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UPDATE: Via Dare I learned that the video was leaked to YouTube prior to its world premier and has been taken down. You can find the song on Weird Al’s MySpace page. I’ve updated my link.

White and

This video from Weird Al Yankovich cracks me up with such lyrical gems like this:

The only question\ I ever thought was hard.\ Is do I like Kirk?\ Or do I like Picard?\

Mad props to Al whose flow could give Eminem a run for his money.  Click on the image to watch the video on YouTube. Beware, the tune is catchy and you might catch yourself singing it later.

Via Jason Calacanis.

tags: Humor, Funny, Video, Geek, Nerdy

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CC Share Alike License: For whatever reasons, I happen to be somewhat well endowed in the forehead region.  My wife (bless her heart) likes to refer my forehead as my Sandwich Compartment.

She jokes that I can keep a sandwich in there, maybe even a soda.  When she says this, she mimics the motion of opening up my forehead like a cooler and reaching in to grab a nice delicious sandwich.

A while ago we were talking about .NET bloggers in general because we just had dinner with Jeff Atwood.  I showed her Scott Hanselman’s blog as an example of a really really popular .NET blog.  She remarked,

Well he must be smart!  His forehead is even bigger than yours!

See for yourself with these comparison photos.

MeScott\ Ready for a picnic

I told this story to Scott today via Skype and he confided in me that someone once referred to his forehead as his fivehead.

If I had been drinking a Coke at that point, it would have been snorted all over my keyboard.  Many thanks to Scott for allowing me to share this story, albeit grudgingly. ;)

tags: Sandwich, Scott Hanselman, Forehead

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UPDATE: I remember that Scott Hanselman proposed that Microsoft put together an organization like INETA for Open Source Software in an editorial aside a while back while discussing NDoc.

Hanselman Editorial Aside: It’s a shame that Microsoft can’t put together an organization like INETA (who already gives small stipends to folks to speak at User Groups) and gave away grants/stipends to the 20 or so .NET Open Source Projects that TRULY make a difference in measurable ways. The whole thing could be managed out of the existing INETA organization and wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred grand - the price of maybe 3-4 Microsoft Engineers.

This sounds like a great idea and it is a shame I didn’t think to link to it in my discussion here.

Money money money
Mooooney!Dave writes that Microsoft should financially support open source projects in response to this blog post on Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise.  There are two key points he makes in defense of his thesis.

  1. It’s in Microsoft’s own financial best interest.
  2. It is good PR for Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Financial Benefit

For the first point, Dave supplies anecdotal evidence in which open source software (DotNetNuke which has been supported by Microsoft) helped his company keep costs low and stay in business when they were just about to fold.  Because of the turnaround, Microsoft received the financial benefit that his company was still around to purchase Microsoft licenses as they received funding.

Although I tend to believe this type of evidence as my own company has also implemented DotNetNuke successfully for a client in a project that would have otherwise been unprofitable, I am not easily convinced by anecdotal evidence.  I doubt Microsoft would be.

It would be interesting to see Microsoft fund some studies to bolster or contradict these claims.  If open source software built on Microsoft tools really does benefits Microsoft financially, they would probably like to know by how much.

Microsoft’s PR Benefit

Now this argument is a more compelling to me. As Dave points out, performing a Google search on the term Evil Empire and Microsoft shows up on the first page of results.

It’s amazing when you think about it.  Despite the legion of Microsoft bloggers who put a real, articulate, and passionate human face to Microsoft, Microsoft still suffers from an image problem.  I think the world of Microsoft because of bloggers like Dare, Steve, Clemens, Chris, and Don to name too few.

Why should Apple or Google enjoy the so hot right now status when Microsoft is the one really opening up.  Microsoft’s PR problem seems to extend to its ability to retain top talent lately, though I don’t know if the perceived talent drain is truly real (they could be hiring just as many top quality replacements but we don’t hear about it).

I don’t know if supporting open source software would suddenly give people warm and fuzzies when they think of Microsoft, but it might attract developers to the platform who would otherwise be lured to Ruby on Rails or other such alternative platforms.

