Tag Archive: Tools

So, about 10 months ago, I did a blog article about my experiences moving from a Blackberry to an iPhone 4s (Read it here).

Well, I’ve moved off it now. It was a combination of reasons, including:

  1. I can’t write stuff for it. I’m starting to do more programming at the moment, and it’s a nice idea to be able to write stuff for the phone I’m using. I can’t do this on an iPhone.
  2. The screen is small. I’ve also got an iPad2 and still happily use that. However, the screen on the iPhone is small compared with alot of newer smart phones.
  3. Magpie syndrome. I like shiny things, while my Blackberry 9700 kept me happy for 2+years, the Blackberry 9900 didn’t, and it turns out that the iPhone hasn’t either.
  4. Using the iPhone feels like I’m in a glass box, with all the fun things being outside. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.

So, what have I moved to ? A very kind person has let me have their previous phone, a Galaxy Nexus. This is lovely to use, and easily cover the items above. In addition to this, it lets me:

  1. Use almost all the apps I was using on the iPhone (Evernote, RunKeeper, Pluralsight, Netflix, Flipboard and iPlayer).
  2. I discovered some new apps I could use now, including Falcon Pro (a really nice Twitter client) and Ingress. Ingress is really interesting, and doesn’t appear to have anything like it on the iPhone.

I’m not saying that I’m not using the iPhone anymore. I am, I’m using it as a GPS device for running. It’s great that the RunKeeper app is available on both platforms, and also, the iPhone is smaller so fits nicely in my pocket when out and about.

I’ve also started a separate blog (separation of anxieties, or something), RunningNick.com, which will be covering my training for the Great South Run, which I’m doing in October (10 MILES!!!). If you’d like to sponsor me, there is a link on the right, funds go to Diabetes UK.



Unit Testing is a methodology that we should all embrace and understand.

It’s not just for Programmers

Unit Testing Frameworks are available for almost every Platform, from ABAP to XSLT. So if you are a hard-core coder, a SQL DBA, a Web Developer, or a Sys Admin, you can join in!

While the use of Unit Testing is getting more common, it’s not as common as it could be.

So I’d like to propose TEST DAY 2012!!!

How do you do Testing ?

Why not share how you do Unit Testing, why you started it, what your experiences have been, or something related to Unit Testing ?

We can all learn from each others experiences.

What do you need to do ?

  • Write a blog Post and Share it with the internet, so everyone can learn from your experiences.
  • Your blog post must be published between Wednesday, 12th December 2012 00:00:00 GMT and Thursday, 13th December 2012 00:00:00 GMT.
  • If you are on Twitter please tweet your blog using the #TestDay2012 hashtag. I can be contacted there as @nhaslam, in case you have questions or problems with comments/trackback.
  • Either, include the TestDay2012 Picture (above) and hyperlink it back to this post, or have a link back to this post.
  • If you don’t see your post in trackbacks, add the link to the comments below.

What will I do ?

A week or so later (depending on the number of posts), I’ll do a summary post and cover all the submissions.

I look forward to reading your posts!

This post is something that has been bubbling away for quite a while now, and hopefully it doesn’t come across as a bit of a rant. However, I’ve been doing this for 14 years, so have some knowledge of what I’m talking about, but if you have comments, please share in the Comments.

I work as a Consultant, Consultant Developer, Developer or Systems Analyst depending on who you talk to. It’s all just a title, though Consultant Developer is my preference as it is easier for anyone to understand (and it contains the D word..  ).

One of the things that has become more apparent to me recently is that there is a wide range of skills that Consultants have. Ranging from having minimal experience in anything other than their specific area (which they know well), to having in depth experience in everything related to their area. This wide variance seems to be related to either age (so time in the industry), or passion (so the desire to learn more). Sadly, it seems to be comparatively rare to have someone who has a wealth of Experience, and still retains Passion for it.

So given that you can’t gain experience in the industry without time, and Passion isn’t there for everyone, what skills should all consultants have?

In my opinion, they are the following:

1. Ability to install and Configure Windows

If you can’t install Windows, then you don’t have a full understanding of your primary platform, and here, I’m not just talking about the current desktop version. I think you should be able to install the most recent couple of versions of the desktop (XP and Win7) and server(2003, 2008 and R2) OS’s.

