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The Chicago VS ALM User Group Is Giving Away A Free Pass to VS Live Chicago

by Angela 21. April 2014 09:21

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So you may have heard that VS Live is coming to Chicago in early May. But did you know that the Chicago Visual Studio ALM user group has a discount code to save you $500 on registration? We do!  But before you sign up, check this out…

I just received one free pass to the Chicago VS Live conference, and I am giving it away to one lucky Chicago VS ALM user group member. Join us this Wednesday to be entered into the drawing!

 

Contest Rules:

  1. Contestants must be a U.S. resident
  2. Contestant must be over 18 years of age
  3. In order to enter the drawing, contestants must agree to provide their contact information (full name and email address) to 1105 Media / VSLive
  4. Prize awarded includes the “Best Value Conference Pass” (5 day conference pass including workshops) only. Hotel, transportation, and other expenses, are not included.
  5. Contestants MUST be present at the April 23rd VS ALM user group meeting to enter and claim their prize

 

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Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | VS Live | VS 2013 | Visual Studio 2013 | TFS 2013 | TFS | Team Foundation Server | Microsoft

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Chicago ALM User Group – April is All About Effective TFS Management

by Angela 16. April 2014 09:07

So as an ALM consultant, I work with a LOT of customers to “clean up” their ALM implementation, and spend a lot of time talking about proper care and feeding of their TFS environment.

Installing TFS is relatively easy, but configuring it to support your organization structure over the long haul can be challenging. How many team project collections do you need? When do you create new team projects? Which process templates should you use? How much should you customize? These are important considerations, and making the wrong choice can cause major headaches down the road. At this installment of the Chicago ALM user group, I’ll be reviewing best practices, discussing the ins and outs of how to structure your TFS projects, and get your most burning questions about TFS configuration answered!

I hope to see you in Downers Grove next week. Please be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food and so that the security folks will let you in!

When: Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where:  Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

 

And don’t forget, VS Live is coming to Chicago in early May, and friends of the Chicago ALM user group get a $500 discount code! More details here: http://t.co/LdzaiCR6O9.

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The Sometimes Funky Forecasting Math on the TFS Backlog Tool

by Angela 4. April 2014 11:05

Ever been setting up a project in TFS 2012+, started adding user stories (or PBIs, or Requirements) with estimates to the Product Backlog, turned on the forecasting tool, and started questioning your basic math skills? I have… The first time this happened in a live demo with a customer was really fun. I took a guess at what I thought was going on behind the scenes and luckily I guessed right :) Recently I got confirmation on what’s happening when another fellow TFS user asked the same question in the forums.

So, what on earth am I talking about? Check out the backlog below:

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See it yet? If not, check out sprint 2. And yes, I know, it’s really odd that they use lines to separate sprints/iteration but the TITLE of the sprint is *above* the line. So Sprint 2 in this particular instance includes user stories D, E, and F. But notice that add up to 12 points and the forecasting tool is set to 10. WHAT?! But, but, that doesn’t add up! You’re right, but the theory is that you don’t have enough story points assigned to the first sprint (note that user stories A, B, and C only add up to 8 points), and so the ASSUMPTION is that you’d pull in the first user story in sprint 2 at some point and start working on it during the end of Sprint 1, even though it’s not slated to be FINISHED in Sprint 1. Otherwise your team sits and twiddles their thumbs waiting for the next Sprint to start.  Well, they DON’T really, but you get the point. So you get no credit for the item you started working on early in the Velocity chart, unless you actually drag it into Sprint 1, but now you’ve over-allocated yourself in Sprint 1 and will likely end up finishing that item in Sprint 2 anyway. That’s a whole different set of issues you’re bringing on yourself.

Note the same thing happens in Sprints 3 and 4, below. Yes, marvel at my AMAZING Paint skills ::snorts:: There are 20 story points between them, so basic math suggests that you can finish all of the items in 2 sprints, even if one of the user stories ends up straddling the line a bit. Whether or not you accept this is as a good practice is well, irrelevant for now since you can’t actually do anything about it. The tool works how it works. It doesn’t make the tool useless by any means, but it is something to definitely be aware of.