My Take On This

Ultimately I think Microsoft is not a charity and should do what’s best for Microsoft. Ultimately, I think it is in its best interest to look at this seriously and consider helping projects (like NDoc) out.

As for me, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m going around looking for a handout.  It’s not why I started this project nor why I devote my time to it. It’s an incredibly fulfilling way to spend my time and hone my skills, not to mention that the doormen at all the hot clubs in Los Angeles are Subtext users and let me cut to the front of the line (ok, maybe not).

I have implemented one instance of Subtext for a client at a steeply discounted rate, but I don’t see generating a huge amount of business from it.  The point being, I don’t know if Subtext specifically is a benefit that would even register a blip on Microsoft’s radar.  Could be I’m thinking too small.  At least I know some of my posts have helped developers find solutions to problems saving them money.

However if someone were to wave money in front of me to help develop it with a good business case, I probably wouldn’t turn it down.  I’m proud, but not stupid.

The situation I daydream about is one day having a position in which my job is to help a company implement some product that provides a service to the open source community (such as something like CodePlex, or a source search engine for open source software, or a blog host, etc…) and as part of my job description be given a decent amount of work time to lead development on Subtext.  The Subtext time would have to not be charity, but seen as contributing to the company by keeping it relevant to its consumers.

But again, I digress.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments, either here or over on Dave’s post.

UPDATE: Joe Brinkman has a great post on this topic that pretty much aligns with my views. However, I would only add that I do think it is in Microsoft’s best interest to be more active in leveraging successful open source projects to benefit Microsoft.

Especially in cases where software is licensed in a favorable manner (BSD baby!) for inclusion in its own products. Why write your own unit testing tool when you could have used MbUnit or NUnit and would not have any obligations to release your customizations if you so choosed (although my mom taught be that sharing was a good thing to do)?

tags: Open Source, Microsoft, Subtext

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Logo If you are using Subtext, or are using .TEXT and plan to use Subtext I need to ask you a few questions.  Please answer as your answers may determine whether or not some features are removed for the sake of simplification.

These questions revolve around the Advanced Options when creating or editing a post in the admin tool.

1. Do you use the Title URL field?

Now before you answer, let me explain what this field is used for. You might have values in that column, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is in use. 

The Title Url field is used to specify an ALTERNATE URL for the title of a blog post.  Ordinarily, the title of the blog post links to the blog post itself.  Older versions of .TEXT and Subtext would update that field with the URL to the blog post, which was unnecessary since we could generate that URL on the fly.

In my humble opinion, it is a bad idea to have the title of a blog post link elsewhere as it is confusing to users. Unless there are large numbers of users who have specific needs for this feature, I would like to remove it.

2. Do you ever enter values for Source Name and Source Url for a blog post?

Scott Watermasysk, the original creator of .TEXT (Subtext, I am your father) graciously pointed out the use of the Source and SourceUrl fields in the comments of this post. These are used for the optional RSS <source> element. It’s for properly attributing credit for a link when republishing a post from somewhere else (see the RSS spec). I’ve never seen any aggregators make use of this unfortunately and most people simply attribute others in the body of the post, so it is still a candidate for removal if nobody makes use of it. As far as I can tell, these fields are intended for comments, not for blog posts.  However the admin section does have text fields for entering these values.  But These values are NEVER displayed for blog posts.

I’m 99.9% sure I’ll be removing these fields for blog posts so in part, this question is a warning.  However if someone has an extremely compelling reason to keep them for blog posts, speak up now or forever hold your peace.

3. Would you find the ability to run Subtext off of another database such as MySql or Firebird very important?

I know some users might like to save a few bucks and go with .NET and MySql hosting.  I’ve thought about implementing multiple database support, but don’t want to undertake such a big task if there is no demand. 

Even if there is demand, it’d have to be overwhelming for me to consider doing it sooner rather than later.

Thanks! That’s all for now. I appreciate your responses.

