Central 1.6: Peopleware: Your Father's Software Development?
by Mike Gunderloy
March 6, 2002 - Vol. 1 #6
In this issue :
1) Editorial Chatter
It's Survey Time!
4) Improving Software Development: Peopleware:
Your Father's Software Development?
5) .NET Explorer
Project 2002 Conquers New Worlds
7) Review: Kutchka Templating
8) Review: Total Visual Code Tools 2002
9) Review: IP*Works!
V5 .NET Edition
10) Review: AQTime
12) Review: abcDB Pro
13) New and Notable
15) Reader mail
16) Web Resources for
First, let me just say ARGH and apologize for leaving out the URL
of DataMystic, whose excellent TextPipe Pro I reviewed in the
last issue of Developer Central. You'll find them at http://www.datamystic.com/
-- and be sure to check out the review of DataPipe later in this
So, that out of the way, the big news for this issue, at least
from the certified developer point of view, is that Microsoft is
revamping their developer certifications. You might have missed the
announcements in amongst all the other fuss at the .NET launch
event, so let me start by just summarizing the requirements for the
new certifications. Before digging in, though, it's important to
note that the old MCSD is *not* going away, at least not any time
soon. Apparently Microsoft learned its lesson from the abortive
attempt to sink the NT4 MCSE credential.
That said, you now have your choice of two developer
certifications: MCAD and MCSD. MCAD is the new Microsoft Certified
Application Developer, aimed at those who build application but who
don't necessarily need the enterprise design and analysis skills
included in the MCSD exams. With proper planning you can (and, I
think, should) earn the MCAD on the way to the MCSD. Here's the MCAD
One core exam from the following list:
- Web applications
with VB .NET
- Web applications with C#
applications with VB.NET
- Windows applications with C#
A second core exam from the following list:
- Web Services
and server components with VB.NET
- Web Services and server
components with C#
One elective from the following list:
- Web applications with
- Web applications with C#
- Windows applications
- Windows applications with C#
- Designing SQL
Server 2000 databases
- Designing BizTalk solutions
Designing Commerce Server solutions
Note that you can only have one "web applications" and one
"windows applications" exam counted. For example, if you use Web
Applications with VB .NET to satisfy the core requirement, you can
NOT use Web Applications with C# as an elective. But you can use
either of the Windows applications exams as an elective in that
(I've used short names for the exams instead of the lengthier
official ones, which you can find at http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/mcp/mcad/resources.asp)
So, that's the MCAD. How about the new MCSD? Microsoft calls it
the MCSD for Microsoft .NET Certification, but you know that
everyone else in the known universe will refer to it as MCSD .NET.
Here's the deal:
Required core exam:
- Analyzing Requirements and Defining
.NET Solution Architectures
A second core exam from the following list:
applications with VB .NET
- Web applications with C#
A third core exam from the following list:
applications with VB.NET
- Windows applications with C#
A fourth core exam from the following list:
- Web Services
and server components with VB.NET
- Web Services and server
components with C#
And one elective from the following list:
- Designing SQL
Server 2000 databases
- Designing BizTalk solutions
Designing Commerce Server solutions
Note that many of the new exams are not yet available. Apparently
it will be June or later before you can actually earn the MCAD, and
2003 before the .NET Solution Architecture exam goes live. (We asked
Microsoft about this, and they said "The timing for the release of
exam 70-300 relies on the need to conduct a job-task analysis among
developers who create architecture solutions based on the recently
released final version of Microsoft Visual Studio .NET. The job-task
analysis will validate all tasks of a lead developer including
design and architectural skills. Exam 70-300 is very important as it
will be a key differentiator between the MCAD and MCSD. We intend,
as we do with all of our exams, to take the necessary steps to
ensure the highest quality." Which may mean that they, like the rest
of us, are still working out the details of .NET architecture best
practices.) But unless you need the MCSD *right now* for some
reason, I'd recommend waiting and taking the .NET-related exams.
Those skills should keep you busy for a few years, and the
credentials won't retire any time soon.
So, what's the deal here? I think it's fairly simple: the
Microsoft merry-go-round has taken another turn, and certification
is going the .NET route along with everything else about the
company. Yes, you can get off the merry-go-round if you like. But
think for a moment: what happened to the developers who said "DOS is
good enough, I don't need to know Windows!"? Or "DDE is fine, who
needs COM!"? Sure, there will be work using the older generation of
development tools for quite a while. But inevitably those
opportunities will begin to contract. If you believe the MCSD is a
valuable credential today, then the MCAD or MCSD .NET should be
equally valuable next year.
OK, enough certification. I'm sure I'll revisit this topic in
future issues, preferably with your feedback. But for now, there are
a lot more reviews, notes, and URLs below. Hope you find some of
them useful! If you have feedback on these resources, MCSD .NET, or
anything else, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com
(And the perennial note: watch out for URLs that wrap later in
this newsletter, especially ones that point to MSDN. HEY MICROSOFT,
how about some shortcuts to MSDN pages?)
Weblinks: Fresh Developer Content on 101's websites
- Special Report: Tuning into .NET:
- Corel's new tack: XML, content management:
- Rational tool works with .NET Studio and IBM's Java IDE:
- CompTIA Developing Security Cert:
- Microsoft Plans Minor Update to Windows CE .NET:
- Microsoft Details New Developer Certifications:
- Quick Look: Run SQL Server at its Peak:
- Measuring Up MCPs:
- ASP.NET Crash Course:
- Programming Perfection:
It's Survey Time!
