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  • Learn Cloud Computing – It’s Time

    - by Ben Griswold
    Last week, I gave an in-house presentation on cloud computing.  I walked through an overview of cloud computing – characteristics (on demand, elastic, fully managed by provider), why are we interested (virtualization, distributed computing, increased access to high-speed internet, weak economy), various types (public, private, virtual private cloud) and services models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS.)  Though numerous providers have emerged in the cloud computing space, the presentation focused on Amazon, Google and Microsoft offerings and provided an overview of their platforms, costs, data tier technologies, management and security.  One of the biggest talking points was why developers should consider the cloud as part of their deployment strategy: You only have to pay for what you consume You will be well-positioned for one time event provisioning You will reap the benefits of automated growth and scalable technologies For the record: having deployed dozens of applications on various platforms over the years, pricing tends to be the biggest customer concern.  Yes, scalability is a customer consideration, too, but it comes in distant second.  Boy do I hope you’re still reading… You may be thinking, “Cloud computing is well and good and it sounds catchy, but should I bother?  After all, it’s just another technology bundle which I’m supposed to ramp up on because it’s the latest thing, right?”  Well, my clients used to be 100% reliant upon me to find adequate hosting for them.  Now I find they are often aware of cloud services and some come to me with the “possibility” that deploying to the cloud is the best solution for them.  It’s like the patient who walks into the doctor’s office with their diagnosis and treatment already in mind thanks to the handful of Internet searches they performed earlier that day.  You know what?  The customer may be correct about the cloud. It may be a perfect fit for their app.  But maybe not…  I don’t think there’s a need to learn about every technical thing under the sun, but if you are responsible for identifying hosting solutions for your customers, it is time to get up to speed on cloud computing and the various offerings (if you haven’t already.)  Here are a few references to get you going: DZone Refcardz #82 Getting Started with Cloud Computing by Daniel Rubio Wikipedia Cloud Computing – What is it? Amazon Machine Images (AMI) Google App Engine SDK Azure SDK EC2 Spot Pricing Google App Engine Team Blog Amazon EC2 Team Blog Microsoft Azure Team Blog Amazon EC2 – Cost Calculator Google App Engine – Cost and Billing Resources Microsoft Azure – Cost Calculator Larry Ellison has stated that cloud computing has been defined as "everything that we currently do" and that it will have no effect except to "change the wording on some of our ads" Oracle launches worldwide cloud-computing tour NoSQL Movement  

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  • jQuery Context Menu Plugin and Capturing Right-Click

    - by Ben Griswold
    I was thrilled to find Cory LaViska’s jQuery Context Menu Plugin a few months ago. In very little time, I was able to integrate the context menu with the jQuery Treeview.  I quickly had a really pretty user interface which took full advantage of limited real estate.  And guess what.  As promised, the plugin worked in Chrome, Safari 3, IE 6/7/8, Firefox 2/3 and Opera 9.5.  Everything was perfect and I shipped to the Integration Environment. One thing kept bugging though – right clicks aren’t the standard in a web environment. Sure, when one hovers over the treeview node, the mouse changed from an arrow to a pointer, but without help text most users will certainly left-click rather than right. As I was already doubting the design decision, we did some Mac testing.  The context menu worked in Firefox but not Safari.  Damn.  That’s when I started digging into the Madness of Javascript Mouse Events.  Don’t tell, but it’s complicated.  About as close as one can get to capture the right-click mouse event on all major browsers on Windows and Mac is this: if (event.which == null) /* IE case */ button= (event.button < 2) ? "LEFT" : ((event.button == 4) ? "MIDDLE" : "RIGHT"); else /* All others */ button= (event.which < 2) ? "LEFT" : ((event.which == 2) ? "MIDDLE" : "RIGHT"); Yikes.  The content menu code was simply checking if event.button == 2.  No problem.  Cory offers a jQuery Right Click Plugin which I’m sure works for windows but probably not the Mac either.  (Please note I haven’t verified this.) Anyway, I decided to address my UI design concern and the Safari Mac issue in one swoop.  I decided to make the context menu respond to any mouse click event.  This didn’t take much – especially after seeing how Bill Beckelman updated the library to recognize the left click. First, I added an AnyClick option to the library defaults: // Any click may trigger the dropdown and that's okay // See Javascript Madness: Mouse Events – http: //unixpapa.com/js/mouse.html if (o.anyClick == undefined) o.anyClick = false; And then I trigger the context menu dropdown based on the following conditional: if (evt.button == 2 || o.anyClick) { Nothing tricky about that, right?  Finally, I updated my menu setup to include the AnyClick value, if true: $('.member').contextMenu({ menu: 'memberContextMenu', anyClick: true },             function (action, el, pos) {                 … Now the context menu works in “all” environments if you left, right or even middle click.  Download jQuery Context Menu Plugin for Any Click *Opera 9.5 has an option to allow scripts to detect right-clicks, but it is disabled by default. Furthermore, Opera still doesn’t allow JavaScript to disable the browser’s default context menu which causes a usability conflict.