This will then give you a level of understanding with Domain security, Networking and how to set up Services (IIS, Active Directory, etc.). While you may not need to do this on a Production server, you may well need to do it for a development (or Test) environment.

2. Understanding of Databases

It’s rare that an application doesn’t require some form of database (from a full blown enterprise system, down to something with a small local store in SQL CE, for example), so not even having a basic grounding in some form of database is a substantial flaw in my mind.

3. Be aware of PowerShell

PowerShell functionality is available for almost all Microsoft products and is part of the Common Engineering Criteria for all Microsoft Server products, so if the MS products you are using don’t have it now, they will have with the next version.

Newer products allow you to view the PowerShell script generated through the Admin GUI, so you can improve your skills easily.

There is a very useful handbook, called the Windows PowerShell 2.0 Administrators Pocket Consultant (also available in Kindle form), which I’ve found to be really helpful in answering questions.

4. Know how to phrase a query in Google

There are alot of people that I meet, and work with who are unable to find things. When asked, they say they’ve checked on Google, but when I look, it’s there at the top of the first page. So, the ability to phrase a query is key. It makes you self sufficient.

5. Use StackOverflow, SuperUser, ServerFault, etc.

These sites are used by a wide range of Developers and IT Professionals, and if you are able to either search for an answer, or phrase a coherent question, you’ll get a prompt response from these highly useful sites.

Stack Overflow profile for Nick Haslam at Stack Overflow, Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers Server Fault profile for Nick Haslam at Server Fault, Q&A for system administrators and desktop support professionals
Super User profile for Nick Haslam at Super User, Q&A for computer enthusiasts and power users

MESS and other Tools

Inspired by the Hanselman Tools List.

MESS – Multiple Environment Synchronisation System

One of the best combinations of tools that I’ve found has been the use of Dropbox and PortableApps.

Dropbox allows you to have a single (automatically synced) storage location, which can contain anything, and gives you 2Gb of free space (2.25gb if you use the link above).

PortableApps is a set of applications that are configured to run from a specific location and have no dependencies outside that directory. It was created to allow applications to run from a PenDrive. It includes products such as FireFox, NotePad++, WinMerge, Opera, Thunderbird, and dozens more.

Combining these products gives you the opportunity to have all these apps automatically synced, so you don’t need to install anything on the machine, aside from DropBox. You get all your app settings migrated automatically around the place, which for FireFox includes the pages you last had open in that browser.

I’d like to say that this was a flash of inspiration that I had, but it wasn’t. I saw it here: Steve Rumsby’s blog . Well done Steve!

The Tools List

For the machine:

Currently, it’s a Sony Vaio VPCEB1Z0E. We got some of these as they’ve got decent Full HD (1920×1080)  screens, adequate processor and will support 8Gb RAM which is good for the future. It’s also got an eSATA port, which is outstanding for connecting an external drive to. It gives faster performance for Virtual Machines.

For Developing:

Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate

We’ve got a licence to use the best, so why use anything less… Winking smile

DevExpress CodeRush and Refactor Pro

I spent a fair while switching between ReSharper and CodeRush, and couldn’t really decide between the two. Eventually, it came down to CodeRush  ‘feeling’ better. Whether it is or not is open to huge and emotive debates, but I wanted to choose one, so I did. This far, I’ve absolutely no regrets. Thanks Guys!

For Database work / Data manipulation:

SQL Server 2008 R2 Developer edition

There are a load of tools that help with data manipulation, but really, do they have any benefits or greater flexibility over dumping it into SQL Server, and using t-SQL on it ?

SQLPrompt Pro

The great people at RedGate gave some licences to my local Community group (DevEvening), which I won one from. Thanks Guys!


VMWare Workstation

I’ve used this for a few years now, and it’s never let me down, never let it  be said I have no loyalties.

Odds and Ends on the Machine


An amazing utility for Virtual Desktops, because multiple screens are never enough. It’s integration into Windows 7, with SevenDex, makes for a great set of functionality.

Desktop Restore

A great shell extension to allow saving of your desktop icons, and prevents the ‘aaargh, all my icons have moved’ problem.