Thursday, November 30, 2006

Off for Vacation!

Notice to all: You’ll be spared more rants about CodeMash for a bit: we’re taking off for a long vacation to celebrate my wife’s retirement from the Air Force.

I’ll be hard at work on a Disney Cruise for the next chunk of days.

OK, maybe not so hard…

But while I’m gone you really should go register for CodeMash.  Really.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why Conferences Matter, and How To Pitch To Your Boss

So my blog has been 90% CodeMash of late.  Go figure.  If you’ve read my blog for long you know that I consider good conferences as potential watershed events in the career of geeks.  Software Development Expo West in 2003 was such an event for me, and I’m passionate about pushing Code Camps and other conferences as great ways to improve your skill level and explode your passion about your field.

But how do you convince your management that attending conferences isn’t just them tossing money away without any chance of a return on their investment?  Below is a pitch that might help out.  Yes, it’s framed in CodeMash terms, but that’s becase CodeMash is an insane value when you consider who you get to interact with for two days. 

Maybe try this approach if you’re getting pushback on the cost of a conference.  It may just work for you.

So on to the pitch:

Your developers are a critical asset to your company, relied upon to help solve tough problems in your business and bring value to your bottom line.  To effectively do their job, these developers must possess an odd conglomeration of skills, including problem solving, artistry, engineering, and mystical hand waving.  Keeping those skills honed is vital if your developers are going to remain at their best – but how can you provide skills development for those folks without breaking the bank?

One of the best ways to keep your development staff at the top of their game is through ongoing education, and one of the best venues for ongoing education is software developer conferences.  Conferences provide a tremendously motivating, educational environment where your technical staff can attend sessions from industry leaders, hear keynote addresses from luminaries who drive great changes in their domains, and gather with peers to discuss everyday problems.

CodeMash ( is a unique conference for software developers in and around the Heartland region (MI, OH, KY, IN, IL, PA), and is being held 18-19 January, 2007 in Sandusky, Ohio.  CodeMash will bring together a large number of developers from the Java, Ruby, PHP, .NET, and other communities for this ground-breaking event.  CodeMash features some of the software development industry’s greatest minds who will present sessions on a wide range of topics.  

CodeMash will feature keynote addresses from three industry leaders:

·         Scott Guthrie, Microsoft Developer Division Manager

·         Neal Ford, noted author and Architect at ThoughtWorks, Inc.

·         Bruce Eckel, industry leader and CEO of MindView, Inc.

Attendees will be able to select from a wide range of more than 40 sessions presented by nationally and regionally recognized experts on a wide range of topics such as:

·         Curry Favor with Closures: An Introduction to Functional Programming in C# and VB.NET (Bill Wagner, Microsoft Regional Director, Microsoft MVP and author of “Effective C#”)

·         SOA as a Conversation (Ken Faw, Regional Practice Director, Perficient, Inc.)

·         The Productive Programmer (Neal Ford, editor “No Fluff, Just Stuff”)

·         Let NHibernate Be Your Data Access Layer (Dave Donaldson, Microsoft MVP)

·         Lean Software Development (Mary Poppendeick, internationally recognized expert on agile/lean development and author of “Lean Software Development”)

·         Maximum Velocity MySQL (Jay Pipes, North American Community Relations Manager, MySQL)

·         Improve Your Testing with Open Source Test Tools (Jim Holmes, Microsoft MVP and author of “Windows Developer Power Tools”)

·         EJB3 – What’s New? (Joseph Faisal Nusairat, author of “Beginning JBoss Seam”)

·         Ruby on Rails for Java Developers (Rob Stevenson, Quick Solutions, Inc.)

Normally conferences can be a costly proposition, running thousands of dollars for registration and hotel fees.  However, CodeMash is a community-driven, non-profit event run by volunteers – which means the event’s prices are incredibly low: $99 registration fee (early bird, expires 18 December), and  room rate of $88 per night at the fabulous Kalahari Resort (

You’ll need to act fast, though: CodeMash’s early bird discount ends 18 December, and the special room rate of $88 isn’t guaranteed past that date.

CodeMash’s payoff to your company is tangible: improved developer skills and motivated, excited teams who are fired up to solve your tough business problems.

CodeMash: Scott Ambler is Speaking!

Holy friggin’ smokes.  We just got news that Scott Ambler will be coming to CodeMash to give a couple talks.

I am completely flattened at the amazing quality of industry-leading talent we’ve got lined up.

