Xperimentality

Experiences and Experiments in Programming

 Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Last night, and long overdue, we re-launched the Birmingham .NET User Group.  The meeting went well except for a few technical glitches with the projector at the hosting location.  A note to the tech folks there: the projector cable must be plugged into the input of the projector!  :)

Jeff Barnes showed the group how to "code like a ninja" with various Visual Studio 2008 tips and a demonstration of many features of jetBrains' ReSharper.  The night ended with some great swag.  We gave away 2 copies of ReSharper (thanks jetBrains), 1 copy of Nevron Chart components (thanks Nevron), a few books, a webcam, a geek mug, and more.

Thanks to NxtDimension Solutions for sponsoring the meeting and supplying the pizza and drinks.

Why re-launch?  When this group was started, we didn't want to delay getting the group going.  So we launched the user group without a lot of the pieces of the puzzle in place.  The first thing we wanted to do was to then catch up and put more structure in place.  As with most things, we never did get caught up.  The group has been great, done great things, and hosted many great speakers and events, but it was time for a new life.  I am looking forward to what the future of the group holds!  Hopefully many of you can join us for the journey.

The Birmingham .NET User Group meets the second Tuesday of each month.  The meeting starts at 6:30 PM and usually goes till 8 PM. More information can be found at the website: www.bugdotnet.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 8:22:13 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Well nothing like being late to the game!  But better late than never.  I am still not quite into my groove after starting my new job.

                                codecampteaser

If you have not heard, the next Alabama Code Camp will be held this Saturday, January 31st.  This code camp will be held in Montgomery, Alabama.  If you are not familiar with what a code camp is, it is an all day conference for developers organized by developers.  The Alabama Code Camp is free so register now!

I am looking forward to it.  I am presenting 3 topics: 2 on Silverlight, 1 on debugging, and I will be presenting an intro to WPF in the Swiss Army Knife series.  That might seem like a long day, but code camps are great fun!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 10:41:28 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here we are, December 31, 2008.  Trying to get ready to start a new year, a new adventure, and what happens...technology bites us in the rear!  Or is it more?  Is there more going on here than meets the eye?

If you have a Zune 30Gb then you, no doubt, have felt the sting of Z2k8.  Truly, noone has been spared.  Apparently at 2AM CST this morning technology gremlins mounted a globally coordinated attack.  Zunes all over the globe reset, froze, and became little more than expensive paper weights.  Now many of you may snicker and say "yeah, all 15 of them", but being a victim of this dreaded assault, let me tell you it is very real and affects many people all over the world.

Many theories exist as to why something so devastating could have happened.  Everything from a secret plot by Microsoft to force V1 device owners to upgrade to a newer V2 device, to a software glitch that caused mass neural net failure when trying to decipher the 366th day of the year!  But I believe it is a sign.  A warning that we are becoming too reliant on small audio devices for pleasure.  What happened to the days of sitting around the radio as a family listening to episodes of The Shadow?

I tell you....this could be just the beginning of a global audio device epidemic!  Beware the oncoming silence!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 2:11:12 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)

Wow...I know I am not the best poster...ok, I am a horrible poster, but it has been a whirlwind while since my last post.  There has been so much I wanted to post about and have not had the time.  For those that might be reading this, and are interested, you might ask why.

For those of you that know me personally, you know that I have been the CISO at Softech Development for many years.  The CEO and I have been friends since we worked together in the mid 90s and had talked back then about starting a company and venturing out on our own.  It has been a great ride with lots of ups and downs, but overall rewarding, and at times, down right exciting!

As of December 12, I decided to get off the roller coaster and begin a new adventure.  I am now working for DAXKO, in Birmingham, AL.  I am the .NET Development Manager and have a great set of challenges ahead of me, challenges that I think will make for a wonderful adventure.

This move is bitter sweet!  I leave behind great friends and much blood, sweat, and tears.  Softech, and all of its employees, has been a second family to me.  A big part of my decision was to allow me to focus more on my family.  My beautiful wife and wonderful children (not that my wife is not wonderful :)) have often times been neglected and placed lower on the priority totem pole than they should be.

Of course this change has meant many other changes like transitioning email, new machine setups, etc.  So over the few weeks I have been trying to get these transitions completed (or at least far enough along to get by day to day).  I also decided to take a technology vacation over the Christmas holidays.  I didn't crack the laptop for over a week.  It actually felt good!!!  I would recommend it to anyone!

So I am now pretty much back to being "connected" everywhere and look forward to getting caught up on all the changes and updates that I have missed over the last month or so!  As we all start a new year, I also start a new chapter in the book of life.  I hope it is a good read!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 1:54:12 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Microsoft has launched a new portal for videos.  If you watch a lot of videos from Microsoft, you know that there are many places to find them depending on the topic.  Windows Forms and WPF videos can be found at WindowsClient.net, Silverlight videos can be found at Silverlight.net, Expression Studio videos can be found at expression.microsoft.com.