One of the biggest problems with writing an e-mail newsletter is
that it's hard to get to know your audience. So, I'd like to ask you
to take a few minutes to visit http://www.larkware.com/MCPSurvey/survey1.aspx
. What you'll find there is the first (and probably not the last)
Developer Central Reader Survey. For this first one, I've got some
questions about what you think the hot areas will be for development
in the next few years, both in the industry as a whole and in your
own career. Is there something I should be writing more about? Or
something I should just shut up about? Now's your chance to tell me!
We'll also take a look at the survey results as we plan topics for
future issues of MCP Magazine.
You're welcome to be anonymous, but there's also a spot on the
survey for your e-mail address. I won't share this with anyone, but
I will draw one random winner from all the respondents and send that
person a copy of my own SQL SERVER DEVELOPER'S GUIDE TO OLAP WITH
ANALYSIS SERVICES. So: a chance to give me a piece of your mind, a
chance to win a book, and a chance to influence future coverage.
What more could you want? C'mon, click that link now and let me know
what you think.
Improving Software Development
Peopleware: Your Father's Software Development?
Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister wrote Peopleware in 1987. The
second edition, featuring 8 new chapters, came out in 1999 from
Dorset House Publishing. The book is based on research that started
in the early seventies, making some of the stuff here more than a
quarter-century old. That's a long time in programmer years. I seem
to recall we were programming with pointy sticks and clay tablets
back then, but the memories are pretty hazy.
Anyhow, is there anything for the hot-shot latte-drinking dot-com
developer generation to learn from this book? Amazingly enough, the
answer is a resounding yes! This book is a classic of the field of
software management, and at just over 200 pages it should be
required reading for any team leader or manager.
Note that this is not a programming book. The subtitle here is
"Productive Projects and Teams." What DeMarco and Lister are
concerned with is the fact that the ratio in productivity, by almost
any measure, between different teams is ten to one in the software
industry. Put another way, the best teams can build in a year what
the worst teams take a decade to do. And this doesn't seem to be
just a matter of the best teams having the best programmers (though
the best programmers do tend to gravitate to the companies that have
an environment that encourages good teams). So what's the
DeMarco and Lister argue that the difference is that the good
teams have a good working environment, aren't subject to ridiculous
nonsense that doesn't contribute to developing software, and have
managers who stay out of the way (and if necessary run interference
to keep other people out of the team's way). Along the way, they
talk about the stultifying effects of Big Methodologies, the
necessity of offices with doors and windows rather than those odious
cubicles, having fun at work, the necessity of some chaos, and why
some organizations can learn and others can't, among other things.
Beware the Furniture Police
Many of the problems that the authors identify boil down to
management treating developers as if they were cattle rather than
people using their brains for a living. For example, they devote
several sections to skewering the Furniture Police, who are (sad to
say) found in any major corporation. If you've ever worked in a
cubicle farm, this might ring a bell:
"Basement space is really preferable from the point of view of
the Furniture Police, because it lends itself more readily to
uniform layouts. But people work better in natural light. They
feel better in windowed space and that feeling translates directly
into higher quality of work. People don't want to work in a
perfectly uniform space either. They want to shape their space to
their own convenience and taste....The very person who could work
like a beaver in a quiet little cubbyhole with two large folding
tables and a door that shuts is given instead an EZ-Whammo Modular
Cubicle with seventy-three plastic appurtenances. Nobody shows
much interest in whether it helps or hurts effectiveness."
Fortunately, this is one area where things have changed for the
better, at least in some organizations. Microsoft, for example, is
notorious for "wasting money" on things like offices with doors and
windows for developers, free drinks, lounging areas, and other such
nonsense. The result? Microsoft people actually like being in the
office, for the most part, and are free to concentrate on writing
good quality code. In fact, Joel Spolsky [http://www.joelonsoftware.com/navLinks/fog0000000262.html]
has argued that one of the reasons for Microsoft's success is that
Bill Gates built an entire company full of managers who've read
Peopleware. Joel recommends that software managers re-read the book
once a year -- not a bad idea, at that.
Of course, the Furniture Police are just a symptom of a larger
problem that turns up in many guises. The problem is that a
misplaced sense of efficiency leads to cost-cutting measures that
actually cost money in the long run because they impede team
building and software development. A few other examples:
- Those odious "motivational accessories" (you know, the ones
with some full-color photo and a phrase like "Giving Your Soul to
the Company is the Highest Good") that are substituted for real
motivators (like higher pay or offices with doors) by penny-pinching
- Institutional adherences to process improvement programs (most
notably the Capability Maturity Model) that concentrate on making
your process efficient while removing all consideration of whether
you're efficiently producing anything the market wants to buy. If
the CMM were reflected in the real world, perfect mud pies would
sell for more than flawed coconut cream pies.
- Teams that get scattered all over the corporate campus because
it's too much trouble for the facilities people to find them a
single set of offices in one contiguous block.
You get the idea. The problems are legion, and DeMarco and Lister
fearlessly catalog many of them.
