Sunday, November 11, 2007

iFrame scroll to anchor problem

So on my basketball fan page, HoosierBall, I was working on the schedule display. I had originally set up a simple widget from Zvents, but after using that for two years Zvents apparently changed their entire business model, from events created by users to events created by businesses. Every Hoosier game had already been entered via StubHub, the widget that I had been using no longer worked at all, and as far as I could tell there was no replacement.

But it's not like the schedule display needs to be real complicated. I tossed it into an iFrame, stuck the schedule on a separate page, and wrote some simple Javascript to scroll to a specific game's anchor based on the current date.

But what's this? When the iFrame scrolls, the entire page jumps down to the iFrame to display it. That's not what I wanted, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out a way to stop it from happening, until I finally ran across Jim Epler's blog entry explaining how he simply scrolled the main page back to the top after setting the anchor. So you set the location in the iFrame, the main page jumps down, then you set it back to the top. It's not pretty, but it works. Here's the code in the iFrame:


Thanks, Jim!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some test code smells

More of my writeup on the XUnit session I went to nearly two months ago. I hope someday to make all of my note-taking blog entries coherent to a larger audience :)

There are a couple of competing dynamics you get when writing tests: the first is that, in general, less code is better than more code. You want the code to express the concepts you need to express without any extra cruft, without huge globs of copy/pasted code here, there, and everywhere that is a nightmare to maintain. But you need tests as well, and tests are either more code, or more people, and people are one heck of a lot more expensive than code. So it's not at all unlikely that you would have as much test code as production code.

But those tests have to be maintained, so it behooves us to figure out the best way to do that, bearing in mind that the goals of test code are not the same as those of production code. So, here are some problems, or code smells, specific to test code that you might run into:

1. Conditional test logic . A lot of people like to say that one assertion per test is plenty. It seems like unreasonable test gold-plating to me, but if you're going so far as to put an if statement in the middle of the test, you need to have multiple tests to test each branch of the statement, each time. Or, the condition might simply be an assertion, where you're saying if (x) keep testing; else assert false. No point in that, just assert x at the beginning and let the code blow up if it needs to. This really helps with the readability of the test report, too, expecially if all the report says at the end is "The assertion FALSE occurred". Not helpful, whereas knowing directly from the report that X failed is much more useful.

2. Hardcoded test data

This problem is related to the principle that computer science profs have been tossing around since the beginning of time: that you never want to put numbers or strings in code; always define them somewhere as constants instead, so they can be easily changed. Not a bad principle; certainly it's ideal that anything that needs to be displayed to the user can be easily modified to use another language, so you don't want a bunch of MessageBox.Show( "Are you sure you want to do this?" ) statements scattered through the code. For numbers, though, my general rule is that it doesn't need to be a constant value unless it shows up more than once.

But in a sense, just about every number shows up more than once if written properly: at least once in the code, and at least once in the test for that code. Say for example you're testing a Price object with this line of code:

Assert.Equal( $14, CreatePrice().Retail );

CreatePrice() is part of your fixture, and it sets the list price to $20. Your Price object knocks off 30% to come up with the Retail number.

But now you've got the same number in there twice! See it? $14 is in there, and so is 70% of $20. The same number.

One fix is to move everything to constants. Presumably the Price object has a GetDiscount() method, so you could make the $20 into a constant ListPriceInDollars, and change the expected amount to ListPriceInDollars * GetDiscount. Still pretty verbose, but not really bad for this small example. A better solution can be to create an ExpectedObject to compare what comes back from CreatePrice to. In the ideal case, your test would then simplify to

Assert.Equal( ExpectedPrice, CreatePrice() );

Which would cover a boatload of other comparisons as well as your Retail value.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Request could not be submitted for background processing

Boy, don't you hate it when the request could not be submitted for background processing? I know I do.

This is a rather inexplicable error message that Crystal Reports pops up. If you search for the message, you see a few ideas for solutions, but what I eventually did didn't seem to be on anyone's list, so I'm adding this post to the search in case it's helpful.

In my case, the big clue was that we had just modified the report viewer so it could pick up data from alternate data sources based on information in the web.config. It's a pull report, so the data source is specified directly in the report and we're modifying it programatically. My assumption was that somewhere in the report, there was something being specified to use a different data source than all the rest of the report, and that our code that changed the source was missing it. But I couldn't find it, and Crystal report files have a binary format, so they're next to impossible to search through.