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Hope that makes sense. Cleared up an annoying little mystery for me. Something else to consider is that the forecasting tool is not meant to be the only way to plan your work, maybe instead you’d rather use slack in your sprints to work on bug fixes, or refactoring, rather than pulling in work for the next sprint. I know, OMG agile purists heads are exploding. They’ll get over it. It largely depends on your process as to how you handle those situations in reality. So use the forecast tool as a GUIDE, not the hard and fast rule for planning work.

Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | Requirements Management | SDLC | Team Foundation Server | TFS 2013 | Visual Studio 2013 | Visual Studio | VS 2013 | Work Item Tracking

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It’s THAT Time Again – ThatConference Call for Speakers is Open

by Angela 3. April 2014 12:00

So if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know about ThatConference? If you’re already a raving fan, skip ahead to the next paragraph. If not, well, let me tell you a little bit about it. There are a LOT of conferences going on if you’re in the Chicago area, but don’t think of this as just another conference. ThatConference kicked off in 2012, we had a lot of enthusiasm and an impressive turnout for a year 1 conference, it was definitely a success! In our second year, things really exploded. We had a lot more speakers, so many amazing sessions to pick from, and the family participation was out of this world. My own nephew, who lives in California, said that he couldn’t see why we wouldn’t just make ThatConference a family vacation every year. He had SO much fun, and really loved the kids programming classes.

So back to my original thought. ThatConference 2014 call for speakers is LIVE, and it’s already several days in which means you have just 11 more days to submit your talk! After April 14th, we have to start sorting, categorizing, and sifting through all of the amazing options to create a schedule that lives up to the ThatConference goal of offering a wide variety of interesting and in-depth topics that spark ideas, and will appeal to the community at large. We accept talks on any technology, platform, or language. We also love seeing talks on career development, user experience, quality assurance, it doesn’t have to be purely related to code! When you submit, please be detailed, be passionate, be unique, and be sure to follow the guidelines outlined on the submission site. We do not know who submits when voting on the talks that will make it into the agenda, we truly focus on CONTENT. And a word of advice, I can’t stress enough how important the quality of the submissions are. We get many HUNDREDS of submissions and we only have space for about 1/4 of them, so talks with vague descriptions or that cover really basic and common topics that a dozen other people are also submitting are less likely to stand out.

So hurry up! You DO have something valuable and interesting to share. And don’t worry, if you’re not the type of person who likes speaking in front of large crowds, but knows you have something to share, there are lots of opportunities to network and there are plenty of open spaces sessions too. Hope to see you at ThatConference this year!

Tags:

conference | ThatConference | technology | Azure | Open Source | Quality Assurance | Software Testing | Team Foundation Server | Visual Studio | Windows 8 | Windows Phone | .NET | Application Lifecycle Management | C# | career

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Permission to Fail

by Angela 20. March 2014 18:04

Occasionally something happens to me that I feel the need to share. OK it’s more than occasionally, if you follow me on Twitter you probably know a lot more about me than you ever wanted to. But this was particularly noteworthy. Mostly because it has reinforced something I’d always heard but never experienced myself before.  Well, I probably had but not quite in THIS way. Today, I was given permission to fail.

I’m one of those people who wants to make everyone happy, and for everyone to like me. I know, isn’t that true of everyone? But it is an especially big part of my personality, and it bleeds into my work-life in many ways, not always for the better.  I strive to focus on the “big picture” while keeping an eye on the short term goals, but I often obsess too much about all of the possible outcomes of my actions/decisions and fear something could go wrong. This is true both professionally, and personally. Seriously, I am shocked I ever settled on fixtures for the guest bathroom because “oh my goodness what if I end up hating them in 5 years and now I am locked into those towel bars FOREVER!” The bigger failure in these  types of situations, is to take the safer route, to compromise on what is really important to minimize the risk of all possible negative outcomes, and then short change yourself and/or your client. And heck, usually the worst case scenario of making a wrong choice is a little lost time, some rework, and a valuable lesson.

