Book Review for Wrox Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010



During the first week of April, a little package was sitting on my front porch with the first book to be released on the Visual Studio 2010 release that deals with the new Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) features.  For those of you who don’t know, this essentially means the former “Team System” line of products as we were exposed to it in the 2005 and 2008 releases.  Although the entire Visual Studio suite of products is considered something that helps you with ALM, the book primarily focused on Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Visual Studio 2010 Premium, Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional, Visual Studio 2010 Lab Management, and Team Foundation Server 2010.  During the Introduction, I even appreciated how the authors discussed about “where Team System went.”  It’s the best explanation of the branding change that I’ve seen to date.

I was extremely excited to start immediately reading the book.  Even though I have been closely involved with the 2010 release as a Microsoft MVP, when I started to read this book my goal was to be exposed deeper in the feature set being introduced in the 2010 release.

At the time of writing this blog post, the book was selling for $34.64 at Amazon.  The suggested retail price is $54.99.  It is currently #7 in the Software Development books category!

Strengths

If you are new to the ALM features in Visual Studio, I felt this book really offered you the ability to get the high-level overview of all of those features.  It’s essentially similar to a “survey” course that you would have taken in college.   It’s 696 pages that ends up going through all of the Visual Studio client and server features at just the right level of detail. There were even some areas that I felt that I learned more about and hadn’t been exposed to heavily in the past.

The architecture features were something that I had hoped to learn the most from.  They have just never been something that I dived into great detail during the 2010 release cycle.   All of the new UML diagrams that are available including the new architecture features like Use Case, Activity, Sequence, Component, Class, Dependency, and Layer Diagrams.  There was a also a great introduction to the Architecture Explorer.

The testing features have really been what has made up a majority of the Visual Studio 2010 release and the book definitely reflects that.  Going through the testing features, I really felt like I understood the end to end story.  It felt very rounded out!  These chapters are where I picked up a majority of the nuggets of information.  I can’t tell you how many times I said “wow, I didn’t know you could do that.”  I also feel like this is a great place to pick up some introductory knowledge about how Visual Studio Team Lab Management fits into the ALM story.  I also kept thinking how great this book would be for the testers on your team that are new to the Microsoft testing platform and Team Foundation Server.

There are so many changes to TFS, I can’t even begin to start describing them.  Thankfully, the book did a great job.  Especially with the revamp of Team Build to use Windows Workflow Foundation.  You can even download the Team Build chapter from the book for free here:  Team Foundation Build.  Other than automated builds, you’ll get a good pass by all of the rest of the new TFS 2010 features and architecture/topology changes.

There was a whole chapter dedicated to debugging with IntelliTrace!  That’s awesome.  I’m very much a fan of IntelliTrace and think that will truly change the way you develop.

Criticisms

I have been hoping to have a book available out there that really only discusses TFS.  The book definitely has a few chapters available on TFS and spends a good amount of time but that discussion is not the nitty gritty that I think some readers out there are really looking for.  With that said, I don’t think this book was positioned for the “TFS Administrator” exclusively.  Again, I really think this is a survey-level review of the entire ALM stack of features for Visual Studio.  That doesn’t allow you to go into the depths of any particular product.  There currently isn’t a book available for TFS 2010 with the level of detail that I am sure some readers out there are hoping for.  We’ll see what happens in the months to come…

My next criticism isn’t so much for the content of the book as what is media choices are available.  I own a Kindle DX and I imagine a few other techies in the world have some type of eBook reader as well.  I was hoping to have a CD that contained a DRM-free PDF that I could copy over to my Kindle DX whenever I’m traveling and need a quick resource for reference.  Wrox certainly does allow you to get a PDF of books but you have to order them separately even if you had purchased the hard copy.

Finally, the only other thing that I noticed was in that chapter about IntelliTrace (see above) there wasn’t a mention of Symbol & Source Server.  I couldn’t believe it.  There is definitely a discussion later in the book about Team Build’s integration with Symbol & Source server but I was hoping to have seen some more detail in the IntelliTrace chapter about the importance of having them setup for your organization.  You’ll want to put two and two together.