Well now you can go to one place to get your Microsoft video fix!

           image

 Microsoft Videos is currently in Beta, but it is already a great single source resource for videos.  So far it appears that the videos are updated in the new video site about the same time they are updated at all the subsequent sites.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 8:31:37 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Monday, November 24, 2008

I see more and more development shops using Subversion.  If you are not familiar with Subversion, it is an open-source version control system.

I have recently started looking at Visual SVN.  Visual SVN is a plug-in for Visual Studio that allows Visual Studio integration when using Subversion.  While the Windows Explorer integration offered by default using TortoiseSVN is extremely easy to use, I wanted to try out direct integration within Studio.

Installation was very easy, everything at the defaults and no configuration.  I opened an existing web site project and got all the visual indicators provided by VisualSVN.  The particular site I opened was already added to Subversion.  Using VisualSVN was just as simple as in the Explorer interface.

Then I opened another web site. This web site was also already added to Subversion but I did not get any indication in the UI that the project was under Subversion control.

I did some searching and found that the difference in the two projects was that the second project, the one that did not show any Subversion status, had its solution file located in a different directory.  By default, Visual Studio will store the solution file in your Documents/[username]/Visual Studio 2008/projects directory.  By simply moving the solution file to the same directory as my web site project, Visual Studio picked up the Subversion status on all the files and worked perfectly.

You are given a hint to this requirement when trying to add a project/solution to Subversion through VisualSVN.  When you right-click on a solution and choose "Add Solution to Subversion...", if your solution file is not in the same directory, you are presented with a dialog indicating that the solution file and the solution contents must be in the same directory.  But nobody ever reads those dialogs....right?

Monday, November 24, 2008 3:19:56 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Tuesday, October 28, 2008

They just announced the release of the Silverlight Toolkit at PDC08.  The toolkit is an out-of-release-cycle set of controls and components for Silverlight 2.  Full source code is available.  Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 11:31:03 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
 Friday, October 24, 2008

Last night I went to dinner with Aaron Skonnard from pluralsight, Jeff Barnes, and Robert Cain.  Aaron and Jeff talking services, Robert covering Database, and me on the UI, we had the conversation covered from all angles!  One of the things we talked about was the limitation on the breadth of material you could precisely cover now, effectively specialization.  On the other hand, we have the need to know things outside of our specialization in order to make good decisions about the use and application of our specialized area of knowledge.

This morning, in trying to get caught up on some reading, I read Jesse Liberty's blog entry about specializing.

So the question blazed even more in my mind.

De-Specializing?

My story, as I imagine is the story of many of us that have been in this industry for 20 years or more, is similar to Jesse's.  I remember a day when you really could know everything about the technologies around you.  I remember being an expert (whatever that really means) in ColdFusion, ASP, JavaScript, Windows Development, SQL, and more.

As time has gone on, it has become increasingly difficult to keep up with all the changes.  At first, it was very difficult for me to give up technologies.  I liked knowing all the things I needed to know to accomplish any task asked of me.  One at a time, I quit trying to keep up with the latest changes in certain technologies.  I started moving more toward a web technology focus, then to a more UI technology focus.  And it continues to this day.  I still try to keep up with ASP.NET, AJAX, etc.  I also have been keeping up with what I call the "XAML technologies", being WPF and Silverlight.  But even this becomes increasingly difficult as all three of these areas, ASP.NET, WPF, and Silverlight, explode into new realms of capability and, thus, possibility!

So what are the implications of specializing in these technologies and why can it be so difficult to specialize and still be effective?

Take Silverlight for example.  It would be possible to narrow your scope to XAML as it relates to Silverlight.  You could dive into the controls, styling, binding, usercontrols, the visual state manager,etc and never even have to use C# or VB.NET (or JavaScript in the case of Silverlight 1).  So do you become a XAML expert and not keep up with the changes to the C# and VB.NET languages?  Possible, but would you be or become an effective Silverlight developer?

So, perhaps that is a bit of a microview example.  So let's get to the real question that is on my mind.  Staying with Silverlight as our example technology, how far do you go and how deep do you go into WCF and REST-ful services?  While "services" is definitely a completely different technology focus than Silverlight, it is my feeling that Silverlight, WPF, and ASP.NET, will be most effective when services are a part of the picture.  This is especially true with recent and soon to be announced advances in the "services" space.  As an example, just think about how "services in the cloud" are going to affect UI development (or at least it's integration with business logic and data).

Specialized Generalist?

I'll admit, I am way behind on the advances in the "services" space and have to get caught up soon.  I imagine next week's PDC may be the fire that ignites my getting back up to speed.  But how far should we go in the technologies that are not our chosen specialization.  Is it possible to become a generalized specialist? or perhaps a specialized generalist?  Perhaps the definition of specialist, or how we define specializing, has to change.

I imagine it won't be long before these questions are answered out of sheer natural progression; given the rate at which new technologies, perhaps we could call it "integration technologies", are emerging and evolving.

What do you think?

Friday, October 24, 2008 8:54:03 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Who Am I - Todd Miranda
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