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From the 37 Signals blog I find out that reflections are the new dropshadows.  Unfortunately I didn’t get the memo, but at least there is a nice simple javascript library to add reflections to images.

How long will it take someone to write a Windows Live Writer plugin to do the same?

So if it is working correctly, the image here should have a reflection.


UPDATE: Doesn’t seem to align quite right for me in Firefox, but looks great in IE.

Don’t you love jumping in on the latest fad? What will be next? BlackVelvet.js?

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Source: If you’ve read my blog you know I have a bit of a thing for Microformats.  I once wrote a little special effect script to highlight links to your friends when marked up using the XFN (XHTML Friends Network) Microformat used to denote relationships to people you link to.

Ever since I wrote and started using this script, I ran into a bit of interpersonal angst everytime I would link to someone.  Every link spurred the following internal dialog.

Do I mark so-and-so as a friend or acquaintance?  Well we’ve never met but I think he’d consider me a friend. But would it be presumptuous if I classified him as a friend.  What if I mark him as a friend and he links to me as an acquaintance?  I would be crushed!  But what if I link to him as an acquaintance and he considers me a friend.  Some feelings could be hurt!

By now you probably think I have some serious issues (very true) and am being overly paranoid.  But check out Scott Hanselman’s response when I metadata’d him as an acquaintance. He called me a dick!  *sniff* *sniff* Ouch!  Well technically he used well formed markup (no namespace declared) to make that point, which softened the impact, but only slightly.

I have since realized that the standard XFN relationships are not granular enough to capture the nuances of real world relationships.  To save others from such social insecurity and XFN relationship angst, I humbly propose some new relationships I think should be added to the format.  For your reference, the current list is located here.  I will group by proposed additions in the appropriate existing categories.


This helps distinguish someone who is just a friend to someone you actually hang out and throw down beers with. Possible alternative would be buddy. Often Symmetric. friend-with-benefits
As a very happily married man, I have no use for this, but maybe you do, tiger. Hopefully Symmetric. frend-4-evers
My market research indicates that Microformat usage is not very popular among the pre-teen Myspace crowd. This one is an attempt to reach that market. The format would have to allow alternate capitalizations and spellings for this one such as fReNd-4-eVA. Usually Symmetric or it gets really ugly.


Currently the XFN profile only contains one value for the Physical category. I figured you need at least two to make it its own category (FxCop rule #37142). Let everyone know the two of you got into a fist fight over the merits of Ruby on Rails. Symmetric.


Let everyone know, that regardless of what that filthy *#@!! said, it was you who dumped him/her! Inverse of dumped-by. dumped-by
Update: Ben Ward points out that dumped-by is not necessary. To indicate a reverse relationship, use rev="dumped" instead. This usage is popular among whiny songwriters and adolescents who love to live in that moment of pain. Inverse of dumped.


Again, invoking FxCop rule #37142, The Identity category needs another value. This lets others know that you are linking to a website created by your other personality. Symmetric and Transitive.

I hope to submit this Tantek, Matthew, and Eric for their consideration. Unfortunately I have a few strikes against this proposal becoming accepted.

For example, there’s this point on the background page of the XFN site.

Negative relationship terms have been omitted from XFN by design. The authors think that such values would not serve a positive ends and thus made the deliberate decision to leave them out. Such terms (we won’t even bother naming them here) while mildly entertaining in a dark humor sort of way, only serve to propagate negativity.

There’s also this point on the same page.

XFN values are by implication present tense.

We have chosen to omit any temporal component for the sake of simplicity.

So yes, it appears I have my work cut out for me as many of my proposed additions completely violate the spirit and guidelines of XFN.  But that is a minor quibble I’m sure we can resolve with your help. Thank you and good night.

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I found out recently that many of my family members and friends who used to read my blog stopped doing so because most of my blog posts were pure gibberish to them.  Apparently not everyone is fascinated by topics such as how many CPU cycles it takes to make a method call in a dynamic language?  Neither are they enthralled by matching HTML with Regular Expressions.  Go figure.

