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April 2004 - Posts

Time off from all work, without a long-term plan. Ever do it?

My wife and I, now around 30 each, have contemplated going away for a month. I'd be leaving a well-paying contract job (that sucks the soul out of you) and I have no plan on what I'll do when we return. I make a little money from my Web sites through advertising, at least enough to pay the mortgage.

The plan is to take in some theme parks, concentrate on writing my book and just get away from the world for a bit, in another state. I'll likely acquire some debt, but nothing crushing, and if I can't really make a go of it on my own, there are a lot of jobs in my area.

Have you ever done something like this? How'd it go for you?

Posted: Apr 28 2004, 08:33 AM by Jeff | with 7 comment(s)
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Microsoft haters, categorized

I love it when people talk about Microsoft haters, then get responses from said people that illustrate their point. Good times. John Topley has this round.

The stuff about squashing competitors is something I never get. I mean, can we just for a moment consider the possibility that those “squashed” had inferior products or poor business models? That's usually what comes to mind when I think of Netscape.

Posted: Apr 27 2004, 09:43 AM by Jeff | with 4 comment(s)
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Exhibit 13

The Blue Man Group live rock tour was on the "free view" channel on DirecTV. Pretty intense show. I picked up the CD, also good stuff.

They ended the show with "Exhibit 13." I think you'll figure out what it's about.

Posted: Apr 26 2004, 10:59 PM by Jeff | with 1 comment(s)
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CSS will be the death of me

You know, I really like CSS, and it makes live easier in so many ways. Unfortunately, because I haven't spent a ton of time with it, it's also a pain.

Formatting is easy, and works predictably across all browsers. It's the layout stuff that often frustrates me. This time around, I'm trying to plug in POP Forums into an existing page. I thought the CSS I ship with the UI was pretty easy going, and I've dropped it in other layouts before, but it's not cooperating with my current project. The biggest concern is that setting the forum tables and/or divs to 100% makes them 100% starting from the left margin, which means they bleed off the right side.

I know it's something simple, but like regular expressions, I frequently can't concentrate long enough to get the right formula!

Posted: Apr 23 2004, 01:09 PM by Jeff | with 2 comment(s)
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Externalized rules and generated code

Another team at the company I'm contracting for just did some of the first work in creating a new system (it will take years to complete, replacing a COBOL system). They did a little performance testing and they were surprised when it reached only 10% of its target performance metric. Ouch.

A lot of what they're doing is rule-based. The rules are created with a tool developed in-house, and code is generated from it.

Aside from this kind of development being less fun (in my opinion anyway), it absolutely scares the hell out of me that this is the kind of performance they've encountered. It's pretty scary even. One of my theories is that none of the data being moved around is strongly typed, so all of that casting (especially with tons of ArrayLists abound) is bad news. I'm not an expert in that area though, and can only repeat what I've read in various performance texts.

I do really think that externalized rules are a good idea. I'm just not entirely convinced that they can be converted into fast, efficient code, and frankly I've not read any research on the topic one way or another.

Posted: Apr 21 2004, 02:01 PM by Jeff | with no comments
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Help on class design patterns

Having gone to college for journalism and not anything computer related, I've been exposed to various class design patterns in various books, none of them really jumping out at me as, “Wow, that deserves its own name and maybe a book!”

What are some broad object-oriented class design patterns that you follow? If you happen to see any good write-ups on them, I wouldn't mind seeing that as well.

Posted: Apr 20 2004, 01:04 PM by Jeff | with 2 comment(s)
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I'm a total slacker

Maybe that's not being fair to myself. But I started uberasp.net in early January, blasted up some articles and started linking to newsworthy ASP.NET stuff. Then it stopped.

It stopped for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the contract gig that is sucking the life out of me. Add in the volleyball coaching (my girls come second only to my wife), the planning and accounting for two forthcoming CoasterBuzz Club events, nice weather, the last episodes of 24 and Alias, a small site development contract and a super-secret project to replace one of my other sites (oh, and I still want to do a junior Olympic volleyball community site), and you can see where my time goes. Now I've got my book to write as well.

