Baseball is back!

I love baseball, but I used to think it was really boring…

Years ago I passed up an opportunity to go to Fenway Park when I was at a week-long vendor training in Boston.  I didn’t like baseball – thought it was boring – and I ended up at the Bull and Finch Pub (aka. Cheers) instead.  While Cheers was cool, looking back, I’m sure it’s not nearly as cool as Fenway where I still have not been to this day (we need a client in Boston – hint, hint!).  Back then I was travelling a lot as a consultant for Arthur Andersen’s Business Consulting group (SIDENOTE: I hear that Arthur Andersen is making a come back which is FANTASTIC news!  To this day, those were some of the best group of folks I’ve worked with in my now over 20 year technology career!), and I only watched baseball to help me get to sleep in hotel rooms.  Turning on a game and setting to volume to just be able to hear the ambient noise of the crowds eating hot dogs and doing the wave would put me to sleep in a matter of no time at all.

I don’t know what changed, but now I LOVE baseball!  Especially the Astros – this is our year!  The dual between the pitcher and the batter is just a classic example of skill and competition.  Ballparks are like cathedrals and one of these years I’m going to do THE baseball tour and visit all 30 parks in one season (bucket list item for sure).

So what’s the point of this post?  I don’t know.  Maybe that change is inevitable.  Maybe I should tie baseball into Big Data as sabermetrics is ruling the game these days (and if baseball franchises are using Big Data in their business, YOU should definitely be using it in yours!  Contact Us if you’d like us to help you figure out how you can catch up to Dallas Keuchel’s fast ball with Big Data!).  Or maybe it’s just that I’m excited that the boys of summer are back.  I think that’s it. –Jeff M.


Pink Floyd Records

Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut and The Wall – together – are 2 of the best records ever made.  While that is a statement, I place it here as more of a non-technical-related discussion tool.  Agree or disagree?

PS – for my money, The Final Cut is NUTS good!  Favorite Pink Floyd record…which is not commonly heard I think.

A Square Peg (who will remain nameless until comments in their favor are received ; )

How Much Should You Test a netForum Upgrade?

We just had Abila support install the latest Service Pack in a customer environment and the client asked us a question that we get asked quite frequently – “What should we test?” “How long should we take to test it?” “We just finished a whole bunch of testing for the last major release and now we have to go back to our end-users and ask them to test some more?” (OK, they didn’t ask ALL those questions, but those are all questions we have heard repeatedly in the past when it comes to testing upgrades, service packs and hot fixes for netForum as they are released by Abila)

Like most things in IT, while there unfortunately isn’t a “right” answer for every customer and every situation, there are certainly some best practices and rules of thumb to help you understand what level of testing effort is right for your Association. Let’s start on the small end of the spectrum…

Hot Fixes

Abila will release a “hot fix” more frequently than Service Packs or major releases when they determine that a “bug” is critical enough for a short-term fix. In other words, hot fixes usually contain solutions to very unfortunate and troublesome bugs. Traditionally these have been fairly straight-forward to test. You would first view the release notes for the hot fix that explains all the updates and changes included ([0]=field_kb_product_line%3A16951) and answer the following questions:

  1. Does the hot fix apply to your environment or business processes?  Do you need any of the fixes that were outlined in the release notes for the hot fix? Note that you do NOT HAVE TO install a hot fix!       Abila might recommend that you stay on the latest version – and generally that is a good idea – but hot fixes are released frequently and could result in quite a bit of testing for you and your team. Note that hot fixes are cumulative; so if you decide to skip one now, the next one will include all the hot fixes from your current version to the version you are having installed. You can always “catch up”.
  2. If you are going to apply the hot fix, what specific business processes or test cases do you need to test based on the release notes?  And keep in mind here that you might need to do a level of “regression testing” (which is defined as “the process of testing changes to computer programs to make sure that the older programming still works with the new changes”*). For example, if the hot fix contains a fix for how payments are applied to invoices with discounts, you may not only want to test apply a payment to an invoice with a discount line item, but also test things like: percentage-based discounts as well as flat discount amounts; discounts on events, products and memberships (depending on what your business sells and discounts); test a mock month-end close to verify the impact of the discounts all the way to your general ledger, etc.

You can generally get a hot fix tested in a few days to a week depending on how thorough you want to be. Hot fixes will be applied to your TEST or DEVELOPMENT environments by Abila support (so it’s always a good idea to have a recent copy of your LIVE database applied to your testing environment BEFORE having Abila apply/install the hot fix), and after your team has tested everything required for the hot fix, Abila will install the hot fix in your LIVE environment.