The Magical Flow State
Rock-climbers enter a state called "flow" while they're
concentrating, in which moving up the rock seems effortless and
timeless, the entire body is involved in the climb, and everything
comes together perfectly. Of course, much as we'd like to pretend
otherwise, software development isn't really like rock-climbing. For
one thing, when our code falls down it doesn't tend to cause
compound fractures. But we do share one thing: the flow state. Many
words have been written trying to describe this state. Fortunately,
I don't have to add to them. If you've ever done serious software
development, uninterrupted by petty nonsense, you know what flow
feels like. It not only feels good, it leads to good code.
"Flow" is the thing that management tends not to understand, the
reason that the Furniture Police are allowed to dictate your working
environment. As DeMarco and Lister point out, this is completely
understandable, because most management is naturally
interrupt-driven. Management is the very art of responding to
endless interruptions. Unfortunately, software development isn't.
After a five-minute phone call it takes most developers fifteen
minutes or more to get back into a flow state. If the five-minute
phone calls come once every twelve minutes, you're doomed.
As an aside, I'd love to see some serious research on whether
outstanding programmers get into a flow state more quickly than
others. My hunch is that they do. I also suspect that they can
maintain a deeper stack of interruptions without losing track of
what's at the bottom of the stack. Of course hunches are much easier
to come by than proof.
Bear in mind, though, that it's not just the mysterious and
oppressive Them that keep developers out of a flow state. We also do
it to ourselves. If you have trouble getting there, try shutting
down your e-mail client for a few hours. The world won't come to an
end, and you won't have that niggling interruption hitting you every
But What About Us Independents?
If you've gotten the impression that Peopleware is based on
experiences with software teams at large corporations, you're right.
Of course in these "new economy" days, there are an awful lot of us
writing software in corporations where the staff can be counted on
your fingers, even if you include the cats and dogs. Despite that, I
think this book still has a few things to offer the independent
First off, if you're having one of those days where you think
corporate wage-slavery might be preferable to yet another round of
phone calls to shake money out of dilatory customers, reading about
the bad management nonsense here may give you renewed energy for
being out on your own. More importantly, though, independents are
their own managers. We're not immune from setting up our own offices
in such a way that it helps us fail. Is your toddler underfoot for
hours during the working day? Do you have a ballgame on the
television for "background noise"? Just how much time did you spend
on web-surfing today, hmmm? Recognizing -- and removing -- the
homegrown impediments to flow can help you deliver more value to
your clients, and ultimately raise your billable rate.
Finally, it's the rare independent developer who never spends
time in a corporate setting. Understanding the principles set out in
this book can help you make better use of your time out in the
field. For one example, if you're writing a boilerplate contract,
you should specify that you'll be given a working area with a desk,
chair, and door. If the client balks at that, the warning bells
should go off in your head. Find another job, or at the very least
raise your rate.
A Fun Read
If you've already read Peopleware, now what? Two suggestions.
First, it's worth dropping by the web site for the Atlantic Systems
a company which the authors helped found. Second, read it again!
Face it, this book is just plain fun, and I was happy for the excuse
to dip back in when writing this column. Really, how often do you
get to read gems like this:
"When bosses are particularly needy, the burden of ceremonial
status meetings can grow almost without bound. We know of one
organization, for example, where daily two-hour status meetings
are the norm. When participants are off-site during a meeting,
they are expected to call in and participate by speakerphone for
the whole duration. Nonattendance is regarded as a threat and is
subject to serious penalties."
You won't find a single line of code in this book. But if you're
managing a team, you'll probably find that listening to DeMarco and
Lister will help get a lot more lines of working code into the final
product more quickly than ignoring them will.
Does your boss get it? Or are you thinking of leaving an
anonymous gift of Peopleware on his desk? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
to let me know! Comments may be used in a future issue of Developer
Central, unless you ask me to keep them confidential.
One sign that .NET is really real now: tools are starting to
appear. Let's start with a pair of SOAP tools. Maybe not everything
in the universe is a Web Service yet, but you'd never know it from
all of the activity in the vendor space.
The first of these tools is the latest release of the XML Spy
Suite, 4.3 ($399 from http://www.xmlspy.com/default.asp).
Along with about a bazillion other features, this version includes a
SOAP debugger. You can watch both requests and responses and edit
them using all of the tools that XML Spy puts at your disposal. This
is a good way to get right down inside a SOAP session without having
to parse the XML yourself.
The other tool is a little deal called NetTool, from the
CapeClear folks (free download from http://capescience.capeclear.com/articles/using_nettool/).
This one lets you set up a little proxy to intercept and forward
SOAP requests and responses. It also lets you just put together your
own SOAP messages and send them off, though you do need to know
something about XML to do this.
Of the two, I found XMLSpy to be easier to get working as a SOAP
proxy; NetTool requires having a Java VM installed, and its
cross-platform UI us a bit less intuitive for me (because, of
course, I'm not used to that look and feel). But the price is
certainly right on NetTool. If you're working with Web Services,
you'll probably eventually need one of these tools.
Also on the tools front, FMS, a long-time vendor of Microsoft
Access and Visual Basic tools, is turning their attention to .NET.
Their first .NET product is Total .NET XRef, which is designed to
ease the problem of working with objects and variables in your .NET
code. Sooner or later you'll be faced with a question such as "where
did I use that class?" or "where is the definition of this class?"
