The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Coat-check claim number

Yesterday at the gym's coat check, I got claim check 404.

The coat-check guy didn't find this nearly as funny as I did.

Even more funny—to a software nerd, anyway—was that when I gave him check #404 after working out, he found my coat.

One can imagine other possibilities. But 404 is the best, I think.

Compiler warnings

Read, understand, and then fix your compiler warnings.

Compiler warnings let you know that you've either done something wrong, or you've done something non-standard. Either way, ignorning compiler warnings shows a lack of discipline and skill; it's something like ignoring big red "warning" signs in real life.

I'm working on a .NET solution that, when last compiled, generated over 60 warning messages. A couple of them I put in to let other developers know about problems I found, but most warned about things that actually needed to get fixed.

For example, the following line of code:

if (comboBox.SelectedItem == "Do stuff")

generated the warning, "Possible unintended reference comparison; to get a value comparison, cast the left hand side to type 'string.'"

In other words, the if statement was evaluating whether the object comboBox.SelectedItem was the same object as the string "Do Stuff," which is an impossibility. So the comparison would always fail, making it look like the feature was failing. Yet the compiler warned the developer about the problem, and even said how to fix it.

If you're wondering, the corrected line looks like this:

if ((string)comboBox.SelectedItem == "Do stuff")

Source-control etiquette

<Rant>

Any software project that has more than one developer working on it needs to have some way of ensuring that there is one and only one "official" version of the code. This is called source control, for which teams use tools like Microsoft SourceSafe and Rational ClearCase.

In the land of myth and legend, the code checked in to source control is ready to roll. Checking something in that doesn't work, or that prevents other parts of the software project from working, is called "breaking the build." On some teams breaking the build results in the offending developer working late, suffering humiliation from his peers, or having Vinny come by and break his knuckles.

Adhering to this discipline allows developers to join the team, get the latest copy of the code, and start working on it. Failing to adhere to this disicipline causes anguish, frustration, and despair.

That is all.

</Rant>

Also on my reading stack

I just finished Garbage Land, leaving only about a dozen books on my reading stack right now. Highlights:

Why is this in the Software category? Because better wetware means better software.

It's important to read widely in order to write better, whether your language is English or C#. Read as much as you can, about anything that interests you. Limit your professional reading to 50% of your total no matter what (but shoot for 25%). The more you know about things outside your profession, the more you can bring to the profession, whether it's software or anything else.

Comments working

Aha.

In ASP.NET 1.1, you need to have a folder called aspnet_client\system_web\{.NET version} under a Web application's root in order for Javascript to work.

In ASP.NET 2.0, you don't. And in fact, on a server (like mine) where both versions are running side by side, having that folder causes Javascript to fail in some browsers on the ASP.NET 1.1 sites (like this one).

This means comments are working now.

But I'm still going to install Community Server, though I probably will keep Das Blog now. (For the record, I always thought it was a configuration error, not Das Blog's fault.)

.NET 2.0 Release

I finally bit the bullet and downloaded the Visual Studio 2005 CD images from Microsoft, and installed the latest runtime on my Web server.

Only one site broke: Hired Wrist, my dad's site, which I just now fixed. That's not bad. Usually upgrading hoses everything.

Hired Wrist broke (gracefully, I should point out; only the graphic headers were affected) because the released version of ASP.NET 2.0 handles page names slightly differently, which caused my resource-based graphics handling to fail. Resources, apparently, are now case-sensitive. Oops.

Once is accident

I've just spent the past four and a half hours trying, and failing, to get Microsoft SharePoint installed and running.

I think the .NET 2.0 Beta runtime on my main server is screwing things up. I think this because, for example, other people have gotten SharePoint running without a problem, and my Das Blog difficulties only seem to affect this server. (I got Das Blog running on a laptop—which doesn't have .NET 2.0 on it—just fine.)

Why doesn't stuff just work?

Waiting for Microsoft

I'm all ready to start testing two open-source prouducts that are built for .NET 2.0, which was released about two weeks ago. I can't yet because I don't have the final version of .NET 2.0 yet; I still have the final beta, and these open-source projects won't run on the beta.

My company subscribes to Microsoft Development Network, which gives us just about everything they sell, plus all the beta-test versions. They also have a site from which we can download anything we haven't received yet.

So today, when I finally have some time to play with the new stuff, their download site is down. And we haven't received the DVDs yet (they're due in about two weeks). So I can't do much of anything that I wanted to do today.

Fooey.

Build or buy?

About every five years I learn something about my craft. This is an average; the last seismic shift happened in 2002, but the one before it happened in 1995.

It's happening again. This time, I'm learning how my craft gets in the way of my business.

For the past three years (since the last time a two-by-four hit me) I've worked on the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™, a comprehensive framework on which Inner Drive can build marketable applications. It's a masterpiece, in the way a fine, ornate table would demonstrate the competence of a 17th-century carpenter.

It turns out, I missed the advent of steam.

See, other people have already done it, and they're giving away their code. So over the past few weeks I have slowly come to realize that there is no point continuing this effort in the same way.

This demonstrates a constant, historic tension in business software: Build or Buy. Build something exactly the way you want, or buy something that's close enough.

Open source software, like Das Blog and DotNetNuke, makes this choice even more stark. Can one countenance spending 600 development hours on creating something that has half the features of something anyone can download for free?

More on this later, as I refactor the IDEA to extend, rather than duplicate, the mass of free stuff out there.