Scott Guthrie.  Mary Poppendeick.  Bill Wagner.  Jay Pipes.  Bruce Eckel.  Neal Ford.

And now Scott Ambler.

You are missing one great opportunity if you don’t go register now.

Why Some Folks Object To Agile

Elisabeth Hendrickson is a Very Smart Tester who writes a lot of good stuff on her blog.

One of her latest posts talks about why some folks object to Agile out of fear, ignorance, whatever.  One particularly salient bit: “Most of all, I wonder when those people with so much to say against Agile actually listened enough to figure out what it is.”  I once had to deal with a guy who insisted that Extreme Programming was simply “hacker coding.”  It was readily apparent that this guy was simply scared of being losing some of his control freak turf.

Elisabeth’s post is short and well worth reading!

'Tis The Season

Christmas is nearing, that’s for certain.  Forget the Black Friday sales insanity.  There’s one certain indicator Christmas is right around the corner: A Charlie Brown Christmas hits the airwaves.

That’s where we spent a half-hour tonight, and there’s no better way to tamp down one’s stress level than to watch such a classic with two small kids, a nice wife, and a bowl of popcorn.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dayton-Cincy Code Camp Registration Open!

The second annual Dayton-Cincinnati Code Camp is now open for registration!

The camp will be held on 24 March, 2007, at the Wingate Inn in West Chester, Ohio. 

The Code Camp will be free and full of great content.  Make sure to take advantage of this terrific event!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

CodeMash Session List Is Close to Finalized!

We’ve been working tremendously hard on lining up sessions for CodeMash and we’ve got a pretty amazing list of sessions so far.  We’ve had something close to 100 submissions and have winnowed them down to around 30 so far.  We’re leaving some room for expansion since the submission deadline is November 30th, but we wanted to get content up on the site to show how great this conference is going to be!

In case you’ve just started reading this blog, let me recap what CodeMash is all about:  CodeMash is a community-driven, non-profit conference for software developers being held 18–19 January, 2007. It’s a cross-platform, cross-language conference meant to bring together folks from a wide range of software development communities.  The energy and knowledge transfer that happens at such events is really pretty staggering, which is why we’re so excited about CodeMash.

As a side note, I went to SD West in 2004 and it was a life-altering experience.  Seriously.  I got to hear folks like Josh Holmes, Steve McConnell, Elliotte Rusty Harold, Alan Holub, Scott Meyers, Michelle Leroux Bustamante, and a bunch of other amazing folks from a lot of different knowledge domains.  It was a completely transforming experience that was directly responsible for me completely changing the course of my career.  I’m not saying that CodeMash will be the same thing for you, but I can certainly hope it is!

Back to CodeMash.  We’ve got technical content from Gadgets in Vista to EJB3.  (That’s Java stuff for you .NET folks.  Duh.)  We’ve got methodology stuff from Test Driven Development in Python to Lean Software Development.  We’ve got platform agnostic stuff from Open Source Test Tools (by, cough cough, yours truely) to The Productive Programmer.

Looking for stellar, industry-leading speakers?  How about keynotes from Scott Guthrie of Microsoft, Neal Ford of ThoughtWorks, and Bruce Eckel of Mind View?  Still not good enough?  How about hearing Mary Poppendeick, Jason Gilmore, Bill Wagner, Chris Judd, or Jay Pipes present sessions?

Still not good enough?  How about some of these session offerings:

  • Building and Deploying Smart Clients with Visual Studio 2005
  • Building Enterprise Smart Clients using a Services Oriented Architecture
  • The Productive Programmer
  • Ruby on Rails for Java Developers
  • Real World Continuous Integration
  • Let NHibernate Be Your Data Layer
  • SOA as a Conversation
  • A Tale of Two Web Toolkits: TurboGears and the GWT
  • Selenium radically simplifies testing Websites!
  • Ruby on Rails for Java Developers
  • What makes Rails possible: an introduction to the Ruby language
  • Lean Software Development
  • Introduction to Ajax
  • Beyond TDD: Exploring the benefits beyond testing.
  • JRuby - Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!
  • Curry Favor with Closures: An introduction to Functional Programming with C# and VB.NET

Perhaps one of the neatest things about the conference is its venue: the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.  The Kalahari has great rooms, a great venue, and an indoor water park to boot!  (You can see photos of the Kalhari at my Flickr site.)  The Kalahri’s also given us a tremendous break on rooms: $88 per night.

This conference is going to be terrific, and I hope you’ll register now.  It’s going to be a terrific event!