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  • ASP.NET Membership Provider Setup

    - by Ben Griswold
    In this screencast, Noah and I show you how to quickly get started with the ASP.NET Membership Provider.  We’ll take you through basic features and setup and walk you through membership table creation with the ASP.NET SQL Server Wizard. I’ve written about the ASP.NET Membership Provider and setup before.  If you missed the post, this introductory video may be for you.     This is one of our first screencasts.  If you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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  • Introduction to Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems – Eliminate Waste

    - by Ben Griswold
    In this post, we’ll continue the Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems series by concentrating on Principle #1: Eliminate Waste.   “Muda” is Waste in Japanese. In the next part of the series, we’ll dive into Principle #2: Create Knowledge / Amplify Learning. And I am going to be a little obnoxious about listing my Lean and Kanban references with every series post.  The references are great and they deserve this sort of attention. 

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  • Streaming Netflix Media with My Wii

    - by Ben Griswold
    Late last year, I wrote about Streaming Media with my Sony Blu-ray Disc Player. I am still digging the Blu-ray player setup but guess what showed up in the mail yesterday?   That’s right!  A free Netflix disc which now let’s me instantly watch TV episodes and movies via my Wii console.  I popped the disc into the console and in less than 2 minutes the brain-numbingly simple activation was complete.  (Full-disclosure: I already had my Wi-Fi connection configured, but I’m confident that the Netflix installation disc would have helpfully walked me through this additional step if need be.) As it turns out, the Wii Netflix UI offers far more options than what one gets with the Blu-ray setup.  Not only can I view my Instant Queue, but there’s a list of recently watched movies, a list of recommended titles by category, the star rating system, movies information and nearly everything you find on the web.  I reread Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability on a flight back from Orlando on Wednesday, so my current view of the world may be a little skewed but, the brilliance of Netflix Wii’s user interface is undeniable. It’s not like the Blu-ray navigation is complicated but the Wii navigation feels familiar and intuitive. How intuitive?  Well, you won’t find a single bit of help text on any of the Wii screens – just a simple and obvious point-and-click navigation system.  And the UI is really pretty (which is still very important if you ask me) and so easy it became fun. Did I mention the media streaming works!  Yep, we watched 2 half-hour kid videos yesterday without any streaming issues at all.  If you have a Netflix account and a Wii, order your disc and give it a go. It’s good stuff.

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  • Uncovering Compiler Errors in ASP.NET MVC Views

    - by Ben Griswold
    ASPX and ASCX files are compiled on the fly when they are requested on the web server. This means it’s possible that you aren’t catching compile errors associated with your views when you build your ASP.NET MVC project in Visual Studio.  Unless you’re willing to click through your entire application, rendering each view looking for errors, you application is left a little vulnerable to user issues.  Fortunately, there’s a work around.  Open up your MVC project file in notepad or within the Visual Studio IDE by unloading the project and then editing the .csproj file (both actions are available by right-clicking on the Project Node in Solution Explorer.)  Notice the MvcBuildViews option.  It’s probably set to false.  Flip the value to true and you’ll magically start compiling your views when you build your application. <MvcBuildViews>false</MvcBuildViews> Taking this action will slow down your builds a bit, but if you’re a hack like me, it’ll probably save your day in the long run. Now you’re probably thinking, “Neat trick – how’s it work?”  Scroll down toward the bottom of your csproj file and you will notice the AfterBuild target triggers the AspNetCompiler action if the MvcBuildViews option is set to true.  <Target Name="AfterBuild" Condition="'$(MvcBuildViews)'=='true'">   <AspNetCompiler VirtualPath="temp"                   PhysicalPath="$(ProjectDir)\..\$(ProjectName)" /> </Target> Great. One more thing. Let’s say you don’t want to slow down all of your builds, but you absolutely want to know if there are any compiler issues with your views before you commit your code to version control or deploy or whatever.  Here’s what you can do – change the AfterBuild condition to run if your configuration is set to Release mode.  <Target Name="AfterBuild" Condition="'$(Configuration)'=='Release'">   <!– Always pre-compile ASPX and ASCX in release mode –>   <AspNetCompiler VirtualPath="temp"                   PhysicalPath="$(ProjectDir)\..\$(ProjectName)" /> </Target> Now your debug mode builds will continue to be as fast as ever and you can quickly validate your views by building in release mode when you so choose.  There’s one little catch – this setup won’t consider the MvcBuildViews option whatsoever! So if you decide to go with this configuration, you might want to add a comment near the MvcBuildViews option letting other developers know they can change the MvcBuildViews option as much as they’d like but it’s not going to affect the AfterBuild action.  Or don’t include the comment and let your team members figure it out for themselves…

