Just trying to make sense of things...

Unit Testing ASP.NET Using Typemock Isolator

Monday, 18 May 2009 14:03 by jordan.terrell

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Wolfram|Alpha: Awesome

Monday, 18 May 2009 10:43 by jordan.terrell

A computational knowledge engine.  Very cool.  Besides all the useful information you can extract from it, there is also some humorous knowledge too!

Check out the introduction video!

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Arduino DHCP Library: Trying To Submit to Arduino

Monday, 18 May 2009 10:15 by jordan.terrell

I want to submit the Arduino DHCP Library that I created to be included in the main Arduino distribution.  I tried asking what the process was on the developer’s mailing list, but I got no response.

Anyone listening out there who can clue me in on how to start the process?

Instructor-Only Materials: Off Limits, For Now

Monday, 18 May 2009 10:09 by jordan.terrell

As I mentioned earlier, I was trying to obtain Instructor-Only materials for an algebra book that I purchased.  I filled out some online forms and sent some emails, but today I got an emailed response telling me that my request was declined.  I called Pearson Education to see if I could change their mind, however, they explained to me that the “Instructor” part of Instructor-Only actually requires you to be a state certified instructor.

At this point it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to check all of my work.  Disappointing, yes – but also understandable.  I have to admit that Pearson was very kind as they explained why I was unable to obtain these materials, and I can imagine they see all kinds of scams from people trying to cheat on their assignments.  So I can’t argue with their reasons for keeping the materials under lock and key.

Maybe I should think about becoming a state certified instructor in elementary algebra?  Hmmm…

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No, I’m Not Going To Cheat On My Math

Monday, 11 May 2009 13:17 by jordan.terrell

For various reasons, I recently bought a Algebra book as part of a self-directed refresher course.  The book I chose is entitled “Elementary and Intermediate Algebra: Concepts and Applications”.  So far it has been a good purchase (I got a significant discount by purchasing it at a Borders store).

Just like many math textbooks, some of the answers are provided in the back.  This is, in part, to help the student see if they are understanding the math by comparing their answers with the expected answers.  However, it only provides the answers to the odd-numbered question, so that a student attending a school isn’t able to cheat on homework assignments.  This isn’t a concern for me since I’m not attending a formal school right now and I’m acting as both the student and the “instructor”.

As a result, I went to find the complete list of answers for the textbook on the publisher’s web site and I found that, although it is available for download, it is a protected resource.  Not really surprising – I wouldn’t want a student to be able to download the answers and enable them to cheat.  In their words: “We are committed to maintaining the integrity of this instructor-only resource.”

The purpose of this blog post is this: I’m going to request access to these instructor-only resources, and I want to be able to point to this very public blog post to show that I’m not trying to cheat, but rather trying to function as multiple roles for myself: student and instructor.  If I was going to cheat, the last thing I would want to do is let everyone know that I’m trying to get the answers.

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Common/Utility Libraries: Dead?

Monday, 11 May 2009 11:51 by jordan.terrell

Ayende Rahien (of the Rhino Mocks fame) wrote a post on his blog about “burning” Common/Utility libraries.  I have to agree with his reasoning on why his Rhino Commons library should be “burned”.  As I understand from his post it is a “garbage bin” or dumping ground for any random functionality that might be reusable.  He pointed out that his library has very low cohesion, or in other words the library isn’t really focused on a fixed, finite set of responsibilities.  Again, I agree with this reasoning.

However, I’m concerned that this might also encourage the other extreme: never creating common libraries and copying/pasting code from one project to the next!  In my opinion, this is just as bad or even worse that having a common library.

Having a common library can be both useful and powerful, but it needs to be treated as its own project – or shipping product, if you will.  Versioning, backwards-compatibility, proper API design, application of common API patterns, cohesion – these are just some of the things that you need to think of when designing a library.  Designing a library requires at least one, if not more, architectural and design minded developers to really manage and ship a common library throughout its lifecycle.  One thing often overlooked is deleting/obsolescing code, as well as reorganizing (or refactoring – what ever parlance you prefer) code into different namespaces and assemblies.  Also, one must not shy away from moving library code into different Visual Studio solutions (or whatever solution/project system being used) or to different locations in your source code repository.  Reorganizing applies not just to the contents of your library code, but also to how you work with your library code.

This is even the case with .NET itself. Granted, Microsoft doesn’t always get it right, but they’ve done a decent job.  If you look at the Base Class Library shipped with .NET, there is a TON of functionality, broken into assemblies, namespaces, and types.  This I think is very important when you are designing a library or suite of libraries – organization.  How you break functionality apart, especially at the assembly level, can have a huge impact on the usability and perceived maintainability of a library.

I would argue that Common/Utility are not dead, but rather that is something that is difficult to do well and requires practice and disciple.

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RFID Lock Prototype: Ethernet Enabled

Saturday, 2 May 2009 09:09 by jordan.terrell

Now that the Arduino DHCP library is fairly stable, I’m turning my attention back to my RFID Lock prototype.  I’ve integrated the DHCP library and it’s working perfectly for me.  The next step is to work out a protocol that the lock will respond to.  I’ve decided to use connection-less UDP messages.  I’ve already hacked in the ability to lock and unlock the deadbolt by sending a simple UDP packet – this was just to test connectivity.  I’m working through the protocol in my head (e.g. the data format, different commands, etc).  I think that I want to use the Open Sound Control (OSC) protocol as the format of the messages.  The nice thing about OSC is that it doesn’t tie me to lower level protocols (HTTP, SOAP, REST, TCP, UDP, etc).  As long as I can send and receive OSC messages, I can abstract away the communication details from the RFID Lock firmware.

Once the first draft of the protocol is finalized, I’ll begin working on a secure ASP.NET MVC application that will let me interact with the RFID Lock.  I’ll also be looking for secure ways to have it interact with my cell phone.