The difference in this site is that I need to feed it regularly. Sites like CoasterBuzz, with 10,000+ visitors every day, feed themselves with contributions from its community.

All this stuff interferes with other things too. My diet is at a stand-still since I started this job. I'm not concentrating on eating right or exercising. I'm not cleaning the house regularly like I should be (a problem for marital relations to be sure).

There is an upside though... I'm not one of those people who pours 50 hours a week into that job. Billing hourly, I do the 40 hours and pursue the other things I enjoy. It'll be interesting when they decide to offer a full-time gig, to see what they offer. My other pursuits are finally starting to generate a little revenue, and I might decide to instead pursue those so “the man” is me. Exciting times!

Posted: Apr 20 2004, 09:03 AM by Jeff | with 3 comment(s)
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Standard yet proprietary?

Help me out here... “proprietary XML schema?”

How is an XML schema proprietary? I mean, XML is XML, and the whole point is that it can describe pretty much any data. Yes, Microsoft obviously has IP rights to a schema, but I don't see how it's “proprietary.”

Wow I'm bored today...

Posted: Apr 15 2004, 03:56 PM by Jeff | with 5 comment(s)
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Community development and getting questions answered

Josh Ledgard made a brilliant post where he took inventory of the issues surrounding the Microsoft community. I'm glad to see this because I think we're at a critical point in the .NET world where we're hitting critical mass and we need more qualified people to work. People get qualified by working in community, in my opinion. Josh's observations need to be looked at, so that we don't end up with another “look at me” Channel9 thing (days later, I'm still not impressed, but they also had a save the world hype to live up to).

Two generalizations hit me as most relevant. The first is that too much volume is bad. I think when you run or lead a community you frequently forget that, but it's not a contest. The ASP.NET forums have almost too much volume, unfortunately. I would be curious to know, however, what percentage of visitors there post or just read. I know from my experience at CoasterBuzz, which is just social and not technical, that not all 10,000 daily visitors are posting. It probably isn't more than a hundred.

The other thing that stands out is that, the way Josh sees it, there should be some kind of better medium that is a cross between Web forums and Usenet. I personally have never liked Usenet much, at least not since the proliferation of Web forums, but there are some obvious aspects of the two that could be combined into a better product. That's stuff I think about a lot, but my disregard for Usenet has kind of prevented me from seeing that.

One other thing I guess is that online communities, regardless of the topic, need to breed a culture or protocol where people do actually search for an answer before asking the question. You'd think that since people land in these communities from a search engine that searching them would be obvious, but I know in practice that it's obviously not!

Posted: Apr 15 2004, 10:54 AM by Jeff | with 2 comment(s)
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The coding models in Whidbey

I'm loving all of the discussion about how we “should” write code in our ASP.NET apps in v2.0. I guess the shocker is that a ton of people are open to the inline code and partial class/code-beside model (Andy Smith got me thinking about this).

Whenever someone brings up the topic, the “purists” of course speak up and talk about how code-behind is proper or whatever. Like Andy said, I've been saying for years that the alleged code separation this model provides is a fallacy. He also said what I've been trying to put my finger on for a long time: The model suits the tool, Visual Studio, not the platform itself. Very insightful.

Between my book and thinking about POP Forums, I'm interested to see what people will consider the best practice, especially since “best practice” is part of the book's working title. My developing opinion is that the code-beside method, with the page linking to a partial class, is the best method for development in the event that you have designers and coders working separately. I think in good app design you do all of your heavy lifting in totally separate classes anyway, so I would expect that your partial classes, the glue between UI and logic, would be fairly light in code.

However, if you're a one-person development team, then I don't see any reason not to just use the inline code. Again, your code there should be minimal anyway. In fact, if you decide to get into the declarative model of coding, as the ASP.NET team seems to advocate with all of the new controls, you might have even less code on your page. Using the forums as an example, what if I had a control that you declared in the page that got a list of topics to bind to a repeater?

It's very exciting. It challenges what we've been doing, and improves on it. It gives us the options to not change at all, if that's what you're about. I can't wait for this stuff to be licensed live.

Posted: Apr 14 2004, 11:05 AM by Jeff | with no comments
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