The big clue was that we had just modified the report viewer so it could pick up data from alternate data sources

I dug through a book on Crystal last night - luckily it had a chapter on dynamic data sources; thank you Brian Bischof - and one of the things it suggested was to check the connections on the tables using a member function, TestConnectivity. (You can outfit each individual table that a Crystal Report draws upon with its own login information.) To create a dynamic data source, you have to make sure that the source is changed all over the place in the report. In the report object, in any subreports that it uses, in any tables. So I set up the table login information to set it the way it was supposed to be, and then call TestConnectivity, and if that failed, throw an exception. My idea was that there was a single table somewhere causing all the problems, and that if I could figure out which one it was, I could fix it.

Only I didn't need to.

As soon as I added the TestConnectivity check, the report started coming up.

My working assumption is that the changes to the table login information are cached somewhere, and don't actually take hold until the report thinks it's necessary. Presumably there's a bug in the caching system, but calling TestConnectivity causes the table login information to be set properly.

Nice weird one there. Spent too many hours on it though.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Michael Gartenberg - Still Not Twittering

Michael Gartenberg is still not twittering, poor unenlightened soul. He prefers to use Facebook for his minute-to-minute status, and doesn't want to add another bunch of contacts to another social network after having done it twice with Facebook and LinkedIn. Sure can't blame him for that. To mix a metaphor, the walled gardens need to start playing a little more nicely with each other. I think then we'll all be a little more inclined to add a new network to our lists. I got a Jaiku account after the Google news, but I haven't put forth the effort to put a bunch of my contacts on it, or to find a nice client for it, and because of that I haven't even looked at the web page in days.

Michael also points out that it's another feed to check. He's already got a bunch of RSS feeds, work email, and personal email, and doesn't want another feed to look at.

But he is willing to admit that he might be missing things. The issue of how to prioritize feeds is coming up for me, too. The feeds in my information stream generally break down to:

  • General status updates and tweets

  • Quick-skim blog entries, newspaper articles, longer forum discussion posts

  • Technical papers, long blog entries, that you can't really get the gist of by skimming

  • General or group emails

  • Emails specifically to me, or that I need to deal with

  • Tweets specifically to me

(Picture by Pete Reed)

How these are prioritized, and how they should be prioritized, are two different beasts. Certainly my top priority items are emails and tweets for me - they're the things I want to read first. After that, depending on how much time I have, I may want to skim the short items or buckle down to a technical paper. But how I actually prioritize them is via the application they're sitting on. I have a Twitter reader, Outlook, Gmail, and Google Reader to grab all these different feeds: stuff that comes in via Outlook gets highest priority since it has the nicest toast mechanism. Teletwitter, my twitter reader, doesn't always pop toast properly, so I'll often miss messages on it, although I don't care so much since they're low priority. Except, of course, for the ones targeted to me, which are high priority, but which I still miss since there's no way to grab them out of the twitter stream. And if a good technical paper comes across Google Reader, I'll probably share or star it to come back to as I J-J-J through the list, then forget about it entirely.

So there's clearly work to be done in this space.

I am absolutely sure that all my streams can be prioritized together properly, because it seems to me that it can be mechanized without too much trouble, but I'm not sure how yet. But I'm sure someone out there is already working on the issue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bloomington Geek Dinner

I copied the link up there from the Facebook event page...I have no idea what it will tell you if you're not a member, or even if the link is good for anyone besides me! Anyway, we're hosting a Bloomington Geek Dinner next Tuesday. Geek dinners got to be popular in the last few years, probably due to Scoble's encouragement, and for a while was up for people to schedule their events and create guest lists. No more, but Facebook is good for scheduling parties, perhaps too good judging from some IU undergrads, and there are a lot of Facebook groups as well as open Web pages for local geeks to find each other, meet, eat, and talk tech; for the big cities there are even specialized girl geek dinners.

But none for Bloomington, until now. Or even Indianapolis, as far as I know; if you're up in Indy feel free to come down - we'd love to have you.

It'll be at Max's Place downtown, starting around 7PM. See you there!