*From <>

Service Packs

In the 10 years that we’ve been working with netForum, only once did a netForum Service Pack contain primarily new features. Service Packs are typically a larger number of bug fixes that have all been packaged, tested and QA’d together. Whereas hot fixes might come out once per quarter (or more frequently), there might only be 2 service packs in a given calendar year for each major release. As a result, service packs should be tested much more thoroughly and detailed by your team…

In the past, we’d be comfortable with having Abila apply a service pack to a test environment and then just having power-users bang away on the new version for anywhere from 3-6 weeks. We would ask them to test “critical” business processes in addition to any fixes specifically identified in the release notes that we were looking for. This approach has worked well for our clients (and is still a better approach than not doing any testing at all on a service pack) up until the 2013 release. Unfortunately, over the past few years Abila has been experiencing quite a few “QA-related” issues (e.g. something that was fixed in a previous release being broke with the latest service pack), and these QA issues mean that, until Abila can give us a comfort level that they have resolved their QA issues, service packs should be tested almost like a major release (outlined below). This is a lot to ask for our clients and can result in frustration and burnout of power-users and/or testers – so, a compromise or happy-medium is usually reached and understood by all involved. Obviously, having your test cases documented and having testing tools in place will help manage these testing efforts and make it easier on all involved (and The Square Pegs can certainly help with developing, documenting and/or making your testing efforts more efficient and effective – just drop us a line!).

Major Releases

Major releases of netForum come out almost every year – e.g. 2013.01 and 2014.01 were “major” releases. Major releases may contain fundamental changes to the software (e.g. the 2016 version will introduce a new iWeb User Interface and a new backend database server, SQL Server 2016, among many other large changes to the system). As a result of the scope of changes involved with a major release, clients should basically test these releases until their fingers fall off and their heads explode! Ok, not really…but, you get the point. Major releases need test cases defined, meta-data reviewed prior to the installation of the release in your test environment, testers defined and their calendars cleared (as much as can be) for the testing effort, executive leadership on board with the level of effort from the team, integrated systems lined up and ready to regression test, etc. Expect to take 2 to as much as 6 months (maybe even more depending on if “show-stopping issues” are identified in testing that need to be addressed by Abila before you can install the major release in your live environment) testing a major release. You can almost think of this as a “mini” implementation, and if you need help, reach out to the Square Pegs as we help customers with major release upgrades all the time (even if you just need to re-compile some customizations that you, Abila or an partner built for you)!

Things to keep in mind for all upgrades – whether hot fix or service pack or major release:

  • Always try and update your TEST or DEVELOPMENT environment from your LIVE environment PRIOR TO installing and upgrade (both your back-end database and web server file system – this will help make sure you won’t be surprised when the upgrade is applied from your test system to your live system.
  • If you have the time, it’s always a good idea to document your test results – using a tool such as Microsoft Test Manager, or even just Microsoft Excel can help manage your testing efforts both large and small.
  • Don’t forget to regression test! While Abila makes every effort to not break something that was previously working, this does happen…so, don’t just test the single scenario outlined in the release notes – think about your specific business processes and test the critical RELATED processes at a minimum.
  • Keep your metadata and customizations in mind. netForum does a fantastic job of keeping your customizations intact with baseline upgrades and new features – but if something is more likely to break during an upgrade, it’s usually something you have customized.

As a side-note – Abila has been working on AUTOMATED TESTS for netForum to help with their QA-related processes. While these automated tests would be a valuable resource for Abila customers to help with these testing efforts, Abila has decided to NOT make these automated tests available to their customers due to the level of investment required to build these tests as well as the variety of each clients’ netForum environment and customizations. Square Peg Services has launched an informal effort for the netForum community to try and build our own Automated Tests based on the forth-coming 2016 release (with the new iWeb user interface). If you are interested in this effort, or if you would like for one of the Square Pegs to help provide some specific automated tests for your environment, please reach out to us at for more information. Happy Testing!

Jeff M. – SPS Owner/Consultant

It’s an Exciting Time…to be a Microsoft Developer!

I’m a big fan of Microsoft.

That statement might result in either an internalized or audible chuckle from a lot of folks, but what can I say?  I am a fan.  I’ve been a fan since I learned MS-DOS and Basic programming back in the 80’s (somewhat ironically, my Dad went out and bought an Apple IIe computer the day after we saw the movie War Games – that was my first personal computer and I still know the WOPR launch codes to this day; I’m not proud of it), through working on my choice of brand new color Macintosh computers or Dell 486’s in the college computer lab (again, ironically I found that at that time I enjoyed writing my COBOL code on the Mac emulators more than I did the Dells), even through what I would consider the “Dark Days” of Ballmer where I bought multiple iPods and iPhones and iDevices, to now what I would consider a fresh new start for Microsoft as a company.  I’ve always been a fan.

