Thursday, October 23, 2008

Letting Go: Clearing Out Old Conference Badges

It was a Dr. Phil release day yesterday: I had to work through some issues and throw out a passle of old badges/badge holders from several years worth of conferences. It wasn't easy, because they were somewhat like a, uh, badge of honor, but they were pretty useless and adding a whole lot of clutter to my home office workspace.

What was the point in keeping them around, anyway?

SharePoint Connections? Moderately lame conference where I met some great folks, but why keep that badge around?

MVP Summit? Outstanding networking where I met some great folks, but when will I use that holder again?

Six or eight or more Day of .NET conferences from here in our kickass Heartland district? Outstanding conferences where I met a lot of great folks, but do I really need those holders in my desk?

DevLink? John Kellar's amazing baby down in Nashville where I met a lot of great folks and had my opinion of one particular person turned around 180 degrees to positive from negative, but I'm not going to use that notepad in that holder anyway.

CodeMash? Oi. My own baby via group parenthood together with Brian Prince, Jason Gilmore, Dianne Marsh, Jason Follas, Jeff and Josh, and a whole lot of other great folks. Toughest to let go of, but then your own kids always are.

See something common between all those? Great folks I met or worked with at them. The badge holders don't have anything to do with those ongoing relationships. All they were was workspace clutter adding to my mental fugue.

I'm feeling better now.

Maybe I should start a group. "Hi, my name's Jim and I'm a badgeaholic. It's been one week since my last badge collecting incident."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Microsoft Dogfood Developers Conference

I'm speaking at a neat conference put on by Microsoft on 20 November at their Columbus office: The Dogfood Developers Conference.

This conference has a lot of great content put forth by a bunch of Really Smart Folks. I'm giving an opening session on roadmaps, technologies, and announcements coming out of the PDC. Smart folks like Leon, Monish, Rick, Carey, Steve Smith, Jeff, and others will be presenting or hanging out at open spaces after the main conference.

There are plenty of seats left open, so go register and show up!

Update: The sponsor at Microsoft fixed up the agenda a bit so it's easier to read. New fix posted below.

** Track 0: MS Multipurpose Room **
8:00 to 9:00 AM Register
9:00 to 9:45
- Software + Services, MS Roadmaps, PDC Announcements
Speaker: Brian Prince, MS
9:55 to 11:35
- MOSS: ECM, KnowledgeLake, Imaging Capture
Speakers: Mike Miller and Mark Oman, KnowledgeLake
Noon to 1:00 PM: Lunch
1:00 to 2:20 PM
- MOSS Development
Speaker: Leon Gersing, Telligent
2:30 to 3:30
- Virtual Earth
Speaker: Steve Millroy, MS
3:30 to 5:00 PM
-Ask the Experts
** Track 1: DeVry 501 **
8:00 to 9:00 AM Register
9:00 to 9:45
- Software + Services, MS Roadmaps, PDC Announcements
Speaker: Jeff Blankenburg, MS
9:55 to 11:35
-IE Application Compatibility, Web 2.0, Web Slices and extension
Speaker: Mike Lutton, Sogeti
Noon to 1:00 PM: Lunch
1:00 to 2:20
-SilverLight/WPF Overview
Speaker: Jeff Blankenburg, MS
2:30 to 3:30
-MVC Overview
Speaker: Steve  Smith, MS MVP and Nimble Software Professionals
3:30 to 5:00
-Ask the Experts
** Track 2, DeVry 502**
8:00 to 9:00 AM Register
9:00 to 9:45
- Software + Services, MS Roadmaps, PDC Announcements
Speaker: Jim Holmes, MS MVP
9:55 to 11:35
- BizTalk: SOA and ESB
Speaker: Monish Nagisetty, Quick Solutions
Noon to 1:00 PM: Lunch
1:00 to 2:20
-Legacy Modernization: Tools for COBOL, AS/400 and Mainframe migrations to .NET
Speakers: Hewitt Wright, MS and Walter Sweat, Fujitsu
2:30 to 3:30
- Writing Secure Code
Speaker: Steve  Webb, Information Control Corporation
3:30 to 5:00
-Ask the Experts:
** Subject Matter Experts Panel **
-Carey Payette, President of the Central Ohio .NET Developer’s Group:
C#, .NET
-Alexei Govorine, Co-founder of Central OH Application Lifecycle Management Group:
Team Foundation Server, ALM
-Rick Kierner, HMB Consultant:
MOSS Development
-Jim Holmes, MS MVP:
.NET, MOSS Development
-Monish Nagisetty, Founder of Mid-Ohio Connected Systems Developers User Group:
SOA, BizTalk
-Leon Gersing, Telligent
MOSS development
-Jeff Hunsaker, Co-founder of Central OH Application Lifecycle Management Group:
Team Foundation Server, ALM
-Mario Fulan, Microsoft Consulting Services:
MOSS Governance and development
-Tom Sears, Microsoft Consulting Services:
.NET Architecture, Architectural Guidance
-Steve Smith, MS MVP:
ASP.NET, MVC, Agile Practices
-David Baliles, MS SLG Dev Tools, Solution Specialist:
-Mike Gresley, MS SLG Developer Technology Specialist:
.NET and TFS

