tech comments suggest edit

I’m chatting with my buddy Micah who will ask me a question and then annoyingly answer it himself immediately after. For example, he asked me how FireFox picks up an icon from web pages. I replied that there’s a favicon protocol but that I didn’t know the details. He then proceeded to explain how to format the link tag properly.

Apparently the latest version of Trillian will highlight words with links to their definition in Wikipedia. So as you chat with your friends, you become a living breathing dictionary. That’s a rather nice feature for IM conversations.

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Yesterday I wrote about a neat Trillianfeature that highlights words with their Wikipedia definition.

Today Dimitri told me via MSN Messenger that I caused him to buy some music online. While I was out for a walk, I had left my iTunes playing. I’m using the new 7.0 version of MSN Messenger which allows you to automatically publish what you are currently playing as your status message. Apparently something I was listening to (as I have fantastic taste in music) caught his attention enough that he clicked on the song and bought it.

You have to love these small details that make software more interesting to use. Trillian’s wikipedia integration puts knowledge at your fingertips (to use a much bandied about Microsoft phrase), while Messenger connects us via the universal language of music. I love checking Messenger to see what people are playing at any given moment.

So Dare (currently playing something by, whoelse?, 50 cent), much kudos to you and your team on the latest messenger as well as for helping unleash the inner consumer whore within each of us. :)

[Listening to: Athena - Tiësto - Parade of the Athletes (6:17)]

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CancunPlanning a vacation is proving to be a challenge now that I’m independent. Last year, Akumi and I decided that we were going to England for two weeks this April. Well April has come and is about to go, and we’re no closer to Jolly old England (and Old Trafford).

With my project ramping up, I just don’t think we can do two weeks of vacation in a row. Of course, this isn’t really fair to my wife as I’m still going to Burning Man at the end of August. We need a shorter vacation for the two of us, so I thought of our good neighbors next door. Mexico!

Having surveyed her Mexican expatriate coworkers, my wife reported that they unanimously declare Cancun as the place to go. Armed with that information, we nearly jumped on an all-inclusive deal that would have us flying out of Los Angeles this Saturday. But good sense (or something resembling it) took hold and we stopped ourselves (for the moment).

I’m skeptical of all-inclusive deals because of the simple fact that once they have you there, they don’t have much incentive to step up the quality of food. Imagine travelling all the way to Mexico for bad Mexican food. ¡Aye Carumba!

So now we’re looking at November as a good time to enjoy the turquoise beaches of Cancun and Tulum. However, if you’ve been there and had a great time (or not), I’d love to hear about it. ¡Muchas Gracias!

[Listening to: Dreaming (Percussion Mix) “Vamos a Jugar en el Sol!” - Ruff Driverz Pres. Arrola - Trance: A State of Altered Consciousness (5:25)]

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One thing I’ve found annoying at times with the DataGrid control is there’s no way to specify a title to be displayed above the headers. Being lazy, I often resorted to adding a label above the data grid followed by a br tag.

But no longer! I wanted to have the title display in its own row within the data grid structure so I created a custom data grid control that does just that. See the example below for how it renders.

This is the Title
Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
See Spot Run
Run Spot Run!
Flee the Maniacs

The key to this is to override the OnItemCreated method and set my own rendering method for the header item.

/// <summary>
/// Assigns our own render method for the header item.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="e"> E. </param>
protected override void OnItemCreated(DataGridItemEventArgs e)
{
    if (ListItemType.Header == e.Item.ItemType && Title != null &&
Title.Length > 0)
    {
        e.Item.SetRenderMethodDelegate( new RenderMethod(RenderTitle));
    }
    else
    {
        base .OnItemCreated(e);
    }
}

When ASP.NET is ready to render the Header, it’ll call my method instead which is named RenderTitle.

/// <summary>
/// Renders the title as its own row.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="writer"> Writer. </param>
/// <param name="ctl"> CTL. </param>
protected virtual void RenderTitle(HtmlTextWriter writer, Control ctl)
{
    // TR is on the stack writer's stack at this point...
    writer.AddAttribute(
        "colspan",
        this.Columns.Count.ToString(CultureInfo.InvariantCulture));

    writer.AddAttribute("align", "center");
    writer.RenderBeginTag("TD");
    writer.Write(Title);
    writer.RenderEndTag(); // Writes </TD>
    writer.RenderEndTag(); // Writes </TR>

    // Now we add the header attributes we
    // copied.
    this .HeaderStyle.AddAttributesToRender(writer);
    writer.RenderBeginTag("TR");

    //Render the cells for the header row.
    foreach (Control control in ctl.Controls)
    {
        control.RenderControl(writer);
    }

    // We don't need to write the </TR>.
    // The grid will do that for us.
}

The snippet shown here will style the title row the same as the header style. In my actual control, I defined a property named TitleCssClass to enable you to define your own Css class to use to style the title row. This required me to do a bit of hacking so that the HeaderStyle gets removed from the render stack and then gets added back later when rendering the Header row. If that makes no sense, you’ll see what I mean. I’ve put the code for the control here.

comments suggest edit

Elbow Yesterday Akumi pointed at my elbow in shock and asked me what happened.