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  • jQuery Treeview – Expand and Collapse All Without the TreeControl

    - by Ben Griswold
    The jQuery Treeview Plugin provides collapse all, expand all and toggle all support with very little effort on your part. Simply add a treecontrol with three links, and the treeview, to your page…   <div id="treecontrol">     <a title="Collapse the entire tree below" href="#"><img src="../images/minus.gif" /> Collapse All</a>     <a title="Expand the entire tree below" href="#"><img src="../images/plus.gif" /> Expand All</a>     <a title="Toggle the tree below, opening closed branches, closing open branches" href="#">Toggle All</a> </div> <ul id="treeview" class="treeview-black">     <li>Item 1</li>     <li>         <span>Item 2</span>         <ul>             <li>                 <span>Item 2.1</span>                   <ul>                     <li>Item 2.1.1</li>                     <li>Item 2.1.2</li>                 </ul>             </li>             <li>Item 2.2</li>             <li class="closed">                   <span>Item 2.3 (closed at start)</span>                 <ul>                     <li>Item 2.3.1</li>                     <li>Item 2.3.2</li>                 </ul>             </li>         </ul>     </li> </ul> …and then associate the control to the treeview when defining the treeview settings. $("#treeview").treeview({     control: "#treecontrol",     persist: "cookie",     cookieId: "treeview-black" }); It really couldn’t be easier and it works great! But the plugin doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to layout.  For example, the plugin assumes your treecontrol will include links.  If you want buttons or images or whatever, you are out of luck.  The plugin also assumes a set number of links and the collapse all handler is associated with the first link inside of the treecontrol, a:eq(0), the expand all handler is associated with the second link and so on.  So you really can’t incorporate the toggle all link by itself unless you manually hide the other options. Which brings me to the point of this post – making the collapse/expand/toggle layout more flexible without modifying the plugin’s source code. We will continue to use the treecontrol actions but we’re not going to use them directly. In fact, our custom collapse, expand and toggle links will trigger the actions for us.  So, hide the treecontrol links and associate the treecontrol click events with the click events of other controls.  Finally, render the treeview with the same setting definitions as usual. $(document).ready(function() {     // The plugin shows the treecontrol after the     // collapse, expand and toggle events are hooked up     // Just hide the links.     $('#treecontrol a').hide();       // On click of your custom links, button, etc     // Trigger the appropriate treecontrol click     $('#expandAll').click(function() {                 $('#treecontrol a:eq(1)').click();         });          $('#collapseAll').click(function() {         $('#treecontrol a:eq(0)').click();             });       // Render the treeview per usual.         $("#treeview").treeview({         control: "#treecontrol",         persist: "cookie",         cookieId: "treeview-black"     }); }); Since I’m not using the treecontrol directly, I move it to the bottom of the page but it doesn’t really matter where the treecontrol goes. <div>     <a id="collapseAll" href="#">Collapse All Outside of TreeControl</a> </div>   <ul id="treeview" class="treeview-black">     <li>Item 1</li>     <li>         <span>Item 2</span>         <ul>             <li>                 <span>Item 2.1</span>                 <ul>                     <li>Item 2.1.1</li>                     <li>Item 2.1.2</li>                 </ul>             </li>             <li>Item 2.2</li>             <li class="closed">                 <span>Item 2.3 (closed at start)</span>                 <ul>                     <li>Item 2.3.1</li>                     <li>Item 2.3.2</li>                 </ul>             </li>         </ul>     </li> </ul>   <div>     <input type="button" id="expandAll" value="Expand All Outside of TreeControl"/> </div>   <div id="treecontrol">     <a href="#"></a><a href="#"></a><a href="#"></a> </div> The above jQuery and Html snippets generate the following ugly output which shows the separated collapse/expand elements. If you want the toggle all option, I bet you can figure out how to put it in place.  I’ve made the source available below if you’re interested. Download jQuery Treeview Expand and Collapse Super Code

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  • Installing SubText with Web PI

    - by Ben Griswold
    SubText is the engine behind our company blog. With the goal of ensuring a smooth transition between the main website and the blogs, I spent some time tightening up the styles for the aggregate and individual blogs last week.  This required a custom SubText skin and lot of css tweaking. Though I’ve previously had the SubText source running on my machine, there was no need to update or rebuild the solution in my current case so just went ahead with a local installation using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer (Web PI).  I just checked the SubText box, provided answers to a few key setup questions (admin user credentials, SubText database, etc) and I was up and running in minutes.   Once the setup was complete, I was asked if I’d like to launch SubText.  The SubText Installation Wizard picked up where Web PI left off and the setup couldn’t have been easier.  Web PI provides quick and easy installs for lots of goodies.  Check it out.