That's the sort of question that Total .NET XRef can answer. Just
right-click on a variable, property, class, method, namespace, or
most anything else and choose XRef. You'll get a dockable ToolWindow
containing the essential information on the use of that item in your
project: file, namespace, class, member, and line of use.
You can download a limited-time preview version that will
function until the end of March now. Although this is still beta
code, in my early testing it seems to work pretty well already. This
is the first bit of a new toolset that's worth keeping an eye on.
Grab it from http://www.fmsinc.com/dotnet/XRef/confprvw.asp
On the other end of the spectrum, there are some very high-end
tools for .NET shipping now. Two of these are Rational XDE, which
integrates UML design tools with pattern support directly into the
Visual Studio .NET IDE (http://www.rational.com/news/press/pr_view.jsp?ID=8240)
and Codagen Gen-it 2.5 Architect, which features model-driven code
generation for enterprise applications (http://www.codagen.com/news/pressreleases/2002/20020213_e.shtml).
I'll try to work in test drives of these products in a future issue
of Developer Central.
Project 2002 Conquers New Worlds
At least, that's the plan. Microsoft Project 2002 is due out some
time around mid-year, but I've had a chance to play with a beta
version and it's looking pretty good. Rather than introduce major
changes to the interface, Microsoft is using this release to put
more enterprise and collaboration functionality into Project.
One major change in this version is the introduction of multiple
editions of Project. There's still a standalone version called
Project Standard. But there's also a Microsoft Project Server, which
layers functionality on top of SharePoint Portal Server and other
collaborative technologies to allow rolling up multiple projects
into a single enterprise-level view of resources and tasks. Then
there's Project Professional, for the folks who need to manage the
information in Project Server, and a Project Web Access client as
well. Project Standard can also share the information in Project
Server but lacks some of the notification and management features of
Of course, it wouldn't be a Microsoft release without new
features. One of the nicest things about this version is the Project
Guide, which functions as a sort of interactive tutorial to help you
set your first project up. There's also better Office integration,
automated e-mail notifications, better security, more "what-if"
analysis, and lots of other goodies.
Developers will find improvements in Project's OLE DB driver,
integration hooks for the info stored in Project Server, XML data
interchange, Digital Dashboard technology, and lots of additions to
the object and event model.
Project often doesn't spring to mind as the basis for a custom
solution. But if you find youself with a problem that involves
collaboration, scheduling, and resource allocation, it looks like
the combination of Project, Project Server, and SharePoint is going
to be mighty powerful. The new version is worth a second look as a
potential solution platform. You can get more information, and order
a copy of the beta marketing kit, at http://www.microsoft.com/office/project/evaluation/beta/default.asp.
Review: Kutchka Templating
Kutchka Templating, $30
Kutchka Templating is an add-in for MindManager (which I looked
at in Developer Central #3, http://www.mcpmag.com/newsletter/article.asp?EditorialsID=67).
Perhaps the best way to explain Kutchka Templating is to say that it
enables you to easily produce recombinant Mind Maps. You can load
two or three (or a dozen, for that matter) Mind Maps, and then use
Kutchka to pick and choose the branches that you'd like to combine
into a new map. The branches come over complete with all their
information, notes, icons, and so on.
Kutchka also allows you to assign simple predecessor/successor
relationships as you add branches. This lets you turn a Mind Map
into sort of a rough-and-ready dependency chart. Automatic
hyperlinking lets you proceed through a list of tasks in the order
that they're linked.
The basic Mind Map is an excellent tool for brainstorming. What
Kutchka Templating brings to the table is a way to take chunks of
past brainstorms and re-use them, and a way to adapt Mind Mapping to
process-oriented projects by adding the notion of flow. After
spending a few minutes with the tutorial, I didn't have any problem
using its capabilities, which are well-integrated into the
MindManager shell. All in all, a nice little addition to the native
capabilities of MindManager.
Review: Total Visual Code Tools 2002
Total Visual Code Tools 2002, $299
If you write VB or VBA code for a living, you know there are a
lot of annoying repetitive tasks in the job. (Of course, the same is
true for almost any language). Total Visual Code Tools is designed
to dispose of some of these annoyances, and to help enforce coding
standards on multi-developer projects as well. It provides a set of
builders and clean-up tools that work in Office 2000, Office XP, and
After telling TVCT about your coding standards (the prefixes you
use for variables, the commenting style you prefer, the way you like
your error handlers structured and so on), you're ready to start
using the Builders. These dialog boxes can create common code
structures for you: procedures, properties, recordset code, SELECT
CASE statements, and so on. Launch a builder, fill in some options
(like the procedure name), click a button and watch the finished
code get injected directly into your project (or, if you prefer, to
the clipboard, a file, or a text editor).
TVCT also offers tools to clean up and standardize existing code,
to obfuscate code that you're ready to ship, and to manage a few
other little tasks such as block-commenting code or clearing the
All of the standards you set up are stored in a single external
file, which makes it easy to make sure everyone on a project is
using the same standards. Another bonus for the busy shop is a help
file section that details a bunch of VBA best practices.
One of the differences between good developers and those who just
hack at the code is the tools that they use. Adding Total Visual
Code Tools to your own toolset will help you to write more
consistent code -- which will pay off in the long run as you
discover that consistent code is easier to maintain.