InjuryAnd yes, I have tried in the past to explain that my blog has categories and by going to the **Day to Day category, you can filter out my geekery.  But many of my friends simply bookmark and simply can’t be bothered. 

So I am starting a new blog just for them where I can post such personal things such as a picture of this vicious bruise I received in a soccer game which was actually worse than it looks.

In the past, I’ve tended to have the philosophy of just writing about anything here.  But these days, I’ve migrated to seeing blogging as participating in a community. In my case, I have focused this blog to participate in the Software Development community, and more specifically the .NET developer community.  As they say about writing, consider your audience!  However I don’t think this some absolute truth of blogging. If you want to post pics of your cats in your geek blog, post away!  This is just my preference for myself.

This also doesn’t mean that will only consist of techie posts.  I’ll still post the occasional personal item that I think might be interesting to my geek friends.  I rather like injecting my personality here. 

What I probably won’t do is post mundane stuff like, “Yo Dan. You and Judy want to have dinner tonight?  Call me or post a comment here.” here, reserving that for my other blog.

The URL for my other blog is

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Some computer scientist by the name of Donald Knuth once said,

Premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.

Bah! What did he know?

Of course we all know what he meant, but when you take his statement at face value, the claim is a bit vague.  What exactly is it that is being optimized?

Image From

Well speed of course! At least that is the optimization that Knuth refers to and it is what developers typically mean when they use the term optimize.  But there are many factors in software that can be optimized, not all of which are evil to optimize prematurely.

The key positive optimization that comes to mind is optimizing developer productivity.  I hardly see anything evil about optimizing productivity early in a project.  It is most certainly a healthy thing to do, hence the misleading title of this post.

However as with all things, optimizations bring with them tradeoffs.  Optimizing for developer productivity often comes at the price of optimizing code execution speed.  Likewise optimizing for speed will come at the cost of developer productivity.

Security is another example of an optimization that bears with it various trade-offs.

The point of all this is to keep in mind that at all times within a software project, whether explicitely or implicitely, you are optimizing for something.  It is important to be intentional about what exactly you wish to optimize.

If you start optimizing for performance early, keep in mind Knuth’s forewarning.  If you are optimizing for productivity early, then you are on the right track.  This does not mean that you should never consider performance. On the contrary, a good developer should definitely design for performance and measure measure measure.

The danger to avoid is diverting too much optimization attention to areas that provide too little gain, as discussed in my last post on Ruby Performance.

tags: Performance, Optimization, Software, Programming

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Of course that assumes that Joel wears a size 9 and a half.


Once again the Joel Cycle takes another turn. The cycle goes something like this:

  • Joel critiques something or other.
  • Bloggers counter Joel’s claims, many with thoughtful counter arguments.
  • Soon a flood of comments and posts start to turn a bit ugly and form around two camps: The Joel is an idiot why do you even read him? camp and the Joel is successful, what have you ever done that you can disagree with him? camp.
  • Rinse and Repeat

It really is an interesting phenomenon to watch and participate in. For example, I’ve had my blog post lumped in as part of the angry lynch mob out to get Joel.  All I said was that I found his argument unconvincing. Am I really a part of a mob conspiracy?

Now before anyone jumps down my throat, let me clarify something very important. I have tremendous amount of respect for Joel Spolsky.

There, I said it. I can’t speak for Jeff Atwood, but I would venture to guess that he too has a lot of respect for Joel, despite the big red WTF on his forehead.

Anyone who has thousands of developers dissecting his every blog post and arguing the pros and cons of how he runs his company is doing something very right. I’d love to be in those shoes, running a very successful company with thousands of people invested in what I do and how I do it, whether positively or negatively.

If I were to blog something stupid (and I’m not saying he did, but just for the sake of argument, sheesh!), I’d be lucky to get a couple comments to the effect, “Dude, you’re an idiot.” Heck, I’d be happy if I even generated that level of passion. Rather I’d probably get a comment to the effect of, “I disagree. Nice Post! Buy Xanax”.

