FSDNUG Featured in Apress Catalog

Monday, September 22, 2008 8:07 PM by Michael Paladino

I just found out today that the Fort Smith .NET User Group has been profiled in the Apress Fall/Winter 2008 Catalog (check out page 15).  One of our officers, Jeremy Sloan, has done a great job of maintaining the group's relationship with Apress including requesting review copies of books and keeping them updated on the group's activities. 

In addition to the recognition in the catalog, Apress will also be sending us an "Apress tote bag full of books".  Looking forward to that!

So, thanks to Jeremy and thanks to all the members that have made FSDNUG a vibrant user group and a great place to learn and network.  And thanks to Apress for being such a great sponsor!

Apress Catalog cover Apress Catalog - FSDNUG article

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Path to .NET 3.5 Developer Certification

Friday, September 5, 2008 7:33 PM by Michael Paladino

This afternoon I saw a great diagram from Jorgen Thelin showing the .NET 3.5 developer certification paths including exams and certifications achieved.  This can be a confusing thing to try and understand when reading the text-based information in a table or paragraph format, so this really helped me see it all clearly.  Click the thumbnail below to see the full-size version.

ms-cert-path-mcpd_thumb

By the way, back in December 2007 I passed that tiny little 70-536 exam at the very bottom.  I've got a long ways to go to get to MCPD Enterprise Application Developer :)

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Switch to BlogEngine.NET

Friday, September 5, 2008 9:31 AM by Michael Paladino

As you can probably tell by the RSS craziness or by the new look, I have followed in the footsteps of numerous others (Brian, ZachTim, and others I'm not remembering) who have switched to BlogEngine.NET.  My blog was previously running on the blog module of a DotNetNuke install.  While DotNetNuke is a reasonable solution for sites with a lot of different types of content or sites needing a lot of out of the box functionality, it was a bit overkill for just a blog.  Also, the blog module was a relatively late entry into the DotNetNuke world and just didn't yet have all the functionality that other blog engines have.

I've heard a lot of good things about BlogEngine.NET and so far have been impressed.  I used a template from DesignsByDarren.com and was able to create a "theme" relatively painlessly.  The migration process ended up being a combination of custom SQL to move over the content and comments and manually re-uploading the images into the new blog.  I'm planning on migrating my family's personal site as well which will pose a bigger challenge as it is extremely image-heavy and manually moving them all is not an option.  I'm looking forward to the challenge!

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How I Got Started in Programming

Monday, July 14, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

Brian Sullivan tagged me on this, so here goes...

How old were you when you started programming?

I was a late bloomer. College was the first time I actually wrote any code.

How did you get started in programming?

Like a lot of programmers, I had a Commodore 64 as a kid. But unlike a lot of programmers, I wasn't really that interested in it. I remember trying to type in a BASIC program and getting bored after about the 10th line of code. I played a little with my dad's PC through grade school and learned enough DOS to move files around as needed. The first time I really remember a light bulb going off and realizing that programming might be a career choice was my freshman year of college in my "Intro to Computers" class. We had an assignment to build a basic 2-3 page website and while most people paid someone else to do it or copied their buddy's, I remember spending about a week's worth of late nights in the lab working on just the right spacing on my HTML-based resume. It was also a couple of years before the year 2000, so at that time when they showed starting salaries for the different majors, CIS was at the top of the list. I would like to say that didn't influence me at all, but the fact that I still remember that should tell you whether it had an effect on me or not. :)

What was your first language?

The aforementioned HTML website was my first experience with programming. But since that's not neccessarily a language, I'd have to say C++ during college.

What was the first real program that you wrote?

While interning at an insurance company after my junior year of college, I wrote a VB6 application to allow claims adjustors to add descriptions and upload photos from their cameras to a backend to later be read by Lotus Notes. It took me most of the summer because I was really hired to do PC support and just wrote the app in my spare time. It actually ended up being used by claims adjustors throughout the state for at least a couple of years. That was the first time I got a taste of what happened when you shipped a buggy and non-user-friendly product to a large number of end users. The funny thing is, I could probably sit down and write the whole app in about 2 hours now.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Like Brian, I'll distinguish between college and real-world. College: C, C++, Cobol, Java. Real-world: VB6, classic ASP, Javascript, VB.NET, C#. Wow, that's really not much compared to most of the other people I've seen.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I've already talked about my job at the insurance company, but I wouldn't neccessarily call that a professional programming gig since I was hired for PC support. My first job out of college was at Data-Tronics which is an IT company who provides services mostly to ABF Freight System in Fort Smith, AR. I started in Marketing working on ABF's website and helped to implement Microsoft Content Management Server 2000 to allow the ABF employees to maintain their own content.  I then moved to the Intranet group creating shared components in classic ASP for consumption by the rest of the company's intranet developers. It was a great job in which I gained invaluable experience in a wide range of technology and learned a ton from some really brilliant developers.

If you knew what you know now, would you have started programming?

Like most people that are answering these questions, I will say "Definitely". I guess if you're interested enough to maintain a technical blog, odds are you enjoy what you are doing. The profession is a constant challenge and requires consistent growth and learning. I can't imagine working in a job where I could learn what I needed to know and never have to learn anything else.

If there was one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Pay attention in those computer classes in school! I often feel like I should have a better base in computer science because I don't have an excellent understanding of underlying memory structures, etc. My last piece of advice would be to try to find a mentor. I've been lucky enough to work under some very intelligent developers and have learned a lot from them.

