Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Ugly Side of Open Source

Kevin Downs has stopped work on NDoc 2.0, because of a lack of support from the community and because of the dumbass treatment he’s received from idiots who 1) never contributed any support to NDoc and 2) felt they were entitled to a new release supporting .NET 2.0.

Read a bit on Charlie Chen’s blog for a detailed e-mail from Kevin talking about the bottom line, including some true jackass behavior by folks who decided the right way to speed development on NDoc 2.0 was to automate e-mail spam bombs to Kevin’s e-mail addresses.  Way to go, guys!  Your smart actions certainly got the desired result, no?  (That was sarcasm, BTW.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You Know You're a Math Geek When...

… you’ve “eagerly plunged into A History of Vector Analysis: The Evolution of the Idea of the Vectorial System”.

From Charles Petzold’s blog.

(Me no math geek.  Me edjukated in rural California.)

Book Review: No Fluff, Just Stuff

No Fluff, Just Stuff 2006 Anthology


Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf

This book is every bit its title: Concise, targeted chapters getting right to the gist of a topic.  Furthermore, the chapters are written by some of the sharpest folks in the software industry -- they know a thing or three and are great authors who've written clear, understandable pieces.  The book is based on the No Fluff, Just Stuff Symposium series ( in which the authors travel around North America giving intense multi-day seminars.

The book's first chapter, "Real World Web Services" by Scott Davis, sets the tone for the rest of the book: a nice walkthrough of Service-Oriented Architeture, cutting through all the hype surrounding SOA and doing a great job of explaining it in five short paragraphs.  Davis moves on to more detail on web services, walking the reader through SOAP, REST, and JSON.

The other chapters follow the same line with clear background and focused discussion on the most important parts of the topic.  You can read about instrumenting software, using code coverage, or even dealing with CSS from a developer's perspective.  Much of the book's code is Java-centric, but the concepts are important and similar across platforms, so any developer (even a .NET geek like me) can get a lot out of the book.

Additionally, the book's not solely focused on pure code.  Several chapters highlight process or methodology topics, like Jared Richardson's "The Cornerstone of a Great Shop" which discusses build processes, or Venkat Subramaniam's "From Fragility to Agility: Methodologies and Practices" which hits the main points of rolling into agile development.

This book is a terrific read.  It's concise, it's detailed, it's well-written.  Definitely a keeper for my bookshelf.

(See my standard review disclaimer)

Safari Online Changes

I just waded through a survey gathering info about an upcoming change to Safari Books Online.  I’ve been a long-time subscriber to Safari and it’s helped me through any number of tough spots — for a very small price you get access to a huge library of books, all of which you can search through.  The only hitch is that you subscribe for slots on a bookshelf, and you have to put a book on your bookshelf to read anything past the preface and TOC.  It’s flexible, it’s inexpensive, it’s wicked big with gobs of material.

Now it looks like they’re going to bust apart that huge library into four separate sections for biz productivity, developers, information technology, and graphics/web.  You’ll have to pay $50 per month to have acecss to all four libraries.

That sucks.  I likely won’t keep up my subscription if they move to that model.  The attraction of Safari to me is the wide range of material I have access to — stuff I’d never buy because I don’t use it.

I hope plenty of their customers pitch a fit as I did.

Now Here's Good Writing Advice!

Another gem from Jason Haley’s Interesting Finds: Petzold Book Blog - Book-Writing Advice.

Lots of terrific advice from a guy who’s written a book or two.  I’ve busted any number of his rules, particularly #4: get enough sleep and #6: maintain a balanced life (tough to do the Mr. Mom thing while co-authoring 1200 pages…).  I definitely busted #13: Don’t get a haircut until the book’s completed, but if you think I could go six months without a haircut…

#11 is sheer gold: Seek progress, not perfection.  That’s tough when you’re attached to those words you’ve agonized over, but it’s vital.

Monday, July 24, 2006

SnagIt Roolz!

I’ve been using SnagIt from TechSmith for a number of months now and it is simply a killer screen capture tool!  It’s been a breeze to use it for the hundreds (literally) of screenshots I’ve done for the book — it’s saved me hours of work compared to dealing with Paint which is just a joke.

Plus, SnagIt has a bunch of great features like a Flickr profile which lets me upload screenshots right to Flickr.  Now that’s cool!