Review: IP*Works! V5 .NET Edition
IP*Works! V5 .NET Edition, $495
Triangle Park, North Carolina
I reviewed the VB6 edition of this package in the last issue of Developer Central. The new .NET
edition has the same features: it's still designed to provide you
with implementations of all the major Internet protocols that you're
likely to need. This includes old favorites like finger, ping, and
whois; more complex protocols including IMAP, SNMP, and LDAP; and
even generic TCP/IP and UDP clients and servers. This version even
includes a SAX2-compliant XML parser and a SOAP client, so you can
build applications that play with new stuff. In all, there are 34
components here, covering the full range of protocols.
Of interest is the way that /n got this edition together: they
wrote a Java to C# translation tool and moved over their existing
Java codebase. The resulting controls work quite well and integrate
smoothly into Visual Studio .NET, right down to (optionally)
occupying their own tab in the Toolbox.
Could you do the same work without these controls? Sure; the .NET
Framework includes TCPListener, TCPClient, and UDPClient classes
that you can hook up to pretty much any Internet protocol. Do you
want to do it that way? Not unless you really enjoy writing a bunch
of extra code. Personally, I'll be happy to let the /n folks do all
that work for me. This is a solid set of controls that hits its
intended target well.
AQTime 2, $349.99
Las Vegas, Nevada
Do you know which ten functions in your application account for
the most time during an average run? What percentage of your code is
actually visited by your test suite? Are you freeing all the memory
that you allocate?
If you don't know the answer to these questions, then your
toolbox is probably lacking a profiler. One excellent choice for
filling that gap is AQTime, from AutomatedQA (makers of AQTest,
which I reviewed in the last issue of Developer Central). If you're
using Microsoft Visual C+ or Visual Basic, Borland Delphi or C++
Builder, or the gnu gcc compiler, AQTime can give you a detailed
look at what's going on when you run your application.
AQTime is simple to use. Open it, load your executable
application, choose a type of profiling to do (for example, a
line-by-line coverage profile, or a function time profile), and hit
the run button. Then use your application as you normally would,
while AQTime collects the data. When you exit your application, the
results are right there, with a variety of views from functional
diagrams to bar charts of relative times to numeric results.
Of course AQTime also integrates with AQTest, giving you an ideal
way to see whether your test suite covers all the code in your
application, and integrating performance data with bug hunting.
There's even an integrated source code editor so you can see just
what code is contained in the problem functions.
Some applications can get away without optimization. If yours is
one of those, great. If not, the cost of AQTime can easily be saved
in helping you focus just on the pieces of code that need the most
work in pursuit of efficiency.
DataPipe 2.2, $590
DataPipe is built on top of DataMystic's TextPipe Pro
(which I reviewed in the previous issue of Developer Central), and
indeed, it includes a bundled copy of TextPipe Pro. It uses TextPipe
filters to perform the same variety of tasks as TextPipe, for
- Add new text at the start or end of a line
- Change case
- Strip out HTML markup
Search and replace
- Word wrap or center text
- Number lines
- Extract e-mail addresses
- Transform text using a
The difference between DataPipe and TextPipe is that DataPipe
applies these changes to database files instead of text files.
Specifically, it can connect to any database for which you have an
OLE DB provider (which these days is just about everything). You can
either choose an entire table to work with, or supply a query that
retrieves only the rows that you want to alter. Then you can select,
on a field-by-field basis, which TextPipe filters to apply. You can
preview the results on sample data, and when you're happy, send the
program off to modify the live data. It does this a row at a time so
as to minimize locking issues.
If you haven't worked with TextPipe you may find the whole
process a tad confusing. But once you've worked through the TextPipe
tutorial it's obvious how it all fits together. For huge databases
I'd still want to use a tool like SQL Server DTS, but for everyday
data scrubbing this is a strong contender.
Review: abcDB Pro
abcDB Pro 3.5, $19.89
Here's another one for the PocketPC users searching for a
replacement for Pocket Access. abcDB Pro works with databases in the
Pocket Access format, which means that it can take advantage of
ActiveSync's ability to synchronize those databases with Access
databases on the desktop. PocketSoft has crammed a lot of
functionality into the tiny package: a full table designer, a query
designer that includes both grid-based and SQL design modes, and
even a forms package complete with drag-and-drop control placement
and reasonable defaults for autoforms. The forms package supports
dropdown and grid controls for a true relational experience. For a
good, solid database package that fits into a small form factor,
this one is hard to beat.
New and Notable
Plenty of new software gets released every month, some to great
fanfare (can you say "Windows XP"?) and some that only gets noticed
by adoring fans. You don't need me to tell you about the big
PR-fests, but here are a few of the other interesting new (or
updated) products I've run across in the past month:
- AppForge 2.1 is a the latest version of this development tool
for Palm, PocketPC, mobile phone, and other tiny platforms. The new
version adds single file Palm installation, SQLCE support, Pocket
Outlook support, sprite support for games (you probably don't
remember sprites unless you're my age), new events, new controls,
and other enhancements. http://www.appforge.com/v2_1.html
- Just in case you'd like to get away from the .NET bloat,
Liberty BASIC 2.2's trial edition is all of 2 MB to download. It's a
shareware version of BASIC with an editor, compiler, debugger, and
graphical designer. If your remember QBASIC fondly, you might want
to take a look. http://world.std.com/~carlg/basic.html
- Now, we all know that C# has nothing to do with Java. But just
in case you thought there was a similarity between the two
languages, and you have existing Java code that you'd like to port
over, you might take a look at the Microsoft Java Language
Conversion Assistant. It works within the Visual Studio .NET IDE and
gives you a way to make the conversion. Download the beta version
- MapInfo MapX Mobile offers a specialized version of the MapInfo
MapX ActiveX control for bringing mapping solutions to the PocketPC
platform. You can download their SDK for free from http://www.mapxmobile.com/ .
