All good things

Hello STL ALT .NET friends,

I have decided, after four years of running the STL ALT .NET meetup group, to step down as group leader. It has been a great four years. I’ve learned much and I’ve met many talented developers and speakers, but it is time for me to move on to other things.

What does this mean for the future of the group?

Our last scheduled presentation will be next month, on June 25th. I will be facilitating this meeting as usual, but will cancel all successive meetings unless one or more people want to adopt the group and step in as organizers to keep things running. If this interests you shoot me an email or leave a comment on this post — I’d be happy to meet with you and discuss what this entails.

I want to thank everyone for your support and participation in this group. It has been a fun ride, and my hope is that my primary goal for this group has been met: to help .NET developers grow beyond their comfort zones and broaden their horizons, adoption solutions within and outside of the .NET ecosystem for the technical problems they face every day.

Sincerely,
Nicholas

“The future belongs to those who show up to build it. Shut up and show us the code.” — Eric Raymond

InformIT sponsors STL ALT .NET

InformITI am happy to announce that book publisher InformIT has joined the growing list of STL ALT .NET sponsors!

Some of the most significant books in my software development library are InformIT imprints. Titles like Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture, Refactoring to Patterns, and Design Patterns adorn the bookshelves posed strategically within sight during video chat meetings. Not only do these books make me look smart, they have actually contributed to my knowledge of programming and large-scale enterprise systems. Also, hardback books are just cool.

InformIT has graciously donated one hardback book and several e-books to raffle, and discount codes for all members at this month’s meetup.

InformIT publishes imprints from quality industry publishers like Addison Wesley, Sams, QUE, and Prentice Hall. You can learn more about InformIT and read quality development articles on the InformIT website.

NCrunch sponsors STL ALT .NET

NCrunchThat unit tests have become a significant tool for modern programmers cannot be denied.  Whole conferences, long books, and powerful tools have all been created to make the task of testing software a streamlined, painless process.  “Red, green, refactor” has become the mantra by which we code.

At last month’s STL ALT .NET meetup, Brian Schroer introduced members to the automated .NET testing tool, NCrunch.  He demonstrated how NCrunch automatically conducted background builds and ran unit tests in real-time while he was actively making changes to his code.  Not only would NCrunch report when unit tests failed, but it also visually tagged the lines of code that were covered by unit tests, clearly showing Brian which portions of his code tested and which were not.  (I have it on good authority that Brian never writes untested code. Ever. So this feature is useless for him because he is a coverage ninja.)  NCrunch also provides a host of other features, including inlined exception details (so that errors can be easily traced through code when tests fail), line-by-line performance metrics that help identify slow and inefficient code, parallel test execution, optimized, selective builds, and more.

I am happy to announce that, to compliment Brian’s lightning talk from last month, the generous folks at NCrunch have donated one NCrunch license to be raffled at the upcoming November STL ALT .NET meetup!

Scooter Software sponsors STL ALT .NET

Scooter Software - Beyond CompareThe consensus among most developers that I talk to who use Windows as their primary operating system is that Beyond Compare by Scooter Software is, hands down, the best diff/merge tool available.  Not only does Beyond Compare offer powerful 3-way file merges, but it can perform directory diffs and synchronizations as well.  For comparisons between CSV files, Excel spreadsheets, HTML tables, registry keys, images and other binary files, Beyond Compare also provides specialized viewers that enable developers to work with the data in each file without worrying about the storage format.  (Someone seriously needs to write plugins for comparing Visual Studio project and solution files!)  Beyond Compare is so universally praised that it has a standing mention on Scott Hanselman’s developer and power user tool list.

To support the St. Louis developer community, Scooter Software has kindly donated two Beyond Compare Professional licenses to be raffled at the upcoming November STL ALT .NET meetup (which is pretty much like having Christmas in November)!

On behalf of STL ALT .NET I thank Scooter Software for their generosity.

appendTo Sponsors STL ALT .NET

appendToLast month I started working for an amazing software development company called appendTo. My co-workers are a tight, talented, distributed group of amazing individuals who inspire and motivate me with the awesome work they do.

Though a small company, appendTo plays a major league game. Our front-end developers recently worked with Time Magazine developers to launch a responsive redesign of Time.com, company founder Mike Hosteler presented at the MS Build 2012 conference last week on writing Windows Store apps with jQuery, and many of our team members are core contributors and/or owners of popular open source projects written in many different programming languages.

appendTo offers a wide variety of services, most of which center around web and mobile development. Because appendTo has a strong commitment to open source software, many of the core libraries that were developed internally have been released on Github.

As an addition to the appendTo Portfolio of Awesome™, appendTo has graciously offered to sponsor STL ALT .NET by covering the (non-trivial) cost of our meetup site. I am happy to welcome appendTo as a sponsor and want to personally thank the company for its investment in the St. Louis developer community!