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  • C# Multiple Property Sort

    - by Ben Griswold
    As you can see in the snippet below, sorting is easy with Linq.  Simply provide your OrderBy criteria and you’re done.  If you want a secondary sort field, add a ThenBy expression to the chain.  Want a third level sort?  Just add ThenBy along with another sort expression. var projects = new List<Project>     {         new Project {Description = "A", ProjectStatusTypeId = 1},         new Project {Description = "B", ProjectStatusTypeId = 3},         new Project {Description = "C", ProjectStatusTypeId = 3},         new Project {Description = "C", ProjectStatusTypeId = 2},         new Project {Description = "E", ProjectStatusTypeId = 1},         new Project {Description = "A", ProjectStatusTypeId = 2},         new Project {Description = "C", ProjectStatusTypeId = 4},         new Project {Description = "A", ProjectStatusTypeId = 3}     };   projects = projects     .OrderBy(x => x.Description)     .ThenBy(x => x.ProjectStatusTypeId)     .ToList();   foreach (var project in projects) {     Console.Out.WriteLine("{0} {1}", project.Description,         project.ProjectStatusTypeId); } Linq offers a great sort solution most of the time, but what if you want or need to do it the old fashioned way? projects.Sort ((x, y) =>         Comparer<String>.Default             .Compare(x.Description, y.Description) != 0 ?         Comparer<String>.Default             .Compare(x.Description, y.Description) :         Comparer<Int32>.Default             .Compare(x.ProjectStatusTypeId, y.ProjectStatusTypeId));   foreach (var project in projects) {     Console.Out.WriteLine("{0} {1}", project.Description,         project.ProjectStatusTypeId); } It’s not that bad, right? Just for fun, let add some additional logic to our sort.  Let’s say we wanted our secondary sort to be based on the name associated with the ProjectStatusTypeId.  projects.Sort((x, y) =>        Comparer<String>.Default             .Compare(x.Description, y.Description) != 0 ?        Comparer<String>.Default             .Compare(x.Description, y.Description) :        Comparer<String>.Default             .Compare(GetProjectStatusTypeName(x.ProjectStatusTypeId),                 GetProjectStatusTypeName(y.ProjectStatusTypeId)));   foreach (var project in projects) {     Console.Out.WriteLine("{0} {1}", project.Description,         GetProjectStatusTypeName(project.ProjectStatusTypeId)); } The comparer will now consider the result of the GetProjectStatusTypeName and order the list accordingly.  Of course, you can take this same approach with Linq as well.

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  • Streaming Media with Sony Blu-ray Disc Player

    - by Ben Griswold
    The best gift under the tree this year? A Sony Blu-ray Disc player: The BDP-N460 allows you to instantly stream thousands of movies, videos and music from the largest selection of leading content providers including Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube™, Slacker® Radio and many, many more. Plus, enjoy the ultimate in high-definition entertainment and watch Blu-ray Disc movies in Full HD 1080p quality with HD audio. The BDP-N460 includes built-in software that makes it easy to connect this player to your existing wireless network.  So I did… I paired the disc player with the recommended Linksys Wireless Ethernet Bridge (WET-610N) and I was streaming the last season of Lost episodes in no time. Really cool. Highly recommended.

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  • Project Euler 10: (Iron)Python

    - by Ben Griswold
    In my attempt to learn (Iron)Python out in the open, here’s my solution for Project Euler Problem 10.  As always, any feedback is welcome. # Euler 10 # http://projecteuler.net/index.php?section=problems&id=10 # The sum of the primes below 10 is 2 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 17. # Find the sum of all the primes below two million. import time start = time.time() def primes_to_max(max): primes, number = [2], 3 while number < max: isPrime = True for prime in primes: if number % prime == 0: isPrime = False break if (prime * prime > number): break if isPrime: primes.append(number) number += 2 return primes primes = primes_to_max(2000000) print sum(primes) print "Elapsed Time:", (time.time() - start) * 1000, "millisecs" a=raw_input('Press return to continue')

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  • F# in 90 Seconds

    - by Ben Griswold
    I mentioned in a previous post that we’ve started a languages club at the office.  In an effort to decide which language we will first concentrate on, I volunteered to give the rundown on F#.  Rather than providing a summary here, I’ve provided my slide deck for your viewing enjoyment.  There’s nothing special here outside of a some pretty cool characters from The 56 Geeks Project by Scott Johnson and collection of information from my prior functional programming presentations.   Download F# in 90 Seconds

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  • Introduction to Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems – Create Knowledge and Amplify Learning

    - by Ben Griswold
    In this post, we’ll continue the series by concentrating on Principle #2: Create Knowledge and Amplify Learning In the next part of the series, we’ll dive into Principle #3: Build Integrity and Quality In. And I am going to be a little obnoxious about listing my Lean and Kanban references with every series post.  The references are great and they deserve this sort of attention.  

