DDD9 Community Developer Day at Microsoft Reading

by Jon 29. January 2011 19:24

Travelling home after another fantastic DDD; an annual UK development community held at Microsoft Reading.  A big thanks must go to all the organisers and speakers that have yet again made this a fantastic day. 

Some of the topics were a bit techy so I am using this blog to attempt solidify the notes I made.  If you see any mistakes or oversights please please please get back to me so I can rectify them. 

I managed to cover Liam's talk and the basics of the other talks, I had planned to do more but I have been ill this week.  I may try to fill it out with more details if I time this weekend, or if someone gets back to me with a suggestion.

Go Asynchronous With C# 5.0 - Liam Westley

Liam went through one of the headline new features that is coming in C# 5.0 (also in vb.net 5.0), which was announced at PDC 2010 last year.  The New async keyword and its sister keyword await, are two new keywords in the language that simplify the way we perform asynchronous operations. In this world of multi-core processors and responsive handheld devices we need to be able to do several things at the same time more efficiently without making an accidental mistake that brings your code crashing down.  Liam demonstrated the problem we face by offering three members of the audience hot drinks.  If you want to do three things at the same time, (make three hot drinks), there is a temptation for a developer to start up three threads, the analogy Liam made was this is like getting three kettles out and making three hot drinks at the same time.  Its not sensible, it uses too many resources and it will take you longer!  Its better to do it in a more controlled way, but in c# 4.0 (and other languages) the extra code needed to achieve this will add extra lines to your code that muddies the water hiding the detail of what we want to achieve.

Async and Await are two words that we will use to manage the complexity better, enable use to boil hot water and make drinks quicker without hiding the complexity involved in asking people what drinks they want.  The process of making three hot drinks is pretty simple so if we can describe it in a simple way but include markers to say how we are going to achieve this asynchronously we are onto a winner. 

The two new keywords means we are able to write asynchronous code but it looks like single threaded code in your source file.  By placing the Async and Await Keywords in the right places the dotnet compiler will take your essentially single threaded code and construct call backs in the right places at compilation!

Async – We use this keyword to mark a method, its a statement of intent to say we may be performing asynchronous operation.

Await – Await can only be used within a method that has already been marked with an Async keyword.  If you place the word Async before you call a method you want to be run asynchronously the compiler will ensure the code that is after the keyword will be executed on a Callback without you having to write any extra code.

The code looks amazing but there appear to be a couple of gotchas:

  • You have to be really careful not to use the word await in your method names, you need to check your naming conventions before you implement.
  • A method marked with the async keyword can only return void, task or Task<TResult>
  • The naming convention seems a little off, as await doesn’t wait.  It is a request to continue running on a callback
  • Exception handling looks a bit funky less than clear in some scenarios which could get confusing.

It looks fantastic, and I look forwards to using it but it almost needs a health warning because it so much easier to write asynchronous code, i can see that lots of people may start using the keywords everywhere. When they start getting weird exceptions they can’t fix there will be the temptation to swallow them.  Obviously this can happen today in our current callback centric world, but there is a smallish barrier to entry.  I’m looking forwards to seeing this in the framework, if the names will stick, and what if anything will change with the exceptions.  If you want to look at this now you can grab the CTP here, but be warned its not compatible with MVC3 or VS2010 SP1.  Liam mentioned that as this is a CTP we as developers have a chance to get back to MS to ask for features or changes we want to see in c# 5.

Monads! What are they and why should I care? - Mike Hadlow

Mike Hadlow is one clever bloke, I got to the end of the talk and I wasn’t even sure if the questions I had were valid.  I thought I knew what monads were by the end of the talk but looking at my notes its still not clear.  In summary most developers probably shouldn’t care unless they are really interested in it.  From what I understand monards are used all over the dotnet framework, LINQ, IEnumerable<T> by understanding the concept you will better understand what is going on under the seams.  I need to see this again, and probably again and do some sample coding to get my head round it before I can put together a sensible overview.

But it does beg a bigger question, does the average developer need to know what a monad is?  A developers job is to create software that solves a problem quickly and cheaply, it doesn’t really matter how this is done.  It goes back to my previous post on what is Lean.  The customer couldn’t care less if you know about monads, they don’t even want a piece of software, they just want there life to be easier/nicer.  If knowing monads helps developers achieve this; great.  Its one for my list of things to read about.