View Larger Map

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Indy Tech Fest

Big room has no wifi; smaller room seems to work pretty well. I feel very blind without a net connection. Have I said that before? :)

Session #1:
Stephen Fulcher, VS 2008
3.0 install only has WCF and WPF, everything else is the same as 2.0
Integration is tight to SQL Server. Other db's?
anonymous variables - new keyword var (not untyped, but takes on the type of the right-hand side)
lambda funcs,
extension methods: public bool IsBool( this string s )
Generate code metrics?
Q: Is var a breaking change? A: no, you can still use it is the name of a variable

Services (not web services, just services)
ServiceContract, OperationContract, DataContract attributes. - all specified as an interface
svcutil.exe generates client code and can resolve from existing DLL's

Session 2:
Mark Strawmeyer
C# tips & tricks

ctrl-alt-downarrow window list
ctrl-/ takes you to search menu
In the search window, type a ">" to go to a list of immediate-style commands
F12 is "go to definition"
Shift-F12 "Find all References", then use F8 to cycle through them
Code snippets - intellisense to generate code - type in the code and tab (to autocomplete), tab (to generate)
very powerful! prop, for, tryf
"Organize using" tools in VS2008
Unit testing support:
Test input from data source
unit test assemblies without source
Now part of VS2008 Pro
"Create Unit Test" option
Code Profiling is not part of Pro

---- Break for lunch. There are some lunchtime sessions but we just hung out in the lobby and watched the XBoxers.

Session 3:
Mark Strawmeyer
Ajax Tips

eh. Mostly just an overview of

Session 4:


Chad Campbell

Silverlight is the new name for WPF/E. Create a silverlight object using xaml. Add "Silverlight.CreateObjectEx()" to the HTML to use the plugin.
You can use .Net with silverlight 1.1. Silverlight is a browser-based plugin. It's cross-browser, cross-platform. What does that mean? They've written a plugin for Firefox as well as IE? Supports Mac and Linux and Safari as well. .Net framework used by Silverlight is specific to Silverlight.

Access the HTML DOM from managed code. Silverlight plugin will not be able to access the local file system.

Session 5

Dave Bost

WPF applications

Starts by demoing a Twitter feed on his page, created with Silverlight

Is it going to be the same presentation he did in Indy about a year ago? I don't think I blogged about that.

WF, WPF, WCF, Cardspace. WPF is .Net layer over DirectX.

Nice demo of an airport simulation

Expression is a set of tools for designers. Expression Web, Blend, Design, Media. Costs a bundle, though. Once you design the xaml, you can edit it in Visual Studio. in Indy every month.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Continuous Integration

The time between a defect being entered and being found is related to the expense of fixing it

Graphing the number of tests over time would seem to be a good idea

Sligo dashboard: classes, LOC, duplication, max complexity, tests run, line coverage, branch coverage, FindBugs violations; PMD Violations; Max Afferent; Max Efferent

Code reviews are good for high level details; use machines to do the low level detail finding

Code complexity tools: CCMEtrics, Vil

Code duplication detector: Simian

Dependency: NDepend

Coding Standards: FXCop

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to work with an open source team

"Free as in Freedom"
"Free as in Beer"

Q: Don't people resent when companies take open source projects and make money off of them? A: More power to them! Many companies are using their employees to do open source. It's good PR for a company to have people who work on open source - give back to the community, attract high-power talent

Don't contribute unless you:
Know the project license
Get permission from your employer
Get legal review if needed
Can communicate clearly in the project language (usually English)

Oracle tried to strongarm Linux, got squashed, came back with offers to help. Good PR! (I'm not familiar with this story!)

Project currency is trust and respect. You don't start with any. Remember, if you're good, you don't have to point it out.

Q: How do you start gaining respect? A: Post to the mailing list, point out bugs AND fixes. Maybe someone will request a patch, provide it

Q: How does the code stay consistent and looking good? A: There are tools, or people who do work to make things consistent. Or, it doesn't :)

Q: How do you get non-coding contributions going (docs, images)? How do non-coders get cred? A: Projects should support people like tech writers, if they're good.

How to Gather Customer Feedback

Don't aggravate customers with annoying surveys!
Make sure to ask "Is there anything else?"