 

Now that I’m finished scrounging from the bottom of the barrel to find some criticisms… :)

My Recommendation

Hands down, get this book.  I think it’s well worth it.   I know each of the authors and it really looks like they put a tremendous amount of effort into writing the book.  The topics are really presented well and at the right level of detail for someone really wanting a crash course in all of the Visual Studio ALM features.  I can’t even tell you how many new nuggets of information that I ran across of things that I didn’t even realize were in the product.

It certainly gets my stamp of approval! :)  Kudos to the authors.

 

Very respectfully,

Ed Blankenship

Microsoft MVP of the Year, Visual Studio ALM and Team Foundation Server



Can I Collect an IntelliTrace Log in Production?



I’ve been hearing this question quite a bit…  “Can I collect an IntelliTrace log in Production?”  This would be a really good idea especially now that there is a standalone command-line utility, IntelliTrace.exe, that you can run to collect IntelliTrace log files.  Unfortunately, it looks like the Visual Studio 2010 Licensing White Paper answers that question for us on page 28:

The IntelliTrace DDA and/or IntelliTrace.exe cannot be used:

  • On a device or server in a production environment.
  • For purposes of system or application monitoring.
  • In non-interactive scenarios other than as part of an automated test or debugging-data collection session.

Bummer! :(  Honestly, I imagine that has to do with something around how IntelliTrace works and Microsoft doesn’t feel comfortable the impact it may have on running Production environments.  Just my conjecture though…

You’ll notice that you can use IntelliTrace in other instances though; most notably on development & test environments!

The IntelliTrace diagnostic data adapter (DDA) and/or IntelliTrace.exe can be used for test and debugging purposes:

  • As part of an interactive test or debugging session.
  • As part of an automated test or debugging-data collection session that is authored by a licensed user and triggered by the same or another licensed user.

You can even share IntelliTrace files between two companies as long as both companies are properly licensed!

IntelliTrace files may be shared among two or more companies as long as all users capturing and debugging IntelliTrace files are licensed with either Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate or Visual Studio Test Professional 2010, depending on the activities they are performing. For example, a company can share IntelliTrace files with an external development consultant. Similarly. a company can use an external company for testing purposes and debug IntelliTrace files provided by that vendor.

Here were the common scenarios mentioned in the licensing white paper.  See if you happen to fit into one of them:

Example 1: Finding a defect in a test environment Company A is building a Web application. All the developers are licensed for Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN, and the testers are licensed with Visual Studio Test Professional 2010 with MSDN. During a test run a defect is discovered in the test environment that is difficult to reproduce in a development environment. The test machines have previously been configured with the Visual Studio Test Agent 2010, which includes the IntelliTrace DDA. The tester uses the Microsoft Test Manager to execute the test case with the IntelliTrace diagnostic data adapter (DDA) enabled. When the defect is encountered, the tester files a new bug, with the IntelliTrace files from each of the test machines is automatically attached to the bug. When a developer opens the bug using Visual Studio Ultimate, he or she can open the IntelliTrace files and step through the execution.

Example 2: Working with an external consultant In Example 1, Company A uses an external consultant to help with development. If the external consultant is licensed for Visual Studio Ultimate, he or she can open and debug the IntelliTrace files provided by Company A.

Example 3: Working with an external test vendor In Example 1, Company A uses Company B as an outsourced test vendor. The two companies can work together using IntelliTrace as long as all developers at Company A and all testers at company B are licensed appropriately.

I’m not sure what the minimal technical footprint is to get IntelliTrace.exe to collect an iTrace file just yet but my answer right now will be to have one of these installed:

  • Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate
  • Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional
  • Visual Studio 2010 Test Agents (additional software) <--- probably the smallest impact to a system

If I find out some more information about this scenario, then I’ll be putting together a future blog post!