The other reaction Joel commonly gets is the I don’t know why y’all are reading him, I gave that shit up a long time ago reaction. I also don’t understand this reaction. For the most part, I think Joel’s signal to noise ratio is very high, and he’s written some really top notch articles on his blog. Just because he says a few things from time to time that you disagree with doesn’t mean you should throw the baby out with the bath water. Sure he comes across as a bit arrogant, but he’s that good.

The last question I often see is Why is everyone paying Joel so much attention? I addressed this very question before in my post, What Is It About Joel?.

Rock Star

In many respects, Joel is the closest thing the software community has to a bonafide rockstar. We’re half expecting to open up our aggregators one day and read about him enrolling in a drug rehab program, but one of those trendy ones in Malibu (or in the Hamptons I suppose with his fondness for New York). Like it or not, he’s opinionated, successful, and a thought leader in our field.

So when he says something controversial, it’s natural to want to provide a counter argument lest some young punk developer at your next team meeting argues vehemently for writing a custom programming language and uses an Appeal to Authority to make his/her case.

Obviously what works for FogBugz does not work for everyone else, but not understands that distinction.

In any case, this will be my last post on the subject of Joel. At least until the cycle begins anew.

Related Links:

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Ruby Joel Spolsky follows up on his earlier remarks about scaling out a Ruby on Rails site with this post on Ruby performance.  I’m afraid it is a thoroughly unconvincing and surprising argument.  He states…

I understand the philosophy that developer cycles are more important than cpu cycles, but frankly that’s just a bumper-sticker slogan and not fair to the people who are complaining about performance.

A bumper-sticker slogan?  That’s a surprising statement considering that FogBugz is not written entirely in C.  Is it because Wasabi compiled to PHP or VBScript is saving CPU cycles?  Hardly.

As one might expect from a well designed application, FogBugz is written in a productive high-level language for the very reason that Ruby advocates push ruby - it saves developer cycles and thus money.

Also as one would expect from a well written application, in the few cases where performance is a problem, those particular features were written with a lower-level high performance language.

So why wouldn’t this approach apply to Ruby?  From the tenor of his post, Joel seems to indicate that those who choose to implement their enterprise applications on Ruby are so religiously blinded by the benefits of Rails that they would never dare allow the impurity of non-Ruby code to enter the boundary of their architecture.

Really now?

To his credit, Joel states at the end…

In the meantime I stand by my claim that it’s not appropriate for every situation.

And this is true. It may not work well for that computation intensive Bayesian filter.  But is anyone making the claim that Ruby is appropriate for every situation?  The claim I’ve heard is that it is certainly appropriate for many more situations than Joel gives credit for.  I believe that.

Update: Related Links

tags: Ruby, Ruby On Rails, Joel Spolsky, Performance

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Just a little shout out to my wife to wish us a happy anniversary.  We’ve been married for four years and each one has been better than the last.  I love you honey!

She’s got a rock solid sense of humor (have you seen her gravatar?) and a smile with a gleam so bright it makes you shout Eureka

Ask a
Ninja I would post a picture, but my wife’s sense of online privacy would make Bruce Schneier look like a MySpace exhibitionist.  In fact, I’ve already said too much. 

Instead, I’ll post a picture of a ninja because ninjas have a lot in common with my wife.  They both kick ass, they are both Japanese (except for this one), they are both concerned about privacy, and like my wife, ninjas are so totally cool!

I mean who doesn’t love ninjas!?

Picture from

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Update: You can click on the images (except the vegas one) to see larger pics.

Lights As I mentioned in a previous post, I am currently on a road trip with my younger brother, which explains the lack of blogging.  

This crazy kid started off from Anchorage and drove down the Alaskan Highway (which is known for being gravelly and unpaved in parts) and made his way to Los Angeles.  And that is just the first leg of his drive.  His final destination is Luverne, Minnesota where he will live for a year interning with a pastor at the local church.

