StackOverflow – a missed opportunity

Back when I was young and mostly stupid, I discovered StackOverflow. The site struck me hard. There were a lot of “Wow” moments for a third year student. I still remember the first time I asked the first question, then even think about the questions to ask (so I can gain some precious reputation – yeah, I was young and stupid, remember?), and the first time I tried to answer a question myself.

It has been a long time since those days.

I still use StackOverflow, even at this very moment. But it’s on demand, instead of browsing it everyday as a habit. I search for a question, read the answer, possibly vote it up, then leave. Sometimes, when I have absolutely nothing to do, I try to review the suggested edits from other users. And that’s it.

I don’t entirely leave StackOverflow, I just don’t actively use it any more.

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What does it take to be a developer?

No I’m not talking about becoming a “developer” like Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg, or even someone less “famous” like Linus Torvald or Anders Hejlsberg. Man, I’d give up many things to become one of those. To become such successful developers, you must be extremely talented, extremely determined, and of course, a sizable amount of luck. I’m talking about an average human being, trying to become a person who can enjoy his work (and hopefully, provide his family with that work). 

Somebody might think, it’s easy to be a developer today. Most problems can be found on the internet – by searching Google, or asking questions on sites such as StackOverflow. Some might even jokingly define “programming = copy and paste answer from StackOverflow”, but we all know that, it takes more than that.

I’ve been trying to answer that question. I’m not a great developer by any mean. A decent, at most (My boss has been saying that I’m doing a very good job, I truly hope he’s not just being nice). It’s been 14 years since I get into programming, 10 years since I made the final decision to be a programmer, when I chose the faculty at my university  and 6 years since I began my professional career as a developer. It’s been all natural to me – what does it take to be a decent developer?

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Don’t be that developer

It’s never been easier to be a developer. With the availability of Internet these days, for almost anywhere, anytime, it’s just few clicks away to find the answer of your question. With proper keywords, especially when you have an error message, Google can lead you to the answer within a fraction of second – mostly StackOverflow, or some other websites/blogs that the people have already answered it.

If you want a more specific question where you can’t find an answer to, you can simply ask. It’s free. The days of Expert-sexchange are long gone. People around the world are willing to help you, without knowing who you are – they jump into your question, read it, guess it, understand it, ask something to clarify, think about a solution, possibly try it, post it to you.

They spend time, their precious time, to make your life, just a little easier.

And they don’t charge you a penny. Perhaps they like solving problem. Perhaps they like helping people. Perhaps they like the reputation count in SO. But in the end of the day, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money a professional consultant would cost you.

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Upgrading to TeamCity 9.x: the JRE headaches

Today I updated our TeamCity server from 8.15 to 9.17. We need to support C# 6.0 so it’s an essential move. TeamCity 10 is still EAP and we would wait a couple of months after it comes out to make sure all the plugins are supported.

The installation was a breeze – the installer detected there was a previous version and offered to uninstall it. All good. Until there was a browser window opened so I can continue the configuration, but http://localhost/ only returned time out.

When I opened the Service Management (services.msc), it looked like the service was not running. I tried to start it, but then it stopped immediately. Events viewer was not exactly helpful, it gave a very obscure information:

The description for Event ID 404 from source TeamCity (see below) cannot be found. Either the component that raises this event is not installed on your local computer or the installation is corrupted. You can install or repair the component on the local computer.

If the event originated on another computer, the display information had to be saved with the event.

The following information was included with the event:

===============================================================
TeamCity JetBrains JetService v1.1.755.777
c:\TeamCity\bin\TeamCityService.exe
Service process exited without service stop request
===============================================================
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C# 6.0/Visual Studio 2015 on TeamCity

At first you will have to update to TeamCity 9.x (9.1.7 at the time of this post) to support Visual Studio 2015 compilation.

After upgrading (with some hassles, of course, but you’ll figure out), you’ll have TeamCity 9.x up and running. Now the time for some configuration. Change your compiler in build definition to Visual Studio 2015 and you are ready to go!

Change the Visual Studio to 2015

Change the Visual Studio to 2015

Not so fast. You will soon notice that most (if not all) of your build agents are not unusable.

MSBuildTools14.0_x86_Path does not exists
MSBuildTools14.0_x86_Path does not exists

Solution? Download and install Microsoft Build Tools 2015 from

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=48159

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Why don’t I reply to your recruitment emails?

This post is about a (I hope) small portion of recruiters. If you have never sent an email like this, congratulations, I think you can consider yourself as a professional recruiter. If you did, might be you can changed the way you communicate with candidates to be more effective? I don’t want to burn any bridge here – I have high respects for recruiters, who are working hard to connect companies with potential employees, making the world a better place.