Friday, October 17, 2008

Can't Browse Non-Local Locations in Add Users/Groups

Problem: You're working on a system that's joined to a domain, but when you try to add domain resources to security, local groups, etc., the only Location showing in the dialog box is your local system -- no domain. You may even be able to log on to the system with a domain account, but you're still limited to local resources when dealing with the Add thingie.

Possible Solution: Double-check where your DNS server settings are pointing to. In my case, I was working on adding a MOSS VM to the Exchange VPC I downloaded from Microsoft. The Exchange is set up as the domain controller and has AD and DNS running on it.  However, I'd had it grab an IP address from my local DHCP server -- and as a result both the Exchange VPC and MOSS VM were using DNS servers other than the Exchange VPC.  Some domain-related calls worked fine, like joining the domain and logging on with a domain account, however, others didn't.

I put manual DNS server entries in the network connection dialog for each system and put the Exchange VPC's address as primary DNS and my network's DNS server as the secondary.  Now everything's hunky dory. Domain resources are now available when I'm altering group membership.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Did I Actually Write That?

As young to mid-level programmers/developers/whatever, we often find it hard to fess up to mistakes or admit ignorance.  We're young, we're lacking a stream of successes on which we can build our confidence, and if we're in a weak work environment we're lacking a mentor who gives us a positive culture which acknowledges weaknesses and failure -- but helps us learn to grow past those.

As more seasoned whatevers we often let egos get in our way of fessing up to those mistakes or weak spots in our knowledge. That might be even worse than the factors earlier in our careers, but regardless it's still a large problem because it's giving us and our colleagues a false sense of security. I also think it gets in the way of, or tamps down, the desire for continual improvement in our craft.

I always find it refreshing to hear industry leaders like Jeff Atwood bring this up in very public venues like Dot Net Rocks. On one of the DNR shows Atwood had a great quote along the lines of "A young developer's code sucks, and they don't know enough to admit it, much less fix it. A professional developer knows his code sucks and works to fix it."  Jeremy Miller said something very similar on the Alt .NET Podcast, and I've seen any number of amazing brain children on Twitter fess up to the same thing.

Hearing and reading folks like that step up and admitting their failures certainly makes it a lot easier for us folks down on the food chain admit ours. It ought to at least. If you can't, then you ought to re-evaluate where you're checking your ego when you sit down to code...

Several months ago I was working on a project that had been idle for four or five months. I was looking over a bunch of tests to try and refresh myself about how a part of the system functioned -- the class and method names I chose at the time ended up being not as expressive as I'd thought when I initially wrote them, and I was using the tests to drive back through the behavior.

I came across a test that was checking a custom sort routine's correctness. Stand up a list of items in unsorted order, call the sort routine, then check the order's sorted. Simple, no?

I started reading through the test's implementation and broke out in loud laughter. My colleagues at Quick Solutions, who already think I'm nuts, must have had that impression cemented in. Why?

I found the assertion I was doing to check the validity of the test was simply counting the number of elements in the list. What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that? Did I actually write a sort validation that simply counted the number of elements after sorting? Obviously, because TFS's history showed me as the guilty culprit.

I have no idea what I was doing when I wrote that code, and I've no idea why I didn't write more tests around that functionality.  Thankfully my implementation was correct, so the sucky, stupid test didn't impact the rest of the system.

That was the only bad code in that entire project of 45K lines of code. Every other line of code was such a work of art that it brought tears of joy to my eyes. Right.

What's the point here? Several.  First, your code sucks and you know it. Fess up to it.

Second, figure out why that code sucked and don't make the same mistakes tomorrow.

Third, and this is the hard one, be open about the mistakes you've made. Check your ego at the door(which is a hard thing), because your openness will benefit your entire team and your project. Your credibility goes up with your colleagues and your client because you're showing you're concerned about quality: You know you need to pay off that technical debt. You know you're working on educating yourself and your team to improve their chops.

Hopefully you'll also find this trait spreading to your colleagues and hopefully they'll start the same process: admit their code sucks, move on, and improve what they're writing.

