Development

19th November
2012
written by Chris

Power users are important, or they ought to be.  Power users are the folks who can help you figure out what your product is really capable of doing; they encourage you to push the boundaries of your existing feature set and can really help to highlight aspects of your service that you didn’t know were important.

No one seems to have told this to the folks at Netflix. (more…)

14th November
2012
written by Chris

Everything did not turn out better than expected

The great thing about computers and the internet is that, almost no matter what it is that you do, someone else will figure out some clever way to do something novel with the fruits of your labor.  The folks over at If This Then That or IFTTTT have made a whole website that does little else, but that’s beside the point.

Indeed, the concept of the Rich Web — all those clever interactive widgets that you depend on to get through your day — is an appropriation of a technology that was never designed to do what it now does.  HTML is not and was not designed as a way to build applications but simply as a way to represent documents.  Were the HTML standard maintained simply as a method of document representation — in other words, were its features and functionality updated with only an eye for its original purpose — the resulting changes would destroy huge chunks of the public web.

Obviously, this would be bad. (more…)

9th November
2012
written by Chris

Project Orca isn’t the first run-in the Romney camp had with software testing. A photo-macro app released by the campaign also misspelled “America”

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a political junkie.  While I enjoy the challenge of software development, there’s something fascinating about the gamesmanship and strategy that goes into political contests.  Ordinarily I have to keep these two aspects of my life separate but every so often they happen to overlap and, when they do, I can’t help but get a little giddy.

So while the political junkie in me was glued to a TV set on Tuesday night, obsessively checking reporting percentages for urban vs rural counties and referencing those against minority population figures and previous election results, the software developer in me didn’t care much about the election until today when I found a story entitled “The Romney Campaign Sure Had Some Bad Smartphone Apps.(more…)

30th June
2010
written by Chris

Not this kind of XML

VirPack has me working on an application that needs a user administered list of options for people to choose from. It’s a fairly simple thing that doesn’t require relational tables so I thought I’d toss it into XML.

Now, C# deals with XML really well. Almost everything, if you just ask nicely, will be quickly and easily packed off into XML the framework with just a few lines of code.

(more…)

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6th May
2010
written by Chris

Image Credit: PixelPlacebo via Flickr and Creative Commons

Unit testing is good; test driven development is better.  As Knuth once famously quippedBeware of the above code. I have only proven it correct, not tested it.” There really is no substitution for good, solid testing.

Unfortunately, at least in C#, webpages don’t like to be unit tested.  I approach this post with an uncomfortable realization that I am about to lay out the issues and problems I’ve had while the solution I am presently using is far from satisfactory. (more…)

28th April
2010
written by Chris

How do you user test this?

Most of the blogging I’ve done in the past has been political and thus I really haven’t had an opportunity to try to post much in the way of source code in a blog.  Once I got Nephandus up and running on WordPress, however, I thought I’d have a shot at it and thus posted a short article on my experiences with C#’s serialization quirks.

To illustrate a specific point I included a brief snippet of C# code which WordPress promptly turned into an illegible mess.  The web is a notoriously difficult place to display source code and thus I set off in search of a WordPress plug-in that would allow me to do so without too much thought.  Several days, a dozen plug-ins, and a string of curse words that would make a sailor blush with shame, I have a solution.

There is no shortage of syntax highlighting plug-ins available, but the support for their instantiation is practically non-existent.    Nephandus is running a number of plug-ins, none of which required much more than a few mouse-clicks to install and configure yet this particular task proved more difficult and involved than anything else I’ve done with WordPress.

The more I thought about this frustration the more I realized that this is an ongoing problem in the software development industry. (more…)

26th April
2010
written by Chris

My “learn C# project” at work has centered around creating a drag-and-drop portlet style system for the display of custom widgets.  I’ve been using JQuery UI for the javascript functionality but the backend has been all custom C# work.

People familiar with C# know that C# supports the inclusion of user defined controls called WebControls.  These are more or less very simple C# programs which can be man-handled by another bit of C# code.  They’re handy for making your code modular: you might design a web-control that takes and validates a credit card number, for example.

But WebControls are notoriously tricky beasts and over the course of the last few weeks I’ve come to understand that one of the reasons for this is that they don’t behave quite the way you might expect them to when they are serialized and deserialized. (more…)

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25th April
2010
written by Chris

Image Credit: Guillermo (via flickr)

It is time for Nephandus to change… again.

I registered Nephandus.com when I was in college.  Since then it has been a flat HTML page, a Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash application, a custom PHP driven web-application, a PHP/Fusebox web application, and a Zend PHP web application.  In that time I’ve gone from being a student of History at the University of Virginia to a  software developer at VirPack in Blacksburg, VA with stops along the way at Radford University (it turns out no one will pay you to have just one degree in History), Fingertip Marketing, BearingPoint, Sitevision, and Coral Networks. (more…)

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