- MySQL-Front is a GUI front end for the open-source MySQL
database. Lots of features here; it's sort of a budding Enterprise
Manager for MySQL. Worth a look if you're considering this free
database alternative. http://www.anse.de/mysqlfront/
- NetIQ SQL Management Suite offers monitoring, reporting, change
management, log management, and more for Microsoft SQL Server. Plus
if you visit their site you can download the free SQLCheck
diagnostic dashboard monitoring tool. http://www.netiq.com/products/sql/default.asp
- There's a new version of the Opera web browser out - version
6.01, to be precise. If you haven't looked at it lately, you might
want to go back; recent versions includes an optional SDI interface,
support for non-European characters, shortcut searching, lots of UI
development, it's a must-have, given that 5% or more of your
European audience may be using this browser. Visit them at http://www.opera.com/
- ReaderWorks Standard 2.0 can convert text files, Word
Documents, HTML pages, and other files into the Microsoft eBook
format. This makes them ideal for use on PocketPCs and other MS
Reader-equipped systems. I tested it on a few documents and apart
from some trouble with a VBA macro firing on document open it worked
fine. ReaderWorks Standard is free; there's also a ReaderWorks
Publisher edition that offers additional organization and
customization features. http://www.overdrive.com/readerworks/software/standard.asp
- SNScan can quickly find all of the SNMP services on a network.
This is especially important in light of the recent discovery of
serious vulnerabilities in many SNMP implementations. Grab a free
copy from Foundstone at http://www.foundstone.com/knowledge/free_tools.html
- SoftArtisans have released a set of server controls for
ASP.NET. Capabilities include delivery of reports in Excel format,
file transfer, POP3, and a TreeView navigation control. http://www.softartisans.com/
Lots of software books cross my desk these days. In this section,
I'm going to pick out a few to mention that look interesting. Think
of these not as full reviews, but as pointers to books that you
might like to investigate further, depending on your own development
ADO.NET AND ADO EXAMPLES AND BEST PRACTICES FOR VB PROGRAMMERS
(Second Edition), by William R. Vaughn (Apress): Bill Vaughn has
been experimenting with and writing about Microsoft's data access
libraries for longer than just about anyone, first as an employee
and now as an independent. This book is his latest compendium of ADO
knowledge, now enhanced by some ADO.NET content (based on a beta
version, but fairly close to final). This is the place to go if
you're looking for tips and tricks with a constant emphasis on code
efficiency. It's aimed at the advanced ADO classic developer, or
anyone just getting into ADO.NET, and does not stray far from the
core topic of data access.
ASP.NET PROGRAMMER'S REFERENCE, by Charles C. Caison
(McGraw-Hill/Osborne): This one is mainly a collection of
information from the .NET Framework class library help files, with
an emphasis on classes that will be useful to the ASP.NET developer.
If you like paper more than on-screen help, you may find it useful;
I personally don't think it adds a lot to the product, and some of
the choices about what to leave in and out strike me as odd. For
example, although ADO.NET is mentioned, the ADO.NET classes aren't
included here. The Web Forms validation controls are present, but
there's no explanation of how validation works in ASP.NET. The
WebService class is explained, but writing a Web Service isn't.
There's also (my perennial complaint) no indication which version of
ASP.NET this book is based on.
BIZTALK SERVER 2000 DEVELOPER'S GUIDE FOR .NET, by Robert
Shimonski et al (Syngress): A nuts-and-bolts guide to BizTalk, from
installation through development and on into administrative tasks
such as managing security and troubleshooting. There are plenty of
diagrams and an excellent worked design example to help you grasp
the notion of Orchestration Services. Also covers such basics as
mapping and specification design. A good place to start if you're
thinking of hooking up this package to communicate with business
C# ESSENTIALS (Second Edition), by Ben Albahari, Peter Drayton,
and Brad Merrill (O'Reilly): Now that .NET has been released, the
authors have updated this slim guide to cover the final version of
the C# language's first incarnation. To be precise, this book is
based on RC1 of the .NET Framework SDK, but there were very few
changes after that, so it's a solid reference. The book starts with
a brief overview of some architectural issues, and then works you
through the entire language from the basic syntax of identifiers and
types right on up to marshaling and interop issues. A good guide for
the experienced developer who just wants to understand the syntax
and capabilities of this new language.
THE CAREER PROGRAMMER: GUERILLA TACTICS FOR AN IMPERFECT WORLD,
by Christopher Duncan (Apress): This one is sort of Dilbert-with-
attitude for the developer. It takes the notion that the average
software developer is ignorant of coporate politics and runs with
it, by offering plenty of concrete suggestions about how to play the
corporate game and win. If you've never peeked out of your cubicle
to learn why you get such ridiculous demands in your Inbox, this one
could well be for you.
