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  • Know a little of a lot or a lot of a little? [closed]

    - by Jeff V
    Possible Duplicate: Is it better to specialize in a single field I like, or expand into other fields to broaden my horizons? My buddy and I who have been programming for 13 years or so were talking this morning and a question that came up was is it better to know a little of a lot (i.e. web, desktop, VB.Net, C#, jQuery, PHP, Java etc.) or is it better to know a lot of a little (meaning expert in something). The context of this question is what makes someone a senior programmer? Is it someone that has been around the block a few times and has been in many different situations or one that is locked in to a specific technology that is super knowledgeable in that one technology? I see pro's and con's of both scenarios.. Just wondering what others thought.

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  • Embedded Model Designing -- top down or bottom up?

    - by Jeff
    I am trying to learn RoR and develop a webapp. I have a few models I have thought of for this app, and they are fairly embedded. For example (please excuse my lack of RoR syntax): Model: textbook title:string type:string has_many: chapters Model: chapter content:text has_one: review_section Model: review_section title:string has_many: questions has_many: answers , through :questions Model: questions ... Model: answers ... My question is, with the example I gave, should I start at the top model (textbook) or the bottom most (answers)?

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  • Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta v3.0

    - by Jeff Certain
    The Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta is an annual event held in Denver in late February or early March. The last couple of these have been amazing events, with great speakers like Beth Massi, Scott Hanselman, David Yack, Kathleen Dollard, Ben Hoelting, Paul Nielsen… need I go on? Registration is open at http://www.rmtechtrifecta.com. The speaker list hasn’t been finalized, but it’s sure to be another great event. Don’t miss it!

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  • Standard ratio of cookies to "visitors"?

    - by Jeff Atwood
    As noted in a recent blog post, We see a large discrepancy between Google Analytics "visitors" and Quantcast "visitors". Also, for reasons we have never figured out, Google Analytics just gets larger numbers than Quantcast. Right now GA is showing more visitors (15 million) on stackoverflow.com alone than Quantcast sees on the whole network (14 million): Why? I don’t know. Either Google Analytics loses cookies sometimes, or Quantcast misses visitors. Counting is an inexact science. We think this is because Quantcast uses a more conservative ratio of cookies-to-visitors. Whereas Google Analytics might consider every cookie a "visitor", Quantcast will only consider every 1.24 cookies a "visitor". This makes sense to me, as people may access our sites from multiple computers, multiple browsers, etcetera. I have two closely related questions: Is there an accepted standard ratio of cookies to visitors? This is obviously an inexact science, but is there any emerging rule of thumb? Is there any more accurate way to count "visitors" to a website other than relying on browser cookies? Or is this just always going to be kind of a best-effort estimation crapshoot no matter how you measure it?

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  • Website misclassified by websense

    - by Jeff Atwood
    I received the following email from a user of one of our websites: This morning I tried to log into example.com and I was blocked by websense at work because it is considered a "social networking" site or something. I assume the websense filter is maintained by a central location, so I'm hoping that by letting you guys know you can get it unblocked. per Wikipedia, Websense is web filtering or Internet content-control software. This means one (or more) of our sites is being miscategorized by websense as "social networking" and thus disallowed for access at any workplace that uses websense to control what websites their users can and cannot access during work hours. (I know, they are monsters!) How do we dispute this websense classification error, as our websites should generally be considered "information technology" and never "social networking"? How do we know what category websense has put our sites in, so we can pro-actively make sure they're not wrong?

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  • Developer – Cross-Platform: Fact or Fiction?