Despite the crazy conditions on the Yukon roads, he was still able to take this picture of the Aurora Borealis (aka Northern Lights).

Vegas Baby,
Vegas!Once in Los Angeles, Brian stayed with us a couple of days before we set out towards Minnesota.  My parents felt more relaxed that I was driving with him on this leg of his journey.

Leaving Los Angeles at around 9:30 PM on Wednesday night we made very good time and drifted into Las Vegas around 1:30 AM.  My screams of “Vegas Baby! Vegas!” along the way did not making any sense to my brother who had not seen Swingers.

Lightning! Being my brother’s first time in Vegas, it was my older-brotherly duty to introduce him to one of the (many) sins of Sin City -Gambling!

Usually such a duty ends in tragedy for everyone involved, but ours ended well. 

After a half hour or so at the BlackJack tables, we were up a bill ($100), easily enough to cover the room for the night and some drinks, and probably turning my brother into a gambling addict for life.  I’m sure his church will be happy with me for corrupting him.

again! The next morning we headed out towards Denver.  This part of the drive was just amazing in terms of scenery, especially driving through the canyons of Utah.  There were some lightning storms along the way and my brother managed to snap a couple pictures of the lightning from the car.

 We are now in the tiny town of Luverne where my brother will live for the next year or so assuming he doesn’t go stir crazy.  This is one of those small towns that seemed to cherry pick the good parts of progress, and not the bad.

FallsFor example, people often don’t lock their cars, even leaving them running in the winter when they run into a store to pick up a few items.  Yet they are not so small town that I don’t have a high speed wireless connection at my disposal.

Also, Sioux Falls, South Dakota is only a half hour away and its a reasonably large city.  We drove there last night and saw the falls which are surrounded by red rock, which is where we took this picture.

Tonight I will take an unfortunately long flight home with two stopovers (I wonder if I could just walk and be there sooner).  This road trip with my brother has been a wonderful way to catch up with him, especially now that he’s leaving the nest and becoming a man (although one still prone to fart jokes). 

Phil and
BrianOf course, during the trip, I realized he’s been grown up for a long time, which is hard to recognize when one is an older sibling. 

As for me, the hours of driving left me free to reflect and get a bit philosophical. I’ll write about some of this in future posts, I hope.

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Tonight at Soccer practice, we scrimmaged for a while then ran through some drills.  We have an English guy and a Scottish guy (who hardly anyone can understand) on the team who are a laugh a minute.  You can imagine their surprise when we started a shooting drill and our team manager tells them that we all have to shag our own balls.

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Seems like all sorts of open source projects have been releasing lately.  Darren Neimke and Keyvan Nayyeri proudly announce the release of BlogML 2.0 on CodePlex.  Here’s a list of new features on Keyvan’s blog. With a bit of luck and lots of persistence, BlogML will hopefully be a key component in breaking vendor lock-in when it comes to blogging engine. 

For example, if you decide to try Subtext as your blogging engine, and decide it’s not for you, I want you to have your data in a form that is easy to import to other engines.  Why should you have to write code to move from one platform to another?

I contributed a BlogML provider framework with the goal of making it really easy to implement BlogML on other platforms.  For example, the homegrown blog.  I don’t feel I fully accomplished the goal of making it easy, but I think it’s a step in the right direction and I’m sure it’s in good hands now.

Of course I am now pissed (for you British, that’s angry, not drunk) that we have all this extra work to do for Subtext since we’re still running BlogML 1.0 (legacy!), and 2.0 has already been out a few hours!

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Darren Neimke apparently is not one to shy away from a bit of trash talk.  He IM’d me via MSN recently to warn me about a new SUB, ready to take down Subtext. In this case, it is his newly open sourced blog engine, SingleUserBlog or SUB, which is now hosted on CodePlex.  Darren has been on a roll lately with the recent release of BlogML 2.0.  Now SUB enters the scene with torpedoes blazing!

