Critically Analyze What You Read And Hear

Thanks to Jon Paul Davies for quoting the Pragmatic Programmer.

“Critically Analyse What You Read and Hear. Don’t be swayed by vendors, media hype, or dogma. Analyse information in terms of you and your project.”

-The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt & David Thomas

I’ve been living my life that way for so long I’ve given up even trying to be gracious about accepting someone’s words. I’m known to just flat out say “I don’t believe that.” When I hear something from someone which doesn’t match points at which I have arrived from previous critical analysis.

Jon Paul also has a really cool domain name. It makes me want to register jay-w.com for myself, but there is already a jayw.com and wouldn’t you know it??? This Jay Walters fella is a Software Developer too!

Enterprise Library 4.0 released and unusable

EntLib4 was released recently. My bug is not closed. I can’t use it. :(

It is just a library. I don’t want your guidance. Just give me the source. Let me change it, build it and use as I see fit. Last time I checked, that is what developers do.

You may be asking, why would I even want to look at EntLib?

EntLib is better than nothing. If you happen to work at one of those horrible organizations that can’t use anything that isn’t from Redmond, then EntLib is what you should be using. That is, EntLib is what you should be using after you try to find a better organization in which to work :) As a contractor, I want to be aware of it and know what things I can expect to run into when working with a client’s code.

My preferred library is castle for IoC and data access and even logging with Castle.Core.Logging being a thin wrapper to either log4net or NLog. Some area’s where EntLib does do things which I might find useful is Exception Handling and Instrumentation.

Meme: How I Got Started In Programming

Josh Holmes tagged me.

I must admit I enjoyed reading many of these by people I have met and they have all definitely been in the spirit of what I read at Michael Eaton’s blog when he said “…while I know my tweeps (twitter friends), I don’t really ‘know’ them.”

How old where you when you started programming?

Six years old?

How did you get started in programming?

My dad has a really cool pocket computer. Yes pocket computer. When I was causing trouble in church or out in public or some place where I needed to not cause trouble he would point to the Sharp PC-1500 and I would write him a little program. Later I would find out that it was mostly TRS80 compatible BASIC. The programs were pretty stupid, but the ability to control the little machine kept me entertained for a while. They usually involved questions like “What is your name?” and “How old are you?” with responses like “Wow <name>, you are old”. Sometimes I would put if statements if the name was “Jay” it would say “You are cool” or if the age was under 10 (10 is old when you are 5) it would say “you are not old”. GOOD TIMES!

I really wanted my own computer. My Uncle had a ton of Commodores. When I say “ton” I mean MANY. He automated an entire candy factory by making his own robotics and automating the robotics using Commodore computers. Some were VIC20s some were various editions of the C64, the C64 plus 4, the C64 plus, etc. Anyway, he had an extra VIC20 at some point, I think it was fall of ’85 or ’86. He lent the family a VIC20 and so I got to learn all the differences between TRS80 BASIC and Commodore BASIC. Immediately I had opinions about coolness and suckage between the two languages. Another critic was born!

Sometime after that, it must have been Christmas of ’85 or ’86, the family got an Atari 800XL. It had a TAPE DRIVE. It had a slot for a cartridge, but I never, ever used the cartridge. Games were way too expensive said that parents and so I never got any. Now I’m told there was a huge piracy ring for trading games on floppy disk back then, but notice I didn’t say I got a floppy drive. I didn’t. So I didn’t pirate software. I didn’t play hardly any games except for a few which someone did pirate to me on cassette. Lacking games, I learned to program.

It was an awesome experience as a seven or eight year old to learn to program the 800XL. Later I learned that the LINE, DRAW, CIRCLE and FILL commands which I learned to love on that ATARI BASIC were not on C64. Actually I learned that months later when I was visiting my Uncle or someone else who had a C64 and I tried these drawing primitives and they didn’t work. It was later that I learned that C64 just didn’t have these and I realized how blessed I was to have gotten the ATARI. I remember learning Cartesian Coordinate systems in grade school and thinking they were backwards(graphics occur unsigned with numbering like the 4th quadrant of a Cartesian system), but quickly adapting and thus being ahead of my grade school peers.

In summer of ’87 the family got an Amiga 1000 with the 512K expansion unit and a second external double density 3.5″ disk drive used from a coworker of my pops. A WHOLE NEW WORLD WAS REVEALED TO ME as I learned BASIC WITHOUT LINENUMBERS! It turns out that Microsoft wrote the versions of basic that shipped with the Amiga Workbench versions 1.2 and 1.3 and while I had versions 1.1, I didn’t like the funny screen that popped up with the 1.1 BASIC which was not from Microsoft. So I learned non-line numbered procedural programming around age 10. 1987 was a fun year. The drawing primitives on the Amiga Basic were very similar to that on an Atari so I was able to draw fun pictures and play with geometry.

The Amiga also came with a FORTH interpreter and so I followed the manuals to do some simple FORTH program.