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  • Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework Review

    - by Ben Griswold
    Early in my career, when I wanted to learn a new technology, I’d sit in the bookstore aisle and I’d work my way through each of the available books on the given subject.  Put in enough time in a bookstore and you can learn just about anything. I used to really enjoy my time in the bookstore – but times have certainly changed.  Whereas books used to be the only place I could find solutions to my problems, now they may be the very last place I look.  I have been working with the ASP.NET MVC Framework for more than a year.  I have a few projects and a couple of major deployments under my belt and I was able to get up to speed with the framework without reading a single book*.  With so many resources at our fingertips (podcasts, screencasts, blogs, stackoverflow, open source projects, www.asp.net, you name it) why bother with a book? Well, I flipped through Steven Sanderson’s Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework a few months ago. And since it is prominently displayed in my co-worker’s office, I tend to pick it up as a reference from time to time.  Last week, I’m not sure why, I decided to read it cover to cover.  Man, did I eat this book up.  Granted, a lot of what I read was review, but it was only review because I had already learned lessons by piecing the puzzle together for myself via various sources. If I were starting with ASP.NET MVC (or ASP.NET Web Deployment in general) today, the first thing I would do is buy Steven Sanderson’s Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework and read it cover to cover. Steven Sanderson did such a great job with this book! As much as I appreciated the in-depth model, view, and controller talk, I was completely impressed with all the extra bits which were included.  There a was nice overview of BDD, view engine comparisons, a chapter dedicated to security and vulnerabilities, IoC, TDD and Mocking (of course), IIS deployment options and a nice overview of what the .NET platform and C# offers.  Heck, Sanderson even include bits about webforms! The book is fantastic and I highly recommend it – even if you think you’ve already got your head around ASP.NET MVC.  By the way, procrastinators may be in luck.  ASP.NET MVC V2 Framework can be pre-ordered.  You might want to jump right into the second edition and find out what Sanderson has to say about MVC 2. * Actually, I did read through the free bits of Professional ASP.NET MVC 1.0.  But it was just a chapter – albeit a really long chapter.

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  • Visual Studio 2008 Solution Setup

    - by Ben Griswold
    In this screencast, Noah and I demonstrate preferred practices around .NET solution setup, naming conventions and version control.  I consider this an introductory video.  If you’ve been around the block, you might want to skip this episode but if you’re a .NET/Visual Studio newbie, it may be worth a look.    YouTube - Visual Studio 2008 Solution Setup   This is one of our first screencasts.  Actually it is the very first.  If you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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  • Project Euler 51: Ruby

    - by Ben Griswold
    In my attempt to learn Ruby out in the open, here’s my solution for Project Euler Problem 51.  I know I started back up with Python this week, but I have three more Ruby solutions in the hopper and I wanted to share. For the record, Project Euler 51 was the second hardest Euler problem for me thus far. Yeah. As always, any feedback is welcome. # Euler 51 # http://projecteuler.net/index.php?section=problems&id=51 # By replacing the 1st digit of *3, it turns out that six # of the nine possible values: 13, 23, 43, 53, 73, and 83, # are all prime. # # By replacing the 3rd and 4th digits of 56**3 with the # same digit, this 5-digit number is the first example # having seven primes among the ten generated numbers, # yielding the family: 56003, 56113, 56333, 56443, # 56663, 56773, and 56993. Consequently 56003, being the # first member of this family, is the smallest prime with # this property. # # Find the smallest prime which, by replacing part of the # number (not necessarily adjacent digits) with the same # digit, is part of an eight prime value family. timer_start = Time.now require 'mathn' def eight_prime_family(prime) 0.upto(9) do |repeating_number| # Assume mask of 3 or more repeating numbers if prime.count(repeating_number.to_s) >= 3 ctr = 1 (repeating_number + 1).upto(9) do |replacement_number| family_candidate = prime.gsub(repeating_number.to_s, replacement_number.to_s) ctr += 1 if (family_candidate.to_i).prime? end return true if ctr >= 8 end end false end # Wanted to loop through primes using Prime.each # but it took too long to get to the starting value. n = 9999 while n += 2 next if !n.prime? break if eight_prime_family(n.to_s) end puts n puts "Elapsed Time: #{(Time.now - timer_start)*1000} milliseconds"

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  • Technical Screencast Series