But Darren must know he is not dealing with a complete novice in warfare.  I deftly guided him to choose the BSD license.  So should they implement something I must have, I can just take it, BWAHAHA! (with proper attribution of course, following all terms of the license and other legal mumbo jumbo)

Darren, I believe I sunk your battleship.

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SceneryThis past weekend my wife and I drove up to San Francisco to attend a friend’s wedding, which ended up being a lot of fun.  We always like visiting The City because of the many friends we have in the area, though being there reinforces the fact that it is not a place where we’d want to live (no offense to anybody who lives there, it’s just not our style).

While up there we were fortunate enough to have dinner with Mr. Coding Horror Jeff Atwood and his wonderful wife.

They gave us a tour of their new place and I was most impressed with his “boom boom” room (it’s his term and it’s not what you think).  They have a separated room tricked out with surround sound THX speakers, an LCD Projector, a Play Station 2, Dance Dance Revolution game pads, and of course, Guitar Hero.  Jeff gave us a quick demo of Guitar Hero and I was quite impressed, both by the fact that Jeff has some rhythm as well as the graphics and sound of the game.

franciscoIn some ways, the boom boom room reminded me of Ricky Shroder’s room from Silver Spoons.

Meanwhile, my brother is moving from Alaska to Minnesota, but he’s doing it the hard way, driving.  He drove down to Los Angeles from Anchorage, Alaska at a relatively leisurely pace visiting with friends along the way.

He will stay with us for a couple of days and then he and I will set out to drive to Minnesota.  My parents are such worriers so it made them feel better that I was driving with him for this leg of the trip since he won’t be stopping much.

Hopefully we’ll get there with enough time to visit some relative we have in the area.  In any case, if I am less than responsive to emails and Subtext mailing list/forums, you’ll know why.

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I mentioned several heuristic approachs to blocking spam in my recent post on blocking comment spam, but commenters note that I failed to mention CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart).  At the moment, CAPTCHA is quite effective, both at blocking spam and annoying users.

But I don’t have any real beef with CAPTCHA, apart from the accessibility issues.  If I met CAPTCHA in a bar, I’d buy it a beer! No hard feelings despite thetrash talkingin the past, right?

There is successful code out there that can break CAPTCHA, but that is pretty much true of every other method of blocking spam I’ve mentioned.

The reason I didn’t mention CAPTCHA is that it would be ineffective for me.  Much of my spam comes in via automated means such as a trackback/pingback .  The whole point of a trackback is to allow another computer to post a comment on my site.  So telling a computer apart from a human in that situation is pointless.

And at the moment, the Comment API has no support for CAPTCHA.  If comment spam isn’t coming in via the comment api now, it is only a matter of time before it is the primary source of comments.

So while I believe CAPTCHA is effective and may well be for a good while until comment spammers catch up, I would like to look one step ahead and focus on heuristics that can salvage the use of trackbacks and the Comment API. 

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As a follow-up to the recent release of Subtext 1.9, I would also like to introduce a little something I put together at

Since we have yet to incorporate a skin preview or gallery in Subtext, I setup a site that features each of the default skins.  Additionaly, the site also has a Skin Showcase where users can submit skins to share with the community.  User submissions are moderated.

Subtext Skins

Although we plan to overhaul skinning in the next version, it is still worthwhile to share skins here as my hope is to help port any user submitted skin (unless it gets too ridiculous in there).

I started off the sharing with the Marvin 3 Column skin which used to be included with Subtext.  If you have a skin you wish to share, please do share!  I recommend that your zip file include a Skins.User.config file rather than a Skins.config file.

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Logo Well my friends, it took a bit longer than expected to get Subtext 1.9 out the door, but we did it.  When we released Subtext 1.5 back in June I said,

The next version of Subtext is code named Daedelus. It will simply be a straight upgrade to ASP.NET 2.0. We hope for a quick turnaround as we don’t plan to add a lot of features in this iteration. We just want to get up and running in ASP.NET 2.0.

Well that was then and this is now and I was wrong about the quick turnaround.