Infragistics Sponsors STL ALT .NET

developer toolsI am pleased to announce that Infragistics, a leading .NET UI control vendor, has donated a number of free package licenses to STL ALT .NET to give away as raffle prizes during our monthly meetings:

Infragistics is well respected as a leading UI control vendor, and has a formidable array of control packages for any .NET development need, whether it be Windows Forms, WPF, ASP.NET or Windows Phone, Infragistics has packages for all of these and more.  Infragistics also offers a free beta controls download for its newest toolset, the Windows 8 App Store controls.  Designed to run in the new Windows 8 Modern UI, these controls are ideal for either desktop or Surface development.  Because they take advantage of both the C# and JavaScript WinRT APIs, both desktop and web developers will be in familiar territory while developing.

We are glad to welcome Infragistics as a sponsor and thank them greatly for their generosity!

The community on STL ALT .NET

STL ALT .NET members were recently given the chance to win free tickets to the St. Louis Days of .NET conference in August by writing (and tweeting) a blog post about the group, what they have learned, and why they enjoy attending.  Here are the winners!

Mindscape sponsors STL ALT .NET

Mindscape

Code Monkeys love their tools.

From the gruffest Unix hacker who can outperform a concert pianist in Emacs keystrokes, to the coolest Metro vegan hippy in Redmond, developers will go to religious lengths to prove their undying affinity for the software that makes their lives, their jobs, easier.

Mindscape is no novice on the field of tools and controls.  Not only does Mindscape produce an impressive suite of standalone development products, they offer an assortment of helpful Visual Studio plugins, many free of charge, to the Microsoft community.  Want to dress up WPF or Silverlight?  How about design an NHibernate persistence solution?  Interested in Windows Phone 7, or maybe SimpleDB?  Mindscape has tools for all of these, and more.

Mindscape has generously offered to donate one standalone product license each month to raffle at STL ALT .NET, as well as one Mega Pack license for any group member who delivers a full presentation!   In addition, in July we will be raffling one additional license for the WPF Elements 5.1 launch this month.

Follow @MindscapeHQ on Twitter for additional product information and release announcements.

Pluralsight sponsors STL ALT .NET

Pluralsight

Developers experience the unique challenge of being afloat in an ever-changing sea of technology.  Their survival depends a great deal on keeping abreast of the latest currents, trends, and changes.  Nothing helps a developer more than the experience of other professionals distilled into a readily consumable medium.  Pluralsight, a leading champion of video-based technology training, has compiled an extensive library of videos created by first-class technical authors to help developers of every ilk further hone their craft.

Pluralsight has donated twenty-five monthly subscription cards to be raffled at monthly STL ALT .NET meetings.  Each subscription card will grant each winner one month of unlimited access  to the Pluralsite training library.  Videos covers popular .NET topics such as:

  • ASP.NET
  • C#
  • Entity Framework
  • F#
  • LINQ
  • NHibernate
  • Visual Studio
  • WCF
  • Windows Azure
  • WPF
  • etc.

In the true spirit of ALT .NET, Pluralsite also offers training beyond the Microsoft stack, with videos on topics like Ruby, Clojure, iOS, Android, JavaScript and jQuery.

If you’re interested in new video releases, or other offers from Pluralsight, you can follow @pluralsight on Twitter.

A Book Apart sponsors STL ALT.NET

When I ask my web UI friends what resources they would recommend to a n00b looking to develop his HTML and CSS chops, the near universal answer is to direct me to the wonderful websites A List Apart and its publishing arm, A Book Apart.  For years these websites have been delivering high-quality, non-trivial articles and books on front-end web development and design.  They are universally acknowledged as accurate, if not authoritative, sources of knowledge, and have been a tremendous help to me in my professional career.

A Book Apart has graciously donated one copy of each book in the Complete A Book Apart Library to be raffled during the next several months at STL ALT .NET meetings:

Each volume is a concise and fresh take on an important field in web design. Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 for Web Designers explores what the web’s new lingua franca means for working designer/developers. Dan Cederholm’s CSS3 for Web Designers shows how you can design for the experience layer today. Erin Kissane’s The Elements of Content Strategyexplains where content strategy came from, and how you can do it well. Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design demonstrates CSS techniques and design principles for crafting fluid, responsive websites. Aarron Walter’s Designing for Emotion will teach you how to you make your users fall in love with your site, while Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First will make you a master of mobile, and improve your desktop designs, too. 

Mobile First and Responsive Web DesignI personally own digital copies of each book in this series, and I’ve finished three of six.  Of particular interest to me were Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design and Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First.  Both of these books take a long look at the current state of mobile web development, and make a compelling argument that not only should developers be aware of the issues and technologies involved with the mobile web, but they should be coding their websites to take advantage of those things right now.  Mobile first design — once onerous in CSS2 and HTML4 — is becoming the standard design approach as mobile phones and tablets saturate the consumer market.  Mobile First makes the technological and business cases for embracing the mobile web, while Responsive Web Design shows how this can be achieved with fluid layouts, flexible images, and CSS3 media queries.

I have nothing but the highest opinion for A Book Apart, and I am excited that STL ALT .NET members will get to experience this awesomicity as well!