Functional Alchemy: Tricks to keep your C# DRY - Mark Rendle

DRY stands for Do Not Repeat yourself.  As a developer if you find yourself writing the same code, or even doing the same thing over and over again your doing something wrong.  Mark Rendle showed us some ways we can use Functional Tricks to reduce the amount of code we write and reduce repetition.  Mark made a great point that using an OO language is can be like using a Hammer to crack a nut, not everything is an object.  Mark then went through some code, I especially liked the functional catch and the cached dictionary looked useful, although the lock looked a little dangerous for my liking.

Again in my mind software development is getting something done as quickly and as simply as possible, not having to write the same line of code over and over again is an advantage, and I loved the extra readability some of the sample code added.

Is your code S.O.L.I.D ? - Nathan Gloyn

Nathan about to start his talkKind of, but it could be alot better.  I loved this talk, Nathan took a pretty dodgy asp.net project which had inline SQL and transformed it into a thing of beauty.  He showed how you can take any dotnet code and make it much better using SOLID principles.

SOLID is a set of principles about class design, they are principles to consider not rules to apply.  Each letter of SOLID stands for a different concept which is designed to remove the nasty ‘Design Smells’ that infect code bases.

Nasty Code Smells Nice SOLID Principle
  • Rigidity – Cant Change
    Fragility – one change will break other things
  • Viscosity – changes are too much work, and a dirty hack is preferable
  • Complexity – Makes it difficult to change in future
  • Repetition – Waste of time writing the same thing over and over again
  • No Opacity – lines are code are confusing, do different things
  • Single Responsibility – Each object has a single responsibility
  • Open/Closed – Software is open for extension closed for modification
  • Liskov substitution – objects can be swapped out for different reasons, ie testing, for different database back ends etc etc.
  • Interface Segregation – Lots of client interfaces are better rather than a single fat interface
  • Dependancy Inversion – Dependencies are turned on there head so objects are loosely coupled

After whistling through the concepts Nathan then dived into code taking a legacy application and applying each of the SOLID principles in turn to refactor the solution into a much cleaner, more testable manageable project.  Nathan covered alot in this presentation and I was glad I took notes so I could look into it further when I got home.  I’m looking forwards to going to the next talk that Nathan gives.

Enforcing Code ‘Beauty’ With StyleCop - Guy Smith-Ferrier

Unfortunately I made it to this session a little late, because I had got myself into a table tennis match on xbox kinect!  Unfortunately as soon as I made it to the session I found that StyleCop is of no use to our business because it doesn’t support vb.net.  A bit of a surprise as StyleCop is open source, might take a peek if I ever get any time!

Beginners Guide To Continuous Integration - Paul Stack

I have recently implemented TeamCity in our organisation, CI is life changing.  It fits in with the DRY principle, developers should be aiming to automate any repetitive tasks and for many organisations software Builds, Testing and Release take an inordinate length of time.  Paul covered the basics of what CI is, how you should pick a CI and did a quick demo, a nice taster session for anyone who hasn't thought about CI.  It didn’t cover anything really new for me but it was nice to see a different perspective., and I liked the presentation style.  I was set next to a guy who got really interested and ended up giving him a link to my blog so he could take look at my beginning TeamCity blog series.  I think this session interested alot of people; who just want to save time and .’. save money.  The advantages to CI are clear, reduced risk, reduced bugs better testing, faster release, you can take it to another level it has even been joked on twitter that ideally your CI system should order you a pizza if you break a build Smile with tongue out


conference | ddd | development


Using Windows Phone 7 as a modem from your laptop

by Jon 28. January 2011 21:35

As DDD9 is tomorrow I was looking for a way to connect to the internet my laptop on the train.  I assumed that using my new WP7 as a modem would be impossible, but appears not.  The folks at hdblog.it got it working in November!  Its a pretty simple process and quick enough for you to setup as you travel down, but you need to have ZUNE installed on your laptop for the drivers.

  1. Goto the Phone Dialler on your WP7
  2. Enter ##634#
  3. Press Call
  4. The screen will change, show the WP7 Loading clock  then change to ‘Diagnosis (ver.0929)’
  5. Enter *#7284#
  6. The screen will change to ‘Micro USB Test’ and show three Options
  7. Press ‘Modem, Tethered Call’
  8. You will get a confirmation telling you that you have to reboot the device
  9. Press ‘ok’
  10. The device will reboot
  11. Plug your WP7 phone into your laptop using a USB lead
  12. Your laptop will install modem drivers
  13. Make a new dialup connection, enter *99# in the Dial Box and leave user name and password blank
  14. Press Dial
  15. Your are using your WP7 device as a modem

Repeat the process and select Zune to revert back to Zune Sync, you will nee to revert back to Zune Sync to re-enable side loading of apps.