 

Take care,

Ed Blankenship



Test Categories and Running a Subset of Tests in Team Foundation Server 2010



Disclaimer:  I’m writing this at a time when only Beta 1 is available for Visual Studio Team System 2010 so the information may have changed by the time it has been released.  I have included links to the relevant MSDN articles which should remain valid after release time so just double-check.

This small little additional feature is actually one that I have been looking forward to for a long time.  In Visual Studio Team System and Team Foundation Server 2010, you will now be able to limit your test runs to specific test categories with a new command-line option on MSTest.exe and therefore in Team Build 2010 which calls MSTest.exe automatically for you.

Back in the day… You would need to create test lists (.VSMDI files) in VSTS 2005 and VSTS 2008 to basically “categorize” your automated unit tests by putting them into different lists.  One handy thing about them is that the lists could be hierarchical which helps out at build time.  When you wanted to run a specific subset of tests either locally using MSTest.exe or in Team Build, you would just specify the .VSMDI file to use and then the test list you wanted to run.  Not too bad, but it’s a pain to keep up with those test lists.  Serious pain.  However, the thing that I hated absolutely most about them is that you could only edit the .VSDMI files if you purchased Visual Studio Team Suite or the Tester Edition.  So that means that if you have just the VSTS Developer Edition then you are pretty much out of luck.  For most places that I have seen, it’s usually the developers maintaining those test list files not the testers.

For this reason I actually prefer and will be recommending the Test Container and Category approach going forward in 2010.  Test Containers are essentially files that contain tests in them.  For example, unit tests (and other compiled tests) are stored in .dll files and ordered tests are in .orderedtest files.  I like this approach.  In automated builds I just want to specify which files contain the tests that I want to run and then if I want to limit the test run to just a subset I can just list which categories to run. 

A great example of this is what I call the “BVT” category.  These are the tests that you have identified to be your “smoke” tests that make sure a build is okay.  If these tests fail then you’ve probably got a bad build.  (BVT = Build Verification Tests) So I would limit the test runs on any CI or even the new Gated Check-In builds to just those BVT tests.  Quick & dirty verification is really all you need for those builds leaving a more extensive automated test pass to happen during the nightly or weekly build.  If you’re not familiar with the new Gated Check-In feature in TFS 2010, check out Brian’s blog post or Patrick’s blog post for more information.  It’s a killer feature.

This does rely on one thing though… each “developer” of an automated test needs to make sure they add the correct attribute(s) to their test methods.  You don’t have to keep up with maintaining the .VSDMI files any longer but you do have to make sure you mark each method appropriately.

You can even use test categories with the new types of automated tests available in 2010 like Coded UI Tests.  It doesn’t just have to be unit tests.

How to Specify a Category in an Automated Test

This part is pretty easy.  You just add as many TestCategory attributes to the test method as you need.  Here’s an example in C# using multiple test categories for a test method called DebitTest:

[TestCategory("Nightly"), TestCategory("Weekly"), TestCategory("Monthly"), TestMethod()]
public void DebitTest()
{
}

Alternately, you can select a test in the Test View tool window and then set the category by using the Properties tool window in Visual Studio and it will add the appropriate attributes to the methods for you.

image

How to Specify which Categories to Run in an Automated Build with Team Build 2010

Okay… this part is easy too. :)  Build definitions now have build properties that can be exposed to the end user in the Build Definition Details dialog or in the Queue Build dialog.  This is handy because you could by default not set a filter to run under normal circumstances (triggered or default manual builds) or you can change it when manually queuing a build if you want that build to run differently.  Either way it’s the same for setting the categories.  If you’re using the default build process workflow that is available out of the box, then just scroll down through the property list until you reach the Testing section which includes a build property called Test Category.  Leave it blank if you want to run all tests or specify the categories you’d like to limit it too:

image image

According to the MSDN documentation for the Test Category switch, you can combine multiple categories in different combinations instead of just specifying one category.  Very handy – here’s some examples:

  • /category:group1 runs tests in the test category "group1".

  • /category:"group1&group2" runs tests that are in both test categories "group1" and "group2." Tests that are only in one of the specified test categories will not be run.

