Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More Gold From Rally Software's Agile Blog

Rally Software’s blog has been spectacular since it started in late October.  Their current post talks about laying off of the demand for/demand against pair programming — but not abandoning the quest for better software through better collaboration.  Good stuff, especially the summary at the end.

Hanselman's Best Accomplishment

Scott Hanselman and his wife have a new family arrival.  Amazing that Scott managed to nicely contribute to the latest round of Ask The Pros even during the last week of their pregnancy.

Great Article On Debugging

OK, "Great Article" is not an unbiased rating since I wrote the article I'm posting about: Ask The Pros: Debugging at  It’s the second in my Ask The Pros series and has lots of tips from Really Smart Folks across the industry.

I’ve been very lucky to have had such terrific response from a lot of great developers/architects/Really Smart Folks who have taken time from their busy schedules to respond to the first two articles.

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Gold From Sam Gentile on Agile Projects

Sam Gentile has had a run on great posts the last few weeks.  Here’s another great one on estimating, plus how important FIT is to their team of developers and customers.  Read on, MacDuff!

My New Toy I Mean Vitally Important Work Equipment

I just picked up a Treo 650 to replace my old Motorola v60 cell phone.  I loved my m500 PDA and v60 cellphone combination because I could get both gadgets in one shirt pocket.  The Treo is even Way Cooler because it combines both, still fits in my shirt pocket and gives me even more power than the prior combination.  I love having my calendar, task list, and contacts all on my cell, plus I’m very familiar with Palm OS as I used an m500 for a number of years.  (Want to buy it, cheap?  Make an offer)  There are a plethora of Palm OS widgets I can stuff on this gadget to make my life happier.  Woo hoo!

The Treo’s a very nice size and will still fit in my shirt pocket [Dude, you’re at home in sweat pants all day! — ed.], and it’s very light.  I’m not signed up for the data package, so my only use of the keyboard has been for a couple test task and calendar appointments.  The keyboard seems fine for short stuff; I definitely won’t be doing any long user guides on it…  The only really odd thing I’ve found so far is the speaker placement: it’s on the top of the phone which means I have to hold the phone at a seemingly odd spot just below my ear.  Dunno, the pizza delivery folks didn’t seem to have any problem with understanding me tonight, so it can’t be too bad.

The camera sucks, but then I don’t think I’ll be using it but once every three years.  The camera’s actually a hinderance because the defense contractor I worked for in the past and may work around again prohibits cameras of any type on their premises, even in the unclassified rooms.  I could go on a rant about anal-retentive, out of control, overburdended with stifiling processes goobers, but I’ll save you from that.

Tangental topics being back under control, suffice it to say that I’m pretty excited about scoring one for only $200.  It’s going to make my life a lot easier.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Good Fitnesse.NET Intro

Cory Foy has a nice introduction to Fitnesse.NET over on the Apress blogs.  I still haven’t had a chance to play with Fitnesse.NET, but I sure do like the concept.  His post is a straight-forward, simple intro to getting Fitnesse.NET up and running.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Less Is More

Ben Carey pointed out this terrific post on “Less as a competitive advantage” at 37Signals’ blog.  Great stuff, and really hits hard the concept of YAGNI.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Microsoft's Whacked Out TDD Approach

I've blogged before (more than once) on how Microsoft really does listen to their customers.  They’ve got a prime opportunity right now to do the same thing and clean up the mess they made with their so-called Test Driven Development guidelines.  (If you’re not familiar with TDD please do not read that thing first.  Go elsewhere to learn about TDD.)

Folks far better than I have written some great posts about Microsoft’s error.  Check out Ben Carey’s postRoy Osherove’s musings, Scott Bellware’s comments, thoughts from Mike Gunderloy, and Sam Gentile’s very well written response.

Do the right thing, Microsoft: pull those guidelines off now, then go and learn what TDD’s really about.  (Or listen to the few Agile bloggers you have in your own company.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Debugger Blog

I’m working on an article for Visual Studio Hacks which deals with debugging.  Bill Wagner offered up a great pointer to Jim Gries’s blog on debugging.

Gries’s blog is great stuff.  Check it out!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Great Second Home

Ben Carey blogged on this terrific-looking vacation home company.  We’ve got a couple acres on a small lake in rural Alaska and I can just see one of these on our property up there.  The flat roof might be troublesome with the snowfall, but wow, what a great philosophy these folks have!