Several stories about bad feedback forms

Interviewing 5-10 customers is probably as good as interviewing hundreds

Don't assume that no complaints = customer satisfaction. They may just be putting up with it, especially if they feel no one is listening.

Don't just do surveys. Use different feedback-gathering methods. Invite open-ended feedback, in surveys or otherwise.

Don't ignore the feedback!

Focus on the service attributes most important to your clients. Don't know what's important to them? Better find out!

"What aspect of our service is most important to you? Regarding it, how are we doing?"

Lots and lots of examples of how not to

FBWA (Feedback By Walking Around)

I love how Microsoft gets all Ajaxy with feedback on every page:

Again, act on the feedback! Summary of responses, detailed responses, action

Don't forget power of the naked eye. Often problems are obvious and don't need surveys

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Security code reviews

Foundstone Security Frame
Hacme Casino
Foundstone CodeScout

Paros (web app security assessment)

Don't overanalyze. (Spending two hours determining if a strcpy is vulnerable. Takes two minutes to change)

Identify code review objectives (Insider backdoors, compliance with specific regulations)

Lots of discussion of tools. I think the point is, use available analysis tools before bothering with a code review - it's easier and cheaper

Usability by Inspection

Doing code reviews? That's good! Code reviews are a big help. They ensure uniformity of code, teach people new design patterns, and often even help to avoid bugs.

Doing usability reviews?

real-time usability problemMe either. But if you've got a product that has a UI, an easy thing to do to improve the product is to just sit down with a few people, maybe some that will actually use the product, maybe some managers, or maybe just some people that you can pull in to see what they think. That's more or less the gist of what I got from Larry Constantine's session on Usability Reviews.

Now, the first thing to realize is that a "usability review" is different than a "grouse session". I was once doing a demo for an internal tool my team was working on, and after I'd showed how the tool worked, during the Q&A period one guy spoke up to say, "Boy, does that interface ever look like it was designed by a programmer."

"Interesting," I said. "How would you improve it?"

"Oh, you know. It just doesn't look as sharp as it could."

Well, yes. Nothing ever does; but it wasn't too helpful to tell me that. So, when you do a review, you have to be specific.

But how can you be specific about a UI? A UI is just a UI, right? It either looks good or it doesn't.

Not at all! There are lots of basic principles of design that the people who make web sites for a living know about. Even if your organization really is full of web pages designed by programmers, there's no harm in teaching the programmers some basic principles of design. I have a couple of books on that subject, one by Mr. Constantine himself, which I didn't even realize until I'd gone in to the session. But the organization or team should probably lay down the fundamental precepts of design that they want to follow. The usability defects will be easier to objectively identify with that list in mind. Some examples of good design principles are: Availability, Feedback, Structure, Reuse, Tolerance, Simplicity. Check one of the books for some guides as to the specifics, but a usability defect violates one of these principles, or you could also say it is a probable cause of user delay and confusion. But it's not a usability defect if you just don't think it looks good!

So here's how you prepare for a usability review: First, organize a few use cases. You may already have them as part of your project, or you may just have to make some up. What you'll be doing is telling the users what they're trying to accomplish.

Then, get the folks together. At a minimum, you should probably have:

  • A leader, to make sure everything moves along smoothly;
  • A notetaker;
  • A Continuity Reviewer. This is someone who is reviewing the UI specifically to make sure it is consistent with overall project guidelines, and with the other pages in the project.
  • Users - people who will attempt to use the page. They can be actual customers; agile-style customers; or just people who were walking down the hall at the wrong time.
  • A Designated Driver. This is someone who will perform actual mouse clicks or typing at the request of the users. This will depend on the exact situation - do you have a real application, or just some mockups? Do you have a big meeting room and a lot of users, or not? If not, the Designated Driver might as well just be the user.
  • Developers/Designers. Developers and designers who worked on the page must never explain or defend design, argue with users, or promise anything. They may only find problems. Users do not count as problems.
It's an important point for reviewing anything that if a reviewer doesn't find problems, he's not doing his job. I always have to remind myself of that. But the people who worked on the application; the programmers, the designers, the developers; they will always be able to give a reason for why it works the way it does. Don't listen! Mr. Constantine suggested a "virtual air horn" - you get to pretend to be a big truck and blow the horn to get people out of the way. You must blow the virtual air horn whenever excuses, explanations, or rationalizations are made.
Next, have the users go through the use case or scenario you've designed. Introduce the scenario with an overview of context and user motivation. Read one step of the scenario at a time, and ask the users what they would do next. Users take lead in proposing actions. Never guide or prompt users! Help is limited to simple description or clarification. If the user has to ask for help, you've automatically got a usability defect.
For each defect that you find, the notetaker should note:

