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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Digipede on Mono

deatle_mono_logo I am routinely asked if the Digipede Network can run under Mono.  The main scenario people want is to run Digipede Agents on a mix of Windows and Linux boxes.

My answer has always been the same:

Not now, maybe never, but this would not be technically challenging.

A while back we researched what it would take to get the Digipede Agent working on Linux.  At the time, the Mono project was less mature.  Finding out what worked was mostly a game of just trying it.  We eventually gave up, because a dependency on WSE2 turned out to be a blocker.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to see what it would take to finish this task.  I haven’t paid much attention to the Mono project over the years, but Moonlight gave me hope that Mono has made a lot of advances since we tried last.

It has.  Still using Visual Studio, I #ifdef’ed out a few noncompliant functions and got it working with the Mono runtime.  It was surprisingly easy.  Kudos to Miguel de Icaza, Novell, and the Mono team. 

So now I have it working in the lab on a Linux VM.  Checking in to a Digipede Server, it is able to run our .NET development patterns.  Of course, it can also run command-line applications with Linux-specific binaries.  Pretty cool.

This is not ready for release.  Not only is a supported product more than just bits, but I took a few shortcuts in getting the bits to work! 

Now if someone asks me if it Digipede Network can run under Mono, I can say

It does in the lab, it may never get released, and this is ultimately a market and product decision. 

So now we can do it, what shall we do with it?

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.NET on Server Core

Dmitry Sotnikov provides the steps to get PowerShell — and of more general interest, .NET 2.0 —  running on Windows Server 2008 Server core.

While this is a stopgap until Microsoft officially supports this configuration, it could still be useful. 

Now the question for me is, will this work for running Digipede components?

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Digipede Network 2.1 Out the Door

Dan has a write up of some of the enhancements added to this release here.  He said we should have probably called it 3.0, but it is really more of a 2.5.  We’ll be hosting webcasts soon going over the new features.  

Thanks to the team for all the hard work in getting this out the door.

Follow for Digipede announcements.

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Come see Digipede at the Microsoft launch event

Heroes who happen by our booth at the Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008 launch will get a chance to win an XBOX-360.  OK, you don’t have to be hero, but you do have to be spotted wearing a Digipede sticker sporting our mascot, Deatle.

image image

Come on by and see us.

BTW: I won’t be at this event, but I’ll be at the one in SF on March 13th.  No Digipede booth or give-away there.

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Narrowing the Semantic Gap

Last week, PowerShell Architect Jeffrey Snover wrote an excellent post titled the Semantic Gap.  He writes about the gap as . . .

. . . 2 worlds:

  1. The world as we think about it.
  2. The world as we can manipulate it.

The difference between these two is what is called the semantic gap

This is a great working definition. 

Jeff writes about this specifically regarding PowerShell and instrumentation providers and asks the question,

So why do instrumentation providers close or not close the semantic gap?

Yes, some do, and some don’t.  This isn’t just about hierarchy of needs, but also about prioritization.  How important to the provider is a narrow semantic gap for product X when used through interface Y? 

In the case of X := Digipede Network and Y:= PowerShell, we thought it pretty important.

But how do you decide if narrowing the gap is worth it?  Engineering costs aside, understanding what your interface could look like in PowerShell can help you decide.  Internally, we answered these questions:

  1. What would a PowerShell script look like just using your .NET or COM APIs? 
  2. What could it look like with Cmdlets? 
  3. Would these Cmdlets support how we think about the Digipede Network (i.e., small gap?).

I already said the answer to #3 turned out to be yes and in a previous post, I gave an example of the gap in Why a SnapIn for the Command-Line?  This example highlights the gap for a common operation on the Digipede Network: get the description of a pool of resources.

If you are thinking about supporting PowerShell in your product, take a look at my post.

I hope this helps you decide.

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Digipede Network for Microsoft MVPs

deatlemsmvp Today, we announced a program to provide free licenses of the award-winning Digipede Network to Microsoft MVPs.  For more details and to request your license, go here.

Thanks to MVP Marco Shaw for the idea. 

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Certified for Windows Server 2008

Certified for Windows Server 2008We just received our certification for Windows Server 2008.  Or we are about to — it probably isn’t “official” yet.  Anyway, congratulations to the Digipede team and thanks to everyone at Microsoft and Veritest who helped us through the process.

Getting the logo was arduous.  This has less to do with the technical logo requirements and more to do with the complexities of the process itself.  Some of the complexity is inherent in such a process, but much was due to the program itself being a sort of “work in process”.  But hey, that’s why we early certifiers got the testing fees waived.  I think those who begin the process now will find the test requirements and tools are better written and more robust.

As I said, passing the technical requirements was not arduous for us (we were already very close), but passing the tests did require some minor improvements to the Digipede Network that were motivated by the test:

  • Support for User Account Control (UAC).
  • More useful logging on the Digipede Server and during installations.
  • Improved user messaging and event logging during error conditions between server components and the database.
  • Improvements to the Installation Guide including new sections on Custom Actions, installation artifacts, and more.