    - by Ben Griswold
    Noah and I have started to produce a series of technical screencasts. In the spirit of Dimecasts.net, we’re limiting each episode to ten minutes as we thought the development community could benefit from short, focused episodes. We’re just getting started, but I’m really pleased with our progress and I’m very excited about what’s to come.  The first three episodes are focused on the .NET stack (specifically around Visual Studio Solution Setup, Managing .NET External Dependencies and Working with the ASP.NET Membership Provider) but since we work for a mixed shop of .NET and Java development, I’m sure we’ll eventually introduce all sorts of topics. We’re currently putting together a list of shows. If you have suggestions, please let me know. I plan to post the episodes to johnnycoder as they roll out and who knows?  Maybe your screencast idea will show up next.

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  • How to Organize a Programming Language Club

    - by Ben Griswold
    I previously noted that we started a language club at work.  You know, I searched around but I couldn’t find a copy of the How to Organize a Programming Language Club Handbook. Maybe it’s sold out?  Yes, Stack Overflow has quite a bit of information on how to learn and teach new languages and there’s also a good number of online tutorials which provide language introductions but I was interested in group learning.  After   two months of meetings, I present to you the Unofficial How to Organize a Programming Language Club Handbook.  1. Gauge interest. Start by surveying prospects. “Excuse me, smart-developer-whom-I-work-with-and-I-think-might-be-interested-in-learning-a-new-coding-language-with-me. Are you interested in learning a new language with me?” If you’re lucky, you work with a bunch of really smart folks who aren’t shy about teaching/learning in a group setting and you’ll have a collective interest in no time.  Simply suggesting the idea is the only effort required.  If you don’t work in this type of environment, maybe you should consider a new place of employment.  2. Make it official. Send out a “Welcome to the Club” email: There’s been talk of folks itching to learn new languages – Python, Scala, F# and Haskell to name a few.  Rather than taking on new languages alone, let’s learn in the open.  That’s right.  Let’s start a languages club.  We’ll have everything a real club needs – secret handshake, goofy motto and a high-and-mighty sense that we’re better than everybody else. T-shirts?  Hell YES!  Anyway, I’ve thrown this idea around the office and no one has laughed at me yet so please consider this your very official invitation to be in THE club. [Insert your ideas about how the club might be run, solicit feedback and suggestions, ask what other folks would like to get out the club, comment about club hazing practices and talk up the T-shirts even more. Finally, call out the languages you are interested in learning and ask the group for their list.] 3.  Send out invitations to the first meeting.  Don’t skimp!  Hallmark greeting cards for everyone.  Personalized.  Hearts over the I’s and everything.  Oh, and be sure to include the list of suggested languages with vote count.  Here the list of languages we are interested in: Python 5 Ruby 4 Objective-C 3 F# 2 Haskell 2 Scala 2 Ada 1 Boo 1 C# 1 Clojure 1 Erlang 1 Go 1 Pi 1 Prolog 1 Qt 1 4.  At the first meeting, there must be cake.  Lots of cake. And you should tackle some very important questions: Which language should we start with?  You can immediately go with the top vote getter or you could do as we did and designate each person to provide a high-level review of each of the proposed languages over the next two weeks.  After all presentations are completed, vote on the language. Our high-level review consisted of answers to a series of questions. Decide how often and where the group will meet.  We, for example, meet for a brown bag lunch every Wednesday.  Decide how you’re going to learn.  We determined that the best way to learn is to just dive in and write code.  After choosing our first language (Python), we talked about building an application, or performing coding katas, but we ultimately choose to complete a series of Project Euler problems.  We kept it simple – each member works out the same two problems each week in preparation of a code review the following Wednesday. 5.  Code, Review, Learn.  Prior to the weekly meeting, everyone uploads their solutions to our internal wiki.  Each Project Euler problem has a dedicated page.  In the meeting, we use a really fancy HD projector to show off each member’s solution.  It is very important to use an HD projector.  Again, don’t skimp!  Each code author speaks to their solution, everyone else comments, applauds, points fingers and laughs, etc.  As much as I’ve learned from solving the problems on my own, I’ve learned at least twice as much at the group code review.  6.  Rinse. Lather. Repeat.  We’ve hosted the language club for 7 weeks now.  The first meeting just set the stage.  The next two meetings provided a review of the languages followed by a first language selection.  The remaining meetings focused on Python and Project Euler problems.  Today we took a vote as to whether or not we’re ready to switch to another language and/or another problem set.  Pretty much everyone wants to stay the course for a few more weeks at least.  Until then, we’ll continue to code the next two solutions, review and learn. Again, we’ve been having a good time with the programming language club.  I’m glad it got off the ground.  What do you think?  Would you be interested in a language club?  Any suggestions on what we might do better?