  • /category:"group1|group2" runs tests that are in test category "group1" or "group2". Tests that are in both test categories will also be run.

  • /category:"group1&!group2" runs tests from the test category "group1" that are not in the test category "group2." A test that is in both test category "group1" and "group2" will not be run.

  • What I’m not sure about is whether you can specify test categories when using the old Upgrade Build Workflow template .xaml file… I’ll check on that and then update the blog post.

    It’s worth noting that if you are going to use the test category method to limit test runs, you must use test containers.

    Limiting Test Runs Based on Test Priorities

    If you noticed in the screenshot above from Team Build, you can also limit your test run to tests that are in a specific priority range.  How do you specify the range for your test methods?  You can use the Properties window when selecting a test in the Test View tool window or you can add the Priority attribute manually to the test method.  After that you just specify the range of priorities to use in the test run.

    [TestCategory("Nightly"), TestCategory("Weekly"), TestCategory("Monthly")]
    [TestMethod()]
    [Priority(1)]
    public void DebitTest()
    {
    }

     

    Additional Note:  It appears that the product team is actually encouraging people to move away from the old .VSDMI approach in favor of categories.  Check their note out:

    NoteNote

    Test categories are recommended for use over the test lists functionality from earlier versions of Microsoft Visual Studio Team System Test, unless you have to create a check-in policy which requires a test list. For more information about check-in policies, see How to: Add Check-In Policies.

     

    Take care and happy testing,

    Ed Blankenship



    PowerPoint Slide Deck for Real World TFS Sessions



    Just wanted to take a few seconds to post the slide deck I’m using for my Real World TFS sessions.  I’ll post a link to the recording of the MVP TV session earlier today when it’s made available!

     

    Ed Blankenship



    MVP TV with Ed Blankenship on July 15



    Also really excited about doing my first ever MVP TV set up by the Microsoft MVP program.  Hope to see you there!  We have an extra thirty minutes at the end so be sure to bring your questions.

    MVP TV: Real World TFS: Tips for a Successful Team System Implementation

    Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | 9:00am – 10:30am (PDT, Redmond time) or 12:00pm – 1:30pm (EDT, New York City time)

    Targeted: This Product Group Interaction is open to  all Developer MVPs in all Technical Expertise and  public audience.

    So you’ve decided that Visual Studio Team System & Team Foundation Server is going to bring your organization added value (because it will :)) but what do you do now?  Please join Ed Blankenship as he covers the 2.5 years of successful implementation of VSTS and the experience of that journey at Infragistics, the world’s leading maker of software development tools.  The session intends to cover each phase of the implementation of all affected areas for a smooth adoption:  Version Control, Builds, Work Item Tracking, global deployment, moving multiple teams, training, automated testing, migration from legacy systems, and integration with other systems and TFS.  The goal will be to go through at a high-level of what it takes to make you successful by learning from the challenges and obstacles overcome.  We’ll also look in the future with VSTS 2010 and see how strategic planning will help make a successful adoption of the new features in the upcoming 2010 release.  The session is led by a Microsoft MVP (Team System) & Champ who has been in the trenches during the whole implementation.

    Prerequisites:  A healthy attitude in learning from other peoples challenges and a strong desire to make real change within your organization!

    About Ed Blankenship: Ed is a Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Certified Application Developer, and works as the Release Engineering Manager at Infragistics, makers of the world's leading presentation layer tools and components. His expertise consists of Microsoft Visual Studio Team System and Team Foundation Server. He is also a technical evangelist for Rich Client applications (primarily Windows Forms & Windows Presentation Foundation.) He has been a technical editor for several Silverlight books, an article author, and has spoken at various user groups, events, and conferences.