Better still, SnagIt provides a printer driver which lets you print anything as an image.  This scored me big time Wife Points tonight as I did some SnagIt magic which let me get a page from a PDF file she had into an image which she could then easily insert into a Word document she’s working on.  (Hat tip for that trick to Graham Mayor’s very helpful tips site.)

(Disclaimer: I got SnagIt as a speaker gift from TechSmith for speaking at the Day of .NET this last May.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Interesting Security Review of Vista

A very interesting commentary on vulnerabilities in Vista’s TCP/IP stack, based on a white paper by folks at Symantec.

The vulnerability count plummeted from 34 in build 5231 to 2 in build 5384.  Ok, ok, there are many things to consider, but Dave G’s points about trending and active security reviews are very valid ones.

Good reading on the post, and the white paper looks good as well — but I’ve only skimmed the first couple pages.

Updated: Via Michael Howard’s blog.

The Only Thing Worse

… than the pain of returning to jogging after a layoff of many months is the pain of getting back out on the second day of returning to jogging.


(Actually, not pain but soreness — but that just doesn’t sound quite as good or evoke as much sympathy.  What?  No sympathy?  Feh.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

.NET vs Java Smackdown

Dave Schmitt responds to a customer’s snarky questions on why they should choose .NET over Java.  Schmitt’s responses are well-measured and full of some interesting facts (complete with references).  OK, so Schmitt’s an MS employee and you should filter his comments from that viewpoint, but it’s a very good post and very good reading — especially the bits and pieces on security.

Love the title of Schmitt’s post.

(Via Daily Grind)

What Do You Edit?

Years ago when I was a semi-young punk flying around on big radar planes, I had a buddy in my office give me something to review.  I pulled out my red pen and bled all over the sheet of paper he’d given me.  He looked at the work I’d done and said “You didn’t fix my errors, you changed what I wrote into what you would have written.”

Oops.  He was right.

I’ve done a whole lot of writing and a fair amount of editing since then, but that incident has always stuck in my head.  Don’t waste your time during editing by needlessly changing the author’s voice, style, or approach.  If there’s a gramatic problem, edit.  If there’s a clarity problem, edit or point it out.  If there’s a structural issue, edit or point it out.  If there’s a difference in style or voice from how you would have written it, leave it alone.  You’re editing, not writing.

(I’m not complaining about the editor on our book, BTW.  He’s done great work for us and has helped me avoid looking too much the fool.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

We Have a Cover!

Now THIS is a cool cover!

Wish I’d won the flip to see whose name came first on the cover.  Note to self: In the future, don’t trust James to do coin tosses via IM.

I've Got A Job!

This last month has been brutal for any number of reasons, none the least that I’ve been hard at work trying to line up employment.  That’s always an agonizing process, but I’ve been pretty stunned at the various opportunities which landed in my lap, including several which came out of the blue, one of which completely knocked me over.

The process of interviews and weighing options is over, though: I start work on 7/31 for NuSoft Solutions as a principal consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This is an exciting position for me, and I’m chuffed about going to work for them in no small part because of great feedback I’ve gotten from Ben Carey and Drew Robbins, both of whom used to work there.

At some point I’ll write up a separate post on the long, convoluted journey I’ve had over the last six years since setting parenting as #1 priority over work.  Six months ago I was seriously wigged out about what would happen when I started to look for full-time work again — just ask James or Josh (who gave me a much needed Dope Slap some time back), as they suffered through some of (a lot of?) my whiny crap.

Now I’m nearly done with the book, and I’m pumped up about heading off to a great company to get great stuff in place for customers.

Life is good.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tools in Latest WinFx CTP

I’ve finished up writing on WinFx whoops I mean .NET 3.0 tools, but had to take a quick look at the just-released July CTP bits.  (No, I didn’t write on them simply because I was already underway with the last release…)

The updates for the Service Trace Viewer are really nice!  The main screen’s message detail looks a bit cleaner and is easier to read:

Best of all are the updates to the graph view.  Nice icons in the graph pane (left) are a good improvement, and again, the message formatting in the content pane (lower right) are much better.

Really, really slick updates!

Last Chapter Completed!

Wow, I'm a bit numb. I just delivered the book’s last chapter (on WinFx I mean .NET 3.0) to O’Reilly.