    - by Pinal Dave
    This is a guest blog post by Jeff McVeigh. Jeff McVeigh is the general manager of Performance Client and Visual Computing within Intel’s Developer Products Division. His team is responsible for the development and delivery of leading software products for performance-centric application developers spanning Android*, Windows*, and OS* X operating systems. During his 17-year career at Intel, Jeff has held various technical and management positions in the fields of media, graphics, and validation. He also served as the technical assistant to Intel’s CTO. He holds 20 patents and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. It’s not a homogenous world. We all know it. I have a Windows* desktop, a MacBook Air*, an Android phone, and my kids are 100% Apple. We used to have 2.5 kids, now we have 2.5 devices. And we all agree that diversity is great, unless you’re a developer trying to prioritize the limited hours in the day. Then it’s a series of trade-offs. Do we become brand loyalists for Google or Apple or Microsoft? Do we specialize on phones and tablets or still consider the 300M+ PC shipments a year when we make our decisions on where to spend our time and resources? We weigh the platform options, monetization opportunities, APIs, and distribution models. Too often, I see developers choose one platform, or write to the lowest common denominator, which limits their reach and market success. But who wants to be ?me too”? Cross-platform coding is possible in some environments, for some applications, for some level of innovation—but it’s not all-inclusive, yet. There are some tricks of the trade to develop cross-platform, including using languages and environments that ?run everywhere.” HTML5 is today’s answer for web-enabled platforms. However, it’s not a panacea, especially if your app requires the ultimate performance or native UI look and feel. There are other cross-platform frameworks that address the presentation layer of your application. But for those apps that have a preponderance of native code (e.g., highly-tuned C/C++ loops), there aren’t tons of solutions today to help with code reuse across these platforms using consistent tools and libraries. As we move forward with interim solutions, they’ll improve and become more robust, based, in no small part, on our input. What’s your answer to the cross-platform challenge? Are you fully invested in HTML5 now? What are your barriers? What’s your vision to navigate the cross-platform landscape?  Here is the link where you can head next and learn more about how to answer the questions I have asked: https://software.intel.com/en-us Republished with permission from here. Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.sqlauthority.com)Filed under: PostADay, SQL, SQL Authority, SQL Query, SQL Server, SQL Tips and Tricks, T SQL Tagged: Intel

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  • Learn Many Languages

    - by Jeff Foster
    My previous blog, Deliberate Practice, discussed the need for developers to “sharpen their pencil” continually, by setting aside time to learn how to tackle problems in different ways. However, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, a contested and somewhat-controversial concept from language theory, seems to hold reasonably true when applied to programming languages. It states that: “The structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers conceptualize their world.” If you’re constrained by a single programming language, the one that dominates your day job, then you only have the tools of that language at your disposal to think about and solve a problem. For example, if you’ve only ever worked with Java, you would never think of passing a function to a method. A good developer needs to learn many languages. You may never deploy them in production, you may never ship code with them, but by learning a new language, you’ll have new ideas that will transfer to your current “day-job” language. With the abundant choices in programming languages, how does one choose which to learn? Alan Perlis sums it up best. “A language that doesn‘t affect the way you think about programming is not worth knowing“ With that in mind, here’s a selection of languages that I think are worth learning and that have certainly changed the way I think about tackling programming problems. Clojure Clojure is a Lisp-based language running on the Java Virtual Machine. The unique property of Lisp is homoiconicity, which means that a Lisp program is a Lisp data structure, and vice-versa. Since we can treat Lisp programs as Lisp data structures, we can write our code generation in the same style as our code. This gives Lisp a uniquely powerful macro system, and makes it ideal for implementing domain specific languages. Clojure also makes software transactional memory a first-class citizen, giving us a new approach to concurrency and dealing with the problems of shared state. Haskell Haskell is a strongly typed, functional programming language. Haskell’s type system is far richer than C# or Java, and allows us to push more of our application logic to compile-time safety. If it compiles, it usually works! Haskell is also a lazy language – we can work with infinite data structures. For example, in a board game we can generate the complete game tree, even if there are billions of possibilities, because the values are computed only as they are needed. Erlang Erlang is a functional language with a strong emphasis on reliability. Erlang’s approach to concurrency uses message passing instead of shared variables, with strong support from both the language itself and the virtual machine. Processes are extremely lightweight, and garbage collection doesn’t require all processes to be paused at the same time, making it feasible for a single program to use millions of processes at once, all without the mental overhead of managing shared state. The Benefits of Multilingualism By studying new languages, even if you won’t ever get the chance to use them in production, you will find yourself open to new ideas and ways of coding in your main language. For example, studying Haskell has taught me that you can do so much more with types and has changed my programming style in C#. A type represents some state a program should have, and a type should not be able to represent an invalid state. I often find myself refactoring methods like this… void SomeMethod(bool doThis, bool doThat) { if (!(doThis ^ doThat)) throw new ArgumentException(“At least one arg should be true”); if (doThis) DoThis(); if (doThat) DoThat(); } …into a type-based solution, like this: enum Action { DoThis, DoThat, Both }; void SomeMethod(Action action) { if (action == Action.DoThis || action == Action.Both) DoThis(); if (action == Action.DoThat || action == Action.Both) DoThat(); } At this point, I’ve removed the runtime exception in favor of a compile-time check. This is a trivial example, but is just one of many ideas that I’ve taken from one language and implemented in another.