We realized that a straight port to ASP.NET 2.0 wasn’t much fun if we couldn’t take advantage of some of the new goodies that ASP.NET 2.0 has.  So we spent a significant amount of time cleaning up code and refactoring some functionality to take advantage of what ASP.NET 2.0 offers.  A lot of the changes are under the hood, but there are still a few surface level treats for everybody.

Before you upgrade to 1.9, please check out my notes on upgrading.

So what is new in Subtext 1.9 besides that it is now an ASP.NET 2.0 application?

Under The Hood

Let’s not kid ourselves. 99.999% (Five nines baby!) of my readers are geeks and we want to pop open the hood and take a look around.

  1. Subtext Providers have been refactored to use the Microsoft base Provider class, System.Configuration.Provider.ProviderBase.
  2. Used Generics where appropriate.  As you know, there is a lot of temptation when given a new hammer to start looking at everything as a nail.  We tried to avoid that temptation and make judicious use of Generics.  I think we did a bang up job.  Most of our collection classes are now generic collections and there’s that CollectionBook class I wrote about recently.
  3. Improved our Continuous Integration and build process using CruiseControl.NET.  We now have a nice dashboard that provides a lot of visibility into our development progress.
  4. Improved our unit test code coverage to 36.4% and counting. (When I started it was pretty much 0)
  5. Subtext now runs under Medium Trust without problems except for the Trackback/Pingback issue.
  6. Converted the Subtext.Web project into a Web Application Project.
  7. Added a _System folder to the Skins directory. This contains some CSS files that any skin may reference which provide some common CSS layout and styles.  For example, by referencing commonstyle.css, you can use the pullout css class to pullout some text.  Custom skins can reference these files and override specific settings, putting the Cascading back in CSS.

Try out the new “pullout” or “pullout.alt” CSS classes.

New Features

Some new features we added.

  1. Sometimes removing code is as much a feature as adding code.  As I announced earlier, we removed some old skins and added some snazzy new ones.  We also implemented a way for custom skin definitions to not get overwritten when upgrading code.
  2. Improvements to the packaged skins.  We added the Previous/Next control to nearly every skin as well as Gravatar support among other minor improvements.
  3. Comment Moderation!  This high demand feature was fast-tracked when my company was hired to implement it for a client who wished to start a blog. The client agreed to contribute the source back to the project!
  4. Not exactly a new feature, but we changed the default Html Editor to use the FCKEditor.
  5. Implemented RSD (Really Simple Discovery) and the MetaWeblog API’s newMediaObject method so that Subtext works quite well with Windows Live Writer.

Bug Fixes

There are probably too many to list, but I’ll point out a few that people may have noticed.

  1. [1524172] The Username is being saved as the title.
  2. [1524371] Non-English comments do not appear correctly in mail message.
  3. [1521317] Installation check code fails in locked down scenarios.
  4. [1519764] Skin selection not retained.

Important Note

Subtext ships with ReverseDOS spam blocker enabled out of the box. Please check the ReverseDOS.config file to make sure that it is not filtering any terms that would be relevant to comments in your blog. You can also disable ReverseDOS by removing any reference to it from Web.config should you so desire.

Plans For The Future

We are now gearing up for Subtext 2.0 “Poseidon”, our next major release, which will feature a plugin framework.  Our hope is to foster a community of plugin contributions.  Other features in the works include a Membership provider which will allow multiple authors for a single blog and a new skinning framework. I will update the Roadmap soon to reflect our current plans for 2.0.

Also, with the recent deluge in comment spam, I am considering having an interim release (1.9.1) that would include Akismet as well as semi-moderation (1.9 does include full moderation now). Ideally we would save these features until we have a plugin framework, as they seem like great candidates for plugins. However the communal benefit of blocking spam may be too great to wait.

Many thanks to the growing numbers of Subtext contributors who helped shape and test this release.  All your efforts, whether it is coding, submitting patches, testing, reporting bugs, requesting features, or just giving us a piece of your mind are appreciated!

And before I forget, as I tend to do, the link to the latest release is here.