What's the most fun you've ever had... programming?

It would probably have to be my time in the Intranet group at Data-Tronics when I was developing components for use by other developers. Because of the heavy use of these classes, quality was extremely important, but usability of the class was very important as well. It was a challenge to me to make the interface to these components as clean and understandable as possible. I also took pride in the documentation because I knew that if the documentation was easy to write and understand that I had probably done a good job designing the component. I guess maybe I should be working for a component vendor. David, if you're reading this, please ignore that last line. :)

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MSDN Ramp Up and Certification Exam Discount

Tuesday, July 8, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

I first heard about this from Zain Naboulsi back in January and am finally getting back to blogging about it. MSDN has a developer learning program called Ramp Up that they describe as follows:

Do you want to gain new Microsoft .NET development skills, but aren’t sure where to begin? If so, MSDN Ramp Up is the place to be.

Through a solid foundation of premium technical content from renowned experts, Ramp Up provides the step-by-step guidance and in-depth learning content you need to build your portfolio of professional development skills.

Basically, you choose your track (most likely the Visual Studio 2008 Tech Ed Track for most people reading this blog), complete that track, and then at the end you get a "Graduation Award" consisting of a 50% discount on exam 70-536 among other things. That exam is the first exam on the road to a number of Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certifications for developers.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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SubSonic Presentation Screencast

Monday, June 30, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

The night before my presentation to FSDNUG on Easy Database Access with SubSonic, I recorded a rough screencast of the presentation. It was partly done to work out the kinks in my presentation, but I was hoping that it would be polished enough to post. Well, it was late, I was tired, it's not the best audio quality, and I didn't finish it, but here's what I recorded in multiple formats if you're interested:

Screencast: WMV | Zune | iPod

I know it was long and the audio wasn't great. If you have any other feedback, good or bad, please leave a comment. I hope to record future presentations so would appreciate any tips you have related to that. By the way, a few months ago Scott Hanselman posted the results of a survey he ran on screencast techniques. Next time I'll make sure and take that information into account.

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Writing Decoupled, Testable Code With SubSonic

Thursday, June 19, 2008 8:00 AM by Michael Paladino

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love working with SubSonic! One of the only problems I've had with it is figuring out how to properly separate layers while using SubSonic. Rather than dealing with that problem, I have just avoided it and let all my data access and business rules all hang out together in my UI (specifically ASP.NET code-behind). And since I'm not writing tests for this project, testability hasn't been an issue. Wow. I feel dirty having just written those two sentences. Luckily, due to the relatively small scope of the project I'm on, those issues haven't burned me too bad yet.

Anyway, Rob Conery just posted a great entry on his blog dealing with this exact issue. He talks about using the Repository pattern and SubSonic 2.1 to properly separate your layers and allow for mapping between your DB and your application's model. Of course, separation leads to better testability as well.

It's too late in the game for me to change the architecture on my existing project, but I will definitely be looking at this approach very seriously on any new development. If you're actively using SubSonic and don't already have your layers adequately separated, I would highly recommend Rob's post. Thanks for the info, Rob!

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Easy Database Access with Subsonic (Slides and Demo)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

Last night I presented for the first time at the Fort Smith .NET User Groupon "Easy Database Access with SubSonic". It was an intro level talk with some basics about the need for ORM / code generation tools at the beginning. Trying to squeeze in everything in a one hour talk proved to be difficult, but I think attendees at least got enough exposure to SubSonic to know whether or not it's something they want to look into further.

I learned that I can't possibly over-prepare for a presentation of that length. I'm a very detail-oriented person and like to know exactly what I'm going to talk about beforehand. I got some great feedback on the talk last week from Kerry Jenkins who had presented the previous month. Then I also recorded a rough screencast Sunday night to practice. By the time Monday night rolled around, I felt pretty comfortable with the material although I feel like another walkthrough might have helped me work out some of the timing.

Here are the files and links from the presentation:

Update: I've posted the screencast from the presentation here.

Presenting at FSDNUG June Meeting
Thanks to Jeremy Sharp for the picture

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Dallas TechFest

Sunday, April 13, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

Dallas TechFest, May 3, 2008

Dallas TechFest 2008 is occurring on May 3rd, 2008 and will be a day of .NET, Java and Ruby learning for FREE. Speakers to include Richard Campbell, Don Demsak, and Raymond Lewallen and topics to include Silverlight, ASP.NET MVC framework, and ASP.NET Dynamic Data.

I along with some others from the Fort Smith .NET User Group and Northwest Arkansas .NET User Group are planning on attending. See this forum thread if you're interested in carpooling.

Hope to see you there!

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Book Review: The Rational Guide to Building Technical User Communities

Thursday, March 13, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

The Rational Guide to Building Technical User Communities4 out of 5 stars

The Rational Guide to Building Technical User Communities does a good job of covering a variety of topics related to starting and maintaining technical user communities. The author's opinions come from years of working with user groups in various capacities, and all his opinions are backed up with stories from his own experiences. His ideas seem to be mostly common sense, but it is helpful to have all the information aggregated in one location.

The book is easy to read and is a good length. I found the discussion of recruiting volunteers to be very helpful. The one point on which I disagree with the author is his opinion that meetings should always have two topics. I certainly don't have the experience that the author has, but I have found that there is just not enough time to allow for disussion, handle group business and giveaways, and cover two topics in a reasonable amount of time.

Overall, I was very pleased with the book and will be passing it around to the rest of the leadership of our user group.

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