  1. The feature or function that the defect is in;
  2. The location; which web page it is or a screenshot of the GUI
  3. Which design principle is being violated
  4. A short description of the problem
  5. The estimated severity of the problem. (nominal, minor, major, critical )
Ideally, these would be on a form the notetaker would be able to fill out.
You should probably allow one to three hours for the review. So that's it! Get out there and say goodbye to applications that look like they were designed by programmers!

Web Application Risk Modeling

"Reverse" model - take the business case of the system and work down to threats.

A threat is not a vulnerability. A threat is what someone might try to do to your system; a vulnerability is how they would do it successfully

What risk drivers are there?

Application overview: Documentation drill; models; dataflow
Decompose application: break it down into well-defined "chunks".

Identify threats against the security objectives

Identify vulnerabilities "Vulnerability Assessments"

A threat model helps you to define, categorize, and prioritize vulnerabilities

Make sure to fix vulnerabilities, not exploits - understand all nuances, attack potential, exploit paths


Other factors:
Ease of use, mitigants, timing, visibility,
monitorability (can you watch people doing stuff?),
access required( even for internal apps, what are the chances of a bad guy infiltrating? )

XSS: Take user-inputted data and display it back without filtering. Nuances to XSS (Reflective Script Attack, Persistent Private Vectors)
POST based attack would not show up in server logs

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

xUnit Test Patterns and Smells

This comes from a really good session by Gerard Meszaros on Test Patterns at SD Best Practices 2007.

Here's my history on test-driven develoment: Back in the nineties, I first read Martin Fowler's Refactoring. I thought it was a good idea, and attempted several refactorings on the code base I was working on, with good success. I think it was one of the better-coded applications to come out of that company. But I was always annoyed, because the instructions for the refactoring would always say something like, make your changes, and test. Testing is hard, man! Especially when you're testing a bit of the application that takes two minutes to get to from application launch and relying on a Direct3D driver to do the right thing.

So I added refactoring to my arsenal but didn't think too much more about it, until about five years ago, when I ran across an article on TDD in, I think, Dr. Dobbs, but it may not have been. The article mentioned some ideas about testing and mock objects, which turned out to be exactly what I needed for the project I was working on then, which was a business-level client API with a wrapper lib for calls to the server - the ideal thing for a mock. I played with it for a while, and it worked beautifully! Pretty soon I presented a proposal for moving to TDD to the team I was working with.

There were a couple of quotes that I put in my presentation (probably from the magazine article) that I really liked:

  • Tests must be easy to run. If they aren't, people won't run them.
  • Tests must be easy to write. If they aren't, people won't write them.
This session was all about the second quote.

The problem is, tests are easy to skip. Comment out. Ignore. If you do that, your code isn't being tested. But the client doesn't care about least in the beginning. Later on, if your code isn't being tested, bugs will start to crop up. You'll make a change in one area that you never in a million years thought would affect this bit of code over there. But it does, and you've introduced a bug. The client will sure care about that! So you really have to put the effort in to write tests.

But at the same time, you're selling the production code, not the tests. If your team is spending more time on the tests than on the code itself, your velocity is sure to suffer.

So what's the solution? Go back and look at the second quote again. Tests must be easy to write. How do we make them that way?

The first thing to notice is that your objectives for test code are probably going to be a little different than for the production code. For example, execution speed is crucial for production code. You can't have your users twiddling their thumbs while they wait for your web page to load. But for test code, not so much. Go ahead and add ten seconds worth of tests to your build; think anyone will notice? Or, add four hours worth of tests. Sounds good! Just make sure to run them overnight when no one needs to watch them.