BlueSky MOD :: Low-Impact, High-Design Living.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Update Your NUnit Config Files!

If you’ve moved up to the live version of VS2005 and/or the .NET Framework, you’ll need to update your NUnit config files — you’ll notice this when you try and load your previously working NUnit test projects and you get the dreaded BadImageFormatException.

Add this line as the top-most in the <startup> section of your nunit-gui.exe.config and nunit-console.exe.config files:

      <supportedRuntime version="v2.0.50727" />


Another Year Gone By

Last night my wife surprised me with a trip out to Yellow Springs for a dinner at the Winds Cafe, the best dining in the Dayton area as far as we’re concerned.  It wasn’t just any dinner, it was their 16th annual Garlic Dinner, a six course meal of terrific food with perfectly paired wines.  Loads of garlic, but all well-balanced and not overpowering.  The Garlic Dinner menu will vanish from their page soon, so I’ll paste it in just to torment you poor souls:

  • Garlic Tomato Soup with Garlic Goat Cheese Crouton
  • Hot Smoked Salmon with Garlic Vinaigrette
  • Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with Mushrooms, garlic confit and herbs
  • Fall Dark Green Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing and Garlic Chips
  • Cheeses
  • Lemon Crepe with Lemon Curd and Jeni’s Lemon Ice Cream

Another great surprise was a box of See’s candy, all dark, which means my wife won’t be mooching any off me.  I’ll still have to fend off both kids who like dark chocolate as much as I do, curse them.

Best of all, this morning my daughter came out and gave me a card she’d made all on her own:

That makes for a pretty good day, despite being another year closer to True Crusty Old Fart status, instead of my current Aspiring Crusty Old Fart status.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

VS 2005 Crashes -- Fixed!

My earlier whines about VS 2005 crashing have now been completely resolved.  The culprits were old versions of DXCore and TestDriven.NET.  I updated both (use the 2.0.xx Beta version of TestDriven) and now things appear to be stable and shiny once more.

(And yes, I did e-mail Sara to let her know her great tips on bug filing weren’t necessary!)

Now Playing: Wes — Weslenga.  More cool Afropop, courtesy of Rhapsody.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Visual Studio Crashes: Update

Earlier today I whined about constant Visual Studio crashes.  Sara Ford, VS tester extraordinare and author of great VS tips, left a comment with some terrific info on how to write up a good bug report.  Check out her blog post on how to report issues to the Product Feedback Center.

I found the problem with the aspx pages causing crashes: DXCore.  I had an older version with “experimental” support for VS2005.  Their latest version killed off that problem and made aspx pages happy and shiny again.  I’m still having the crashes at every exit of VS, but I’ll work that one tomorrow.

The Joys of Crashing Software

Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 was always tetchy on my system.  It was very grumpy with one particular solution I’m working on, less so with others.  I was very happy to get the real release from MSDN’s download section when VS went live.  I ran the B2 cleanup tool, installed the live release, and poof!  Now I get a crash every time I exit Visual Studio, regardless of the project I’m working on.

Every time.

That’s an annoying pain in the keester, but I could live with it.  Today I just found a showstopper: I can’t open an aspx file in a project James created.  VS crashes immediately no matter if I try opening the file in design or code view.  I deleted the file from the project, added it anew, and am still having the same problem.

This sucks.

There have been lots of rants at various spots around the Internet complaining about Microsoft shipping VS2005 too early.  I’ve been open minded to the situation, understanding that a company has to make tough choices about when to release huge, complex software systems.  Maybe I’m a little less open minded now.  Grumble.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Managing DSNs on Windows XP

I seem to have a complete mental block on being able to remember that you can manage database DSNs via the Administrative Tools snap in from the Control Panel.  It always takes me a bit of stumbling around in Google before I find it again.  Maybe I’ll remember now that I’ve blogged about it.


Now Playing: The La’s — The La’s.  Funky stuff and I like it.

BlogJet Plugin For Aggregators

I drank Hanselman’s Kool-Aid and bought BlogJet some time back.  I’ve been pretty happy with it so far, although I wish its music detection worked with Rhapsody.

