created By Java IE Plug-in on Vista

Today's Best of Mike entry comes from January 2, 2008. I had recently upgraded to 64-bit Vista on my machine at work and was running into trouble finding files. Needless to say, this just happened to me again – again related to the Java IE plug-in writing to a virtualized directory. So as many of you are upgrading to Vista or Windows 7, perhaps this oldie but goodie will help you.

Cannot Find File Created By Java IE Plug-in on Vista

The virtualized directories provided by Vista have been both good and bad to me. One thing that keeps biting me is that the privilege level that Internet Explorer has is less than what I have as a user. Thus, when I download files from the Internet or interact with certain plug-ins, I am actually dealing with a sandbox version of my file system.

Today I was generating some XML files using an IE plug-in that allowed me to connect with various systems around the public and private network. When I saved the file, I was saving it to my default Documents folder (they dropped the redundant "My" in all the folder names for Vista). I even saw the other files that were already in my Documents folder. Alas, when I opened Documents, the file I just saved wasn't there.

What was wierder was when I regenerated the file, it showed up as being there, right next to all the normal files I could see. I was prompted "Overwrite Y/N?". I overwrote it, when to find it and it still wasn't there. I executed an "attrib" command on the folder thinking maybe it was hidden, but it wasn't listed. Then it hit me – the Documents folder I saw in the save dialog was virtualized because I was running the Java plug-in for Internet Explorer. To find the file, I had to navigate to

%userprofile%AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsTemporary Internet FilesVirtualizedCUsersmschubertDocuments

Maybe now that I've written about it I won't be caught so off guard in 3 weeks when this happens to me yet again.

It Needs To Do What It Does Today

Today's Best of Mike post comes from September 20, 2005. I recently flashed back to this post following the Connections launch. We had an existing "white pages" search at McKesson, but Profiles was to be that and more. After we launched, we got reports of certain things not working, including the ability to search on a person's user id. Neither I nor the business side PM was aware of that capability, so when we were verifying that the people search capabilities preserved existing functionality, we did not consider this use case. Hopefully we now have the best blend of new functionality and desired existing functionality.   

It Needs To Do What It Does Today

Mark Cuban had a post recently about doing things simply because that's the way things have always been done. I've been thinking a lot about some of the project kickoff and requirements meetings I have had for system upgrades over the years and one of the phrases that has always stuck out at me is "It needs to do what it does today."

Exactly what is that? In some cases, companies are able to produce documentation that shows the intentionality of a system from its conception all the way through every feature change and bug fix report. That is really the exception, though. Even as a system expert for many systems, I'm not entirely sure what some of these things "do today." My exposure to them as a software architect is generally in terms of what they don't do today or, more precisely, what they don't do well today.

Companies of all sizes would be best advised to assign software owners within their business units. The knee-jerk reaction to that is to say that IT needs to own it. IT should only own the plumbing, though. Things like the hardware (PCs, servers, network, switches, etc) and commodity software (productivity suite , email, operating system, etc). If the finance dept. decides to use T-Value, one of its members should become an expert with it, field questions from co-workers about it, and act as a liaison with the company that wrote it if problems arise. If the accounting department requests a custom reporting facility be built on top of their JD Edwards implementation, someone within accounting should be appointed system owner and be responsible for making sure the requirements are understood by all parties, the product developed is properly tested, and users are trained. They should know the system and have documentation of what it is supposed to do. System owners should also have someone to back them up in case they win the lottery or otherwise leave the company.

I see a future where the IT department isn't a silo sitting off on the horizon. In particular, I see developers within departments other than IT. They undoubtedly still report to Software Development Managers and up the chain within the IT department, but the organization chart will probably start to show dotted lines across to another department as well. Bringing a sense of system ownership within other departments is the first step towards bridging the gap between the geeks and those that run the business. And isn't system ownership what the American Dream is all about?

As for my response to people who say "well, it needs to do what it does today" … "Great – we're already finished."

The Way of the Wiki

Today's Best of Mike Series post comes from April 7th, 2005. It is apropo to the project I am currently leading at work and was interesting to re-read these thoughts from 4 years ago. Enjoy!

 The Way of the Wiki

What's a Wiki you may ask? Check out it's definition at perhaps the greatest example of them all – Wikipedia.

My job as a technologist is to figure out innovative ways to allow non-technologists to perform their job functions better. In the old IT model, we focused on centralized processes – forcing people into certain models. There were many good reasons for this – supportability being one of the keys (that's just another word for control).