Your code sucks. It's OK to admit it if you're working on fixing it. Honest.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

CodeMash Precompiler Event 7 January

(Posted on CodeMash's Google Group too)

We've been finalizing the content for the CodeMash Precompiler / Day0
event on 7 January.  I'm awfully excited about this because we've got
a pretty amazing event to tack on to CodeMash.

I've come to believe that the meme running around of "Learn a new
language each year" isn't good enough. You can sit down with a book or
some online material, but you'll only get the shallow facade of the
language. You'll learn how to code Ruby in C# style (if C# was your
language of skill) because you're missing all the lessons and idioms
learned by others who've worked in that language for some time.

What the meme ought to be is "Lean a new language, and learn it from
passionate geeks who've been working in it!"  To wit, an entire day
dedicated to getting folks up to speed in the basics of languages and
methodologies they're unfamiliar with.  The CodeMash Precompiler will
give you the building blocks you'll need to jump into other content on
CodeMash's regular days.

Here's what things are looking like now. Please keep in mind that the
abstracts I've put below are my off-the-cuff initial drafts. We'll get
more polished, descriptive abstracts posted up shortly.

All Day CodeJam
Come in and spend all or part of your day cranking out code in a room
full of Wicked Smart People. We'll have a server application built and
hosted on either a VPC or networked server. You can spend your time
cranking out a front end to the app, you can extend the app's
functionality, or you can just say "This sucks and I'm rebuilding it
from scratch and I'm gonna do it right!"

You can work in your own environment, or better yet, do the CodeMash
thing and jump off into a new environment. We'll have a number of VPCs
set up with all the major development environments.

Concerned that you want to jump into a new environment, but won't know
how to get started? We'll have experts wandering around the room just
waiting to help you out. Why not sit down with someone working in a
different environment and pair up with them?

FULL DAY Language Tutorials

.NET 101 with Josh Holmes and Jeff Blankenburg (and maybe others).
Figure out how to get your feet wet in the .NET framework, C#, Visual
Basic, WPF, Silverlight and more.

Java, Groovy, and Grails 101 with Chris Judd and Jim Shingler. Two
Java experts walk you through the basics of Java, it's newest dynamic
language (Groovy), and the shiniest web framework (Grails.)

Ruby 101 with Jim Weirich and Joe O'Brien.  Yeah, does it get any
better? Go learn Ruby from two masters of it.

HALF DAY Methodologies Tutorials

Turning The Ship with Dave Donaldson. (HALF DAY) Spend time in a
highly interactive session with Dave as he discusses practical lessons
learned on changing processes, mindsets, and culture to steer a
company onto a more agile, productive path.

Kanban 101 with Dave Laribee. (HALF DAY) What's Kanban? How's it
different from other Agile implementations? Learn about a not-so-new
approach to managing projects that will help you boost your team's
productivity and speed to delivery.

Fundamentals of Test Driven Development. (HALF DAY.  REPEATS MORNING
AND AFTERNOON.) Sit down and walk through the basics of TDD with Leon
Gersing and another presenter yet to be announced.  This hits the
basics of TDD and is hands on with two of the most passionate
advocates of TDD around.  Learn TDD, evolve your critical thinking.


The CodeMash Precompiler is an /OPTIONAL/ event for which you'll
register separately. Final costs are still being worked out, but it
should be well below $100.  More details on registration for the
Precompiler shortly.

I hope this excites y'all as much as it does me.  I'm more than a bit
twitterpated about it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

.NET University: More Details

Jeff Blankenburg and I have done some work fleshing out the details of the topic list for the .NET University event in Columbus on 8 November. (Register here.)

Here's the session list:

  • Lap Around Visual Studio 2008 / Testing with Visual Studio
  • Introduction to Object Oriented Programming
  • Introduction to Web Services
  • Windows Presentation Foundation 101
  • Silverlight 101
  • AJAX Basics

The list of speakers is still being ironed out, but will include myself, Jeff, Leon Gersing, and a couple of other great speakers from the region's community.

Remember that .NET U is targeted to folks new to or considering .NET, or looking to find out more about the .NET 3.5 platform.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Shout Out: Cleveland Software Freedom Day

Scott Sieghman of Sun Microsystems passed on some interesting info on a great event in Cleveland on 27 October: The Software Freedom Day.  It's a free day-long discussion on how businesses can take advantage of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

More info and registration links at the event's site.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

.NET University Registration Open!

Registration is open for the .NET University being held in Columbus on 8 November. Sign up here!

Jeff and I are still ironing out the exact content agenda, but you can find the broad strokes content listed on this earlier post.

Remember: .NET University is intended for folks new to .NET, or new to the .NET 3.5 platform, or folks who are thinking of moving to .NET. It's a 100 level overview of things like LINQ, VS 2008, and a bunch of other goodies.

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