I’m going to go sit down, relax with a non-technical book for a bit, then jump in to polishing up the book’s introduction section.  After that it’s time to get cracking on consolidating input from our technical reviewers and polishing things up they’ve pointed out.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train!

Monday, July 17, 2006

More Annoying Keyhole Stupidity

The bloggers on MSDN are a killer resource for us geeks.  The default mail links on those pages are a killer pain in the backside.  To wit:

Note that I even used IE to view this page, not my default Firefox browser.

This happens time and time again on MSDN blogs.  I end up launching Notepad2 to write the message, then paste it into that stupid little message block and hope it took correctly because I sure as hell ain’t gonna scroll through the entire message to read it one or two words per line…

Ted Stevens "A Series of Tubes" Techno Remix

Here’s a hysterical You Tube video smacking Ted Stevens for his asinine comments on how the internet works.

I was a resident of the state of Alaska until the 2004 elections when I changed to Ohio so I could vote where I was getting taxed.  There are many things I don’t care for in Ohio politics, but I’m happy to be away from Stevens and the other Alaskan Senator and Congressman.  Greedy fools, all of ‘em.

(Via the Daily Grind)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Win Dev Power Tools On Safari Bookshelf!

Our book is available on Safari Online’s Rough Cuts!

Nine chapters are in this current version.  More will be added shortly, although I’m not exactly sure what the schedule will be.

Pretty exciting stuff!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Great WCF Book

I’ve been dipping my toes into Windows Communication Foundation for a couple articles for The BookWindows Communication Foundation, Hands-on! is proving to be a great resource for learing WCF.  It’s lab-based and works step-by-step to get you going in WCF.  It’s written by three guys from Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism group, and all three have intimate knowledge of WCF’s workings.

I’ll post a more in-depth review of it later, but thought I’d toss this blurb out for now.  It’s a great book (so far), marred only by some deltas between the CTP version they wrote about in the book and what’s working in the current version — still, it’s not a major stumbling block and is something you should expect if you’re working with bleeding edge technology.

Also, be sure to check out Michele Leroux Bustamante’s site supporting her upcoming book Learning Windows Communication Foundation.  More good info from a very smart lady.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Announcing Our Book! (Windows Developer Power Tools)

Announcing Windows Developer Power Tools by myself and James Avery, to be published by O’Reilly sometime in November.  (Yep, we pushed back a month after having tried to push forward a month.  The book will be much better for the extra time.)

The book is around 1100 pages of goodness on open source and freeware tools you can use to improve your software development work.  The book’s all about using tools to bring value to the entire development cycle from writing code to testing to lifecycle management.  We’ve got something like 170 tools from Anthem.NET to Sysinternals RegMon to Bugzilla.  We chose tools which help improve the quality of code you write, or help improve your productivity as a developer.  (We also chose stuff we thought was just plain cool, too.)

What’s really neat is that we’ve had a significant number of articles written by the tool creators themselves.  This is great because 1) these folks know their own tools inside and out and can best write about the tools’ value, and 2) they were passionate enough to write the tool in the first place and that passion (hopefully!) comes across in their articles.  We’ve also had some terrific folks contribute articles to the book as well.  James and I have still ended up writing probably 70% of the book ourselves, plus we edited every submission for consistency, style, and content.

We’ve got two more chapters to put nails in: Database Utilities, and WinFx / .NET 3.0.  We hope to have those completed mid-week, then it’s time to focus on polishing up the great structure we’ve got in place.  We may drop a few articles here and there for various reasons, and we’re going to flesh out every chapter’s introduction so that readers are clear on where the tools in that chapter fit in the development cycle, and how those tools bring value to a product.

We’ve a significant amount of effort left, but the book is shaping up really, really well.  We’ve had some brutal inital feedback from Tech Reviewers, but we’ve also had some very uplifting, enthusiastic feedback from a number of TRs too.

I may be biased, but I think the book’s going to be fantastic.  (What, like you would say “It’s going to suck big time”?)

You can have a look at the table of contents if you like, or you could even have a look at a sample chapter of the book.  We’d love to have your feedback on the content.  We’ll be posting up other chapters occasionally.  I’ll announce that here when that happens.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Web error: "Mutex could not be created"

I’ve run across this a couple times and thought I’d document it here.

On occasion I get a server error for one of my websites “Mutex could not be created” with an exception System.InvalidOperationException: Mutex could not be created.