My point is that you can’t be so hung up on avoiding potential failures that you constantly settle for “safe” paths that may meet your immediate needs and avoid any potential issues, but that in the long term turn out to be a mediocre solution at best.  It seems so obvious in a microcosm - if you’re going to fail, “fail fast” and do better next time. Right? But often times when I’m dealing with other areas of my life, I fail to heed the advice I so often give other people every day at work. So back to my original point.

I was getting particularly anxious about an upcoming meeting. I was definitely over-thinking it, to the point where I felt almost too paralyzed to make a choice about how to handle things, for fear of failure. Somewhere deep in my brain I’d decided that if I made one bad decision, said one thing that was not absolutely perfect, that I’d let my boss down, myself down, I’d ruin everything we had worked for, and as an added bonus I’ve put a permanent blemish on the reputation of all WOMEN in IT to boot ::cue dramatic music::  I’d think I was crazy to do this to myself if so many other people that I have talked to recently didn’t struggle through the same feelings themselves.

But then it happened. I was relaying some of these fears to my boss, he listened patiently and then said to me “what’s the worst thing that can happen? We lose this deal, we learn from it, we move on, we do better next time”. I’m pretty sure I sat in stunned silence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually shocked he said it. But it was like an epiphany, and I felt a little dumb for feeling like it was an epiphany.  It’s so obvious. But sometimes I need to not only be reminded of things like this, but I need to hear it out loud from someone like my boss for them to really stick.

I think giving ourselves permission to fail can be critical to our own development, personally and professionally.  So try it sometime, and be sure to give someone else permission to fail if you see them sinking into a tar pit of possibilities rather than making an educated guess and trying it out. Your coworker, your direct report, your significant other, heck even your kids…  You won’t regret it.

Tags:

career | failure | personal growth | XKCD

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Data Driving a Web Service Performance Test in VS 2013

by Angela 20. March 2014 17:35

Now, I’ll admit that all of this is technically documented on this page on MSDN, but it isn’t super obvious sometimes exactly what something should look like when it is done. And for non-technical folks, having a nice handy tutorial with images can be a huge help. I have a few client folks right now that needed something like this, so rather than only share it with them I thought I would post this on-line for everyone’s benefit.  ANYONE can follow along with this, I am using a public web service. I specifically was doing this on VS 2013, but this should on any version back to 2005, so long as it is either Ultimate or Team Suite.  I am assuming you already have some basic knowledge of web performance testing, but if you don’t check out this exercise first.

First identify a web service you would like to test, and choose and operation. You could also wrote your own web service, I’m not feeling THAT ambitious today. I am using a public Weather service and the “GetCityForecastByZip” operation as seen below:image

1) Create an empty web performance test, so immediately stop recording when the recording tool starts up in the browser.

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2) Let Visual Studio resume. Add a web service request to the empty web performance test:

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3) Enter the URL for the web service via the Properties panel (“http://wsf.cdyne.com/WeatherWS/Weather.asmx”). It should look like this:

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4) Grab the Soap Body from the Web Service page, it should look like this:

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5) Enter “text/xml” for content type and place the soap body from your clipboard in the String body of the web service via the Properties pane. It should look like this:

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6) Add a header to the service request:

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7) Grab the SoapAction from the Web Service page:

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8) In the Properties pane, add a key value pair of “SoapAction”, and the SoapAction from your clipboard. It should look like this:

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9) Now the basics are configured, but we want to be able to pass in a zip code. To keep things easy for the first pass, let’s just hard code that sucker. I know, bad practice, but we’ll change it soon. Open the StringBody and replace the parameter with a value:

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Now run the test and see weather for my town, it’s quite lovely today :)

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But this is not really exciting, we should data drive this.  Let’s create a data source with some zip codes to truly exercise this service.