Enter ##634# into the dialer Enter *#7284# into the diagnositics window
Choose Modem, Tethered Call
Add a Dialup Connection using your Wp7


conference | ddd | General | windows phone 7 | WP7


Developer Developer Developer 8a 23rd Oct 2010; Another great community day by the DDD team

by Jon 23. October 2010 18:59

I’m heading home after another long but fantastic day at Microsoft Reading, UK.  The day officially started started at 8am with bacon butties laid on by the venue hosts Microsoft who provided an excellent venue for this Mini Geekathon at there UK offices in Reading.  However that is pretty much where Microsoft's roles ends and the community takes over.  Developer Developer Developer is a group of individuals that get sponsorship and lay on development events around the UK.  The DDD events are FREE events organised by developers for developers; todays event was titled Modern.Net.  Modern.Net is .NET we can do now with current tools the idea of the day was to cover all the latest things in .NET that developers can use now to target Acer Aspire One, Amazing Battery Lifenew platforms and write better code.  I came armed with my new mini Acer aspire one, which appears to have better battery life than I expected.  I was surprised to see 8hours 46 mins remaining after a couple of hours of use on the way down and that's with Bluetooth turned on and active!

The day was split Into two rooms which made it really difficult to choose sessions to attend as I would have loved to see the sessions that were running in the room next door.  I resolved this problem by pretty much deciding which session to attend at the last minute.

WP7, iPhone, Droid - Oh My ! - Chris Hardy

Did you know you could develop against the three most important smart phone device types just with.NET?  Chris went through the different ways you develop each platform, explaining the differences and requirements for each smartphone.

Phone Platform Cost My Notes
Windows Phone7 Windows,
Visual Studio
vs2010 Express $0
Appstore $99 PA
Nice and simple develop, as it is just Silverlight.  It has some oddities due to Tombstoning but this should be the easiest and cheapest platform for .NET developers to get into.
iPhone Mac, Mono Develop, Mono Touch Monotouch $400, Appstore $99 PA You need a Mac to develop this because you need to have the IPhone SDK that only works on a Mac.  There are lots of restrictions and tricks (ahead of time compiler, stripping out bits of the framework you don’t need at compile time) that have been performed by the MonoTouch developers to get this to work which means you will always be lumbered with a larger assemblies.  However the advantages of using MonoTouch over Objective C is Clear and it now sounds like Apple has now embraced MonoTouch as an easier way of developing for there platform.
Android Mac/Windows/Linux, Mono Develop, Mono Droid MonoDroid $1000
Appstore $25 One Off
Although MonoDroid is at an early stage it looks the most exciting to me; apart from the high cost of the Licence for MonoDroid.  You can develop MonoDroid from any platform, and although there is the odd fudge it looks like it will be a much better development experience for developers when the product is released.  You can create widgets and applications with MonoDroid, and you can get access to other libraries such as OpenGL.  There are currently a couple of issues including asynchronous and multi Threading not working yet but they will be fixed when MonoDroid is released.


Chris Scaring us with MonoTouch Minimum App SizeWP7 is clearly the easiest platform to develop for in .Net but the advantages of .Net for the other smartphones is clear.  Developers are now able to separate logic and develop a re-useable libraries that if developed carefully can be reused between the platforms thus reducing the pain of developing cross platform smartphone applications .  Most Interestingly I personally think that the relatively low cost and ease of development bodes very well for the new WP7 platform.

Managed Extensibility Framework - Kathleen Dollard

This was my favourite session of the day; i had heard bits and bobs about MEF from other developers prior to this session but I haven't had time to investigate it so I was looking forwards to this session by Kathleen.  Kathleen enthusiastically explained MEF from the basics to the detail by rattling through two presentations in the limited time at breakneck speed.  I didn’t get it all and the certainly wasn’t time for detailed notes but here are the basics.

MEF is different, stands for Managed Extensibility Framework and developers can used it to develop separate units that can work together but so the logic can separated more sensibly.  Imagine a room of kids drawing things, some have crayons some don’t, some kids are shouting I want a crayon, other kids are shouting I want a crayon.  MEF is the system that can be used connect the kids who want crayons to people who have crayons.  There are currently two models available to do this, one of the models is designed especially for Silverlight, the other is more general purpose for dotnet.