Blogjet has a great plugin which lets you blog directly from RSS Bandit, NewsGator, SharpReader, and Omea Reader.  Find it on the BlogJet Wiki.  There are a couple other plugins there for IE, FeedDemon, and Firefox.  (Some guy James wrote that last one.)

Another Dayton-Cincinnati Code Camp Update

I’ve got a few potential sessions for the Code Camp listed on the site’s page: Dayton-Cincinnati Code Camp

Registration is filling up steadily.  Sign up for the camp at the registration site if you’re interested.

Contact me directly via the link on the right sidebar if you’re interested in speaking.  We’ll have formal (normal) lectures, plus we’re open for whiteboard sessions.  Send me the following information if you’re going to submit a session:

  • Topic Name
  • Abstract
  • Target Audience (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)

Hope to see you at the camp!

Now Playing: Silence.  My daughter is at school, my son is napping, and sometimes it’s just nice to hear nothing. Aaahhhh.

Recipe Blogging: Spaghetti with Tuna and Capers

Some hideous grunge I’ve been fighting has left me with a nasty cough that keeps me up most of the nights these last two weeks hacking my lungs out.  Yeesh, I thought hacking coughs were history when I kicked a two pack a day smoking habit years ago.  Bogus.

I’ve felt lousy and been tired enough that I haven’t done a lot of creative cooking, but things are gradually getting better, enough so that last night I returned to a great dish that’s wonderful in its simplicity: Spaghetti with Tuna and Capers. 

As with any simple dish, this is all about the quality of what you throw in the pot.  Starkist or Bumble Bee tuna are fine in their own rights (I have two small kids.  Tuna is a staple here.), but you need something fancier to really kick this dish up.  Look for Genova tuna at Trader Joe’s or a semi-fancier store.  If you can foot the tarrif, order some of the amazing stuff Zingerman’s carries.  It’s a small tin for something like $10 per, but it is absolutely stunning and perfect for something like this. 

The capers in this dish are just as important.  Look up salt-packed capers, not brined.  You can find them at a good Italian food store, fancier yuppie grocieries like Whole Foods or Dorothy Lane Market here in Dayton.

Without further ado,

Spaghetti con Tonno e Capperi (Serves 4 – 6)

spaghetti for 4 - 6 (That’s roughly one of my hands a bit less than full.  I never measure.  Sorry.)

~ 3 Tbs. best-quality extra virgin olive oil

1 can best-quality tuna

2 Tbs. salt-packed capers, rinsed and soaked in water

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

toasted bread crumbs (optional)

  • Cook the spaghetti  in a large pot of salted, boiling water.
  • While the spaghetti is cooking, prepare the tuna.  In a large serving bowl, pour in the olive oil, then add the tuna, breaking up it into small chunks.  Stir in the capers and garlic.
  • When the pasta’s done, drain it well and dump the piping hot pasta into the bowl.  Stir well to mix.  The heat from the pasta will cook the garlic just a tiny bit and spread its love throughout the oil and pasta.
  • Dust with a bit of toasted breadcrumbs if you like, but please avoid cheeses you might normally grate over pasta — they’re too strong and will dull the great flavors from the tuna and capers.  At least give it a try.  Trust me.

NOTES:  That’s all there is to it.  Simplicty rules here.  Use a very light hand with the garlic, and don’t use any salt to season the pasta — there’s plenty in the capers, even if you’ve rinsed and soaked them well.

Love That FlexWiki

I’ve been using FlexWiki on several projects over the last six or so months and have come to love it.  It’s a snap to install, and the Wiki way of life rocks once you get into the flow.  I’m able to brainstorm out and quickly link topics, rapidly move topics around, and just generally have a fairly productive time getting stuff done.  There are a ton of formatting options, too, so you can make everything look nice and shiny.

FlexWiki comes with RSS enabled out of the box, you can set up mail notifications (newsletters) without too much trouble, and there’s a modest security capability if you want it.

Now Playing: Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra — Who Is This America?  I love Afropop or whatever the heck you want to call it.  Great brass, cool beats, lovely vocals.  (Plus my son digs dancing to it, even if his dancing is just clapping hands while stumbling around in a circle.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More Dayton-Cincy Code Camp Updates

Interested in presenting at our Code Camp in January?  Submission deadline is 12/21/05.  We’ll notify all submitters on 12/23/05 whether they’ve been selected or not.

