A quest for software excellence...

Revive an Old Turbo Flame?

Just found this referenced on an FTPOnline story: http://www.turboexplorer.com/

For an old Delphi aficionado (version 5 was my last), I can't wait to download the Explorer versions to see what they've done with the place.

I've always felt that starting with a Borland tool was a better place for a beginner to start. And then you take a corporate job and everyone is drinking the blue coolaid. Don't get me wrong. I like the coolaid too. Visual Studio 2005 is hands down the best IDE I've worked with. And no, for you Eclipse fans, I've not tried that highly vaunted IDE. I do know people that have used both and they invariably have good things to say about both.

Borland is spinning off the tools, so they say. So where will they be spun and how do these new dolled up Turbo versions fit into the equation. And so I don't have to wait so long, is there anyone at Borland that can get me a sneak peek copy.

I promise to run it through it's paces and report back here. I'm especially eager to try the C++ flavor. Could the good old days of Turbo be back? Let's see....

SOAP vs REST -- Clean vs Comfortable

In my work I've had occassion to use both SOAP and REST in the client and the server. SOAP is easy if you have good tools. Hard wiring a WSDL is not my thing. At the risk of committing a pun foul, I'd rather eat a bar of soap than hard code good WSDL. Fortunately, .NET makes WSDL for simple web services easy, both on the server and client end of things. And WSCF makes more complex web services easy in the .NET world.

At the same time, REST is more comfortable, especially for those without nice support tools for consuming SOAP on a plate of WSDL. A nice simple HTTP POST. A simple agreement between friends to pass X, Y, and Z data along in a simple name value pair model.

Trust or Verify
I guess in some ways it comes down to trust. Do you trust the client to submit clean data? Can you trust your server application to parse through and make safe any data that is not clean? Or would you rather automate some of that authentication via schema and the rigidity of SOAP? For me, it all depends on the circumstances.

The Illusion of SOAP and Schema
How tight are your contracts? A good lawyer will take a two page agreement and expand it to ninety pages. Not only because she wants to bill you more but because she needs to cover all the bases. Are your web service contract bases covered? Is the schema and secondary validation sufficient.

Can REST Be Secure?
This line of thought takes me to the question. Can we trust REST? Well, the short answer is no. But the longer answer is, yes, just as much as we trust SOAP. The brilliance of SOAP is the contract is carried with the data, or at least that data is transported in a container with which the contract may be validated. So is that really better? Well, the underlying truth is that someone else wrote a bunch of helper code to help us perform the first level of validation in the message--form. But what about content. Yes, schema validation can do some content validation as well, especially of the type type of validation. Beyond that, it's up to you pretty much.

Validation Bottom Line
Ultimately the value and robustness of a web service, whether you use REST for it's simplicity or SOAP for the niceties of automated tools, will be determined by the code you write to validate and execute and respond with an appropriately formed response.

Consider Your Audience
Back in my poor old days as a technical writer, I had to always keep in mind and understand my audience. It really does matter. For example, my mother would not understand a single word of this post. If you are publishing web services, you must consider who will consume them. Will they be a hodge podge of PHP, JSP, ASP, and many other forms of "server pages" technology? Or will they be hard driving Visual Studio SOAP users who would rather have the tool do the heavy lifting and eliminate the need to parse?

Give your users what they want. And to do that, you may have to give them both SOAP and REST. I guess that won't hurt us too much. After all, a hot shower is always a good combination with a good night's rest.

Frameworks in Their Place

A friend shared this Joel on Software post with me today. An absolute hilarious read.


"So you don't have any hammers? None at all?"

"No. If you really want a high-quality, industrially engineered spice rack, you desperately need something more advanced than a simple hammer from a rinky-dink hardware store."

"And this is the way everyone is doing it now? Everyone is using a general-purpose tool-building factory factory factory now, whenever they need a hammer?"


Frameworks have their place but time seems to be unkind to them. I'm not a Java guy but even the Java zealots I knew "back in the day" are now less bullish on the frameworks mess that exists on the Java stack. And no, for you remaining zealots, I don't want to fight about the point.

The fact is, the .NET Framework is only a few years behind. Will it bloat too? Has it already started with 2.0 and all the changes in ASP.NET and so forth and so on? Will 3.0 see bloat or a cohesive, more conservative growth pattern.

If we're all doomed to framework elephantitus, what is the solution? My hope is that Microsoft will learn from the failures of its biggest competitor and work as hard to keep the framework tight as they work to sell their operating systems. The same aggressive and successful behavior will be the only thing, perhaps, that can save us all from the same doom suffered by our Java brethren who are now escaping in droves to PHP.