I’ve found the solution to this at ASP.NET forums in a response by Joao Morais.  It’s helped me out a couple times, but I’m still no closer to finding out what causes it.  (To be frank, it hasn’t happend enough to rise above the pain threshold where I need to track it down.)

Dayton DevGroup: Sam Gentile's Slide Deck Now Available

Sam Gentile presented at our .NET group here in Dayton back on 6/28.  His topic was SOA in WCF (pronounced “Indigo”).  You can now find his slide deck up on our group’s site here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Joys Of Being Subjected To A Tech Review

We’ve just gotten back some specific feedback on a few initial chapters from a couple of tech reviewers.  We’ve been fortunate to have gotten a great set of tech reviewers for the book.  I mean great.  I mean lots of smart folks and a couple industry leaders.  Wow.

But it’s definitely a bit brusing, especially the comments from one fellow who come across as fairly snarky.  Well, OK, his comments aren’t overly snarky, that’s just my bruised ego whining like a puppy that just got its nose smacked with a rolled up paper.  It can sometimes be deflating to read feedback on one’s work, but the point to keep in mind is that having Really Smart People point out weak spots in your book is a Really Good Thing.

Your work will be much better for it; you just have to set aside your ego for a bit.

(Actually, that goes for just about anything in your career.  Get Really Smart People to give you (hopefully) constructive criticism and you’ll end up doing better work.)

Why I Love My Nation

Why do I love my country so much?  Because people like Dinesh D’Souza come here and write articles like this about why they’ve adopted this nation as their own.

(Via Instapundit)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Estimation Basics

Jeff Atwood is continuing his series of commentary on Steve McConnell’s Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art.  I very much remember the exercise Atwood pulls from the book — I read this as part of reviewing McConnell’s book and thought it was amazing.

The numbers are pretty clear: what we estimators think is 90% certainty is more like 30% certainty.  Great stuff to read.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Calm Before the Storm

I’m sitting here listening to Phish’s Undermind and enjoying a bit of quiet time as I finish one of the last two articles I have to write for this next drop of the book.  The last six weeks have been brutal with scads of writing and loads of editing contributions from various authors.  We’ve got our major delivery on Wednesday, then one final chapter to finish up.  I’ll have one or two pieces to write for that chapter—James and a couple other contributors are handling the rest of that bit.

After that it’s another crush, wading through reviewing edited chapters and trying to get tech review input dealt with.  Final delivery to Production is on 20 July, which doesn’t leave us scads of time, but we’re confident things will roll on nicely.

Still no clue when O’Reilly will get the book on Rough Cuts.  This part’s been a bit frustrating since we were hoping to get feedback on the book’s content early in the game, but that’s just not panned out.  One good bit of news about Rough Cuts: James and I will have some Safari Online coupons to hand out which will let a number of folks have a free look at the book. 

No, no, don’t e-mail me now.  I’ll let you know when we’ve got the book up and when we’ve got access to coupons.  We’ll probably run a contest and give them out to the five best renditions of Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light or something equally creative.  OK, maybe we’ll just hand them out first-come, first-served.

(This is actually the first time I’ve ever listened to Phish.  Heard about ‘em for years, but never heard a blip of their music.  Undermind is great stuff, and I’m looking forward to digging through some of their other stuff on Rhapsody!)

Important Book Writing Statistics

Approximate espresso and coffee consumption in the last five months:

8 Lbs Liquid Amber Espresso Blend

2 Lbs Decaf Donkey Blend

(That works out to ~400 shots of espresso)

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 – 10 Lbs beans from varied locations including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Yemen, Rwanda, Java, and Ethopia.

I’ve got a bag of some great Kona ready to roast up when we hit our final delivery in a few weeks.  Until then, it’s the same good stuff listed above.

Needless to say, my espresso machine and roaster have been getting a workout.

Free For the Taking: Java Development Books

I get a lot of review books and occasionally I get some stuff that’s outside my normal domain.  I just got a FedEx delivery with three Java books:

  • Quartz Job Scheduling Framework
  • Agile Java Development with Spring, Hibernate, and Eclipse
  • Java Studio Creator Field Guide

I like Java a lot, but haven’t been in that domain for some time, so I can’t use ‘em, I ain’t gonna read ‘em (30 books on the pile right now), and I most likely can’t hand ‘em out at my .NET Developers Group…

You’re welcome to the books if you’re in the Dayton area and are interested in them.  Drop me a line via the contact link on the right sidebar of my blog and we can set up a meeting to hand over the goods.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

New S. Ohio Group for Exchange Geeks

Check out the announcement for the new Southern Ohio Exchange User’s Group.  Light on details at the moment, but I sure know the pain of trying to get the word out about a new user group.