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  • Project Euler 53: Ruby

    - by Ben Griswold
    In my attempt to learn Ruby out in the open, here’s my solution for Project Euler Problem 53.  I first attempted to solve this problem using the Ruby combinations libraries. That didn’t work out so well. With a second look at the problem, the provided formula ended up being just the thing to solve the problem effectively. As always, any feedback is welcome. # Euler 53 # http://projecteuler.net/index.php?section=problems&id=53 # There are exactly ten ways of selecting three from five, # 12345: 123, 124, 125, 134, 135, 145, 234, 235, 245, # and 345 # In combinatorics, we use the notation, 5C3 = 10. # In general, # # nCr = n! / r!(n-r)!,where r <= n, # n! = n(n1)...321, and 0! = 1. # # It is not until n = 23, that a value exceeds # one-million: 23C10 = 1144066. # In general: nCr # How many, not necessarily distinct, values of nCr, # for 1 <= n <= 100, are greater than one-million timer_start = Time.now # There's no factorial method in Ruby, I guess. class Integer # http://rosettacode.org/wiki/Factorial#Ruby def factorial (1..self).reduce(1, :*) end end def combinations(n, r) n.factorial / (r.factorial * (n-r).factorial) end answer = 0 100.downto(3) do |c| (2).upto(c-1) { |r| answer += 1 if combinations(c, r) > 1_000_000 } end puts answer puts "Elapsed Time: #{(Time.now - timer_start)*1000} milliseconds"

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  • My Mother Bought a Droid

    - by Ben Griswold
    I converted to iPhone two years ago when I left my former employer and my Blackberry behind. The truth is I half-heartedly purchased my iPhone. It was a great looking device, but as far as I was concerned, it was a mere toy compared to my Blackberry.  I remember hiding the toy in my briefcase when attending business meetings because I didn’t consider it to be professional enough.  I’ve since owned all three generations of the iPhone and, well, iPhone seems to have caught on. I still miss the click of the Blackberry keyboard and the blinking red light letting me know that someone/something requires my attention, but I’m officially an iPhone fanboy now.  My mom called last weekend and asked if she should buy an iPhone. I talked her ear off about everything I love about iPhone. I went on for about twenty minutes. I couldn’t help myself. I mentioned everything from my podcast subscriptions to the application which manages my workouts.  I went as far as to say that someday all smart phones will be referred to as iPhones just like all tissues are referred to as Kleenex and all sodas are referred to as Cokes.  I was really on a roll and then I stopped. I had to…the call dropped.  There I was, strategically standing in the far corner of my backyard where I get the most reliable AT&T reception and the call drops in middle of my iPhone pitch.  Folks, I don’t care how good a salesperson you are, it’s tough to recover from a situation like this.   I dialed my mom back and jokingly asked if she was planning to make calls with her new phone. I explained that AT&T is bound to provide better service eventually but I’m not sure she should wait. After all, I have troubles with the network in San Diego and I can only image how bad it would be for her in Western Massachusetts. Mom called back a few days later exclaiming, “I bought a Droid! I love this phone! I haven’t done anything with it but make phone calls, but I love it.”  I had to laugh.  My mom made the right call (pun intended.)  The iPhone is an amazing device, but owners are constantly reminded that its core function (it’s a phone, remember?) is subpar.  If you love gadgets, you’re probably enthralled by iPhone’s many bells and whistles and, relatively speaking, the terrible phone service might not amount to much.  (Maybe it amounts to a rant on your blog.) The overall iPhone offering is so attractive that consumers are willing to wait for AT&T to straighten up their act or wait until Apple grants a choice of carriers.  But I don’t see either of these remedies coming soon. In the interim, I’m willing to take my iPhone for what it is and just continue to enjoy my favorite features while pretending that poor coverage isn’t a big deal. With any luck, more and more reasonable folks will recognize that Android Phones are legitimate players in the smart phone space, they will buy loads of them and there will become plenty of functional phones to borrow when my “phone” is showing zero bars.  Heck, I’m already covered when I visit my mom.

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  • Are You Using Windows Live Mesh?

    - by Ben Griswold
    Most of the time, I’m the guy who authors the show notes for the Herding Code Podcast.  The workflow is relatively straight-forward: Jon shares the pre-production audio with me, I compete my write up and then ship the notes back to Jon for publishing with the edited audio.  All file sharing is all done with shared folders in the Windows Live Mesh. The director of my kid’s preschool was looking for a way to access her work computer from her home office.  VPN connection?  Remote desktop?  FTP?  Nope. I installed Windows Live Mesh in a matter of minutes, synchronized a number of folders and she was off and running.  (The neat thing is she’s running a PC in the office and a Mac at home.) I was using Dropbox before discovering Mesh. Dropbox is still very cool but I’m in and out of Mesh enough that it’s taken over.  Actually I still have a Dropbox folder – it’s just being synched by Mesh now. If you’re interested in giving Live Mesh a whirl, here’ are the notable links as found on the product’s site: What you need Create your mesh Sync folders Share folders Use your Live Desktop Connect to a remote computer Use a mobile phone Good luck!