Most of the recruiters I’ve had chances to work with are great specialists and it’s been a pleasure working with them, even that I have to turn down all of the offers because I don’t want to change jobs now (While I’m not seeking for new job at the moment – have I ever mentioned that I have a great team at Episerver? – I think it’s not harmful to build up a network, just in case). However, there were times I feel annoyed when I receive a recruitment email. Initially, I would kindly reply to that email, saying I’m not interested in the positions. Later, I simply delete those emails. And I even marked some as spams.

It should not have to come to that end.

Why?

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Joel test scores are (somewhat) outdated – you should ask something else

Joel test scores are widely accepted as the “12 golden checks” for interviewee to ask interviewer during an interview. They were originated by Joel Spolsky – and his blog was famous among developers, they were quite well-known – and have been popularized even more with StackOverflow (where Joel Spolsky is one of the founders). StackOverflow Jobs even have a check list for recruiters when they post their job vacancies. Here’s the list:

  • Do you use source control?
  • Can you make a build in one step?
  • Do you make daily builds?
  • Do you have a bug database?
  • Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  • Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  • Do you have a spec?
  • Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  • Do you use the best tools money can buy?
  • Do you have testers?
  • Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  • Do you do hallway usability testing?

The list served its purposes for a long time – and I can say it, to a point – contributed to software industry. When developers are aware of such things, companies need to adapt to attract talents – resulting in better work environments and processes (again, there are companies which do that well before the list, and there are companies do not care about it at all).

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Episerver Commerce MetaDictionary internals

This is an excerpt from my book – Pro Episerver Commerce – which is now already 2/3 complete.

Dictionary types.

Previously we discussed on how properties work with catalog content. However – if you have dictionary types in your MetaClasses, they will work differently. In this section we will examine these special data types – this applies to Order system metaclasses as well.

As we all know – there are three types of dictionary in Episerver Commerce:

  • Single value dictionary: editor can select a value from defined ones.
In Commerce Manager, you can create new metafield with type of Dictionary, but without "Multiline" option
In Commerce Manager, you can create new metafield with type of Dictionary, but without “Multiline” option

Single value dictionary type is supported in the strongly typed content types – you’ll need to define a property of type string, with backing type of typeof(PropertyDictionarySingle)

  • Multi value Dictionary: editor can select multiple values from defined ones. The only different from Single value dictionary is it has the “Multiline” option enabled.

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Quicksilver – ServiceApi: fixing issues

From what I heard, developers seem to love both QuickSilver – as a template – and ServiceApi – as a REST server – very much. Despite of being relatively new on the field, they are being used quite frequently – QuickSilver is the preferred choice for MVC template while many sites are using ServiceApi to update the catalogs. What’s about the combination of these two? Would it be the best-of-bread for Episerver Commerce. I would say yes, but after you have fixed the issue.

The installation of ServiceApi.Commerce package to Quicksilver site should be easy and painless. Update the database and build the project, you should be expecting to have a working site.

Note quite. You should be seeing this error:

It’s because

is called twice (as it’s called in ServiceApi as well). So naturally, let’s try by commenting that line in SiteInitalization.cs, and build it again.

This can also be solved by adding this into appSettings:

Which will signal ServiceAPI to skip calling

A new error would show up:

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It’s Microsoft, after all

The news that will interest most of .NET developers today, is Microsoft decided to sack project.json and come back to MSBuild.

We feel lucky because we held off the transition to ASP.NET Core, but the other teams in my company might not be as happy. They will have to move back – and that means there will be a delay in developing new features. (Yes, we invest in a pre-release framework, because that’s what you need to do to stay ahead of your competitors)

You might say you saw it coming.

It’s not the first time Microsoft creates something cool, lets some of us fall in love with it (or even have our lives depends on it), the eventually kills it off.

Remember Silverlight?

Or XNA?

Or Windows Workflow Foundation 3.5? Technically there was WF 4.0, but the API:s were entirely changed, to the point that we can consider Microsoft killed WF and created something else with the same name.

Sadly enough, this is not uncommon in the software industry – especially in a big company like Microsoft. Microsoft has many divisions, each division has many teams and those teams, unfortunately, *compete* with each other, sometimes. Sometimes they win. Sometimes they lose the battle and their product is killed in a favor of other product from other team. It’s not something super secret about Microsoft – in fact – it’s quite well known.

It’s bad habit, without a doubt. You invest your time into learning it. Your company invests their money into using it. And then you have to start all over, again. You can still keep using the technology, it will not just die, but the does mean you put yourselves in the risk of lagging behind and security threats.

This time, it’s slightly better because the ASP.NET Core, technically, has not been released yet. It’s still bad because Microsoft should have made the decision before the Release Candidate, but I feel lucky. What if Microsoft makes it to ASP.NET Core 1.0, and we use it, then they kills it off in 2.0? What if we invest hundreds of development hours into it and then spend another hundreds of hours reverting back?

For me, personally:

It’s good thing this time we don’t have to learn a new thing. It’s bad thing this time we don’t have a new thing to learn.