Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Functional Deployment Template

We had been using Excel spreadsheets to build out our deployment plans. The biggest chunk of the plan was usually all the database scripts (I prefer listing them separately for better troubleshooting if one fails). Perhaps there is a better way to deploy database changes (SQL Server), but I'm not aware of it.
Anyhow, spreadsheets were not up to the task for a couple reasons:
  • We wanted to be able to have plain written documentation (paragraphs) in addition to some kind of "steps" checklist (we needed to start making complete deployment documents). It's possible to to this in Excel, but certainly not optimal.
  • Editing large scripts in Excel cells can prove clunky. A line length limit makes it nearly impossible (if you try to paste in a script with a line too long nothing happens - no error and no pastey) to edit some large scripts.
We thought about several possible tools, but what we really wanted was a Word template with some tables in it (for steps). But one of the columns of the table needed to have a button (or something) that would pop up a separate editing window for editing the scripts. The edited script would then "collapse" back into it's cell (basically like an Excel cell but with a better mechanism for editing large scripts).

I searched for a fair amount of time and came up with absolutely nothing. I did find a few deployment templates, but nothing with any functionality to them. So I went ahead and implemented such a beast using VSTO over a Word template. Perhaps someone will stumble upon this and find it useful. Implementing it was more challenging than one might think. Just like anything else, if you're not very familiar with VSTO, even small things are going to be difficult, but dynamically creating and persisting WinForms controls is actually sorta tricky.

Anyway, here's what it looks like:

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey [off topic]

I was going to put this in an email, but I figured, what the heck. Maybe some whiskey connoisseur will find it.

I have gift cards from Christmas, and I keep going back to Tipsy's (the mega-liquor-store near my house) to attempt to get some Leopold's (whose flavored whiskeys are still awesome) but they never have it - Leopold's production is low and demand high. So I asked an employee if I could get a rain-check or something. He asked if I wanted Stranahan's explaining that some just came in but it's going fast. He directed me to the front desk where I asked for a little form to place a request and the next employee said, "for Stranahan's?" Then a customer came up with a bottle of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. The manager and customer started raving about it. I asked them what it compares to, and they couldn't tell me. The manager said, "it tastes like something that costs way, way more." I said, "it already costs $60." He just said, "I know" and then said you can't believe how good it is. The customer said he'd open it and let me try if he could.

So I figured what the heck, I got a gift card, I'll try some. They were right. I've never had 250 y/o whiskey, but I'd imagine it tastes something like this stuff. Toward the middle of my glass I swear there was no burn on the tongue whatsoever. And it doesn't compare with anything (the first sip tasted completely foreign). It just tastes... clean and fresh. It's amazing. Apparently, there's much more to making smooth whiskey than age.

IMO this stuff is like the next level. Nothing I've had is anything close to as good.