Nokia Step Counter

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

As I recently upgraded my phone plan and got a Nokia N95 8G (which by the way is a fantastic device), I trailed the net for exciting and useful/useless applications to install.

One quite useful application that I can a cross is the Nokia Step Counter by Nokia Labs. It uses the accelerometer built into the phone and transforms the phone to a pedometer (step counter). The pedometer is quite accurate and I now now how much (or little) I move around in a given day.

Working in the IT industry and almost turning 30 I guess it's important to start thinking a bit more about my overall well being (read weight) and this actually seems to motivate me to walk a bit more.. ;-)

The application has a couple of cool features like auto start in the morning, diary, trends charts, etc.

You can download it from:

Posted by Marcus Rosen at 11:11 PM 2 comments  

Keyboard shortcuts for traversing Code in Visual Studio

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The feature has probably been around for years but I just discovered it the other day and already find indispensable.

If you are traversing through code and use the "Go to Definition", Visual Studio offers Back and Forward History similar to a Web browser so you can jump back and forth between code files and positions without scrolling. This is a very useful feature especially if you work with code that is unfamiliar and/or many levels deep.

Keyboard Shortcut:

Back: Ctrl + Minus
Forward Ctrl + Shirt + Minus

Posted by Marcus Rosen at 11:44 PM 1 comments  

SQL Server 2005 Integration Service (SSIS) vs. BizTalk Server 2006 (Updated)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

EDIT: Post has been update after comments by Rick Negrin (Microsoft).

The other day I was asked about the differences about SSIS and BizTalk as there are some blurred boundaries between these products. Not being an expert on SSIS, this write up might be a bit bias towards BizTalk but hopefully will provide some useful comparisons or insights.

What is SQL Integration Services (SSIS)?
SSIS is a replacement for Data Transformation Service (DTS) and provides tools to build data integration solutions, including extraction, transformation, and load (ETL) for data warehousing. SSIS can be used to build solutions to transfer/copy data between multiple different data sources (Database table, Flat File, Excel, etc) using a variety of protocols (SQL, FTP, SOAP, etc) allowing for transformation/cleaning/aggregation between those data sources. SSIS also provides a .NET Application Programming Interface (API) and can be invoked from .NET code.

What is BizTalk Server?
BizTalk is an Enterprise Integration (EAI) and Business Process Management (BPM) Server. It provides tools to create both long-running and transactional business processes allowing for interaction with multiple platforms through adapters supporting multiple protocols (SQL, File, SOAP, HTTP, POP3, etc) and applications (SAP, Siebel, JDE, etc). BizTalk includes a Rule Engine allowing for real-time execution of business rules, a XML transformation engine, real-time monitoring framework for better visibility of business processes and more.

Overlapping features of BizTalk and SSIS

  • Integration
    SSIS provides integration on the database/physical file level and some support for integration with a business process e.g. through SOAP (although this is not typical usage of the product). It’s typically used to execute batch processes without specific or changing business rules. A typical integration scenario for SSIS is Database to Database integration or File to Database (or vice versa) batch process that is scheduled to run at a given time.

    BizTalk provides integration on the business process level but also support for database level integration. BizTalk can receive data from both databases and files, execute a set of discrete business step and write data back to a file of database. BizTalk’s strength lies in real-time data, orchestration of business processes and ability to connect many different systems and applications. BizTalk adapters also have features such as automatic retries and service windows. A typical integration scenario for BizTalk is a multi-step business process requiring specific business rules to be executed and multiple systems to be interacted with e.g. an order and credit-card approval process through a 3rd party web service.
  • Transformation
    SSIS support transformation between many formats, e.g. comma separated files, Excel files, and database table but only offers very limited support for XML. XML is supported only as a data type (e.g. to be inserted into a table) but XML cannot be transformed to Flat File format without addition of custom code.

    BizTalk supports mainly transformations of XML to XML. The reason for this is that all data that goes through the BizTalk engine need to be converted to XML. BizTalk has support for flat files as an XML schema but the mapping between transformation formats is done on the XML level. Custom pipeline components can be created to support transformation to/from other formats.
  • Messaging
    Service Broker (part of SSIS) is First-In-First-Out (FIFO) highly-scalable queue used for asynchronous and reliable processing. As it’s a FIFO no parallel processing is available which decreases throughput. The Service Broker doesn’t support subscriptions and needs to be explicitly invoked (e.g. via SOAP, Stored Procedure or through SSIS directly). There is no support for automatic retries or service windows. The typical scenario for Service Broker is to handle low priority asynchronous call from an SSIS process such as sending emails without holding up the existing process.

    BizTalk features a powerful publish and subscribe messaging system. New message subscribers can be added with ease (after deployment) and content-based routing is easy to implement. It supports both parallel and serial (FIFO) processing. All adapters also support automatic retries and service windows. All messages are stored transactionally in the MessageBox database.


