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Remote Desktop Connection Manager – Making this TFS Admin Smile Every Day

by Angela 3. August 2015 12:49

So I regularly have a handful of RDC sessions open to administer the various servers that make up TFS on-premises instances including the application tier, data tier, build server, test controller, agents, etc. Doing this with the build in Remote Desktop Manager can be a bit cumbersome when you need to have quick and easy access to multiple servers at once. Sure there are lots of little tricks you can do with saved profiles and desktop shortcuts, but I needed something better. A coworker of mine turned me onto a free Microsoft tool called Remote Desktop Connection Manager. Maybe you already knew about it, if so keep reading anyway because I’ve discovered a few configuration settings that were totally necessary for making the tool really useful, particularly with multiple monitors where you can run into wacky issues with resolution.

First thing I did was create a profile, only this profile can save all of the settings for all of the servers you need to connect to for a given client. Need to switch clients, no problem, just choose a new profile and suddenly the view refreshes and the tree view has a whole new set of servers at your fingertips. Below is an example of my current client environment, complete with AT/DT, build, test controllers, and both automated and manual lab environment machines.

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Each server has its own settings including things like logon credentials, display settings, encryption, etc. Your best bet is to set most of these things at the root level, which then applies those same settings to all servers beneath it. HUGE for things like AD credentials where *generally* you are always logging in as you. Nice thing is, there’s a checkbox on every settings tab where you can turn inheritance on or off, in the cases where you may want to save a server profile with alternate credentials.

This does happen to me when I am troubleshooting controllers and agents, and need to login with a different level of permissions. In that case, I may have the same server in the tree multiple times, but each one uses different credentials to connect. And my alternate login profile will NOT inherit Login Credentials from the root. Super convenient, just double-click and you’re in!

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A few other handy things that I recently learned are how to get it to ACTUALLY full screen. Again I set this at the root and inherit because I want all of my servers to act the same. Because I have a second monitor that is unfortunately not capable of the same resolution as my laptop, with the default settings I can’t really ever full screen mode the remote server, AND if I drag the remote viewer from one monitor to the other it freaks out. To prevent this, and keep the server window docked at full screen in whatever monitor it is in, setup your Display Settings like the following (the first two settings need to be checked):

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The other thing I was constantly struggling with was navigating Servers running Win 8.0clients + or Server 2012. I use a track pad, and getting those charms to pop up and switching between the desktop and the tiles when you can’t just use the native keyboard windows key or charms menu could be really frustrating. If you want to make your life easier, make sure keystrokes are always sent to the remote computer. So in this case go to Local Resources, and make sure that Windows Key combos is set to “on the remote computer”.

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I need to bring some donuts to my friendly local sysadmin for that nugget. I’m sure it’s well documented somewhere, but I had missed this one and it made a big difference for me!

 

That’s it. Hope that makes your life easier, whether you are a TFS admin or not Smile

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | TFS | TFS 2008 | TFS 2010 | TFS 2012 | TFS 2013 | TFS 2015 | TFS Administration | Team Foundation Server | Productivity

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Still Running TFS 2010? It’s Aging Out of Support Next Month. Polaris Solutions Can Help You Upgrade Quickly

by Angela 4. June 2015 12:04

You heard me correctly, mainstream support for TFS 2010 ends on July 14th, less than 6 weeks from today! So if you’re thinking “it still WORKS, why should I upgrade?” Consider these points…

  • Any issues arising with your server will NOT be patched or serviced by Microsoft support, and it will be harder and harder to find experienced people to work on it (well, who WANT to work on it)
  • Your infrastructure team may be chomping at the bit to stop supporting the old operating systems and SQL Server versions that TFS is running on
  • You’re missing out on some amazing new capabilities that it would take me hours to cover and that I promise will revolutionize the way you develop and deliver software
  • You attract great new talent by offering robust and modern development environments, trust me on this
  • I can tell you from a LOT of personal experience, that the longer you wait to upgrade, the harder and more time consuming it is!

