Jeff and .NET

The .NET musings of Jeff Putz



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June 2004 - Posts

Developer snobbery is bad for everyone

Inspired by a comment left by Jerry Pisk, I find it disturbing that people can get all worked up over the fact that Microsoft is releasing tools (or I should say, has released tools for years) that cater to less skilled developers. Jerry's comments about "programmer wannabes" reek of developer snobbery.

You would think by now that this mentality would have gone away, but clearly it hasn't. I remember computer enthusiasts in the early 90's that thought they were better than everyone else because they knew their way around a DOS prompt and didn't need Windows. In fact, you still get that from Linux geeks.

Programmers are guilty of it too. I'd say Visual Basic people in particular have been fighting this for years, as critics suggest that anything too easy to use isn't real programming. I've seen some people go as far as saying that writing managed code on .NET is inferior because you're not manipulating memory the way you would in C++.

What's that all about? There are two reasons that I find these comments annoying. The first is that 99% of programming tasks don't require the kind of performance that C++ will give you. The second is that VB and managed code allow us to write software faster, in a world where time is money. Tools like Visual Studio also help in this goal.

Yes, I understand that some people might be offended by the use of drag-and-drop visual programming. Get over it. While I personally don't use it, I can see where the two people that consist of a company's entire IT staff can use it and get what they need out of it. Ditto for the users of the new Express products.

It would be more constructive for everyone if the snobs would mentor and guide the “n00bs” instead of dogging them and the products they use. Thumping your chest and inviting people to test your testicular fortitude is not a good use of your time. This is a subject near and dear to me, not only because of the training and consulting I've done, but because of the book I'm writing. My audience is not stupid or ignorant, but they are eager to learn.

What are you doing to make the developer community better?

Posted: Jun 30 2004, 01:11 PM by Jeff | with 6 comment(s)
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Would you like to save a dump?

One of the things I do “on the side” is compress video for delivery on the Web. Given my television background B.P. (before programming), it seemed like a natural fit to get into it.

The software I use is Cleaner, which is now owned by Discreet. Cleaner 5 was a great product. I personally use it with the Sorenson Video codec to squeeze out high-quality QuickTime. If it's good enough for movie trailers, it's good enough for me. Cleaner 5 had a great interface and great output.

Then, I think more than a year ago now, some clever idiot decided to diverge the product lines. Cleaner 6 would appear only for the Mac with the tried and true interface, and Windows would get Cleaner XL, a totally new product. The positives were that it encoded almost twice as fast as Cleaner 5, and it was written in .NET (not a feature, but kinda cool at a time when you didn't see a lot of commercial desktop .NET apps).

The bad part is that the software is pure shit with an illogical interface that never works. Even after two service packs, I can't get it to even run anymore. When I try to launch the program, I get, “Cleaner has crashed. Would you like to save a dump?” No thanks, I'd rather flush it down the toilet. That's where my dumps go.

I guess at this point I'm going to have to explore Sorenson Squeeze because it won't ask me if I want to save my dumps. Anyone have any experience with the tool?

Posted: Jun 30 2004, 12:04 PM by Jeff | with 2 comment(s)
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Are Slashdotters really 99% ignorant?

Every once in awhile I'll pop over to Slashdot to see what the peeps have to say about something newsworthy. At the very least you can find some Gates-hating to laugh at. I can't for the life of me figure out the structure of their comment system (I am, after all, a mindless drone .NET developer), but I found some choice comments.

“MS are worried that the windows platform is hemorrhaging developers to linux/OS X platforms.”
That's a pretty good one. Call me crazy, but the recruiters call now more than ever, and we're shipping people in from all over the world to fill .NET jobs in the Greater Cleveland area. Maybe his definition of “hemorrhaging” is different than mine.

“Actually this is a move to knock out DevC++, gcc, Eclipse, and Netbeans.
The more you get people to use "windows only" solutions the better microsoft feels.
They know it is all about the developers and want to lock them down as hard and as fast they can.”

I'm sure that last part was at the front of Rob Howard's mind the last few years, right? I'm sure that most folks at Microsoft just want to deliver the most kick ass software they can. That's what drives them. The real benefit to Microsoft is that they sell server licenses. I think it has always been about server licenses, thus the move to build inexpensive IDE's.

“Still, it's clear from these 'express' editions that MS is worried by the number of free alternative IDEs that are springing up - in particular Eclipse.”
Yes, because people are flocking en masse to Eclipse to build .NET apps. Clear, right! I'm guessing that this guy thinks developers are willing to change platforms and languages like they change their underwear everyday. I've never understood this mentality. I know enough about Java to think it's pretty cool, but why the hell would I want to learn it when I'm working to be an expert in .NET? I wouldn't want to hire someone average at a lot of things, I'd want someone to be an expert for what I need.