On the other hand, is simplicity important for production code? can't hurt, of course. The smaller and cleaner you can get the code, the better. But sometimes there's nothing you can do about it; you have to add that cache for speed; or denormalize the database so you don't have to make calls across a dozen tables. But for test code? Let's say it again: Tests must be easy to write.

What else? Is correctness important for production code? Of course...but users will put up with small bugs. But correct test code is an absolute requirement. If you don't have the tests right, you'll be writing incorrect production code to satisfy the bad tests. What about flexibility? Code should be flexible, right? Not really, not test code. In fact, there will probably be enough hard-coded test values to make it hardly flexible at all.

This is getting long. I'll add more later.

Software in the large

Here are my initial notes on the Jutta Eckstein presentation on scaling agile development across large teams. Cleanup may follow :)

Scrum of Scrums

Iteration Duration: larger the team, shorter the development cycle
per week, count on a half day of retrospective (two week cycle = 1 full day retrospective)

Expectation: plan/develop/deliver.
Difficult - activity-oriented planning or component-oriented planning?
Therefore: Result-oriented planning. Focus on the features! Comes back to the Agile Manifesto: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer.

Plan for accomplishing a valuable feature: integration, test, documentation.
A feature is a brief statement of functionality, from the user's perspective
How does one deal with architecture issues?
A feature produces a measurable result.

Iterations are steered by features, but defined by tasks

Tracking tools: PPTS, TRAC
Someone also mentions they use Sharepoint
Or just three checkboxes: working on it, untested, done done
Tools support communication, not replace it

Release Planning

Iteration review (Demo)
Present software, recognize & extract best practices, learn from failure

Measurement: Acceptance tests, planned functionality, is the product owner satisfied?

Retrospective after every iteration. Likely problem that people try to make large-scale changes

- Cross-functional or feature teams
- A large project might have tech teams; the customer of a tech team is a feature team

An ideal team is self-organized; this ensures whole features and good knowledge sharing. Managers must provide environment allowing teams to gel. This is like my ACG posts from a few months ago.


Agile development is a trouble detector. Bad news is also good news. Integration of departments (Projects are customers) Close customer relationship ensures rapid feedback.

Discussion of implementing practices a few at a time. Ping-pong implementation!

Synchronization: Face-to-face is preferred. Sync across subteams daily (Scrum of scrums). If your team is self-organizing how does that work?

Communication via wiki

Just one "Chief architect" - pulls the strings, makes technical decisions, "guiding light". Relationship of chief architect and customer?

Starting: take baby steps. Start small. Use skilled people. Develop a few features and make sure to do iteration retrospectives. Grow slowly.

Don't finalize architecture before growing team; use retrospectives. Domain teams must formulate new requirements. (But you might have to finalize to eliminate fear...or at least say it's finalized!).

Avoid hot technology. A large project has enough problems on its own without trying to train developers on something new at the same time.

Refactoring: technical excellence is doubly important. If a developer sees a needed refactoring on another team, they have to point it out to them.

Large projects may have exponentially greater test time. 10% of dev effort for integration/build. (If something is difficult, do it over and over until it's not difficult any more.)
Q: Special iterations for integration? A: no
Nor a special integration team; rather people from each team who specialize in integrating

Special review team. People should jump around between teams, and be on a team strictly for the purpose of reviewing the code. Everyone should do this.

Knowledge transfer (via Daily Scrum and pair programming). Scrum master ensures the process; product owner ensures business value).

Q: Agility in a distributed environment. A:

Monday, September 10, 2007

Could not load type 'Global'

The comments on Harish's blog entry from two years ago give a lot of different solutions to the 'Could not load type "Global" ' problem that you sometimes get in ASP.Net. My solution to the issue was an interesting twist on one of those answers.

I had recently upgraded an application from ASP.Net 1.1 to ASP.NET 2.0, but to keep supporting old versions of the application, I branched it off in Subversion. To make sure the old version still worked, I checked out the old code into a new folder, then I went into IIS and simply moved the location of some virtual directories to point to the old code. It all worked and forgot about it.

