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!

Why I Voted Libertarian

This is not a political blog, but I am breaking rank today to talk about a political matter in light of our most recent bout of national elections. I want to explain why I vote Libertarian. My goal is not to convince you to vote as I do, but rather to give you a different perspective to consider. I don’t claim to speak for all Libertarians–these are my personal beliefs–but I do think that most Libertarian-minded voters would agree with my position here.

Consider the following slogans, all of which I have seen in some form on bumper stickers here in St. Louis:

  • I own guns… and I vote.
  • I am a woman… and I vote.
  • I love animals… and I vote.
  • I am a vegetarian… and I vote.
  • I am a Christian… and I vote.

I’m sure you have seen similar bumper stickers, as these tend to be quite popular, especially during election years.

What is interesting about each of these slogans is that they convey something that, deep down, most people understand about politics and law, but which they don’t verbalize or even conceptualize very well, and that is the fact that law (government) is force.  Each of these slogans is actually a thinly veiled threat. The hidden meaning is: I have specific personal beliefs, and I am prepared to use my voting power to force you to comply with those beliefs. Think about that. Every time you vote for some proposition or support some political figure who pushes particular laws, you are agreeing that it is acceptable to compel your family, friends, and neighbors to obey those laws, and that if they disagree they should be forcibly punished.

Every human being is (sub)consciously aware that their life is being shortened every day, and so seeks to maximize the benefit they get from living while they can. There are only two ways to achieve this: by compelling others to provide them with the necessities of life (as thugs, tyrants, slave owners and cult leaders do), or by joining in a voluntary society with others who are all willing to specialize their labor and trade voluntarily, increasing both the standard of living and the leisure time of all involved. These are contradictory methods, and laws are created in civilized societies to prevent people from exercising the former. The only way that everyone who participates in society benefits is by prohibiting the initiation of force. Generally, people seek to spend the least amount of time procuring the necessities of life and the most amount of time pursuing the things they love and value. Self-realization — the development and pursuit of values — is a defining characteristic of our humanity. But compulsory laws, rather than providing a safe environment in which values can be discovered and pursued, prescribe values and prohibit alternatives.

This method of aggression by-proxy is not only harmful to society  but destructive to our very humanity. American society continues to fragment into “tribes” of people who all wage a war of compulsion in our political system. Whether it is the 1% or the 99%, the Christians or the Muslims, the gays or the straights, the feminists or men’s rights advocates, each group wants to use government as a cudgel to compel the other to behave in particular ways.

The reason I vote Libertarian is because I believe that the answer to social problems is not more compulsion or force, but the restraint of compulsion and force by laws that protect all individuals. I vote Libertarian because I believe that people must be free to be different, and to live their convictions regardless of whether I like them or not; and should their convictions move them to violence against me, the society that we’ve created checks that and protects my peaceful behavior. I vote Libertarian because I believe it is time that Americans become adults and solve their problems, person to person, without threatening bumper stickers or political pull. I vote Libertarian because I believe that the only way humans can reach their full potential is to be completely free.

Alexis Ohanian and the Open Internet

On Tuesday this week I went downtown to hear Alexis Ohanian speak at the StartLouis monthly meetup. His presentation was part of the Internet 2012 bus tour — a trip from Colorado to Kentucky in which Ohanian and Reddit general manager Eric Martin are documenting stories about the economic success of small businesses and startups that rely heavily on an open internet for their existence.

Ohanian’s crusade comes on the heels of some very bad internet legislation, SOPA and PIPA, that met tremendous resistance from the internet community because they sought to apply stringent regulation to internet providers in the name of protecting intellectual property, specifically copyrighted material, from being distributed without permission on the internet. In ignorance lawmakers crafted bills that required costly, drastic, or impossible changes to the structure of the internet itself in (what many believe to be) a futile attempt to curb piracy — changes that would necessarily limit freedom and destroy the open exchange of ideas, goods, and services that has yielded the richest economic bounty in modern times.

Alexis spent well over an hour talking about the people he had met on his tour: people who are using the internet to be producers, not consumers. He talked about family farms that are using the internet to coordinate sales and design new livestock feed; craftmakers who sell their hand-worked wares on Etsy; a robotic toymaker in Colorado that exports to a ravenous market in Austria; an auto manufacturer that builds cars designed on the ineternet at a fraction of the cost and time that it takes traditional automotive manufacturers to bring a car to market. Each story was a fascinating and powerful example of individual initiative and voluntary cooperation, and the common factor, the glue between each story, was the open internet. Armed with these amazing stories, Alexis hopes to show lawmakers that internet regulation is a horrible idea because for what little good it might do, it will necessarily destroy the free flow of information on which these emerging businesses depend.

Perhaps more important than his message about internet freedom (and it is a very important message) is his message about the most effective means to achieve this end, and it is: innovate, don’t legislate. By creating value on the internet, and by demonstrating the powerful returns that open exchange and open information can produce, we can convince large corporations that it is in their best interest to participate and promote the free flow of information. We use the carrot, not the stick; persuasion, not force. (This is, incidentally, part of why I oppose Net Neutrality laws.)

Though the topic was heavy, the evening was peppered with a great deal of humor. In what may only be called a heroic attempt, Alexis attempted to draw a corallary between the open internet and “flabongos”.

And in what may be the only known recording of a room full of nerds singing a Nelly song, Alexis invited us to help him “drunk dial” a tour donor as a thank-you for their generous donation.

That the internet matters now, more than ever, cannot be doubted. The Internet 2012 message is important. Freedom, voluntary cooperation, and individual initiative are the foundations of a civial and prosperous society. And more importantly, they are the paths to self-realization. All of us can be awesome; the internet has given us a glimpse of what that can look like. Politicians talk a great deal about “fixing the economy”, especially now that we are so close to a presidential election, but the truth is that legislation and force and silver tongues full of promises don’t create wealth or jobs. We do. And it is our great moral, life-affirming obligation to support and protect our freedom to do so.

Fun with C# and Node.js

A co-worker was looking for a nodejs module to generate UUIDs the other day, and it inspired me to write one that leverages C# to generate guids.  I wrote a simple C# class and compiled it with Mono as an executable.  It takes a single argument which is the number of guids to generate.  This executable is executed with the ‘child_process’ module that comes packaged with node, and receives its arguments from my node module.  The console output is then read and parsed, and returned to the calling JavaScript code.

I am definitely interested in further exploring a possible bridge for C# mono assemblies in node.  It seems that others are as well.

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!