The good news is that you may qualify for up to $5,000 worth of free services to help you plan and prepare for your upgrade through the Microsoft Deployment Planning Services program (DTDPS)! Wondering what that is? Below is a quick FAQ that I created to explain the program:

Now what exactly IS DTDPS? Well first of all it’s a Microsoft offering, so expect MANY acronyms to follow. DTDPS stands for Developer Tools Deployment Planning Services. Specifically, the development tools that these services are meant to be used in conjunction with are the Microsoft Visual Studio ALM platform - Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio, and Microsoft Test Manager (TFS, VS, and MTM for good measure). 

So what does this really do for me? While most people are already very familiar with Visual Studio from a .NET development perspective, many people who own the other tools within the TFS platform are not taking full advantage of them. DTDPS is the solution to this problem, connecting customers with the right partners to make sure they are getting the full value of their ALM investment. Software that sits on the shelf is a huge waste of money.  And from Microsoft’s perspective is something you’re not likely to buy again, so it is of course in their interest to offer such a program.

What kinds of services are included in DTDPS? Currently there are 4 DTDPS offerings available: TFS deployment planning assessment, Visual Studio Quality Tools assessment, Visual Studio Agile Deployment Assessment, and Visual Studio DevOps Deployment Assessment. You’ll notice a theme here, the word “planning”. These engagements are not meant to be used to implement the tools. Instead, they are short, fixed-length (3 and 5 days) engagements for gathering data and analyzing your current environment and needs in order for us to help you build a plan for implementation and adoption of Visual Studio and TFS ALM tooling. It’s a great kickstart and will drastically accelerate your ALM initiatives.

But what if I don’t need one of those services, but need other assistance with TFS? Well, it depends. I know, I know, typical consulting answer. These programs can be expanded upon to assist customers with other ALM related concerns, so drop me a line at the email I provide below, and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you in more detail. 

Who delivers the engagement? DTDPS is a program delivered through certified and experienced ALM partners like Polaris Solutions to help customers with SA (Software Assurance) benefits to take full advantage of the tools they own.  We have delivered dozens of these engagements over the past few years and every customer we have worked with has been extremely happy with the valuable roadmaps that we delivered. You will benefit from a wealth of relevant experience and proven ALM practices that only comes from us having deployed and leveraged the tools in a large number of different environments and business verticals.

OK, I’m intrigued, but how expensive is it? It is FREE. Seriously, and absolutely.  This benefit is available to customers who purchase Microsoft products with SA, think of it as a rewards program. In fact, you may have DTDPS credits without knowing it!  Many of the customers I work with did not know they had DTDPS credits available until I turned them onto the program.

I want in! How do I sign up?  Start at the DTDPS site. Here you can peruse the various services available and see which ones are right for you and your organization.  Then check out the DTDPS QuickStart guide which walks you through the steps of accessing your benefits.  Then you just pick a partner to work with, like us, and you’re on your way to a better way of doing ALM!

 

If you are interested in learning more about DTDPS, or if you would like to find out more about getting a free quick assessment of the effort required to upgrade and the benefits that your team would enjoy, please contact me at Angela@PolarisSolutions.com. And if you know anyone still using an older version of TFS (anyone running TFS 2013 or earlier qualifies) help them out and point them to this blog!

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How a Pinterest Hack for FireFox broke my TFS Web Tooling

by Angela 11. May 2015 11:43

Because I am sure you ALL use Pinterest right? Whatever, you do, you can admit it. Anyway, I ran across a weird case where a grease monkey script that I was using to hack Pinterest caused really odd behavior with my TFS web tools, and surely one or more of you will have this happen to you, or one of your fellow TFS users.

I logged into my TFS web portal today, and all of a sudden the TFS web tools were acting REALLY weird. The Code, Build, and Test tabs worked fine, but anything related to areas/iterations or work items was blank. A good portion of the admin screens were blank too.