“What happened to what?” I replied?

“You’re elbow. It’s badly bruised.”

Sure enough my entire elbow is covered in a dark shade of reddish purple. “Huh. How about that. I have no idea.” I did go to a party the night before, but I’m pretty sure I managed to stay on my feet the entire night. I don’t remember getting injured during soccer. It just showed up.

I’ll be sure to install a web-cam in the bedroom tonight. I have a sneaking suspicion that Akumi beats me while I sleep. If she does, it’s probably well deserved as I’ve been known to elbow her in the head while we sleep from time to time…. Hmmm. I better check her head.

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Since I mentioned that the Family Guy was no longer cancelled on my blog, I’ve noticed that Google Ad Sense has been displaying a Family Guy banner ad on my homepage.

Family Guy In case it is gone by the time you read this, the image at left is a snippet from the full banner ad. It’s colorful and looks rather nice at the top of my blog.

Now I agree that it’s a bad idea to try to game the google AdSense system for profit, but what about gaming the system for pure fun? For example, coaxing the Google Ad-Sense system to display the most interesting (or offensive) ad possible.

Well I won’t condone such behavior lest I’m removed from the program. I will merely mention the idea.

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Before you upgrade to Community Server, be aware that they’ve turned it into a commercial product. Yes, there is a non-commercial license available, but it requires you to display the following image at the bottom of every page.

CS EULA I have no problem giving credit where credit’s due, but this is in stark contrast to the BSD license employed by .TEXT and you should be aware of this if you plan to upgrade to CS.

For example, competitors to Telligent would probably want to purchase the commerical license rather than have to prominently display their logo on your blog.

In any case, I’ll probably stick with .TEXT and start looking into what it will take to switch to DasBlog. I think I prefer the more focused approach DasBlog takes.

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Jayson Knight has been cutting his teeth on the latest version of .TEXT now called Community Server trying to get it’s RSS and CommentAPI support to work.

Thankfully he posts his fix here for others to use.

I’m pretty sure he’d agree with me that given the chance, he wouldn’t have upgraded to Community Server so soon after its release. To be fair, it’s an ambitious release intending to integrate Forums, Blogs, and Photo Galleries all in one package. But for me personally, and I’d guess for a lot of .TEXT users, this wasn’t a necessary feature. Especially not at the cost of having existing features break.

It seems to me that the Telligent guys have released this puppy a bit too early. It’s really bothersome how much the RSS and commenting features regressed in this release. It’s not a case of simply introducing a bug that accidentally disables a feature, but instead appears to be a case of dropping the code for existing functionality. Who, besides the ever patient beta community, tested this?

Installation is still a tricky beast with this software as I’ve had difficulty getting it up on my development machine. Understand that I was able to get .TEXT installed and CS is supposed to have simplified the installation process. As many of you know, installing .TEXT is a trip to the dentist without N2O.

The reason I had chosen .TEXT in the first place was for its SQL Server support, and its the primary reason I’ll stick with it as running ad-hoc reports against my blog is quite convenient. I’ve considered DasBlog, but probably won’t switch until someone (or myself) writes a SQL provider.

One thing I like about DasBlog is that it’s focused on being a good blog engine. I think its that focus that will keep it very tight and without the annoyances of CS. So far, CS is a big disappointment.

comments suggest edit

What will this code write to the console?

public void SomeMethod()

{

    SqlInt32 x = 1;

 

    if(x == SqlInt32.Null)

    {

        Console.WriteLine(“Null.”);

    }

    else if(x != SqlInt32.Null)

    {

        Console.WriteLine(“Not Null.”);

    }

    else

    {

        Console.WriteLine(“Neither? WTF!?”);

    }

}

If you said “Neither? WTF!?” then you’d be correct.

Doesn’t that seem odd since x is either SqlInt32.Null or it isn’t? Is this a case of fuzzy logic? Well not exactly. This is one of those gotchas with operator overloading. The == operator is overloaded by SqlInt32 to return a SqlBoolean instead of a boolean.

This caused me a few minutes of pain this week as I was stepping through code like this and examining the values in the debugger and I thought perhaps someone had slipped me a very strong hallucinogen because there I was with a value that was not null, but was null at the same time. It was one of those mind warping “This sentence is not true” moments.