The Amiga also came with a C compiler called North C. I tried and tried and tried to get Hello World to run, but I don’t think I ever succeeded. At 12-14 years old, I had no idea what compiling and linking were all about. I was used to interpreted BASIC.

After IBM Clones (that is what we called PCs back then) looked like they were the winner, I begged and begged and begged for one and after a few years off from learning much about computers, I got one. In 1991 it was a 486 33Mhz DX with 4MB of RAM and a 100MB disk. Yes I typed 100G the first time I typed that. We ordered it with a 80GM but they had some inventory issues so gave us a 100MB. It was sweet. I learned DOS and played with Windows 3.0. I programmed QBASIC.

I saved up all my allowance, because that is what 12year olds do, and I got a modem, 2400 baud baby! It was a $30 BestData brand modem. I got to set jumpers and insert it into a free ISA slot in the 486. BBSing was awesome. Later a 14.4kbps modem came too.

Then came my drivers license, the job in food service and high school girls. Programming took a back seat.

After high school I got a job operating a Unisys mini-computer (yes, as opposed to a mainframe or microcomputer) at the world headquarters of a small local paper and plastics manufacturer. This horrible job is where I decided for sure that I was going to go to college. One of my jobs at this place was searching for certain text in the green and white mainframe print outs. Later I would assume that no one on the IT staff there knew what grep was. I was human grep.

Then came College, a brief stint with a Computer Engineering program before I switched to Computer Science where I belonged.

What was your first language?

BASIC, DUH!

What was the first real program you write?

I’m still waiting to write it.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

I lost count somewhere in the late 90s, but for the sake of keeping up with others who followed this Meme, I will try. In order as I recall:

BASIC, FORTH, PASCAL, C, C++, VB, SQL, Bash, JAVA, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Pike, IDL, ML, Modula-3, VHDL, Perl, C#, Ruby, Boo, F#

What was your first professional programming gig?

Three years ago when I started working at ADP writing custom software to aide in managing their Hosting Center. All jobs prior to this were System Administrator jobs which I may have scripted or programmed, but programming (or delivering software) was not my primary responsibility in those roles.

If you knew what you know now, would you have started programming?

Yes, although I may have kept it a hobby rather than doing it professionally. Sometimes, I wish I was a lawyer.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

That guy over there that you think is so smart is just a man just like you, trying to be the best programmer he can be (hopefully) just like you.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had… programming?

Fun? What is so fun about it? Its hard damned work!  J/K

I can’t place just one thing. Most thoughts are of the little graphics programs I wrote as a child. The first time I ever pair programmed was in college and that definitely stands out.

Update: I showed my Mom this article and she reminded me that she used the Atari 800XL to practice her typing for her secretarial work. She told me a great story about how I asked her “When you press the R on the keyboard, how does the R show up on the screen?” And like most computer users, she didn’t know, but I was a 7 or 8 year old who could read and so she handed me the manuals and I started reading them. Most of the manuals we had were on BASIC and getting started and so I guess the curiosity of getting the R on the screen is what triggered the curiosity of how these PRINT, INPUT and LINE commands make things appear on the screen. Thanks for the good memory Mom.

Visual Studio Task Tokens Help Me Find Smells

VS TaskTokens_2008-06-10_12-29-43

I work with some great people whose initials are BWW, DWH, etc. They already comment up a code base which I inherited with their initials. Visual Studio’s Task List feature lets me get a list of all of these comments just bad adding their initials as tokens.

I’ve also added a token named “SMELL” for when I see something I think is code smell, but I cannot fix it immediately.

Now, my proposal is for teams to exploit this feature. A small team could easily get all of the initials of its team mates and add them as tokens and then export only the Task List settings from VS and post that to their web site, repository, wiki, whatever for all of the team to download and import into settings.

This might be a cool team feature for teams who don’t have blame setup in their source control management system.

Using xmllint because xml still sucks

I already mentioned how to get human readable xml from the non-human readable.

Today I had a human readable xml file, but it had many branches, some deep, with lots of information in it. I wanted to know only the names of the nodes which are direct children of the root node.

e.g.

<someRootElement><firstChildOfRoot><someOtherBS><couldBeMoreBS>… </…> …</…></firstchildOfRoot><secondChildOfRoot>…insert tons of crap here</secondChildOfRoot><nextchild…

I could have done this by paging the file, but this would not have scaled. It was just long enough that I didn’t want to do this.

xmllint rescued me again. I started in shell mode

$ xmllint –shell mystupid/xmlfile/thatIhate.xmlhated

Then I am greeted with an xmllint prompt with which I can navigate my xml document much like I do a filesystem with command like ls and cd.

/ > ls
—     21 someRootElement
/ > cd someRootElement
someRootElement > ls
ta –   3
—     21 firstchildOfRoot
ta –   3
—     21 secondChildOfRoot

Pretty cool eh?

<3 Tools.