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First I panicked a little because we had been having some serious issues on the data tier and had to reboot the server. I couldn’t imagine what would have caused this to happen. I was a TFS admin with god rights, and I could see code, builds, and test plans. Then I confirmed it was just me, and then I also confirmed it was only in FireFox. Whew!!

I cleared my cache, restarted the browser, and rebooted, still busted.I figured it HAD to be something I changed in my browser settings, or maybe an update I recently installed. I couldn’t remember what I had changed in FF lately, then it came to me, I had added a grease monkey script over the weekend to remove all of the “picked for you” items from my main Pinterest feed. Because Pinterest is important. And reasons, shush you. Anyway, I turned it off and everything went back to normal. Yippee!

Here was the blog post with the grease monkey script that I had installed: http://bethmcmillan.com/blog/?p=1254. I haven’t had time yet to figure out exactly which part of the script was killing my TFS app. All I care about for now is I can work again.

So if you have Pinterest users who are also using TFS, this may happen to you.  Hopefully if it does, you remember my lesson learned instead of panicking and going down a rathole of troubleshooting that will lead you nowhere.

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | Visual Studio 2013 | Visual Studio | VSOnline | VS 2013 | TFS 2013 | TFS Administration | Team Foundation Server

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Setting Default Values on a Readonly work item field in TFS 2013

by Angela 4. March 2015 14:07

It’s actually a bit more complicated than that… What I was trying to do was set the Assigned To field on a NEW work item to a particular person, and then lock it in.  So new work items of a specific type can only ever be assigned to a particular person… The Assigned to dropdown would only ever get the full list of team members after it was transitioned away from the New state.

I tried a lot of things that felt like they SHOULD have worked. It appeared that I could do either set a field default, or make it read-only, but not both.  Here are the things I tried:

  1. I tried setting the field itself to both have a default value and be read-only at the field definition level, but it appears as a read-only blank field.
  2. I tried setting the field to have the default value, then added a WHEN clause to the field to set it to read-only when System.State = new. It appears as a read-only blank field.
  3. I tried setting the field to be read-only, then added a WHEN clause to set the field Default value during the transition into the new state (see below). It appears as a read-only blank field.
  4. I tried setting the field to have the default value, then set the field to read-only during the transition into the new state (see below). It appears as a read-only blank field.
  5. I tried setting the Assigned to field to be both set with a default value, and set to read-only in the New transition. Nothing was set at the field level. It appears as a read-only blank field.

Is read-only always processed before default value rules are set regardless of how you do it? I wasn’t sure, and I did run across the order of operations docs and it does not address read-only. :: SIGH::

If I remove the Read-only rule from every approach, the field defaults properly, making me think what I want to do is just not supported.  After scouring a lot of MSDN documentation, I have no reason to think otherwise but when I find out for sure I’ll let you know. Anyone see something else I am doing wrong? Or know for sure if it is supported or not? If so, please let me know! It’s kind of driving me crazy.  In the meantime, I did think of a workaround.   Instead of making the field read-only, I reduced the valid choices in the drop down while the item is in the new state to the one person it can be.  Not exactly read-only, but they can't change it to another value so it is effectively read-only...

<FieldDefinition name="Assigned To" refname="System.AssignedTo" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" reportable="dimension">
  <ALLOWEXISTINGVALUE />
  <ALLOWEDVALUES expanditems="true">
    <LISTITEM value="[project]\Analysts" />
  </ALLOWEDVALUES>
  <DEFAULT from="value" value="Joy" />
  <VALIDUSER />
  <WHEN field="System.State" value="New">
    <ALLOWEDVALUES expanditems="true">
      <LISTITEM value="Joy" />
    </ALLOWEDVALUES>
  </WHEN>
</FieldDefinition>

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St Louis Day of .NET – Links to Blogs and Decks for all Polaris Speakers

by Angela 24. November 2014 15:22

This year was the second year that Polaris Solutions sponsored St. Louis Day of .NET.  In case you’re wondering why were sponsor a conference in St Louis, a) it’s a really great conference, and b) we have an office down there, a quickly growing one too! So if you missed it this year, stay tuned for STLDODN 2015! Outside of ThatConference, it is one of the most affordable, local conference that I have even been a part of. It was focused on Microsoft and .NET technologies, but also included a lot of talks around test automation, deployment and release management, and agile and scrum.