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  • Webcast: New Features of Solaris 11.1 and Solaris Cluster 4.1

    - by Jeff Victor
    If you missed last week's webcast of the new features in Oracle Solaris 11.1 you can view the recording. The speakers discuss changes that improve performance and scalability, particularly for Oracle DB, and many other enhancements. New features include Optimized Shared Memory (improves DB startup time), accelerated kernel locks (improves Oracle RAC performance and scalability), virtual memory improvements, a DTrace data collecter in the DB, Zones installed on Shared Storage (simplifies migration), Data Center Bridging, and Edge Virtual Bridging. To view the archived webcast, you must register and use the URL that you receive in e-mail.

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  • Recruiters intentionally present one good candidate for an available job

    - by Jeff O
    Maybe they do it without realizing. The recruiter's goal is to fill the job as soon as possible. I even think they feel it is in their best interest that the candidate be qualified, so I'm not trying to knock recruiters. Aren't they better off presenting 3 candidates, but one clearly stands out? The last thing they want from their client is a need to extend the interview process because they can't decide. If the client doesn't like any of them, you just bring on your next good candidate. This way they hedge their bet a little. Any experience, insight or ever heard of a head-hunter admit this? Does it make sense? There has to be a reason why the choose such unqualified people. I've seen jobs posted that clearly state they want someone with a CS degree and the recruiter doesn't take it literally. I don't have a CS degree or Java experience and still they think I'm a possible fit.

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  • Page appears indexed in Google but not findable for any search terms?

    - by Jeff Atwood
    (Note that I am going to use screenshots here because I suspect writing about this will change the behavior over time.) If you do a Google search for uiviewcontroller best practices either with or without the quotes, you end up with results like this: Note that none of these pages resolve to the actual Stack Overflow question containing those words in the title. They resolve to either a) sites that are mirroring our creative commons data and correctly pointing back to the source question without nofollow, as properly specified by our attribution requirements or b) our own internal links to the question, but not the actual question itself. The actual page with the title ... Custom UIView and UIViewController best practices? ... does exist at this URL ... http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3300183/custom-uiview-and-uiviewcontroller-best-practices ... and apparently it is present in Google's index! But why does it not appear when we search for uiviewcontroller best practices ? We know that Google contains this page in its index Our search terms match the title of the question Stack Overflow has much higher pagerank than the other sites that are mirroring this question under Creative Commons I don't get it. What are we doing wrong here?

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  • Automated Website Testing/Sanity/Quality

    - by Jeff
    I am thinking about building a tool that starts from the root of a webpage and traverses the entire website gathering a list of resources such as CSS/HTML/Javascript files and then runs CSS/Javascript Lint + HTML Validator + Broken Link Finder. Before I start building something like this, I was wondering if this exists already? Thanks. I already searched Google quite a bit and couldn't find much.

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  • How do you demo software with No UI in the Sprint Review?

    - by Jeff Martin
    We are doing agile software development, basically following Scrum. We are trying to do sprint reviews but finding it difficult. Our software is doing a lot of data processing and the stories often are about changing various rules around this. What are some options for demoing the changes that occurred in the sprint when there isn't a UI or visible workflow change, but instead the change is a subtle business rule on a processing job that can take 10s of minutes or even a couple of hours?

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  • Rebuilding CoasterBuzz, Part IV: Dependency injection, it's what's for breakfast