One thing I found interesting is that essentially it is DIY SOA, if you want a flexible SOA architecture this seems like a great way to go.  Kathleen gave lots of examples why MEF or something like it is the future.  Although I haven’t explained it very well it looks like a much much better way of developing systems, I defiantly need to see more sessions on MEF as I want to use it for some personal projects.

Dynamic Consumption in C# 4.0 - Oliver Sturm

I had seen Oliver Sturm before when he took us through f'# one evening after UkTechdays, gosh he is a clever bloke.  In this session Oliver took us through dynamic consumption and some of the dynamic features in c# 4.0.  As far as I can tell a chunk of the dynamic features in c# 4.0 have originated from vb.net so some of the ohhs and ahhs are less impressive to me as I have been using them for years and years in vb.net, c# has essentially caught up with vb.net, and has a few new dynamic features.  After demonstrating the dynamic features of c# he demonstrated how you can call dynamic languages from within c#, first doing office automation, and next calling out to python using a python library and returning the results into c# looks interesting if you need that kind of thing.  The summary c# isn’t dynamic but it can now interact with dynamic languages.  Useful to know if I ever need to do it, but at the moment its not something I will be doing.  IMO Vb.net developers will be less impressed with this presentation, but it was an interesting one to go to.

Lunch and Grok Talks

Jon Skeet wowing the audianceLunch was kindly provided by Microsoft and we sat in the main lecture hall munching away listening to some concise talks on a variety of subjects.  I liked the concept of a 20:20 presentation, 20 PowerPoint slides in set to auto run at 20 seconds for each slide, the presentation was on @plip and twitter but i liked the concept.  The talk on Behaviour Driven Design (BDD) was interesting, the presenter showcased his own framework for F'# called TickSpec.  I can see how his framework methodology has its benefits for highly specified systems.  Finally dinner ended in a geekout with different presenters from the day answering questions on .net and development theory from the audience, eye opening and I discovered an alterative (cooler?) way to say tuple!

Modern C#: This is not your grand-daddy's language - Jon Skeet


Jon Skeet pretty summed up the entire day with his presentation on modern C#.  The theme of the presentation was the theme of the day, Modern.Net and how it has evolved over the years by doing a direct comparison between the oldest and the newest version.  We can express more than we could before, C# 1 was wobbly wobbly, but today C# 4 is more descriptive and defined.


Jon lead us through the differences by deep diving into the code, he wrote the same code in both versions; find the maxby and return it and tried to make both solutions as defined and generic as possible.  The C# 1 code turned out to be simpler and shorter but the bug difference was in the reusability and strictness.  The C# 4 code was more reusable and strict at the same time, you had to jump through some nasty hoops to make the C# 1 code anywhere near as reusable and sensible.  At the end the C# was still shorter, but the client code required to use it had to be longer and there was defiantly a bigger chance to make an error with the C# 1 calling code.

At the end of an interesting talk, we were left everyone with a chunk of interesting thoughts…

  • f# is complicated but it has lots of inertia in the industry
  • Learn F# to improve your c# (and vb.net ;p)
  • Think about what is coming in future, dotnet 5

IMHO the future is more CPUs, so its worth bearing in mind when looking to the future.

WPF in Modern .NET - Ian Griffiths

Unfortunately I missed the start of this talk due to the start of a migraine, starting to feel very tired, and listening to Jon Skeet outside the hall for the first 15 mins of this session.  I stood at the back with @NathanGloyn and I took the opportunity to charge all mu devices, which stopped me from taking any notes.  Ian defended WPF throughout the session but in my mind didn’t really give much to backup his defence.  I’ve seen WPF before and yes it has its advantages and yes it will be used but I still don’t get the separation between Silverlight and WPF.  In my mind why separate the two it would be much better to have Silverlight, Silverlight, even if there are differences diluting two frameworks and having two brands doesn't seem the most sensible strategic decision.


And with that that was it, another long development day.  We all caught the bus back to the train station and scuttled off home on the train.  Thanks to all the organisers, and Microsoft for the venue, it was another fantastic day.  Hopefully one day I will complete a blog post on the day of a DDD event before a migraine stops me in my tracks!