If you did attend, I wanted to make sure to point you at my slide decks, as well as the blogs and slide decks of some of our other presenters. If you missed them, I spoke on both TFS deployment and management as well as agile adoption, Josh did presentations on machine learning with Azure and ASP.NET identify framework, Clint did a really great presentation on Application Architecture and another on Advanced OOP, and Jeff talked about a topic near and dear to my hear as well – TFS Consolidation and migrations.  If you attended the pre-compiler sessions you may have even run across our newest Polarian – Alejandro Ramirez. Great stuff, all of them! Here is a roundup of how to find more information on those speakers, and to get their slides:

  • Angela Dugan: You’re already on my blog :) slides are here
  • Clint Edmonson: Blog and slides
  • Josh Gillespie: Blog and slides
  • Jeff Przylucki: Blog and slides to be posted soon, check back in a few days!
  • Alejandro Ramirez:Blog and slides

 

A couple of us even made it into the podcast line-up while there as well! I’ll be appearing on an upcoming edition of Technology and Friends, and both myself and Alejandro got a chance to sit down with the great team behind St Louis Tech Talks

Lastly, be sure to check out the STLDODN twitter feed (and search on #STLDODN) for some great tweets, links to the other great podcast episodes recorded live during the conference, as well as links to some of the other presentations.

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Demystifying TFS 2013 .3 Access Levels and Licensing, a bit

by Angela 7. October 2014 09:58

In case you’re wondering, yes I specifically included the TFS update number because the licensing for TFS changes so often these days, that you really do have to be know what version of TFS someone is talking about to be sure you’re telling them the right thing. Anyway, I work with a lot of customers who get really confused about TFS Access Levels, in terms of what they mean and how you know who belongs in each “bucket”. You may even be thinking “what are access levels?” depending on what version of TFS you are running today.  Access levels were introduced with the release of TFS 2012, to ensure that users of the TFS web tools were only accessing the features they paid for.  You can find the access levels administration page in your TFS admin console, at the TFS instance level (so make sure you are in the Control Panel and not at a lower level, like at the Collection or Team project levels).

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You may have noticed (default) in the Full Access level row, this means that if you do not EXPLICITLY assign anyone to an access level, they will get Full access by default.  Not a big deal on my personal TFS instance because I have Visual Studio Ultimate and am the only user.  On your own instance however, best to leave the default at Limited, and add Active Directory groups to each Access Level to give your TFS users the right level of functionality, based on their licensing. Otherwise you risk unintentionally giving people access to features they have not paid for, being out of compliance with Microsoft, and having very unhappy users when you later have to fix things and end up taking away your TFS user’s features because they haven’t paid for them. There unfortunately isn’t obvious documentation on how this works for TFS 2013 so you may not have even realized that’s what was happening, but I did find reference to it in the TFS 2012 docs.

Now your next question is probably “What features does each access level give you?”

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  1. 3) With Limited access, users can create and modify only those work items that the user creates and can query on their own work items only.

  2. 5) Read-only.

This list only applies to on-premise TFS, access to web features on VSOnline are slightly different these days, and access is controlled by your license level automatically since you have to sign in with your MSDN account or Live ID. Note the major differences between each level, since this may even influence what license you decide to buy for your users. Most people fall under at least Standard access, but your QA, developer, and support teams often require a Full license for Web-based test management and the feedback tools. If you’re not familiar with them, definitely look up some videos and watch them in action, or reach out to me for a quick demo! :)

OK, so now you understand where to set access levels, and how they control what a user has access to on the web. How does each access level map to a license? This is pretty simple actually.

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You may be wondering, “well what about Visual Studio Professional?”.  Yeah, not sure why they left that one out, but since VS Pro includes a CAL, those users would get Standard access. Note that this means that VS Pro users do NOT get access to some really cool features listed above.