    - by Jeff
    (Repost from my personal blog.) This is another post in a series about rebuilding one of my Web sites, which has been around for 12 years. I hope to relaunch soon. More: Part I: Evolution, and death to WCF Part II: Hot data objects Part III: The architecture using the "Web stack of love" If anything generally good for the craft has come out of the rise of ASP.NET MVC, it's that people are more likely to use dependency injection, and loosely couple the pieces parts of their applications. A lot of the emphasis on coding this way has been to facilitate unit testing, and that's awesome. Unit testing makes me feel a lot less like a hack, and a lot more confident in what I'm doing. Dependency injection is pretty straight forward. It says, "Given an instance of this class, I need instances of other classes, defined not by their concrete implementations, but their interfaces." Probably the first place a developer exercises this in when having a class talk to some kind of data repository. For a very simple example, pretend the FooService has to get some Foo. It looks like this: public class FooService {    public FooService(IFooRepository fooRepo)    {       _fooRepo = fooRepo;    }    private readonly IFooRepository _fooRepo;    public Foo GetMeFoo()    {       return _fooRepo.FooFromDatabase();    } } When we need the FooService, we ask the dependency container to get it for us. It says, "You'll need an IFooRepository in that, so let me see what that's mapped to, and put it in there for you." Why is this good for you? It's good because your FooService doesn't know or care about how you get some foo. You can stub out what the methods and properties on a fake IFooRepository might return, and test just the FooService. I don't want to get too far into unit testing, but it's the most commonly cited reason to use DI containers in MVC. What I wanted to mention is how there's another benefit in a project like mine, where I have to glue together a bunch of stuff. For example, when I have someone sign up for a new account on CoasterBuzz, I'm actually using POP Forums' new account mailer, which composes a bunch of text that includes a link to verify your account. The thing is, I want to use custom text and some other logic that's specific to CoasterBuzz. To accomplish this, I make a new class that inherits from the forum's NewAccountMailer, and override some stuff. Easy enough. Then I use Ninject, the DI container I'm using, to unbind the forum's implementation, and substitute my own. Ninject uses something called a NinjectModule to bind interfaces to concrete implementations. The forum has its own module, and then the CoasterBuzz module is loaded second. The CB module has two lines of code to swap out the mailer implementation: Unbind<PopForums.Email.INewAccountMailer>(); Bind<PopForums.Email.INewAccountMailer>().To<CbNewAccountMailer>(); Piece of cake! Now, when code asks the DI container for an INewAccountMailer, it gets my custom implementation instead. This is a lot easier to deal with than some of the alternatives. I could do some copy-paste, but then I'm not using well-tested code from the forum. I could write stuff from scratch, but then I'm throwing away a bunch of logic I've already written (in this case, stuff around e-mail, e-mail settings, mail delivery failures). There are other places where the DI container comes in handy. For example, CoasterBuzz does a number of custom things with user profiles, and special content for paid members. It uses the forum as the core piece to managing users, so I can ask the container to get me instances of classes that do user lookups, for example, and have zero care about how the forum handles database calls, configuration, etc. What a great world to live in, compared to ten years ago. Sure, the primary interest in DI is around the "separation of concerns" and facilitating unit testing, but as your library grows and you use more open source, it starts to be the glue that pulls everything together.

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  • Software development is (mostly) a trade, and what to do about it

