Brendan Enrick

Daily Software Development

Here be Books

Steve Smith tagged me with his books post last week, which was his response to Sadukie’s post on books. I will of course keep this modern chain letter going. Here be dragons books.

Currently and just finished reading:  I just visited my local library and picked up a copy of Planet of Twilight, which is the third book in a Star Wars trilogy. I’ve recently finished reading the second book of the same trilogy, Darksaber. Although I don’t like the name “Darksaber,” it is a well-written, entertaining book. My wife tells me, however, that I will not find the same to be true of Planet of Twilight.

On the technical side of things I’ve just started reading Agile Principles, Patterns, and Practices in C#, which lines up very well with a lot of the techniques I use in my day-to-day development, and I will be adding it to my required reading list shortly.

I plan to be reading a little bit less right now as I have been playing StarCraft 2. Let me know if you want to play a match.

From what medium I like my books: I haven’t ever gotten any of the digital readers, but I have read PDFs on my computer and on my phone. I’ve also used some of the book reader applications for my phone, and I tend to prefer reading books on pages printed on dead trees. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve not yet tried a good enough interface for digital reading. I intend to try one eventually.

Some book recommendations: If you’re interested in reading any Star Wars novels I would recommend that you begin with either the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zhan: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command or with the Michael Stackpole’s X-wing series: Rogue Squadron, Wedge's Gamble, The Krytos Trap, and The Bacta War.

If you’re interested in reading some fantasy stories I would recommend starting the Drizzt books starting with the first trilogy written about him, The Icewind Dale trilogy: The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and The Halfling's Gem.

For technical books, please check my not-so-up-to-date list of recommended software development books.

Tag, You're Up Next...

What are you reading?

Scott Forsyth

Ben Heimann

Andy Vanek

Jeffrey Palermo

Chris Wagner

The Art of Agile Development

A while back I started reading a copy of the Art of Agile Development, which is a great book. I was reading the book for more than one reason. I obviously wanted to learn more about how others approach agile development, but I was also looking for a book to recommend to other developers as well as to businesses.

One of the biggest troubles with agile development is the initial resistance to agile development shown by both developers as well as businesses. I am even talking about the developers and businesses who have already bought in to the idea that agile can be a good thing. People agree with the overall idea of agile, when it forces them to change their existing practices many will put up at least passive resistance.

This book is my new answer to some of that. The book is written with a good amount of details and examples that will backup the information it provides about agile development, and it does so in such a way that both development teams and those working with the teams can have a better understanding of how agile development can work.

The Art of Agile Development is loaded with information about real-world problems faced by software development teams, and how agile development worked in these situations. The book covers these examples while describing the specific steps the author recommends for performing agile software development.

I don’t follow the same practices in all cases as what the book describes. I don’t manage stories in the same way, and I don’t estimate and track the time on that work the same way. This doesn’t matter, because the book is really providing information on how agile can work and how it has worked in the past. Each team needs to find how best they can apply agile and work with them. I use a mix of Agile, Scrum, XP, and anything else that the team thinks will make us work better. As long as the process helps us deliver better software we’re all about it.

If you’re considering agile or trying to convince other people to consider agile, I would recommend reading this book and passing it along to others when you’re done reading it.

Full disclosure: I did not pay for this book. The copy of the book that I read was sent to me by the publisher.

Making Web Requests in Medium Trust

Trust levels in web development can be a pain in the rear. As a developer, I tend to not like them, because when they’re important it means that my options are being restricted. I am often required to perform extra work to complete the same tasks I would be performing elsewhere.

Medium trust is the trust level commonly used by web hosting companies, because it gives them a good balance of security and options. Ideally, as a programmer I can work in full trust, which allows me to do pretty much anything I want. That is, however, not at all what shared hosting requires. They need some extra added security.

Generally we develop for medium trust when we are either on a medium trust hoster or are working on a program which could be hosted in many places (including shared hosting).

For a project on which I am currently working, we needed to bypass some restrictions of medium trust to allow us to make an external request to a web service on another domain. Doing this will cause a security exception at run time. Keep in mind that the trust level can be violated when the site compiles, because certain things cannot be used at all in medium trust. In this case, it is our external service which caused the issue. I believe you could also have an issue if you’re running a web farm.

So how do we get around it?

We need to set up our trust element in the web.config file and hope that the hosting company is not overriding the use of this work-around. If the hoster is blocking this trick then you will want to see if you can resolve the issue using proxies. Some hosting companies will work with you to get your application running as long as it is not a security risk for them.

The key is the “originUrl” property of the trust element. We need to set that using a regular expression to define which URL we want to use. You should try to be more specific with the regular expression, but “.*” is still OK. That one will basically say any combination of any characters is OK. If we want to be more specific we might say that since our web service calls are all on the same domain we could use something like this “*”, and this would allow anything on that site.

<trust level="Medium" originUrl=".*" />
<!-- or this -->
<trust level="Medium" originUrl="*" />

If you need it, you can use this Regular Expression Cheat Sheet and this Regular Expression Tester.

Software Engineering 101 Cleveland Slides and Demos

Our Cleveland-based Software Engineering 101 event was modeled after two previous, successful events in Columbus and Nashville. The event was held at the Microsoft office in Independence, Ohio. The event went over very well; we managed to get a great group of about 50 students out for the event. Our negative feedback was the lack of Internet access and the fire alarm, which interrupted the event. Our schedule was thrown off a bit by the fire alarm, and we only needed to leave for lunch slightly early as a result. Other than that things went off without a hitch.

These are my slides on Object Oriented Principles, Practices, and Patterns. The practices of object oriented development I covered tie the principles together, and the patterns, strategy and template method, tie the principles together as well as prepare for Steve’s talk which followed mine.

These are my demos on Object Oriented Principles and Patterns. They’re simple and show the basic concepts of the slides.

Before throwing people into the deep with testing, I did a quick 15 minute introduction to testing.

Our hands-on programming exercise also went very well. I think we challenged some attendees and gave others some due practice by following previous examples and using the Greed Kata. This problem was great for reinforcing the concepts of my first talk, and if someone tried to follow the Open/Closed Principle while doing the problem they likely used the strategy pattern. I’d love for people to send me their implementations of the Greed Kata, so lets see what you’ve got.

Overall the event went well. Perhaps there is another one in our future. Let us know if you’d like us to do another.

We of course could not have done the event without the help of our organizing sponsors: Hudson Software Craftsmanship, NimblePros, and Microsoft. We are also grateful to our prize sponsors who offered up great prizes for the attendees: Pluralsight, DevExpress, NimblePros, JetBrains, and PreEmptive Solutions.

Software Engineering 101 in Cleveland

This week I’ll be speaking at a free day-long event for developers to improve their software engineering skills. The event is being held at the Microsoft office in Independence, Ohio. Microsoft is hosting the event being organized by the Hudson Software Craftsmanship group and NimblePros consulting services.

I’ll be kicking off the event with my main topic: Principles of Object Oriented Programming. Other topics will include: SOLID Software Development, Software Testing, and Specification Driven Testing. In the afternoon we’ll be doing Hands-On Exercises.

There are only a dozen seats remaining for the event scheduled for July 16, 2010. We’ll be starting in the morning at 8:30 AM and running until 4:00 PM. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Registration for the event is free and easy. Sign up now for the Software Engineering 101 – Cleveland event. Seats are limited, so register soon.