As typical, I was thinking about rebooting when on a whim I decided to use intermediate variables and realized that the == was returning something neither true nor false. Honestly, I think this is a very poor and unnecessary use of operator overloading (correct me if I’m wrong) because it hides a real gotcha underneath a very common paradigm. If you overload the == operator, you should most definitely return a bool.

In this case, it’s easy enough to fix. I should have been checking the IsNull property anyways like so:

public void SomeMethod()

{

    SqlInt32 x = 1;

 

    if(x.IsNull)

    {

        Console.WriteLine(“Null.”);

    }

    else

    {

        Console.WriteLine(“Not Null.”);

    }

}

This post by Cyrus motivated me to write about this.

comments suggest edit

Looking through my statistics today and I noticed that I received a lot of hits from this post about Google Maps using satellite photography.

Looking in my referrer logs, I noticed that most of the visits were rolling off of Google form users who were searching for the term “Google Satelite”. I just happened to be the fourth search result on the page.

“Cool” I thought to myself, “but they’re all misspelling “satellite”. Then it occurred to me that they weren’t the only ones who were spelling challenged. I had inadvertently misspelled “satellite” in the title of my post.

I’m probably dredging up yesterday’s news here, but it occurred to me that one could really get great search results for hot search words by misspelling them in ways that people commonly misspell them. This is the same thinking behind someone who tries to register “amazn.com” or “micrsoft.com” hoping that millions of typos will send users their way.

So if you want to be THE blog about “onomatopoeia”, start writing about your love of “onomatopeia” or “onomatopoea”. That’ll create some buzz.

I’ll have to figure out a way to register “hacked.com”.

comments suggest edit

UPDATE: As a commenter pointed out, the original code example did not properly demonstrate the problem with locking on the this keyword within a normal method. I have corrected this example and wrote a better example that demonstrates that this problem still exists even in a “normal” method.

Take a look at this code:

private bool isDisposed = false;
 
//... code...
~MyClass()
{
    lock(isDisposed)
    {
        if(!isDisposed)
        {
            //Do Stuff...
        }
    }
}

Hopefully you can see the problem here right away. The lock statement takes an object instance as a parameter. So what happens to the boolean isDisposed within the lock statement? That’s right! It gets boxed, meaning a new object instance is allocated and passed to the lock statement. Thus every time you lock on a value type, you’re locking on a new object.

Ok, so let’s try to fix this up a bit.

private bool isDisposed = false;
 
//... code...
~MyClass()
{
    lock(this)
    {
        if(!isDisposed)
        {
            //Do Stuff...
        }
    }
}

So is there anything wrong with this? You’ve probably seen the Microsoft examples locking on this. Well never give full trust to example code (especially as it’s unlikely you’ll add the code to the GAC) ;). Suppose this snippet is from a class MyClass. What do you think will happen with the following code:

MyClass instance = new MyClass();

Monitor.Enter(instance);
instance = null;

GC.Collect();
GC.WaitForPendingFinalizers();

You guessed it! Deadlock.

Every time you lock a .NET object, the runtime associates a SyncBlock structure to that object. Locking works by checking who owns an object’s SyncBlock when attempting to acquire a lock. Thus in the code sample above, the client code and the Dispose() Method are attempting to lock on the same object.

For a more in-depth discussion, I highly recommend Jeffrey Richter’s article Safe Thread Synchronization which is where I first learned about this subtle threading issue.

Likewise you might also take a look at Dr Gui’s Don’t Lock Type Objects post.

sql comments suggest edit

In T-SQL, you can use the @@IDENTITY keyword to obtain the value of the identity column when you insert a new record. For example, the following query inserts a record into an imaginary table and returns a result set containing the ID of the inserted column.

INSERT INTO SomeTable
    SELECT Value1, Value2
   

SELECT @@IDENTITY -- LAST INSERTED IDENTITY VALUE

There’s the potential for a subtle bug here. Suppose later on, a coworker realizes that any time a record is inserted into [SomeTable] a record should also be inserted into the table [SomeTableAudit]. The simplest solution would be to add a trigger to [SomeTable] that inserts a record to [SomeTableAudit]. But in doing so, your coworker introduces a case of @@IDENTITY theft. Your original query will now return the value inserted into the IDENTITY column of the tabel [SomeTableAudit] instead of the IDENTITY value of [SomeTable] as you intended.

At this point some of you are shaking your heads muttering  

Well I never use Triggers. Triggers are bad umkaaaay.  

That’s beside the point, you never know when someone else is going to apply that trigger resulting in this unintended consequence. It pays to program defensively. The issue here is that although @@IDENTITY is constrained to the current session, it is not constrained to the current scope. Instead, use the SCOPE_IDENTITY() function which will return the last IDENTITY column value inserted in the current scope, in this case the value inserted into [SomeTable].