    - by Jeff
    (This is another cross-post from my personal blog. I don’t even remember when I first started to write it, but I feel like my opinion is well enough baked to share.) I've been sitting on this for a long time, particularly as my opinion has changed dramatically over the last few years. That I've encountered more crappy code than maintainable, quality code in my career as a software developer only reinforces what I'm about to say. Software development is just a trade for most, and not a huge academic endeavor. For those of you with computer science degrees readying your pitchforks and collecting your algorithm interview questions, let me explain. This is not an assault on your way of life, and if you've been around, you know I'm right about the quality problem. You also know the HR problem is very real, or we wouldn't be paying top dollar for mediocre developers and importing people from all over the world to fill the jobs we can't fill. I'm going to try and outline what I see as some of the problems, and hopefully offer my views on how to address them. The recruiting problem I think a lot of companies are doing it wrong. Over the years, I've had two kinds of interview experiences. The first, and right, kind of experience involves talking about real life achievements, followed by some variation on white boarding in pseudo-code, drafting some basic system architecture, or even sitting down at a comprooder and pecking out some basic code to tackle a real problem. I can honestly say that I've had a job offer for every interview like this, save for one, because the task was to debug something and they didn't like me asking where to look ("everyone else in the company died in a plane crash"). The other interview experience, the wrong one, involves the classic torture test designed to make the candidate feel stupid and do things they never have, and never will do in their job. First they will question you about obscure academic material you've never seen, or don't care to remember. Then they'll ask you to white board some ridiculous algorithm involving prime numbers or some kind of string manipulation no one would ever do. In fact, if you had to do something like this, you'd Google for a solution instead of waste time on a solved problem. Some will tell you that the academic gauntlet interview is useful to see how people respond to pressure, how they engage in complex logic, etc. That might be true, unless of course you have someone who brushed up on the solutions to the silly puzzles, and they're playing you. But here's the real reason why the second experience is wrong: You're evaluating for things that aren't the job. These might have been useful tactics when you had to hire people to write machine language or C++, but in a world dominated by managed code in C#, or Java, people aren't managing memory or trying to be smarter than the compilers. They're using well known design patterns and techniques to deliver software. More to the point, these puzzle gauntlets don't evaluate things that really matter. They don't get into code design, issues of loose coupling and testability, knowledge of the basics around HTTP, or anything else that relates to building supportable and maintainable software. The first situation, involving real life problems, gives you an immediate idea of how the candidate will work out. One of my favorite experiences as an interviewee was with a guy who literally brought his work from that day and asked me how to deal with his problem. I had to demonstrate how I would design a class, make sure the unit testing coverage was solid, etc. I worked at that company for two years. So stop looking for algorithm puzzle crunchers, because a guy who can crush a Fibonacci sequence might also be a guy who writes a class with 5,000 lines of untestable code. Fashion your interview process on ways to reveal a developer who can write supportable and maintainable code. I would even go so far as to let them use the Google. If they want to cut-and-paste code, pass on them, but if they're looking for context or straight class references, hire them, because they're going to be life-long learners. The contractor problem I doubt anyone has ever worked in a place where contractors weren't used. The use of contractors seems like an obvious way to control costs. You can hire someone for just as long as you need them and then let them go. You can even give them the work that no one else wants to do. In practice, most places I've worked have retained and budgeted for the contractor year-round, meaning that the $90+ per hour they're paying (of which half goes to the person) would have been better spent on a full-time person with a $100k salary and benefits. But it's not even the cost that is an issue. It's the quality of work delivered. The accountability of a contractor is totally transient. They only need to deliver for as long as you keep them around, and chances are they'll never again touch the code. There's no incentive for them to get things right, there's little incentive to understand your system or learn anything. At the risk of making an unfair generalization, craftsmanship doesn't matter to most contractors. The education problem I don't know what they teach in college CS courses. I've believed for most of my adult life that a college degree was an essential part of being successful. Of course I would hold that bias, since I did it, and have the paper to show for it in a box somewhere in the basement. My first clue that maybe this wasn't a fully qualified opinion comes from the fact that I double-majored in journalism and radio/TV, not computer science. Eventually I worked with people who skipped college entirely, many of them at Microsoft. Then I worked with people who had a masters degree who sucked at writing code, next to the high school diploma types that rock it every day. I still think there's a lot to be said for the social development of someone who has the on-campus experience, but for software developers, college might not matter. As I mentioned before, most of us are not writing compilers, and we never will. It's actually surprising to find how many people are self-taught in the art of software development, and that should reveal some interesting truths about how we learn. The first truth is that we learn largely out of necessity. There's something that we want to achieve, so we do what I call just-in-time learning to meet those goals. We acquire knowledge when we need it. So what about the gaps in our knowledge? That's where the most valuable education occurs, via our mentors. They're the people we work next to and the people who write blogs. They are critical to our professional development. They don't need to be an encyclopedia of jargon, but they understand the craft. Even at this stage of my career, I probably can't tell you what SOLID stands for, but you can bet that I practice the principles behind that acronym every day. That comes from experience, augmented by my peers. I'm hell bent on passing that experience to others. Process issues If you're a manager type and don't do much in the way of writing code these days (shame on you for not messing around at least), then your job is to isolate your tradespeople from nonsense, while bringing your business into the realm of modern software development. That doesn't mean you slap up a white board with sticky notes and start calling yourself agile, it means getting all of your stakeholders to understand that frequent delivery of quality software is the best way to deal with change and evolving expectations. It also means that you have to play technical overlord to make sure the education and quality issues are dealt with. That's why I make the crack about sticky notes, because without the right technique being practiced among your code monkeys, you're just a guy with sticky notes. You're asking your business to accept frequent and iterative delivery, now make sure that the folks writing the code can handle the same thing. This means unit testing, the right instrumentation, integration tests, automated builds and deployments... all of the stuff that makes it easy to see when change breaks stuff. The prognosis I strongly believe that education is the most important part of what we do. I'm encouraged by things like The Starter League, and it's the kind of thing I'd love to see more of. I would go as far as to say I'd love to start something like this internally at an existing company. Most of all though, I can't emphasize enough how important it is that we mentor each other and share our knowledge. If you have people on your staff who don't want to learn, fire them. Seriously, get rid of them. A few months working with someone really good, who understands the craftsmanship required to build supportable and maintainable code, will change that person forever and increase their value immeasurably.

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  • Does concurrency inherently introduce "randomness" into a game?