1) Add a few rows to an excel sheet with valid and even invalid values, use a column header of Zip and save as CSV. Save someplace easy like the desktop, you’ll need to refer to it later:

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2) Add a data source to your web service test:

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3) Use the data source wizard to choose the CSV file that you just created, and add it to your solution. We could point to a shared repository instead, but for now let’s keep it simple and add it to our project when you are prompted to do so.

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You should now see something similar to this:

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4) Now we want to data drive the the Zip code rather than use a single hard coded value. To do this, we need to embed a reference to the data source inside the String Body. So where before you just hard-coded “60304” we now add a reference to the Zip field in the data source we imported with the following syntax {{DataSourceName.TableName.ColumnName}}. It should look like this:

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5) Now most likely your test settings are still defaulted to running web performance tests just once. Let’s open your testsettings and make sure we spin through every row in the data source:

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6) Now go to the Web Test section, and choose “One run per data source row”. Your settings should look similar to this:

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7) Run the test again. It should now run once for each row, returning an appropriate response for each.

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Huzzah! Super easy right? Now give it a try yourself…

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Come Join Polaris at CCC 2014 on April 26th

by Angela 10. March 2014 14:53

So if you haven’t been to Chicago Code Camp yet, you should! I know, I know, there are SO MANY conferences in the Chicago area, how do you choose? It’s true, there are a lot of good ones but here are some benefits to CCC:

a) Because it is community- driven, there is some amazing sessions, including a few sessions on TFS and agile. Here are the ones I am hoping to attend (to be fair I am GIVING two of those talks):

 

Other great sessions cover a wide variety of topics like Windows 8, TypeScript, PowerShell, Unity 3D and Azure, JavaScript and Elixir.

b) it’s FREE for a full day of techie goodness, lunch included. Yeah, you read that correctly, FREE.

c) it’s super easy to get to. It’s right off of 294 and the parking is free.

d) it’s on a Saturday so you don’t even have to miss work! OK, so maybe you don’t see this as an advantage, but I do.

e) Polaris Solutions is a Platinum sponsor and will have a booth. So stop by, say hi, and pick up one of our sweet little booklets on Agile practices.

 

So register now before it sells out, and check out the full list of sessions here: http://www.chicagocodecamp.com/Public/Sessions

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An Upgrade is a Beautiful Thing, Especially When It’s TFS 2013 Update 2

by Angela 6. March 2014 18:09

This is one of my favorite dialogs :)

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Not RTM of course, I am not THAT cool. Hopefully that is coming soon because not everyone has the freedom to install pre-release software and this one is CHOCK FULL o’ goodness. I was hoping to upgrade my company’s server last weekend, but thanks to Comcast’s unreliability I ended up barely getting it downloaded, and then upgraded my personal on-premise TFS instance. And I’m loving all the new stuff! Here are just a few of my favorite things ::cue Julie Andrews!::

1) Tags.  Tags have always been a nifty way to add useful metadata to work items so they could be easily identified, sorted, and filtered on the backlog. But everyone, EVERYONE, wanted to be able to query on tags.  Also, they wanted to work with tags outside of the WebUI.  Now you can! (requires VS 2013.w2 as well)

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2) Charts. I *love* the work item charts as you may have figured out from my previous post on them.  Such a simple and easy to learn way to visually slice and dice your shared work item query results. My customers love them too! Another frequent request is “why can’t we pin these to our team dashboard?”  Well, guess what, that is an option too! So now that Team home page just got EVEN MORE useful :)  Keep in mind you can only pin charts based on the types of queries you can make a team favorite, so SHARED queries.  Also notice that now to pin something to the team homepage, you have a new option:

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3) Test Plan printing. I know right?! Before your only option was Test Scribe and while it was handy, and free, it was not really customizable. Now from a quick click from the Test Hub on the web, you can request a “hard copy” of Test Plan artifacts for sharing with others via email, or as HTML. Sweet huh? And notice all the links, so an active TFS user could jump right into MTM to see or edit the items he is reading about.

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There is a lot more than this, but it’s already a pretty long blog post.  So check out Brian’s blog post and the MSDN download page for the CTP to find out more about the new features available in TFS 2013 Update 2.