INSERT INTO SomeTable
    SELECT Value1, Value2
   

SELECT SCOPE\_IDENTITY() -- LAST INSERTED IDENTITY VALUE

As an aside, I’m fine with triggers in certain cases. One of the primary complaints about triggers mirrors the complaints about Aspects in AOP. Namely that triggers provide for unintended consequences that aren’t visible when examining a stored procedure. However when used sparingly for cross-cutting functionality, I think they can add a lot of benefit. Much like Aspects.

UPDATE: Steven Campbell adds a great tip.

 

Another tip I can offer is that you should not use ADO in combination with SQLOLEDB to retrieve IDENTITY values. I refer specifically to the technique of: \ myRS.AddNew\ …\ myRS.Update\ myId = myRS(“ID”)\ \ This fails to retrieve the correct ID, because (internally) the SQLOLEDB driver issues a SELECT @@IDENTITY statement to retrieve the newly created ID.

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Stewie This is old news, but I am so glad that the Family Guy is “uncancelled”. It truly is of “The Simpsons” caliber of humor.

The irony of my statement is that we pretty much don’t watch TV any more. Instead I look forward to new seasons appearing on DVD (and thus in our Netflix queue). We watched a DVD of old Family Guy episodes last night and I nearly burst a vein from laughing. I’m a very physical laugher.

My favorite character (shown) is the diabolical baby Stewie. He’s also the source of my favorite quote in the show so far.

Damn you vile woman, you’ve impeded my work since the day I escaped your vile womb.

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I’m feeling a little uninspired to write anything interesting because my hands are hurting from the keyboard pounding I’ve been doing. Instead, I thought I’d dig up this really simple (and hopefully useful) AddressInfo class for you. The code is extremely basic, but it might save you the hassle of typing all fifty states (and some territories and the District of Columbia) and their two letter postal codes into your own class because I did it for you! Free of charge!

If I save one hand out there, my work here is done. The basic premise is this, the U.S. isn’t adding states to the union very often, so it makes sense to have the list of states and state codes as an enumeration rather than a lookup table in the database. Makes it easier to re-use that information not to mention the speed. For example, here’s a snippet of one of the StateCode enum available in the class.

public enum StateCode

{

    /// <summary>Alabama</summary>

    AL,

    /// <summary>Alaska</summary>

    AK,

    /// <summary>American Samoa</summary>

    AS,

    //,… Bunch of other states …,

    /// <summary>Wyoming</summary>

    WY

}

And here’s a snippet of the corresponding State enum.

public enum State

{

    /// <summary>AL</summary>

    Alabama,

    /// <summary>AK (Home Sweet Home)</summary>

    Alaska,

    /// <summary>AS</summary>

    American_Samoa,

 

    ///,… Bunch of other states…,

 

    /// <summary>WY</summary>

    Wyoming

}

The main AddressInfo class is used to hold an address, but isn’t all that useful nor interesting. The interesting methods are the static methods used to convert from state codes to states and vice versa. Here’s a couple examples of how you might use these methods:

// Get the state name based on the state code.

string stateName = AddressInfo.GetState(StateCode.AK);

Console.WriteLine(stateName); // Prints “Alaska”

 

// Get the state name based on the state code string

string stateCodeText = “CA”;

StateCode stateCode = AddressInfo.ParseStateCode(stateCodeText);

State state = AddressInfo.Convert(stateCode);

Console.WriteLine(state.ToString()); // Prints “California”

Let me know if you actually find this useful. The class itself can be downloaded here.

[Listening to: Psychedeliasmith / Give Me My Auger Back - Fat Boy Slim - On The Floor At The Boutique (4:21)]

personal, code comments suggest edit

UPDATE: 2014/05/13 I lost it when I migrated it and honestly i don’t feel the need to have it up at the moment.

I put up an HTML version of my resume on my blog.

It has a slight bit more information than my Word resume which I think lends well to the online experience. For a moment I thought about using the Marquee and Blink tags all over and have animated dancing babies, but I don’t have the design skills to do that tastefully. I even forgoed adding Google and Amazon ads all over.

Since I’m now an independent consultant, I think it’s a good idea to have that sucker online, though I think my blog posts will give the potential client a better sense of my experience and abilities.

If you have suggestions for online resumes, let me know. I’ve thought about adding even more information in collapsible regions etc… in an effort to make it more “interactive” but I thought better of it. Maybe simplicity is best for now.

comments suggest edit

Brian had some sort of conference to attend, so I didn’t get to see much of him. But last Thursday he was at Venice Beach so I took a break from my work and drove out there. Soon enough, we got to doing that which all brothers must do when they haven’t seen each other in a while.

Brothers at the Beach

Yeah, real nice to see you too!