Some of these changes have already made their way into the shipping product, though others won’t be available until the Digipede Network 2.1 (which, while a minor upgrade, contains many features beyond the improvements mentioned above — I think the feature set will be announced soon).

So now we’re ready for the big launch of Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008 in Los Angeles on February 27th.  If you are going to be there, come see us at the Partner Pavilion.  I’m pushing for some kind of Digipede swag — but I’m not in marketing ;).

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A Microsoft pawn? Me?

John has an excellent post wrapping up his trip to SC ‘07 — the bashers’ ball. He is tired of all the Microsoft bashing:

It is amazing to me the level of religious fervor that Microsoft still inspires. The bashers out there can be perfectly calm and reasonable about a wide range of topics – but say the word “Microsoft,” and they turn bright red and irrational. I have watched this phenomenon for years, and still find it inexplicable. Microsoft is a company. That company makes software. Some of their software is very, very good. Some of it is remarkably bad. I don’t understand why some people find it so hard to remain objective (or even civil) when discussing their products and market presence.

Statement of fact.  Nothing new exactly, but then he goes on how this relates to our company (emphasis mine) . . .

Many Microsoft bashers think that all of us at Digipede are mouthpieces for the Evil Empire, and that we are just pawns of the Microsoft machine. On the other hand, while we have plenty of fans within Microsoft, there are also some Microsoft employees who think we are difficult annoying troublemakers . . .

Pawns of Microsoft? Please. But maybe we are misunderstood. The other day I found myself convincing Steve Gillmor that I’m not a Microsoft fanboy (I don’t think I succeeded). But John says it well,

In fact, none of us at Digipede love or hate Microsoft – we work with Microsoft. We do so for real-world business reasons that help us change the world for the better while building a great company. We work with other companies too, but Microsoft occupies a special place in the technology landscape, and we work very, very hard to understand how to work with them to our mutual benefit. There are some great people there doing great things, and the bashers only hurt themselves by blinding themselves to these very real contributions.

Yeah, I don’t love or hate Microsoft; however, I do really like Microsoft .NET.  Does that make me a pawn of Microsoft?  .NET isn’t my religion.  I’m not a zealot about it.  It doesn’t mean that I think everyone should be using .NET / Windows nor does it require that I go around bashing Apple / Sun / IBM / Google / Linux / Java / PHP / Rails / whatever. 

I don’t think Microsoft bashing is a requirement for entry to the HPC and Apple fan clubs either, is it?

As long as I can remember, I have detested the religion of the OS (or programming language, or platform, etc.). Passion for technology is great — it’s a requirement for success in this field.  But I’m tired of people using their passion to bash, bash, bash. 

Maybe I just don’t get it, but if you’re a basher, please just move along.  And if you still think I’m a Microsoft pawn, well, I’m not going to convince you, now am I?

Note to Robert Scoble: you had the temerity to criticize Apple and the zealots came out in force — even called you a Microsoft shill. Welcome back to our club, Robert — though I’m not sure you ever really left.

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Windows HPC Server 2008 & PFX

Two exciting announcements at SC07 came out of Microsoft today.  I wouldn’t normally lump them together into one post (because they are only peripherally related), but Microsoft announced them in the same press release here.  None of this is news to those who follow Microsoft closely, but it is worth a mention.

  1. Microsoft announced version 2 of Compute Cluster Server, renamed Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008.  Ever since I saw a preview of this a couple months back, I have been excited about some of the enhancements they’ve made in terms of manageability and interactivity.  Mostly, I’m excited about new interop scenarios between the Digipede Network and HPC Server.  As some resources become available, I plan to do an internal proof of my idea — I hope I’ll have more on this soon.
  2. Microsoft announced their Parallel Computing Initiative with the mission of enhancing developer productivity for multicore and distributed systems.  Most exciting (to me) is the announcement of their Parallel Extensions to the .NET Framework.  These extensions include mechanisms for expressing parallelism inside managed code.  One thing that will be built on top of these extensions is P-LINQ.  Expect previews of this technology will begin to come out over the next six months.  Why am I excited about this?  Because the more tools that are made available to .NET developers to express parallelism, the easier it will be for the Digipede Network to fit in and managing varying workloads across a large number of disparate computing resources.

Note to Wagg-Ed:  there is no such thing as Visual Studio 2007.

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PowerShell v2 CTP

Congratulations to the PowerShell team for getting out their CTP.  I grabbed it this morning to make sure the Digipede AddIn works against it.   Yes it does.

Cool stuff.

Couple of things:

  1. WS-MAN needs to be installed before installing the CTP (this What’s New post implies that the remote-shell features need it, but not that it is required).  I hope this is only for the CTP and will not be required in the eventual release.  Any extra requirements make it harder for ISVs to integrate PowerShell into their products.  If you do not have WS-MAN installed yet, go here to get it:
  2. This new version comes with a “Graphical PowerShell”.  This appears to be similar to the Shell Tools PowerShell Analyzer product, and not a replacement console.  If you are looking for a better console, check out the other Shell Tools product, PowerShell+.

I will spend more time with the CTP soon and likely have more comments then. 

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