Archives / 2003 / September
  • Java is the SUV of Programming Languages

    But the programmers and managers using Java will feel good about themselves because they are using a tool that, in theory, has a lot of power for handling problems of tremendous complexity. Just like the suburbanite who drives his SUV to the 7-11 on a paved road but feels good because in theory he could climb a 45-degree dirt slope.
    Philip Greenspun

    No mention of the students struggling with .NET, yet they have all the power and then some on the Java people. 


  • More Cert stuff

    As a follow up to the previous post, I thought I'd jot down some thought on the subject of real world vs certs.  Perhaps I should reword that.  How about certs in addition to real world experience? 

    First of all, you’d have to be crazy to hire someone with just a certification and no real world experience developing.  At best, I would pay very little and give them basically internship responsibilities.  There are just too many talented developers out there looking for jobs to be giving away a job to someone just because of some letters after their name.   But, let’s assume we are all developers, which I feel is a pretty safe assumption. 

    You have two developers with pretty similar resumes:  BS in Computer Science, four-six years developing for in the heath care industry and both list themselves as being an “expert in .NET” on their resumes.  But one is an MCSD.  Just at a glance, what can we learn from the two resumes?  One is that based on the MCSD we can probably safely assume that they are comfortable in ASP.NET, WinForms, XML Web Services, COM+, .NET Remoting, COM Interop, Windows Services and ADO.NET.  And also SQL Server or BizTalk.  I’m not saying they know the HTTP pipeline cold, or can whip together their own custom protocol handler for .NET remoting, but they are more than likely to get the zen of .NET.  How many people out there list themselves as “a .NET expert” have never touched remoting or got their hands dirty with some serviced components?  I’d say a pretty good chunk.  I’d also say there are also quite a few people who stick solely to either ASP.NET or WinForms because that’s all they do in their jobs.  They still consider themselves a .NET expert although they are wondering why their code keeps bombing out when they try to bind a DataReader to a WinForms datagrid. 

    I'm not saying that the MCSD is a better coder or that the other guy isn't a .NET expert.  I'm just making assumptions, which happen a lot when deciding who gets interviews and who doesn't.  Also, when you have someone that has gone out and gotten certified, you can assume that they don’t mind leaving their comfort zone to learn new things.  You can also assume that they are interested in investing their time into gaining more knowledge.  Or they might be really good at taking tests or had to pass them to keep their job.

    There’s the rub.  I can almost guarantee that someone will respond saying they have a buddy that passed the BizTalk server exam and has never used the product once.  The term paper cert will be thrown about.  “The exams don’t test real world experience.”  A lot of those arguments were valid a year or two ago.  I would think it is safe to say that the people who heard from their buddies you can make $60 bucks an hour working with computers by getting your MCSE and A+ certifications have long since had their jobs sent to far away lands.  Right now you are competing against people who have the same passion as you.  And those certs may give you a bit of an edge when people are flipping through the hundreds of resumes they’ve received. 

    Another tricky subject is the people are those who are so confident in their skills that they are insulted that they would need to take a test to prove to others that they are experts.  While I definitely can see that being an issue, I’ve found a lot of these individuals are concerned about how people will view them if they fail.  They really gain nothing by putting themselves out there and taking a test and passing.  They are basically out $120 bucks and can now say I told you so.  But if they fail it, they will feel like a complete fool.  Self proclaimed expert knocked off their pedestal.  If you are one of those people, I don’t know what to tell you.  I’d like to think that if they did fail a test they’d see it as a challenge to shore up some weakness in their .NET background and try it again.  For now, if you are one of those people you should probably just avoid my posts on the subject because I doubt I'll change your mind.

    I’ll end for now by saying why I personally like the tests.  They force me into working with stuff I might not do on a day to day basis or find sexy.  Creating a Windows Service was just something I never had to do.  Although after I spent some time learning how they work, and how much easier they are to create in .NET, they’ve come up as a solution to problems that in the past who knows how I would have solved it.

    For an even better post on the subject, check out Joshua Allen's post on the subject.  In retrospect I probably should have not bothered typing anything and just linking to Joshua.  I also discussed this way back in April.  More importantly Kirk left some excellent comments in that post that are definitely worth checking out.  But enough of the soap box stuff.  I'll try to type up a summary of the whole certification tonight / tomorrow and follow it up with a summary of each exams to help out those who are thinking about going down that road. 


  • MS Exams

    I received an e-mail today regarding the Microsoft Exams.  It seems they are moving back to the old format where they tell you what your score was, and even break down the exam so you know what to work on if you had some weak spots.  I for one welcome this new change.  Of course, you hear a lot of people in the training and certification industry harping on “if it's green, it's green.”  The theory behind that is the exams cover such a wide range of topics, that if you do know 75% of the concepts you are doing pretty darn good.  We rarely have someone score a 100% on an exam, and if they did we were pretty sure they were using study aids like brain dumps and other illegal study guides.  But it was also pretty nice to see those high scores on the ol' VB6 exams :-). 

    Here's the full skinny from my e-mail:

    Microsoft will be returning to a previous version of score reporting that includes a numerical score as well as a breakdown of the test-taker's performance in specific skill areas. Starting with the release of the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 exams, a more detailed score report on its certification exams will be provided. By the end of September 2003, most Microsoft certification exams will include this format which includes a numerical score and a bar graph covering each skill section on the exam.

    By presenting exam results in this format, test-takers can see where their strengths are and where they need to study harder, not just whether they have simply passed or failed. However, Microsoft warns that MCP exams are not meant to provide detailed feedback, even with the updated scoring format. Microsoft suggests that candidates use practice tests from Microsoft Certified Practice Test Providers to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to discover whether they're ready to tackle the real exam.

    Party on.  I think I might write up a 5 or 6 part article on the testing process and the MCSD for Microsoft .NET stuff if anyone is interested.


  • Poor Design Choice of the Day

    What would possess someone to make a drop downlist to choose a time zone that looks like this:

    What time zone would you choose if you were in Louisville, KY?


  • Critical Updates are Ready to be Installed

    I'm pretty guilty when it comes to keeping on top of install “critical updates.”  Many times, the little ballon pops up when I'm actually doing something on my computer.  Reading an article, playing solitare or perhaps even doing work seems to be it's favorite time to pop up.  I've gotten pretty good at dismissing it.  Remind me in three days I tell it.  I'm not really scared of my PC being hosed by the updates, my concern is having to restart my computer.  If I'm at work, I'm probably in the middle of something, or getting ready to start something else.  No time for a reboot! 

    So here's my brilliant idea:

    Simple, huh?  Nobody likes to have to reboot their PC when they turn it on, but who would care if the updates install when you turn it off.  It can continue just fine on the next boot up.

    Of course, who actually turns their PC off anymore?


  • PDC

    Ohmph.  I couldn't pull the trigger on going to the PDC.  My brain is definitely mad at me, it knows that going there would be a TREEEEmendous venture.  But as Garth would say “Live in the now, man.  You'll never afford it!”  Plane tickets plus hotel, plus cost of admission would pretty much wipe out my weak savings that I've been trying to build up.  All for what I really viewed as a geek vacation where I could get some cool toys.  Hopefully those toys will be available on MSDN or to MCTs shortly after the PDC, and looking at the list of PDC bloggers I know I'm in good hands when it comes to trusting others to make sure I can stay ahead of the curve.

    But oh man am I going to be jealous when people start getting their DVDs of Yukon.  Like “I'm going to take note of people who live near me and break into their house” jealous...