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  • Custom Profile Provider with Web Deployment Project

    - by Ben Griswold
    I wrote about implementing a custom profile provider inside of your ASP.NET MVC application yesterday. If you haven’t read the article, don’t sweat it.  Most of the stuff I write is rubbish anyway. Since you have joined me today, though, I might as well offer up a little tip: you can run into trouble, like I did, if you enable your custom profile provider inside of an application which is deployed using a Web Deployment Project.  Everything will run great on your local machine and you’ll probably take an early lunch because you got the code running in no time flat and the build server is happy and all tests pass and, gosh, maybe you’ll just cut out early because it is Friday after all.  But then the first user hits the integration machine and, that’s right, yellow screen of death. Lucky you, just as you’re walking out the door, the user kindly sends the exception message and stack trace: Value cannot be null. Parameter name: type Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code. Stack Trace: [ArgumentNullException: Value cannot be null. Parameter name: type] System.Activator.CreateInstance(Type type, Boolean nonPublic) +2796915 System.Web.Profile.ProfileBase.CreateMyInstance(String username, Boolean isAuthenticated) +76 System.Web.Profile.ProfileBase.Create(String username, Boolean isAuthenticated) +312 User error?  Not this time. Damn! One hour later… you notice the harmless “Treat as library component (remove the App_Code.compiled file)” setting on the Output Assemblies Tab of your Web Deployment Project. You have no idea why, but you uncheck it.  You test and everything works great both locally and on the integration machine.  Application users think you’re the best and you’re still going to catch the last half hour of happy hour.  Happy Friday.

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  • Language Club – Battle of the Dynamic Languages

    - by Ben Griswold
    After dedicating the last eight weeks to learning Ruby, it’s time to move onto another language.  I really dig Ruby.  I really enjoy its dynamism and expressiveness and always-openness and it’s been the highlight of our coding club for me so far. But that’s just my take on the language.  I know a lot of coders who’s stomachs turn with the mere thought of Ruby.  They say it’s Ruby’s openness which has them feeling uneasy.  I’d say “write a bunch of tests and get over it,” but I figure there must be more to it than always open classes and possible method collisions. Yes, there’s something else to it alright. The folks who didn’t fall head over heals for Ruby are already in love with Python.  You might remember that Python was the first language we tackled in our coding club.  My time with Python was okay but it didn’t feel as natural to me as Ruby.  But let’s say we started with Ruby and then moved onto Python.  Would I see Python in a different light right now.  Might I even prefer Python over Ruby?  I suppose it’s possible but it’s pretty tough to test that theory – unless we visit Python for a second time. That’s right. The language club is going to focus on Python again and in my attempt to learn Python – yet again – in the open, I’ll be posting my solutions here just as I did for Ruby.  We don’t always have second chances so I going about this relearning with two primary goals in mind:  First, I’m going to use IronPython and the IronPython tools which provide a Python code editor, a file-based project system, and an interactive Python interpreter, all inside Visual Studio 2010.  As a note, the IronPython tools are now part of the main IronPython installer which is Version 2.7 Alpha 1 (not the latest stable version, 2.6.1) and I’d be crazy not to use them.  Second, I’d like to make sure I’m still learning Python without a complete MS skew so I’m going to run my code through Eclipse using the PyDev plugin as well.  Heck, I might use IDLE too. I already have this setup on my machine so it’s no big deal. Okay, that’s it for now.  I worked on the first ten Euler problems last night and the solutions will be posted shortly. Wish me luck.

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  • Introduction to Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems – Defer Commitment and Decide As Late A

    - by Ben Griswold
    In this post, we’ll continue the series by concentrating on Principle #4: Defer Commitment and Decide As Late As Possible.   In the next part of the series, we’ll dive into Principle #5: Deliver As Fast As Possible. And I am going to be a little obnoxious about listing my Lean and Kanban references with every series post.  The references are great and they deserve this sort of attention.  

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  • Introduction to Lean Software Development and Kanban Systems – Build Integrity and Quality In

    - by Ben Griswold
    In this post, we’ll continue the series by concentrating on Principle #3: Build Integrity and Quality In.   In the next part of the series, we’ll dive into Principle #4: Defer Commitment and Decide As Late As Possible. And I am going to be a little obnoxious about listing my Lean and Kanban references with every series post.  The references are great and they deserve this sort of attention.  

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