Category Archives: Education

Getting Ready for Code Camp

This week I’ll be working toward the Alabama Code Camp to be held in Mobile this Saturday, April 14th. ( I will be giving a presentation on SQL Server Compact Edition, and invite you all to come.

Since my previous SSCE posts were a bit back and a little scattered, I thought I’d start with a quick recap of my SSCE to date.

My first post described the background of SSCE, and where to get it from. You can find it at:

My second post described how to create a new SSCE database using code. You can find this post at:

The third post showed how to create a new table in your database, and can be located at:

My next post showed you how to insert rows into the newly created table:

And finally is my piece on loading a SSCE table from a standard DataTable object:

That ought to get you up to speed, stay tuned this week as I build up to the weekend presentation.

Arcane Tidbits

The blog now has it’s own domain, just tell your friends to go to for this blog.

I’m speaking at the upcoming code camp, Alabama Code Camp ( I’ll be speaking on SQL Server Compact Edition, but even if you are not interested in SSCE come on out there’s plenty of sessions no matter what your interest. April 14th in Mobile, make your plans now!

As I mentioned yesterday, I spoke to a group today at a Microsoft sponsored event. It was a lunch and learn session at one of Birmingham’s exclusive business clubs.

It was an interesting experience, I really enjoyed it. Of course I’m one of those people who really enjoy public speaking, so perhaps that shades my experience somewhat, but I think it’s something everyone should do given the opportunity.

If you are a little uncomfortable speaking, I highly recommend Toastmasters ( They give you training in a supportive environment to get comfortable speaking in front of crowds.

Arcane Education: Alabama Code Camp IV

Yes, it’s spring time, when the flowers are in bloom, and a young man’s fancy turns to… .NET!

Alabama Code Camp IV is coming up quick, April 14th is just a few short weeks away. For those in the south-east, this one will be held in Mobile AL. See all the details at:

If this is anything like the previous ones it’ll be great, tons of great speakers and lots of good swag. If you have never been to Mobile before, there’s a lot to see and do. My family is coming along and we’re going to make a weekend of it.

Top on my list (after code camp of course) is seeing the USS Alabama (, a WW II Battleship. At the same location they have the USS Drum, a submarine, a B52, an A-12 Blackbird, and tons of other exhibits.

If battleships aren’t your thing, Mobile is loaded with opportunities, check out Yahoo’s top 16 list at,  or the Mobile city guide on (

And for the beach goers, Orange Beach is right next door to Mobile (literally). Check out the fun in the Gulf of Mexico at

So there you go, a whole day of geeky fun for you, and plenty of ways for the family to be out spending your money, oops I mean having fun while you are getting an education. Well, at least Code Camp is free!

So quit sitting on your duff and start making plans today!

Arcane Thoughts: Hug Your Developer Evangelist Today

Last night Doug Turnure came to give a presentation to the Birmingham Software Developers Association (BSDA). Doug is the Microsoft Developer’s Evangelist for Alabama / Georgia / Mississippi. Brian Hitney, Developer Evangelist for North and South Carolina happened to be in Atlanta where Doug lives, and came along.

Together, the pair did an excellent presentation on Vista. Doug started things out with the new gadget sidebar component, the various kinds of gadgets, and gave a demonstration on developing a gadget.

Brian then picked up the presentation, giving us a technical overview of the core changes to the OS. He covered a surprising amount of technical detail in the short amount of time he had, and made it understandable.

We had a packed room, but Doug and Brian stayed until they’d answered every question from the crowd. They did a great job, and I just wanted to take a moment to thank them publicly. The Developer Evangelists do a lot for us, they spend a lot of time away from home visiting user groups and giving us a lot of free training and advice.

Take time to get to know your developer evangelist, work with them to coordinate presentations at your user groups. And don’t forget to thank them when it’s all over. Thanks guys!

Arcane Review: Why Software Sucks

I promised myself I wasn’t going to have a blog filled with a lot of book reviews. But having just finished “Why Software Sucks” by David S. Platt ( or, I find I can’t resist mentioning it.

David S. Platt is a software developer, author, and teacher at Harvard University Extension. However this book is not targeted at the experienced software developer, but instead at the average computer user. He gives the reader a basic knowledge of how software works, so they will know what is possible and what is not. Armed with knowledge about the possibilities of software development, the average joe can then determine when software sucks as opposed to just bumping into current limitations.

One reviewer on Amazon said he “…didn’t find anything new in the book for seasoned UI developers.” That’s a shame, as it shows he clearly didn’t get the point of the book. This book is not targeted at developers. It’s for users, so they will know when you’ve written good software, and when you’re handing them crap.

While it’s true this book is not packed with development techniques, it’s still an important read for any programmer. As a developer with over twenty years experience, what Mr. Platt’s book gave me was insight. To be reminded that the code I write is to be used by people other than developers. He helped me to see my application through the eyes of an average user, or to quote Mr. Platt, “Your users are not you!”

This was not a thick or expensive book, and was filled with enough humor to keep it a quick yet enjoyable read. At the same time it was serious enough to deal with the subject of user interfaces in a meaningful way. After reading this book, I think the best compliment someone will be able to give me about my applications is “it just works!”

For more information see the authors site at

Standard disclaimer, I make no money from book sales, nor have I any financial affiliation with Amazon, the author, David S. Platt, the publisher, the guys who grew the trees that got turned into paper the book was printed on, the truck drivers that delivered the books, the company that hosts the authors website, nor am I the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby. Just so that’s all clear.


[Why Software Sucks Book Cover]

Arcane Thoughts: The Passion of the Programmer

One of my favorite bloggers is Jeff Atwood, and his Coding Horrors blog ( Why? He’s passionate not just for code, but for coding.

I see a lot of people who are good at writing code. They know the syntax, can knock out some code, and get the application completed. Then there are people like Atwood, Steve McConnell, Paul Sheriff or Carl Franklin. These guys are passionate about the process of writing code.

When I speak of process, I’m talking about more than just writing, but the design of the code, how much reuse can you achieve from your existing components, do you do test driven development, waterfall, how often do you have code reviews, and more. This is the stuff that doesn’t help you write code, it helps you write better code.

Yesterday I had a root canal. I spent more than three hours in the dentists chair. Since there wasn’t much opportunity for stimulating conversation, I brought along my PDA and listened to some old DotNetRocks ( episodes. In one of the episodes ( Carl and Richard were interviewing Paul Sheriff on architecture.

During this episode, somewhere between the root canal and fitting a new crown, I realized that the coders who are passionate tend to also be architects, whether they realize it or not. They care about things like code reuse, good design, and adhering to standards.

If you are interested in learning more about architecture, I would recommend taking a look at the Patterns and Practices libraries at Microsoft. ( This is a collection of tools, e-books, and articles designed to not only recommend ways to architect your code, but the tools to get it done. Be sure to check out the “Getting Started” link on the upper left, it’s a good place get started on the road to not getting the job done, but getting the job done right.