Send me the following information via my contact link on the left sidebar:

  • Topic Name
  • Topic Abstract
  • Target Audience (Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced)

Interested in attending?  (You ought to be if you’re in the Dayton/Cincinnati/Columbus area!)  Sign up at the registration site.

Bad Naming

A couple definitions from the American Heratige Dictionary entries for “through”:

  • In one side and out the opposite or another side of: went through the tunnel.
  • Among or between; in the midst of: a walk through the flowers.
  • Past and without stopping for: drove through a red light.

So “through” can mean either passing by (last bullet) or traversing something (first two).

Visual Studio’s options for stepping when debugging code:

  • Step Into (F11)
  • Step Over (F10)

Why in the world would the .NET Framework folks name an attribute to bypass a method  System.Diagnostics.DebuggerStepThrough ?  It doesn’t match any of the two prepositions normally used with Visual Studio’s “Step” command.  Without context its intent is ambiguous by dictionary definition.

Do yourselves and your API’s consumers a favor.  Disambiguate your method and attribute names.  Don’t know what the heck “disambiguate” means?  I just proved my point by using a silly word where a clearer one would have served better.

Go read your McConnell again.

Now Playing: Bruce Springsteen — The Essential.  Not sure about this.  I hate the first three cuts: Blinded By The Light, For You, and Spirit In the Night.  The remaining cuts look better.  Hope so, otherwise I’ll be making more use of the fast forward button.

Rhapsody Rulz (Again)

Now Playing: Molly Hatchet — Molly Hatchet.  I am more and more impressed with Rhapsody.  I spent a lot of time listening to Molly Hatchet and Flirtin’ With Disaster when I was in school.  It’s killer to find this great stuff online via my Rhapsody subscription.  Great music made even better by my 15 month old son dancing around to it.  Dreams I’ll Never See is one of the best songs ever, right next to The Outlaws’ Green Grass and High Tides.

Several Great Finds

Several cool finds as I’m catching up with blogs I missed during my road trip to the Detroit Launch and my day off yesterday.

Eric Gunnerson points out that Visual Studio Express versions will be FREE for the next year.

Michelle Leroux Bustamante has great coverage of Click Once Deployement security issues.

Lutz Roeder has a new Reflector version out. (via Jason Haley)

Bill Wagner has a great two-part series on mutable/read-only properties.  This stuff’s a bit hard to understand, but it’s an important concept.  He has question and answer parts.

Now playing: Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Unomathemba  I don’t listen to LBM enough.  Great music for many reasons.  It’s relaxing when I’m trying to wind down for studying, it’s got incredible harmonies, and it’s fun to listen to.  I dig great harmony for many reasons, partially because it reminds me of my sisters singing as they do dishes after family gatherings.  I’m in there helping too, so stop the snide remarks.  I also dig harmony because I have a voice that sounds like wild goose farts on a muggy morning.  (Stolen from some forgotten old folk artist’s album cover.)

GhostDoc 1.9.0 (for Visual Studio 2005) Released


GhostDoc 1.9.0 (for Visual Studio 2005) Released

Man, have I missed this terrific widget!  Thanks a bunch Roland!

(I’m excited about this, in case you haven’t figured it out.)

Agile Tools / Pair Programming

Same Gentile has a great post listing the tools he’s using on an Agile project.   I thought the label of his SCM tool was pretty amusing.  It’s also interesting to see that he’s using FIT for acceptance tests.  I read about FIT some time ago, loved the idea and never ran with it.  I took another look at it last night (even before reading Sam’s post!) and am looking to delve into it over the next few days.

He’s also got a terrific post on Pair Programming, and why he likes it so much.  I haven’t ever worked in a Pair Programming envrionment, but I’d love to.  I can certainly see Sam’s points about how exhausting it is, and why it can push the comfort zone of developers — and why that’s such an important aspect of pairing.

Now playing: Matisyahu - Chop 'em Down

When Are Iterations Harmful?

The team at Rally Software has started what looks to be a great blog on Agile practices.  Their post on nailing down the length of iterations is a gem, as is the sample calendar they’ve created.

I’m looking forward to reading this blog and seeing where it goes!