Now what about security? It’s very possible that your Active Directory groups are currently mapped to a user’s role, and does not necessarily coincide with access levels.  Particularly if your developer group has a mix of VS Pro, Premium, and Ultimate.  Now you cannot just assign your TFS_Developers group (or whatever you call it) to one access level, since some fall under Standard and some fall under Full. My advice is to create 3 Active Directory groups that map to your 3 access levels and chuck people into those AD groups as you buy or renew your licenses with Microsoft.  Technically, you could set one Access level as the default, not create an AD group for it, and anyone “unassigned” to an access level gets the default. I avoid that because it assumes too much, and that is how users fall through the cracks.  Just create Active Directory groups for each level, assign that AD group to the corresponding level, and whenever you add new TFS users they get added to that access level AD group to allow them access to the right TFS web features.

Limited access level, Add Windows user or group

 

Hopefully this shed some light on how Access levels work, and does not further confuse you. TFS licensing is rather complex, but sitting down and planning out your security and access model, and leveraging Active Directory as much as possible can make this really simple to administer in the long run. You can also find out more about licensing from the Visual Studio and MSDN Licensing White Paper, it’s honestly a blog series in and of itself, and again it is so complex and changes often enough that I’m not even going to try to untangle it just yet.

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TFS 2013.3 CTP – What I’m Most Excited About: Part 1

by Angela 4. June 2014 19:57

Did you hear that there is a CTP of TFS2013.3? In case you missed Brian’s blog post, there is some really great stuff in there! I’m really jazzed about the big, BIG changes to Test Plans and Test Suites. They’re now work items! Now, in case you’re not sure why this is a big change, in the past Test Plans and Suites were not items you could customize or query, like you could Tasks, Bugs, etc.

The first step is upgrading.

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The process is very similar to every other upgrade or update you’ve applied. So pretty darn easy. Fortunately, it’s also a super fast process.

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Took under 15 minutes from start to finish for me, although admittedly I have a fairly small implementation with just 2 Team Project Collections and a handful of Team Projects on each. A *lot* is happening behind the scenes, including some major data transformations, so if you plan to take on this update when it releases it would be a GREAT idea to run the upgrade against a clone of your full production databases in a test environment. Not only to get an idea of the time it will take for your production upgrade, but to ensure you don’t encounter any unexpected issues. Particularly if you are heavy users of Test Plans, Test Suites, and Test Case work items. You can use these backup and restore instructions to create a test instance of your collection databases. And since I was updating from TFS 2013.2. there wasn’t even anything to configure once it was done for everything to work, just update and go!

Be sure to download it here and install it, but not in production eh? It’s not a go-live, but it’s worth checking out on your own instance of TFS :) I’m currently testing out all kinds of new features available to me, and will be sure to post a few follow-ups to this post detailing why this update will rock your world soon!

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What Conference? Yeah ThatConference

by Angela 15. May 2014 08:49

With so many conferences, it’s easy for one to get lost in the noise. But don’t let that happen with ThatConference. I know, “but Angela you’re on the conference committee, of course you think I should go”. It’s true, for several years now I’ve been working with the ThatConference gang to keep this thing growing and thriving, but it’s because I believe in it. We don’t get paid, we get nothing out of being on the committee other than knowing we got to help provide this awesome event to the community we are so proud to be a part of. OK, now I’m getting all sappy so let’s move on. The point is, this conference is literally organized by a bunch of us techies and geeks like you, not huge corporations or software vendors with an agenda or licenses to sell.  We strive to make the conference fun, educational, and family-friendly. So I mean it when I say this conference is FOR YOU.