“Will the EULA allow development of commercial products? Lots of "hobby" or "student" projects end up for sale or as shareware. Will people making that switch then have to buy the real thing?”
Is it that hard to read that this is beta software? If these people understand software development so well, you'd think they'd understand why Microsoft wouldn't want the beta framework floating about. Then again, I'm assuming they understand what the .NET Framework is.

“Microsoft are attempting to lock students in, probably even before they hit tertiary education.”
Again, obviously not familiar with the culture. Students have been using the full Visual Studio in a lot of programs, and getting it cheap. That certainly won't change. Oddly enough, I think the guy that made this comment was the same guy that said you can change-up platforms at any time. Lock-in... sure, that's it.

“Free compilers, what a concept?”
Yeah, one we got like four  years ago.

“I'm still aghast at the number of developers who think that they need Visual Studio, or any IDE for that matter, to develop in .NET/Java/whatever.”
Amen. I want to go back to the days of DOS. I don't need a mouse either. Batch files rule. In fact, I think I'll brush up on my assembler because that's what real programmers do. I've got all the time in the world and my clients understand if it takes a long time to build a product.

Normally I don't even entertain this kind of nonsense, but it's like me trying to talk about biochemistry (I would have no idea what I'm talking about). Enjoy the laughs. I'm sure you've got to get back to writing great software.

Posted: Jun 29 2004, 08:17 PM by Jeff | with 15 comment(s)
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The good and slightly not good about Visual Web Developer Express

Let me start by saying it's great to see the excitement bubbling out of Microsoft from the various teams involved with the new Express products. As a customer, I think you can only feel good about the pride that 'Softies are putting into these new bits. After using the pre-beta builds of VS 2005 now for about three or four months, I was already impressed.

I first heard about the low-cost IDE's I think in March. My first thought was, “It's about time,” because the barrier of entry into the Microsoft programming world has always been non-affordable tools. I thought I'd give the Visual Web Developer Express beta a look-see to see just what the “hobbyists” and “n00bs” could do.

The first and biggest surprise was that full Intellisense is maintained, just as it is in VS 2005. Outstanding! The “code-beside” model is leaps and bounds ahead of the old-style code-behind, and it's almost OK to use the inline code blocks now. Almost...

What I don't like is that you can't do compiled class libraries. I guess this topic is near and dear to me because the focus of my book is to get people to harness the power of an object-oriented platform to build applications “right.” It's not that you can't write classes for use across the app (now the .cs or .vb class files go in the /code folder), but you certainly can't reuse them in compiled assemblies. I think that's kind of a bummer.

It seems to me that Microsoft struggled with how to position these products and what to include or not include. The upside of the product is that, without question, it's powerful and makes building Web apps easier than it ever has been, and normal people can afford it. My only beef is that it kind of allows developers to do things “old school,” something I've been trying to get people to not do via training and now this book. I think it's a philosophical concession to allow what isn't far from the old script days, but I do understand the business decision to allow it.

I don't think my issues will lessen the value of the new products, but it's certainly an area of concern. I guess the real test is to see if they revise the pricing on Visual Studio itself, as well as things like MSDN subscriptions. I've heard that might be a consideration as well. I know that personally I'd get a subscription again if it were under a grand.

Posted: Jun 29 2004, 07:29 PM by Jeff | with 1 comment(s)
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Viewstate of the day: GDN

Here's today's crazy viewstate, brought to you by the home page!


Posted: Jun 27 2004, 05:28 PM by Jeff | with 9 comment(s)
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It's fun to be a .NET developer

It sure is fun to be a .NET developer. It's fun to be right from time to time as well.

Crap, I wasted my 100th entry on “performant” nonsense.

Posted: Jun 24 2004, 11:14 PM by Jeff | with 1 comment(s)
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Invented word of the day: Performant

I love how someone in the programming community comes up with a word, then before you know it, the word is used more frequently than “the.”

Take “performant.” The implied meaning is some code or software that performs well. That's a pretty stupid implication when you think about it. All code “performs,” but that doesn't mean it performs well. It's kind of like talking about “performance” car parts, without “high” in front of it. Maybe the code should be called “high performance” instead of making up a word for it. 

Annoyed by its use (yeah, degree in English here), I looked it up. Not surprisingly, some dictionaries don't have the word. Those that do say it's a noun, a performer. No adjective there, sorry folks!

Should I tell all these people?

Could be worse, I suppose... there could be another stupid acronym. Crap, there already is... “HPC.”

