Sunday, March 14, 2010

Free ticket to DevDays 2010 - now gone

UPDATE: Ticket has been given away - Sorry :(

I happen to have a free ticket to DevDays 2010 in the Hague this year and can't go because I am out of the country. I am willing to give my ticket away to someone who can make good use of it, and preferably to someone who doesn't work for a large company that should buy their ticket for them. So if you are a a freelancer or a small company that works in Microsoft technology and want to go to DevDays 2010, let me know and I may have your free ticket. It is NOT meant for resale.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

USA >= World

I love how some American companies feel that the world is no bigger than their country. Today I received the following email from a company called Software Wholesale Intl. (I assumed the Intl meant international):

We unfortunately cannot sell outside of the US. Sorry about that and good luck.
Jess

I think they are trying to look a bit more professional than they really are. :) Website: www.software-intl.com

Monday, March 08, 2010

Good customer service for a change

I am not one to praise a corporation lightly, but I feel I need to in this one instance.

Over the past year I have done some work for American Express and was thus exposed to the various benefits their card holders enjoy. Then a few months ago my credit card form ING was prematurely terminated due to the merger between ING and PostBank and let's just say that switching the ING Visa to an ING Mastercard was a 4 month ordeal that resulted in me saying goodbye to ING credit card services. I couldn't manage to get approved for the new card and no one at ING could tell me why since I was a loyal customer with a platinum card before... A total mess.

So I decided to give Amex a try. I figured they are accepted at 95% of the places I use a credit card (big stores in the US or online) and after all, they are a client. I have had to call them a few times durring the last few weeks with regards to setting up some things and was blown away every time at their flexibility, availability and just over all quality of customer service. I know they are a more expensive card for the retailers to accept, but wow do they take care of their clients. As someone living in Europe where customer service is generally awful, I am glad to see that some companies still value being excellent to their customers.

For any North American expats in the Netherlands, if you miss customer service form home you may want to get yourself an Amex card.

Friday, March 05, 2010

EPiServer and Image Vault

I have spent the last month working as a developer on an EPiServer project and I have mixed feelings about the product. EPiServer certainly has a lot of good stuff to offer and is fairly easy to get working. It feels a little rough around the edges though and coming form a SharePoint or ASP MVC environment it can feel a bit "open sourcey". I was not impressed by the lack of page type inheritance and by not having strongly typed properties but there is the Page Type Builder project that seems to address a lot of this nicely.

We also used an image management solution on this project that EPiServer recommends, and this was not much fun to work with. The product in question is called ImageVault and it is not even close to production quality software. We have had so many problems with this that it would have been easier to just build something like it form scratch. As an example, here is what I fixed today:

ImageVault has a UrlBuilder class that helps get the url of the image from storage. This helper allows us to specify an aspect ratio amongst other things and that is done by setting a decimal property. So I would for instance set the aspect ratio to 1.5. The url would then come back with something like : ...&aspect=1.5&.... in the query string. Now the fun comes when the site is running in a language such as Dutch where the decimal separator is a comma. In that case, the url that comes back is ...&aspect=1%2c5&... Basically the developers never tested this in such an environment and inside their UrlBuilder class they simply do a ToString without setting an invariant culture. The result is then that the URL that points to THEIR web service doesn't produce an image since the aspect ratio is incorrect.

This is not a difficult bug to fix, but a product that is supposed to be at version 3.3 should NOT have bugs like this.

I hope the ImageVault guys get their product polished up since it has potential and they have a good opportunity to be the solution of choice for image management within EPiServer. They will need to do this quickly though because they can truly lose a lot of business with the way their product works right now.