Along came the concept of alignment. IT departments became concerned with whether their initiatives were meeting the current needs of the organization and whether they were structured to fit the overall strategy of the company. Knowledge management caught on to some extent, and companies used products like Lotus Notes to enable collaboration to take place on a grander scale. Conversations could be turned into documentation and shared with the masses. But this technology still relied on centralization.

We are now entering a phase where IT departments won't be focused on alignment, but rather convergence. I think you will still have a core IT group focused on internetworking, storage, server farms and support – but the analysts, developers, technical writers, etc will be more integrated into business units rather than centralized in IT. Granted, this will probably take a long time, but it is a move toward decentralization and is clearly putting technologists at the edge of the network.

Moving collaboration and the supporting structures to the edge of the network is one of the first challenges we face. If you untether the developers and so on from their IT silo, they will need tools to allow them to quickly construct their support mechanisms. These tools need to be lightweight and fast.

I think the wiki will be one of these tools. And I'm not sure that a formalized IT process will actually bring it in the door. Compare the way of the wiki to the way Blackberrys entered the enterprise. Most IT shops I know did not embrace the Blackberry at first. It was the demands of their business users that brought them in the door. We were then left scrambling to do risk analyses, training, and infrastructure upgrades in order to support this "disruptive" technology.

I'm looking to avoid incidents like the one the Blackberry brought about. I am evaluating each of the problems we see in the environment against all of the tools that are sitting on the landscape and I think I have found one that a wiki system just might solve.

Recognizing change is the first step toward embracing it.

Finding Strength (continued – Maximizer, Learner)

Today's Best of Mike series post comes from August 17th, 2004. It's the last of the ones centered around the Strengths Finder tool. Enjoy!

Finding Strength (continued – Maximizer, Learner)

It's funny how things in this life all seem to tie together in the end. Things that have little or no meaning standing on their own become larger than life when you couple them together. That brings me to the final 2 of my 5 dominant profiles as described by StrengthsFinder.

Maximizer –

Strengths, whether yours or someone else's, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of a strength. A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without recourse to steps-all these are clues that a strength may be in play. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines. This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating.

Although I'm apparently obsessed with strengths for the past couple of weeks, I wouldn't say that they 'fascinate' me. Identifying and leveraging strengths is a good pattern for accomplishing both regular and irregular tasks. Businesses would call this their strategy. Wal-Mart is a low-cost strategy. You can leverage them for consumer staple type items knowing that they will have the right selection at a reasonable price. My friend Dave is excellent excellent at research. I know that if I ask him a question, if he doesn't know the answer, he'll be able to find it doing some really quick and dirty searching. I see leveraging the different strengths of people as an efficient way of providing a valuable product.

Learner –

Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences-yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential.

I start working on my MBA/Finance degree next Monday. I've been in a consulting role for 6 years, which leads me from project to project – each with its own new twists and challenges. I enjoy reading books that would probably put a majority of people to sleep.

Tomorrow, I'm going to look back on these 5 dominant strengths and how they were determined. The question I have in my mind is "How much does a person's experiences affect the way you answer the question?" Are there quetsions that I answered strongly one way or the other that were based on a small, biased sampling of the experience the question was asking?

Finding Strength (continued) – Achiever, Responsibility

Today continues the weekly Best of Mike series with a post from August 16th, 2004. Enjoy!

Selective perception is a really funny thing. Now that I've started focusing more on my strengths and developing them further, I've picked up on people in my life reinforcing these aspects. No less than 3 times over the weekend I heard various people describe me as an 'achiever' and an 'action-oriented person' (activator). While one was my wife, the others were an old business acquaintance and someone from school. Of course, I paid the $20 on Amazon to buy this book – but whatever it takes to move forward, I'm willing to do. This is my next action.

I'm continuing to blog today about my 5 dominant strengths as highlighted by the StrengthsFinder. The 'Achiever' theme is next on the list. Boy – is this one a pain in the neck to tote around.

It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Yes – that explains quite a bit. As the Summer winds down for me (this is the last week before the MBA program ramps up) I find myself as a thirsty sponge. I'm looking for books to read, roads to run, weights to lift, grass to mow, and challenges to overcome. Sitting idle for prolonged periods does not suit me well.

The other theme for the day is 'Responsibility'. Here is an excerpt…

This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable. When assigning new responsibilities, people will look to you first because they know it will get done. When people come to you for help-and they soon will-you must be selective. Your willingness to volunteer may sometimes lead you to take on more than you should.

Another nail on the head. At least it feels like a good fit. As I mentioned before, there are 34 strengths that have been identified by the Gallup Organization and your 5 dominant strengths can be found using the StrengthsFinder. I highly recommend the book Now, Discover Your Strengths to help you identify your strengths and learn how to grow them, rather than focus solely on your weaknesses.