Posted: Jun 23 2004, 11:15 PM by Jeff | with 2 comment(s)
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I bought the wrong chipset

I bought the wrong chipset last night... a poker chipset. I'm fascinated by the game and would like to start playing, so I bought a $150 set of chips and a case. They're the good stuff, the heavy clay chips that make the cool noise, with an indestructible metal case.

First off, the cost. Yeah, I know that's steep, but this is nice stuff. It's actually not a selfish thing at all. The truth is that when I have people over as a guest at my house, I like them to have a good time. That's why our parties are held in such high regard. We buy good alcohol and food and try to be hospitable. I wouldn't want to go to a party where people are cheap, so why throw one on the cheap?

The second thing is that the game itself is interesting because it combines so many things I enjoy. There's the logic component, of course, something code monkeys can get into. There's the social aspect, seeing as how it's supposed to be fun. There's the psychological angle too, as you can learn a lot about a person by watching how they play.

I have to admit that the poker on TV inspired the interest in the game. Not the world series crap, but the celebrity poker. Career players aren't nearly as interesting to me, but the celebrities, famous as they might be, are just like you and me when it comes to poker. That's fun to watch.

I don't plan on having any high-stakes games or anything, but I look forward to having a little fun. Heck, maybe next time I'm in Vegas I'll even play a couple of hands.

Posted: Jun 23 2004, 10:45 AM by Jeff | with no comments
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Browser-based HTML editing still in the dark ages

I was considering using FreeTextBox for POP Forums because my implementation is mediocre at best. Actually, it gets the job done, but it's an IE-only implementation.

Then it occured to me that the Mozilla and FireFox instances would probably generate different HTML. Sure enough, it is different. In fact, it's actual correct HTML, not the crap that IE generates. That's a good thing, but the down-side of this is that I need to learn to parse the HTML differently.

You would think that as common as the need to write HTML in-browser is that there would be some fantastic universal standard by now.

I guess I better start writing those unit tests...

Posted: Jun 21 2004, 07:52 PM by Jeff | with 4 comment(s)
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Self-employment: One month later

It has been a month almost to the day that I declared my independence from The Man. So far, this is how it's going.

The primary focus has always been to concentrate on writing my ASP.NET book. I've got about five chapters done (by “done” I mean ready for editorial review by the publisher) plus the intro. Those are key chapters, and I'm waiting for some friends to get back to me to see how well received they are. The book is about a third done, and I have two months and a week left to finish it. No problem.

To learn the new ASP.NET v2 features, naturally it's helpful to apply them to a real project. To do that I've been working on the next version of POP Forums from time to time. I have a very long list of features and things that I'd like to add to it, to really “compete“ (if that's the word, since I offer it for free) with other products. I think as a programmer tool it's already among the best, if for no other reason than it provides a good tool for manipulating user information and roles (until Whidbey comes out). It's not perfect (requiring you to have global.asax to inherit my class instead of using an HttpModule wasn't a good idea), but it's at the core of all of my sites. Thousands of users at any given time and my CPU still doesn't break a sweat. I know it can be better though, and while I get nothing for all of the work, it's satisfying to know it's all me.

I had grand intentions of eating better and exercising, but the first part of June generally sucks because of my allergies so I haven't been motivated in those areas. It's the only time of year I have a problem, but they kicked my ass. Claritin helps, but in some ways just makes me uncomfortable in other ways. It dries me out.

The good news is that while I never felt “fat,” I always knew I was a little overweight. I dropped some pounds last December and I managed to keep them off while at my last contract job. Since going solo, I've dropped two more. I've had fast food perhaps four times this year. So while I'm still not eating my vegetables, at least I'm eating less crap. I'm feeling energized enough to start playing DDR again and bought a cool bike rack for the car.

The money thing is a little scary, but nothing to get really freaked out by, as I knew that cash flow would be somewhat negative for awhile. The good news is that online advertising has seen a slight rebound, as traditional branding campaigns (i.e., not cost-per-click) are starting to take hold. I'm planning to launch another site in the next couple of weeks, a port of an existing site for a new topic. If it can add even $500 in revenue a month quickly, life will be grand.

Consulting and freelance work doesn't interest me at the moment. It's something I'll want to get back into in the fall, but right now I'm enjoying getting up when I feel like it, working when I feel like it and enjoying the summer sun. I'm working hard, and it's hard to see the tangible results in the short-term, but it's all on my terms, and that's a great feeling.

So that's where I'm at today. I'm not pulling in the bling, but I am ridiculously happier and less stressed. I get into my grumpy fits of course (just ask Stephanie), but I'm trying to get to a place in my life where I fit into the general scheme of things. I think I'm finally getting closer to that place.

Posted: Jun 21 2004, 06:03 PM by Jeff | with 1 comment(s)
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