Tickets went on sale today, and you may have noticed a slight uptick in prices. Yeah, things get more expensive every year, that’s life, but is STILL an incredible value at $399. That includes 3 full days of amazing sessions (125+ to choose from!) AND lots of networking opportunities AND a pig roast AND a private water park party just for ThatConference attendees AND a Bacon bar AND multiple social events AND a game night (I might be biased as I am running this one, but seriously, BOARD GAMES!!). That was a lot of ANDs for your money. And if you buy soon you can get an Early Bird discount of $25 making the conference just $374.99. You also get a discounted nightly rate at the water park resort if you’re not a local, which gets you some nice additional perks (last year we got free passes to the Ducks and Tommy Bartlett show with our room). That’s an incredibly inexpensive conference that you can combine with a great family summer vacation in the Wisconsin Dells! The topics being covered this year are incredibly diverse, I’d need a few paragraphs more just to cover them all and no one wants to read that much so check out the full conference schedule here. And don’t be afraid to ask your boss to sponsor your ticket, and maybe send a few of your coworkers too!  If they have any budget set aside for training, I can’t think of a better way to use it.  You’ll get exposed to a far wider range of topics and our food is WAY better too ;)

As you might know if you are a returning camper, we also have a great program for the families, so bring the significant others and kids if you have them. It’s a last hurrah before school at a water park and indoor amusement park. You’ll be a HERO and you still get to go geek out at a tech conference! If you purchase family tickets along with your conference ticket, family members are just $39.99 per person, or $29.99 if purchased before 5/22. That means the entire family can join us at ThatConference social events, the pig roast, game night, a craft night that I organize just for the kids, and of course an entire track devoted to family friendly geekery. And trust me when I say the family sessions will blow their minds! Last year my 10 year old nephew was introduced to programming for the first time (he even used Visual Studio for one session!), and ended up stealing my laptop so he could play around with it some more. How cool is that?!  This year we even have a couple of session being run by kid campers from last year! There’s even a session on writing Minecraft Mods. I know right? The family schedule is here, and it’s REALLY good so look it over, show it to your kids, then sign them up!

Hope to see you In August! Now go sign up, seriously right now, go do it.

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Chicago ALM User Group – April is All About Effective TFS Management

by Angela 16. April 2014 09:07

So as an ALM consultant, I work with a LOT of customers to “clean up” their ALM implementation, and spend a lot of time talking about proper care and feeding of their TFS environment.

Installing TFS is relatively easy, but configuring it to support your organization structure over the long haul can be challenging. How many team project collections do you need? When do you create new team projects? Which process templates should you use? How much should you customize? These are important considerations, and making the wrong choice can cause major headaches down the road. At this installment of the Chicago ALM user group, I’ll be reviewing best practices, discussing the ins and outs of how to structure your TFS projects, and get your most burning questions about TFS configuration answered!

I hope to see you in Downers Grove next week. Please be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food and so that the security folks will let you in!

When: Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where:  Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

 

And don’t forget, VS Live is coming to Chicago in early May, and friends of the Chicago ALM user group get a $500 discount code! More details here: http://t.co/LdzaiCR6O9.

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Come Join Polaris at CCC 2014 on April 26th

by Angela 10. March 2014 14:53

So if you haven’t been to Chicago Code Camp yet, you should! I know, I know, there are SO MANY conferences in the Chicago area, how do you choose? It’s true, there are a lot of good ones but here are some benefits to CCC:

a) Because it is community- driven, there is some amazing sessions, including a few sessions on TFS and agile. Here are the ones I am hoping to attend (to be fair I am GIVING two of those talks):

 

Other great sessions cover a wide variety of topics like Windows 8, TypeScript, PowerShell, Unity 3D and Azure, JavaScript and Elixir.

b) it’s FREE for a full day of techie goodness, lunch included. Yeah, you read that correctly, FREE.

c) it’s super easy to get to. It’s right off of 294 and the parking is free.

d) it’s on a Saturday so you don’t even have to miss work! OK, so maybe you don’t see this as an advantage, but I do.

e) Polaris Solutions is a Platinum sponsor and will have a booth. So stop by, say hi, and pick up one of our sweet little booklets on Agile practices.

 

So register now before it sells out, and check out the full list of sessions here: http://www.chicagocodecamp.com/Public/Sessions

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