Okay, I made that last part up. But it could be true. ;-)

Does Pay Per Click Work?

I"m not a marketing guru. Never have been. Never will be. You too? So how do we maximize traffic to our blog, our side project, or our main gig? Well, we tell our clients to hire us, the expert, when they need some coding done.

So hire an expert.

I know just the expert. I've watched these guys in action. They know what they're doing. Check them out at http://www.webevident.com/ppc-management.php.

They can handle all your pay per click campaigns. And you would be surprised how much traffic they can drive to your site on a very tight budget. They do a free analysis for you, so you have nothing to lose by at least checking them out.  

A Requirements Management Allegory

My wife won the lottery. Two hundred thousand dollars. Uncle Sam took half. She said, "I want a new car. Go buy me a new car."

So I took the checkbook and bought a brand new Honda Accord for $30,000. When I arrived home my wife said, "I didn't want an Accord. I want an SUV."

On the way back to the dealership, an accident occurred. I escaped with my life but the car was a total loss.

I still had the checkbook so I wrote a check for $40,000 and took home a nice, new Dodge Durango. I was so pleased with myself.

But my wife was not. She said, "The Durango is too small and I don't like the color red."

So I turned around and took it back to the dealer. I asked for my money back but he whipped out the magnifying glass and pointed out the small print: "absolutely, under no circumstances can you get a refund."

"Besides," said the salesmanager, "we've already spent the money and we can't take a new car in trade. It's just policy."

So I drove the Durango to the Ford dealership and on the way was rearended by a large truck. The Ford dealership gave me $10,000 in trade and I wrote a check for $40,000 more for the last of the new Ford Excursions.

I drove the Excursion home. Finally my wife was happy. "Now let's go buy the boat," she said.

"Sorry, honey," I said. "We're out of money."

So we have this giant SUV and we can't afford to put gas in it, and we have nothing to pull behind it.

But, we do have an SUV that cost $100,000 and in three years will be worth less than $20,000. And as a compensating note, I can haul a ton of groceries with it which helps save the cost of gasoline to get to the grocery store in the first place.

Now if only we could find another lottery to win.

Forget Fedora 5

Well, after struggling to get Fedora 5 to run on my machine and get the GUI up and running on an nVidia card, I've given up on this distribution after finding this bit of nasty news.

I think I'll try SUSE next. I've tried using the "YUM" updater and following a variety of instructions from a variety of posts to get my dual monitor eVGA GForce 7800 GT to work. All to no avail.

Once downloaded and installed, I'll post the results of my attempts with SUSE 10.

Venturing into Mono

I've begun the journey into Mono. Fedora 5 is nearly completely downloaded. I've freed up a partition on which to install it. I've downloaded the mono- from the official site.


Because I'm building a system that must scale to many machines and we're considering using a virtual machine hosting system. And they only host virtual Linux boxes.

Will we definitely host the application on virtual system? No, not definitely. But if the port to Mono goes well, it's certainly an option.

My concerns about going to Mono is first, I know very little about Linux. Second, I'm using System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase for my server, and that namespace, as far as I can tell, is not supported in Mono. So these two items may pose a bit of a learning curve.

After downloading some but not all of the Mono source files, I began wandering about and looking at how the Mono team has implemented various class libraries that we .NET developers take for granted every day. Talk about a wealth of code samples that will be extremely valuable in my daily work, regardless of whether I'm in Mono or MS .NET coding.

I'll post more on my progress into the world of Mono and Linux in the future. In the meantime, if you have any words of wisdom for me, please feel free...

Seven Principles of Highly Effective Web 2.0

I very much enjoyed Dion's Thinking in Web 2.0 post. The ways to think in Web 2.0 seem to be growing with significant and useful comments. I would like to propose a side discussion that attempts to reduce Web 2.0 to seven specific principles.

The Highly Effective Web 2.0 is:

1. Specific - Purpose, content and interface is quickly understood.
2. Standard - Data is offered via open standards and protocols (i.e. HTML, XHTML, SOAP, RSS, SSL).
3. Transparent - Privacy and other policies are enforced and simple (see #1).
4. Accessible - Data should be easily found for those with and without disabilities.
5. Interactive - Participation is be encouraged and facilitated (see #1).
6. Inclusive - One thing leads to more like things rather than fewer.
7. Evolutionary - Everything is both familiar and new.

I tend to be overly verbose while clinging to the principle and value of brevity. If we are to understand the Web 2.0 wave, perhaps we can reduce it to seven (no more) principles that are stated simply and without the need for great expansion despite the fact that books may be written on the subject.

Please comment. Let me know which one(s) you would replace, with what, and why.