  • File Order Batch
    A company’s proprietary order system provides a flat file of the days orders exported from the Mainframe. The order batch data needs to be inserted into a ODBC database table.
    • SSIS – Everything can be done out of the box.
    • BizTalk – Everything can be done out of the box but SSIS is would most likely be more suitable (unless the file needed to be processed at the time it was created rather than at a scheduled time).

  • Simple Order Exporter
    At a given interval, retrieve XML order data from a database, transform data, and send transformed data to a web service (which provides a thin wrapper of a database). Receive web service reply and handle error conditions based on reply or errors.

    • SSIS – Everything except the XML transformation and the handling of reply can be done without custom code. If the format could be changed and the service boundary removed (talking directly to underlying database) SSIS would be a good choice.
    • BizTalk – Everything can be done out of the box.

  • Order Batch and Credit Card Validation
    At a given interval, receive order batch (as XML), perform rules on each discrete order (and react to rule outcome), call 3rd Party web service for order and credit card verification and run rules on the returned result (and react to rule outcome).

    • SSIS – Everything except running business rules can be done without custom code. Every time a business rule changes (if we assume it’s been implemented in .NET code) the .code has to be updated, recompiled and deployed. Processing can only be done in serial, as one batch.
    • BizTalk – Everything can be done out of the box with little custom-code both in parallel (by splitting the batch and processing each order individually) and in serial, as one batch.


SSIS strength lies in bulk data processing on the database/file level. SSIS is a great tool for implementing ETL solutions but not a good tool for implementing business processes on. If data needs to be interpreted, business rules needs to be evaluated and multiple steps are involved BizTalk is most likely a better choice.

BizTalk strength lies in supporting complex processes on the business level still with good support for data level integration. To use BizTalk for database to database integration without/or with few business rules is an over-kill solution and SSIS would most likely be a better fit.

Posted by Marcus Rosen at 1:29 AM 10 comments  

MSBuild and BizTalk

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

If you need to deploy a BizTalk solution in an automated fashion using MSBuild take a look at the following:

Microsoft SDC Tasks -

Contains MSBuild tasks for BizTalk deployment tasks like:

  • Removing/Adding BizTalk Applications
  • Starting/Stopping Application
  • Terminating Host Instances
  • And whole heap of other goodies..

BizTalk Build Generator -

  • Generates a complete set of MSBuild scripts for your BizTalk Application. Very easy and quick to use and gives a very good basis for your own customised build scripts.

Combining these two tools give you a lot of flexibility and clean build scripts if you want /need to stick with MSBuild.

The only things that is missing in my opinion is a task to Restarting the BizTalk Host Instance. To do this manually (using NET START/STOP) through MSBuild you can use the following target:


<Target Name="RestartBizTalkHostService">
<Message Text="Stopping the BizTalk Service.." />
<Exec Command="NET STOP $(BizTalkServiceName)" />

<Message Text="Starting the BizTalk Service.." />
<Exec Command="NET START $(BizTalkServiceName)" />

You can obtain the value of BizTalkServiceName from the Service Console.

Posted by Marcus Rosen at 10:47 PM 1 comments  

[Personal Post] My Travel Blog

Friday, June 22, 2007

For you who know me personally and would like to hear of my adventures overseas I have created a new blog explicitly for this purpose on:

Posted by Marcus Rosen at 6:12 AM 1 comments  

WMI Programming in .NET

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I have lately been playing around using WMI though .NET (System.Management namespace). The reason for this is that I’m developing a little BizTalk admin tool and I’m using a fair bit of WMI interop as well as ExplorerOM.

I never realised the power of WMI until I started doing this. WMI allows you to do many things among control hardware, hook in to OS events and all MS Server products exposes functionality through WMI (e.g. BizTalk). It basically brings you closer to the platform.

WMI programming is fairly simple to do through managed code these days, and it’s made even simpler through this free MS Tool: WMI Code Creator. This tool lists all WMI Classes, events and even generates code in C#/VB.NET or VB Script.

Nice Nice!

Posted by Marcus Rosen at 7:56 PM 2 comments  

First BizTalk 2006 book to hit the shelves..

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The first BTS 2006 has finally hit the shelves!! It seems alot of author have decided to hold off releasing their books until BizTalk Server 2006 R2 has been released but here is a book that takes the plunge.

BizTalk 2006 Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach is based on the experiences of many of the most prominent experts in the field. It features over 170 problem-solving recipes for BizTalk developers and administrators.

BizTalk Server 2006 builds on the heritage and core architecture of BizTalk Server 2004, leading to a powerful tool that encompasses the latest Microsoft technologies and industry standards for automating and managing business processes. BizTalk Server 2006 adds incremental value to BizTalk 2004 by improving administration, deployment, and other key areas of the product.

Book Web Site

Posted by Marcus Rosen at 9:12 PM 1 comments