(Also, please consider passing on word of our sponsorship opportunities — companies will have a great chance to reach out to a pretty unique group of motivated geeks!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More Firefox Vulnerabilities

Firefox 2.0 appears to have a pretty major security issue with its password manager.  As always, discussion in the Slashdot article’s comments thread is pretty funny, ranging from usual excusatory whining to some ascerbic, point-on blurbs.  An example of the latter, from a comment titled “I sense a disturbance in the force”: though millions of Firefox users were laughing at IE users, and were suddenly silenced.
Cue "still more secure" arguments now.

I love me some Firefox, but I’m not blithely accepting that it’s nirvana for security.  One of the few things I disliked about the otherwise terrific book Building The Perfect PC was their ABM mentality on how everything Microsoft was evil and awful and you’d be sooooo much more secure by just installing Firefox and Thunderbird.

Sorry.  Not the case.

Make smart choices in how you go about using your software, and don’t naievely think you’ve got a silver bullet just because the crowd says so.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Spread the CodeMash Love!

We’d love to have you help spread the word about CodeMash — so we’ve made that a bit easier: We’ve posted up a one-page flyer which gives the elevator speech for CodeMash.  (“Dude, it’s just coooooool.”)

Feel free to grab that, print off a billion copies and plaster them all over boards at work, telephone poles in your city[1], your neighbor’s garage door, or any other spot where you think interested geeks might see them. (“What about those psyche wards where all those COBOL and assembly language guys ended up in?”  Quiet, you!)

Monday, November 20, 2006

More Community Goodness: Dayton-Cincy Code Camp Call for Speakers!

Do NOT listen to what the heathens from Cincinnati say.  The proper name of the Code Camp slated for March 24th, 2007, is the Dayton-Cincinnati Code Camp.

Last year’s event was a smashing success, and this year’s going to be even better.

If you’ve got an interesting topic to talk about you can help make it better by heading over to the speaker submission page and submitting your ideas for a session.

CodeMash in January, the Dayton-Cincinnati Code Camp in March.  Man, what a great lineup!

CodeMash Sessions So Far

We’ve got the initial 15 sessions approved for CodeMash.  Check out this most impressive list!

  • Intro to WCF (Josh Holmes)
  • SOA as a Conversation (Ken Faw)
  • Improve Your Testing with Open Source Testing Tools (Jim Holmes)
  • Introduction to Ajax (Greg Huber)
  • Using the Microsoft AJAX Library (Greg Huber)
  • High-Velocity MySQL (Jay Pipes)
  • Building and Deploying Smart Clients with VS 2005 (Keith Elder)
  • Building Enterprise Smart Clients Using SOA (Keith Elder)
  • End of Tier-Based Architecture (Owen Taylor)
  • Scripting for Java (Chris Judd)
  • Beyond TDD: Exploring the Benefits Beyond Testing (Ben Carey)
  • Lean Software Development (Mary Poppendieck)
  • Real World Continuous Integration (Joe Wirtley/Dan Hounshell)
  • Let NHibernate be your Data Layer (Dave Donaldson)
  • Building Gadgets for Windows Vista (Drew Robbins)

Add to that two sessions extra from Scott Guthrie and potentially a couple more from Bruce Eckel and Neal Ford — and we’ve still got scads of great abstracts to wade through for Python, SOA, PHP, and more.


Go register now.  Just do it!

Good Paper on Microsoft Security

Michael Howard referenced a very interesting read from ESG: a white paper detailing the security benefits of Microsoft’s adherance to their Software Development Lifecycle for SQL Server 2005. 

This year MySql and Oracle had 60 and 70 vulnerabilities reported against them, respectively, in the National Vulnerability Database.  Microsoft, with their whimsical, uncaring approach to security, had four. 

Re-read that.  The behemoth Borg from Redmond had a fraction of the vulnerabilities of MySql and Oracle.

Microsoft’s far from perfect, and they’ve taken some well-earned bashing for their past attention to security — but you’re going to have to work long and hard and have a lot of non-tinfoil hat evidence to convince me that they’re not deadly serious about security these days.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Terrific Upcoming Presentation for Dayton DevGroup!

Dustin Campbell of Developer Express will be heading down here to Dayton next month to give his “Back to Basics” talk.  Bill Wagner wrote a nice review of Dustin’s talk — and I can’t wait to hear it.

I’m all over this kind of stuff: keeping solid fundamentals while making best use of the nifty technology that’s around you.