    - by Jeff
    When a game is implemented with concurrency (as most games are), does this necessarily, by its very nature, introduce an element of randomness into the game that is outside of the players' control? Note that when I use the word "random", I'm not meaning to launch into a philosophical debate about the deterministic nature of the system. I understand that concurrency is deterministic in the sense that the operating system decides which processes to allow time on the CPU and in what order (or the JVM controls which Thread's turn it is to execute, etc). But my understanding of this is that there is no way to control or predict whether one thread's next command will execute before or after another. The reason I'm asking is because this seems like a fundamental difficulty for game development where a game is supposedly designed around a player's skill. Consider a game like League of Legends. Assume that two players are battling it out. It's a very close contest between the two and it's coming down to the wire -- so much so that whoever gets their last attack off will be the one to kill the other and win the game for their team. If the players are implemented using concurrency and the situation really was like this, is it essentially out of the players' hands at this point? Is the outcome of this match all up to whatever system is arbitrarily deciding which player's thread/process will execute next? If not, what am I misunderstanding about concurrency? If so, is there any way around this problem so that a game of skill can always be a game of skill, especially in those most crucial moments?

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  • Deliberate Practice

    - by Jeff Foster
    It’s easy to assume, as software engineers, that there is little need to “practice” writing code. After all, we write code all day long! Just by writing a little each day, we’re constantly learning and getting better, right? Unfortunately, that’s just not true. Of course, developers do improve with experience. Each time we encounter a problem we’re more likely to avoid it next time. If we’re in a team that deploys software early and often, we hone and improve the deployment process each time we practice it. However, not all practice makes perfect. To develop true expertise requires a particular type of practice, deliberate practice, the only goal of which is to make us better programmers. Everyday software development has other constraints and goals, not least the pressure to deliver. We rarely get the chance in the course of a “sprint” to experiment with potential solutions that are outside our current comfort zone. However, if we believe that software is a craft then it’s our duty to strive continuously to raise the standard of software development. This requires specific and sustained efforts to get better at something we currently can’t do well (from Harvard Business Review July/August 2007). One interesting way to introduce deliberate practice, in a sustainable way, is the code kata. The term kata derives from martial arts and refers to a set of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. One of the better-known examples is the Bowling Game kata by Bob Martin, the goal of which is simply to write some code to do the scoring for 10-pin bowling. It sounds too easy, right? What could we possibly learn from such a simple example? Trust me, though, that it’s not as simple as five minutes of typing and a solution. Of course, we can reach a solution in a short time, but the important thing about code katas is that we explore each technique fully and in a controlled way. We tackle the same problem multiple times, using different techniques and making different decisions, understanding the ramifications of each one, and exploring edge cases. The short feedback loop optimizes opportunities to learn. Another good example is Conway’s Game of Life. It’s a simple problem to solve, but try solving it in a functional style. If you’re used to mutability, solving the problem without mutating state will push you outside of your comfort zone. Similarly, if you try to solve it with the focus of “tell-don’t-ask“, how will the responsibilities of each object change? As software engineers, we don’t get enough opportunities to explore new ideas. In the middle of a development cycle, we can’t suddenly start experimenting on the team’s code base. Code katas offer an opportunity to explore new techniques in a safe environment. If you’re still skeptical, my challenge to you is simply to try it out. Convince a willing colleague to pair with you and work through a kata or two. It only takes an hour and I’m willing to bet you learn a few new things each time. The next step is to make it a sustainable team practice. Start with an hour every Friday afternoon (after all who wants to commit code to production just before they leave for the weekend?) for month and see how that works out. Finally, consider signing up for the Global Day of Code Retreat. It’s like a daylong code kata, it’s on December 8th and there’s probably an event in your area!

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  • open source database project

    - by Jeff V
    What is the best way to build an open source database? I would like to build a database of all vehicles and the related maintenance information (i.e Oil Weight, Quantity, Tire Pressure, Windshield wipers etc). Currently this information is fragmented or just not put on line in an open way. Once collection began I would want to import into a DB and then be able to distribute freely. Is there a process (site or group) that I can start gathering this information in a reliable and verifiable way? Is there any issues that I should watch out for?