Spread the love and pass on the link if you’re an Exchange geek, know somebody who is, or play one on TV.

Top 10 Superheros

OK, so I’m a big fan of comic book hero movies.  Good ones, that is.

This article listing ten of the best and five of the worst is great stuff because it hits a couple of my favorites: The Rocketeer and Hellboy. I don’t agree that X-Men deserves top billing on the best list, nor do I agree that Daredevil belongs on the worst five list.  The Fantastic Four most definitely does, but I’d rate it as the absolute worst piece of dreck to ever hit the screen, not number four.

(Why yes, I am definitely needing a momentary break from the last weekend’s crush for the book…)

Recent Good Tunes

I’ve been completely dependent on Rhapsody the last few weeks to keep me semi-sane as we crush to hit our final deadline for the book.  Here’s some stuff I’ve been pleased to have had coming through the speakers:

  • Guster -- Ganging Up On The Sun (Guster’s latest.  Wicked good stuff)
  • The Strokes -- First Impressions of Earth, Half Smiles of the Decomposed  (Not as good as their first, but tasty all the same)
  • Van Halen -- I, II, and Women and Children First (How on Earth did I forget about Van Halen for so long?  Yeesh.  Brings back many good memories of school, along with a few painful ones too.)
  • Longwave -- The Strangest Things, There's a Fire.  I’m almost embarassed to admit that I found Longwave after listening to Keira Knightly’s Rhapsody playlist.  It sounds like I’m some People-magazine addicted celebrity babe stalker.  Which isn’t the case, but you won’t believe me anyway.  Go check out her playlist for some absolutely amazing stuff.  No clue if she put this together herself, or if some publicist did.  Whoever stuck it together has great tastes in indie music.
  • The Farm -- Spartacus.  See above.
  • Springsteen -- We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions  (John Henry.  Go listen now.  Check your pulse to see if you’re alive if your feet don’t start bouncing along with the music.)
  • Grace Potter and the Nocturnals -- Nothing But The Water (Excellent, killer, beauty, outstanding bluesy stuff, and Grace has an amazing voice which hangs perfectly with the great band behind her.)
  • 12 Girls Band -- Freedom (OK, this is seriously funky Asian girl band stuff, but it’s cool and a nice break from other stuff.)

UI Keyholes

Way back in 2003 I went to the Software Development Expo out in Santa Clara.  I met Josh there and saw a bunch of amazing folks like Steve McConnell talk. 

One of speakers I saw was Scott Meyers, author of the great work Effective C++, who gave a couple amazing presentations, one of which was on keyholes in software design.  Keyholes are poorly thought bits and pieces which badly limit your view into what’s really going on, or limit your ability to effective accomplish the task at hand.

A prime example are dialog boxes or windows which aren’t resizable, thereby making you do a whole lot of scrolling manually via scrollbars  To wit, the Select Subfoolders dialog in Microsoft’s nice-in-concept SyncToy for XP which lets you sync up two folders on disparate systems. 

The amount of manual scrolling I have to do sucks, quite frankly.  It would be very nice to be able to get this window wider, but no, I’m not offered that option.  Grrrrrr.

Do your users a favor.  Avoid these kinds of silly, annoying restrictions.

TaskSwitchXP Goodness

It helps to re-RTFM every once in awhile.  TaskSwitchXP, if you aren’t using it already, is a killer replacement for normal Windows Alt-Tab task switching.  Lots of shiny goodness, lots of configuration options for you to play with.

I didn’t realize, however, that you could use Ctrl-Alt-Tab to isolate task switching between all instances of the app currently in the foreground.  For instance, I’ve always got a crapload of Notepad instances open among the 15 or so apps I’m often running.  Using Ctrl-Alt-Tab gives me a nice focused list like this:


Now Playing: The Strokes — This is It.  Wow, great Punk/Indie/cool stuff.  The Barely Legal cut has a terrific riff going on, and for some reason it’s stuck in my Rhapsody stream and keeps replaying again and again and again.

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