CodeMash: Learn About Writing A Book

The organizing committee is beating around a seriously cool idea for CodeMash: a moderated session where some of the many authors who will be at the conference gather together and talk about what’s involved with writing a technical book.

I was knocked over by the suggestion!  I’m all over sitting in the same room and listening to some of the highly accomplished authors like Bruce Eckel, Jason Gilmore, Bill Wagner, and similar folks talk about how they’ve done their books.

This still hasn’t been completely fleshed out yet, but I’m certain we can make this one work.  It’s a terrific concept!

I'm Speaking at CodeMash!

I got the word yesterday that I’ll be talking at CodeMash too!  I’ll be giving a variant of my Open Source Test Tools talk, this one geared a little more to the general testing community, not just .NET.  I’ll still cover a few of my favorite things (MbUnit and Zanebug), but will make some things a bit more general — like talking about mock objects at a higher level while still gabbing about Rhino.Mocks.


What?  You’re still not signed up for CodeMash?  Get off your duff!  Go sign up now!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Book Update: QC1 Review Done!

Whoof.  I’ve just, literally, sent off the last comments on the first round of final proofs for the book. This round is called QC1 and is where the Word documents we’ve been working on for the last nine months are sent to O’Reilly’s Production department and converted into their final production format.  (I think it’s some variant of Frame, but I’m not sure.)

The conversion process is a bit unweildy, so we had to do some close checking for problems with figure and section placement, but it’s pretty amazing to see the book’s pages so close to what they’ll really look like.

I also found myself re-reading things I’d forgotten about.  (Hey, it’s 1200 or so pages and I’ve been writing for nearly nine months now.  Give me a break!)  All the chapters are good, but the chapters on testing, code metrics, and Windows utilities are particularly special.  The testing chapter (122 pages!) is really terrific with articles on mocking tools, test frameworks, test runners, and several other goodies.

If everything proceeds on schedule you’ll be able to find the book in stores just in time for Christmas.  Woo!

My eyes are bleary and the espresso I had a couple hours ago has finally worn off, but I’m happy to have passed another milestone in the book’s production!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Calling All Python Geeks!

Are you a Python Geek or Geekette?  Passionate about your language of choice?  Feel like talking to a large crowd of folks interested in learning more about Python?

Go over to the CodeMash Call for Speakers page and submit an abstract for a session!   We’re short on Python sessions and would love to add some content to the line up.

Keep in mind the general mission of CodeMash: promote cross-technology education and community growth.  Sure, we’re very interested in 300–level sessions for true geeks, but 200–level gigs explaining the ins and outs of your technology and how to best apply it are a big part of what we’re shooting for.

CodeMash Sessions Going Live!

We’re starting to approve abstracts for CodeMash sessions, and the first two are simply killer ones!

Mary Poppendieck will be giving her Lean Software Development talk, and Dave Donaldson will be talking about the killer goodness of NHibernate.

We’ll get a schedule up in the next few days, but in the meantime, keep your eyes posted on CodeMash’s homepage where you can read news announcements.  Subscribe to the RSS feed there if you’d like and you’ll be kept appraised of all the latest developments.

This is going to be one great conference!

(Man, I can’t believe we scored the Poppendiecks to do a talk!)

Monday, November 13, 2006

iTunes 7 Stinks

Just a bit of a rant on the latest version of iTunes.  It sucks.  Massively slow, causes all kinds of grief and lousy sound quality on my system.  Lots of lovely music I’ve loaded in to the cursed thing and I can’t listen to crap because every new song hangs, skips, and gurgles for 20 seconds until this crappy software gets itself straightened out.  All this while I’m crashing on a reviewing deadline for my book — and I need  my music for that!

Version 6 was lovely.  Version 7 is a steaming pile of dung.


(I figure I’m suffering about it, so why shouldn’t you?)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Great NHibernate Resource

I used to blog about NHibernate quite a bit a year ago, but haven’t used it in some time.  Not because I’ve lost interest in it, but I kind of had a book take over my life and suck out any development time.

My pissy, tangental whining aside, Dave Donaldson has release an absolutely killer resource for you who use NHibernate: NHibernateRepository, a configurable assembly which gives you a terrific access point in to NHibernate.

What?  You aren’t using NHibernate?  Go check it out and think about how nice it would be to get great db performance without having to write any stored procedures — and get away from those eeeeeevil DataSets.

(OK, DataSets make good sense in some places.  But NHibernate’s still wicked cool and wicked useful.)

CodeMash Registration Live!!