INTERNATIONALIZATION AND LOCALIZATION USING MICROSOFT .NET, by
Nick Symmonds (Apress): As with many other things, .NET introduces
new ideas into localization. In this case, it's built-in support
right in the .NET Framework for handling most of the nitty-gritty
details of moving your application from one culture to another. Nick
gives a general introduction to localization issues, looks at how we
used to handle it in VB6, and then talks about the new stuff in .NET
that makes it easier. The book includes some quite extensive code
samples to make it easier to understand the new topics.
MIGRATING TO VISUAL BASIC .NET, by Steve Cisco (M&T Books): A
book aimed squarely at the VB6 (or perhaps VB5) developer who wants
to make the jump to VB .NET but who doesn't know quite where to
start. Steve concentrates on the differences betwee the two
languages and environments, and touches on everything from the new
UI to new debugging tools to basic language changes. Think of this
book as an extended "what's new" document and you won't be far long.
It's an excellent roadmap for the VB developer who wants to be aware
of both potential pitfalls and cool new features that they'll find
.NET MOBILE WEB DEVELOPER'S GUIDE, by Steve Milroy et al
(Syngress): This book targets developers working with the Microsoft
Mobile Internet Toolkit (an add-on for the Visual Studio .NET
development environment) and Microsoft Mobile Information Server.
It's a good overview of the subject, though there's a fair amount of
peripheral material (such as introductions to ASP.NET and ADO.NET)
that I would have liked to see replaced by more specific mobile
information. But if you're thinking of a mobile solution and trying
to sort out the Microsoft software options, this book will give you
the big picture.
POCKET PC DATABASE DEVELOPMENT WITH EMBEDDED VISUAL BASIC, by Rob
Tiffany (Apress): This book isn't quite as broad as the title might
lead you to believe. It's roughly 2/3 a reference manual for ADOCE,
and 1/3 a sample application that uses ADOCE to manipulate Pocket
Access databases. But that's still a pretty valuable combination,
given the scarcity of material out there on writing programs for the
PocketPC in the first place. This book is rapidly being overtaken by
new software, with .NET versions nearly upon us -- but it's not
clear how fast the new stuff will penetrate the market. So if you're
targeting the PocketPC operating system, it's a worthwhile purchase.
POCKET PC DEVELOPMENT IN THE ENTERPRISE, by Christian Forsberg
and Andreas Sjostrom (Addison Wesley): This one too is being
overtaken by new versions - however, the authors are maintaining a
web site (http://www.businessanyplace.net/)
where they can discuss how their methods and samples make the
transition, which should extend the life of the book considerably.
The focus here is on using the PocketPC as part of an enterprise's
business process, and the emphasis is on learning to extend your
development skills to the new platform. They get into topics such as
SQL Server CE and middleware for wireless data transfer, and provide
quite a bit of useful sample code. They even dig into areas like Web
Services, installation, help files, and architectural design. An
excellent reference for the serious PocketPC developer.
PROGRAMMING VISUAL BASIC .NET, by Dave Grundgeiger (O'Reilly):
This one is a bit strange: it's a wide-ranging introduction to the
VB .NET language (and related topics such as ADO.NET, ASP.NET, and
Web Services) that makes very little use of the Visual Studio .NET
IDE. Yes, you can compile VB .NET applications from the command
line, but especially when you get to user interface design I think
you're nuts to avoid the visual design tools. So while this book is
overall a good survey, it's sort of like trying to dance with one
foot in a bucket. You can do it, but better to get the bucket off
PROGRAMMING WEB SERVICES WITH SOAP, by James Snell, Doug Tidwell,
and Pavel Kulchenko (O'Reilly): If you need to work with Web
Services, and you'd like to understand what's going on, get this
book. It's as simple as that. In a bit over 200 pages the authors go
through SOAP, UDDI, WSDL and other major protocols, showing what can
be done and how to do it. Most of the code is in perl, but they also
touch on java and .NET implementations. There's also a great chapter
on the future of Web Services, discussing ways in which the various
protocols might develop and some of the major battlegrounds in the
industry. A must-have for the Web Services developer.
RUBY DEVELOPER'S GUIDE, by Robert Feldt and Lyle Johnson
(Syngress): I must confess that discussions of Ruby these days give
me a strange little mental disconnect, because I'm used to that as
the code name for the classic VB forms package. That's not what this
is about. This Ruby is a relatively new object-oriented, open-source
language that's picked up strong proponents in the last year or so.
Though it starts with notes on installing Ruby and a short syntax
guide, this is mainly a book for those who already know the basics
and want to take the next step. This book gets into more advanced
topics such as database access, Web Services, XML, GUI toolkits, and
writing your own Ruby extensions in C++. If you had a vague notion
of Ruby as a toy language without serious uses, this book will prove
you wrong in short order.
SQL: ACCESS TO SQL SERVER, by Susan Sales Harkins and Martin W.P.
Reid (Apress): Note that I wrote the Foreword for this one, so I'm
not a completely objective observer; I thought it was a darned good
book in manuscript, and it's still a darned good book in print. This
book splits roughly into two halves. The first half is a discussion
of the SQL dialect understood by the Jet database engine. The second
half carries through this theme to the SQL Server engine used by
MSDE, and includes the basic knowledge of installing and running
MSDE that many Access developers don't yet have. Definitely this is
one to read if you've got an application that's making the
transition from Access to SQL Server. And finally, although I can't
review it objectively at all, I just want to mention that my own
ADO AND ADO.NET PROGRAMMING book is freshly out from Sybex this
month. It's a thousand pages packed with as much useful ADO and
ADO.NET knowledge as I could work in, with a whole bunch of sample
code. If you're writing database applications I hope you'll take a
A few folks wrote to mention that they couldn't find the Web
Services newsletter that I mentioned in the last issue. That's
because it was being discontinued just as I mentioned it. If you're
still looking for an ongoing source of Web Services news, try http://www.webservices.org/index.php
and their newsletter.