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conference | ddd | vs2010


Automatic CI Versioning using TeamCity and MSBuild

by Jon 4. October 2010 20:33

If you read my first post on getting started with TeamCity, and my follow up post on moving to MSBuild you will have a lovely CI system that builds your solution each you commit your changes.  Whilst this sounds fantastic, unfortunately of the assemblies that are built will all be versioned with the same version that is pulled from the AssemblyInfo.  Luckily it isn't a major change to get MSBuild to update your solution files with the version number stored in TeamCity every time a build occurs by tweaking your MsBuild File: (and installing MsBuild Community Tasks)

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?> 
<Project  DefaultTargets="ReleaseBuild" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003">
<Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\MSBuildCommunityTasks\MSBuild.Community.Tasks.Targets"/>

    <Target Name="ReleaseBuild">

        <Message Text="Set the correct $(BUILD_NUMBER)" /> 
	<FileUpdate Files='AssemblyInfo.vb' 
	  ReplacementText='Version("$(BUILD_NUMBER)")' />

	<FileUpdate Files='AssemblyInfo.cs' 
	  ReplacementText='Version("$(BUILD_NUMBER)")' />

        <Message Text="Building"/> 
        <MSBuild Projects="ProjectName.sln" Targets="Rebuild" /> 



Shared Solution Level Assembly InfoThis change uses the FileUpdate Task in MsBuild Community Tasks to be performed on the two specified files, AssemblyInfo.vb and AssemblyInfo.cs.  The Regex will search for the word Version, followed by a valid four digit string version, and replace it with the build version configured in team city.

I use a Solution wide AssemblyInfo file called SolutionAssemblyInfo.vb or SolutionAssemblyInfo.cs to standardise Assembly Information across the solution by using a single shared file.  You can Create this shared file in Visual Studio by Adding a New Item to the Solution Directly, and then after you have created it you link it into each project by clicking on Add existing in each project and pressing the Arrow on the 'Add' Button and selecting 'Add as Link' instead.  This Shared Solution wide file contains the assembly info that is shared across the assemblies, each project will contain the link to shared assembly info file, and the existing assembly info file in the My Project folder.

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ddd | development | MSSQL Server | Versioning


Using MsBuild with TeamCity, (dotnet 3.5). Look Ma no Visual Studio!

by Jon 12. September 2010 01:08

I am currently moving our TeamCity to a different Virtual Server using this post by Mikael Henriksson.  Its is a fresh server install I thought it would be a great excuse to blog the steps you need to take to get MsBuild Working on your TeamCity.  In my previous post I described how to get started with Team City in under 5 Minutes, this short post follows on from that.

MsBuild gives you more flexibility when compiling your projects/solution.  However it isn't especially clear from documentation how you get your server configured to use MSBuild, or even what a basic MsBuild file will look like.  I got there painfully through trial and error, if you want to get up and running with MSBuild in TeamCity without having to install Visual Studio 2008 at all on your server follow the following six steps:

1. Install the MsBuild Community Tasks via the Msi Installer

2. Download an Install Windows SDK for Windows Server 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5 on your server.  During the install you only need to Select the DotNet Development Tools to be installed.

3. Update the Build Targets so you can build the projects you work on your Server.  You need to copy the relevant files from your development machine to your Build Server by updating files in "C:\Program Files (x86)\MSBuild\Microsoft\"

4. Create the SolutionName.msbuild in the root directory of your solution, where SolutionName is the name of your solution.  You will need to update "SolutionName.sln" inside the MsBuild File to point at your solution.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> 

<Project DefaultTargets="ReleaseBuild" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003"> 

<Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\MSBuildCommunityTasks\MSBuild.Community.Tasks.Targets"/> 

    <Target Name="ReleaseBuild"> 

        <Message Text="Building Your Solution"/> 

        <MSBuild Projects="SolutionName.sln" Targets="Rebuild" />



5. Go to your TeamCity and Edit your Build Runner so is is MsBuild, Change your Target to Release Build to Match the Target in the MsBuildFile, and update any command line parameters you may need. I am using an additional commandline parameter /p:OutDir=%teamcity.build.checkoutDir%\target\ which will compile a solution full of separate webapplications to a single target directory.

6. When you are happy you have the MsBuild File and TeamCity Build Runner correctly matching, commit your msbuild file to SVN.  Your Build will be automatically trigggered and MsBuild will be used to compile your solution instead of Visual Studio.  

This should give you alot more flexibility in future.  If this doesn't work for you or if I have made a mistake just leave me a comment and I will improve the post for others in future.

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ddd | MsBuild | SVN | TeamCity.Net

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