Until later, when I came back to make some changes to the new application, started it up and got the message:

Parser Error Message: Could not load type 'WebApplication1.Global'.Source Error: Line 1: <%@ Application Codebehind="Global.asax.cs" Inherits="'WebApplication1.Global'" %>

I couldn't make heads or tails of it, but a web search led me to Harish's post and lots of different answers, several of which I tried, but none of which worked. One suggestion was to make sure the application was set in IIS to use ASP.Net 2.0 rather than 1.1, and even to set it to 1.1, click Apply, set it to 2.0 again and click Apply, just to make sure it took. Another was to make sure the application was compiled. If there's no assembly built for the application, it won't load.
I checked the ASP version, and it was indeed set to 2.0; I said, "Duh!" to compiling, but made sure there was an assembly in the bin directory, and there was; so I was at a dead end.

But I'm sure by now you see where this is going. As I opened up IIS to check the ASP.Net version configuration again, I happened to glance down at the local path for the virtual directory on that tab. And what did I see? The directory was still pointing at the path to the branched directory; a perfectly legal application, but one that was built using ASP.Net 1.1, and also had been cleaned sometime in the not-too-distant past. So the version I had configured in IIS was neither compiled, nor a 2.0 application! No wonder the error came up.

So I have an additional solution for this problem. Check your virtual directory location and make sure it's pointing to the application you're expecting it to be.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pair Programming with VNC

Dietrich Kappe writes on the Agile Ajax blog on surmounting the difficulties of pair programming when part of your team is offshore. Interesting stuff, but Dietrich, you also made the offhand comment that Test Driven Development is one of your commandments as well. What's your process for writing Ajax unit tests, and if you're not always doing continuous integration, how do you know your tests are always passing? I'd be curious to know!

Monday, August 27, 2007

School Daze

Wow, Amy Makice is stressing me out with her story of a second-grader stressed out in the first two weeks of class. I'm looking forward to hearing the resolution as I don't doubt I have similar experiences ahead - and of course, there are also the ramifications of putting the story online for everyone to see. My incessant questioning of a kindergarten teacher got my wife called to the principal's office at registration time, I think to reassure her that it was all going to be OK. I don't know if that was the direct result of the blog entry or not, though. But, my unsolicited advice, Amy, is to do all you can to resolve the issue before putting it online, just in case the subject of your entry ever has to read about herself on the net. People who aren't in the habit of writing for public consumption can be unreasonably angry when that happens!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Deconstructing the Wiki Decision

Educator Christian Long writes on using Wikis in the classroom. I'm not an educator, and my kid isn't one of Mr. Long's students, but I sure would like to see similar tools used in my kid's school. I'm not sure how particularly useful they would be in kindergarten, but editing that linked article as a class project would be fun.

That said, how likely is it that students are interested, under their own power, in editing a wiki? Based on my experience that only about 5% of readers tend to be contributors, I think it might be difficult - but of course, the percentage in an English class might be higher. Students around here are asked sometimes to edit Wikipedia or Bloomingedia as a class assignment; for example this article:

was obviously written by a local teen. But if you look at the contributor's history, he copied in the bulk of the article on March 30th, came back and fiddled with it a few days later, and then never came back again.

Now, Mr. Long isn't having his kids put their essays on the wiki - at least not yet! But if, or when, it occurs, I wonder whether an English class discussion wiki would really work on its own terms without constant prompting by teachers. I suspect it could, if it is linked to the real world somehow. I'll be following the experiment with interest.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bloomington not yet a'Twitter

Lots of interesting stuff going on in the Bloomington scene this week. James Boyd, who I've written about before, sat down to watch and interpret the 36 hours in three days of Monroe County budget hearings, and posted them on a dedicated comment thread on the newspaper's web site...I mentioned that on Twitter. Some of my coworkers wandered off to the Agile2007 conference and sent reports back on speakers they liked; I added a couple of people to my Twitter list and blogroll due to that. My kid started kindergarten, so I've been ramping up my list of educators as well (too bad there are no local ones as of yet!).

While James was posting his updates, I tried to follow along with his numbers on a Google spreadsheet, with only a fair amount of success. (Of course, my job was easy since all I did was read the comment threads. James had to try to interpret everything and post and try to keep up with details on the numbers - all in real time.) My goal was fairly self-centered: I wanted to understand exactly what they were voting on and why. But certainly if what I was doing was useful at all I wanted to share it - why keep it private? (A former boss asked me that once. Why did I blog about my trip instead of putting it in an email and sending it to the six or seven people in my group? All I could do was stare at him blankly.) All in all, I'd say that my, and probably a lot of other people's, information stream had gotten a lot wider this week.