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  • Podcast with AJI about iOS development coming from a .NET background

    - by Tim Hibbard
    I talked with Jeff and John from AJI Software the other day about developing for the iOS platform. We chatted about learning Xcode and Objective-C, provisioning devices and the app publishing process. We all have a .NET background and made lots of comparisons between the two platforms/ecosystems/fanbois. They even let me throw in a plug for Christian Radio Locator. Jeff was my first contact with the Kansas City .NET community. It was probably about 10 years ago. He pushed me to talk more (and rescued me from my first talk that bombed) and blog more. One time a group of us took a 16 hour car trip to South Carolina for a code camp and live podcasted the whole thing. Good times.Listen to the show Click here to subscribe to more AJI Reports in the future.

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  • Rebuilding CoasterBuzz, Part II: Hot data objects

    - by Jeff
    This is the second post, originally from my personal blog, in a series about rebuilding one of my Web sites, which has been around for 12 years. More: Part I: Evolution, and death to WCF After the rush to get moving on stuff, I temporarily lost interest. I went almost two weeks without touching the project, in part because the next thing on my backlog was doing up a bunch of administrative pages. So boring. Unfortunately, because most of the site's content is user-generated, you need some facilities for editing data. CoasterBuzz has a database full of amusement parks and roller coasters. The entities enjoy the relationships that you would expect, though they're further defined by "instances" of a coaster, to define one that has moved between parks as one, with different names and operational dates. And of course, there are pictures and news items, too. It's not horribly complex, except when you have to account for a name change and display just the newest name. In all previous versions, data access was straight SQL. As so much of the old code was rooted in 2003, with some changes in 2008, there wasn't much in the way of ORM frameworks going on then. Let me rephrase that, I mostly wasn't interested in ORM's. Since that time, I used a little LINQ to SQL in some projects, and a whole bunch of nHibernate while at Microsoft. Through all of that experience, I have to admit that these frameworks are often a bigger pain in the ass than not. They're great for basic crud operations, but when you start having all kinds of exotic relationships, they get difficult, and generate all kinds of weird SQL under the covers. The black box can quickly turn into a black hole. Sometimes you end up having to build all kinds of new expertise to do things "right" with a framework. Still, despite my reservations, I used the newer version of Entity Framework, with the "code first" modeling, in a science project and I really liked it. Since it's just a right-click away with NuGet, I figured I'd give it a shot here. My initial effort was spent defining the context class, which requires a bit of work because I deviate quite a bit from the conventions that EF uses, starting with table names. Then throw some partial querying of certain tables (where you'll find image data), and you're splitting tables across several objects (navigation properties). I won't go into the details, because these are all things that are well documented around the Internet, but there was a minor learning curve there. The basics of reading data using EF are fantastic. For example, a roller coaster object has a park associated with it, as well as a number of instances (if it was ever relocated), and there also might be a big banner image for it. This is stupid easy to use because it takes one line of code in your repository class, and by the time you pass it to the view, you have a rich object graph that has everything you need to display stuff. Likewise, editing simple data is also, well, simple. For this goodness, thank the ASP.NET MVC framework. The UpdateModel() method on the controllers is very elegant. Remember the old days of assigning all kinds of properties to objects in your Webforms code-behind? What a time consuming mess that used to be. Even if you're not using an ORM tool, having hydrated objects come off the wire is such a time saver. Not everything is easy, though. When you have to persist a complex graph of objects, particularly if they were composed in the user interface with all kinds of AJAX elements and list boxes, it's not just a simple matter of submitting the form. There were a few instances where I ended up going back to "old-fashioned" SQL just in the interest of time. It's not that I couldn't do what I needed with EF, it's just that the efficiency, both my own and that of the generated SQL, wasn't good. Since EF context objects expose a database connection object, you can use that to do the old school ADO.NET stuff you've done for a decade. Using various extension methods from POP Forums' data project, it was a breeze. You just have to stick to your decision, in this case. When you start messing with SQL directly, you can't go back in the same code to messing with entities because EF doesn't know what you're changing. Not really a big deal. There are a number of take-aways from using EF. The first is that you write a lot less code, which has always been a desired outcome of ORM's. The other lesson, and I particularly learned this the hard way working on the MSDN forums back in the day, is that trying to retrofit an ORM framework into an existing schema isn't fun at all. The CoasterBuzz database isn't bad, but there are design decisions I'd make differently if I were starting from scratch. Now that I have some of this stuff done, I feel like I can start to move on to the more interesting things on the backlog. There's a lot to do, but at least it's fun stuff, and not more forms that will be used infrequently.

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  • What are options for 3rd Party Centralized Software Settings Management?