Do you want to hear some incredible folks like Scott Guthrie, Bruce Eckel, and Tom and Mary Poppendeick talk about great topics?  Do you want to go to a two day conference at a tremendous venue?  Do you want to hear regional greats like Bill Wagner, Jason Gilmore, and Drew Robins put on some great sessions?

Do you want to pay almost nothing for it?

Then go register for CodeMash.

It’s taken us awhile, but we’ve ready for you to sign up (and pay!) for the coolest, most bestest software development conference in the Midwest.

Go get Mashed.  Go register.

What, you’re still here?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

MOSS Workflow Problems -- Generic (Useless) Error

Running in to generic “There was an error” kind of messages when trying to create workflows in Windows SharePoint Services or SharePoint Server (MOSS)?

Found this nifty trick at the Microsoft support forums: execute

 stsadm -o reconvertallformtemplates
at the command line.

Problem solved!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Great Free Unit Test Runner

The way smart folks at JetBrains have released a free unit test runner: UnitRun.  This is the same nifty widget in ReSharper which lets you run and debug unit tests — and now you can get that bit of goodness on its own should you not have ReSharper.

This is a handy bit of functionality, particularly since Jamie Cansdale took TestDriven.NET to commercial-only.

Nice move, JetBrains!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

CodeMash Venue Photos

Several folks from CodeMash’s organizing committee visited the Kalahari Lodge where CodeMash will be held.

This venue is going to be simply amazing!  The Nia Conference Center at Kalahari is brand new and is loaded with all kinds of technical goodies.  We’ll have loads of bandwidth for speakers, staff, and attendees, plus there’s just an incredible amount of infrastructure that will be a great help for putting on a terrific conference.

The session rooms are huge and can get loaded up with scads of tables and chairs, plus we’ll have a huge banquet room for keynotes and dining.  The hall where we’ll have sponsors is nice and large with plenty of room for booths — and there’s scads of electrical outlets so everyone should be happy happy.

I and my family stayed overnight in the hotel and we were very happy with the facility. Nice breakfast buffet (better than average hotel food), comfy rooms, and a very nice set of stores in the hotel itself.

Of course there’s the water park and arcade…  The water park is a blast!  I spent most of the time playing with my two year old son in the toddler pool or chasing my daughter around the river that circumnavigates the park.  (Note to self: six year olds don’t understand that “Lazy River” means you float around and relax.  They think it means it’s a racetrack.)  There are also a bunch of huge slides so big kids can have fun.  The Zip Sled is lots of fun, but may be a bit too intense for smaller kids.  (Fear not, she wasn’t permanently scarred, plus she got a toy out of the deal for indulging her Poppa.)

This conference is going to be a blast for any number of reasons, and the venue’s no small part of that!

Photos of the visit are posted up on my Flickr site.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Book Review: Accelerated C# 2005

I'm almost done with Trey Nash's Accelerated C# 2005 and I've got to say it's one of the best books I've read in some time.  The chart on the book's back cover bills it as something to read before Troellson's Pro C# 2005 and the .NET 2.0 Platform, but I think it's actually more advanced and much more readable than that book.

Trey's work is extremely well-written and comes in at a concise 400 pages.  He covers a wide range of topics in those pages, hitting everything from syntax to CLR underpinnings to generics to multi-threading.  His coverage on the workings of how assemblies get loaded and behave in the CLR is perhaps the best I've read on the topic.

The book is a great balance of small, fundamental details and more complex issues.  Examples of the first would include his clear explanation of the difference between using constants and readonly variables -- particularly since he clearly shows the impacts of making a decision for either kind.  Examples of the more complex issues would include his very clear, very understandable treatment of threading in C#. 

His discussion of the more complex topics are aided by solid examples which often start out showing how not to do things (highly useful) and moving to better ways of doing things.  (I should note I found one or two errors in the examples, but the general gist was always clear.)  He also scatters a number of good practices or solid design idioms throughout the book such as why Bridge patterns can be helpful in various situations.

Trey also makes occasional, pertinent examples with IL to discuss particular issues, such as how coding things two different ways might end up generating the same IL.

Additionally, there's some good design-level items in the book.  There's a lot of pro/con discussion on a number of issues such the drawbacks to inheritance, and there's a VERY good discussion of implementing contract-based design via interfaces as compared to abstract classes.

Overall this is one of the best C# books I've read.  I'd put it at a level close to Bill Wagner's Effective C#: 50, which is pretty much the pinnacle of C# books as far as I'm concerned.

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