Why you might ask?  Developers.

I consider myself a software developer at heart.  I love building software.  I view the software development process as an art form – equally an art as painting a picture, sculpting a statue or playing piano.  And Microsoft has ALWAYS taken care of developers.  Microsoft understands something that I think Apple and a lot of other tech companies have missed – that, at least for the enterprise, developers are the key.  Keep developers happy and they will keep customers in the Microsoft ecosystem.

You might be saying, “Hold on there a second consultant-guy!?!  Have you ever heard of the App Store and all the money it has made for software developers over the past decade?”; and you’d have a point there – if you were focused on the CONSUMER as your end-user (e.g. “casual” users like K-12 students and households/family members, etc.).  I’m focused on ENTERPRISE end-users – corporate customers that are looking for technology solutions to solve complex business problems that won’t break the bank.  Companies and end-users that are looking towards Productivity.  With the help of developers looking for alternatives to Java and C, Microsoft grabbed onto those customers decades ago with Visual Basic, SQL Server, Windows NT and MS Office and has not lost sight of the productivity of end-users and developers all the way through the writing of this blog entry.  Microsoft takes care of developers.

Which is why this current “productivity era” of Microsoft with Satya Nadella at the helm is particularly exciting to me.  This new Microsoft leadership not only understands that keeping developers happy is a key to their continued success, it also recognizes how software development has changed dramatically over the past decade.  Now Microsoft, where it has been somewhat “stagnant” in the recent past, is now an innovator and leader in software development frameworks and tools once again.  .NET has been an extremely powerful framework for quite a while now, matched only by Java in the past and now more recently by other quickly growing technologies like node.js and combinations of Ruby, Go, Swift, etc.  These newer technologies that are quickly being adopted by developers have one thing in common – they are all open-source frameworks for the most part.  During the “Dark Days”, Ballmer was so focused on “devices and services” that he was neglecting this important aspect of Microsoft’s core constituency – almost to the point of making Microsoft irrelevant.  But Nadella gets IT! (no pun intended)  .NET is now open-source.  Visual Studio, arguably the best IDE out there can now be downloaded for FREE ( or, if you are looking for something more light-weight, AND that you can run on Linux or a Mac, check out Visual Studio Code at  You can spin up a development environment using Microsoft AND non-Microsoft tooling available via the Nuget command-line with source-code management and sharing in Microsoft TFS Online, or even the non-Microsoft standard Git, in the Azure, or even AWS clouds in a matter of minutes…

It’s just an exciting time to be a Microsoft Developer.

If you aren’t convinced, I encourage you to visit the main Microsoft .NET home page: to learn more about the cross-platform and open-source capabilities of .NET.  If you aren’t a fan of marketing-based rhetoric like that, check out Scott Hanselman’s blog:  While he is a Microsoft employee, he is incredibly fair and insightful when it comes to measuring Microsoft’s place in a rapidly-changing software development ecosystem (not to mention a brilliant developer and funny guy too!).  Back in November 2014 he wrote a blog post about what Microsoft was up to (way back then) that started with the quote – “It’s happening. It’s the reason that a lot of us came to work for Microsoft, and I think it’s both the end of an era but also the beginning of amazing things to come.”*

After reading some of those resources, if you still don’t think Microsoft and .NET are exciting and innovative and should be considered for your next enterprise technology solution, just wrap your head around this FACT – that, in today’s market, only with Microsoft-based technologies (.NET Core via Visual Studio) can you invest in a SINGLE custom application and have that same, single code-base run on Windows Servers or Windows 10 Workstations in the Microsoft Store; or Linux servers; or on Apple iPhones and iPads; or Android devices; in the Azure or AWS cloud; in Linux-based containers; heck, even on an Arduino or other IoT-based device!  One code-base.  One development effort.  One compile.  One Git repository.  One set of code for your business to support and enhance over the years that can run on just about any device on the market today (CONSUMER or ENTERPRISE).  Now that’s productivity.

Let Square Peg Services help make you a Microsoft fan as well by giving us a call today, or responding in the comments below.

Jeff M – SPS Owner/Consultant

*From <>

Welcome to the SPS Blog!

Since we’ve updated our site for the new year, we’ve decided to update our blog as well.  We decided not to move over our blog posts from the old site as we are just to darn busy helping our clients with technology projects.  That said, you can expect the same type of blog posts here on the new – mostly tech-related posts, but really who knows!?  Keep coming back to see what we (and our clients) are up to – and thanks for visiting our new site!

Jeff M. – SPS Owner/Consultant