Brian Bischof writes:
You mentioned that you couldn't find any info on patterns for
.NET. This guy posted a message last week that he just finished a
book on patterns in .NET and the entire manuscript is online. I
don't know if you will keep it there once the book hits the
stores, but you can read the entire thing now. http://labsoftware.com/labsoftware/CSharpPats/
Thanks for the tip! As of this writing, it's still on-line, in
the form of some massive Adobe Acrobat files.
And Sean Barker writes with a .NET question:
Reading about the .NET transition intrigues me because many of
the topics you discussed, have been on my mind. Since this is my
way of living (i.e. putting food on the table, clothes on my
family's back, etc.) I need to invest the time to learn .NET
strategies. Actually, I am looking forward towards learning these
My question is regarding compatibility of ASP.NET and previous
versions of ASP. When I plan to "cross the Rubicon river" (like
Napoleon) and mentally make the switch to ASP.NET, will my same
development box still be able to produce ASP 3.0 code? I feel
silly asking that question, because I have not researched ASP.NET
enough to know the differences between it and ASP 3.0.
Microsoft has done an *incredibly* bad job of talking about
co-existence and migration issues. This may be because their
interest lies in having people switch entirely - I don't know.
Anyhow, the answer is that yes, everything will safely co-exist.
On the client side, there's no problem running Visual Studio 6.0 and
Visual Studio .NET on the same box. On the server side, ASP and
ASP.NET will happily live together. The way it works is that ASP.NET
uses a new file extension, .aspx (as well as some others, like .asax
and .asmx). So your existing ASP files continue to be processed by
asp.dll, while the new ASP.NET files go through new DLLs provided by
Eventually, you'll probably want to move ASP pages to ASP.NET,
because you'll get better performance (compiled code!) and
manageability. That will require some rewrites, because ASP.NET uses
VB instead of VBScript. But you can take as long as you like for the
Web Resources for Developers
Finally, a few web sites that I think you might enjoy:
- Xtemesoft's AppMetrics products provide monitoring and early
warning of problems for Microsoft Transaction Server and BizTalk
Server. If your business depends on either of those two products,
you ought to take a long hard look at whether AppMetrics can provide
you with much-needed insurance. http://www.xtremesoft.com/home.htm
- Cape Clear is offering three free 15-minute webinars covering
Web Services design, development, and integration on March 11-13.
You can register at http://www.capeclear.com/news/events/webinar.shtml
- Code Co-op is a version control system that works over the
Internet (or over a LAN) with no central server. Instead, everything
is done via e-mail messages. If you're working as part of a
distributed development team this may be the VCS system for you. http://www.relisoft.com/co_op/
- Fabrikam is Microsoft's current showcase phoney company.
They've just released Fabrikam 2.0 and an online solution based on
Microsoft Office XP and Microsoft .NET, with a ton of bells and
whistles. You can download all the code, interact with live web
services, and read a whole batch of white papers about what's going
on. A must-bookmark for any Office developer. http://www.fabrikam.com/
- BAxBEx FolderBox shoves a second folder display into Windows
Explorer, so you can display the contents of two folders at once.
Still miss File Manager from Windows 3.1? This may be just the
product for you. Free for home use - http://www.baxbex.com/products.html#folderbox
- Ever want to product a PDF file without owning a copy of Adobe
Acrobat? Take a look at HTMLDOC, a product that converts HTML files
to PDF or PostScript files. There's a free version as well as a more
powerful supported version. http://easysw.com/htmldoc/
- rdesktop is a Remote Desktop Protocol client that runs on
Linux. What does that mean? Try full support for being a Terminal
Services client from a Linux box. I tried it on my network and it's
pretty spiffy. http://www.rdesktop.org/
- The Secure Programming for Linux and Unix HOW TO offers a ton
of information for developers who want to write secure C and C++
code. It's directed at Linux and Unix developers (duh), but a lot of
the tips here are applicable to Windows development as well. With
the increasing importance of security in our work, I recommend
taking lessons where you can find them. http://www.dwheeler.com/secure-programs/
- Whiteboard Photo is one of those products I wish I'd know about
ages ago. Take a picture of a whiteboard (or a flipchart, or most
anything else with words and diagrams on it) with your digital
camera, and feed it into this product. It'll take care of removing
distortion, cleaning up highlights and background noise, and turning
your photos into permanent records of your brainstorming. I haven't
tried it, but the demo photos on the web site are pretty impressive.
- Kurt Zimmermann has a batch of interesting-looking freeware
Windows utilities online, including a nifty Registry editor, an icon
extractor, a tweaking utility for TCP/IP, and more. http://www.zsoftware.de/mainpage_e.htm
- Finally, I just want to mention http://www.larkware.com/ .
That's my own developer-oriented site, to which I post short news
items in between issues of Developer Central.
News in this newsletter is written and compiled by Mike
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