Now playing: Beck - Black Tambourine

(Cool, BlogJet’s autodetect feature works!  Too bad it doesn’t support Rhapsody’s Real player.)

via Roy Osherove’s ISerializable

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Detroit VS/SQL Server Launch Event

I was in Detroit Monday afternoon and yesterday for the Visual Studio 2005 / SQL Server 2005 Launch Event.  2500 geeks invaded the Rennaisance Convention Center for the event.  I was there manning the INETA / Heartland User Group booth and ended up having such a good time chatting with various folks (scheming for world domination and all that) that I didn’t get to any of the sessions. 

I wasn’t all that concerned about the sessions, since my main reason for travelling to Detroit was networking and putting faces to names I’d been corresponding over the last six or eight months since starting our Dayton .NET Developers Group.  The folks I got to finally meet face to face included Greg Huber, Alex Lowe (both instrumental in getting our group started), Jason Follas, Joe Kunk, and Bill Wagner.

I met a few new folks including Paul Kimmel and Rodney Sloan (Microsoft’s .NET Development Manager for the Great Lakes Region), and connected up with lots of old friends including Josh Holmes, John Hopkins, Drew Robbins, and Brian Prince.

Am I just writing about these folks to be a name dropper?  No (OK, not completely), rather I’m trying to make the point that events like this are terrific networking opportunities.  I lined up new speakers for our group, got great ideas on publicizing the group, helped get nearly 200 folks signed up for various user groups, spent a lot of time gabbing on technical topics with industry leaders like Brian Prince and Bill Wagner, got involved with an effort to build a new speakers bureau for the Heartland/Great Lakes region, and got some very helpful career feedback from folks who were kind enough to spend a few minutes talking with me.

I also find such events terrifically motivating and energizing.  My “high” from SD West back in 2003 lasted a year — and that event was life-changing in that it really pushed me into redirecting my career into more interesting things.  I don’t get to go to such events very often at all, but hopefully that will change!

Now Playing: Interpol — Turn on The Bright Lights.  Cool indie rock/punk/whatever.  Maybe I blogged about them already, but so what.  Good stuff.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Update: Dayton-Cincy Code Camp

The Dayton - Cincinnati Code Camp is moving right along! We're getting a good list of speakers and seats are filling up at a good clip.

Make sure to check the Camp's home page if you're interested. The price is right (FREE!) and I think we're going to have some terrific speakers presenting. Contact me directly if you're interested in either sponsoring or speaking at the event.

Now Playing: Green Day -- Warning: I got hooked on American Idiot without knowing how much great stuff Green Day had already put out. I know, I'm a borderline old fart square dude. Gimme a break. Lots of good tunes on this albumn.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Cool Series Of Articles

I mentioned earlier that I’m writing weekly articles for James’s Visual Studio Hacks website.  I’m happy to announce the first article in what I hope will be a great series: Ask The Pros.

A number of leaders in our industry have been kind enough to participate in Q&A sessions on topics specific to how they get their work done in Visual Studio .NET.  I think it’s a killer opportunity to see what tools, tricks, and habits these folks use to knock out high quality work in a quick fashion.  I’m not sure exactly where the series will take me; I hope to post one article every three or four weeks and I’m still not sure what kinds of questions I’ll end up asking.

Where ever it goes, it will be a great journey!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Unicode and Odd Characters

Note to self: The next time Visual Studio asks you about saving an HTML page as something other than Unicode, and you spend far too long digging through a long couple paragraphs of text while trying to figure out what character is blowing up your HTML and CSS -- check those d@mned apostrophes! I lost a silly chunk of time last night trying to figure out what character was munging up an HTML page I was working on. VS complained every time I tried to save it, and the page blew up all my beautiful CSS styling. (That's sarcastic -- I am NOT a graphic designer!).

Neither Notepad2 nor Vim gave me any indication of what was screwed up, so I ended up copying and pasting in half the text at a time, narrowing things down until I found the offending character.  It turned out to be one of those goofy backwards apostrophes.  Grrrr.

Next time I’ll keep a closer eye out for that.

Now Playing:  Bauhaus — The Sky’s Gone Out.  Serious mope punk/alt.  I don’t care for it much at all, but not because of its genre.  I just don’t like it.  Worse than listening to Al Franken or Ann Coulter.  Might be worse even than lima beans, one of the few vegetables I refuse to eat.  I’ll be happy to shut it off when I head out the door in a few minutes. 

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