    - by Jeff Martin
    I am an architect in an enterprise looking to build a SaaS solution. Our products are distributed over many different deployable containers, Web Services, Web UI's, etc. I am looking for some open-source or 3rd party software solution to manage the settings of our application. These would be similar to the settings you might find in Word or Eclipse or Visual Studio. The settings would control various behaviors and features of the product. (Probably not settings like which database to connect to but more like, should I show line numbers on the page or not by default..). Ideally, we would be able to store values for different dimensions (by tenant, by user, by application environment... ) Because we have so many different deployables, I am looking for a centralized solution that can provide a web service that each of the deployables can get their individual settings from. Does anyone know of a centralized service providing this sort of features or give me some help in searching for an alternative to rolling our own?

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  • Best Ruby Git library?

    - by Jeff Welling
    Which is the best Git library in Ruby to use? Git, Grit, Rugged, Other? Background: I'm the current maintainer of TicGit-ng which is a distributed offline ticket system built on git, and I've read and heard over and over again that Grit is the one I should use because it supersedes the Git gem, but there seems to be either a lack of documentation or a lack of features because myself and others have failed in trying to switch from the deprecated-but-functional Git to the newer Grit gem.

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  • Is it time to drop Courier from your monospace font stacks?

    - by Jeff
    I've been fine-tuning my font stacks lately and was wondering if it's safe to drop Courier from my monospace font stack yet? Would you feel comfortable dropping it? Of course, monospace is my final fallback. Note 1: OS Testbed: WinXP, WinVista, Win7, iPhone, iPad Based on my research, these browsers now substitute Courier New for Courier by default: IE9+ Chrome 2+ Firefox 10+ Safari 3.1+ iDevices Note 2: The default "font-family: monospace;" renders as Courier New in every browser I've tested, from IE6 through the latest iPhone/iPad devices. EDIT: One exception is Opera 12, which renders Consolas on Win. Opera 10 renders Courier New. Note 3: I've noticed that Courier refuses to render with any font smoothing (anti-aliasing) in any browser I've tested, regardless of system and/or browser display settings. Probably because it's an old bitmap font. This could be because of my system setup, however.

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  • Update

    - by Jeff Certain
    This blog has been pretty quiet for a year now. There's a few reasons for that. Probably the biggest reason is that I view this as a space where I talk about .NET things. Or software development. While I've been doing the latter for the past year, I haven't been doing the former.Yes, I took a trip to the dark side. I started with Ning 11 months ago, in Palo Alto, CA. I had the chance to work with an incredibly talented group of software engineers... in PHP and Java.That was definitely an eye-opening experience, in terms of technology, process, and culture. It was also a pretty good example of how acquisitions can get interesting. I'll talk more about this, I'm sure.Last week, I started with a company called Dynamic Signal. I'm a "Back End Engineer" now. Also a very talented team of people, and I'm delighted to be working with them. We're a Microsoft shop. After a year away, I'm very happy to be back. Coming back to .NET is an easy transition, and one that has me being fairly productive straight out of the gate.(Some of you may have noticed, my last post was more than a year ago. Yes, it's safe to infer that I didn't get renewed as an MVP. Fair deal; I didn't do nearly as much this year as I have in the past. I'll be starting to speak again shortly, and hope to be re-awarded soon.)At any rate, now that I'm back in the .NET space, you can expect to hear more from me soon!

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  • How to diagnose Ubuntu CPU spikes / IO wait?

    - by Jeff Welling
    I'm using Ubuntu and every couple minutes it goes unresponsive for a half second to a full second, which isn't normally a problem but makes trying to code extremely frustrating when your trying to hit backspace or navigate the code and nothing is happening. The problem is, the freezes are so brief that top doesn't have time to show me what is spiking the CPU (assuming something is, but I don't know what else could cause this). Does anyone know how to troubleshoot this performance issue? Edit: I've tried login in with Gnome Classic (No Effects) instead of Unity but it still freezes up every once in awhile. Edit: The CPU graph doesn't seem to be showing any actual spikes so it seems you were right and my original diagnosis of CPU spikes being the problem was incorrect, I now suspect IO wait. I don't recall this happening for the brief few weeks I had Windows 7 Starter running on it though, which leads me to believe it isn't (just?) the hardware.. is there anything I can tweak to improve this? I'm using an Acer Aspire One D257, with Ubuntu 11.10. Edit: Output of dmesg is at http://paste.ubuntu.com/1060054/ and kern.log is at http://paste.ubuntu.com/1060055/

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