Thinking along many of the same lines, only way more articulately than I could ever be, Kevin Makice wrote an piece on the future of local social networking. Kevin wants everyone to center around Twitter, which I doubt will happen. The Herald-Times has taken a real leadership role in this process, and they of course have a vested interest in bringing people to their site instead. Councilmember Sophia Travis pointed out that it was way too tough for her to actively participate in the discussion as well as listen to the issues, although she did manage a couple of notes.

So where do we go from here? Here are a few things I notice:

  • It took a professional, not a blogger, to (a) generate interest and (b) pull off the budget updates with the right amount of elan to keep everyone interested. Is this a requirement? I'd say no, but the fact is that I wasn't about to take several days off work to go down there and watch. It's a lot easier to do it if someone will pay you.
  • With the exceptions of Councilmembers Travis and Marty Hawk (who posts to the HT occasionally) there are few enough politicians in the general conversation, to expect that there will be many in the live conversation (by which I mean Twitter, or the running comment thread). It would be nice if this changed.
  • I had to ask early on in the process for copies of the spreadsheets the council was using. Apparently the auditor was running around with them on a thumb drive, handing out copies to whoever needed them. It would have been nice to just stick them on a web page at the beginning.
  • I want a budget expert available to answer questions from the public. I probably had a dozen questions over the three days - granted, I always have questions, it's because I don't know anything - but many of them James couldn't answer, and probably many he could have but didn't because he didn't have time. Wouldn't it have been cool if the auditor's office could have somebody sit and monitor the thread and explain stuff?
  • Let's not wait for next year's budget to do this again. Send the junior copy editor to update us on the Redevelopment Commission meeting. Let's get a volunteer blogger to liveblog the Planning Commission. Let's keep the government exposed!
  • Budget hearings are a really moronic way of doing things. A bunch of exhausted people sitting in a room voting yea or nay at random on a couple of grand so they can get it over with and get some lunch? Tell you what, next time let's get all the line items out on a nice wiki page and hash it out that way. I realize I'm text-centered and maybe others prefer the face-to-face, but then how about over NetMeeting or something?
  • Now, I'm not trying to grouse and say that things should have been done differently. Or to be more precise, of course they should be done differently, but we never know precisely how until afterwards. This has been a great learning week for me, and I hope, for everyone else as well.

Sorry, Kevin, I didn't get that Bloomingpedia article on the budget written; the hazards of citizen journalism :) But maybe now we all see a little bit more of the possibilities that are opening up before our eyes. Hey, follow me on Twitter!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dare Obasanjo on Open Social Networks

Dare writes on Open Social Networks. One thing he doesn't bring up, though, is the existence of specialized social networks and how they fit into the whole. He uses Flickr and YouTube as examples of sites that have good API's for getting and setting data, but part of the point of those is that they exist solely to allow users to push around specific types of content: images on Flickr, movies on YouTube. Facebook and MySpace have lots bigger fish in mind, wanting to take over your whole mindshare. It's an interesting evolution, isn't it? For a long time we talked about Microsoft and how they wanted to control everything on your desktop; then Google came along and we talked about how having everything in your browser was better than having everything in your desktop. Now it's not enough to have everything in the browser; we have to have it all on our social networking site. The one thing this really points out to me, though, is the fragility of these sites - for a while MySpace was the hot toy, but now it's Facebook. Is there any reason to think Facebook will be the place to be in six months or a year? I don't see one.

I learned via TechMeme, though, that Jeff Pulver is leaving LinkedIn for Facebook. I think it's a mistake, Jeff. LinkedIn is specialized; it exists for business contacts. It will probably be around in a couple of years, linking up business contacts. Facebook will probably be gone as people move on to the Next Big Thing.

To sum it up, it appears to me that the real evolution of social networking is going to be LinkedIn for business contacts; Flickr for pictures, LibraryThing for books, and then maybe a few small sites like Facebook and MySpace that aggregate all this data into a coherent whole for people who aren't interested in creating their own websites that aggregate all this data, or are nervous about being outside of the walled garden. But Facebook ain't the future. Don't expect it to be.