    PJ Forgione has invited you to attend an online meeting using Live Meeting.
    Join the meeting. (Link: https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/mvp/join?id=NP5FQZ&role=attend&pw=A49410Y0D )
    Audio Information
    Computer Audio
    To use computer audio, you need speakers and microphone, or a headset.
    Telephone conferencing
    Use the information below to connect:
    Toll-free: +1 (866) 500-6738
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    Participant code: 5460396

     

    Ed Blankenship

    Speaking at NYC VSTS User Group on July 28



    While I’m up in New Jersey working at the Infragistics headquarters office, I’m going to have the privilege of speaking at the New York City VSTS User Group on July 28, 2009 at 6:30 PM.  Come see me if you’re in the area!  Because of security concerns at the building, you do need to register ahead of time if you’re planning to attend.

    VSTS User Group

    Real World TFS: Tips for a Successful Team System Implementation

    Description:
    So you've decided that Visual Studio Team System & Team Foundation Server is going to bring your organization added value (because it will :)) but what do you do now? Please join Ed Blankenship as he covers the 2.5 years of successful implementation of VSTS and the experience of that journey at Infragistics, the world's leading maker of software development tools. The session intends to cover each phase of the implementation of all affected areas for a smooth adoption: Version Control, Builds, Work Item Tracking, global deployment, moving multiple teams, training, automated testing, migration from legacy systems, and integration with other systems and TFS. The goal will be to go through at a high-level of what it takes to make you successful by learning from the challenges and obstacles overcome. We'll also look in the future with VSTS 2010 and see how strategic planning will help make a successful adoption of the new features in the upcoming 2010 release. The session is led by a Microsoft MVP (Team System) & Champ who has been in the trenches during the whole implementation.

    Presenter: Ed Blankenship

    Bio:
    Ed is a Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Certified Application Developer, and works as the Release Engineering Manager at Infragistics, makers of the world's leading presentation layer tools and components. His expertise includes Microsoft Visual Studio Team System and Team Foundation Server. He is also a technical evangelist for Rich Client applications (primarily Windows Forms & Windows Presentation Foundation.) He has been a technical editor for several Silverlight books, an article author, and has spoken at various user groups, events, radio shows, and conferences.

    Date/Time:  07-28-2009 6:30 - 8:00 PM

    Location: Microsoft Offices in NYC at 1290 Avenue of Americas, 6th Floor

    Click here to Register

     

    Ed Blankenship



    Radio TFS Interview – Using TFS at Infragistics with Ed Blankenship



    I’m up really early this morning.  I’m about to head to the airport to spend my Independence Day weekend in the Carolinas for some much needed beach vacation and visit with friends.  Thankfully, I didn’t miss Martin Woodward letting me know that the latest Radio TFS episode was made available just a few moments ago that includes my interview about our use of TFS and Visual Studio Team System at Infragistics.  It’s a longer episode than normal so it’s perfect if you’re going to be spending some time at the beach like me and listen to a fun talk.  We both really enjoyed chatting for this episode so we hope you enjoy it as well!

    Using TFS with Ed Blankenship

    In this episode we sit down and chat with Ed Blankenship about the use of Team Foundation Server at Infragistics. Ed has had some interesting challenges and experiences in running their TFS instance.  Additionally they have done some fairly advanced integration work which we discuss in detail.  This is a double-length show, so hopefully plenty of stuff to enjoy if you are sunning yourself on a beach somewhere.

    Ed is the Release Engineering Manager at Infragistics, makers of the world's leading presentation layer tools and components.  He is also a Microsoft MVP in Visual Studio Team System.

         Play Now: Using TFS with Ed Blankenship

    As the Release Engineering Manager, he leads the Release Engineering Department which is responsible for automated builds, creating product installers, packaging source code for customers, source configuration management/version control, metrics, release management, work item tracking, licensing enforcement, and development of internal productivity tools.  The department also is responsible for TFS Operations & Maintenance.

    Ed has been a technical editor for the Wrox Silverlight 1.0, Silverlight 2 Developer's Guide, and Silverlight 2 Bible books, author of numerous articles, and has spoken at various user groups, events, and conferences.

    Links from the show:

    As usual send any feedback to radiotfs@gmail.com.

     

    Feel free to let me know if you have any questions based on the Radio TFS chat.  I’m more than happy to get them answered for you!

     

    Take care,

    Ed B.