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VS Live is Coming to a City Near You! We Can Save You $500 in Chicago and Vegas

by Angela 24. February 2014 10:13

 

Have you been considering attending VS Live this year?  They are really expanding their locations this year, holding events in Orlando, Redmond, Las Vegas, Chicago and even Washington DC. It’s a great event both to network with like minded technology geeks like yourself, as well as to get some great education around a HUGE number of topics.  Once again, the Chicago ALM User Group has secured a special discount code for members and friends for a couple of these events. So if you were wanting to attend, now we can even save you $500 with our exclusive discount codes: UGCH09 (Chicago) and UGLV10 (Las Vegas).

Topics will include:

➤ Windows Client

➤ JavaScript / HTML5 Client

➤ Azure / Cloud Computing

➤ Cross-Platform Mobile

➤ SharePoint

➤ SQL Server

➤ ASP.NET

➤ Visual Studio / .NET

➤ Windows Phone

 

$500 Discount off regular registration price for ALMUG friends and family using discount codes below.  Discount does not stack on top of early bird discounts. Prices range from $1,795 - $2,095 without the discount.

Your price: $1,595 after discount

 

Chicago Event Links

May 5-8, Chicago Hilton

VSLive Chicago homepage: http://bit.ly/UGCH09

VSLive Chicago registration page:  http://bit.ly/UGCH09Reg

Las Vegas Event Links

March 10 – 14th, Planet Hollywood

URL will direct to event home page: http://bit.ly/UGLV10

URL will direct to the registration page: http://bit.ly/UGLV10Reg

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Chicago ALM User Group Presents: Lab Management in the Cloud

by Angela 12. February 2014 11:22

So, you might have heard, but this cloud thing really isn’t just a fad. And if you’re a TFS user, you might have thought to yourself “Wow, Lab management is pretty rad, but I still don’t have the hardware of personnel required to manage all that infrastructure. It would be awesome if I could extend Lab Management into the cloud!” Sad trombone

We felt that way too here at Polaris.  So we rolled up our sleeves and worked through some of the challenges to make it happen.  Chris Taylor is going to be talking a lot more about it, and doing some demos, at the February edition of the Visual Studio ALM user group this month, at the Aon Center in Chicago.

Join Us Wednesday, February 26, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM

Be sure to sign up soon! http://chicagoalmug.org/ 

Description:

With the introduction of Lab Management in 2010, Team Foundation Server presented the opportunity to do automated build-test-deploy on Microsoft Hyper-V servers.  Although the tool was extremely powerful and cost of entry far less than any physical implementations it didn’t offer the flexibility of working with pre-existing physical labs as well as other virtualization platforms like VMWare or Parallels.  In Team Foundation Server 2012 Microsoft addressed this by introducing the “Standard Lab” environment in parallel with the “SCVMM Lab” environments.  This now allowed for any combination (virtual or physical) of machines to be added to a lab environment and provided nearly all the same functionality as provided in the SCVMM based environments.

At the same time, Microsoft had been working diligently on their Azure platform, all based in Windows Server 2012 and finally opened up the ability to both provision new virtual machines as well as exposed this functionality to other applications via the Windows Azure SDK. 

Polaris Solutions saw the opportunity to use Windows Azure as a virtualization platform to run automated tests and deployments and the tools necessary to accomplish it.  Come learn about some of the tooling that has been constructed to compliment an existing TFS infrastructure and create hybrid-cloud solutions to further lower infrastructure and  testing costs while creating a more quality product.

Speaker Bio:

Chris Taylor is a Senior Consultant at Polaris Solutions based in Chicago.  Prior to joining Polaris Solutions, Chris spent over 5 years in the Payment Card Industry developing applications for commercial and government credit card programs while extending TFS to integrate seamlessly with traditional enterprise software practices while allowing teams to be more agile/iterative within themselves.  Since joining Polaris, Chris has been focused on improving software quality and integration test automation using Microsoft Lab Management, CodedUI, Windows Azure, and Windows 2008/2012 Hyper-V. 

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